Chapter Twenty

Laura was putting the finishing touches to Beth's make up. The sounds of the band warming up in the ballroom drifted up the stairs, causing butterflies to jump around Beth's stomach.

"There miss. You're ready. You look perfect."

Beth had her hair pulled up into a chignon. She wore a midnight blue gown and the jewellery she had received on her birthday.

"I don't feel perfect Laura! I'm so nervous. These women will be so sophisticated and, don't think I can match up."

"Miss, may I speak freely?" Beth nodded.

"None of the women down there will be able to match up with you. The Master has never brought anyone home before you. A lot of women who will be there tonight have tried to catch her, but none have succeeded. You have by being yourself. You won. You will be the one on the Master's arm. Just remember that when you walk in the room."

Beth hugged Laura. "Thank you for that pep talk! It's just what I needed."

"Anytime miss," she smiled. There was a knock at the door and Alex's voice came through the door.

"Are you decent?"

Laura took Beth's hands. "It's time. Now go and knock them dead miss!"

Laura opened the door to admit Alex to the room.

"Sweetheart, you astonish me with your beauty every time I see you. You look ravishing!" Alex took her hand and kissed it. "You ready to face the hordes?"

"As I'll ever be!"

Alex led her down the stairs. The hall of the house was full of staff taking the coats of the arriving women. The double doors to the ballroom were open as Alex and Beth approached. Staff were moving around with trays of champagne and finger food. As they entered the ballroom Beth gripped Alex's arm tighter. Alex felt her tension and gave her a kiss on the forehead for reassurance. The room was full of couples talking and laughing on all sides of the room. There were couples dancing in the middle of the room while the band at the back on a slightly raised stage played.

All the couples were like Alex and herself. Ladies in evening gowns and cocktail dresses and their partners dressed in dinner suits like Alex. It seemed strange to Beth that this sight was so normal and natural to her now, when before she came to London she had no idea women could even be together.

As they walked further into the room Beth could see all eyes turn on them, some amazed that Alex had a partner and some envious. A few faces she recognised from the Alley Cat. Lotty and Poni came toward them.

"What ho my friends! Another good get together," Poni said.

"I hope so. Kitten all tucked up?"

"Yes, although we had to promise a visit to the horses tomorrow. She hates to think she's missing out on fun." Replied Lotty.

"Poni and I could take her out for a trot with us. "

"Top notch idea Alex." Said Poni, always eager to spend time with her little girl.

"Shall we have a dance, little bit? And then I'll get you a drink."

Alex led her to the centre of the dance floor and pulled her close. Beth rested her head against her partner's shoulder. She could feel the eyes of some of the women boring into her back with venom. Alex was announcing she was off the market.

"You settling down now sweetie?"

"Yes darling, I'm sorry I was so nervous. I'm just not used to being the centre of attention."

Alex whispered in her ear. "You will always be the centre of my attention little bit. I love you." The husky voice sent shivers down her spine and she appreciated the reassurance that partner

was giving her. Alex remained as attentive as ever. She was stuck like glue to her side all evening.

Although it was a cold crisp December night, the heat generated in the ballroom was great and so the French windows that led out to a balcony area were open. The four friends stood out on the balcony for a breath of fresh air. Alex and Poni enjoying a cigarette while keeping an arm round their partners to keep them warm.

"You're not too cold sweetheart?"

"I'm fine for now. I needed some fresh air. The heat and the champagne were getting a little too much for me."

"No wonder! Alex never let you off the dance floor!" Lotty said smiling.

It was true. Beth had hardly missed one dance. If she wasn't up with Alex then Poni was taking her for a spin.

"I loved it Lotty. I've never had the opportunity to dance so much in my life!"

A lot of appreciative glances came Beth's way during the evening, but they were soon snubbed by Alex's cold hard stare. Beth was oblivious to it all.

From across the room Sally Weston observed the happy foursome. ' It makes me sick! Look at them pawing each other like a pair of dogs in heat! You don't deserve to be happy my lord. I may not be able to convince you that we're meant to be together. But if I can't have you then I'll make sure your little innocent virgin will never want you!' Sally had not received her usual invitation to the house party after her recent confrontation with Alex. She had latched onto an older woman who went to the Alley Cat. She always got an invitation and since all the invites included a partner, Jack, as the older woman was known thought all her Christmas's had come at once when this leggy blonde had turned her attentions to her.

Since they arrived at the party Sally had virtually ignored her, her use now almost complete. Alex hadn't spotted her and that was the way she wanted it, for now.

It was getting a bit too cold for Lotty on the balcony. "Beth my dear shall we go to the buffet and bring a couple of plates back for ourselves and these reprobates?"

Beth smiled. "Sounds like a plan."

"Don't be long, little bit. I'll miss you."

"I won't My Lord" They parted with a kiss and Lotty and her young friend made their way toward the other side of the ballroom, where an adjoining room was set out with food and drinks of all kinds.

"Poni, I forgot to tell you. I got some of those Cuban cigars we were looking to try. Shall we partake after we have a bite to eat?"

"Capital idea old man."

"Excuse me and I'll run and get them from my study. Won't be long."

Alex entered her office and used a key to open a desk drawer. She heard her office door open and knew without even looking knew it was not Beth. She turned to see Sally Weston standing there.

"What do you want? You shouldn't even be here!"

"Yes for some reason my invitation was lost in the post. How are you and you're little virgin getting on? Ready for something more yet?"

Alex came round to the front of her desk. "I'm quite content thank you."

Sally knew she had to keep Alex talking. "I could help you," she said getting closer. "You could fuck me and your little virgin would never know. I promise."

Beth and Lotty were coming back from the buffet when a woman Lotty knew from the Alley Cat, Jack, came up to them. "Hello, em, Alex asked me to tell you she just popped to her study and if you would join her for a few minutes."

Sally Weston had promised a night she would never forget if she helped in her plan.

"Oh, okay. Lotty could you manage this plate too?"

"No problem my dear, see you soon."

Beth made her way to Alex's office excited at the thought that maybe Alex wanted some private kisses.

"I will never want anything from you Sally! Why can't you get that through your head? It makes me sick that I ever even touched you!"

Sally heard the movement at the door and immediately thrust herself into Alex.

"Oh yes please, fuck me My Lord! You know you always can do anything. You don't have to ask! You know I'll never tell Beth."

Sally threw her arms around Alex and clamped her lips to her. While this was happening Beth had opened the door and was standing there witnessing Alex's apparent infidelity. The young blonde looked in horror at Sally and Alex kissing and Sally's words were ringing in her ears. She turned and ran from the room, tears running down her face. It all happened so fast Alex had no idea what was happening. She saw Beth running from the room. She pushed Sally off her and shouted. "Beth, wait! Please!"

Sally laughed."You really thought you could have a normal happy relationship, Alex? The likes of you don't deserve it. You use women and throw them away. I won't allow you to suddenly decide you're going to be good, have a mature relationship and settle down!"

Alex felt utter fury as she realised the implications of Sally's actions. She turned and looked at her with cold venom. Sally had never felt fear like it when she saw the cold hatred in Alex's eyes. Alex came toward her, backing Sally up against the wall.

"Go on Alex. Hit me. Show Beth the real you!"

Alex's fist balled up, the rage coursing through her body. She brought it up and slammed her fist into wall beside Sally's head. "If you have ruined my one chance at happiness I will kill you! Get out of my house and never set foot here again!" She screamed. She went out to the hall where some guests had gathered. Poni and Lotty came to her.

"What has happened Alex? Is Beth all right?" Lotty asked.

"Could you please get everyone back into the ballroom and ensure the party carries on, and Poni could you see that Miss. Weston leaves the house straight away?"

"Of course no problem Alex, go and see to Beth."

Alex raced up the stairs and found Beth's bedroom door locked. She knocked the door.

"Beth, let me in. Please I can explain. It wasn't what it looked like. Please."

Inside Beth was sprawled across the bed crying uncontrollably. When she heard Alex's voice she sat up and pulled a pillow to her chest. She felt like her heart had been broken in two. Beth had believed in Alex with all her heart. She thought her honourable and had put her complete trust in her. Beth also felt panicked. She poured everything into Alex, her job and the life she had built depended on her. Without Alex she was alone and had nothing.

'Maybe I shouldn't have held back so much about sex. If I hadn't been such a nervous virginal little girl then Alex wouldn't have gone looking elsewhere. But Alex had insisted we wait as well. I don't know how I'll live without her!'

The knocking got louder. "Little bit, please. At least let me explain. Just give me one chance!"

The door unlocked but wasn't opened. Alex took a few deep breaths and opened the door, her hands shaking. She found Beth sitting on the edge of the bed cuddling into her pillow, her eyes staring off into the distance.

Alex stepped forward. "Sweetheart, can I sit down?"

She received no response. Alex went to stroke the side of Beth's face. She pulled away sharply. "Don't touch me!" she said coldly.

"Okay! Okay! I promise I won't touch you. Just please listen." Alex paced back and forth in front of her. She pulled her bow tie off and loosened her collar. Alex had never felt such panic. In one moment she could lose everything. This was her one chance to try and appeal to Beth. Alex was starting to sweat under the pressure. She took off her dinner jacket and threw it on the chair.

"What you saw, what you think you saw was not what you think. I've been set up."

Beth showed no response. "I should tell you from the beginning. Sally Weston was one of the women I had been with. Well I told you how I was before, but I always made it clear there would never be anything more than that one time. When I saw her again at the Alley Cat she pursued me, saying we were meant to be together. I never gave her what she wanted. I never went with the same woman twice. She obviously harboured some sort of feelings toward me or more likely my money.

"Not long after you came to work for me, I found myself falling in love with you, but as you know I was frightened to feel it, to tell you. I thought I could never deserve someone as pure as you and I thought you too young. It was becoming harder and harder to come to work every day and you not be mine. Whenever we would touch it was almost painful I wanted you so much. I thought if maybe I did what I always used to, then my brain would stop thinking of you so much. Perhaps because I hadn't been with a women in so long, that maybe if I had sex then my feelings wouldn't drive me so mad. I went to the Alley Cat with the intention of finding someone to relive that tension. Sally made a bee line for me and because she knew how I liked things I broke my cardinal rule and decided she would be the one."

Beth looked up. The pain and disappointment etched on her face. It broke Alex's heart to see. She dropped to her knees before Beth.

"But when push came to shove I couldn't do it. I kept thinking of you. I wanted no one but you. I knew there would be no one but you for the rest of my life. I left the Alley Cat immediately. Sally felt spurned and then when she saw me with you at your birthday she realised why. She tried again and when I refused she threatened to tell you all about me. I warned her off and made sure she didn't get an invitation to the party.

She has obviously come with one of the other guests. I went to the study to get cigars for Poni and myself. Special ones I had just got from Cuba. She came in behind me. She propositioned me, but the way she said it made me think she didn't really mean it. It was as if she was playing for time. When she heard a noise at the door, which must have been you, she smiled and launched herself at me, said those vile things you heard, and started kissing me. I didn't have time to react before you were through the door.

"I swear I never kissed her back. I would never ever betray your love. I know it looks bad but I am asking you to trust in me and us. Please little bit! I didn't do this! Don't leave me. I can't go back to living without you."

Tears were now rolling down Alex's cheeks. Beth was shocked, both at the story and at the sight of Alex crying. It just seemed so wrong. Beth wiped away a tear with her thumb. Alex leaned into her touch.

'Can I believe what she's telling me? My whole being is screaming out to believe. I love her.'

"Some woman called Jack came and told me you asked to see me in your study straight away." She whispered.

"I never sent that message." Alex grasped Beth's hand. "I swear on my word of honour I did not kiss her or carry on behind your back. The thought of losing you terrifies me."

Beth didn't speak. Her face remained like stone. Alex dropped her head into Beth's lap. She started to cry harder.

"I love you. I would never do anything to dishonour you. I knew one day my past would come back to ruin what we have. Sally was right. I don't deserve you or the happiness you brought me."

Alex felt a hand clap the back of her head.

"I believe you." Alex thought she heard. She raised her head and looked Beth in the eyes.

"What did you say?" she croaked.

"I believe you. Sally is wrong. You deserve love and more. I told you once I will never leave you and I would look after you for as long as you want me. My wishes remain the same. I will never leave you. I love you."

Beth was crushed by the strength of Alex's hug.

"Oh sweetheart! Thank you for believing in me! I love you. I love you so much!" Alex kissed all over Beth's face.

"It just hurt so much to see you that way! Alex, I love you. Please don't let that woman near us again." Beth gripped Alex tightly.

"No, little bit. You will never see her again don't worry. I'm so sorry you had to see that. I give you my word, I will never ever let you down."

"Will you sleep by me tonight? I don't want you to leave me."

"Of course I will. Let me go and let Poni know we are well and I will be straight back. I love you."

Alex kissed Beth once more and left the room. She stood out in the hall and let out a long breath. She had come so close to losing everything. She would never allow that again.