Christmas in the Boss's Castle

By: Scarlet Wilson

Alice Archer had her hair styled twice a week, was fastidious with her make-up, favouring bright red lipstick, and drank lemon tea that Grace prepared for her most mornings, once she’d been helped into her clothes. In a way she reminded Grace of her grandmother. Oh, her grandmother had certainly never had the lifestyle that Alice had experienced. But both had the same quick wit, sharp minds and big hearts. Grace finished fastening Alice’s shoes as she sipped her lemon tea.

‘What are you doing today? Lunch or afternoon tea?’

Alice patted her hand. ‘Thank you, Grace. It’s Thursday. So it’s afternoon tea at the Ritz. I’m meeting an old colleague.’ She nudged Grace. ‘He proposed to me once, you know.’

Grace looked up. ‘He did? Now that sounds interesting. Why didn’t you marry him?’

Alice let out a laugh. ‘Harry? Not a chance. Harry was a cad. A man about town. He would have broken my heart. So I had to break his first.’

Grace blinked. It was the throwaway way that she said it. There was a trace of something else behind those carefully made-up eyes. Did Alice regret her choice?

She hoped not. A man about town. Definitely not the type of guy that Grace was looking for. She’d never want a relationship with a man who only wanted a fling, or something meaningless. She’d suffered rejection enough. It was pretty much the worst thing in the world to be abandoned by your mother; hers had moved to another continent, married another man and created the family she’d really wanted, instead of the unexpected teenage pregnancy she’d ended up with.

Grace had always been determined that would never be her. She wasn’t prepared to hand her heart over to anyone. Least of all a man that wouldn’t value and respect her. She wanted everything: the knight on the white horse, the total commitment and someone with eyes only for her.

Hence the reason she was still on her own.

She rested back on her heels and looked up at Alice. ‘Well, I’m sure that you couldn’t have broken his heart too much, or all these years later he wouldn’t still be meeting you.’

Alice sighed and leaned back in her chair. ‘Or maybe we’re the only ones left,’ she said wistfully. Grace reached up and put her hand over Alice’s frail one, giving it a gentle squeeze. ‘I bet he’ll be delighted to see you.’

After a second Alice seemed to snap out of her thoughts. ‘What do you have planned? Tell me you’ve finally decided it’s time to say yes to one of those nice young men that keep asking you out.’

Grace felt her cheeks flush. Alice’s favourite hobby seemed to be trying to pair her off with a ‘suitable’ young man. She wasn’t quite sure any of the men that had asked her out recently would be Alice’s definition of suitable though. Lenny, the biker, had been looking for somewhere cheap to stay and thought asking Grace out might solve his problems. Alan, the banker, had earned another nickname in her head—as soon as darkness had surrounded them he’d turned into the eight-handed octopus. Ross from college had merely been looking for someone who might do the shopping and make him dinner. And Nathan? He’d seemed perfect. Handsome, hard-working and endearingly polite. But when he’d leaned in for that first kiss they’d both realised there was absolutely no spark.

She was still searching for her knight on a white horse.

In a way it made her sad. Her friends at Maids in Chelsea seemed to be pairing off at an alarming rate. Emma had just reunited with Jack—the husband nobody had known she had. Ashleigh seemed to have fallen under the spell of her gorgeous Greek, Lukas. Even Clio, their boss, had just announced her engagement to her old boyfriend Enrique and was currently planning an intimate New Year wedding. Then two nights ago her fellow singleton Sophie had mysteriously disappeared. Grace was beginning to feel like the inevitable spare part.

She shook her head at Alice and stood up. ‘No men for me, I’m afraid. Maybe we can make a New Year’s resolution together to try and find some suitable beaus.’

Alice let out a laugh. ‘Now, that would be fun.’ She glanced at the clock. ‘What are you doing next?’

Grace glanced at the clock too and gave a start. Where had the time gone? ‘Oh, I’ll have to rush. I’m going to make up the penthouse suite—the Nottingdale. I’ve never even been in it before. I heard it belongs to the owner.’

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