Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore

Sophie sighed, a tiny sound, a sound of capitulation. ‘Thank you, a drink would be lovely.’

‘Bene, do you know somewhere you would like to go? No? Then if I may make a suggestion, I know just the place.’ He took her arm and she allowed him, as if the process of saying yes had freed her from making any more decisions. She was light under his hand, fragile as he steered her away from the hotel and down to the lights and bustle of the King’s Road. Neither of them spoke, words suddenly superfluous in this winter wonderland of shadow and snow.

The bar he’d selected was just a short walk away, newly refurbished in a dazzling display of copper and light woods with long sleek tables for larger groups and hidden nooks with smaller, more intimate tables for couples. Marco steered Sophie towards the most hidden of these small areas, gesturing to the barman to bring them a bottle of Prosecco as he did so. Her eyes flickered towards his and then across their small hideaway with its low table for two, its intimate two-seater sofa, the almost hidden entrance.

‘Excuse me for just a minute, I’m going to freshen up.’

‘Of course, take your time.’ He sat down and picked up his glass and smiled. The dull evening was suddenly alive with possibilities. Just the way he liked it.

* * *

What am I doing? What am I doing?

Sophie didn’t need to look at a price list to know the bar was way out of her league—each light fitting probably cost more than every piece of furniture she owned. And she didn’t need to be a mind reader to know why Marco Santoro had selected such a small, hidden table. The whole scenario had seduction written all over it.

She’d never been the kind of girl handsome men in tailored suits wanted to seduce before. What would it be like to try that girl on for size? Just for once?

The loos were as bright and trendy as the bar, with huge mirrors running all along one wall and a counter at waist height. Sophie dumped her bag onto the counter, shrugged off the coat, hanging it onto the hat stand with care, and quickly tallied up her outfit. One dress, black. One pair of tights, nude. One pair of shoes, black. One silver shrug, wet. Hair up. Make-up minimal. She could do this.

It didn’t take long; it never did. Hair taken down, shaken and brushed. That was one thing about her fine, straight blonde hair: it might be boring, but it fell into place without too much effort. A colour stick added a rich berry glow to her lips and colour to her cheeks and a sweep of mascara gave her eyes some much-needed definition. A quick sweep of powder to her nose, an unflattering scarlet after ten minutes in the snow, finished her face.

She looked at herself critically. Her face was fine, her hair would do, but even though she’d added a few stitches to the Maids in Chelsea standard black dress to improve the fit, her dress was still more suitable for church than an exclusive bar. She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a white ribbon. Two seconds later she had tied it around her waist, finishing it with a chic bow. She added oversize silver hooped earrings, looped a long, twisted silver chain around her neck and held the shrug under the dryer for a minute until it was just faintly damp. Not bad. Not bad at all. She closed her bag, slung the coat nonchalantly around her shoulders and took a deep breath. It was a drink. That was all. An hour, maybe two, with someone who looked at her with interest. Someone who didn’t know her, didn’t feel sorry for her.

An hour, maybe two, of being someone different. A Chelsea girl, the kind of girl who went to glamorous parties and flirted with handsome men, not the kind of girl who stood on the sidelines with a tray of drinks.

Sophie wasn’t remotely ashamed of what she did for a living. She worked hard and paid her own way—which was a lot more than many of the society women she cleaned for and waited on could say—and Clio, the owner of Maids in Chelsea, the agency Sophie worked for, had built up her successful business from scratch. Maids in Chelsea was known for supplying the best help in west London and Sophie and her colleagues were proud of their reputation. But it wasn’t glamorous. And right now, she wanted just a few moments of glamour. To belong in the world she served and cleaned up after until the clock struck twelve and she turned back into a pumpkin.

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