Her New Year Baby Secret

By: Jessica Gilmore

Didn’t she deserve this? It was nearly Christmas after all...


New Year’s Eve

‘THAT’S FANTASTIC, GRACE. No, of course I’m not mad, I’m really happy for you. So when do I get to meet him? Tonight? He’s taking you to the Snowflake Ball. That’s...that’s really, really great. I can’t wait. I’ll see you there. Okay. Bye. Love you.’

Sophie put her phone down and stared across the room. If there had been room on the floor, she would have slumped in a dramatic fashion, but as every inch of the tiny sitting room/dining room/kitchenette was covered in bolts and scraps of fabric, she could only lean against the wall and swallow hard.

Did Cinderella feel resentment when she was left alone and everyone else went to the ball? No, she was quite happy to sit by the fire with the mice and Buttons and weave straw into gold before letting down her hair and eating an apple.

Okay. Maybe Sophie was muddling up her fairy tales a little.

But, crucially, Cinderella was excluded from the ball completely. How would she have felt if she had been made to attend the ball as a waitress and had to watch her stepsisters waltzing by in the arms of their handsome tycoons and earls? There would have been less singing, more teeth-gnashing then.

Not that Sophie had any inclination to gnash her teeth. She was happy for her friends, of course she was. It was amazing that they had all found such wonderful men and goodness knew they deserved their happiness—but did they all have to find true love at the same time? And did they have to find it just before the Snowflake Ball?

She sighed. Last year had been such fun, waitressing at the prestigious event with Emma and Grace, and she’d been looking forward to introducing Ashleigh to the glitter and sparkle that were the hallmarks of the charity gala. The ballroom always looked amazing, the organisers ensured there were plenty of breaks, tips were generous and there was a short staff event afterwards with champagne and a delicious buffet. In fact last year had been the best New Year’s Eve Sophie could remember. But this year everything was different. First Emma had bumped into her estranged—and secret—husband, Jack Westwood, aka the Earl of Redminster, and after a few difficult weeks the pair had blissfully reconciled. Then Ashleigh had fallen for gorgeous Greek tycoon Lukas while house-sitting for him. Sophie had been over the moon when her old friend had phoned her on Christmas Eve to announce her whirlwind engagement—she’d never heard Ashleigh sound so happy.

But she had to admit that she had been a little relieved that Grace, like Sophie, was still single, still employed at Maids in Chelsea and would still be waitressing at the ball. There was only so much loved-upness a girl could take.

Only while Sophie had endured overcrowded trains back to Manchester on Christmas Eve to spend an uncomfortable two days back tiptoeing around her family’s habitual disapproval and enduring the same old lectures on how she had messed up her life, Grace had spent her Christmas being swept off her feet by hotelier Finlay Armstrong. Swept off her feet and out of her waitress clothes and into a ballgown. She would be at the Snowflake Ball tonight, but, like Emma and Ashleigh, she’d be there as a guest, not hired help.

‘You are officially a horrible person, Sophie Bradshaw,’ Sophie said aloud. ‘Grace of all people deserves all the happiness in the world.’ She’d been alone in the world, even more alone than Sophie, so alone she’d chosen to work over Christmas rather than spend the holidays on her own. The rift in Sophie’s family might seem irreparable, but at least she had them. Yes, Grace deserved every bit of luck and happiness the last week had brought her.

But didn’t Sophie deserve some too?

She pushed herself off the wall and picked her way over to the sofa, resolving once again to do something about the material strewn all over every surface as well as the floor. She did deserve happiness; she knew that even if she didn’t always feel it. Her ex, Harry, had done far too good a job of eroding every last bit of confidence from her for that. But happiness for her didn’t lie in the arms of a man, no matter how titled or rich or handsome he was. It lay in her dreams. In her designs. In her... And if waitressing at this ball would help her achieve those dreams, then waitress she would—and she would smile and be happy for her friends even if they were divided from her by an invisible baize door.

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