I should have been worried and I was. The way Jasper had eyed Rose with barely-concealed desire shot arrows of fear through my heart. Rose had made no comment or shown any sign of returning the interest, but now that she knew Jasper would be rich soon (more fool me for telling her), was there any reason she would resist his advances if he decided to make them?
From what I knew of Rose, she had been the subject of her employer’s passions on one occasion at least, perhaps more. Common sense would surely prevail on her part to stay well away from Jasper. Why would she risk what small pocket of security she had living here? There was a very real chance that she would find herself alone, friendless and starving in the woods again if she made any wrong move. If she became involved with Jasper, I wasn’t sure I could be a stalwart friend and keep the news to myself. And I doubted Sebastian would be too pleased to have his best friend carrying on with one of his servants.
As the days passed and none of my fears came true, I relaxed. I grew used to Jasper’s salivating glances whenever Rose walked into the room, and my confidence that the situation would not become more heated grew whenever she barely looked at him or answered him in curt sentences.
I knew from our conversations at night in my chamber that she found him “arrogant” and “conceited”. I didn’t disagree, Jasper was all that she said, but I had found his weakness and it had endeared him to me. It was written in a letter that I kept tucked away in my oldest apron at the back of my bottom dresser drawer where no one could find it. I felt as long as I had the letter, I had some kind of control over the situation.
Then something changed. One morning instead of answering Jasper’s enquiry to her health with a curt “Very well, sir,” she blushed and lowered her eyes and barely whispered a reply.
I kept pouring Sebastian’s coffee, but glanced at Jasper, who smiled benignly as he bit into his toast. What was wrong with her? Was she slowly but surely falling under his spell, like the rest of womankind?
As we cleared away the breakfast things in the kitchen, she seemed subdued.
“Rose, are you alright?” I asked, genuinely concerned. She looked at me, her green eyes unfathomable, and sighed.
“I wish I were you,” she finally replied. I was bewildered. What girl in her right mind would ever wish to be me?
“You can’t mean that,” I said stiffly.
“I do, I truly do,” she said, and without further explanation she walked out of the kitchen.
I pondered her words all morning as I went about my chores. I felt disconnected from the household, as if something were happening beyond my comprehension. I didn’t see Rose again that morning to question her strange statement. In the late afternoon, I took my duster into the library room to give the books a thorough going-over, since it had been a while.
Part of me wasn’t surprised to see Jasper there, bent over Rose on the chaise longue and kissing her neck. Her blouse was half off her shoulder, revealing an expanse of creamy white perfect flesh. The other part of me recoiled in horror as he murmured his appreciation of her fragrant hair, which had loosened from its bun and now now tumbled becomingly over her shoulders. Jasper buried his nose in it while lightly running his hands over her bodice.
I backed away slowly and carefully so as to not make a sound. The last thing I saw was Jasper hitching up her skirt to caress her white thighs and Rose’s green eyes, full of sorrow looking at me over his shoulder.