This title is in transition as of June 2018.
© Copyright 2016 Jet Mykles, all rights reserved
“Tyler, please come with me to my office.”
Tyler exchanged glances with James across the table. The younger footman raised a questioning brow, but Tyler could only shrug.
“Yes, sir.” He removed the apron that protected his clothing, then handed it and a feather duster to James before he followed Mr. Faith from the dining room.
A narrow set of stairs near the door led them down to the servants’ hall just outside the kitchen. Wet heat and the din of washing dishes closed around him, a sensation that had become familiar in the scant time he had been at Rose Hall. In nearly a month, he had settled into the routine happily. It was good work that dominated his day. A myriad of tasks left him little free time. More footmen had been hired, and they were all needed to keep the house running smoothly. He especially enjoyed helping Mr. Faith in the wine cellar and the pantry and had been sent into town a few times with the driver to fetch supplies. His one day off in the week, he walked to Claire to see his family. Occasionally he had time to make use of the permission given through Mr. Faith to borrow from the hall’s extensive library. He had no complaints.
Mr. Faith held the office door for him, then closed it after they were inside. Tyler stood before the desk as Mr. Faith rounded it to sit.
“Would you be open to a position as the earl’s valet?”
“I beg your pardon?”
Mr. Faith folded his hands over the desk’s blotter. “The earl is in need of a valet. His last man moved on just a few months ago. Owen has managed serving the lord and his brothers, but now Lord Rose rightly feels the need for a personal valet. Of our available staff, you seemed the most likely candidate, so he would like to offer you the position before we advertise elsewhere.”
Tyler had wondered why one man served all three gentlemen of the household but had never thought to be offered the position himself. “I’ve never been a valet,” Tyler protested while his heart soared. Personal valet to Earl Rose? The offer was an honor. Valets could make a great deal of money, and it was a high position in the household. To say nothing of the fact that he would spend time in close proximity to the earl himself. Tyler had yet to quell the thrill he felt in the man’s presence.
“We recognize that.” From his words, Tyler realized that the earl and Mr. Faith had given the matter some thought. “However, with your background in your former employment and your exemplary performance in your duties thus far, we feel that you could learn the new position in a hands-on manner.” He cleared his throat. “The earl is a unique personality, and you would most likely benefit from a fresh perspective rather than formal training. He is also a kind and patient man who is more than aware of your lack of experience and willing to train you to…meet his needs.”
Tyler wondered at the slight pause before the last phrase, but he was distracted by excitement. “Shouldn’t Owen get the advance?”
“He was offered the position. He’s chosen to remain with Lord Brent and Mr. Reese.” Mr. Faith tipped his head slightly. “The position would be accompanied by a substantial raise in pay, of course.”
Even better! “Sir, I’m honored. Truly.”
“Yes. You should be. However”—Mr. Faith gave him an oddly intense look—“if you ever find yourself in an uncomfortable position, I wish you to know that you must come to me. My duties to this household include seeing to the well-being of its staff, and if you find yourself unable to fulfill your duties, or if you feel you must move on…” He paused, and the look intensified. “We will compensate you and provide you with good references.”
Tyler blinked, touched by the concern even though he was confused why the sentiment was offered. “I… Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”
Mr. Faith nodded. “Very well.” He stood. “Unless you have questions or concerns, his lordship will see you in his office to further discuss your promotion.”
“Now?” Tyler’s belly flipped.
“If you’ve nothing more pressing?” Mr. Faith’s lips twitched.
“Oh no! Thank you, sir.” He bowed his head in respect, then left the office.
Valet! Wait until Amy heard this. He knew somewhat of the position. As concierge at the hotel, he’d met and dealt with a number of valets for important personages. He’d always rather envied these capable men who served their lords with quiet efficiency. Well, most he envied. Some he pitied when the lord was overbearing or incompetent. But he’d witnessed the pride in those who served great men who were worthy of such dedication. Tyler had faith that Earl Rose was such a man. Although he was young, Lord Rose seemed quite capable, remarkable really. He laughed often and was quite jovial with his guests and family at the dinner table, but Tyler had witnessed the command beneath the charm and had met few who had a negative word to say about the man. Tyler had never seen any doubt that Lord Rose was in charge and capable of making decisions for those around him. Lady Gretchen Rose was very similar, but it was easy to see which of them had been raised to rule.
Tyler made his way up into the main hall and then up the grand staircase, his heart racing at the prospect of what he approached. The walk was long enough that he began to doubt himself. Could he fulfill his duties? What exactly would his duties be? He knew he would be in charge of dressing and grooming, seeing to the earl’s personal effects and well-being. Was he capable of that responsibility? Then he was a few steps away from the open office door. Beyond waited the earl himself, a man Tyler had only spoken with personally three times in the past month, and each time he’d been tongue-tied. Good grief, how would he communicate?
He smoothed a hand over his hair, snapped the hem of his short livery jacket to straighten it, then, steeling himself with a full-body breath, stepped to the door and rapped on the frame.
“Tyler. Come in.”
The lord had been seated behind his desk but stood as Tyler entered. The room seemed far too austere for the young lord in loose shirtsleeves, snug olive trousers, and shiny calf boots, but Tyler thought perhaps the surroundings had been designed for the late earl instead. The dark wood certainly seemed more fitting for an older man. But Lord Rose moved easily through the space, smiling at Tyler as he approached. Tyler had been to a circus once and seen a male lion in motion. This man reminded him of that great beast, from his tawny coloring to his feline economy of movement. The hair that contained strands of every hue of brown imaginable was loose this night, tucked behind his ears but otherwise flowing freely across and just below his shoulders. His angular, striking features were only slightly muted by the soft light from the candle sconces mounted on the walls.
The lord was almost in front of him before Tyler recalled his manners and bowed halfway from the waist. “My lord. You wished to see me?”
“I did, yes. Please have a seat.”
Unsure whether he should sit in the presence of nobility, Tyler was more sure that he should not disobey a direct request. He took the proffered seat in a deep-green upholstered chair.
The lord took a seat on the matching settee beside him, perched on the edge. He held himself easily, but there was an expansion to him, as though he occupied more space than was physically possible. “Mr. Faith has spoken to you regarding my proposal?”
“Yes, my lord. May I say that I am honored you would consider me. Thank you.”
One elegant hand waved between them, signet ring flashing. “You can thank me by taking the position.”
Tyler opened his mouth, unnerved when the man’s emerald gaze settled on his lips for a brief moment before returning to his eyes. “I feel I must mention that I’ve no formal training as a valet.”
“I understand that, and it doesn’t concern me. You know the basics, yes?”
“I believe so.” When Lord Rose stared expectantly, Tyler continued. “I would see to your dress and personal comfort. I would dress you and see to your wardrobe, see to your personal belongings and toiletries.” He stalled, looking to the other man for help.
Lord Rose smiled. “Those are indeed the basics, and that’s where we’ll begin. I’ll admit that I may ask more of you.”
Tyler’s heart raced. “More, my lord?”
The eyes were so very intent, focused entirely on him. “I may ask you to be more of a companion than is entirely appropriate. I spend a lot of time in town at the theaters and may ask you to help with clerical duties. Have you any experience there?”
“Yes. I do.” He was pleased to be able to answer in the affirmative. “I served as a desk clerk at the hotel where I used to work. Not for very long, but I can read, balance ledgers, and am told I have good penmanship.”
Lord Rose laughed, a warm, velvety sound. “Excellent. Your penmanship is most likely better than mine. Can you ride?”
Tyler blinked. “I…must admit I am not an accomplished rider. I grew up in the city.”
By tipping his head to the side, the lord sent a cascade of shimmering hair over one shoulder. “But you have ridden?”
“I have managed to mount a horse and persuade him to take me from point A to point B.” Tyler tried a smile, hoping his attempt at humor would be well received.
It was. By the twinkle in his eye, the lord was delighted. “That’s a start. We’ll find you an agreeable mount and get you some time in the saddle. I usually ride into town rather than taking the motorcar.”
Tyler nodded. He’d seen the man on his gray steed in the mornings and at night, had seen the ease with which he’d handled himself both on horseback and on his own two feet. But then, that was common among the nobility.
“I also travel. I’m typically in Doncaster once a month, if not more, for days at a time. Will that pose an issue with your family?”
He appreciated the thought. “No. My sister and niece are living with my uncle and aunt. They only depend on me for financial support. Although I do like to visit at least once a week.”
“You are their sole support?”
“With my uncle and aunt, yes. Her husband passed shortly after Victoria was born. Then our father passed.”
“I’m so sorry, Tyler. Having recently lost a parent, I sympathize.”
Touched by Lord Rose’s evident concern, Tyler squeezed his hands to fists on his knees. “Thank you, my lord.” He nodded over a lump in his throat.
“We’ll make sure you still get at least a day off each week, and I’ll compensate if I’ve kept you in the city too long. I wouldn’t keep you from your family duties.”
Amazed, Tyler blinked rapidly over burgeoning tears. “Thank you, my lord.”
The lord’s smile was entirely affable. With a slap to his thighs, he stood. “Come, let me show you the valet’s quarters.”