DISCLAIMER: The characters in this story are mine. Any resemblance to any fictional characters is purely coincidental. This is an uber story and so the two lead characters may be familiar. Some locations contained within the story are real and some are fictional.
LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts loving consensual sexual relationships between women. Some very light BDSM references are contained in the piece. If you are under 18 years of age or if the themes of these relationships are illegal in your country then I suggest you skip this story.
SONG/MUSIC DISCLAIMER: The Songs mentioned in this piece are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to my Beta reader Lee. Your help has been invaluable. For my partner Lou. Your help, love and encouragement are my inspiration. ©Jenny Frame January 2011
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To jennyframe91[at]yahoo.com

The Dalton Family Saga:
Book One: The Road to Dencotte House

By Jenny Frame


Part 1

Ego dilecto meo et dilectus meus ( I am my beloved and my beloved is mine)

Song of Solomon 6:3

England - 1950

9:10 Train from Ambleton to London

The lush green English countryside rolled past the train window. Beth looked out, her mind drifting to the circumstances had brought her to this journey. Elizabeth Bentley was born to Edward and Janet Bentley in a small village outside Cambridge called Middleford. She was young girl when her mother died and Edward was left to raise Beth alone. Edward never got over the death of his wife.

Edward and his daughter were inseparable. Edward was a university professor of ancient history. Unlike many girls of the time, Edward insisted on educating Beth to a very high standard. They didn't have much money as academics were never paid as much as they should be, but they were comfortable enough. Beth was an avid reader, devouring any books her father brought home. She hoped one day when she was old enough, she would gain a scholarship to attend university just like her father. She was 16 years old when she received a telephone call from her father's university to tell her he had been rushed to hospital. By the time she got there Edward had passed away from a massive heart attack. Tears came to Beth's eyes as she remembered the pain of that day.

"Have your tickets ready please!" called the conductor from further down the carriage.

Beth wiped away her tears quickly as she fumbled for her ticket. The conductor looked down at the short blonde; she looked sad and quite alone.

"Going all the way to London Miss?" he asked.

"Yes," she replied, not really wanting to get involved in any conversation.

"That's a long journey from Ambleton; make sure you got a hot cuppa tea from the refreshment carriage."

"Thank you but I have all I need here."

"Very good, Miss," he said as he moved onto the next passenger.

Knowing she didn't have money to waste on refreshments Beth had packed sandwiches and a flask of tea. As she poured a cup of tea she thought back again to the day everything changed.

After she left the hospital with only a small box of her father's belongings she felt like the world had ended. She had nothing and no one. Once she got home, Mrs. Nelson from next door had cooked her a meal and sat all evening with her. She couldn't eat; she felt numb. When she lay in bed that night, unable to sleep, she thought to her father's box from the hospital. Beth got up and rummaged through the box until she found her father's gold pocket watch. It had been his prize possession, given to him by his wife, Janet, when they were married. As Beth lay back onto the bed she opened the watch and read the inscription as she had many times before. It read in Latin - ego dilecto meo et dilectus meus, which meant I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. It was taken from the Song of Solomon in the King James version of the Bible. As Beth fell asleep that night, clutching the watch to her heart, she prayed there was someone who would feel that sort of perfect love for her as her parents had felt for each other.

Beth's father had left very little money, just enough for the funeral with a bit left over. Of course, Edward hadn't counted on dying in his early 50's. He had assumed that although he didn't have much to leave his daughter, he would see her married to some nice young man she knew from around the university campus. So this left Beth quite alone and penniless. She remembered as the day of the funeral arrived, Mrs. Nelson and her husband from next door had been a great support to her, in arranging the funeral and the ladies of village made sure there was a nice spread for after at the church hall. As everyone was leaving the graveyard a middle-aged couple came up to her.

"Excuse me, you don't know us but we're your Aunt Ada and Uncle Jim."

Beth had heard her father talk of his brother James on occasion. It seemed that the brothers had a falling out in their 20's; something to do with missing money from their mother's house Beth seemed to recall. Although her father wouldn't talk about him much, Uncle Jim was so like her father tall with a dark receding hairline. Edward had always remarked that he was delighted Beth took after her mother who had been short, petite in stature with the most beautiful blonde hair and sea green eyes. Beth wondered if Uncle Jim's personality matched up to her wonderful father's. Aunt Ada was a short, stoutish woman, wearing very old fashioned matronly clothes. She seemed to have a harshness to her face that Beth couldn't put her finger on.

Her newly discovered Aunt and Uncle had offered her a place in their home in the village of Ambleton. Beth talked it over with Mrs. Nelson and it was decided for a girl alone in her position, there wasn't really much choice. And so Beth left her beloved village of Middleton and went to stay with her Aunt and Uncle. They lived in what had once been a lovely country cottage, but it obviously had lacked care and attention for many years. It also became apparent very quickly that Uncle Jim was nothing like her father. He didn't work, he bought and sold whatever he could get hold of, which had usually fallen off the back of a lorry. Aunt Ada took in sewing and the odd mending jobs.

The cottage had a small allotment on which they grew some vegetables to supplement their rations. Beth was amazed that Uncle Jim could come from the same family as her father. Her grandmother, she knew, had been a very respectable woman, and her Grandfather an Army officer. Yet they were living hand to mouth and Beth at first did not understand why they had offered to take her in when they had so little themselves. This was very different to the comfortable middle class life she had led.

As she recalled the day she learned of their true intentions, she thought. 'I was such a fool not to see it before.'

Over breakfast one morning Aunt Ada said, "Beth I think it's time we went into town to sort out your banking."

"What do you mean?"

"Well now you're living with us it would be best if your uncle and I managed your inheritance, that way your board and lodging can be paid for and we will give you a small allowance every month. A young girl knows nothing of managing money."

Beth was stunned and all at once realised why she was there. They assumed that the young girl had an inheritance. "Aunt Ada, my father left no money. After his funeral was paid for there was nothing left."

She could remember the explosion that then ensued between her Aunt and Uncle, to this very day. They hadn't counted on this. Beth was treated like a pariah after that. She was allowed to stay, but was to become almost like a servant. Beth attended to all the sewing work that came in for her Aunt and she was also sent out to work as a cleaner at the local minister's house. She felt like a modern day Cinderella and felt trapped. Beth had nothing and no one and no other choices.

As the months turned into two years, Aunt Ada became rather too fond of gin to ease her sorrows. This made her have an even crueler streak than she already had. Uncle Jim barely noticed the girl was alive, which suited Beth quite well, but Aunt Ada could say the most cutting things to her and the worst were directed towards her father. She missed him so much, and some nights would cry herself to sleep clutching his pocket watch.

The only bright spot was getting out of the house during the day for Reverend Clement. He was a kindly man who would take the time to talk to Beth through the day. He had heard of the young girl's father and had indeed read a few of his published works. He knew what her Aunt and Uncle were like and the circumstances she found myself in. He did the kindest thing anyone had ever done for her. He paid Beth a little over her wages so she could save the extra without her Aunt finding out and encouraged her to save the extra so she would be able to get out. Reverend Clement had family connections in London and said if Beth could save enough to start her off he would see about finding her a position in London. Beth could get out, and could be her own person. It took her a year but finally at the age of 19, she finally had enough to leave.

Reverend Clement had found Beth a position as an office junior at his cousin's firm. She had a letter of introduction and all that was needed was to have a quick interview when she arrived then start the next day. He also arranged a room at a boarding house which would pay for when she arrived. It was run by a former member of his church and would be a very respectable establishment for a young, single girl to reside.

Beth couldn't begin to thank him enough when she said goodbye to him for the last time and promised to write regularly to him. That night at home she went to her room early and packed all her things without Aunt Ada knowing. The next morning Beth came down the stairs case in hand.

"Were do you think you're going girl! You'll be late for work!"

"I'm leaving," Beth said with more confidence than she really felt, and marched out the door. Aunt Ada ran after her squawking.

"You have nothing and no one girl! You'll be back! We've done everything for you, ungrateful child!"

Beth kept her eyes ahead as she marched down to the station for her 9:10 passage to freedom.

That is how Beth found herself on the train travelling to what she hoped would be a much better life. Loud shouts broke mher from her memories.

"Last stop, Miss!" shouted the conductor. Beth was here finally and London awaited her.

"Get out you incompetent imbecile!" Alex shouted. "You'll be paid till the end of the week. Get out of my sight!" Good god! Alex thought. Can anyone save me from idiots! The now ex secretary had forgotten to put an appointment in the book for a meeting with a business that supported Alex's foundation with large donations. When Alex got a phone call to inquire if a representative of the charity was indeed coming to the meeting, the secretary got a taste of the foundation chairman's temper. Alex hated to be embarrassed like that. A stickler for time and responsibility, Alex expected the same in others. The phone was quickly grabbed out of the cradle and a number dialed.

"Good morning, Woodward residence. How may I help you?"

"May I speak to Mrs. Woodward please? Alex Dalton calling." Her anger was slowly dissipating.

"Of course Lord Dalton, one moment."

Alex waited a couple of minutes then a lilting female voice asked, "How may I help my Lord Dalton this fine morning?"

"Very funny Lotty." Alex replied.

"I need your help; can you look out for a new secretary for me? I'm not using that agency again. They send me nothing but idiots!"

Lotty sighed, "Not another Alex! How many have you gone through. I think you need to be a little more patient with them."

"I can do patience but I cannot work with idiots. You must be able to find someone with connections at the orphanage?"

Charlotte Woodward did some work with an organisation that helped find work for young girls getting too old for the orphanage system.

"I'll keep my ear to the ground, but some of my girls I think would find it difficult to cope with you My Lord." Lotty said with a sarcastic note to her voice.

"Well please try, for me?"

"I will of course. Are you still coming to dinner this evening? Poni says she has an old bottle of port with your name on it."

"I'll be there, but I may pop into the club later."

"We'll see you at 7:30 then. Bye Alex."

"See you later Lotty."

Beth marched down the street, suitcase in one hand and a piece of paper with the address details of her interview in the other. Butterflies were whizzing around in her stomach. She didn't have any experience in the workplace but she had helped her father catalogue his work. She was well educated and a very hard worker, but she was so glad Reverend Clement had pulled a few strings for her. It was never easy for a young girl to get her foot on the ladder. Beth finally arrived at the address on the paper. She was in plenty of time, and hoped that looked good. Beth watched the workers that were entering and leaving the office building. 'They look so smart, I am so glad I took the time to freshen up at the train station toilets!'

Beth plucked up her courage and walked into a large foyer with a large desk directly in front of her. She went forward and handed her letter of introduction to the security guard.

"Elizabeth Bentley to see Mr. Wells."

The security guard looked at her letter and then looked Beth up and down with an air of superiority that made her feel about two inches tall.

"Follow me."

As Beth walked down the corridors she moved past glass cases with model ships in various states of construction. The company was a widely known in the shipping world, and Mr. Wells was a middle manager who was a distant cousin of Reverend Clement, had worked for them for some time. The security guard came to a stop and asked her to sit in a waiting area outside Mr. Well's office door. After ten minutes or so a middle aged rather frumpy woman appeared out of the office.

"Miss Bentley? Please come in." She seemed to almost scowl as Beth walked past her into the office.

I must be imagining it. Put your best smile on Beth.

"I'm Mr. Wells' secretary, Mrs. Watson. Please take a seat."

Beth sat down feeling very nervous and out of place. Mrs. Watson remained standing in front of Beth.

"Mr. Wells was called away this morning to an urgent meeting so he asked me to conduct the interviews in his stead." she stated.

Beth suddenly had a bad feeling. 'Interviews? I thought it was only me who was being seen for the job.'

Mrs. Watson continued, "I'll keep this brief so as not to waste your time Miss Bentley. The position was filled earlier today, an impeccable and very experienced candidate emerged who I felt I had to offer the job to before we lost her to another company before the end of the day."

Beth was shocked, and her stomach seemed to fall down to her toes. She tried to grasp some words for a reply. "Mrs. Watson, Reverend Clement from Ambleton arranged this with Mr. Wells." she said as she felt her throat tightening with panic.

"Mr. Wells led Reverend Clement to believe that I simply had to come up for an interview and the job would be mine!"

Mrs. Watson smirked. She recalled this morning's events as she felt a surge of power that she very seldom felt in her employment. That morning Mr. Wells had been called away, some crisis or another over at the docks. As he rushed out the door he shouted, "Mrs. Watson, the interviews for the assistant post are coming in today, could you please handle it for me. I think there are four girls in total but I promised the job to a young girl my cousin wrote to me about. Just give her the once over and if everything is in order offer her the job." With that he rushed away.

Well! Mrs. Watson had thought. No country bumpkin is coming up here and walking into a job when young Nancy needs a better position. Mrs. Watson quickly phoned her sister, Nancy's mother, and got her niece in as quickly as possible. She would simply tell Mr. Wells that Miss Bentley was very late and in very shabby appearance. That should do it.

"Miss Bentley, you have zero experience working in an office environment. Mr. Wells left the decision to me. I've made my decision. The job has been filled. Thank you for coming in. Good day Miss Bentley." she said as she held open the office door hoping that Beth would quickly exit the building.

Beth sat there, motionless and mouth hanging open for what felt like an age. Panic consumed her. She had left everything, all security to come for a job that had now been taken away from her. She was all alone in a strange city with virtually no money. The money she had saved had gone for her train ticket, the first month's rent for her lodging, and an outfit for her new job. Suddenly the girl bolted from the chair and was running for the exit of the building in sheer panic, tears running down her face. As she came out running onto the street without looking up, she never saw the Rolls Royce. The driver of the car screeched to a halt. As the chauffeur jumped out of the car to see if he had hit the young girl, she fainted and her world slipped into blackness.

The chauffeur knelt by the young girl trying to ascertain her condition, as a lady appeared from the back of the car just as Beth was regaining consciousness.

"Robson!" the lady shouted. "What happened? Is she alright? "

"We didn't hit her, Mrs. Woodward. I think she fainted from the shock ma'am. She's coming round now."

Beth opened her eyes and found herself in the arms of a tall thin man in a chauffeur's uniform. Above his shoulder a lady was bent over with a very concerned look on her face. The lady was a little taller than her own 5ft 3inch frame. A beautiful woman. Beth thought. She had a perfect hourglass figure. Delicate features were accentuated with perfect make up, just enough to enhance her natural beauty. She wore a classic navy blue suit with her dirty blonde hair pinned up underneath a matching hat. Around her shoulders she wore a real fur stole. The lady's outfit looked as though it cost more money than Beth had seen in her entire life.

"My dear, are you alright?" The lady asked as the driver Robson helped Beth to her feet. The crowd that had formed around them was starting to move away back to their own business.

"I'm so sorry for running out in front of you," Beth said somewhat fearful of the rich lady's reaction.

"Not at all my dear. I'm sure we were travelling a little too fast for these city roads. Come my dear and have a seat in the Rolls until you regain your senses."

Beth was a little nervous but felt she could trust this lady. "Thank you, I don't want to any trouble and keep you late for anything."

"We're in no hurry my dear; I was just off for a jaunt round to some shops. If you keep me from spending any money today, I'm sure my other half will be eternally grateful." she joked.

They got into the back of the Rolls and Beth tried to catch her breath.

"My names Charlotte by the way, Charlotte Woodward, but my friends call me Lotty. Please do call me that." she said as she held out her hand to shake hands with Beth.

"Oh thank you, my name's Elizabeth Bentley, but everyone calls me Beth."

As Lotty looked at Beth, she felt an instant friendly affection for the young blonde; the young woman looked sad and alone. "Let me take you for a cup of tea? It will calm your nerves. After all I owe you that at least after you nearly coming a cropper in front of the Rolls!"

Beth started to protest, but Lotty continued, "No. I won't hear any refusals! Come my dear and humour me. I could do with the company and you can tell me your story. I have a strong feeling it's an interesting one. Take us to The Grange Robson. They have the best cakes in the whole of London!" Lotty exclaimed as they drove off into the traffic of London.

Beth walked into the grandest tea room she had ever been in. The room was large and had the most wonderful chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the light sparkling off the crystal making them shine like diamonds. The waitresses all had smart black and white uniforms with hats to match. The Headwaiter met them at the door and exclaimed, "Ah, Mrs. Woodward! So nice to see you again, we have your usual table free. Please follow me."

They were directed to a beautifully set table in front of a large open window.

Lotty asked, "Shall I order for us both, Beth? They have the most wonderful pastry chef here. Even with meager rations, he can always come up with some special treats to tempt us ladies. It's simply awful isn't it? Three years after war and were still rationed! I mean I think we've all given enough to the cause. Don't you agree?" Lotty said jokingly.

Beth Smiled shyly.

"Luckily for us, the pastry chef here is a wonder with a little sugar, a little food colouring and a lot of imagination. Do you trust me?"

"Of course. I'm sure you know what's good here."

After Lotty had ordered up tea and a selection of sandwiches and cakes, Beth inquired. "Do you come here a often, Lotty?"

"Yes. There are a few wonderful places in London, but this place is the best. It has some of my favorite indulgences."

The sandwiches and cakes were brought to the table on beautiful tall cake stands. The tea was served in the best of china cups.

While Lotty conversed briefly with the waitress, who she seemed familiar with, Beth thought about her new acquaintance. Lotty was obviously very well off as the caliber of the tea room and the quality of her clothes indicated that straight away. Everyone seemed to be very familiar with Charlotte Woodward. She must do a lot of socialising in town. But for all her apparent wealth and class, Lotty seemed totally unaffected by it. She was kind and open, in no way a snob as many ladies in her position could be.

Lotty mentioned "A better half" earlier; she was clearly married, but described her husband as a better half. 'It must just be a term of endearment.' She thought.

"Well Beth, do get stuck in. You must be hungry? Forgive me for ignoring you while I talked to young Mary the waitress. She is a girl I helped place here." Lotty said. "Place here?" Beth questioned.

"Forgive me, let me explain. I am chairwoman of a charity that helps young girls find work as they are about to leave the orphanage system. I managed to get Mary a job here after we got her silver service training. I like to check in with her occasionally and see if everything is going well."

Beth was amazed. "That is just wonderful Lotty! To help young people that have no one, is just wonderful."

"I am in a very fortunate position, Beth. Because of my marriage, I will never want for anything. I don't and could never take that for granted. The only way to sleep at night, when you are lucky enough to have so much is to give back as much as you can. Poni and I devote as much time and money as we can towards charitable pursuits"

"Poni?" Beth asked.

"My other half, a term of endearment for our friends and me."

Beth was so impressed with this woman. She had never come across someone so well-off who did so much. Perhaps she was guilty of making assumptions herself.

"So, young Beth, tell me your story. Where have you come from and what had made you so upset this morning?"

Beth launched into her story, right back to her father dying and going to live with her aunt and uncle, her well planned escape, and how it all went wrong this morning.

Lotty listened intently. She felt so sad for this young woman. It seemed like no one had taken care of her since her father, and having her mother die when she was so young. Lotty liked this girl instantly when she met her and even more now that she had heard her story. 'You are going to have someone on your side for once.' Thought Lotty.

"I'm so sorry for the loss of your father, Beth, He sounded like a good man."

"He was. The best of men. I only hope I can find someone who would give me even half of the love and happiness my mother and father had."

"I hope you won't think me interfering in any way Beth, but I may know of some employment for you. Do you have any secretarial skills?"

"Yes. I was secretary to my father for all of his later published books." Beth suddenly felt her heart beat faster, was there going to be a job to save her.

"Poni is heavily involved with a charity run by a friend of ours, lends monetary support and sits on the Board of Trustees with our good friend Lord Alex Dalton.

Alex runs the charity from offices in London and asked me this morning if I knew of any secretaries. I think you would be perfect. But I will warn you, Alex is not the easiest person to work for. Numerous secretaries have been dismissed over the past few months, but I can see something in you that tells me you would be able to handle it. What do you think? Shall I take you over to meet Alex?"

Beth gushed, "Oh thank you! You don't know what this means to me. I can't thank you enough for this and for your kindness today. I'm a stranger to you. Why do you want to help me?"

"I liked you as soon as I saw you Beth. I feel that there is a lot inside for you to give. You are a good, kind girl who hasn't had the best of luck. I want to try and help you along and I hope one day you aren't so alone and you find your champion in this life. At the very least you've made a friend in me."

'Champion? That was an odd way of putting it?' The word seemed to chime somewhere deep inside her even as. She dismissed the thought.

"Shall we go?" Lotty asked.

The Rolls pulled up alongside a rather grey bleak building in a more down market area of London and turned down a side alley, coming to a stop in front of a common place looking building.

"We're just up here. I'll lead the way," Lotty said.

Beth followed Lotty up a dirty stone staircase, then down a corridor with a few doors on either side. Lotty came to a stop outside one of the large wooden doors, opened it, and they walked into an outer office, obviously set up for a secretary. There was a desk and chair against one wall with a typewriter on the desk and various filing cabinets against the wall.

The drawers of the filing cabinets were all pulled out with files sticking out haphazardly as if someone had been searching for documents. The door to the inner office had a frosted window with the name Alex Dalton printed on it. Lotty knocked on the door and shouted, "Alex! It's Lotty. I have a secretary for you!"

"Come in." A deep rich voice shouted from inside. Lotty opened the door and she and Beth entered. Beth only saw the gentlemen's back, as he was facing the window looking at a file. He stood about 6ft 1 inch and had dark close cropped hair which was immaculately combed back at the sides raised in the middle with slight quiff, as was the fashion with young men of the day. From behind he had broad muscled shoulders and looked to be a strong well built man.

"Lord Dalton, let me introduce you to Elizabeth Bentley, a fine young women who I believe would make a wonderful secretary."

Lord Dalton turned round to greet them and Beth saw Lord Alex Dalton was a woman! The most handsome woman Beth had ever seen, but a woman none the less. She was stunned, even more so when Lord Dalton's beautiful blue eyes seemed to stare deeply inside her being and a thousand butterflies tumbled around in her stomach.

As Alex turned she came to look at the most beautiful girl she had ever seen in her 28 years. She stared into a pair of amazing green eyes and something stirred deep inside. She regained her senses, put her stoic mask back on, and moved towards them.

"Miss Bentley, Pleased to meet you and please call me Alex. Only my silliest friends call me Lord." said Alex as she turned to Lotty and kissed her on the cheek. "Looking as pretty as ever my dear Lotty, when are you going to leave that old Poni and run away with me," Alex joked.

Lotty giggled, "That old Poni is more than enough for me, I've put too many long years into her training to start all over again with you! And I'll tell her you called her old."

"I'm sure she'll thrash me to within an inch of my life when we box together."

"You're like a pair of 8 year old boys!" Lotty replied.

Beth felt bamboozled by the conversation. Lord Alex Dalton was a woman who dressed and seemed to live as a man. She wore a very smart 3 piece pinstripe suit with perfectly pressed white shirt and black tie. She was as smart as any man she had ever seen. Although her features were handsome she could still tell she was a woman. It was a most intriguing combination of both. It just struck her that Lotty said Poni, her husband, was a woman as well.

Mrs. Charlotte Woodward was married to a woman and Lord Alex Dalton was a woman who dressed as a man! Beth was sorely confused. She had never heard of women loving other woman before or living as men but as she looked at Alex dressed in her fine suit with smart short hair, it seemed the most natural thing in world. It suited Alex down to the ground. Alex was more handsome than any man she had ever seen and if Poni was the same sort of person she could understand how Lotty could fall in love with someone like that.

Beth was shaken from her thoughts by Alex saying, "So Miss Bentley, you've seen and heard the kind of people we are. We're not run of the mill. Could you work for me knowing all this? "

"Please call me Beth; I don't have any problems with that. Lotty has been very kind to me today and I have made a new friend in her so if you are a friend of hers then I would have no problems working for you. Do you want to interview me now?"

"There's no need, if your good enough for Lotty, your good enough for me, but I'll warn you I don't suffer fools gladly. I work very hard and expect any employee of mine to do the same. For this I will pay you very fairly. We are a charity helping the poor and destitute all over England, but mainly in Northern England and London, where the greatest concentration of poverty exists. You will be organising my meetings, maintaining my diary, and also dealing with my paperwork. How does that sound to you?"

"That sounds fine," Beth said overjoyed. This job had saved her and she couldn't believe her good fortune of stepping out in front of Lotty's Rolls Royce this morning.

"Excellent!" Alex said as she went into her desk drawer and brought out a key. "Your hours will be 9 to 5, but I'm going to give you this office key so you can let yourself in and out. I keep irregular hours at the office so I wouldn't want you standing outside waiting for me to open up. Sometimes I will need you to lock up. So if you have no other questions I will see you tomorrow."

"Thank you, I will see you then." Beth replied.

Lotty turned to Beth, "Do you have any accommodation set up or should I make some calls...?"

"No" Beth interrupted, "That's ok, I have a room set up at a lodging house. It is the one thing I managed to organise properly."

"Very good. Then l'll drop you off on my way. Remember dinner tonight Alex, It's about the only time you eat properly when you come to Grosvenor street!"

Alex smirked and said "I'll remember. Now, on you go before Poni starts pining for you."

Alex kissed Lotty goodbye then took Beth's hand, and said."Until tomorrow then Beth."

Both felt an electricity pass between them as they looked deeply into one another. They were still holding on to the other's hand when Lotty coughed politely to interrupt their private moment.

"Yes, until tomorrow. Thank you so much for this opportunity, Alex. Goodbye."

Alex watched them from her window as they climbed into the car, her heart beating a little faster than normal. 'What a beautiful young woman. She seemed so innocent and pure. Too innocent and pure for the likes of me.' Alex thought sadly. There was something about her though, something she couldn't place. Something that made Alex want to care about what happened to her. Not just another pretty girl. Alex resolved to make sure the walls she had built up were kept firmly in place around this young one. She will soon see my reputation for anger and aloofness well earned. Somehow that thought saddened her and she sighed.

Alex was sad and melancholy most of the time these days. She was a loner. Alex had always been alone. The only bright spots were her good friends Poni and Lotty. Alex and Poni had been in school together and had always been the best of friends. When Poni had met Lotty and fell head over heels in love, Alex was delighted. Lotty became like a sister to her and the three had many fun nights and adventures together.

Alex envied Poni, to find someone and give yourself completely to that one person, to set up home and settle into the comfort of domestic life, was secretly what Alex had craved all her life. To be like her parents, to be like Poni and Lotty, but she would never let herself have those things. She could never give her heart away only for it to be broken. That was something she would never do again.

She thought back to her childhood. Alex was the only daughter of Lord and Lady Dalton, the Earl and Countess of Sheffield, Alex's father Alexander was Lord of a large estate in the peak district near Sheffield called Dencotte House and the small village of Dencotte was attached to the estate. The Dalton family had been Lords of the Manor for 200 years, but had really become rich during the industrial revolution through coal mining in the area. Alex's grandfather had also invested some money in a new steel company, based in America, the company took off and became a billion dollar business, which made the Dalton's super rich. They bought up land in the surrounding area and in London and they also had an estate in Scotland, which they used for hunting and, where they would go for holidays. The Daltons were powerful, not only due to the money, but because of the large amount of land they now owned in England and Scotland.

When Alex's father inherited the land and title, he made a lot of changes. He was a kind man with a social conscience and was more interested in helping the poor than trying to make money off of them in coal mining. He used the his money to make improvements in the county, investing in schools and hospitals for the community. In Dencotte, he built affordable housing for the workers of the town and set up the Dalton Foundation to help the poor in the surrounding areas and London.

Groups could make appeals to the Foundation for grants involving different projects. The other landowners in England were appalled, but dared not say or do anything because of the power and money of the Daltons. His only open vocal supporter was his good friend Anthony Woodward, Poni's late father. They had been to Eton and Cambridge together and held the same political views, sense of duty, and social responsibility. Anthony was on the Board of the Foundation and helped in any way he could.

Anthony was a land owner in one of the most prosperous areas of London. Although not as wealthy as Alexander, Anthony was still very rich but held no title. His daughter Evangeline Woodward (Poni) inherited his estate, as there were no male heirs, on her Father's death when she was 22. The two families were inseparable when Alex and Poni were young, holidaying together, and of course going to school together.

Alexander and Anthony both had only daughters but did not believe, as most men did at the time, that ladies should only be educated in matters that would help them get a husband. Both girls had private lessons at home in Latin, physics, mathematics, economics, and any other subjects not deemed necessary at the all-girls school they attended. Later they were two of the very few girls who went on to university at Cambridge.

Alex and Poni had an idyllic childhood; both of them were tom boys who had the run of acres of their families' land. They took part in hunting, shooting, and fishing with their fathers. As they grew older it became apparent neither would grow out of the tom boy faze. Other people in their social circle talked of course, but the families were too powerful to be confronted about it, and quite frankly didn't give a damn what the rest of the upper classes said about them.

Their parents accepted them for who they were, thinking that there was nobody like their girls. Since they had no male heirs, all the money and land would go to their girl's, but in Alexander's case, he wanted to make sure his title didn't go to some male cousin 100 times removed. Alex could inherit the estate and money, but if there was no male heir any title would die out unless it could be shown it would be detrimental to the estate. In order for Alex to inherit where there was no male heir Alexander had to apply for what was called a "special remedy", which required an act of parliament to make Alex his heir legally. Alexander managed to do this, by spending a lot of money on the best of lawyers and being very persuasive. He succeeded and knew that in the event of death Alex would become Countess of Sheffield. Alexander brought Alex up with the same morals and social conscience as himself, and to understand the running of the Foundation. She was devoted to her father and tried her best to be like him and make him proud.

Her father and mother were devoted to each other and she hoped one day she would find a wife like her mother to become Lady Dalton. She knew from an early age that she didn't want a husband. The thought appalled her. Her idyllic childhood came to a crashing halt when at sixteen both her parents were killed in an airplane accident, while flying home from a trip to Paris. Alexander had taken his wife for a romantic weekend away and shopping trip, it ended in disaster. The plane's engines had failed, it plunged into the sea and their bodies were never found.

Alex's heart was broken and smashed to tiny pieces. She was inconsolable and vowed never to love like that again. She couldn't take any more pain than that of losing her parents. Alex went to live with Anthony and his wife. She became a loner, learning to rely on herself, with Poni as her only friend.

When she reached 18 she inherited the estates and title of her father so she became Lady Alexandria Dalton. Countess of Sheffield. She was never Lady material though and all her friends called her Lord Dalton. She took on her Father's legacy and saw the charity grow and prosper. She put all her energy into the Foundation and making her body the best it could be. She had grown up to a tall 6 foot 1 inches and was well muscled with the help of the sparring, boxing training, and fencing with Poni.

Alex never did give her heart away. She kept the women she had encounters with at arm's length making it clear she was only interested in sex and never seeing a woman a second time. Lust and sex she could control, and she got an exquisite high from being dominant and in complete control of the women she bedded. She was never cruel and always made sure her sexual partners were more than satisfied with their time with her. She used sex to try and fill the hole in her heart and though it never worked ,she always found herself resorting to that on nights when loneliness was too much for her.

With her money and good looks she was never short of a partner for the evening. Each woman thinking they would be the one to make her fall in love and give them everything. She would pick them up at the all women private members club in which herself, Poni, and Lotty were members. In the last six months her encounters with women were getting less and less. She was tired of it. The encounters made her feel dirty and soiled and she found after coming down from the high of orgasm she didn't feel pleasure anymore. She felt disgusted with herself and thought if her father and Mother could see her now, they would be appalled.

Poni and Lotty had tried countless times to get her to think about settling down a bit. They worried for her, as she was pulling into herself more and more. Recently as her encounters with women were declining the more she was throwing herself into her work. She pulled herself out of her memories filled with sadness. 'Maybe I could at least make a friend in Beth.' Another voice inside her told her she wasn't even good enough to be friends with such a pure, innocent girl. Her walls were again secured.

Lotty had dropped Beth off at her lodgings with a note of her telephone number and a promise that they would meet on Saturday. Beth was taken to her room by Mrs. Baker, the owner. She was a stout, dark haired woman with a kindly smiling face. Mrs. Baker had been left her small two story house in a will and had relocated from Ambleton to London.

She wanted to take in a lodger not only for the extra money, but for the company it would bring as well. Miss Bentley seemed on first acquaintance a pleasant quiet young girl, thought Mrs. Baker, and Reverend Clement had assured her of Miss Bentley's respectability. She was sure they would get along together quite nicely. The room that Mrs. Baker lead Beth to was clean, warm, and cosy.

"I hope you will be comfortable here," Mrs. Baker said.

"I'm quite sure I will be very comfortable." Beth replied with a happy smile.

"You will have your own key, so you can come and go as you please. I don't mind if you are out late. I know a pretty young lady like yourself will have many dinner engagements before long, as long as it isn't all night!" She smiled. "If all that is agreeable with you then get yourself settled and come down and I will put supper on the table."

"That sounds wonderful Mrs. Baker."

Over dinner Beth told Mrs. Baker of her emotional and exciting day.

"Ah! Lady Dalton you say," Mrs. Baker said. "I've heard a lot about her. A very unusual woman I'm led to believe. People talk and say some unkind things, but I don't hold with that. The kindness that her family has bestowed on the poor is truly wonderful and I understand Lady Dalton has taken the Foundation on leaps and bounds. People are born the way they are I think, some good, some bad, and some very different. I'm sure God had a very good reason to make Lady Dalton the way he did and surely a person of such kindness could not be bad. I say each to their own as long as they do no harm. Reverend Clement may not agree though!" Mrs. Baker chuckled.

"Yes I think your right Mrs. Baker." Beth agreed.

"Please call me Agnes dear."

"Thank you. When I met her today I was intimidated to be sure. She exudes power and control and her eyes seem to penetrate your soul." Beth was transfixed in her memory of Alex. "But there was a sense of goodness emanating from her, I don't think she would ever use that power or control for any bad purposes. I felt though underneath it all a sadness within her that I couldn't put my finger on."

"She has been alone for a long time I understand, perhaps that's it." Agnes said.

"Maybe, I hope at least I can help bring some calm to her working life. It feels great that I am going to be working somewhere that brings such help to people and not just a company to make profits for the rich."

"Yes, I think you may have landed on your feet my dear, and you have certainly made some excellent friends and connections. The Dalton's and the Woodward's are very powerful families and I would rather be with them than against them!" Agnes laughed.

Beth made her way up to bed and fell asleep clutching her Father's precious watch with more hope than she'd had in a very long time.

Earlier that evening on the other side of London, Alex arrived at the door of her friends London mansion on Grosvenor Street dressed in a made to measure double breasted dinner suit with a white handkerchief in the top pocket, a crisp white shirt, and a black bow tie. That was one indulgence Alex loved to spend money on, her wardrobe. Alex loved clothes and to be perfectly dressed. Having her clothes handmade always made sure of a good fit on her frame, especially around the chest and hips. All her shirts, jackets and suits were handmade from the finest fabrics in the expensive shops of Savile Row, one of the finest shopping streets in London.

Poni and Lotty's was a traditional townhouse mansion with 7 bedrooms and bathrooms, four reception rooms and extra rooms for staff accommodation. As the butler let Alex into the hall and took her coat she could see the grand staircase leading off to the bedrooms and further floors and straight ahead was a long corridor with various rooms going off it. All the ceilings and walls were carved and highly ornate. To any other person, the house and the grandeur would leave them gob smacked, but for Alex, the home simply gave off a warm and cosy feeling of family.

Her own estate although much bigger in both the house and grounds did not have that feeling of warmth and family, it used to when she was younger, her father always said to her, "You should never take for granted the role your wife plays in your life and in your home. You may bring money and security but they bring the light and happiness to your home and money is nothing compared to that. Your wife is the centre of the home and should be cherished."

Poni had that with Lotty, but Alex felt she would never feel that joy. She did love her home, Dencotte House, she felt calm there, the grounds were spectacular, but it was empty. She also owned a townhouse in London similar to Poni's that had been the family's town residence when they visited London, but during the war she had turned both the town house and her country estate over to the military, as barracks for the war wounded. After the war was over she had turned the town house into a sanctuary where the poor could come and get a bed, food, and medical care. It ran in a similar way as it had during the war.

It was fully staffed with doctors, nurses and midwives for the pregnant women. Pregnant women knew they could go there and not be judged. They would be cared for till the birth then helped to find employment and childcare or orgainise adoption. The others who came for help, men and women who found themselves through circumstance with nothing, would get a short stay until the charity helped them find employment and lodging.

Alex named it the Alexander Dalton house after her father. She knew he would be proud. It was always full so the people who came for help had to be assessed as to who was in the greatest need, but not one person was turned away without getting some help to make their life better and given hope. When she had given over her townhouse during the war, she bought a 3 bed room flat in Park Lane, Mayfair. It was not too far from Poni and Lotty, which was ideal.

The butler, Henry, led her into Poni's grand drawing room. Poni was standing leaning her hand on the hearth of the fireplace, cocktail glass in hand. Poni, also dressed in a dinner suit, was 5ft 7inches and all muscle. She had a square face and brown hair, which was longer than Alex's but was parted, scraped back tightly and pinned in at the back, giving the impression of very short hair. As soon as Poni saw Alex she moved towards her and engulfed her old friend in a warm hug. Poni was Alex's right hand 'man' both in work and in life. They were as close as if they were blood relations. Although Poni did not work day to day at Dalton Foundation, she was Vice-chairman of the Board of Trustee's who managed the Charity and was instrumental in the running and financing of the cause and like Alex put a huge amount of personal money into the foundation every year. Welcome My Lord!" She cried as she bowed at the waist. 'My lord' was Poni and Lotty's pet name for Alex and they loved to annoy her by cow towing and sending up her heredity status.

"Shut up you old fool!" Alex chuckled. "Where is your good lady?"

"Less of the old, we are the same age as well you know, except I am better looking," Poni said smugly.

They bantered back and forth between each other. "And my wife will be down any minute. You know how long she takes at dressing for dinner."

Just at that Lotty entered looking radiant in a long blue off the shoulder cocktail dress with a silk shawl thrown across her shoulders, her hair fell just below her shoulders in beautiful curls.

"I heard that Poni! If you wish me to come down for dinner in an old sack, I would be very much quicker. Would you like that instead?" Lotty joked.

Alex smirked at Poni, who rushed to Lotty's side to kiss her, quite obviously in trouble with her dear wife. Poni trying to rapidly rescue herself. "My dear wife, you know a dinner party never starts until you have arrived and I would wait forever for the pleasure of your company."

Alex interrupted, "Crawler!"

Lotty, who stood about 5 inches shorter than her spouse reached up and caressed her cheek, kissed her on the nose, "You smooth talker you!"

Alex looked on with a warm smile; her two friends adored each other. They had been together for 8 years and their love and passion for each other never seemed to lessen. Poni turned round and stuck her tongue out at Alex and then broadly smiled at her wife. Alex walked over to Lotty, kissed her on the cheek. "Radiant as always Lotty. Is Kitten Asleep? I was hoping to catch her before bed." Kitten or Kathryn Woodward was the couple's adopted Daughter. She was 8 months old and simply adored her Papi Poni and Alex.

"Nanny and I only got her to sleep an hour ago, the little cold she had has disrupted her routine. So were just glad to get her to sleep. If she'd seen you, she wouldn't have slept tonight at all. You and Poni make such a fuss of her."

"Alright well I'll pop over at the weekend to see her. I'll leave this here for her then." Alex put the brightly wrapped box on the table.

"Honestly between the pair of you, you'll have my girl spoiled rotten!"

"I couldn't resist it. I passed this toy shop and I saw this little kitten soft toy in a pink dress. I knew she'd love it."

"You are so sweet My Lord! I don't know where you get this tough reputation."

"Shush! Don't tell anyone."

Poni, seeing her best friends discomfort at the praise she was getting took her wife's arm and placed it through her own, remarking, "Shall we eat my dear?"

After dinner while relaxing in the drawing room, Poni and Alex were enjoying a Havana cigar and a glass of Port. "So Alex, what do you make of my new friend?" Lotty asked.

"I only spoke to her briefly, but she seemed nice enough. It remains to be seen whether she will be an able secretary for me." she said in a dismissive manner, not wanting to be drawn into conversation about the beautiful girl with green eyes.

"Alex, be nice to this one please! For me. She has had a difficult life up till now." Lotty added and then proceeded to fill Alex in on Beth's story.

As Alex listened she felt the pain of the loss of her parents. She knew that feeling only too well and felt her stomach clench in anger when she heard of Beth's mistreatment by her Aunt and Uncle. She felt she would do anything not to see pain on Beth's beautiful face. She pushed the feelings down replying, " I'll do my best to be as pleasant as possible because she's your friend, but if she doesn't meet my expectations in her work, then I will let her know."

"I suppose that's the best I'm going to get from you, you crabby thing! She is very good looking though isn't she Alex?"

Alex choked on her drink and spluttered " I ... I ... didn't really notice."

"Hmmm didn't you?" Lotty said with a quizzical smile on her face.

"No I didn't," Alex said firmly.

"Well," interjected Poni, "This young lady sounds quite the ticket! When do I get the pleasure?"

"Anytime you like Poni boy!" said Lotty planting a kiss on her lips.

Alex stood. "I think that's my cue to leave. Thank you for a wonderful dinner, I'm going down to the club for a few games of cards and a drink, Poni. I shall see you at our meeting on Wednesday."

Alex leaned over and kissed Lotty goodbye and shook Poni's hand.

"Try and not break too many pretty girl's hearts my friend," Poni said.

"Very funny you buffoon! Goodnight," Alex said as Henry the butler saw her out.

Poni and Lotty sat back on the couch. Lotty leaned back into Poni's arms.

"I worry for her," Lotty said. "She's always been a loner, but I feel she is getting worse. The sadness just pours off her. I know she's always been a ladies woman but these empty encounters with women seem to pull her down lower."

"She needs a wife like you my dear," Poni said nibbling at the back of her wife's neck.

"Luckily for you my Poni boy, there is only one of me and I belong to you," Lotty said as Poni contained to rain small kisses up and down her neck.

Lotty began to moan. "Hmmm ... oh ... I think there is something new round the corner for our good friend if only she has the courage to take it. Oh Poni! Take me to bed!"

"Gladly my little honey pie!" Poni whispered as she pulled her wife to her feet.

Alex sat at the bar of the Alley Cat Club. It was a large club that had a separate large room for dining. The main room had a long bar across the left hand wall and, in the centre were many tables which faced a stage at the back of the room where many musical acts played. The clientele was solely lesbian, in an area where homosexual clubs were often raided and shut down. They paid a huge back hand payment to the local police chief for him to overlook the club. This he generally did the trick as the police were more interested in pooling their resources into finding and shutting down the gay male clubs which, like it or not, were seen as more of a concern to society. The women were perceived as less of a threat.

The owner, Mrs. Harrington, was a rather flamboyant woman. She also bought extra insurance by employing a large number of young men that in case of a raid could be strategically placed around various table's to give the impression of a heterosexual clientele. The Alley Cat was a high class club with a closed membership scheme. Guests had to be signed in by a member before they could attend thus giving Mrs. Harrington strict control over who entered.

Alex ordered another whiskey and lit her cigarette taking a long drag from it. The club wasn't busy on a Tuesday night and for that Alex was grateful so she didn't have to make small talk with various acquaintances. She had bowed out of a request for her to join a game of poker as she didn't have the stomach for it. She just wanted to be alone with her whiskey and her thoughts, which, as they had been all day, were centered on a short blonde with green eyes. She couldn't understand it. She had been in this girl's presence for all of half an hour and yet there was something so familiar about her. She had to stop these thought's, she was only 19 for God's sake! A 28 year old was too old and world weary for the likes of her. Alex resolved to be as aloof and professional as possible so she could keep an emotional distance from her.

From across the room a long legged, Platinum blond zeroed in on her target and moved in for the kill.

"Hello there My Lord," the woman smoldered as she ran her finger down the front on Alex's shirt.

"Don't call me that Sally, That is a privilege only for the select few of my choosing," Alex snarled. She was not in the mood for Sally this evening. She had met Sally at the club about 8 months ago. She was just one of a long line of women she had bedded.

Sally wore a cheap evening dress with too much make up for Alex's taste. She had been very accommodating in bed and it had been a very satisfying couple of hours. Sally was a little surprised when as soon as they were finished Alex had gotten dressed and left her room thanking her for her company. The next time she had seen Alex in the club she was all over her asking why she hadn't called. Alex had explained "I told you when we met I don't revisit the same place twice. I told you it was only about sex and you said you understood that." Sally had been crushed. She knew what Alex was worth and thought if she just had one night more with the well-known womaniser, Alex would fall for her charms and she would be the next Lady of Dencotte House.

Sally kept her distance after that hoping for an opening that would get her in Alex Dalton's affections. She had heard from people around the club that Alex was picking up less and less. Perhaps she wanted to settle down a bit and Sally thought herself the ideal candidate for the task. So the platinum blondes campaign was started in earnest as she sat on the bar stool next to Alex.

"Come on Alex, we had a very hot night, the things you did to my body, the things I allowed you to do. I know you loved it. I'll let you have it again. Anything you want," Sally said demurely. "I know you haven't taken a woman to bed in a while. You must ache to have a woman open and ready below you. Take me back to your flat and I'll let you do anything."

Alex was both repulsed at the reminder of the things she'd done and turned on by the words Sally was using. She felt pressure building between her legs. She hadn't had the pleasure of a woman in two months. Although the frequency of her conquests had been decreasing it hadn't been till two months ago that she decided she just couldn't do it anymore and stopped completely. That was the longest Alex had been without sex since she was 18 years old. Alex stood up quickly knowing she had to get out. "You know very well, that no women ever comes back to my flat or my houses."

This was a rule Alex had instigated since she was a young woman, not wanting the evidence of her desires left in her home. That way after she had finished bedding a woman she could get dressed and go as quickly as possible. Alex walked away towards the exit of the club, all the while Sally was smirking watching her.

She hadn't got what she wanted this time, but she had planted a seed in Alex's brain. She had seen only too well how Alex had been affected by her carefully chosen words. Her plan of attack was firmly in motion.

"Remember your sandwiches dear." Agnes cried as Beth was nearly on her way out the door.

Beth had gotten up extra early to prepare sandwiches to take for lunch, so she could save money on having to buy anything as she wouldn't be paid till Friday. She also borrowed a few mugs from Agnes to take in to work. Yesterday she had noticed that there was a kettle and a small gas burner next to the sink in the outer office. It looked as if it hadn't been used in a while and there were no cups, tea bags, or milk. She decided she would stop at a corner shop on her way in and buy some things to use at tea break. Beth got the feeling Alex didn't give herself much time for breaks or getting something to eat. Maybe this is something I can do to lighten her load. She does so much for others and has no one to look after her, she mused.

Beth rushed back in to grab her lunch things and ran to catch the bus. It was still dark as Beth unlocked the door to the office and it would only get darker as it was still only November the 1st and the worst of winter was still ahead. She had arrived at half past 7 even though she didn't officially start till 9 o'clock because she had seen what a state of disarray the files were in yesterday and she wanted to get that in order before she started on the proper work of the day.

She put the mugs, tea, sugar, milk, and biscuits over at the sink. She had also bought some cleaning fluid and cloths at the corner shop in order to tidy up the sink and work surface around the kettle. Beth didn't have much money, but she thought these little things important in the job of being a good secretary.

She set to work cleaning and it looked shiny and new by the time she finished. Pleased with herself she next made a start on the filing cabinets in the outer office and the one in Alex's office. It seemed to take forever but by the time she finished, they were sitting in perfect alphabetical order. She had even found a couple of cheques in amongst the mess of papers, from people who had donated to the charity through the post. 'What was her last secretary doing all day!' Beth wondered.

Beth next tried to make sense of the diary. She worked out what the appointments for today were, pulled those files out from the filling cabinet and sat them on the side of Alex's desk with the cheques she had found on top of them. 'There! I think I've made some progress this morning. 'She busied herself with tidying up her desk and making a list of items she would need for herself and the office.

At ten o'clock Alex marched through the office door. Beth jumped up to greet her and was cut short. Not looking at Beth, Alex lifted her head and said, "Morning, see that I am not disturbed for the next hour." She was through her door and it was slammed shut. Beth was left opened mouth. 'How rude! I've been slaving away for the last few hours trying to make her workplace more comfortable and she just storms past me! Can't even lift her head to look at me. Her bad reputation was obviously well earned. She looked almost ill. Alex was white and, her eyes red and bloodshot. I wonder if she looks like that often.' She returned to her desk and her list.

Alex sat slumped at her desk with her head in her hands. She had the worst hangover. After she left the Alley Cat she had continued to drink at home alone. She had been so miserable and lonely. 'I can't keep doing this. I can't spend the rest of my life in misery and drink.' She had done the hard part of giving up the women and meaningless sex, although it was very hard and she was becoming increasingly frustrated.

'There must be more to life than this. I need to find something. I don't know what that thing is, but there must be something. I don't even need to be deliriously happy, just to be content would be enough.' The other thing that had driven her to look for answers at the bottom of a glass was Beth. Her face and eyes had haunted her and she hadn't even had the courage to look in her face this morning. There was something about Beth, as if Alex was missing something really important. It seemed to be on the tip of her tongue and then would float away just as quickly. 'At least my work is the one thing that gives me meaning.'

Beth was busy at her desk when Alex burst out of her office shouting. "What have you done to my filing cabinets? I can't find anything and some of my files are missing! I need them today! Your job is not to interfere with my things"

Beth's temper was so close to snapping, but she needed this job so badly. 'Why had did I come in early to try and make things easier for this ungrateful blockhead!' Instead of losing her composure, she got up calmly and walked past Alex into her office and opened the cabinet drawer. "First of all, all the filing cabinets are now in alphabetical order, so things will be easier to find. If you look at the pile on the left hand side of your desk you will find your so called missing files. I checked the diary and worked out what you would need today and left them on your desk so you wouldn't have to be searching for them. You will also find on top of that pile a few donated cheques that were lost in that messy filing system you had before. I would be grateful if you could at least ask me before you launch into a tirade at me!" And with that she marched past Alex, shut the door between their two rooms and sat at her own desk, breathing heavily, she was so angry, she would need to calm down fast.

Alex on the other side of the door, stood open mouthed and stunned. She shook herself and checked the files on her desk; they were indeed exactly what she needed for the day. The cheques were from regular donors, who probably now felt the charity ungrateful for not even acknowledging their contribution. Under the cheques were two envelopes. She opened and read them. She couldn't believe it; Beth had typed out two thank you letters to the donors and had obviously left them for Alex to approve before they were posted.

She felt like a bad tempered idiot. Beth had thought of everything, fixed up the office, and she had went off and shouted at her for it. She put her head in her hands.

The Dalton Foundation had never had as efficient a secretary as this. The girl was only 19 and she was a natural. She had to fix this before she lost her to another company. 'This bad temper has got to stop!' Alex thought. 'I know I wanted to keep her at arm's length but at the very least she could be friendly towards the girl.'

She thought about what Lotty had told her about Beth's past. She suddenly felt very guilty. 'The girl is in a new job and a new city with nothing and no one, and you treat her like that!' Alex chastised herself. Alex knew what she had to do. She entered the outer office and saw Beth sitting sadly at her desk.

"Ah listen, I am really sorry. I was out of order. I had a bad night and felt rather low this morning but I shouldn't have taken it out on you. Thank you for sorting out the files and the cheques and thank you letters. You have saved my skin. Those are wealthy donors and they would have been very angry if we hadn't acknowledged them. Could we start your first morning again? Forgive me?" Alex hoped she had said enough.

When Beth nodded and smiled Alex beamed and walked over to her, stuck out her arm for a handshake and said, "Alex Dalton, welcome to the Dalton foundation. I hope you'll be happy working here."

Beth took Alex's outstretched hand in hers. "Beth Bentley, thank you for the kind welcome. I'm sure I'll be very happy."

"Thank you for giving me a second chance at your first day."

Alex glimpsed over at the sink and kitchen area. It was gleaming. She'd never seen it looking like that and there was cups and all the makings of tea. She was even more impressed. "You did that as well as the all the other work? What time did you get here this morning?"

Beth smiled as her work was finally being appreciated. "Half past seven, I wanted to get all those things done early so I could start on the real work when you arrived. I thought if I got these small things sorted out it would make you working day easier. You work so hard for everybody else, I want to make the office as comfortable and smoothly run as possible."

Alex was amazed someone was actually thinking of her comfort. It felt nice. She felt a warm glow in her stomach looking at Beth. She gulped hard and said to herself. 'Need to get rid of that feeling. This is what I was afraid of.'

Beth stood up and asked "Would you like you tea now?"

Alex was confused. "Tea?"

"Tea break. You know, it's eleven o'clock" Beth said.

"I have never had a cup of tea in this building. I don't think I've ever stopped for a tea break, but that would be nice. I feel kind of sick from not eating anything, so that might help. You will have tea as well won't you?" Alex inquired.

"Of course! I couldn't go all through the morning without a cuppa! Did you not have breakfast, Alex?" Beth asked.

"No, never bother with breakfast."

Beth frowned. "Well go sit down and I'll bring in your tea."

"Yes Miss!" Alex chuckled.

Beth began making the tea. 'She doesn't eat breakfast and hasn't had tea and biscuits at work before today!' She recalled Lotty saying Alex only really ate properly when she came to their house. 'No wonder she didn't look well this morning. She doesn't look after herself!' She had to do something about that. Beth didn't know why but she felt a primal instinct to look after the tall woman. She took the tea tray in and set it out

"Beth, I don't want you to be cleaning like that again. I thank you for doing it, but it's not your job. I see now there's a lot of things in this office I've let slide, but no more. I'll employ a cleaner for our office and the conference room. I see now that I shouldn't be taking people into that room for meetings and expect them to hand the Charity money. We should make a good impression. I'm annoyed I never thought about that side of things before."

"It shouldn't be your job to think of things like that. You work so hard. How about if I spot any housekeeping issues I bring them to your attention and then we can sort them out?"

Alex caught herself staring dreamily at Beth, 'Oh yes Beth, you can look after me anytime you like!' Alex mentally slapped herself. 'No, no, no! Pull yourself together. Be professional!'

"That sounds like a fine idea Beth, thank you. You know, you aren't what I thought you'd be."

Beth smiled. "Oh? And what did you think I'd be like?"

"You look as if butter wouldn't melt in your mouth and like you'd burst into tears if someone shouted at you, but I think underneath your made of stronger stuff. You stood up to me. No one stands up to me. I think you're a little bit of a Spitfire aren't you?"

Alex and Beth's eyes met in silent challenge. The young girl smiled demurely and said. "I suppose you'll just have to find out Alex."

"I suppose I will." Alex beamed and gave the girl a cheeky wink.

The rest of the day passed quietly both people learning how each other worked.

The next morning Alex walked to work. She had given her driver the day off thinking the walk in fresh air would do her good. She had done a lot of thinking the night before and resolved to turn over a new leaf. She'd already given up the anonymous encounters with women and she would cut down on the drinking and try to be a lot friendlier and open. Perhaps even Beth could be a new friend, she only had Poni and Lotty after all. As she turned a corner she saw a flower seller on the opposite side of the road. 'Perfect!' she thought.

Beth was at her desk working away at some correspondence when Alex came through the door, looking much brighter than she had seen her, with a big bunch of flowers.

"Good morning Beth. Eh ... these are for you." Alex said suddenly shy. "Thought they would be nice over at the kitchen area now it's looking so clean, and I wanted to thank you for yesterday"

Beth took the flowers and sniffed deeply. "Thank you so much Alex, that was very kind. They have a beautiful scent."

"It's no problem, eh ... well ... I better get on." said Alex feeling like a teenage boy.

Beth smiled as she watched Alex walk into her office. 'Alex Dalton, you are a big softy underneath that stoic demeanor. I hope I can coax it out some more.' Beth went to fill up the sink with water and put the flowers in for the moment until she could get a hold of a vase. Perhaps Agnes would have an old one.

On the other side of the door Alex sat at her desk finding all the files she needed just as she had yesterday and on top was a paper bag with a Danish in it. Obviously it was left for her breakfast. 'Could this girl get anymore adorable!' Alex struggled to remember when last she had felt so taken care of. Perhaps this type of friendship could be what she was missing in her life.

When Beth came in next time, Alex asked her to take a seat. "Thank you for the pastry this morning it was very thoughtful. I really appreciate what you're trying to do for me in order to help the foundation."

"Don't mention it. Of course, I'm trying to help the Foundation by making sure its Chairman is healthy and in a good state of mind to work but it's more than that. I hope you agree, that in the short time I've known you, we are starting to become friends and friends care about each other." Beth said.

Alex smiled. "I would be proud to call you a friend Beth."

The way Alex said her name in that low husky voice of hers made Beth shiver. Alex stood up and walked round to sit on the corner of the desk next to Beth. "I've been thinking, there are things this office is going to need. Things like you have already bought, refreshments, cleaning things, stationary. So I am going to give you a £5 float. You keep it locked in your desk and use it for whatever you see fit. You make decisions for what we need; I'm not very good about thinking about these sort of domestic matters. Think of yourself as a sort of office manager."

As Beth looked at Alex sitting above her on the edge of the desk, she was transfixed by her, Alex radiated confidence and power. It seemed to come so naturally. She had overheard Alex on the telephone to different companies who supplied food and drink to the various soup kitchens the Foundation ran throughout the country. She demanded what she wanted and she got it.

To hear her speak and act like that was intoxicating. Beth felt Alex could make her do anything with that smoky voice and powerful demeanor. She had never experienced those sorts of feelings before in her young life and she felt guilty because you weren't supposed to think those thoughts about another woman. But of course, Alex was a special type of woman who seemed to have the best qualities of both a man and a woman.

At the same time power and caring, and from the evidence she had seen so far, she suspected Alex was a big softy underneath it all. Beth was interrupted from her thoughts by Alex saying, "Beth? How does that plan sound to you? When the money is running low just tell me and I'll put more in alright?"

"That's very kind of you Alex and I appreciate the trust your putting in me to handle the money."

"Not at all. I'm a good judge of character!" Alex smiled.

Beth smiled back and they seemed to get lost in each other for a few minutes. Finally Beth said, "Well I'll take my lunch now if you don't mind. Oh and I made you sandwiches for your lunch. I've noticed you not eating anything at lunch and that's not good for you, so I'll bring your sandwiches in everyday, ok? I can't have you wasting away!"

"You're too good to me. Whatever did I do without you?"

Alex realised she'd said too much and became all business again."Of course, go to lunch now. That's fine. I'll see you later."

"Ok, I'll leave your sandwiches on my desk. Just take them when you want them. They are ham and cheese. I hope you like that?" Beth said hopefully.

"They sound perfect, off you go now." Alex said, wondering where Beth was going to spend her lunch hour.

Beth walked across the street to the park to eat her lunch. She hoped she could do this every day while the weather was good. It was a lovely green space with a large pond in the middle. It had ducks, swans, and geese that she hoped would enjoy her left over's. Beth loved to sit and unwind reading a book and watching the world go by. Beth loved the book written by Jane Austen. She was rereading her favorite at the moment, Pride and Prejudice. She lost count how many times she'd read it. Beth loved sweeping romance. Mr. Darcy, the quiet, dark, moody figure, was to Beth the ultimate romantic character. For some reason today as she read Mr. Darcy's words she kept picturing Alex. She tried to push the thoughts away.

"Nice to see you again Miss," came a voice from above her.

She looked up and saw the young man who had tried to chat her up yesterday. His name was Albert Pincher. He was about 5ft 6inches, wiry thin body, short red hair that had so much Brylcreem on it; it looked like an oil slick. He gave Beth a creepy, sleazy feeling that she couldn't put her finger on. He had told her he was an apprentice draughtsman at an architectural company further down the street and he thought himself quite the catch.

Beth couldn't be bothered with his pestering today so she stood up. "You must excuse me Mr. Pincher, I must get back early today. My boss is a slave driver." she lied.

"Call me Albert please, if you must hurry off then I hope I will see you soon Miss Bentley." He leered at her ample chest. Albert Pincher had the ability to make you feel dirty just from a look. She excused herself and went back to work.

The next couple of weeks went along quietly with Alex and Beth getting along very comfortably. Beth was stamping her personality onto the office more and more and Alex lapped up attention like a puppy when Beth wanted to take care of her food and home comforts. They were both privately becoming fonder of each other. Alex practically bounded to work each day.

Alex hadn't been to the Alley Cat again and had hardly been drinking. She was eating well and looking so much better. Of course, Alex was still terrified of letting herself get too close, but had thought if she allowed herself this friendship and closeness with Beth at work that would be enough to manage her craving for the girl's company. As long as she never allowed the friendship and time spent together to go after office hours then she would allow herself this indulgence. Beth for her part was also enjoying every minute they spent together.

Beth reveled in looking after Alex. She also had been cultivating her friendship with Lotty, and loved the older woman's company. They had met for afternoon tea a few times and had even met in the park one day so that Beth could meet little Kat. Beth was so taken with her, she did wonder how they came to adopt her but didn't feel she knew her well enough to ask. They were due to meet again tomorrow for lunch. It was late Friday afternoon, just about finishing time for the weekend when Alex wandered out with Beth's wage's in an envelope. She handed them to her stating, "I put a little extra in for you."

"Why? You don't have to do that Alex. I understood last week because I bought the things needed in the office, but I have a float for that sort of thing now."

Alex went over and took Beth's coat off the coat stand and helped Beth on with her coat. "You have transformed this place. You have caught up on work I didn't think I would ever get round to. You have made sure I've been fed and watered and you have no idea what a difference that has made to me." Alex said softly as she buttoned up Beth's coat for her in quite an intimate way. "Call it a bonus and I won't hear any more about it, understand?" They were both looking into each other's eyes as Beth said, "Yes, my Lord," in a quiet teasing sort of voice then she broke away from Alex feeling uncomfortable that she had gone too far. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I know only Poni and Lotty call you that." Beth said almost in a whisper. She gathered her scarf and bag in embarrassment.

Alex's heart soared when she heard Beth use that term of endearment. When Sally used it at the club it felt dirty, but when Beth said it, it made her want to scoop her and kiss her silly. Alex was in deep trouble; she had to get control of her emotions, but had to make Beth feel better as she was obviously embarrassed. "Never be sorry for calling me that little bit, my friends call me that. So far in life I only have had Poni and Lotty, but I'd be delighted if you'd allow me to include you in my small circle of friends," she said as she lightly caressed Beth's cheek and then pulled away as if she'd been burned. 'What is it about this girl? Every time I make a pact with myself not to get anymore attached or involved I go and break my own rules.'

"I would be very proud to call you my friend, Alex."

Lightening the mood Alex asked, "So what's on the agenda this weekend?"

"I'm meeting Lotty tomorrow for lunch and am looking forward to that. Lotty has been a kind friend."

"Yes she's a good woman and Poni is devoted to her." And before her brain had time to catch up with her mouth she said, "Would you like to go to the picture house with me on Saturday night?" 'Bugger! I promised myself I wouldn't see her out of work.' Alex scolded herself. She consoled herself by thinking that she was simply doing a good deed as she knew Beth had no other friends in London.

"That would be lovely, thank you!" Beth tried her best to keep the excitement out of her voice.

"Excellent! We could get a bite to eat first and that way you can make sure I've eaten something over the weekend! I'll pick you up around 6 o'clock. Does that suit?"

"That's fine. I'll see you then, My lord," Beth smirked testing out the new nickname.

"Goodnight little bit, take care."

Beth giggled Alex's cheeky nickname. "Touché, Alex!"

When Alex was left alone she began talking to herself. "You can't get enough of that girl! Admit it you old fool!" Alex knew she was headed for trouble.

The next morning Agnes and Beth sat at the breakfast table. "What are you going to do today, my dear?"

"Well, I'm going for lunch with Mrs. Woodward at 12 o'clock, but I want to go into town early and perhaps get a new dress. I got a bonus in my pay-packet this week and Lady Dalton asked me to go to the pictures tonight and get a bite to eat first."

Agnes smiled, "You seem excited my dear."

"Well, I've never had friends before and I've certainly never had nights out." She said happily.

Beth set off for town a half an hour later. She had dressed in a smart blue pencil skirt and cream blouse. She was very conscious of trying to dress as well as her pay would allow. She browsed for an hour or so and found a very nice midnight blue sleeveless dress. It was pulled in at the waist accentuating her figure and the skirt slightly puffed out and ended just at the knee. She was able to afford it and no more. She had to leave some money for lunch and for this evening.

Beth arrived at the hotel that Lotty had suggested. It was very grand. It wasn't the Ritz but more fancy than Beth had been in her life. She came to the front desk and the receptionist looked her up and down with disdain, wondering what on earth a girl like her could be doing there.

"Can I help you Miss?" she sneered.

"I'm here to meet Mrs. Woodward for lunch." Beth said nervously.

"Ah yes, Matthew will take you through." She said as she signaled to the bell boy.

The bell boy took her through to a beautiful dining room and over to Lotty's table. Lotty today was dressed classically as always in a brown skirt and jacket with a silk blouse underneath. It was obviously made to measure. The older woman stood up quickly to greet Beth with a kiss as she noticed the intimidated look on the girls face. She had wanted to treat her to lunch at the Ritz but thought it might be to intimidating for her, but even this hotel seemed to be overwhelming to Beth. Lotty thought the small blonde was the sort of girl who should be used to this kind of fine living and if she had anything to do with it she would.

"Beth, am so glad to see you again."

They sat down and Beth visibly relaxed. The waiter brought the menus and as they looked them over Lotty said, "Have you been shopping this morning?"

Beth's eyes widened at the prices on the menu. "Eh ... yes, Alex invited me to the pictures this evening and to have some dinner beforehand so I thought I'd treat myself to a new dress."

Lotty had noticed Beth's reaction to the prices and wanted to nip that in the bud right away. "Now Beth, I invited you to lunch, so I will be handling the bill so you choose what you like alright?"

"You can't pay for everything every time we are out Lotty, that would be taking you very granted," said Beth.

This secretly pleased Lotty as it showed that if the girl did have any interest in her good friend Alex then it wouldn't be for the money. "Beth I have come to treasure your friendship and I do not have as wide a circle of friends as you would believe. Acquaintances yes, but real friends that I can talk freely to like I do with you none. The class of people that I would be expected to befriend do not always take kindly to how Alex and Poni choose to use their power and wealth, and of course, they do not approve of women living as we do with each other. You have never judged us and I have found a confidante that I can have fun with and make fun of Poni and Alex! So please let me do these things since I don't have to worry about the money. Besides, it's Poni's money we're spending!" Lotty giggled.

Beth smiled. "Well, if it's that important to you then ok, thank you."

They ordered soon after and Lotty asked, "So do you have Alex fully house trained yet?

Beth smiled, "We've made a lot of changes in the office and it seems to have helped Alex a bit."

"That's not how Alex tells it. She's full of praise for her new office angel! We've noticed such a difference in her and we have you to thank for it. To tell you the truth we had been worried about Alex for a long while. She has had nothing in her life but her work for a long time." Lotty said not wanting to give away her friends secrets of the long string of women. "I think your friendship could be so good for her."

Beth's heart warmed at the thought that Alex was praising her to Lotty and Poni. "I really like her Lotty and her friendship means a lot to me."

The rest of the lunch passed with idle chit chat. As they were getting ready to leave Lotty had a great idea. "Beth would you come over to dinner next Saturday night? You could meet my big lug of a Poni, please say yes!"

"I'd love to." The young girl beamed.

They said their goodbyes and Lotty wished her a good evening. Beth travelled home to get ready for her evening engagement.

Meanwhile on the other side of London, Alex was standing in her large bedroom, just out of a bath with a towel round her waist. She was debating with herself which suit to wear when the phone rang. "Alex Dalton."

"Good evening, My lord, it's your long suffering Best friend here!"

"Hello Poni, how are you?"

"Well Lotty and I were wondering if you would come to dinner next Saturday night?" Poni had been instructed to telephone by her wife. Lotty felt it would look less suspicious than if she phoned as she could never keep anything a secret.

Poni's better half was going to organise a wonderful dinner for themselves and Alex and Beth. Lotty didn't want Alex to know in case she felt pressured and started pulling away. She thought a wonderful meal with champagne, laughter, and candlelight might bring these two people closer together.

"Of course I will, but why are you inviting me so early? You'll see me on Monday for the trustee's meeting." Alex queried.

"Ah .. .well, Lotty just wanted to make sure before the food was ordered. She wanted cook to try a new recipe and you know how hard it is to get hold of a good piece of beef and sugar for dessert." Poni thought on her feet.

"You and I both know, if you wave enough money about, you can get anything you want on the black market. Lotty and your good self eat so well, I don't think you've heard of rationing!"

"Very funny!" Poni, changing the subject, said. "My good lady tells me you are taking young Beth out this evening. I do hope you'll be a gentleman."

"Poni, number one, we're just friends sharing a meal and a film together; and two, she's not that type of girl. She's very innocent and respectable. I will treat her like a Lady as well you know!" Alex said slightly irritated.

"I'm just kidding Alex. I know how you treat your friends remember. You are the best and most loyal friend a person could have plus you've changed the past month. I just wanted you to know we've noticed and we're very proud of you. Have a good night and I'll see you on Monday."

"Thanks, that means a lot, goodnight pal." Alex said and put the phone down. She had better get moving if she was going to be there on time. She was nervous, excited and felt like a teenager when they first step out with a girl. Alex selected the grey pinstripe suit. She splashed on some Floris 89 Aftershave, made sure she had her wallet and cheque book, and picked up her keys. She was driving herself this evening as she often did when in London, not wanting to seem too showy to Beth. She jumped in her red Jaguar sports car and was on her way.

Beth was having a last minute panic about her outfit. Agnes!" Beth shouted down the stairs. "Could I get your advice please?"

Agnes plodded up the stairs. "What is it child? Lady Dalton will be here in twenty minutes!"

"Do you really think this dress is ok? I'm really not sure anymore. I mean, she used to Lady's and countess's and viscounts and I know not what!" Beth held up the dress that was still on the hanger.

"Calm down child. Lady Dalton is not a snob as well you know, for all her wealth and status. If she wanted to take a countess out for the evening then she would, but no she wants to spend a pleasant evening with you. Now get that dress on and pull yourself together!" Agnes scolded.

"You're quite right. I've no idea why I'm so nervous. I mean it's just dinner with a friend." Beth wondered.

"Do you not?" Agnes smirked as she left the room.

Beth was so caught up in getting dressed that she didn't notice what Agnes had said. She looked herself up and down in the mirror while her stomach was doing summersaults. The thought of being alone with Alex both terrified her and made her feel warm inside. She had grown such fondness for Alex over the short time they had worked together.

Alex was the strongest and most formidable person she had ever met. She felt that Alex could command her to do anything but she also had such a soft side, a side that Alex was letting her see more and more.

Beth had a need to nurture Alex. It gave her such pleasure to make sure she was eating enough and taking care of herself. Having never felt these new and strange emotions before, she couldn't put a name to them.

She heard the doorbell. 'Oh no! I'd better hurry!' She hastily started to finish off her hair.

Alex parked the Jag in front of the house. She was a bit nervous and her heart was beating rather fast.

'Come on Alex! Pull yourself together it's just a pleasant evening with a friend. A friend who is the most adorable creature I've ever laid eyes on! Stop it! Stop it! I can't think that.' She stepped up to the door and rang the bell. The door was opened by a stoutish woman in her fifties.

"Alex Dalton calling for Beth Bentley." Alex said politely.

" Lady Dalton, please do come in," Agnes said, quite in awe of the tall, commanding figure before her.

"Please call me Alex," she smiled.

"Thank you My Lady, oh ... sorry Alex. Do come through to the parlor. Beth will be down in a few minutes. Can I offer you a drink?" Agnes inquired.

"Oh no, thank you. We should be shooting off quite quickly."

Alex instantly liked the older woman. She obviously had no problem with the way Alex lived her life. Just then Beth came into the small parlor and Alex immediately stood. Beth was a vision in a midnight blue dress that showed a teasing glimpse at the top of her cleavage and her honey gold hair hung loosely down past her shoulders. The dress was sleeveless so her shoulders were exposed. 'How I would like to kiss down that beautiful neck and exquisite shoulders.' Alex gulped and suddenly realised she was staring. She moved forward and took Beth's hand, giving it a gentle kiss.

"You look radiant tonight Beth." She said huskily.

At the touch of Alex's lips Beth felt a jolt to her groin. She had felt that a few times now around Alex, but she had no idea what it meant. Alex was, as usual, handsome. Dressed in a grey pinstripe suit, her shirt impeccably pressed and a gold tie pin half down the thin tie. She held her fedora hat in her hand.

"Well shall we go?" Alex asked.

"Of course."

Alex took her arm and escorted her out the door. Agnes stood at the door seeing them off. "Have a good time you two." she called.

Beth smiled at her as Alex opened the car door and helped her into her seat and shut the door, then quickly jumped in the other side.

"Your car is wonderful!" Beth giggled as they tore down the street. "I've never been in an open top before."

Alex smiled. She longed to bring more happiness to this young girl's face. She had no idea why, but she felt a protective instinct around this girl and would do anything to make her smile.

"I thought we'd go to a little restaurant I'm fond of. Have you tried Italian food before?"

"No, never. Italian how exciting!"

"Well I'm glad to be able to share some new experiences with you," Alex replied. She would love to spoil Beth.

Alex pulled the Jag in and parked at the side of the restaurant. She jumped out and went round to open Beth's door and help her out. 'What a perfect gentlemen!' Beth thought. As they walked towards the door of the restaurant Alex stopped and shouted towards a young ragged looking boy standing on the street corner.

"Excuse, young man!" she shouted.

"Yes Sir? I ain't done nothing!" he replied defensively.

"I know. I'm going into this restaurant here, see?" The boy nodded. "I want you to make sure there isn't a mark on this car when I come out. Can you do that? There's a half crown in it for you," Alex said.

"Sure minster! Not a scratch! No problem!" the boy said excitedly. He couldn't believe his luck.

"You'll get it after I come out young man," Alex said as she guided Beth towards the door.

"Is it a bad area to leave your car Alex?" Beth inquired.

"No not particularly. He just looked as if his family needed it and people have too much pride to take money for nothing. So give him a little job and he'll be as happy as Larry and take his prize home to his Mother," she said.

"That's so kind Alex," said Beth as she entered the restaurant. Alex simply shrugged modestly. Beth grew more and more in awe of this kind woman, the more she knew her. She was fascinated with the reaction of the other diners towards Alex. More than half didn't turn a blind eye, obviously not doubting she was a man and some stared right at her with disgust. That was until their eyes met the cold, hard blue stare Alex gave them, they then sheepishly took lowered their heads.

The restaurant was a small cosy place with tables in the middle of the floor and quieter more private booths down either side. The head waiter came towards them and said, " Lady Dalton! So nice to see you again. We have your usual table waiting for you and your delightful guest."

Beth felt a sudden stab of jealousy at the thought of Alex bringing other women here. 'Where did that come from? I'm her friend. I have no right to be jealous!' Beth scolded herself. They were shown to one of the booths right in the corner of the room and were seated. The table was so elegant and to the side of the table a bottle of champagne sat in an ice bucket.

"We have your champagne ready as you requested Lady Dalton," the waiter said as he poured them each a glass.

The young blonde's nose tickled as she took her first sip. "Have you had champagne before Beth?" Alex smiled at Beth's reaction to the drink.

"No, it tickles my nose but it's really nice. You didn't have to go to all this trouble for me. This restaurant, champagne ..."

"Stop!" Alex said commandingly. "You are worth a lot more than this. You're a wonderful elegant woman and you deserve to be treated like a princess."

Beth blushed at this.

"You do realise what a difference you've made to my life in such a short time." Alex thought maybe she had given too much away so thought she would bring it back to work. "You've totally changed the office almost overnight and that has made my life much easier. I'm proud to call you my friend. I know you haven't had an easy time of it and I think it's my right as your friend to treat you as you should be treated."

"Thank you so much Alex. That means a lot but you must let me pay something towards our evening, you can't be expected to pay for everything."

Alex's smile disappeared and she said quite sternly, "Beth, I won't hear anymore on this subject. If I ask you out then it is my job to treat you. I don't want to have to discuss this again. Alright?"

This was the side of Alex she had heard on the phone to clients or dealing with staff. She at once felt chastised, intimidated, and a warmth. A warm feeling of being taken care of and if she was honest she felt something a lot lower which she didn't quite understand.

"Of course Alex, I won't say anymore about it and thank you again."

The waiter brought over the menus.

"Since you've never eaten Italian before Beth, would you like me to order for us both?"

"Whatever you think best Alex" Beth said demurely.

Beth was young, but she had always been an independent, confident young woman. With no mother, she had to look after her father and run the house before most girls would ever have to think about it, and of course her experience with her aunt and uncle where she had to be responsible for herself. Somehow though, Alex had the ability to make her feel like a giggling school girl who would do anything the older woman said. She tried to pull herself together a little. Alex ordered dinner in Italian. Beth suddenly felt the room getting a little hot.

Once the waiter had retreated to the kitchen Beth asked, "Do you come to this the restaurant a lot?"

'Do I detect a hint of jealousy?' thought Alex.

"I do enjoy it here. It's less showy than some of the other places in London. Mostly I come with Poni and Lotty, sometimes some friends of the Foundation."

Beth felt relieved but it was ridiculous to think a woman like Alex wouldn't have lots of women in her life.

They fell into comfortable conversation as they ate dinner.

Beth had never tasted food like it. "This is wonderful Alex!" She had wolfed down each course with glee and the lovely wine that Alex had ordered.

"I'm glad you have enjoyed it little bit. Perhaps you should slow down on the wine; you're not used to it. Switch to water or you'll be fast asleep in the cinema," Alex smiled.

She was amazed how much food this little blonde ate and still have such a wonderful womanly figure. Alex called for the bill. "Shall we make a move to the cinema? I thought we might see that new one with Bette Davis, 'All about Eve'. It's supposed to be very good." She stood as she threw quite a few notes on the table.

Beth was taken aback at the pile of notes, Alex had spent a fortune.

"Yes I liked the look of that. It looks great," she said.

Alex helped her on with her coat and they left, Alex making sure to pay the young lad watching her car on the way.

That night as Beth lay in bed, clutching her father's watch she found herself confused by her feelings. Alex, although she looked and acted like a fine gentlemen, was not. Did that matter? 'I never had feelings for any of the young men in the village. She thought. No one has ever made my stomach lurch or cause the ache between my legs, the way it does around Alex. Maybe it's just because I'm alone in London and she makes me feel taken care off. I truly have no idea. In any case, I am her friend and that's all I'll ever be. Alex will want an elegant woman of her own age. She could have anyone she wants!' Beth mused sadly. 'Well at least I can do one thing. I can be the best friend I can possibly be and make sure she takes care of herself.' With that Beth fell asleep dreaming of blue eyes and a flashing white smile.

Alex sat on her couch with a glass of brandy and a cigarette, the sound of La Boheme playing in the background. She was restless but had no desire to go to the Alley Cat on her own. It would attract unwanted attention. She had been able to think of nothing else, since she dropped Beth off, but the young woman with beautiful green eyes. It had been a wonderful evening. She was nothing like any woman Alex had ever known. She wasn't interested in Alex's money or power; she wanted nothing more than to be in Alex's company.

Alex looked at the picture on the mantelpiece of her mother and father. 'You would have loved her papa, she is kind, warm, and wants nothing more than to care for me. She is a lot like mama. But she is so young and innocent. I'm old and world weary compared to her. She knows nothing of what it's like to live as a woman and love another woman. She's too good for the likes of me. If she found out the way I'd been with women, she wouldn't want to be my friend let alone anything else. I just wish I could gather her up in my arms and take care of her for the rest of my life.' Alex stubbed out her cigarette and gulped down the last of her brandy. 'Well at the very least I can be the very best friend she will ever have!' And with that she went to bed.

Part 2

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