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Unwed Jessie Harding has a thirst for adventure and desires a salary that will pay her rightfully for the work she is capable of doing. The only problem: she’s a woman and the only jobs available are nannies and governesses, neither of which she wants anything to do with.
Dressing as a man is easy. She cuts her long blonde locks and works as a coal-whipper, earning enough to live on her own. It’s not the life she dreams of, but it’s respectable work.
When Henry Clarke visits with an announcement that the queen’s guard is hiring and the pay is at least double what she’s currently making, she jumps at the opportunity to enlist and help serve her country and protect Queen Victoria. Pretending to be a man is easy, it’s the fact that Henry catches sight of her female self while bathing in the river, which has her caught up in a tizzy, worried he’ll discover her secret. He only suspects she has a twin brother. How long can she keep up the charade? Will Jessie be able to hide her womanly virtue and remain in service to the queen without causing havoc?
Guarded Discipline is filled with spankings for naughty behavior, anal play, and graphic sexual content.
Jessie wiped the beads of sweat from her forehead. She missed the long ball gowns and fancy hairpins she had worn in her blonde curls. Cutting off her locks in order to look more like a man, with her short haircut hidden up under her hat. She could have worked as a nanny or governess, but in truth she hated children. Not that she minded spending an hour visiting upon one with an old friend, but she was not having children of her own. At least not if she could help it.
Needing to get away from her petulant mother, Jessie had searched through the papers for a job, but the skills required were that of a man if she wanted to make an income that would support her. Pretending to be a boy was easy enough. She purchased a pair of trousers and a top hat for her interview as a coal-whipper. The job paid her far more than she would have made as a lady, aside from the fact the gentleman would never have hired her to shift coal from ships.
The young woman wasn’t dainty but she also did not have the height of a man. She was average height with soft features and a small nose. Her blue eyes sparkled under the sun and she half expected to be caught, but each and every day no one seemed the wiser. Perhaps they did not care. She fulfilled her duties without a word, always pleasant and kind to the other gentlemen who she was assigned to work with.
Shuffling coal was not an easy task nor was it clean. Her fingernails were coated in soot, her blonde hair, even under the hat had found its way to become a dark rich black like coffee until she had time to bathe. The rich smell of coal no longer tickled her nose. The first two weeks working on the docks she had been sneezing non-stop, certain she had a wretched cold that would not disappear.
“You there!” a burly voice shouted as he stepped upon the dock, approaching Jessie swiftly. He was handsome in his military ensemble, though Jessie attempted not so much as a glance even though he had addressed her. She did not wish to blush and give away the fact she was a woman. Worse, what would he think if he could not see through her charade of wearing such boyish attire?
His heavy black boots clanked on the wooden dock on his swift approach.
“Excuse me?” He was quite clearly a guard for the queen, wearing a fiery red coat and black trousers. What was he doing here? Jessie gasped. Could Queen Victoria be just beyond the ship she was shuffling coal from? No. It did not seem likely. A queen would have a port of her own and more than one guard heading for the dock, along with multiple men accompanying her.
“We need men like you, strong, willing to fight for our queen. The pay is far more than a coal-whipper salary.” His green eyes glinted under the sun as he held Jessie’s stare. He took a step closer, his voice low so as not to allow anyone else to overhear what he intended to say next. “A gentleman of your stature, I could most easily see you at the palace as part of the Queen’s Guard.”
Jessie had no qualms about her profession, but if she had the chance to make more money, doing a job far less dirty, why wouldn’t she give it a try? An opportunity to fight for her country was most certainly honorable, and the chance to guard the queen was an opportunity worth engaging in. “How do I join?” She did not allow herself a moment to consider the ramifications of being caught. As a coal-whipper she would most certainly be fired but a woman pretending to be a man as a guardsman, Jessie did not quite know the penalty for such atrocious behavior.
“Come to the royal palace tonight at seven. Ask for Henry Clarke. There will be a brief training session before the test.”
The handsome fellow turned on his heels, his rich chocolate hair lighter under the sun’s rays as he turned and stomped unceremoniously back in the direction he had come.
Jessie watched him vanish before turning her attention back toward the coal that needed moving. She would not be finished much before six. Getting all the way to the palace while needing a proper bath and new attire would be painstakingly difficult. Could she take the chance that she might not be hired and leave early, risking her current profession? Her rent was due come Monday, and if she did not worry so much about this month, next would be twice as hard to come by.
Perhaps if she hurried with her work, lifted faster and moved coal quicker she would be done by the time five o’clock rolled around, which would make leaving quite a bit easier. With no work left for the day, the ship cleared of all its coal, then there would be no reason for her to stay around.
She was not the only coal-whipper to be unloading the ship, stacking the thick black bricks in wheel barrels to be carted off by her colleagues. Jessie never winced from the heat or complained about her arms aching or her back’s soreness. She knew better than to risk anyone discovering she was in fact a lady. Certainly she could not be the only woman hiding as a man for the pay of such a job? Though she did not dare spill her secret to anyone.
The day wore on and Jessie could not push the handsome stranger from her thoughts. Was he part of the Queen’s Guard or just a recruiter for the queen? She did not know if she might ever lay eyes on the gentleman again. From the brief encounter he seemed quite nice, thoughtful to suggest she join without a moment’s hesitation. Of course he was not the wiser in knowing she was in fact a woman. Would he have made the offer had he known? It was doubtful.
Her fingers were blackened, and as she finished the last final bricks of coal, she wiped her dirty hands on her gray-blue coveralls and made a mad dash for home. She did not live near the bathhouse, nor could she afford the extra few pence to bathe, let alone the time to get there on such a tight schedule. Instead she headed for the stream just a few clicks from her home, bringing a ragged towel and a clean change of clothes.
Jessie hoped no one would discover her in the water. The houses were spread far enough apart but the hour was nearing supper, and families often came to the stream for fresh water or on their travels home from work would pass by. She could not afford herself a moment to consider being caught or embarrassed. Stripped down of her filthy coveralls, she left her clean dry clothes by the bank and jumped into the water, splashing as she felt the cold chill caress her skin. Dutifully she worked at scrubbing the soot and grime away. She dunked her head beneath the surface, the cold water hardening her nipples as she shivered in the cool autumn air. The water was not yet frigid but the air hitting her cold wet skin made her flesh tingle with goosebumps.
Sinking under the slight waves from her splashing, Jessie exhaled a long breath allowing the bubbles to spill from her lips. She wanted to swim and enjoy the water, which would ease her aching muscles and allow her to relax before she rushed to the royal palace. Not having thought that far ahead, she did not even consider how she would arrive on time. Traveling by train meant knowing the schedule and she had not so much as looked at the hour. Though it was growing nearer to when she was due to arrive.
Splashing as she walked along the sandy bed of the sea, the sound of horse’s hooves galloping toward her forced her eyes to widen in fear.
“Shit,” Jessie cursed under her breath as she edged toward the bank. She was running out of time but did not think she could get dressed quickly enough so as to not be seen naked. Who the blazes headed on horseback near the stream? The dirt road was in the opposite direction. She anticipated perhaps a few stragglers wandering from work but they would be on foot with the town not too far a distance to travel.
The guard’s bright red coat forced her under the water, hiding from the man she’d seen earlier. What was he doing out this direction? His dark hair glistened under the setting sun. The air felt several degrees cooler, and Jessie wanted nothing more than to slip from the bank, grab her towel, and dry off.
His swift approach slowed as he brought his horse toward the bank, climbing down and guiding her the last few steps to drink.
Jessie’s eyes widened in horror as he locked eyes on her, clearly he hadn’t seen her any sooner.
“My apologies, ma’am. I had not realized the river was occupied,” he said, turning away to afford her privacy.
Had he seen her naked in the clear stream? Quickly she climbed the bank and grabbed for her towel, drying herself off, hiding behind the nearest tree. It was not proper for him to see her in even a towel, let alone naked!
“You may turn around,” Jessie said, her voice soft and timid, worried that he might have recognized her. She certainly knew his face, having seen it earlier that day. Though the guard had probably spoken with a hundred gentleman, Jessie was unlikely to be memorable with her short stature and golden hair shuffled under her hat.
“What brings you from your duties out here?” Jessie asked. There was no reason for a royal guard to be traveling to Brentford when he was to be in Windsor at the palace with the queen. Dropping her towel, she was quick to dress, though she wore clothes suitable for a boy. There was no chance of letting the handsome gentleman catch her in such inappropriate attire. She glanced cautiously around the tree, watching him turn back around, wanting one last glance at him. He petted his horse, allowing her to finish another drink from the stream before guiding her further from the bank. “It would be best if you returned home. It is not proper for a woman to be unescorted after the sun goes down.”
Jessie did not wait around to discover if he would offer her a ride or an escort, as she rushed in her slacks and coat for her home. She needed to gather her horse and take off for Windsor if she did not wish to be late. Taking off on foot, she did not so much as glance back as she skirted through the forest, her clothes blending in to her surroundings, hiding her from plain sight.
Henry glanced beyond the tree line, catching a glimpse of green darting from between the trees. Certain it was not an animal, he shook his head, curious who the young woman was and why she had been alone bathing near dusk. It did not seem wise. Did her husband not realize the danger she could have been faced with had a less honorable man arrived at the bank?
He had half a mind to scold the young woman but she was gone far too quickly and in haste. Henry had not seen which direction she had gone, only that she had vanished amongst the trees in the forest. There were cottages along the trail, including the one that his sister, Mary, resided in with her husband. Henry had wanted to pay her a visit and ensure she was well before returning to Windsor. Mary was seven months pregnant and had lost her first child around that time. Her husband had been insistent on keeping the young woman in bed, ensuring she would not lose their second child. Henry did not object, instead stopping on his way from the docks to bring fresh bread, butter, and meat for their family. The trip had been quick and brief, his time short while he had to attend to responsibilities.
Walking his horse away from the bank, he mounted her and rode into the forest, making sure the young blonde woman had in fact found her way home. There was no sign of her. Not that Henry should have expected her to have left one. Why was he pining over a girl who could have very well been married? Pinching the bridge of his nose, he tried to dispel the oncoming headache before he took off for Windsor. The hour drew near and without a doubt he would be late upon his arrival at court. It was a good thing that the queen was not expecting his presence but instead men who waited to become soldiers and guards for the queen.
He rode steadfast and hard, as the sun had set and the moon rose up in its place. The sky though dark allowed the full moon to guide him along the path until he reached the gates. Waiting on the lawn just outside the entrance stood several men. A few had taken to sitting on the grass and others jousted with swords, practicing their craft.
Henry did not apologize for being late. “Welcome,” he said, gathering their attention as he climbed off his horse and handed her to another guard who worked for the queen, allowing him to take the animal around back. “You have all gathered here to fight for our country, an admirable task that is not without danger. Let it be known that many of you will die on the lawn of our nation protecting our queen. I do not pretend that you will have it easy, sleeping in tents with the cold biting at your toes, keeping you up all night with the sound of bullets whizzing by, and the smell of gunfire just beyond the hill. I have fought many battles with men brave enough to stand before their queen and protect her no matter the circumstance. Each one of you will be expected the same task should you become a guard of the queen. We do not ask questions, only take orders. If you are not up to the challenge of being brave, honorable, and noble then I ask you now to walk away, for you will not be able to in battle, protecting your brothers beside you, and your queen upon the throne.”
There were a few soft murmurs but no one stood. “Good. There will be a physical examination from a doctor to ensure you are in good health. Upon completion you will be assigned as either a guardsman for the queen or her militia. The decision will be up to me where you will be placed.”
The crowd nodded in understanding.
“Good. Everyone stand. We will walk inside the gates and visit the tent set up on the lawn.” The doctor had been stationed outside to keep the men from bothering the queen and stepping foot inside the castle. Only men assigned to the palace would be granted entrance inside, it was for the queen’s protection.
Henry motioned for the crowd of men to join him as the gates cranked open and they walked inside in no order or formal line. His eyes locked on a gentleman with blonde hair. He had a striking resemblance to the girl in the river. Could they be related? It seemed doubtful, and yet the boy shuffled in with the crowd, head bent down as they locked eyes.
“Excuse me,” Henry said, pushing through the crowd, desiring to know more of the girl he’d seen earlier that evening. Perhaps the gentleman could tell him if he was foolishly getting his hopes up, being interested in her. Certainly they were siblings, if not twins. The resemblance uncanny.
“Yes?” the blond gentleman asked, he glanced up at Henry, his blue eyes bright and filled with curiosity. He was small for a gentleman in height, probably one of the shortest men who had come today, but he had clearly been strong or Henry would not have invited him. Though he could not remember where he’d met the young man. There had been many travels that afternoon all throughout London and the neighboring regions surrounding the city.
“Do you have a sister who lives in Brentford?” Henry asked.
The blond cleared his throat and straightened his posture as he spoke. “My sister and I both live in Brentford. You have met her?”
“I believe so,” Henry said, nodding as his eyes widened excitedly. “I happened upon the trail this afternoon, and I believe I met her by the river bank.” He was a gentleman not to divulge that she had been bathing and he’d caught a glimpse of her beautiful wet body, her breasts plump and perky. His eyes had wanted to continue down her naked torso, but he had been the proper gentleman instead, turning and affording her privacy while she climbed from the river bank. Henry had wished a mirror would have been planted to give him a glimpse or even if he’d had eyes in the back of his head. He was a man after all, being a gentleman didn’t mean that he wanted to see any less of her naked.
“Is that so,” the gentleman said, not commenting any further.
“I will see you shortly, after your exam.” Henry headed through the throes of people, glancing at the doctors notes on the clipboard of each gentleman who had passed their tests. Most of the exams entailed height, weight, temperature, and ensuring that they desired to fight for Queen Victoria.
Henry had always found the exam quite preposterous. What spy would admit to wanting Queen Victoria defeated while under the physician’s care? It had been Henry’s job to locate the strongest of men, the toughest of brave souls who could protect their queen at all costs. Finding men willing to serve was not as difficult as it sounded. Most were interested when they realized the pay for the Queen’s Guard was several times that of a soldier. However, he was in charge of the assignments and very few were brought inside the palace.
“Form one line!” Henry shouted, trying to keep the men from fighting. They were to become brothers and would need to learn patience and order. Perhaps starting now was not such a terrible idea.
Catching a glimpse of the blonde gentleman who he’d spoken with earlier, he shuffled toward the back of the line, being the shortest meant he was edged out and blocked from a proper position. Henry shook his head. Would he be forced to dismiss the young man before he served his country? Height was a requirement and though he was not terribly short, he most certainly was not going to be able to stand his own with men who were a foot taller than him.
A selfish part of him wanted to spend more time with the young man, to get to know more about the sister who lived in Brentford. He knew it was wrong but he did not care either. He’d spent years as a guardsman for the queen, was he not entitled to find a little happiness as well? It wasn’t as though the blonde woman he’d taken a liking to would be at his side every day. She would be in Brentford and he was in Windsor. There was nothing criminal in what he was desiring, and perhaps he’d be helping the young blond gentleman out as well, surely he needed work or he would not be standing among two hundred men waiting for his exam.
Henry flipped through each chart, examining the remarks of the physician before assigning the young healthy men to a station where they would meet with their leader, change clothes, and begin training.
Taking the last form from the doctor, Henry examined the name on the chart. Jessie Harding. He was not familiar with the Harding family, but perhaps his sister knew of the young woman who lived just a few short minutes away. Henry was certain they must have become acquainted at some point in time, perhaps even at the river washing clothes and bathing.
“You will be stationed with me. Gather your shoes and we shall go into the palace,” Henry said.
Jessie looked rather flustered as his eyes widened and he retrieved his boots, shoving them on, not bothering to lace the eyelets as he rushed after Henry. “What will my position be, Sir?”
“You may call me Henry,” he said. “As a guard for the queen, it is our responsibility to ensure her safety at all times. Whether it be to sample her tea to ensure it is not poisoned or secure her room before she goes to bed, she needs strong men to aid in her protection.”
Jessie chewed on his bottom lip, looking a bit uncomfortable.
“What is it?” Henry asked, direct and to the point.
“Do you not think someone else would be more suited to such work?” Jessie asked. “It is an honor to be entrusted with protecting my queen, but I have no experience with a sword.”
Henry smiled. “I know. It is why I shall train and accompany you until I feel confident that you can be entrusted alone to protect Queen Victoria.”
Jessie nodded solemnly, glancing around the foyer of the palace. “Of course, Sir.”
“Please call me, Henry.” He glanced Jessie over from head to toe. “We shall get you changed into a guard’s uniform, then I will give you the tour, and begin training.”
Jessie glanced behind him at the shut door. “Are there no other new guards for the palace, Henry?”
“I must handpick each member for the Queen’s Guard. It is imperative that I spend ample time with each gentleman to ensure they are of the utmost caliber before entrusting them to guard our queen alone. It is why I select only one new guard per month among the men that I bring to Windsor.”
Jessie smiled warmly, his voice catching in his throat. “It is an honor to be given such an opportunity to serve Queen Victoria.”