The Billionaire Bodyguard(8)

By: Sharon Kendrick

He gave a brief smile. ‘It just might,’ he agreed silkily, but the subtle taunt set his pulse racing almost as much as the rose-petalled pout of her lips.

He seemed to show no fear, and she tried not to feel any either—yet who knew what they might find in this strange, empty place? Keri stayed as close to him as was possible without actually touching.

Illuminated only by the small flicker from the lighter, he led the way to what was obviously a kitchen—although by no stretch of the imagination did it resemble any kitchen Keri had ever seen before.

From the doorway, she surveyed the faint shape of ancient-looking appliances.

‘I’m going to hunt around for some candles,’ he said softly. ‘Wait here.’

I’m not going anywhere because I can’t, she thought rather desperately, as she watched him disappear into the gloom. He doesn’t need me at all, but I need him. She could hear him opening drawers and cupboards, and the clatter of china as he hunted around. He suddenly made a small yelp of satisfaction, and when he reappeared it was with two lit candles waxed to saucers. He handed her one, the reflection of the flame flickering in his eyes.

‘Hold it steady,’ he instructed.

‘I’m just about capable of carrying a candle!’

His mocking eyes seemed to doubt her, but he didn’t retaliate.

‘Come on—we’ll look upstairs first.’

There were three bedrooms, but they looked ghostly and unreal, for the beds were stripped bare of all linen and there was no sign that they had been slept in.

‘I feel like Goldilocks,’ whispered Keri in a hollow voice. ‘Any minute now and we’ll bump into one of the three bears.’

‘I’ve never been particularly fond of porridge,’ he murmured. ‘Come on, there’s no point hanging around here.’

There was an archaic-looking bathroom, with a huge free standing bath.

Jay went over to the cistern and flushed the lavatory, and a great whooshing sound made Keri start.

‘Well, that’s something,’ he said drily.

Thank God it was dark or he might have seen her blush—but Keri had never lived with anyone except for her family, and this was one more thing which felt too uncomfortably intimate.

They went back downstairs and moved in the opposite direction from the kitchen. Jay opened a door and looked down into pitch blackness.

‘Cellar,’ he said succinctly. ‘Want to explore?’

‘I think I’ll pass on that.’

On the other side of the hall was a heavy oak, door and Jay pushed it open, waiting for a moment while the candle flame stopped guttering.

‘Come over here, Keri,’ he said softly, his words edged with an odd, almost excited note. ‘And look at this.’

Keri went down the step and followed the direction of his gaze. ‘Oh, my word,’ she breathed. ‘I feel like Aladdin.’

‘Yeah.’ His voice was thoughtful. ‘I know what you mean.’

It was like stumbling unawares upon a treasure trove—a gloriously old and elegant room which looked as though it belonged to another age. Jay held the candle aloft and Keri could see that it was as high as four men—with a pointed raftered ceiling made out of dark, wooden beams—and the room itself was so big that she could not see the edges.

‘Where are we?’ she said. ‘What is this place?’

He was busy taking more candles from his pocket and lighting them, placing one on the mantelpiece and one on a low table in front of the empty grate. ‘I don’t know, and right at this moment I really don’t care.’

It was amazing what a little light did, and as more of it appeared so did the room, and the dark, threatening shadows were banished and forgotten as she looked around. It was beautiful.

There were high, arched windows and a mighty fireplace, with two enormously long sofas sprawled at right-angles beside it. In one corner stood a piano, and there were books crammed into shelves on one wall and pictures on the walls.

‘It looks almost like a church,’ she whispered.

‘Why are you whispering?’ he asked, in a normal voice, and the sound seemed to shatter through the air.

‘I don’t know. Anyway, you were whispering too!’ Keri’s teeth began to chatter as the icy temperature began to register on her already chilled skin. ‘B-but wh-wherever or whatever this place is, it’s even c-colder here than it is outside.’

‘Yeah.’ He crouched down beside the fireplace, an old-fashioned type he had never seen before and big enough to roast an ox in. ‘So why don’t I light this, and you go and have a scout about—see what kind of supplies there are?’ She was looking at him blankly, and he let out an impatient sigh as he began to pull some kindling towards him. ‘Sustenance,’ he explained. ‘Food, drink, coffee, a spare suckling pig—anything.’

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