The Housekeeper's Awakening

By: Sharon Kendrick

CHAPTER ONE


CARLY’S FINGERS STILLED as the angry voice echoed through the house like a low rumble of thunder.

‘Carly!’

She stared at the cornstarch which had lodged itself under her fingernails.

Now what?

She supposed she could try ignoring him but what would be the point? When her fractious, brilliant, mercurial boss wanted something he wanted it ten minutes ago; preferably sooner. He was driven, committed and single-minded—even when operating at fifty per cent of his usual capacity. It was just that fifty per cent of Luis Martinez’s capacity would be full throttle for most men.

She pulled a face. Hadn’t he already disrupted the peace enough times over the last few weeks with his incessant orders and his bad temper? She supposed that he’d had a pretty good reason to be more demanding than usual, but even so... She had lost count of the times she’d been forced to bite her tongue, when he’d snapped out yet another arrogant command. Maybe that quicksilver mind of his would focus on something else if she pretended she hadn’t heard him. Maybe if she wished hard enough, he might just go away and leave her alone.

Preferably for ever.

‘Carly!’

Maybe not. The shout had grown even more impatient now, so she took off her apron and shook her ponytail free. Quickly washing her hands, she set off towards the gym complex at the back of the house, where Luis Enrique Gabriel Martinez was currently undergoing another rehabilitation session with his physiotherapist.

Or rather, rehabilitation was what he was supposed to be doing, following the car crash which everyone said he’d been lucky to survive. Lately, Carly had wondered if the daily sessions had slipped over the boundary from the professional to the personal. Which might explain why the previously cool physiotherapist had started adding significant amounts of make-up before her visits, and spraying herself with a cloud of gingery-lemon scent just before she rang the doorbell. But that was par for the course, wasn’t it? Luis had something special when it came to women. Something to do with those rugged South American looks and an unquenchable appetite for life which frequently courted danger.

Luis came, saw and conquered—though not necessarily in that order. He had an unerring ability to turn women into puddles of meek surrender, even if he happened to be lying stricken on a hospital bed at the time. Hadn’t half the nurses who had treated him turned up here after he’d discharged himself? They had trooped through the door, bearing nervous smiles and sad little bunches of grapes—along with some pretty flimsy excuses about why they were visiting. But Carly had known exactly why they were visiting. A bed-bound and very sexy billionaire was an irresistible target, though to her surprise he’d given them all short shrift—even the platinum blonde with the legs which seemed to go all the way up to her armpits.

Carly was just grateful to be one of the few women immune to the Argentinian’s careless charm, even if the truth of it was that he’d never actually tried to charm her. Maybe that was one of the advantages of being known as a dedicated ‘plain Jane’—that your sex god of a boss would inevitably look through you as if you were part of the wallpaper. Which left her free to do her job and work towards a brighter future. And to remind herself of Luis’s many negative qualities: his selfishness, restlessness and disregard for his own safety—as well as his annoying habit of leaving tiny espresso cups all around the house, which she was always finding in the most unexpected places.

She reached the gym complex and hesitated for a moment, wondering if it might be better to wait until he had finished his massage.

‘Carly!’

Had he heard her approaching, even though in these old sneakers her footsteps were practically silent? She knew it was said of Luis Martinez that his senses were as finely tuned as his cars and one of the reasons why he had dominated the racing scene for so long.

Still she hesitated.

‘Carly, will you stop skulking around outside the door and get yourself in here!’

His raised tone was arrogant and peremptory and she guessed that some people would have found it offensive to be spoken to in such a way, but Carly was used to Luis Martinez by now. She knew what his entourage said about him. That his bark was worse than his bite. Though she wasn’t sure if that bit was strictly true. His last but one girlfriend had seemed rather fond of his bite. Why else would she have kept appearing at breakfast during her brief tenure as his lover sporting bruises on her neck with a kind of joyful pride, as if she’d spent the night with some obliging vampire?

Knowing that she couldn’t put it off any longer, Carly opened the gym door and walked into the room where her famous employer was lying on his back on the narrow massage table. His dark head was pillowed on his clasped hands and his golden-olive body was outlined against the white sheet. His gaze alighted on her and his black eyes narrowed with something which looked like relief.

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