The Housekeeper's Awakening(3)

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘Right,’ said Carly uncertainly, because she couldn’t see where all this was leading.

Luis fixed her with a piercing look, his black eyes boring into her like twin lasers. ‘You wouldn’t have a problem taking over from Mary for a while, would you, Carly? You’re pretty good with your hands, aren’t you?’

‘Me?’ The word came out as a horrified croak.

‘Why not?’

Carly’s eyes widened, because suddenly all her fears didn’t seem so latent any more. The thought of going anywhere near a half-naked man was making her skin crawl—even if that man was Luis Martinez. She swallowed. ‘You mean, I’d be expected to massage you?’

Now there was a definite glint in his eyes and she couldn’t work out if it was displeasure or amusement. ‘Why, is that such an abhorrent thought to you, Carly?’

‘No, no, of course not.’ But it was. Of course it was. Wouldn’t he laugh out loud if he realised how little she knew about men? Wouldn’t she be the last person he’d choose as his temporary masseuse, if he knew what a naïve innocent she was? So should she tell him the truth—if not all of it, then at least some?

Of course she should tell him!

She shrugged her shoulders, aware of the heightened rush of colour to her cheeks as she mumbled out the words. ‘It’s just that I’ve...well, I’ve never actually given anyone a massage before.’

‘Oh, that won’t be a problem.’ Mary Houghton’s cool accent cut through Carly’s stumbled explanation. ‘I can show you the basic technique—it isn’t difficult. If you’re good with your hands, you won’t have a problem with it. The exercises—ditto. They’re easy enough to pick up and Señor Martinez already knows how to do them properly. The most important thing you can do is to ensure he keeps to a regular schedule.’

‘Think you can do it, Carly?’

The silky South American voice filtered through the air and as Carly turned, the intensity of his gaze suddenly made her feel dizzy. And uncomfortable. It was as if he’d never really looked at her properly before. Or at least, not like that. She got the feeling that he had always regarded her as one of the fixtures and fittings—like one of the squashy velvet sofas which he sometimes lay on in the evenings if he’d brought a woman back here. But now his eyes were almost...calculating and she felt a stab of alarm as he assessed her. Was he thinking what countless men had doubtless thought before? That she was plain and awkward and didn’t make the best of herself. Would it surprise him to know that she liked it that way? That she liked to fade into the background? Because life was safer that way. Safer and more predictable.

Pushing away the nudge of dark memories with an efficiency born of years of practice, she considered his question. Of course she could learn how to massage him because—as he’d just said—she was very good with her hands. She ran his English home like clockwork, didn’t she? She cooked and cleaned and made sure the Egyptian cotton sheets were softly ironed whenever he was in residence. She arranged for caterers to arrive if he was hosting a big party, or for prize-winning chefs to be ferried down from London if he was holding a more intimate gathering. She had florists on speed dial, ready to deck his house with fragrant blooms at the drop of a hat or to float candle-topped lilies in his outdoor pool, if the weather remained fine enough.

What she wished she had the courage to say was that she didn’t want to do it. That the thought of going anywhere near his body was making her feel...peculiar. And even though her dream of being a doctor was what kept her in this fairly mundane job—she didn’t want her first experience of the therapeutic to be with a man with the reputation of Luis Martinez.

Imagine having to touch his skin, especially if he was barely covered by a few meagre towels, as he was at the moment. Imagine being closeted alone in the massage room with him, day after day. Having to put up with his short fuse and bad temper in such an intimate setting. Luis Martinez she could cope with, yes, but preferably with as much distance between them as possible.

‘Surely there must be somebody else who could do it?’ she said.

‘But I don’t want anyone else doing it—I want you,’ he said. ‘Or do you have other things which are occupying you, Carly? Things which are making too many demands on your time and which will prevent you from spending time doing what I am asking you to do? Is there something I should know about? After all, I am the one paying your salary, aren’t I?’

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