The Housekeeper's Awakening(4)

By: Sharon Kendrick


Carly’s hands balled into two fists, because now he had her in a corner and they both knew it. He paid her a staggeringly generous amount of money, most of which she squirrelled away towards her goal of getting to med school.

She had the cushiest of positions here, which left her plenty of time to study. As jobs went, she would go so far as to say she loved working here. She loved it most when Luis was out of the country, which was most of the time. He had gorgeous homes in far-flung corners of the world, sited wherever he had business interests, and his English residence was usually bottom on his list of visits. She wasn’t even sure why he bothered keeping this vast, country house until one day she had summoned up the courage to ask his burly assistant, Diego. ‘Tax,’ had been the ex-wrestler’s terse reply.

Carly’s role was to keep the house in a constant state of readiness in case Luis should decide to pay an unexpected visit. In fact, he wouldn’t be here now were it not for the charity car race which she thought he’d been insane to enter and which had ended with him smashing his pelvis and spending weeks in hospital.

She looked at him—thinking about his general high-handedness and arrogance and whether she would be able to tolerate it on a far more intimate basis. How could she possibly massage him without giving into the temptation to sink her fingernails into that silken olive flesh of his and make him squirm? How on earth would she be able to touch such a notorious sex god, without making a complete and utter fool of herself?

‘I just wonder whether you might be better getting another professional in,’ she said stubbornly.

He flicked a glance at Mary Houghton, who was still standing in exactly the same position and Carly saw his mouth twist with undisguised irritation. ‘Can you give us a moment, please, Mary?’

‘Of course I can. I’ll...I’ll talk to you when you’ve finished in here, Carly.’ There was a pause, before Mary held her hand out. ‘Goodbye, Luis. It’s been...well, it’s been great.’

He nodded, but Carly thought how cold his face looked as he propped himself up on one elbow, before shaking the physiotherapist’s hand. Whatever Mary had said or done had not pleased him.

‘Goodbye, Mary,’ he said.

There was silence as she left the room and Luis sat up—impatiently gesturing for Carly to hand him the robe hanging from a hook on the back of the door.

She did as he wanted—quickly averting her eyes until he’d covered up with the black towelling robe, but when he spoke, he still sounded irritated.

‘Why are you so reluctant to do what I ask?’ he demanded. ‘Why are you being so damned stubborn?’

For a moment Carly didn’t answer. Would he scoff if he knew that his proposed intimacy scared her? Or would he just be shocked to learn that she had allowed one horrendous experience to colour her judgement—and she’d spent her life running away from the kind of personal contact which most women of her age considered perfectly natural? Someone like Luis would probably tell her to ‘move on’, in the way that people did—as if it were that easy.

And this was about more than what had happened to her, wasn’t it? She could see nothing but trouble if she agreed, because rich and powerful men like Luis were trouble. Hadn’t her own sister been chasing that kind of man ever since she’d first sprouted breasts, and didn’t she keep on going back for more—despite getting knocked back, time after time?

Thoughts of Bella’s inglorious escapades flitted through her mind as she met Luis’s luminous gaze. ‘I don’t want to neglect my housekeeping duties,’ she said.

‘Then get somebody else to do the cooking and the cleaning instead of you. How difficult can it be?’

Carly flushed. She knew that housekeeping wasn’t up there with being a lawyer or a doctor, but she still found it faintly humiliating to hear Luis dismiss her job quite so flippantly.

‘Or get in a professional masseuse who could do it better than I ever could?’ she suggested again.

‘No,’ he said, almost viciously. ‘I’m sick of strangers. Sick of people with different agendas, coming into my house and telling me what I must and mustn’t do.’ His mouth hardened into a forbidding line. ‘What’s the matter, Carly? Are you objecting on the basis that providing massage for your recuperating boss isn’t written into your contract?’

‘I haven’t got a contract,’ she said bluntly.

‘You haven’t?’

‘No. You told me when I interviewed for the job that if I didn’t trust you to give me your word, then you weren’t the kind of person you wanted working for you.’

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