The Housekeeper's Awakening(7)

By: Sharon Kendrick

‘How does he do it, Carly?’ Mary questioned in a shaky voice. ‘How does he get usually sane women like me to fall for a man they don’t even like? How come he’s dumped me in the coldest way imaginable and I still end up thinking he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread?’

Carly tried to crack a joke, anything to lighten the atmosphere and to take that terrible look of pain from Mary’s face. ‘Well, I’ve never been a great fan of sliced bread myself—which is why I always make my own.’

Mary swallowed. ‘I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. Especially not to you. You work for him all the time—you probably deserve my sympathy, instead of me asking for yours.’

‘Don’t worry about it. You’re not the first woman he’s reduced to tears and you won’t be the last.’ Carly shrugged. ‘I don’t know how he does it, to be honest. I don’t think it’s calculated, or even intentional. He just seems to have that indefinable something which makes women go crazy for him. Maybe it’s inevitable when you’re that good-looking and rich and powerful and—’

‘Do you know,’ interrupted Mary, her voice suddenly urgent, ‘that I’ve never fancied a male patient before? Never. Not once. The thought had never even crossed my mind—though obviously not many men like Luis Martinez end up on the hospital wards. I can’t believe that I allowed him to see it.’ She bit her lip. ‘It’s so...so...unprofessional. And so humiliating. And now he’s asked me to go, and you know what? I deserve to be let go.’

Carly didn’t know what to say. She found herself thinking that things were rarely what they seemed. She’d always thought of Mary Houghton as cool and unflappable. She’d seen her as one of those composed Englishwomen who knew exactly what they were doing and where they were heading. And yet one lazy look from the smouldering black eyes of Luis Martinez and she was as jittery as a schoolgirl who’d just seen her pop-star idol in the flesh.

Carly looked at her. Maybe she should be glad of the hard lesson she’d learned all those years ago. Because didn’t they say that heartbreak was almost as painful as bereavement? And who in their right mind would want to be going through what the physiotherapist was clearly going through right now?

She looked at Mary. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said.

Mary pursed her lips together. ‘Oh, I’ll get over it. And maybe it’s all for the best. Maybe I’ll start dating that sweet young doctor who’s been asking me out for weeks, and forget about a man who’s famous for breaking women’s hearts. Now,’ she said briskly. ‘Let me show you what you need to do to get Luis back to full fitness.’

‘If you’re sure you’re okay?’

‘Carly, I’m fine!’

But Carly noticed Mary delving into her handbag for a tissue and that she blew her nose for a suspiciously long time afterwards.





CHAPTER TWO


CARLY COULD FEEL her heart racing like a train, because this was weird.

It was weirder than weird.

Her hands were unsteady as they positioned themselves above Luis’s bare back and she drew in a deep breath, praying he wouldn’t guess how nervous she was. Praying that she wouldn’t behave like a ham-fisted failure as she began to do exactly what Mary had taught her. It wasn’t difficult, she told herself fiercely. Massage was a skill, yes—but it was one that thousands of people did every single day.

But even though the thought of touching Luis’s skin was making her mouth grow dry with fear, it seemed there was no way she could avoid it. He was paying her a bonus. They had agreed that this was a deal. And wasn’t it crazy to have reached this age and still be scared of touching a man? She lowered her hands towards his gleaming skin and thought about the way she’d let the past impact so profoundly on the present. Was she going to let some worthless piece of scum ruin her life for ever?

Because if she was ever going to fulfil her dream of becoming a doctor, she was going to have to touch people like this every day.

Pressing the heels of her palms deep into his silken flesh, she began to move her hands, glad he couldn’t see her face. Wouldn’t he laugh himself silly to know that she was flushed with embarrassment?

It was distracting seeing him like this—wearing nothing but a pair of close-fitting black briefs. Catching sight of him and his billionaire buddies lounging around the pool during one of the few hot days last summer while she carried out a tray of drinks was not the same thing at all.

She thought how pale her hands looked against the olive hue of his skin and noticed that her fingers were trembling slightly as they moved over his warm flesh. But to her surprise her nerves soon left her once she got into some kind of rhythm. If she concentrated on the healing aspects of the task, it was easy to push away her uncomfortable thoughts. In a way, it was the opposite of working with pastry, which needed cool, quick movements. For this, her hands were warm and oily and her movements slow and deliberate. She pushed deep into his latissimus dorsi muscles and he gave a little groan.

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