The Prince's Chambermaid(5)

By: Sharon Kendrick

She gave him an efficient smile. ‘So if you’d like to follow me.’

Xaviero tried to imagine how a painter and decorator might respond in such a situation. Especially one who was mesmerised by a woman’s petite beauty. Wouldn’t he flirt a little? Especially in view of the way she had been staring at him—like a starving cat who had just been confronted with a plate of food. Was she as hungry for sex as he was? ‘I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,’ he murmured.

His provocative words were tantalising—but they were daunting, too. Cathy came out from behind the reception desk and then half-wished she had remained behind its protective barrier. Because standing so close to him, she felt so…exposed…so intensely aware of his towering height and his hard-packed muscular body. Her knowledge of men was laughably small—but even she realised that this man exuded a sensual kind of aura which spelt danger. So what did you do when you encountered danger? she asked herself. You put some physical distance between you, that was what.

‘Let’s go,’ she said quickly.

‘Mmm. Let’s.’ Like a snake lured by a charmer, he watched the seductive sway of her body as she led the way. She really was a tiny little thing—like a pocket Venus—with those curiously old-fashioned curves which made her bottom look so eminently cuppable. He knew from exgirlfriends who haunted the international fashion shows that clothes looked best on lanky beanpoles without any bust or hips—but he realised instantly that this was the kind of woman who would look best with no clothes at all…

Cathy was trying to walk normally—though how could she do that when she could feel his gaze on her back, burning into her like golden flames shot from a blowtorch? She made the decision to leave the washrooms until last—because how embarrassing would it be to have to stand pointing out the peeling paintwork behind one of the cisterns? Instead, she stopped in front of a set of double doors and, pushing them open, stepped into a large, highceilinged room.

‘Here we are,’ she said brightly. ‘This is our formal drawing room—where guests sometimes bring their coffee after dinner. It…well, it hasn’t been used very much lately.’

Xaviero looked around at the general air of neglect. ‘So I see,’ he said wryly.

The furniture was much too faded to be described as ‘shabby chic’ and a chandelier looked as if it hadn’t been dusted for an age. Cathy saw him glancing at it with a slightly disbelieving expression and, to her horror, she noticed a froth of cobweb lacing its base.

‘It’s, well…it’s a bit difficult to get to—even with a feather duster,’ she said apologetically. ‘I’d have had a go myself, only I’m slightly on the small side.’

Golden eyes assessed her from head to toe, lingering luxuriously on her petite frame. ‘You certainly are. And presumably you’re not actually the cleaner?’ he questioned drily.

‘Er, no—I’m not,’ she said quickly. ‘I’m…’ She stared up into the man’s gleaming eyes wondering if her next statement would make his interest fade. ‘I’m…I’m the chambermaid actually.’

The chambermaid? Sweet heaven! Xaviero almost groaned aloud—because the image which sprang into his mind was of a bed. A large, soft bed. And her in it, rather than making it. That soft, voluptuous form sinking onto crisp sheets and him sinking right on top of her. It was the most powerfully erotic image he had experienced in years and he shifted his weight very slightly in a doomed attempt to relieve the aching at his groin.

‘Really?’ he murmured. ‘That must be a very…interesting job?’

Cathy’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. Was he making fun of her—flippantly discounting a very necessary job which carried with it zero status? And yet he looked interested. She gave him the benefit of the doubt. ‘Well, it can have its moments,’ she said truthfully and then smiled again. ‘Honestly, you wouldn’t believe some of the things the guests leave behind!’

‘Such as?’

Primly, she locked her lips together. ‘I couldn’t possibly say.’

He laughed. ‘A loyal chambermaid,’ he murmured.

‘Professional discretion,’ she agreed. ‘And at least it’s a job which gives me plenty of free time.’

‘I suppose there is much to be said for that,’ he answered reflectively, thinking that she would not have dared speak to him in such a natural and unaffected way if she had been aware of his identity.

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