Housekeeper to the Millionaire

By: Lucy Monroe
CHAPTER ONE




CARLENE DANIELS parked her car in the circular drive in front of the most imposing ranch house she’d ever seen.

Being from oil-rich Texas, she’d seen a few too…not to mention the beautiful homes built locally by millionaire celebs looking for anonymous vacation homes.

Anonymous. Right.

Built in the California Mission style, this home’s three-story stucco walls gleamed pristinely in the bright sunshine, the red-tiled roof and wrought-iron accents looking elegant rather than historic. She wondered who lived here. Typical for the area, the ad had given no particulars about the family she would be working for. If she would be working for them.

Sunshine Springs was not a hotbed for career opportunities, especially for an ex-schoolteacher turned cocktail waitress. But it was time to stop hiding behind spandex miniskirts and her job at the bar. Her experiences with Grant Strickland had made her realize that.

She’d left Texas in pain and determined to leave her old life behind completely. When the only opening available when she arrived in town had been working in a bar, she’d taken it because in no way would it remind her of the job and the kids she’d loved so much back home. But memories didn’t go away with a change in setting and she wanted her life back.

Carlene opened her car windows a crack and put a sunshade on the dash to protect the car from turning into a portable oven before sliding out of the driver’s seat and slamming the door. Swinging the wrought-iron gate open to the entryway, she slipped inside and rang the doorbell. After a couple of minutes and no answer, she rang it again.

They were advertising for a housekeeper after all. If the bell hadn’t been answered by now, it probably hadn’t been heard.

The door swept open. “What’s the rush?”

The husky, masculine demand caught her completely off guard. Oh, wow…this man was…totally yummy. Black hair, cobalt-blue eyes and a tall, droolworthy muscular body.

“I…uh…”

The piercing blue gaze traveled from her hair to her toes and back up again. Then it made a return journey, leaving chills in its wake. Wow…again.

She knew what she wanted him to see: a woman from another time in her life, before she’d taken the job as bartender at the Dry Gulch. A time when her clothes and manners matched the woman she was on the inside.

Instead of the revealing outfits she wore to work nowadays, she had donned a long straight denim skirt, a loose white scooped-neck top, and white sandals. Flats. After months of wearing nothing but spiked heels that added inches to her diminutive height, these shoes almost felt as if she were wearing bedroom slippers.

The only concession she’d made to the glitz she’d grown accustomed to was the silver and turquoise belt around her hips. Even her normally riotous brown curls had been tamed in a loose French braid and she’d left off everything but the barest of makeup. She looked exactly like what she wanted to convey: a nice girl. Non-threatening in the feminine stakes and perfect for the role of housekeeper.

She stifled a cynical snort at the thought. Even her oversized top could not disguise her generous curves. Curves that had been causing her trouble since the sixth grade. And she was pretty sure it was those curves that had caused the second once over and small tilt at the corner of the man’s otherwise rather grim lips.

However, she was darned if she was going to have breast reduction surgery, as her mother had suggested in order to make herself appear more respectable. She liked her figure. She just didn’t like the things it made people assume about her character. An old familiar ache tried to work its way to the surface and she forced it back down.

That part of her life was over. She wasn’t going to let it dictate her present any longer and she sure as shootin’ wasn’t going to let it dictate her future.

“You Carlene Daniels?”

She nodded, experiencing an odd inability to speak.

“I’m Win Garrison. Expected someone older.”

“So did I.” The words were out before she even realized she was going to say them.

She’d set this interview up with the former housekeeper. The woman had spoken little English, adding no further details about the family she was leaving behind than the ad had given. All Carlene knew was that Rosa’s last day had been yesterday and that she, Carlene, had an interview for the position of housekeeper with Rosa’s former employers today.

However, Carlene had heard of Win’s ranch, the Bar G. Who hadn’t? Only it had never occurred to her that the owner of a ranch that bred free-range mustangs, not to mention having the most prestigious thoroughbred horse breeding and training program this side of the Rockies, would be younger than fifty. Win Garrison was maybe thirty, but certainly not much older.

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