Housekeeper to the Millionaire(7)

By: Lucy Monroe

She’d had no idea at the time that it was a winter playground for the rich and famous.

He relaxed his tense posture and returned her smile. “No. You wouldn’t have.”

“So, why did you leave?” Shorty asked, reminding Carlene of his presence.

“It was time to move on,” she replied noncommittally.

“Leave behind a disgruntled lover?” asked the irrepressible Shorty.

Carlene frowned. It was too near the truth. “I left behind a life that didn’t fit me any longer.”

Win’s expression turned distinctly chilled. “Did that life include a husband? Children?”

“No.” She was inexplicably hurt that he would have such a low opinion of her as to believe she would leave her own children behind, and her voice came out tight. “I’ve never been married.”

His expression didn’t lighten. “Do you do that often?”

“What? Move on?” Was he worried that she would move and leave him in the lurch looking for a housekeeper as Rosa had? “Don’t worry, I’ll give you plenty of notice when I’m ready to leave.”

His expression turned even more forbidding. “I see.”

She hated it when people used that catch all phrase. It made for lousy communication. For instance, what exactly did Win believe he saw and why had it put him in such a dour mood?

“There’s nothing to see. I’m a responsible employee, Win. I won’t leave you in the lurch.”

“You said when, not if. You’re already planning to leave.”

He didn’t need to make it sound as if she were betraying him. She was just an employee. A housekeeper…a job easy to fill again, as she was testament to. But perhaps she should tell him about her plans to get a teaching position in the fall. She discarded the idea as quickly as it came. This wasn’t exactly a position with a contract and long-range career plans. She would do the job she’d been hired to do as long as she worked for Win Garrison, and she’d do it well.

And she’d give him sufficient notice to find someone else. He couldn’t ask for more than that.

She did say, “I’d have to be a different person to be content with the position of cook and housekeeper for the rest of my life.”

Win nodded, his face blank. “Yes. You would.”

A couple of days later, Carlene was washing up the dishes left over from breakfast when Lonny came in. Once they learned she knew her way around the kitchen, Shorty no longer came up to the house to help. So, she was alone with the stable hand. She pushed the discomfort that thought caused aside. She could handle a young man like Lonny, even if he did have eyes colder than a meat locker.

Determined to take control of the encounter right from the start, she forced a smile to her lips. “If you’re looking for Shorty, he’s down at the stables.”

“I didn’t come to talk to Shorty. I came to talk to you.” Lonny leaned negligently against the counter about a foot from where she stood at the sink.

She put the last plate into the bottom rack of the dishwasher and then closed it. Standing straight, she dried her hands on the kitchen towel she kept by the sink. “What can I do for you?”

Lonny’s smile didn’t travel from his lips to his eyes. Carlene suppressed a shiver.

“I don’t want anything special,” he said.

She knew he was lying. There was purpose along with unmistakable confidence in the younger man’s eyes. Well, that confidence would turn to surprise if he tried anything. He would learn just as her former boss had that Carlene was not, nor would she ever be, easy prey. She was grateful that Lonny had no way of exacting the terrible price that her former principal had for her rejection. At least this time, she could say no without losing her job and her reputation in the process.

She stepped around him to pull down the platter she intended to use for lunch, using it as an excuse to move away from Lonny. She needn’t have bothered. He moved with her.

“Aren’t you supposed to be working right now?” she asked with no little exasperation. Really, Win could keep better track of his hands.

“You know the old saying. All work and no play makes Lonny a very dull boy and I’m anything but dull, babe.”

Carlene set the platter down with more force than necessary. “My name is Carlene, not babe.” She took a deep breath to recenter. “And the truth? I am a bit dull. I believe in working when I’m paid to work. I’ve got lunch to prepare and a house to clean, so if you’ll excuse me.”

Lonny moved forward, crowding her against the wall. He put one hand on the wall and the other on her hip, effectively caging her in. “Don’t worry. I’ll teach you how to have a little fun.” He squeezed her hip and she pushed against his chest, but he didn’t move.

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