Housekeeper to the Millionaire(9)

By: Lucy Monroe


Carlene searched her memory, but couldn’t remember ever reading about the consulting firm. “No. Sorry.”

“I guess you aren’t real interested in the financial section of the paper?”

She bristled at his condescending tone. “As a matter of fact, no. I like to read human interest stories, not dry articles on the state of the economy.”

She also liked to read popular fiction. She’d been teased at college because of her taste in reading material, but she refused to conform to someone else’s idea of what a French Literature major should want to read.

She realized she was taking easy offense again and sighed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to get defensive.”

“I didn’t mean to offend you, honey.”

Now why didn’t Win calling her honey bother her a bit when Lonny calling her babe was like nails scoring a chalkboard?

“You didn’t. Not really. But just because I’m not interested in the financial section of the paper doesn’t mean I’m a bimbo.”

He took his gaze off the road for a few seconds to meet hers. “Does that happen often?”

“What?”

“People think you’re a bimbo.”

“Because I don’t read the stock reports?”

“Because of how you look.”

The man saw too much.

“People assume a lot of things about me based on the way I look.” She joked, “I guess it’s a good thing I’m not blonde. I’d have a whole slew of assumptions made about my intelligence based on the color of my hair.”

Win frowned. “Is that why you left Texas? Were too many people judging you based on your looks?”

His insight startled her and she didn’t answer immediately. How much did she want to say? “You could say that,” she hedged.

“I’d rather hear what you have to say about it.”

“I don’t like revisiting my past.”

“Okay.”

His easy agreement should have set her mind at rest, but she had the distinct impression that he was just biding his time. She was almost certain the subject wasn’t closed as far as Win Garrison was concerned.

Looking for something besides herself to discuss, she said, “Tell me more about your sister.”

His expression softened. “She’s five years younger than me. She and Mark have got a couple of real cute kids.”

“Where are your parents?”

His fingers gripped the steering wheel a little tighter. “I don’t know where our dads are. Mom moved after each divorce and we lost touch. Neither of them were big on visitation rights.”

“And your mom?” she asked.

“She died in a plane crash twelve years ago.”

“Who raised your sister?”

“I did.” He spoke with no inflection in his voice.

“That must have been really hard, taking on the responsibility to raise a teenage sister and losing your mom at the same time.”

“Raising Leah was nothing new. Mom was too busy getting married and divorced to pay much attention to either of us. Leah was my responsibility from the day Mom brought her home from the hospital.” He smiled ruefully. “I still get tied up in knots every time she cries.”

His admission touched something deep inside Carlene. It was so far from something she would have expected him to say. “Divorce is incredibly traumatic for children. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you to go through two of them.”

“Four.”

She stared at his profile. “Your mom was married four times?”

“Five. She was divorced four times. I guess modern pop psychologists would say she had a problem with commitment.”

“What happened to her fifth husband?” Carlene knew she was being unforgivably inquisitive, but she couldn’t seem to help herself.

“Hank Garrison died in the plane crash with my mom.”

“You use your stepfather’s name. Did he adopt you?”

Win gave a harsh, bitter laugh. “Nothing so formal. Every time Mom remarried, she insisted Leah and I take her husband’s name. I had more last names growing up than pets.”

“But you stuck with Garrison.”

“Yeah.” His terse answer didn’t invite further comment.

She laid her hand on his arm. “I’m sorry.”

He spared her a brief, cold glance as he pulled into a parking spot in front of the grocery store. “Save your pity. I survived.”

She yanked her hand back, feeling chastised. She’d reserve her sympathy for someone who needed it, someone who had a little softness left in him. She just wished her heart didn’t constrict every time she thought of Win’s childhood. At least she understood the aversion to marriage he’d expressed at their first meeting. The man had a reason for distrusting the institution.

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