Taming The Beast(2)

By: Amy J. Fetzer

Well, wasn't he the superior being, she thought, staring up at where he stood on the landing, shrouded in shadows. "You forgot former State Department attaché, embassy schoolteacher, and a linguist, fluent in Italian, Farsi and Gaelic."

"But can you cook?" he said in flawless Gaelic.

"I wouldn't be here if I couldn't," She folded her arms over her waist and regarded the hulking shadow of a man, the foyer light offering only a look at the razor-sharp creases of his dark trousers breaking over his shoes. His hand rested on the banister, a heavy gold signet ring caught the light, Lord, he had big hands, she thought, then said, "So, do I have a Website or something that I'm not aware of?" And just how much did he know about her, she wondered.

"Telecommunications is an amazing resource."

"Yeah, well, spare me from listing my bra size or the time I lost my pom-poms under the bleachers with Grady Benson," she said.

"Is that all you lost?" The words came out in a low growl that tingled up her spine.

It irritated her further. "Search the Net and find out," she snapped, not liking at all that he knew so much about her and she didn't know diddly about him. She hadn't had the chance to find out anything much, except that he'd been reclusive since a disfiguring accident, divorced, and that he would, in a couple of days, take in a daughter he had never met. Curiouser and curiouser, she thought as she took hold of her bags. She faced him. "Where do I stay?"

"The second floor."

She walked to the staircase.

"Leave the bags. Follow me," he said.

Laura set the suitcases down, yet kept her briefcase and purse with her as she trailed him. He walked several steps ahead of her, as if he could anticipate her stride, always keeping himself in the dark. His walk was smooth, almost elegant, and what little light there was came not from the ceiling but glimmered along the floorboards. All she could see was the outline of his shoulders in the pristine white shirt, broad and straight. Impenetrable. He stopped at a door and quickly shoved it open.

"Here," he said, and kept walking.

She stopped outside the room. "And your daughter's room?"

He hesitated for the briefest instant. "Across the hall." He was halfway up a second set of stairs. "I'll have your bags brought up."

"I thought you lived alone?"

"I do. There is a groundskeeper who lives in the cottage behind the house and a maid who comes on Mondays."

"Don't you think we should discuss your daughter's arrival?" she shouted, since he hadn't stopped walking.

"She will be here in two days. Meet her at the ferry." He took each stair with such slow deliberation, Laura wondered if he was in pain.

"You won't come with me?"

"That's why I hired you, Miss Cambridge."

"But you can't mean to just pass your daughter off—"

A door closed with a resounding thump, somewhere up at the top of the stairs. Somewhere in his dark retreat.

"Well, that was productive," she said, and stepped closer to the staircase, looking up. All she could see beyond the upper landing was a hallway and a large polished wood door with a brass latch handle. How could he be so indifferent? Kelly was a baby, for pity's sake, barely four. And was he so badly disfigured that he wouldn't come into the light, or was he just vain? Regardless, it was Kelly she was concerned about, and straightening her shoulders, she climbed the staircase and knocked, hard.

"I believe we need to have a discussion, Mr. Blackthorne. Now."

No answer.

"I can be very persistent if I've a mind to, you know."

"Go away, Miss Cambridge. I will summon you when and if you are needed."

"Of course, your lordship, how stupid of me to think you actually cared about your only daughter," she said bitterly, and turned on her heels. Pigheaded man, ill-mannered, rude. Her daddy would have knocked him in the teeth for talking to a woman like that.

Laura strode into her room and skidded to a stop, instantly losing her breath. Oh, but the dragon man had good taste. The decor was lavish, the carpet, drapes and even the mats on the paintings blended with the plush furnishings in a scheme that was as sensual as it was relaxing. A large four-poster bed loomed in a corner, draped and covered in thick down comforters, mounds of pillows, and like the room, cast in burgundy, dove-gray and white. There was a Queen Anne-style desk with a computer system resting against the wall near the doors, a cluster of delicate feminine furniture positioned a yard or two before the fireplace, and a padded bench built into a set of three dormer windows, the needlepoint pillows making it look so inviting. To the left was a huge walk-in closet that she could never begin to fill, but darned if she wouldn't like to try, and a bathroom, modern, thank the Lord, with the biggest tub she'd ever seen. Tossing her briefcase and purse on the bed, she crossed the hall and entered Kelly's room.

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