From Prim to Improper(5)

By: Cathy Williams


‘Credentials, predentials! At least this one doesn’t come complete with a moustache.’

Elizabeth giggled and then hung her head when Andreas shot her a look of withering disapproval.

‘And she seems to have a sense of humour. You, on the other hand, appear to be losing yours. I like this one. I didn’t like any of the others.’

‘Be sensible, James.’

‘I’m beginning to feel a bit faint, Andreas.’ He looked at Elizabeth and spun round his wheelchair so that he was facing her directly. ‘You’re hired. When can you start?’

‘James!’

‘Andreas, don’t forget what the doctor said about stress; right now, I’m beginning to feel very stressed at your unhelpful attitude. I really think that it’s time for me to head to bed. My dear, I would be delighted if you would accept the offer of this job.’ He gave her a pitiful smile. ‘It’s been a dreadful time for me recently. I have been felled by a heart attack and have gone through hell trying to find myself a suitable personal assistant so that I can relieve my godson of the burden of looking after me.’

Elizabeth was amused to see how adroitly he had managed to portray his godson in the least favourable light.

‘Of course I’ll, er, accept the job offer,’ she said shyly, and was thrilled to read genuine relief on the old man’s face.

‘Right. Andreas will sort out the boring details and I will see you very soon. You’ve made a feeble old man very happy, my dear.’

He wheeled himself efficiently out of the room; Elizabeth heard him bellowing for Maria and then the sound of scurrying steps. She slowly and reluctantly turned to Andreas. She had contrived to ignore him completely while she had been talking to James Greystone, even though she had been well aware of him, frowning, on the very edges of her perception. Now she was forced to look directly at him, and his impact on her senses was no less now than it had been from the very moment she had first clapped eyes on him.

‘So, congrats. You got the job.’

Elizabeth was horribly disconcerted when Andreas slowly circled her in much the same manner as a predator might circle prey before it moves in for the kill.

He moved with the stealthy, economical grace of a tiger, and she very nearly squeaked with dismay when he finally paused to stand directly in front of her.

‘Now the interview begins. My godfather might be a pushover, but believe me when I tell you that I’m not. Follow me.’ He walked away, taking it as a given that she would instantly fall in line, which she did.

‘Right.’ He turned to face her when they eventually made it to the sitting room, another impressive room with floor-to-ceiling drapes on one wall and on the other a massive fireplace. ‘Sit.’

‘I wish you’d stop giving orders, Mr…Mr…?’

‘Andreas. Keep it firmly planted at the back of your mind.’

‘I’m happy to answer your questions.’ Within reason, Elizabeth thought with a guilty twinge. ‘I haven’t come here to cause any trouble.’

‘Good. Then we should get along just swimmingly. If, however, I discover that you’re not what you make yourself out to be, then let me give you every assurance that I will personally see to it that you’re strung up and left to dry.’

‘That’s a horrible thing to say.’

‘Consider me a horrible person.’

‘Is that how you’ve dealt with all the people who have applied for this job? By threatening them?’

‘All the people who have applied for this job have come down the normal route. They’ve been vetted to within an inch of their lives by the agency, and they’ve all had a bucket load of credentials and references to their name. You, on the other hand, swan in here via a friend of a friend of a friend, I’m led to believe. You have no CV, and I’m betting that you’re pretty low on the credential-and-reference front as well, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.’

Elizabeth had never met a man like this before. To look at, he was spectacular. Everything about him demanded attention, from the physical perfection of his body to the beautiful contours of his harsh face. He was someone who would be noticed in any crowd, anywhere, and she wondered if that was the source of his arrogance. A man like him, accustomed to snapping his fingers and giving orders, would have no time for common courtesy. Right now he was watching her narrowly and she decided that she really, really disliked him.

But he wasn’t going to scare her away. It had taken a lot to bring her to this house in the first place; now that she had unexpectedly been offered an opening, she wasn’t going to let herself be cowed into leaving.