Sensible Housekeeper, Scandalously Pregnant

By: Jennie Lucas

Chapter One

THE gray sky dripped rain like mist, fine as cobwebs, across the dark minarets of Istanbul as Louisa Grey cut the last autumn roses from the garden. Her hands, usually so steady, trembled around her pruning scissors.

I can’t be pregnant, she told herself fiercely.

Can’t be!

Could she…?

Abruptly Louisa sat back on her haunches, wiping her forehead with her sleeve in the cool twilight of early November. For a moment, she stared at the red and orange roses of the lush garden of the old Ottoman mansion. Then her hands fell into her lap. She felt the weight of the pruning shears against her gray woolen skirt.

Blinking fast, she turned her head blindly to stare out at the red sunset shimmering across the Bosphorus.

One night. She’d worked for her ruthless playboy boss for five years. One night had ruined everything. She’d fled Paris the very next day, demanding a job transfer to his neglected home in Istanbul. She’d tried to put their night of passion behind her. But now, a month later, she had one terrified thought. One question that kept repeating itself in her mind. Every day, the question became louder and more afraid.

Could she be pregnant with her boss’s baby?

“Miss? The cook’s taken ill,” a girl said in accented English behind her. “Please, may he go home?”

Louisa’s shoulders instantly became steel-straight. Pushing her black-framed glasses up on her nose, she turned to face the young Turkish maid. She knew she must reveal no weakness to members of her staff who looked to her for leadership. “Why does he not ask me himself?”

“He’s afraid you’ll say no, miss. With so much to be done for Mr. Cruz’s visit—”

“Mr. Cruz is not expected until the morning of the dinner party. Tell the cook to go home. We will manage. But next time,” Louisa added sharply, “he must ask me himself and not send someone else because he’s afraid.”

“Yes, miss.”

“Also tell him he must be completely well by the day of the party, or he will be replaced.”

With a timid movement like a curtsy, the maid departed.

Once Louisa was alone, her shoulders sagged. Leaning forward, she gathered two fallen roses from the grass and placed them in her basket. She picked up the pruning shears and rose heavily to her feet. She forced herself to go through the household checklist in her mind. The marble floors and chandeliers were sparkling clean. Her boss’s favorite foods had been ordered to arrive fresh from the markets each day. His bedroom suite was ready, needing only these fresh roses to sweeten the dark, masculine room for whichever beautiful starlet he might choose to bring home with him this time.

Everything must be perfect for his visit. Mr. Cruz must have no reason whatsoever to complain. No reason, Louisa thought as she clipped the stem of the bush’s very last rose with rather more force than necessary, to speak to her alone.

She heard the wrought-iron gate open with a long scraping sound behind her. She’d have to get that oiled, she thought. She turned, expecting to see the gardener, or perhaps the wine seller with the large delivery of champagne she’d ordered for the dinner party.

Instead she sucked in her breath as a towering figure stepped from the shadows. Except this man didn’t just step out of the shadows.

He was the shadow.

“Mr. Cruz,” she whispered, her mouth suddenly dry.

His eyes glittered in the twilight as he looked at her. “Miss Grey.”

His deep, husky voice echoed across the garden, causing her heart to pound in her chest. She clenched her fingers tightly around the basket and pruning shears so her suddenly clumsy hands wouldn’t drop them. He was three days early. But when had Rafael Cruz ever done what was expected?

Handsome, ruthless and rich, the Argentinian millionaire had the darkly seductive charm of a poet—and a heart like ice.

Tall and broad-shouldered, with a latent power in his thickly muscled body, he stood out from all other men with his strength, his masculine beauty, his wealth and his stylish appearance. But today, his black hair was tousled. His usually immaculate black suit looked rumpled and his tie was loosened and askew at his neck. His jawline was dark with shadow below his sharp cheekbones and Roman nose. Light gray eyes stood out starkly against his tanned olive skin.

Disheveled as he was, today he looked barely civilized, half-brutal. And yet he was somehow even more handsome than she remembered.

A month ago, Louisa had been in his arms. For one night, he’d taken her body, he’d passionately taken her virginity—

She cut off the thought and took a deep, steadying breath.

“Good evening, sir.” Her voice betrayed nothing of her emotion. It was dignified, almost cool—the perfect manner for the valued servant of a powerful man. Her training held her in good stead. “Welcome to Istanbul. Everything is in readiness for your visit.”