A Bride at His Bidding(4)

By: Michelle Smart

‘It is a pleasure to meet you, Miss Dunwoody.’

She stared at the huge hand extending towards her and forced herself to lean forward and take it. Large, warm tapered fingers covered hers as he shook her hand briskly before letting go.

‘Take a seat,’ he commanded amicably, sitting back down and picking up a thin pile of papers from his desk.

The skin on her hand buzzed where he’d clasped it and she fought the urge to rub it against her thigh as she took the seat he’d directed her to, and expelled the tiniest sigh of relief.

There had been only a teeny ounce of doubt he wouldn’t recognise her. Physically she’d changed a lot since that one fleeting glance three years ago outside the headmistress’s office, when his light brown eyes had lasered her with such ferocity she had recoiled. Stress alone had made her lose three stone since then, which had altered her facial features as well as her body shape. She’d long stopped her quest for the perfect shade of blonde hair and reverted to her natural brown colour.

If Andreas had the slightest idea of who she really was, she would not be there. She wouldn’t have got past the initial application.

It hadn’t seemed feasible that he would recognise her or her name but she had learned through five years of her job to take nothing for granted.

Light brown thoughtful eyes studied her rather than the paperwork in his hand, which she guessed was a copy of her job application, and she fought hard against the flush of colour crawling over her skin. When she finally forced herself to meet his gaze, the raw masculinity staring back at her intensified the flush, enflaming her bones, taking her so unawares that for a moment her mind emptied of everything but the rapid tattoo of her heart reverberating in her ears.

Carrie swallowed, desperate for moisture in her parched throat, desperate to suck air into lungs that had closed in on themselves. Whatever kind of a man Andreas was, there was no denying that he was divine to look at. He had thick dark brown hair sun-kissed on the tips, barely tamed to flop onto a gently lined forehead, cheekbones you could ski down, a chiselled square jaw already dark with stubble and a sharp nose with a slight bend on the bridge. Deeply tanned and weather-beaten, he looked every one of his thirty-seven years.

He was the most overtly virile and handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on.

Then he gave her a crooked grin.

It was like being smiled at by the big bad wolf the moment before he ate Grandma.

‘Congratulations on making it to the final shortlist,’ he said in his impeccable English. Carrie knew, as she knew so much about this man, that he’d learned English at school in his Greek homeland and then perfected it at his American university. He spoke the language with true fluency, firing the words out so quickly his accent sounded like a musical cadence to her ears. ‘I will be honest and tell you that you are my preferred candidate.’

She was taken aback. ‘I am?’

His eyes sparkled. ‘Before I go into more detail about my requirements, there are things I wish to know about you.’

She attempted to hide her fear with a smile that didn’t want to form on her frozen cheeks.

Had he spotted the holes in her résumé?

After a moment of silence that seemed to echo between them she got her paper-dry throat to work. ‘What do you want to know?’

‘References and application forms only give a narrow perspective on a person. If I give you the job then we will spend a lot of time together. You will be my right hand in my domestic life. You will be privy to my most intimate secrets. So, Miss Dunwoody…may I call you Caroline?’

She nodded faintly. The only person who had ever called her Caroline had been her mother but she hadn’t made her name sing as Andreas did. Even as it occurred to her, that struck Carrie as an odd thought to have.

‘Caroline. If I give you the job I need to trust you and trust that we’ll be able to work well together.’ His relaxed frame, the musical staccato of his voice and the amusement enlivening his handsome features all worked together to reassure her that her ruse had worked but the scent of danger still lingered.

Her instincts were telling her to take her bag and coat and leave this office right now.

‘Are you married or do you have a partner?’ he continued. ‘I ask because if you do, you should know you will be spending a lot of time apart from them. Your personal life must be conducted in your own time and you won’t have much of that.’

‘I have no significant other.’ She never had and never would. Men could not be trusted. She’d learned that before she’d reached double digits.