A Bride at His Bidding(8)

By: Michelle Smart

Her thoughts dissolved as a particularly sharp movement from the pilot caused Andreas’s thigh and arm to compact against hers. An immediate shock of awareness crashed through her, so acute and so sudden and so totally unexpected that she froze.

It felt as if she’d been tasered.

For long moments she couldn’t breathe.

A large hand covered hers and squeezed.

‘It’s nothing to worry about,’ he murmured. ‘Just a little turbulence.’

Carrie swallowed and forced a nod, trying desperately to get a coherent thought into her scrambled brain, her lungs finally opening back up again when he let go of her hand.

She was just tired, she assured herself, digging her nails into her palms.

Better he think she’d been frightened by the sudden turbulence they’d flown into than know of the turbulence that had exploded inside her at the feel of him pressed so tightly against her.

She looked out of the window and made an effort to relax her frame.

Come on, Carrie. You’ve always wanted to fly in a helicopter. At least try and enjoy it.

Violet had always wanted to fly in a helicopter too. She remembered how excited her sister would get during sunny days when their mother was still alive and they would go out for walks and spot helicopters zooming overhead. Her chubby little arms would wave frantically and she was always convinced the pilots waved back.

What was Violet doing at that moment? Her sister had been in California for three months now, her recovery from addiction and all her other issues a slow, fragile process. Carrie had called her a couple of days ago, their weekly conversation as stilted and awkward as they had been since Violet had woken from her coma and it was spelled out how close to death she had come. Whenever she spoke to her sister now it was like talking to a stranger. The little girl whose first word had been ‘Cawwie,’ and who had followed Carrie like a shadow from the moment she could crawl was gone. In truth, she’d been gone for a long time and it tore at Carrie’s heart to remember the sweetness that had once been there.

Blinking away hot tears at all that had been lost, Carrie continued to gaze out of the window. The moon was bright, allowing her to see the small landmass they were approaching in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Soon they flew directly over a beach gleaming white under the moonlight, the form of a large house emerging from the shadows as the pilot brought the helicopter down.

Andreas got out first then held out his hand to assist her, his eyes holding hers with a look that made her stomach knot in on itself.

Knowing she didn’t have any choice, she took the hand. His fingers tightened as they wrapped around hers, solid and warm, keeping her steady as her feet reached for the ground.

‘Thank you,’ she muttered, glad the darkness cloaked her flaming cheeks from his probing gaze.

‘My pleasure.’ His fingertips swept gently over hers as he released his hold and then he climbed back inside to speak to his pilot.

Alone for a moment, Carrie inhaled deeply and found her senses filled with the heady scent of unseen flowers. The breeze of the ocean had cleared the humidity away, a fresh warmth brushing over her skin. It was all she could do not to close her eyes and savour the feeling.

Savouring the feeling would have to wait as suddenly lights came on and Andreas’s house—villa—mansion—which the pilot had landed in the back garden of, was revealed.

It was breathtaking.

Only two storeys high, what it lacked in height it made up for in width, looking like a white stonewashed Buddhist temple surrounded by a deep red wraparound veranda. Matching deep red roof tiles gave what could easily have been an imposing building a welcoming air.

Andreas had rejoined her. She could feel his eyes on her and knew he was looking for a reaction.

What kind of reaction would a true employee give?

She opted for a truthful one.

‘It’s lovely.’

‘Isn’t it?’ he agreed. ‘Wait until you see it in the daylight. I fell in love with it from a photograph. I was looking for a holiday home and here I’ve found the perfect place. I can get away from the world but there’s people and nightlife only a short flight or boat ride away.’

‘This is your holiday home?’

‘Of course,’ he said with mild surprise. ‘Who would want to conduct business on a paradise like this?’

‘How long will we be here?’

‘Why? Is there somewhere you have to be?’

‘No, it’s just…’ She felt herself getting flustered.

‘Relax. I’m teasing you. I know you have no commitment you have to rush back for or you would have disclosed it on your application form. We’ll stay here for a while. I haven’t had a proper holiday in some time and need to recharge my batteries.’