A Pawn in the Playboy's Game(6)

By: Cathy Williams



She rang the doorbell and waited, heart beating fast.

* * *

Inside the house, specifically inside the office to which he had retreated after a tense breakfast with his father that had achieved less than zero, if that was possible, Alessandro heard the sharp ring of the doorbell and cursed fluently under his breath.

The vanishing hired help had remained vanished. His father, who was hell-bent on not listening to common sense, had taken himself off to his massive greenhouse, where, he said, he could have more fruitful conversation with his plants. Alessandro’s plan to buy some food and do something with it had changed. He had decided to take his father out for dinner in the town because if his father was in a restaurant, there was just so far he could go when it came to dodging the inevitable conversation.

He reached the front door and pulled it open, his mood already foul because he could see the word wasted stamped all over his weekend.

The girl standing in front of him, gripping the handlebars of a bike that looked like a relic from a different era, took him momentarily by surprise.

She was a short, round little thing with copper-coloured hair that had been dragged back into a ponytail and eyes...

The purest, greenest eyes he had ever seen.

‘About time.’

‘I beg your pardon?’ Laura had been expecting Roberto to answer the door. Instead, finding herself staring up at the most beautiful man she had ever seen in her life, her breathing had become jerky and her pulse was all over the place.

This would be the son and he was nothing like the mental picture she’d had in her head.

Her mental picture had been of a pompous, puffed-up, frankly ugly little guy who had his nose stuck in the air and never ventured out of London if he could help it. He hardly showed his face in Scotland and when he did, Roberto was always subdued afterwards, as if recovering from a virus.

Unfortunately, the man staring down at her with a glacial expression was too disturbingly good-looking for anybody’s good. He positively towered over her and every inch of his body was hard-packed muscle. The black, long-sleeved T-shirt lovingly advertised that, as did the faded, low-slung black jeans.

‘Finished staring?’ he asked coolly, and Laura went bright red. ‘Because if you are, you can come in, head directly to the kitchen and begin doing what you’re paid to do.’

‘Sorry?’ Laura blinked and stared at him in bewilderment before remembering the way he had sneered at her for staring, which made her immediately shift her gaze to the ivy clambering up the wall behind him.

Alessandro didn’t bother answering. Instead, he stepped to one side and headed to the kitchen, expecting her to follow him.

Laura stared at his departing back with mounting anger.

‘I’d like to know what’s going on,’ she demanded, having flung her bike to the ground and sprinted in his wake.

‘What’s going on...’ Alessandro turned to face her and spread his arms wide ‘...is a kitchen that needs tidying. Which is what you’re paid to do. Correct me if I’m wrong.’ He leaned against the granite counter and looked at the round little bundle poised resentfully by the door. No one liked being reprimanded, but needs must, he thought. ‘I understand that Freya couldn’t make it to work yesterday because her dog was feeling under the weather, but it beggars belief that she couldn’t be bothered to send her replacement until today and it’s even more astonishing that her replacement can’t be bothered to turn up until after ten in the morning!’

Placid by nature, Laura was discovering that it was remarkably easy to go from cool to boiling in seconds. She folded her arms and glared at him. ‘If the kitchen needed tidying, why didn’t you tidy it yourself?’

‘I’ll pretend I just didn’t hear that!’

‘I’d like to see Roberto...’

‘And why would that be?’ Alessandro drawled silkily. He folded his arms and stared at her. ‘You might be able to get past him with some fairy-tale sob story about not being able to do the job you’re paid to do because the dog’s cousin got a cold or the rain was falling in the wrong direction so you just couldn’t make it on time, but I’m made of tougher stuff. You should have been here at eight, as far as I’m concerned, and your pay will be docked accordingly!’ Not, in all events, that that was going to be much of a concern considering his father would be out of the house, if not this weekend, then certainly by the end of the month.

‘Are you threatening me?’

‘It’s not a threat. It’s a statement of fact and frankly you should consider yourself lucky that I don’t sack you on the spot.’

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