A Bride at His Bidding

By: Michelle Smart

CHAPTER ONE

ANDREAS SAMARAS POKED his head into the adjoining office to his own. Having spent the day on a multinational conference call, he needed to check in with his PA.

‘How is everything going?’

Debbie sighed. ‘The world is going to hell in a handcart.’

‘Quite.’ His PA’s theatrical tendencies were infamous throughout Samaras Fund Management. Andreas would find it wearing if she weren’t the best business PA he’d ever had. ‘Apart from that, is there anything I need to know? With regards to the business,’ he hastened to add in case she started harping on about polar bears and Arctic ice melt again.

‘Nothing important.’

‘Good. How did the interviews go? Have you come up with a shortlist for me?’ Rochelle, his domestic PA, had quit. The smitten fool was getting married and had decided that a job requiring a great deal of travel was not a good fit for domestic bliss. He’d offered to double her wages and increase her holidays but still she had said no. He’d dragged his heels for weeks about finding a replacement for her in the hope she would change her mind. She hadn’t and finally he had accepted defeat.

Debbie held up a stack of papers. ‘I’ve whittled the candidates down to five.’

Andreas stepped into the office. Debbie had been tasked with doing the preliminary interviews. She knew exactly what kind of person he was looking for to take on the role that basically entailed organising his domestic life. It was a live-in role that would see the successful candidate travel wherever he went, ensuring his domestic life ran as smoothly as his business. The person needed to be honest, loyal, unobtrusive and flexible, have impeccable references, a clean driving licence and no criminal record.

He took the papers from her hand and flipped through them. All had a square photograph of the candidate attached to the corner of their applications. It was a requirement he insisted on. Three candidates would make it to the shortlist and he liked to be familiar with their appearance before he met them for the final interview, which he would undertake personally.

By Debbie’s computer was a stack of the applicants she’d already rejected. The top one caught his eye. There was something familiar about the direct gaze staring back…

‘Why have you rejected this one?’ he asked, picking up the form and studying it. Dark hazel eyes stared right back at him. Dark hazel eyes he knew instinctively that he’d seen before.

Debbie peered at it with a frown. ‘Oh, her. Caroline Dunwoody. She interviewed well but there was something about her I didn’t trust. I don’t know what it was. A feeling, nothing more, but it made me check her references in more detail. One of them checks out okay but I’m suspicious of the other one. She says she worked as Head of Housekeeping at Hargate Manor for two years and has a letter in her file to that effect. I spoke to the gentleman who wrote the reference, the Manor’s butler, and he verified everything.’

‘Then what’s the problem?’

‘Hargate Manor doesn’t exist.’

His eyebrows rose. ‘Doesn’t exist?’

‘There is no Hargate Manor within fifty miles of this one’s supposed location.’

If Debbie said it didn’t exist then it didn’t exist. She was the most thorough person Andreas knew.

He looked more closely at Caroline Dunwoody’s photograph, racking his brain trying to remember where he could have met her. He usually had an excellent recall for faces but on this occasion he couldn’t put a finger on it. She had dark chestnut hair that fell in a neat line to her shoulders and pretty if angular features, a short straight nose, a top lip slightly fuller than the bottom and a cute heart-shaped chin. Yes, a pretty face but not one familiar to him.

But he had seen those eyes before.

Just as he opened his mouth to order Debbie to do some more digging into this woman, it suddenly came to him.

Digging. Journalists did lots of digging.

Caroline. The extended version of Carrie.

Carrie Rivers. The journalist sister of his niece’s old best friend.

The journalist for the Daily Times who had made a name for herself by exposing the illegal and often seedy practices of rich businessmen.

He doubted he would still remember their tenuous association were it not that her most recent undercover investigation into James Thomas, an old business acquaintance of his, had revealed James’s business to be a cover for drugs, arms and people trafficking. A month ago, Carrie’s meticulous work had seen James sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Andreas had read about the sentencing and silently cheered. He hoped he rotted in his cell.

With the feeling of a ball bearing pressing down on his guts, Andreas did an Internet search on his phone for her. There were no photographs of Carrie online. He supposed this wasn’t surprising given the nature of her work.

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