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Nine Months to Redeem Him

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«Nine Months to Redeem Him» - Дженни Лукас

'This is all I can give you,' he said. 'Do you agree?''Yes…' I whispered, my lips brushing against his.I hardly knew what I was saying. I could think of nothing other than the darkly powerful Edward St Cyr. I was too lost in the moment—lost in pleasure that made the world a million colours of twisting light.I gave him my body—which he wanted—and my heart—which he didn’t. Had I just made the biggest mistake of my life?Maybe when he knows about our baby it will heal his wounded heart so he can love us both…The One Night with Consequences SeriesWhen succumbing to a night of unbridled desire it’s impossible to think past the morning after! But, with the sheets barely settled, that little blue line appears on the pregnancy test and it doesn’t take long to realise that one night of white-hot passion has turned into a lifetime of consequences!Other books in the One Night with Consequences series:Nine Months to Redeem Him by Jennie LucasPrince Nadir’s Secret Heir by Michelle ConderCarrying the Greek’s Heir by Sharon KendrickMore stories in the One Night with Consequences series can be found at for Jennie LucasNine Months to Redeem Him 4.5* TOP PICK RT Book ReviewLucas’ precise, rhythmic narrative sets the mood and keeps the flow in this gothic heartbreaker. Her brooding, cold-hearted hero and innocent, nurturing heroine are perfectly matched, and the over-the-top settings complement the tale. But it’s the couple’s battle of wills that sets the novel on fire.Uncovering Her Nine Month Secret 4* RT Book ReviewLucas’ second-chance romance stars a smug, arrogant aristocrat and an orphaned, confounded heroine. The first-person storytelling gives an intimate air, the settings add detail and the costars add depth.The Sheikh’s Last Seduction 4.5* TOP PICK RT Book ReviewSet equally between historic Italy and a shiny modern Persian Gulf metropolis, Lucas builds her intricate, affecting romance with ribald humor, intense emotions, enticing narrative and endearing characters. Her righteous heroine and obligated hero are unrivaled, and their love scenes are sensual yet innocent.Praise for Nine Months to Redeem Him:“I loved Edward from the moment we were introduced, he's so blunt but also quite amusing. the chemistry between him and Diana is epic right from the get go you can see the banter bouncing , they have both been hurt by love, both love a challenge and refuse to back down” – Lisa Fallon, NetGalley reviewer
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Edward lifted a dark eyebrow. “Be gentle with me,” he said mockingly. Closing his eyes, he propped his chin on his folded arms and waited for me to touch him.

Touch him.

I looked down at my hands, which felt suddenly tingly. I knew how to give a professional massage. Why were my hands shaking? I didn't feel like a competent physical therapist. I felt like what he'd once called me—a frightened virgin.

Edward St. Cyr, my boss, who'd inspired me and irritated me in equal measure, who was way out of my league and didn't see me as anything more than someone he could casually flirt with, perhaps casually sleep with and casually forget, was naked beneath my hands. And I feared if I showed a moment of weakness he might roll over and devour me.

If he felt my hands shaking … All he had to do was turn around on the table and pull me down hard against him in a savage kiss.

Don't think about it, I told myself fiercely.

Flexing my fingers, I poured oil in one palm, then rubbed my hands together to warm them. Slowly, I lowered them to his skin.

As I ran my hands down the trapezius muscles of his upper back I tried to calm the rapid beat of my heart. But as I stroked and rubbed Edward beneath my palms I felt hot as summer. I closed my eyes, trying not to imagine what it would be like if he were my lover. How it would feel to sink into the pleasure I imagined he'd give me.

Afterward my soul might be ash, but I'd finally know the exhilaration of the fire.

JENNIE LUCAS grew up dreaming about faraway lands. At fifteen, hungry for experience beyond the borders of her small Idaho city, she went to a Connecticut boarding school on scholarship. She took her first solo trip to Europe at sixteen, then put off college and travelled around the US, supporting herself with jobs as diverse as gas station cashier and newspaper advertising assistant.

At twenty-two she met the man who would be her husband. After their marriage she graduated from Kent State with a degree in English. Seven years after she started writing she got the magical call from London that turned her into a published author.

Since then life has been hectic, with a new writing career, a sexy husband and two small children, but she's having a wonderful (albeit sleepless) time. She loves immersing herself in dramatic, glamorous, passionate stories. Maybe she can't physically travel to Morocco or Spain right now, but for a few hours a day, while her children are sleeping, she can be there in her books.

Jennie loves to hear from her readers. You can visit her website at, or drop her a note at

Nine Months to Redeem Him

Jennie Lucas

To Krystyn Gardner, my friend since childhood, maid of honor at my wedding—the bold, fearless soul who moved halfway round the world and convinced me to meet her there. Thanks, you crazy girl, for blazing a trail, and for always being in my corner.



About the Author

Title Page



html#ulink_9f00ef7f-4ec8-50d8-bf0f-7ecddb68fe0f" id="back_ulink_9f00ef7f-4ec8-50d8-bf0f-7ecddb68fe0f">CHAPTER ONE








THIS IS ALL I can give you, he said. No marriage. No children. All I can offer isthis. And he kissed me, feather-light, until I was holding my breath, trembling in his arms. Do you agree?

Yes, I whispered, my lips brushing against his. I hardly knew what I was saying. Hardly thought about the promise I was making and what it might cost me. I was too lost in the moment, lost in pleasure that made the world a million colors of twisting light.

Now, two months later, I'd just gotten news that changed everything.

As I went up the sweeping stairs of his London mansion, my heart was in my throat. A baby. I gripped the oak handrail as my shaking steps echoed down the hall. A baby. A little boy with Edward's eyes? An adorable little girl with his smile? Thinking of the sweet, precious baby soon to be nestled in my arms, a dazed smile lifted to my lips.

Then I remembered my promise.

My hands tightened. Would he think I'd somehow gotten pregnant on purpose? Tricking him into becoming a father against his will?

No. He wouldn't. Couldn't.

Could he?

The upstairs hallway was cold and dark. Just like Edward's heart. Because beneath his sensual charm, his soul was ice. I'd always known this, no matter how hard I'd tried not to know it.

I'd given him my body, which he wanted, and my heart, which he hadn't. Had I made the biggest mistake of my life?

Maybe he could change. I took a deep breath. If I could only believe that, once he knew about the baby, he might change—that he might someday love us both …

Reaching our bedroom, I slowly pushed open the door.

“You've kept me waiting,” Edward's voice was dangerous, coming from the shadows. “Come to bed, Diana.”

Come to bed.

Clenching my hands at my sides, I went forward into the dark.

Four Months Earlier


After hours of being cooped up in the backseat of the chauffeured car, with the heat at full blast as the driver exceeded speed limits at every opportunity, the air felt oppressively hot. I rolled down the window to take a deep breath of fresh air and rain.

“You’ll catch your death,” the driver said sourly from the front. Almost the first words he’d spoken since he’d collected me from Heathrow.

“I need some fresh air,” I said apologetically.

He snorted, then mumbled something under his breath.

Pasting a smile on my face, I looked out the window. Jagged hills cast a dark shadow over the lonely road, surrounded by a bleak moor drenched in thick wet mist. Cornwall was beautiful, like a dream. I’d come to the far side of the world. Which was what I’d wanted, wasn’t it?

In the twilight, the black silhouette of a distant crag looked like a ghostly castle, delineated against the red sun shimmering over the sea. I could almost hear the clang of swords from long-ago battles, hear the roar of bloodthirsty Saxons and Celts.

“Penryth Hall, miss.” The driver’s gruff voice was barely audible over the wind and rain. “Up ahead.”

Penryth Hall? With an intake of breath, I looked back at the distant crag. It wasn’t my imagination or a trick of mist. A castle was really there, illuminated by scattered lights, reflecting in a ghostly blur upon the dark scarlet sea.

As we drew closer, I squinted at the crenellated battlements. The place looked barely habitable, fit only for vampires or ghosts. For this, I’d left the sunshine and roses of California.

Blinking hard, I leaned back against the leather seat and exhaled, trying to steady my trembling hands. The smell of rain masked the sweet, slightly putrid scent of rotting autumn leaves, decaying fish and the salt of the ocean.

“For lord’s sake, miss, if you’ve had enough of the rain, up it goes.”

The driver pressed a button, and my window closed, choking off fresh air as the SUV bumped over ridges in the road. With a lump in my throat, I looked down at the book still open in my lap. In the growing darkness, the words were smudges upon shadows. Regretfully, I marked my place, and closed the cover of Private Nursing: How to Care for a Patient in His Home Whilst Maintaining Professional Distance and Avoiding Immoral Advances from Your Employer before placing it carefully in my handbag.

I’d already read it twice on the flight from Los Angeles. There hadn’t been much published lately about how to live on a reclusive tycoon’s estate and help him rehabilitate an injury as his live-in physical therapist. The closest I’d been able to find was a tattered book I’d bought secondhand that had been published in England in 1959—and when I looked closer I discovered it was actually a reprint from 1910. But I figured it was close enough. I was confident I could take the book’s advice. I could learn anything from a book.

It was people I often found completely unfathomable.

For the twentieth time, I wondered about my new employer. Was he elderly, feeble, infirm? And why had he sent for me from six thousand miles away? The L.A. employment agency had not been very forthcoming with details.

“A wealthy British tycoon,” the recruiter had told me. “Injured in a car accident two months ago. He can walk but barely. He requested you.”

“Why? Does he know me?” My voice trembled. “Or my stepsister?”

Shrug. “The request came from a London agency. Apparently he found the physical therapists in England unsuitable.”

I gave an incredulous laugh. “All of them?”

“That’s all I’m allowed to share, other than salary details. That is sizeable. But you must sign a nondisclosure agreement. And agree to live at his estate indefinitely.”

I never would have agreed to a job like this three weeks ago. A lot had changed since then. Everything I’d thought I could count on had fallen apart.

The Range Rover picked up speed as we neared the castle on the edge of the ocean’s cliff. Passing beneath a wrought iron gate carved into the shape of sea serpents and clinging vines, we entered a courtyard. The vehicle stopped. Gray stone walls pressing in upon all sides, beneath the gray rain.

For a moment, I sat still, clutching my handbag in my lap.

“‘Consider a carpet,’” I whispered to myself, quoting Mrs. Warreldy-Gribbley, the author of the book. “‘Be silent and deferential and endure, and expect to be trod upon.’”

I could do that. Surely, I could do that. How hard could it be, to remain silent and deferential and endure?

The SUV’s door opened. A large umbrella appeared, held by an elderly woman. “Miss Maywood?” She sniffed. “Took you long enough.”


“I’m Mrs. MacWhirter, the housekeeper,” she said, as two men got my suitcase. “This way, if you please.”

“Thank you.” As I stepped out of the car, I looked up at the moss-laden castle. It was the first of November. This close up, Penryth Hall looked even more haunted. A good place to heal, I told myself firmly. But that was a lie. It was a place to hide.

I shivered as drops of cold rain ran down my hair and jacket. Ahead of me, the housekeeper waved the umbrella with a scowl.

“Miss Maywood?”

“Sorry.” Stepping forward, I gave her an attempt at a smile. “Please call me Diana.”

She looked disapprovingly at my smile. “The master’s been expecting you for ages.”

Master...” I snorted at the word, then saw her humorless expression and straightened with a cough. “Oh. Right. I’m terribly sorry. My plane was late...”

She shook her head, as if to show what she thought of airlines’ lackluster schedules. “Mr. St. Cyr requested you be brought to his study immediately.”

“Mr. St. Cyr? That is his name? The elderly gentleman?”

Her eyes goggled at the word elderly. “Edward St. Cyr is his name, yes.” She looked at me, as if wondering what kind of idiot would agree to work for a man whose name she did not know. A question I was asking myself at the moment. “This way.”

I followed, feeling wet and cold and tired and grumpy. Master, I thought, irritated. What was this, Wuthering Heights?— The original novel, I mean, not the (very loosely) adapted teleplay that my stepfather had turned into a cable television miniseries last year, with a pouty-lipped starlet as Cathy, and so much raunchy sex that Emily Brontë was probably still turning in her grave. But the show had been a big hit, which just went to show that maybe I was every bit as naïve as Howard claimed. “Wake up and smell the coffee, kitten,” he’d said kindly. “Sex is what people care about. Sex and money.”

I’d disagreed vehemently, but I’d been wrong. Clearly. Because here I was, six thousand miles from home, alone in a strange castle.

But even here, between the old suits of armor and tapestries, I saw a sleek modern laptop on a table. I’d purposefully left my phone and tablet in Beverly Hills, to escape it all. But it seemed even here, I couldn’t completely get away. A bead of sweat lifted to my forehead. I wouldn’t look to see what they were doing, I wouldn’t...

“In here, miss.” Mrs. MacWhirter led me into a starkly masculine study, with dark wood furnishings and a fire in the fireplace. I braced myself to face an elderly, infirm, probably cranky old gentleman. But there was no one. Frowning, I turned back to the housekeeper.

“Where is—”

She was gone. I was alone in the flickering shadows of the study. I was turning to leave as well when I heard a low voice, spoken from the depths of the darkness.

“Come forward.”

Jumping, I looked around me more carefully. A large sheepdog was sitting on a Turkish rug in front of the fire. He was huge and furry, and panting noisily, his tongue hanging out. He tilted his head at me.

I stared back in consternation.

Was I having some kind of breakdown, as my friend Kristin had predicted? I had seen enough funny pet videos online to know that animals could be trained to talk.

“Um.” Feeling foolish, I licked my lips. “Did you say something?”

“Did I stutter?” The dog’s mouth didn’t move. So it wasn’t the dog talking. But now I wished it had been. Animal voices were preferable to ghostly ones. Shivering, I looked around me.

“Do you require some kind of instruction, Miss Maywood?” The voice turned acid. “An engraved invitation, perhaps? Come forward, I said. I want to see you.”

It was then I realized the deep voice didn’t come from beyond the grave, but from the depths of the high-backed leather chair in front of the fire. Oh. Cheeks hot, I walked toward it. The dog gave me a pitying glance, tempered by the faint wag of his tail. Giving the dog a weak smile, I turned to face my new employer.

And froze.

Edward St. Cyr was neither elderly nor infirm. No.

The man who sat in the high-backed chair was handsome, powerful. His muscled body was partially immobilized, but he somehow radiated strength, even danger. Like a fierce tiger—caged...

“You are too kind,” the man said sardonically.

“You are Edward St. Cyr?” I whispered, unable to look away. I swallowed. “My new employer?”

“That,” he said coldly, “should be obvious.”

His face was hard-edged, rugged, too much so for conventional masculine beauty. There was nothing pretty about him. His jawline was square, and his aquiline nose slightly off-kilter at top, as if it had once been broken. His shoulders were broad, barely contained by the oversized chair, his right arm hung in an elastic brace in a sling. His left leg was held out stiffly, extended from his body, the heel resting on a stool. He looked like a fighter, a bouncer, maybe even a thug.

Until you looked at his eyes. An improbable blue against his olive-toned skin, they were the color of a midnight ocean swept with moonlight. Tortured eyes with unfathomable depths, blue as an ancient glacier newly risen above an arctic sea.

Even more trapped than his body, I thought suddenly. His soul.

Then his expression shuttered, turning sardonic and flat, reflecting only the glowing embers of the fire. Now his blue eyes seemed only ruthless and cynical. Had I imagined the emotion I’d seen? Then my lips parted.

“Wait,” I breathed. “I know you. Don’t I?”

“We met once, at your sister’s party last June.” His cruel, sensual lips curved. “I’m so pleased you remember.”

“Madison is my stepsister,” I corrected automatically. I came closer to the chair, in the flickering light of the fire. “You were so rude...”

His eyes met mine. “But was I wrong?”

My cheeks burned. I’d been working as Madison’s new assistant, so had been obligated to attend her posh, catered party. There’d been a DJ and waiters, and a hundred industry types—actors, directors, wealthy would-be producers. Normally I would have wanted to run and hide. But this time, I’d been excited to bring my new boyfriend. I’d been so proud to introduce Jason to Madison. Then, later, I’d found myself watching the two of them, across the room.

A sardonic British voice had spoken behind me. “He’s going to dump you for her.”

I’d whirled around to see a darkly handsome man with cold blue eyes. “Excuse me?”

“I saw you come in together. Just trying to save you some pain.” He lifted his martini glass in mocking salute. “You can’t compete with her, and you know it.”

It had been a dagger in my heart.

You can’t compete with her, and you know it. Blonde and impossibly beautiful, my stepsister, who was one year younger, drew men like bees to a honeypot. But I’d seen the downside, too. Even being the most beautiful woman in the world didn’t guarantee happiness.

Of course, being the ugly stepsister didn’t guarantee it either. I’d glared at the man before I turned on my heel. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

But somehow, he had known. It haunted me later. How had some rude stranger at a party seen the truth immediately, while it had taken me months?

When Madison arranged for Jason to get a part in her next movie, he’d been thrilled. Working as Madison’s assistant, I’d seen them both every day on set in Paris. Then she’d asked me to go back to L.A. and give a magazine a personal tour of Madison’s house in the Hollywood Hills, and talk about what it was like to be a “girl next door” who happened to have Madison Lowe as my stepsister, a semifamous producer as my stepfather, and up-and-coming hunk Jason Black as my boyfriend. “We need the publicity,” Madison had insisted.

But the reporter barely seemed to listen as I walked her through Madison’s lavish house, talking lamely about my stepsister and Jason. Until she pressed on her earpiece with her hand and suddenly laughed aloud, turning to me with a malicious gleam in her eye. “Fascinating. But are you interested in seeing what the two of them have been up to today in Paris?” Then she’d cut to reveal live footage of the two of them naked and drunk beneath the Eiffel Tower.

The video became an international sensation, along with the clip of my stupid, shocked face as I watched it.

For the past three weeks, I’d been trapped behind the gates of my stepfather’s house, ducking paparazzi who wanted pictures of my miserable face, and gossip reporters who kept yelling questions like, “Was it a publicity stunt, Diana? How else could anyone be so stupid and blind?”

I’d fled to Cornwall to escape.

But Edward St. Cyr already knew about it. He’d even tried to warn me, but I hadn’t listened.

Looking at my new employer now, a shiver went through me, rumbling all the way to my heart, shaking me like the earthquakes I thought I’d left behind. “Is that why you hired me? To gloat?”

Edward looked at me coldly. “No.”

“Then you felt sorry for me.”

“This isn’t about you.” His dark blue eyes glittered in the firelight. “This is about me. I need a good physiotherapist. The best.”

Confused, I shook my head. “There must be hundreds, thousands, of good physical therapists in the U.K....”

“I gave up after four,” he said acidly. “The first was useless. I hardly know which was thicker, her skull or her graceless hands pushing at me. She quit when I attempted to give her a gentle bit of constructive criticism.”


“The second woman was giggly and useless. I sacked her the second day, when I caught her on the phone trying to sell my story to the press...”

“Why would the press want your story? Weren’t you in a car accident?”

His lips tightened almost imperceptibly at the corners. “The details have been kept out of the news and I intend to keep it that way.”

“Lucky,” I said, thinking of my own media onslaught.

His dark eyes gleamed. “I suppose you’re right.” He glanced down at his arm in the sling, at his leg propped up in front of him. “I can walk now, but only with a cane. That’s why I sent for you. Make me better.”

“What happened to the other two?”

“The other two what?”

“You said you hired four physical therapists.”

“Oh. The third was a hatchet-faced martinet.” He shrugged. “Just looking at her curdled my will to live.”

Surreptitiously, I glanced down at my damp cotton jacket, sensible nursing clogs and baggy khakis wrinkled from the overnight flight, wondering if at the moment, I too was curdling his will to live. But my looks weren’t supposed to matter. Not in physical therapy. Looking up, I set my jaw. “And the fourth?”

“Ah. Well.” His lips quirked at the edges. “One night, we shared a little too much wine, and found ourselves in bed in a totally different kind of therapy.”

My eyes went wide. “You fired her for sleeping with you? You should be ashamed.”

“I had no choice,” he said irritably. “She changed overnight from a decent physio to a marriage-crazed clinger. I caught her writing Mrs. St. Cyr over and over on my medical records, circling it with hearts and flowers.” He snorted. “Come on.

“What bad luck you’ve had,” I said sardonically. Then I tilted my head, stroking my cheek. “Or wait. Maybe you’re the one who’s the problem.”

“There is no problem,” he said smoothly. “Not now that you’re here.”

I folded my arms. “I still don’t understand. Why me? We only met the once, and I’d already given up doing physical therapy then.”

“Yes. To be an assistant to the world-famous Madison Lowe. Strange career choice, if you don’t mind me saying so, from being a world-class physiotherapist to fetching lattes for your stepsister.”

“Who said I was world-class?”

“Ron Smart. Tyrese Carlsen. John Field.” He paused. “Great athletes, but notorious womanizers. I’m guessing one of them must have given you reason to quit. Something must have made the idea of being assistant to a spoiled star suddenly palatable.”

“My patients have all been completely professional,” I said sharply. “I chose to quit physical therapy for—another reason.” I looked away.

“Come on, you can tell me. Which one grabbed your butt?”

“Nothing of the sort happened.”

“I thought you would say that.” He lifted a smug eyebrow. “That’s the other reason I wanted you, Diana. Your discretion.”

Hearing him say he wanted me, as he used my first name, made me feel strangely warm all over. I narrowed my eyes. “If one of them had sexually assaulted me, believe me, I wouldn’t keep it a secret.”

He waved his hand in clear disbelief. “You were also betrayed by your boyfriend and America’s Sweetheart. You could have sold the story in an instant and gotten money and revenge. But you’ve never said a word against them. That’s loyalty.”

“Stupidity,” I mumbled.

“No.” He looked at me. “It’s rare.”

He made me sound like some kind of hero. “It’s just common decency. I don’t gossip.”

“You were at the top of your profession in physical therapy. That’s why you quit. One of your patients did something, didn’t he? I wonder which—”

“For heaven’s sake!” I exploded. “None of them did anything. They’re totally innocent. I quit physical therapy to become an actress!”

Actress. The words seemed to echo in the dark study, and I wished I could take them back. My cheeks burned. Even the crackle of the fire seemed to be laughing at me.

But Edward St. Cyr didn’t laugh. “How old are you, Miss Maywood?”

The burn in my cheeks heightened. “Twenty-eight.”

“Old for acting,” he observed.

“I’ve dreamed of being in movies since I was twelve.”

“Why didn’t you start sooner, then? Why wait so long?”

“I was going to, but...”


I stared at him, then looked away. “It just wasn’t practical,” I mumbled.

Now he did laugh. “Isn’t your whole family in the business?”

“I liked physical therapy,” I said defensively. “I liked helping people get strong again.”

“So why not be a doctor?”

“No one dies in physical therapy.” My voice wobbled a little. I lifted my chin and said evenly, “It was a sensible career choice. I made a living. But after so many years...”

“You felt restless?”

I nodded. “I quit my job. But acting wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be. I went on auditions for a few weeks. Then I quit that to become Madison’s assistant.”

“Your lifelong dream, and you only tried it for a few weeks?”

Looking down at my feet, I mumbled, “It was a stupid dream.”

I waited for him to say, “There are no stupid dreams,” or murmur encouraging or sympathetic noises, as people always did. Even Madison managed it.

“Probably for the best,” Edward said.

My head lifted. “Huh?”

He nodded sagely. “You either didn’t want it enough, or you were too cowardly to fight for it. Either way you were clearly headed for failure. Good to figure that out and quit sooner rather than later. Now you can go back to being useful. Helping me.”

My mouth fell open. Then I glared at him.

“You don’t know. Maybe I could have succeeded. You have some nerve to—”

“You waited your whole life to try for it, then quit ten minutes after you started? Give me a break. You’re lying to yourself. It’s not your dream.”

“Maybe it is.”

“Then what are you doing here?” He lifted a dark eyebrow. “You want to give it another shot? London has a thriving theater scene. I’ll buy you the train ticket. Hell, I’ll even send you back to Hollywood in my own jet. Prove me wrong, Diana.” He tilted his head, staring at me in challenge. “Give it another go.”

I stared at him furiously, hating him for calling my bluff. I wanted to grandly take him up on his offer and march straight out his front door.

Then I thought of the soul-crushing auditions, the cold reptilian eyes of the casting directors as they looked me over and dismissed me—too old, too young, too thin, too pretty, too fat, too ugly. Too worthless. I was no Madison Lowe. And I knew it.

My shoulders slumped.

“I thought so,” Edward said. “So. You’re out of a job and need one. Perfect. It just happens that I’d like to hire you.”

“Why me?” I whispered over the lump in my throat. “I still don’t understand.”

“You don’t?” He looked surprised. “You’re the best at what you do, Diana. Trustworthy, competent. Beautiful...”

I looked up fiercely, suspecting mockery. “Beautiful.

“Very beautiful.” His dark blue eyes held mine in the flickering light of the fire. “In spite of those god-awful clothes.”

“Hey,” I protested weakly.

“But you have qualities I need more than beauty. Skill. Loyalty. Patience. Intelligence. Discretion. Devotion.”

“You make me sound like...” I motioned toward the sheepdog on the rug. The dog looked back at me quizzically, lifting his head.

Edward St. Cyr’s lips lifted at the edges. “Like Caesar? Yes. That’s exactly what I want. I’m glad you understand.”

Hearing his name, the dog looked between us, giving a faint wag of his tail. Reaching out, I scratched behind his ears, then turned back to glare at his master.

His master. Not mine.

“Sorry.” I shook my head fiercely. “There’s no way I’m staying to work for a man who wants a physical therapist he can treat like his dog.”

“Caesar is a very good dog,” he said mildly. “But let’s be honest, shall we? We both know you’re not going back to California, not with all the sharks in the water. You wanted to get away. You have. No one will bother you here.”

“Except you.”

“Except me,” he agreed. “But I’m a very easy sort of person to get along with—”

I snorted in disbelief.

“—and in a few months, after I can run again, perhaps you’ll have figured out what you truly want to do with your life. You can leave Penryth Hall with enough money to do whatever you want. Go back to university. Build your physical therapy business. Even audition.” He shook his head. “Whatever. I don’t care.”

“You just want me to stay.”


Helplessly, I shook my head. “I’m starting to think I might be better off just staying away from people.”

His eyes glittered in the firelight. “I understand. Better than you might think.”

I tried to smile. “Somehow I doubt a man like you spends much time alone.”

He looked away. “There are all kinds of alone.” He set his jaw. “Stay. We can be alone together,” he said gruffly. “Help each other.”

It was tempting. What was my alternative? And yet...

I licked my lips, coming closer to his chair near the fire. “Tell me more about your injury.”

His handsome face shuttered as he drew back.

“Didn’t the agency explain?” he said shortly. “Car crash.”

“They said you broke your left ankle, your right arm and two ribs.” I looked over his body slowly. “And also dislocated your shoulder, then managed to dislocate it again after you were home. Was it from physical therapy?”

He made a one-shouldered gesture that would have been a shrug. “I was bored and decided to go for a swim in the ocean.”

He could have died. “Are you crazy?”

“I said I was bored. And possibly a little drunk.”

“You are crazy,” I breathed. “No wonder you got in a car accident. Let me guess. You were street racing, like in the movies.”

The air in the dark study turned so chilly, the air nearly crackled with frost. His hand gripped the armrest, then abruptly released it.

“Got it in one,” he said coldly. “I raced my car straight into a Spanish fountain and flipped it four times down a mountain. Exactly like a movie. Complete with the villain carted off in an ambulance as all the good people celebrate and cheer.”

His friendliness had evaporated for reasons I didn’t understand. Wondering what had really happened, I took a deep breath. “Too soon to joke about your accident, huh? Okay, got it.” I bit my lip. “What really happened? What caused it?”

“I loved a woman,” he said flatly. Jaw tight, he looked away, staring out the window. It was leaded glass, small-paned and looked very old. The last bit of reddish sun was dying to the far west.

“I find the topic boring.” He looked at me. “How about we agree to forget about the past—both of us?”

It was the best plan I’d heard all day. “Deal.”

“Jason Black sounds like an idiot in any case,” he muttered.

The memory of Jason’s warm eyes, his lazy smile, his sweet, slow Texas drawl—Darlin’, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes—made pain slice through me like a blade. Folding my arms tightly over my heart, I glared at my new employer. “Don’t.”

“So loyal,” he sighed. “Even after he slept with your stepsister. Such devotion.” Deliberately, he rested his eyes on his sheepdog, then turned back to me suggestively. I scowled.

“How do I know you won’t toss me out tomorrow, for some trumped-up reason, like all the others?”

“I’ll make you a promise.” His dark blue eyes met mine. “If you’ll make one to me.”

As our eyes locked in the firelight, my whole body flashed hot, then cold. His deep, searing blue eyes made me feel strangely shivery. My gaze fell unwillingly to his mouth. His lips were sensual and wicked, even cruel.

And just the fact that I noticed his lips was a very bad sign. Mrs. Warreldy-Gribbley definitely would not approve.

Stay professional, she’d ordered in Chapter Six. Keep your heart distant when you’re physically close. Especially if your employer is handsome and young. Keep your touch impersonal and your voice cold. See him as a patient, as a collection of sinew and bone and spine, not as a man.

Looking up, I said in a voice icy enough to flay the skin of a normal man, “You’re not flirting with me, are you, Mr. St. Cyr?”

“Call me Edward.” His eyes gleamed. “And no. I wasn’t flirting with you, Diana.” His husky voice made my name sound like music. I tried not to watch the flick of his tongue on his sensual lips with each syllable. “What I want from you is far more important than sex.”

It had been an insane thing to worry about anyway—as if a gorgeous, brooding tycoon like Edward St. Cyr would ever look twice at a girl like me! “Oh. Good. I mean... Good.”

“I need you to heal me. Whenever I’m not working. Even if it takes twelve hours a day.”

“Twelve?” I said dubiously. “Physical therapy isn’t an all-day kind of endeavor. We’d work together for an hour a day, maybe three at most. Not twelve...” I tilted my head. “What is your work?”

“I’m CEO of a global financial firm based in London. I’m currently on leave but a sizeable amount of work from my home office is still required. I’ll need you available to me day or night, whenever I want you. I need you to be available for my therapy without question and without notice.”

Dead silence followed, with only the crackling of the fire. Caesar the Sheepdog yawned.

I stared at Edward. “It’s a completely unreasonable demand.”

“Completely,” he agreed.

“It would make me your virtual slave for months, possibly, at your beck and call, with no life of my own.”


Considering the mess I’d made of my life myself, maybe that wouldn’t be all bad. I looked at his leg, propped up on the stool. “Will you quit on me when it gets difficult?”

His shoulders stiffened. Putting his foot down on the floor, he used one hand to steady himself on the back of the chair, and slowly rose to his feet. He stood in front of me, and my head tilted back to look him in the eye. He was a foot taller. I felt how he towered over me, felt the power of his body like a broad shadow over my own.

“Will you?” he said softly.

I shook my head, looking away as I mumbled, “As long as you don’t flirt with me.”

“You have nothing to fear. My taste doesn’t run to idealistic, frightened young virgins.”

I whirled back to face him. “How did you—”

“I know women.” His eyes were mocking as he looked down at me. He bared his teeth in a smile that glinted in the firelight. “I’ve had my share. One-night stands, weekend affairs—that is more my line. Sex without complications. That is how I play.”

“Surely not since your accident—”

“I had a woman here last night.” He gave his one-shouldered shrug. “An acquaintance of mine, a French lingerie model came down from London—we shared a bottle of wine and then we... But Miss Maywood, you look bewildered. I guessed you were a virgin but I expected you’d at least have some experience. Should I explain how it works?”

My face was probably the color of a tomato. “I’m just surprised, that’s all. With your injury...”

“It’s not difficult,” he said huskily, looking down at me. “She sat on top of me. I didn’t even have to move from my chair. I could draw you a diagram, if you like.”

“N-no,” I breathed. He was so close. I could almost feel the heat from his skin, the power from his body. He was right, I didn’t have much experience but even I could see that this man was dangerous to women. Even idealistic young virgins like me.

Edward St. Cyr was the kind of man who would break your heart without much bothering about it. Casually cruel, like a cat toying with a mouse.

“So you agree to the terms?”

Hesitantly, I nodded. He took my hand. I nearly gasped as I felt the warmth of his skin, the roughness of his palm against mine. A current of electricity went through me. My lips parted.

“Good,” he said softly. We were so close, I smelled his breath, warm and sweet—like liquor. I saw his bloodshot eyes. And I realized, for the first time, that he was slightly drunk.

A half-empty bottle of expensive whiskey was on the table by his chair, beside a short glass. Dropping his hand, I snatched them up. “But if I’m going to stay and be on call for you every hour of the day, you’re going to commit as well. No more of this.”

His dark eyebrow raised. “It’s medicinal.”

I didn’t change my tone. “No drugs of any kind, except, if you’re very nice to me, coffee in the morning. And no more late nights with lingerie models.”

Edward smiled. “That’s fine.”

“Or anyone else!” I added sharply.

He scowled, folding his arms like a sulky boy. “You’re being unreasonable.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “So that makes two of us.”

“But if you take away all my toys, Diana,” he looked me over, “what else will I have to play with?”

My cheeks burned at his deliberately insulting glance. “You’ll have hard work,” I said crisply, “and lots of it.”

Edward leaned back, his handsome face cold. “You still yearn for Jason Black.”

The cruelty of his words hit me like a blow. With an intake of breath, I looked towards the window at the deepening night. I saw my plain reflection in the glass, against the red-orange glow of the fire.

“Yes,” I whispered, and was proud my voice held steady.

“You lo-ove him,” he said mockingly.

My throat choked. Madison and Jason were probably making love right now, in their elegant suite at a five-star Parisian hotel. I said in a small voice, “I don’t want to love him anymore.”

“But you do.” He snorted, looking over me with contemptuous eyes. “You’ll probably forgive that stepsister of yours, too.”

“I love them.” I sounded ashamed. And I was. What kind of idiot loves people who don’t love her back? My teeth chattered. “People...can’t choose who they l-love.”

“My God. Just look at you.” Edward stared at me for a long moment. “Even now, you won’t say a word against them. What a woman.”

Silence fell. The wind howled outside, shaking the leaded glass in the thick gray stone.

“You’re wrong, you know,” he said quietly. “You can choose who you love. Very easily.”


“By loving no one.”

At those breathtakingly cynical words, I looked at his powerful, injured body. The hard jaw, the icy blue eyes. Edward St. Cyr was the master of Penryth Hall, handsome and wealthy beyond imagining.

He was also damaged. And not just his body.

“You’ve had your heart broken too,” I whispered, searching his gaze. “Haven’t you?”

Edward looked me over in a way that caused my body to flash with heat. He took a step closer, and his muscular, powerful body towered over me in every direction.

“Perhaps that’s the real reason I wanted you here,” he murmured. “Perhaps we are kindred spirits, you and I. Perhaps we can—” he brushed back a tendril of my hair “—heal each other in every way....”

Edward pulled closer to me. I felt the warmth of his breath against my skin and shivered all over. My heart was beating frantically. He started to lower his head toward mine.

Then I saw the sardonic twist of his lips.

Putting my hands on his chest—on his hard, muscular, delicious chest, warm through his shirt—I said, “Stop it.”

“No?” Taking a step back, laughing, he mocked me with my earlier words. “Too soon?”

“You are a jerk,” I choked out.

He shrugged his one-shoulder shrug. “Can’t blame me for trying. You seem so naïve, like you’d believe any line a man told you.” He considered me. “Kind of amazing you’re still a virgin.”

Outrage filled me, and new humiliation. “You claim you’re desperate to be healed—”

“I never used the word desperate.

“Then you fire your physical therapists, and waste your days getting drunk—”

“And don’t forget my nights having sex,” he said silkily.

“You’re already trying to sabotage me.” Narrowing my gaze, I lifted my chin. “I don’t think you actually want to get better.”

His careless look disappeared and he narrowed his eyes in turn. “I’m hiring you as a physio, Miss Maywood, not a psychiatrist. You don’t know me.”

“I know I came a long way here to have my time wasted. If you don’t intend to get better, tell me now.”

“And you’ll do what? Go back home to humiliation and paparazzi?”

“Better that, than be stuck with a patient who has nothing but excuses, and blames others for his own laziness and fear!”

“You say this to my face?” he growled.

“I’m not afraid of you!”

Edward stared at me blankly.

“Maybe you should be.” He fell back heavily into the chair and stared at the fire. The sheepdog lifted his head, wagging his tail.

“Is that what you want?” I said softly, coming closer. “For people to be afraid of you?”

The flickering firelight cast shadows on the leatherbound books of his starkly masculine study. “It makes things simpler. And why shouldn’t they fear me?” His midnight-blue eyes burned through me. “Why shouldn’t you?”

Edward St. Cyr’s handsome face and cultured voice were civilized, but that was a veneer, like sunlight over ocean. Beneath it, the darkness went deeper than I’d imagined. In spite of my earlier brave words, something shivered in my heart, and I suddenly wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

“Why should I be afraid of you?” I gave an awkward laugh. “Is your soul really so dark?”

“I loved a woman,” he said in a low voice, not looking at me. “So much I tried to kidnap her from her husband and baby. That’s how I got in the accident.” His lips turned flat. “Her husband objected.”

“This is why you wouldn’t allow the agency to give me any details,” I said slowly, “not even your name. You were afraid if I knew more about you, I wouldn’t come, weren’t you?”

His jaw tightened.

“Was anyone hurt?”

His expression suddenly looked weary. “Only me.”

“And now?”

“I’ve left them to their happiness. I’ve found that love, like dreams,” he said the word mockingly, “offers more pain than pleasure.” He turned to me in the firelight, his expression stark. “You want to know about the depths of darkness in my soul?” His lips twisted. “You couldn’t even see it. You, who are nothing but innocence and sunlight.”

I frowned at him. “I’m more than that.” I suddenly remembered my own power, what I could do. The glimmer of fear disappeared. “I can help you. But you must promise to do everything I say. Everything. Exercises, healthy diet, lots of sleep—all of it.” I lifted an eyebrow. “Think you can keep up with me?”

His lips parted. “Can you keep up with me? I’ve broken a lot of physiotherapists,” he said dryly. “What makes you think I can’t break you? I...” He suddenly scowled. “What are you smiling at? You should be afraid.”

I was smiling. For the first time in three weeks, I felt a sense of purpose, even anticipation as I shook my head. The high-and-mighty tycoon didn’t know who he was dealing with. Yes, I was a pathetic pushover in my personal life. But to help a patient, I could be as ruthless and unyielding as the most arrogant hedge fund billionaire on earth. “You are the one who should be afraid.”

“Of you?” He snorted. “Why?”

“You asked for all my attention.”


My smile widened to a grin. “Now you’re going to get it.”


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