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She'd been his mistress–now he was her boss!Two days of glorious, unexpected passion with gorgeous Luke Decroix and Miranda was already naming their babies! But for him it was only a brief affair, so Miranda returned home…alone.Then Luke offered her a dream job designing his house. But how could she work so closely with the millionaire after their liaison in France? She agreed on one condition: that their relationship would be strictly business!
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The Rich Man’s Mistress Cathy Williams

Take time out from your busy schedule this month to kick back and relax with a brand-new Harlequin Presents novel. We hope you enjoy this month’s selection.

If you love royal heroes, you’re in for a treat this month! In Penny Jordan’s latest book, The Italian Duke’s Wife, an Italian aristocrat chooses a young English woman as his convenient wife. When he unleashes within her a desire she never knew she possessed, he is soon regretting his no-consummation rule…. Emma Darcy’s sheikh in Traded to the Sheikh is an equally powerful and sexy alpha male. This story has a wonderfully exotic desert setting, too!

We have some gorgeous European men this month. Shackled by Diamonds by Julia James is part of our popular miniseries GREEK TYCOONS. Read about a Greek tycoon and the revenge he plans to exact on an innocent, beautiful model when he wrongly suspects her of stealing his priceless diamonds. In Sarah Morgan’s Public Wife, Private Mistress, can a passionate Italian’s marriage be rekindled when he is unexpectedly reunited with his estranged wife?

In The Antonides Marriage Deal by Anne McAllister, a Greek magnate meets a stunning new business partner, and he begins to wonder if he can turn their business arrangement into a permanent contract—such as marriage! Kay Thorpe’s Bought by a Billionaire tells of a Portuguese billionaire and his ex-lover. He wants her back as his mistress. Previously she rejected his proposal because of his arrogance and his powerful sexuality. But this time he wants marriage….

Happy reading! Look out for a brand-new selection next month.

The Rich Man’s Mistress

Cathy Williams

All about the author…

Cathy Williams

CATHY WILLIAMS was born in the West Indies and has been writing for the Harlequin Presents line for over fifteen years. She is a great believer in the power of perseverance as she had never written anything before and from the starting point of zero has now fulfilled her ambition to pursue this most enjoyable of careers. She would encourage any would-be writer to have faith and go for it!

She lives in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside with her husband and three children, Charlotte, Olivia and Emma. When not writing she is hard-pressed to find a moment’s free time in between the millions of household chores, not to mention being a one-woman taxi service for her daughters’ never-ending social lives.

She derives inspiration from the hot, lazy, tropical island of Trinidad (where she was born), from the peaceful countryside of middle England and, of course, from her many friends, who are a rich source of plots and are particularly garrulous when it comes to describing her heroes. It would seem from their complaints that tall, dark and charismatic men are too few and far between! Her hope is to continue writing romance fiction and providing those eternal tales of love for which, she feels, we all strive.














MIRANDA paused and looked behind her, then she slowly turned a full circle. This was a big mistake because the slow beat of panic which had been curling inside her stomach for the past hour mushroomed into full-blown fear as she was forced to contemplate her complete isolation. She had no idea where she was. She had no idea where she was going. All sense of direction had been lost as she had skied rapidly away from the avalanche straight into a blizzard that was now making forward progress laborious and uncertain. And, to make matters worse, dusk was beginning to permeate the great white amphitheatre which had always seemed so gloriously free and now appeared terrifyingly hostile.

She whimpered and found that she was having to make an effort to remind herself that she was an expert skier, had been doing it for twenty-two of her twenty-five years. She could more than handle the challenge of the black runs. With the snow whipping like pellets against the parts of her face which were exposed, and restricting any clear view that might help her to get her bearings, she would have to move slowly and keep her fingers crossed that she was going in the right direction.

Anger gave way to self-pity and she skied slowly towards a small cluster of fir trees which offered the only visual relief from the naked, virgin-white landscape, barely visible now as the light continued to fade.

She was lost, alone, terrified and quite possibly on course for a date with the Grim Reaper, and all because Freddie, her so-called boyfriend, couldn’t keep his immature, wandering hands to himself. Not content with having had her there with him, he’d simply had to explore the voluptuous charm of the Italian eighteen-year-old girl who had been assigned to their chalet. And worse, had got caught doing it.

How dared he?

Miranda leaned against the trunk of a tree and closed her eyes. She had to take a few deep breaths to contain her rage or else she would scream at the top of her lungs and, with her luck, probably set off another avalanche. Her woollen hat was soaked from the snow. She should never have worn it. She should have stuck on her faithful, waterproof headgear instead of a flimsy hat simply because it matched the rest of her skiing outfit. Now she could feel the dampness permeating through to her head. As far as everything else was concerned, she was well-protected with all the requisite layers of clothing, including thick, waterproof gloves. But how long would she be able to remain stationary before the cold began sinking its teeth through the layers in search of flesh? She squinted into the dying light and dimly made out a thickish cluster of trees, a dense little patch that would be more protection for her should an overnight stay outdoors become necessary.

Miranda groaned. Why kid herself that she was miraculously going to find her way back to the chalet where Freddie and their fifteen-strong group were right now probably cracking open their first bottle and contemplating what to have for supper? Would they even have missed her? Or, if they had, would they have assumed that she was miserably lost and perilously close to despair in the middle of nowhereland? They were all first-class skiers and they would probably be unaware of the minor avalanche that had thrown her so badly off course. Doubtless Freddie would have made a story about their argument, reducing his despicable behaviour to the level of some boyish jollity that had been misconstrued by a jealous girlfriend and her absence would be put down to a minor blip.

Quite possibly they would assume that she had needed to cool off and had taken herself off to one of the hotels in a huff. Her platinum credit card would have gained her entry into any of the hotels further down the slope if she felt she needed time out and they all knew that she travelled with it in her inside jacket pocket.

‘Just in case a fabulous shop happens to beckon unexpectedly!’ she had always joked.

Fat lot of good a credit card was going to do for her now.

She wearily adjusted her skies and headed towards the vanishing clump of trees, moving at a snail’s pace down the steep slope, making sure that desperation didn’t propel her to do anything stupid. With luck, the trees would block out the blizzard or at least keep it at bay and, if she huddled into a ball in the centre of them, she might just be able to last out the night. With even greater luck she might find shelter in one of the animal sheds that were dotted around here and there but she wouldn’t let any optimism blind her to the stark reality that she might just find more trees.

The vast white terrain was now almost completely swamped in darkness. If she hadn’t been so focused on making it to the trees while she could still see them, she might not have stumbled and fallen over the projecting stump, rolling powerlessly down the slope. One of her skies dislodged automatically, the other clung to her foot; and when she finally came to a slow halt and tried to stand, the pain shot through her ankle like an explosion.

The lost ski, which would be essential for her to get out of this mess, was nowhere to be seen. The fast-falling snow had buried it like a matchstick and there was no time to instigate a hunt.

Miranda felt panic turn her bones to water and she gritted her teeth, forcing herself down the last few metres towards the trees, dragging her useless foot and using her ski poles like crutches.

She had been right. The blizzard, at least, was kept at bay by the denseness of the trees. She forced herself forward and was about to pause for a rest when she saw a flicker of light. When she angled her body for a better view, the light disappeared; but then, back in the original position, it reappeared. Something bright through the trees.

She could feel her eyes getting heavy and made herself stand back up, lifting her damaged leg as though she was just about to begin a game of hopscotch. The pain was excruciating, but far less so when there was no weight applied.

If she ever made it back home in one piece, then she would turn her life around. No more flitting from one fun spot to another in search of thrills. No more frantic social life—paid for by her wealthy daddy—in the company of other young, rich, restless friends from similarly wealthy backgrounds. And no more Freddie. That went without saying. In fact no more men. And definitely no more rich, spoiled brats.

The light was getting more constant now.

Miranda was virtually crying from the anticipation of finding it. The trees had become shapeless black towers and she had to weave her way painfully around them until, without warning, they cleared and the source of the light became apparent.

Not an animal shed but a cabin. Fairly small, with the typically pointed roof and, more importantly, inhabited. The curtains were drawn against the darkness but the light inside promised occupation. Help. She gave a deep-throated sob and dragged her way to the door, collapsing in exhaustion after one loud bang.

Which meant that her first view of her rescuer, her saviour, was of his feet. Or rather of his brown, weathered loafers. When he spoke his voice seemed to come from a long way off. A nice voice, she thought distractedly, deep. She lacked the energy to raise her head to inspect the face that went with the voice. She closed her eyes on a sigh and felt him lift her up and carry her into the blissful warmth of the cabin, kicking shut the door behind him.

It felt unbelievably good to be out of the cold. So good, in fact, that she wondered whether she was dreaming and whether, in a minute, she would open her eyes only to find that she was huddled under a tree fending off the same blizzard and any hopes of rescue, cabins, flickering lights and warmth were the delusions of a wandering mind.

Which was why she kept her eyes closed as she was deposited gently on a sofa that felt broad and comfortable enough to be a bed.

‘Who,’ the voice said from above her, ‘the hell are you and what are you doing here?’

Less of a question and more of a demand for an immediate explanation. Miranda opened her eyes and found herself staring upwards at the harsh angles of an aggressively dominant face and at narrowed cobalt-blue eyes that were staring back at her with a mixture of suspicion and hostility.

He was wearing a baggy and very faded dark blue and white striped tee shirt and a pair of loose grey jogging pants that, like the shirt, seemed to have seen better days many moons before.

She forgot the pain in the ankle in the face of this overwhelming show of rudeness.

Never before in her life had any man ever reacted to her like this before! True, she probably wasn’t looking her best right at this very moment, but still. She felt her mouth droop into a petulant scowl which only made her unwelcome saviour narrow his fierce eyes even more.

‘Are you going to answer me?’ he demanded harshly.

Miranda sat forward and then winced as the pain shot straight from her ankle to the remainder of her body. ‘My foot!’

The man’s eyes travelled from her face to her foot and for a second she thought that he might ignore her expression of pain, but he didn’t. He removed his hands from his pockets and bent over to slowly ease her foot out of her ski boot; then he muttered something that sounded very much like an expletive as he saw her swelling ankle.

‘What happened?’ His long fingers were pressing against various parts of her burning, painful skin. They were cool and skilful and, combined with the relief of not being skewered by those dangerously blue eyes, she sank back against the arm of the sofa and stared upwards at the lofty ceiling.

‘I was skiing and I fell,’ Miranda said in a small voice and he muttered another impatient oath under his breath. ‘I’m sorry,’ she felt compelled to add defensively.

‘Keep still. I’ll be back in a moment.’

She watched his departing back and only felt herself relax when he was no longer in sight.

Trust her to stumble helplessly into a man, the first ever, who intimidated her. He was too tall, too powerfully built, too raw and far too grim. She wondered whether he had disappeared to find something to help her or whether he had simply gone in search of a map so that he could point her in the direction of the nearest other place of occupation and thereby save himself the inconvenience of having her around.

‘I don’t think it’s broken,’ he said, emerging with a box in his hand. ‘Badly sprained but not broken. How long have you been travelling on it?’

‘About half an hour.’ Miranda frowned. ‘I think. Look, you don’t have to do this,’ she said as he opened the box and began unravelling a strip of bandage. ‘I’m capable of seeing to my own ankle.’

‘You mean like you’re capable of skiing without injuring yourself? You bloody beginners should stick to the nursery slopes instead of thinking you can ski off-piste because it’s more exciting.’ He ripped the bandage with his teeth and began stretching it around her ankle, working very slowly and expertly.

‘I am not a beginner,’ she said coldly. ‘I happen to be an extremely good skier.’

The man briefly looked at her with cool disbelief before returning to his task, and Miranda clamped her teeth together firmly. He might have the manners of a warthog but she would not sink to his level. For a start, whether she liked it or not, she was now dependent on him, at least until she could make a phone call and get someone to come and fetch her. She was also too well-mannered to breeze past the normal rules of common courtesy the way he obviously had no qualms about doing.

‘How do you know it’s not broken?’ she asked and he glanced at her again.

‘Because I just do,’ he said curtly.

‘You’re a doctor, then, I take it?’

‘No, I’m not.’

‘Then, who and what are you?’

He didn’t answer. Instead he finished with her ankle while she continued to simmer with growing irritation at his attitude. And when he had finished he stood up and strolled towards the chair closest to the fire.

‘Are you going to answer me?’ She pulled off the woollen hat and her long blonde hair spilled over the arm of the sofa like a sheet of cream silk.

‘Let’s get one thing straight. You’re in my house and I’ll ask the questions. Got it?’

Miranda stared at him open-mouthed.

‘When I’m finished asking the questions and I’m satisfied with the answers, you can go and have a bath and get into some of my clothes.’

His arrogance hit her like a sledgehammer and left her speechless.

‘First of all, tell me just how you happened to be skiing here. Have you any idea how dangerous the vertical slopes to this place are?’

‘I—I got caught in an avalanche…’



‘Where was this avalanche?’

‘Near our Val d’Isère resort, as it happens. I…had a bit of an argument with my boyfriend…and…I went skiing to take my mind off things which was when the avalanche happened. Not a very big one but big enough to throw me off course…’

‘Bloody irresponsible woman,’ he muttered scathingly.

Miranda ignored the interruption. If she had been in possession of her limbs, she would have stormed out of his damned cabin even if the alternative had meant a night on a slope. Unfortunately the option was not available and she bit back her anger.

‘Before I could get my bearings, I found myself stuck in a blizzard and, after a while, I didn’t have a clue where I was. I—I saw a clump of trees and decided that I’d be better off there if the worse happened and I had to spend the night outside. I was so desperate to get there that I didn’t see where I was going and I fell over a protruding stump of tree and sprained my ankle. I then saw the light from your cabin and hobbled over.’

‘So no one knows where you are.’

Miranda didn’t like the sound of that. She propped herself up on her elbows and looked at him nervously. It occurred to her suddenly that he could be anyone. It was a little technicality that had been overlooked in her relief at being rescued from the driving snow and the prospect of hypothermia.

And he was not someone she could fight off should she need to. She was tall, standing a good five feet ten in stockinged feet, but she would put him at least three or four inches taller than her and there was a muscled strength to him that would add power to his height.

She had a sinking feeling when she met his blue eyes that he could read every wayward thought flitting through her brain.

‘So…’ Miranda cleared her throat ‘…have I answered all your questions satisfactorily?’

‘Oh, I haven’t asked the most important one yet…’ He smiled slowly and linked his fingers on his lap, stretching out his long legs in front of him.

‘And what’s that?’

‘Your name…’

Miranda gritted her teeth in frustration. He had obviously seen the apprehension on her face and had decided to have a little fun at her expense, allowing just sufficient hint of a threat behind his silences to send her nerves skittering.

‘Miranda. Miranda Nash.’

‘Nash…’ He tilted his dark head to one side and Miranda nodded vigorously.

‘That’s right. You may have heard of my father. Lord Geoffery Nash.’ Her voice implied that whilst it might very well be true that no one knew her whereabouts, then it was also true that, should anything happen to her, there would be serious consequences to be paid.

‘Lord Geoffrey Nash no less…’

‘You’ve heard of him, then?’

‘Is that what I said…?’ He gave a low, amused laugh which for some reason annoyed her.

‘Is there a phone here I could use?’

‘The land lines are all dead.’ He shrugged his broad shoulders and continued to look at her, though this time with speculation. ‘Thanks to this blizzard. And I don’t expect them to be up and running for some time yet. The weather forecasts weren’t too good for the next couple of weeks ahead.’

‘Next couple of weeks ahead?’ Where, she wondered, appalled, did that leave her?

‘Fortunately, I have a cellphone.’ He raised his eyebrows expressively and Miranda scowled at him.

‘May I borrow it? Please?’ she added when he made no effort to move. ‘I want to call my dad to let him know that I’m safe and to tell him to get in touch with Freddie and the rest of my friends who might be worried…’

‘Why, of course.’ He gave a mock bow which further set her teeth on edge, and produced a fist-sized cellular phone which he handed to her with a flourish.

Miranda rapidly tapped in her father’s direct office number and after a few seconds was connected to him, smiling as she listened to his frantic overreaction to her situation, which she played down as much as she possibly could. She and her father were members of the mutual adoration society. He doted on her and she adored him. Which was why she guiltily omitted to mention the cause of her predicament, namely an argument with Freddie, whom her father contemptuously referred to as a foolish fop with more money than brains.

‘And who is this man you’re staying with at the moment?’ he rasped down the end of the telephone and Miranda put her hand over the receiver to ask for a name.

‘Hand me the phone.’ He walked over to her and extended his hand and after a few seconds of internal debate, she let him have it, resenting the way he spoke in a low voice with his back to her, even having the nerve to head out of the sitting room so that all chance of eavesdropping was squashed.

What could he have to talk to her father about? For so long? She impatiently waited for him to return and, when he did, she snatched the phone off him to say goodbye to her father, then she rested the mobile on the table next to her.

‘What were you talking to Dad about?’ she asked suspiciously. ‘And what’s your name? Why couldn’t you just tell me?’

‘Fond of asking questions, aren’t you?’ He threw another log on the fire and turned to look at her. ‘I thought it wise to reassure your father that you weren’t going to come to any harm here. My name, by the way, is Luke Decroix.’

‘And how did you manage to reassure him?’ Miranda asked tartly. ‘Did you tell him what a nice, charming, inoffensive gentleman you are?’

‘Oh, I think he gathered that from my voice. I also told him that you would call him every day just to fill him in on how you were. The fact is, I’m stuck with you at least until this blizzard has eased off a bit…’

‘You’re stuck with me?’

‘That’s right.’ He gave her a long, measured look. ‘I mean, you arrive in a heap on my doorstep and, face it, there’s not much you’re going to be able to do for yourself for a few days, is there? Not with that ankle of yours?’

‘I don’t intend to let you take care of me, so you needn’t worry.’

‘Oh, is that right…? Well, you won’t be able to shovel snow and chop logs, will you?’

‘You know I can’t.’

‘What about cleaning…?’

Miranda looked around her—for the first time since she had arrived at the cabin. Downstairs comprised the sitting room, which was quite big with low bookshelves fronting the open fireplace and several battered chairs in addition to the sofa. Through one open door she could glimpse a kitchen and there were a couple of other rooms at the back as well. Wooden stairs led up to a galleried landing which overlooked the downstairs, and off the landing were several rooms, probably bedrooms.

‘You’ve never so much as lifted a duster, have you?’ he asked quietly and she flushed. ‘What about cooking? Can you cook?’

‘I suppose so.’

‘You suppose so?’

‘I—I’ve never needed to cook. Ethel looks after Dad and me…’ Even to her own ears, her résumé sounded woefully inadequate, and she tossed her hair back and glared at him. ‘I guess I could try my hand at doing something in the kitchen. It can’t be that difficult…’

‘What do you do?’ Luke asked with mortifying curiosity.

‘I—I’m a trained interior designer, if you want to know.’ Except, she did precious little of that, she thought with a stab of guilt. Her father had funded her course and had even provided her with her first clients, but her enthusiasm had gradually waned; she realised that she had not done anything to further her career for years now. Socialising had left little time for the more serious business of working and, without the need to earn a living, she had found it easy to be diverted.

‘That must keep you busy. Does it?’

‘Have I asked you what you do?’ Miranda retorted hotly feeling defensive at the realisation that, if he knew the truth about her idle lifestyle, he wouldn’t be very impressed.

‘So it doesn’t keep you busy, I take it,’ he replied calmly.

‘I never said that!’

‘Oh, but your lack of answer tells me that you don’t spend your days earning a crust as an interior designer. Which leads me to conclude that you really do nothing with your life except…what…party? Have fun holidays wherever the in crowd happens to be? I know your type.’

‘It’s important to enjoy life,’ Miranda said for the sake of argument, even though she knew that she was on losing ground.

‘You’d better go and get changed.’ He stood next to her and then grasped her arm with his fingers, help that she reluctantly accepted. ‘You can borrow some of my clothes, even though they’re probably not quite up to your standard, and then I’ll cook us something to eat.’

‘Thank you,’ she muttered, out of good manners—though she was looking forward to putting on dry clothes. Whenever she tried to stand, even slightly, on her hurt foot, she could feel her whole body flinch in discomfort. The bandage had made it feel better, or at least had given her the illusion of thinking that it did, but who cared whether she could hop, skip and jump in the morning? She would still be stuck here in ferocious bad weather with this unbearable man who moved from hostility to contempt with the ease of a magician. Through the little panes of the window she could see the snow whipping around outside and she could hear it as well. The low howl of wind and the soft spitting of the snowdrops. It was a nightmare.

‘Don’t be too proud to ask for help,’ he threw in casually, as she clung to the banister and tried to heave herself up, and Miranda looked at him sourly. Blue eyes, a deeper more piercing shade than her own aquamarine-blue and infinitely more opaque, met hers. His eyebrows were dark, the same raven darkness of his hair. But, close to him like this, she noticed his eyelashes, which were thick and long and unexpectedly attractive.

‘If you wouldn’t mind…’ she said, looking away, and he obligingly swept her off her feet and carried her upstairs as though she weighed less than a feather. A huge wave of exhaustion swept over her and she had to fight to keep her eyes open.

It felt so comfortable being carried like this. She could feel the strength of his body against her, like steel. The hands supporting her were large and powerful, like the rest of him; and, unlike most of the men she socialised with, he smelt not of expensive aftershave but of something more masculine and tangy. Very rough and ready, she thought. He would be if he lived here and spent his life chopping logs and skiing.

‘There’s just the one bathroom,’ he said, pushing open the door with his foot and then settling her on the chair by the bath. ‘So make sure you leave it just as you found it. I don’t intend to have to clean up after you.’

Without bothering to give her a second glance, he began running the bath, testing the water with his hand, squatting by the side of the bath so that his shirt lifted slightly to reveal a slither of hard brown skin.

‘I’d better get you undressed.’ He turned towards her and she was propelled out of her lazy observation of him.

‘No, thank you!’

‘You mean you can do it all yourself? With that ankle of yours?’

‘I’m very grateful to have been rescued by you,’ Miranda said stiffly, ‘but if you lay a finger on me, I swear I’ll scream this place down.’

‘Oh, will you?’ He leaned over her, caging her in with his hands and making sure that there was no place for her to look but at his face. His features were blunt and overpoweringly masculine and she cringed back into the chair like a startled victim of a bird of prey. ‘And who do you think will hear you? But…’ as quickly as he had leaned over her, he stood back, straightening to his massive height, and looked at her with an insolent lack of respect ‘…far be it from me to invade your maidenly privacy. Just make sure you clean up after yourself. I don’t want to find any of this…’ without warning he lifted some strands of her hair between his fingers so that the long fine white-blonde hair trailed over his wrists ‘…clogging up my plug hole.’

It took one full hour for her to complete her bath. Struggling out of her layers of ski gear was a feat along the lines of running five marathons in a row. And then, when she finally decided that her body would shrivel from overexposure to bath water, she got out and was confronted with the further indignity of yelling for him from the top of the stairs with a towel wrapped around her and her hair hanging limply wet down her back.

‘I wonder if I might borrow those clothes you mentioned?’ she told him when he finally surfaced at the bottom of the stairs with a saucepan in his hand.

‘I’m sorry?’

‘I asked whether I might borrow those clothes you mentioned?’ Miranda repeated tersely. The towel barely covered her body. He must have known how awkward she felt standing here like this but either he didn’t give a damn or else he frankly enjoyed her discomfort. Or both.

‘I heard that bit. I’m waiting for you to finish your request.’


‘That’s much better.’ He deposited the pan on the small wooden table at the bottom of the stairs and then headed up towards her. ‘You can use the spare bedroom,’ he said, pushing open a door to reveal a small, cosy room with its own open fireplace. There was just enough space for the single bed, a dressing table with a mirror and a chest of drawers. Miranda propped herself up against the door frame and looked around it. She was used to sleeping in a double bed. Even when she stayed in hotels, she always insisted on a double bed, however much extra the room might cost. She liked having a lot of space when she went to sleep. Single beds reminded her of hospitals and hospitals reminded her of her mother who had died in one when she had been barely knee-high to a grasshopper.

‘Not good enough for m’lady?’ For a big man, he moved with disconcerting stealth, she thought, swinging around to face him and finding a bundle of clothes shoved into her hands.

‘It’s fine. Thank you.’

‘Good. Because the only king-sized bed is in my room and my excessive hospitality does have its limits. Now, shall I help m’lady inside?’ Without giving her time to answer, he placed his hand squarely around her waist, leaving her no option but to clutch the loosening towel with one hand and place the other around his neck.

‘Now…’ He stood back and looked down at her with his arms folded ‘…you can get changed, and I’ll be up in fifteen minutes with something for you to eat. M’lady.’ He gave a mock salute.

‘Could you please stop calling me that?’

‘M’lady?’ His dangerous blue eyes widened with an expression of ridiculously inept innocence. ‘But why?’

‘Because it’s not my name.’

He didn’t bother to answer that. Instead he moved across to the dead fireplace. ‘Cold in here, isn’t it? But then, I wasn’t expecting company or else I would have lit this fire and had the room warm and ready. You’d better get dressed. You’re trembling. I’ll put your clothes to dry in front of the fire downstairs.’

‘Thank you.’

‘And I’ll bring some logs up later and get this fire going.’

‘I would appreciate that.’ Miranda could feel goose pimples on her arms from the abrupt change in temperature after the warm bathroom. ‘You needn’t worry, Mr Decroix…’

‘Luke, please. Why stand on formality when we’ll be living together?’ He inclined his head to look at her over his shoulder, and she realised, with a little start, that it wasn’t simply his face that was attractive, but the whole package. In a primitive, masculine sort of way. He had the kind of unchiselled, powerful good looks that drew stares, and she immediately looked away just in case he thought that she was staring.

‘My father will more than compensate you for any trouble.’

This time, he turned slowly to look at her and an expression of contemptuous amusement gathered itself in the corners of his mouth and glittered in the blue, brooding eyes. ‘How reassuring. And you think that I might need the compensation, do you?’

Miranda edged her way inelegantly to the bed and slipped under the covers with her towel still in place and the bundle of clothes still in one hand; then she drew the duvet all the way up to her chin. If he insisted on ignoring her chattering teeth and continuing the conversation, then she might as well be warm.

‘It’s only fair after putting you to all this trouble. But most people wouldn’t say no to a bit of financial help,’ she finally said, awkwardly.

His blue eyes narrowed coldly on her face. ‘Oh, dear. Would you have reached that conclusion by any chance because of my ragged clothing?’

‘I hadn’t noticed the state of your clothing,’ Miranda plunged on. ‘I have no idea about your financial circumstances…I don’t know what you do for a living. But, well…’ His shuttered look was hardly encouraging but now that she’d started, she felt compelled to reach some sort of conclusion to her speculations. ‘…there can’t be that many well-paid jobs that you could do from this remote location…can there…?’ Her voice trailed off into silence while Luke continued to observe her with embarrassing intensity.

He shook his head with a low laugh, ‘I don’t live here all the time, Miranda.’ He paused for a moment, looking as if he was pondering something very deeply. ‘In fact, I’m just looking after this place actually—for the time being.’

‘Oh, I see!’ That would explain a lot. His English accent, for a start. He was probably one of these nomadic types who made their way round the world doing manual chores for people. Earning a crust.

He didn’t say anything. After a few minutes his expression lightened and he shrugged. ‘I’ll bring you up something to eat. Your foot will feel much better in the morning.’

He didn’t call her m’lady again, although he more than made up for the thoughtful omission by bowing grandly at the door before he left; but Miranda no longer had the energy to feel annoyed. She was too sleepy. She would just close her eyes for a few minutes before she changed and he returned with her food.


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