‘You’d love it here, Dad,’ she whispered softly beneath her breath. ‘The air is so sweet you can almost taste it.’ Resolutely scrubbing away the moisture on her cheeks, she raised her chin and walked from the great house with a spring in her step. As she feasted her hungry gaze on a landscape that would stir emotion in even the stoniest of hearts, she thought how she could easily live here and never set foot in another city or town again.
Overjoyed at being outdoors, and released off his lead, Hamish bounded across the springy emerald grass and headed off towards the magnificent sentinel of trees that stood guard in front of the mountains up ahead. And as Georgia followed behind him, at a more leisurely rate, the tensions she’d experienced on her first evening at Glenteign faded away…
Back in the house an hour later, she declined the cooked breakfast that apparently Keir was enjoying in the smaller dining room, to share a pot of tea and a plate of hot buttered toast and marmalade with Moira Guthrie, in the expansive country kitchen.
As the two women sat companionably together at the family-sized pine table, the owner of Glenteign walked in.
‘Georgia…I’d like a word, if I may?’
She started to rise to her feet, caught off guard by his sudden appearance and almost too aware of the innate sense of authority he brought into the room with his presence. With his lean, yet muscular build, everything— he wore looked tailor-made for him…not to mention expensive. Even away from this amazing house and its vast grounds there would be an air of exclusivity about Keir Strachan that would always make him stand out from the crowd.
Suddenly Georgia’s appetite disappeared, and she tucked a wayward chestnut curl behind her ear with less grace than she would have liked. ‘Yes, of course.’
‘When you’ve finished your breakfast will do. I’ll be in my study. Moira will show you where it is.’
He’d gone again before she’d even voiced a reply. Sitting back down in her chair, Georgia inadvertently released a sigh.
‘A word about the young Laird, my dear,’ Moira said, resting her elbows on the table. ‘He may come across as rather brusque at times, but he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. Not only is he Laird here, but he also has a business to think of. No matter what you might think he does have kindness in him, so— don’t judge him too quickly—will you, lassie?’
Georgia was still dwelling on what the housekeeper had told her when she stood outside Keir’s study door a short while later. To her surprise he answered her knock almost straight away, and ushered her inside. Experiencing a deep jolt at the definitely masculine ambience of the imposing room she found herself in, Georgia couldn’t help feeling she was somehow intruding.
Keir turned his deep blue gaze towards her.
‘I trust you slept well? I know it’s not always the case the first few nights in a strange house, but I’m sure you’ll quickly get used to things.’
Surprisingly, Georgia had slept well. No doubt the long day’s drive to get to Glenteign and her trepidation— about what things would be like when she got there had contributed to her near exhaustion when her head had finally hit the pillow.
‘Yes, I slept very well, thank you.’
‘And your room is to your liking?’
‘Moira takes care of all that sort of thing…always has. She’s been housekeeper here since my father’s time, so if you need anything at all or want to know where anything is she’s the person to ask.’
Seeing the question in her clear hazel eyes and sure he hadn’t misread it, Keir held Georgia’s glance with a wry twist of his lips.
‘Unfortunately there’s no Lady Glenteign to help exert that essential feminine influence that makes a house a home. So apart from my bedroom and this study—a room that I view strictly as my own domain—you’ll no doubt see evidence of those important female touches everywhere else in the house courtesy of my housekeeper.’
Vaguely discomfited by the fact that he’d practically— read her mind, Georgia moved her glance to the opened casement window opposite Keir’s desk and back again. ‘You mentioned last night at dinner that your brother had died? I just wanted to say how sorry I was to hear that. It must be devastating to lose someone so close in your family.’
‘We weren’t as close as we might have been, but, yes…it— was quite awful to lose him.’
Seeing the sympathy on her concerned face, Keir felt strangely at odds admitting something so personal— to a woman he’d only just met—like trying on a suit that didn’t fit—and was frankly surprised that he’d allowed himself to be so uncharacteristically candid. But sometimes the pain of losing Robbie and remembering the bleak reality of their childhood— was so crushing that he thought he might go mad if he didn’t ever speak his feelings out loud. Yet he knew in reality that he couldn’t afford to show even a hint of such weakness to anybody. In his il-lustrious— family it just wasn’t done.
‘Was he married? Did he have a family of his own?’ Georgia ventured.
‘The answer is no, to both of those questions. Thank you for your condolences, but I really do need to get on.’
He saw her own guard come up, and immediately regretted it.
‘So? Presumably you wanted to talk to me about work?’
She crossed her arms over her chest in the too-large— navy blue sweatshirt she wore, with its recognisable— sports motif, and Keir realised that it had probably belonged to her brother at some point. The realisation immediately reminded him of how close the two of them must be, and he knew again a faint yet disturbing pang of envy.
Because Robbie was dead, and he would now never have the chance to be close to him even if he wished it, and because he’d been forced to return to Glenteign when he’d rather be a million miles away, Keir’s pain spilled over into sudden irritation.
‘I know it’s Sunday, but we’re going to have to make a start on things today. Everything’s got far too behind to be left until tomorrow, so the sooner we start to tackle the backlog, the better. If you had any plans to look round the gardens or drive into the village, then I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed.’ —
‘I didn’t make any plans to go anywhere, and I’m perfectly aware that I came here to work. It’s no problem for me to work on a Sunday…I’ve done it many times.’
‘Good. Then might I suggest that you change into something a little more appropriate for work, and come back here in…’ he gave a perfunctory glance at his watch ‘…say twenty minutes?’
‘I’m only dressed like this because I took Hamish for a walk!’
‘The shirt is your brother’s, I take it?’
‘Is that a problem?’
For a moment Keir saw mutiny in her surprised glance, and as his gaze descended from those flashing hazel eyes of hers to her softly bare mouth an unexpected jolt of sexual heat zig-zagged hotly through his insides. The sensation staggered him, arising— unbidden as it did—and in what could hardly be deemed a ‘provocative’ situation.
‘I don’t have time to stand here bandying words with you, Ms Cameron…Just go and do as I say, will you?’
THE SLIGHTLY COOLER evening air that breezed in through the open casement windows arrested Georgia’s attention with the ravishing floral scent it brought with it. Seated at the absent Valerie’s desk, immersed in typing yet another long and involved letter regarding estate business, she briefly closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The hypnotic perfume of roses in full bloom was almost soporific, and undeniably sensual as well. Lifting her arms, she stretched like a contented cat, her breasts pushing against the Indian cotton of her blouse, and the ache in her back from sitting too long eased.
‘When you’ve finished that letter we may as well call it a day.’
Her eyes flew open again at the sound of Keir’s rich, cultured tones. They’d worked alongside each other mainly in silence save for a couple of telephone calls he’d had to make, with Keir and herself only speaking when it was absolutely essential. Having been quite content with this arrangement, Georgia had to reacquaint herself with the sound of his arresting voice.
A brief surge of disturbing heat flowed through her in response, and she quickly dropped her arms and turned her head to look at him.
Having observed her unknowingly seductive stretch, and seen the points of her breasts strain the material of the soft white blouse she wore, Keir reeled from the thunderbolt of desire that shot through his insides at the sight. In fact, he’d plainly detected a husky inflection in his voice that had been the direct result of that moment of unexpected sexual excitement.
‘Are you sure? I don’t mind working on for another hour or so, if you need me to,’ she replied.
He was sorely tempted to agree. If only to hope that he might glimpse such an unwittingly sensual little manoeuvre again…Good God, he had been working too hard! Suddenly impatient with himself, Keir got to his feet and swept the pile of correspondence he’d been diligently sifting through deliberately aside.