Keir heard the laughter from the open study window and, drawn there away from the sheaf of legal documents— he’d been busy perusing at his desk—he glanced out over the ledge towards the ground below. His heart gave a jolt at the sight of Georgia in a white summer dress, her shining chestnut hair arranged in a loose, girlish ponytail. She looked very young and carefree. Beside her was her brother, and together they made an eye-catching pair, the striking blond Noah and his darker, bewitching— sister.
A slash of envy curled almost painfully in the pit of Keir’s stomach. They might have lost their parents, but he could see that the bond between them was an extremely close and affectionate one. Again he thought of Robbie, and how the distance between him and his brother had grown ever wider over the years. Back at Glenteign—the root of all his early misery and pain—Keir had never felt more emotionally isolated than he did right at that moment. The sight of Georgia and Noah’s delight in seeing each other merely reconfirmed that he’d made the right decision in electing to go to New York on business.
The matter that called him there was hardly urgent—he had good people working for him, who were quite capable of dealing with it—but Keir found he was glad of the excuse to go away again for a while. Being around Georgia Cameron was just un-settling— him far too much, and perhaps with some real distance between them he might get things back into perspective. She was only at Glenteign tempo-rarily,— until the dependable Valerie recovered from her injury and came back. It wasn’t wise to get too used to having her here, and in New York there was a girl Keir had met on his last trip. He’d vaguely promised to get in touch with her on his return…
After Noah and Kier had left, Georgia was greatly unsettled. To alleviate the restlessness that had come upon her, after work each day, and at the weekend, she walked for miles with Hamish, exploring and enjoying her breathtaking surroundings.
One day, after scrabbling over some challenging rocky crags, her back damp with perspiration and her clothes sticking to her beneath her waterproof— while— Hamish had made comparatively light work of the same arduous climb beside her—she came upon a shining silvery loch, exquisitely positioned amidst tall pines. It was like discovering paradise…The sight so undid her that Georgia immediately burst into tears when she saw it.
Sitting back on a rock, she put her arms around Hamish and held him there, her gaze enthralled. She was moved almost unbearably by the spectacular— scene in front of her. Did Keir ever come up here? she speculated. If he didn’t, then he should. Surely the sight of all this wild, unfettered beauty would have the power to chase away all his heartache? Her own heart turned over at the memory of his strong, serious face, and she sincerely— hoped that whatever he was doing in New York he might find some comfort there from the worries that beset him.
Perhaps there was a woman there who might provide that comfort? The thought was like the viper in the Garden of Eden.
Hamish pulled away from her in surprise. She hadn’t meant to voice her disapproval out loud, and Georgia was shocked by her own unrestrained outburst.
‘What am I saying?’ she muttered crossly, getting to her feet and wiping loose grass from her corduroy jeans. ‘He means nothing to me other than that I just work for the man! I have no right to be jealous if he’s seeing some fabulously beautiful woman in New York! Why should I care? Come on Hamish…time to get back! We don’t want to be late for dinner!’
Determinedly banishing thoughts of Keir from her mind, she started to negotiate the climb back down the rocks again. But a melancholy had descended— that she couldn’t shake, and it stayed with her for the rest of the day until she went to bed later that evening…
A few days later, the sultry weather they’d been having finally broke at around ten to midnight. An almighty crack of thunder vented its fury above the turreted rooftops of Glenteign, and Georgia sat up in bed in shock as a streak of lightning lit up the room, briefly— and eerily illuminating all the previously dark corners and making her clutch at the thin cotton sheet which was all the covering her overheated body could bear.
She had a love/hate relationship with thunderstorms. While she had a secret admiration for the passion and fury they displayed, which reminded her that no matter what humankind achieved it could not control the elements, they frightened her deeply. Of course she’d never displayed that fear to Noah—not— when he was young and had naturally relied on her to help him feel secure. But when she was on her own, as she was now, it was hard to keep her anxiety completely at bay.
She’d suffered an agony of tension all day because she’d known that a storm was threatening, and she’d guessed it would come tonight. And while Georgia despised the fear that it evoked in her, which she couldn’t entirely control, she found herself wishing that Keir was at least at home, in his room down the hall from hers. It would have given her a measure of security just to know that he was there. But Keir was still in New York, and she had received no word as to when he would be returning.
Something that sounded vaguely like a door opening and closing broke into her consciousness. But as the rain started to lash with some ferocity at the casement windows with their lavish undrawn curtains Georgia wondered if she’d imagined it. Her ears strained for a repetition of the sound, or some follow-up to it, but all she heard was the rain pounding relentlessly at everything it touched. She let out her breath slowly and forced herself to try and relax.
All of a sudden she was certain she heard someone— walking about in the corridor outside, and her heart leapt into her mouth. Was it Moira? But the housekeeper’s room was on the floor below hers. What reason would she have for coming up here in the middle of the night? A new, more terrifying thought occurred.
What if they were being burgled? What if the sound she’d heard hadn’t been a door innocently being opened and then closed by one of the staff, but the sound of someone breaking into the house instead?
What better distraction than a fierce thunderstorm to drown out any sound of broken glass caused by climbing through a downstairs window or breaking and entering through a side door somewhere?
Trembling hard, Georgia shoved the cotton sheet aside and slid smoothly and quietly out of bed. Switching on her lamp, dim light flooded the room. That at least reassured her. Reaching for the thin pink robe hanging over the end of the brass bedstead, she— pulled it on over her bare body and swiftly tied the belt. Then, tiptoeing across the carpet, she reached for the iron poker that lay in the old-fash-ioned fireplace. Surprised at how heavy it was, clutching— it between her hands as though it were some kind of broadsword, she crossed the room slowly to the door.
She didn’t know exactly what she intended to do, or— how on earth she was supposed to deal with some burly thug bent on thieving something valuable—she only knew that this was Keir’s home that was being violated whilst he was away, and that Moira and the other staff slept on oblivious downstairs. Clearly someone had to do something!
The sound of footsteps was no more, but she thought she heard a muttered expletive—a man’s voice, low and harsh. Georgia’s heart began to pound so hard that to her sensitive hearing the sound drowned out the noise of the heavy rain that was pelting the windows. Oh, dear God… Muttering a swift prayer for help, she turned the doorknob and wrenched open the door. The light from her bedside lamp escaped into the darkened corridor and cast an eerie yellow glow.
‘Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?’ she demanded, her gaze latching with fright onto the six-feet-plus frame of the menacing individual hovering outside Keir’s bedroom door.
‘I might ask you the same bloody question!’ came back the irritated and furious reply.
‘If I were you, Georgia, I’d put down that extremely— lethal looking poker before you drop it on your foot and break a couple of bones!’
‘I thought you were a burglar!’
‘You thought what?’ His hard handsome face was glistening with moisture from the rain, and his jacket and trousers were darkened in several places from the spreading damp. Keir’s disbelieving blue eyes regarded Georgia as though she was deranged.
Her heart slowing to a more normal beat, she pushed still shaking fingers through her tousled dark hair, her relief too immense to be measured. ‘You should have rung to let us know that you were coming home!’ she said accusingly.
Studying her with a mockingly sensual grin, Keir let his gaze drop deliberately to the thin, inadequate robe that was clearly outlining the very feminine contours of Georgia’s body. Of course he must know that underneath it she was naked.
‘Are you telling me that you missed me?’
What a question! Her gaze cleaving to the darkly brooding expression on his hard-hewn features, Georgia felt as if her breath had been suddenly snatched from her lungs. She’d missed his presence, yes…— But surely not in the way he was implying? She quickly laid the heavy poker down on the casement windowsill beside her, as though it were now something distasteful, and curled her fingers into the flimsy edges of her robe around the neckline. Her skin was hot and prickling beneath his mocking regard.