Shaking herself out of her reverie, she got into the car, briefly studied the map she’d left on the seat, then gunned the engine and drove off. Although she would take great pleasure in enjoying the scenery as she drove, she would find Lochheel and locate the post office as quickly as she could—then get back to Glenteign to at least try and alleviate some of the burden of work that was clearly getting her new boss down…
They’d scarcely taken a moment to even glance at the cups of tea Moira had brought them at varying intervals that afternoon, they’d both worked so hard. Now, as Georgia sat in front of the elegant Victorian mirror on her dressing table and applied a deep plum lipstick, she told herself she was feeling far less tense at the idea of accompanying Keir to the classical concert than she had been earlier.
Working alongside him, seeing how effortlessly he seemed to get the measure of situations and handle them, how diplomatic and concerned he could be when addressing more sensitive issues presented to him both by letter and on the telephone, there was much to admire about the man. And that was apart from his brilliantly azure eyes and his firm, handsome jaw…
Catching the flare of her own dark pupils reflected back at her, Georgia momentarily stilled, her fingers gripping the slim metal case of her lipstick and her cheeks suffusing with heat.
Years of celibacy must have made my mind deranged if I can think for even one minute that he and I could—
She shut off the thought abruptly, already too disturbed by the erotic image that presented itself so temptingly in her mind, dropped her lipstick into her make-up bag, and pushed to her feet.
Crossing over to the bed, to fetch the blackfringed Spanish-style evening shawl that Moira insisted went with the dramatic black evening dress she’d borrowed for the evening, she almost jumped through the roof at the loud knock that sounded at the door.
It was Moira herself. Sighing with pure relief, Georgia put her hand to her chest to still the sudden disconcerting surge of her heartbeat. For one dreadful moment there she’d thought it might be Keir. She felt quite a different person in the beautiful borrowed dress, and she needed some time to compose herself before she faced her boss. She picked up her purse.
‘The Chief is waiting for you outside in the car,’ the housekeeper continued cheerfully. ‘He asked me to come and tell you to please hurry up!’
In the middle of Barber’s Adagio for Strings—a piece of music that always reminded him that the things of this world were ultimately fragile and did not last, Keir glanced at his companion’s rapt profile and experienced a searing stab of need so great that it actually caused his heart to race.
Georgia Cameron looked so stunning that she provoked powerful stirrings of desire and longing in Keir that he could not ignore. Neither had he been blind to the admiring glances that had come her way when they’d walked into the early nineteenth-century building that was housing the concert tonight. And it was perfectly true that his male ego knew a certain sense of pride at being her escort.
Her compelling dark beauty highlighted the impact of the dramatic black satin dress she wore even more and Keir could not imagine that anyone had looked half as arresting in it before. Whoever had first bought it had had good taste, though. The black dress had an ultra-feminine style that was definitely from the 1930s or 1950s, and it was subtly sexy in a way that most twenty-first-century women’s clothing was not. Its nipped-in waist made the most of Georgia’s womanly curves, and the elegant neckline exposed flawless skin that no beauty product could hope to emulate in a million years.
Keir wondered if Georgia even guessed at the riveting impression both she and the dress were making on the people around them. Several of his acquaintances who were in the audience this evening had glanced their way with frank curiosity many times after Keir and Georgia had left their company to circulate the room—when they’d thought he wasn’t aware of them looking. They were all too polite to suggest openly that his stunning companion might be a bit more than just his temporary secretary, and the normally intensely private Keir found to his surprise that for once he didn’t actually mind the silent speculation that was going on.
Since his return, gossip in the local community had been rife about whom he was or was not dating. Although he was a well-travelled businessman, there was an unspoken preference around Glenteign that any girlfriend of the Laird should definitely hail from closer to home. The older folk especially were always hoping for a wedding, and for the young Laird to settle down with his eventual new wife and start a family. They had been disappointed when Robbie had not been able to achieve that, and now naturally they expected Keir to do what his brother had not. That was the way of it when you lived amongst a community steeped in history and tradition. It was a ball and chain that he could live without…
That was why, when it had come to looking at some new fresh designs for the formal gardens, Keir had deliberately chosen a young, innovative designer like Noah Cameron, instead of someone more obviously traditional. It was important to move with the times. And, no matter what his respect for what had gone before, he was his own man and would not be dictated to as to how he should run the estate by anyone.
As the sweetly sensual fragrance Georgia wore caused another flare of acute electricity to silently implode inside him Keir had to secretly attest to a fascination for her that seemed to be gathering strength as the evening went on…
During the interval, as he accepted a glass of champagne from a black-tied waiter and Georgia selected sparkling mineral water instead, Keir endeavoured to find them a more private corner in the crowded room.
Above them, suspended from the high, ornate ceiling, was a rather spectacular chandelier, its crystal teardrops shimmering like the most fabulous diamonds. To add to the indisputable grandeur that surrounded them, the walls were covered in portraits of illustrious Victorians with—it had to be said—expressions that had little joy in them.
‘How are you enjoying the concert?’
For a few moments her interested glance seemed to alight on everything else in the sumptuously beautiful room but him—as though all the treasures it held had to be given the proper time and consideration they deserved.
‘Do you know what a gift you’ve given me tonight?’ Her green-gold eyes were shining. ‘The music just swept me away! In my opinion doctors should prescribe classical concerts at least once a month rather than Prozac…then I’m sure most of the population wouldn’t be half so depressed!’
Her words were so passionate and her eyes glowed with such intensity of emotion that Keir could find nothing to say for the moment. He simply stared. Rarely did he meet anyone who expressed their love of the arts so vociferously. What would it be like to have a relationship with such a woman?
He had dated many women over the years, but had never enjoyed a true connection—a deep bond of mind, body— and soul—with any of them. Keir knew that the fault more than likely lay with him. He had got too used to covering up his true feelings and was just not capable of sharing the real man behind the mask, with anyone.
‘I’m sure you’re right—although the National Health Service would soon be bankrupt if they did!’
His smile was genuinely amused, but the gesture did not fully reach his compelling blue eyes, Georgia saw. The tenuous nature of it underlined her opinion that being wealthy did not help keep the psychological discomfort of life away. She couldn’t help wondering what demons dogged him. The loss of his brother had to be one, but what were the others?
Georgia intimately knew what her own were: the fear of something dreadful happening to her or Noah, losing their house, becoming sick and not being able to work. And ending up alone…that was a biggie. She sighed, not liking the sudden wave of melancholy that engulfed her when only moments ago she’d been so elated.
‘I read a quote somewhere that most people’s troubles arise from the fact that they can’t sit alone in a room in silence. Maybe they’re afraid to face what might come up? It’s probably like stirring a great soup…you don’t know what might rise to the surface…and that’s why people have to stay busy to distract themselves. What do you think?’
‘We live in a world of commerce and achieving. We don’t all have the time to sit and contemplate our navels.’
His caustic comment privately pained her, but even so Georgia could tell that her reflections had disturbed Keir.
‘Well, then…it’s just as well that sometimes we’re fortunate to have opportunities like tonight—to sit and listen to sublime music that feeds the spirit and helps us contemplate other things besides the world of commerce!’There was deliberate challenge in her tone. ‘I for one would go mad if I wasn’t able to find some peace somewhere!’
Georgia had seen how moved Keir had been by the music, even though he might hurry to deny it. She would have registered his response even if she hadn’t turned briefly to glance at his riveted profile. The emotional tension in him had been palpable. It had made Georgia aware that there were hidden depths to this serious-minded businessman and Laird, and driven her to speculate that perhaps he did possess a less harsh and guarded side. A side he was determined not to expose to the world. Was he afraid of being hurt somehow? It was a provocative idea, even though Georgia told herself she’d be a fool to explore it any further.