She dropped her chin and stared at the floor. A wave of heat swept upwards through her body in a dizzying rush. What was he saying?
‘Why have you never looked forward to coming home before?’ she asked quietly, hardly daring to move in case he denied her the answer. An answer she found she very much longed to know.
‘There was nobody here that I wanted to see before.’ He shrugged, his mouth twisting wryly at one corner.
‘Not even your brother?’ Georgia asked the question even while all her senses were in uproar at what he’d just confessed.
‘I told you we weren’t close.’
A dark look had crept into his eyes.
‘Why weren’t you close?’ Her voice was barely above a whisper. ‘Did you have a fight or something?’ —
A muscle visibly showed itself contracting in the dark shadow of his sculpted cheekbone. ‘No…we didn’t have a fight. The tension between me and Robbie was an unspoken thing.’
‘And you weren’t able to heal that tension before he died? Is that it? Is that why you seem so troubled?’
‘It might be late, Georgia, but trust me—this isn’t the time for night-time confessions! Especially the kind that are apt to make me want to leave this cursed place again.’
‘I don’t want you to leave.’
‘What did you say?’ Appearing startled, Keir stared and Georgia could have bitten out her tongue. Why on earth had she come out with that? But she really didn’t want him to leave again…She just didn’t want him to get the wrong impression about what she’d said and why she’d said it.
‘What a night you chose to return!’ she declared, deliberately— trying to lighten the atmosphere.
‘I know…and I’m sorry if I gave you a fright.’
Surprising her, Keir reached out to touch her, and as his hard, warm fingers curled round her chin to raise it she was seized by such trembling that she could barely conceal it from him.
‘Next time I’ll be sure and ring you to let you know that I’m coming home,’ he promised, his voice threaded with a hushed and sensual undertone that riveted her.
‘Maybe next time you go away I’ll be back in London because I won’t be working here any more.’
‘Are you in such a hurry to leave me, Georgia?’ His tone was slightly mocking and his grip tightened a little around her chin.
‘It’s not that…It’s just that Valerie will be back sooner or later, and I—’
‘You have a life in London, waiting for you…I know.’ His voice threaded with apparent dissatisfaction,— he dropped his hands down to his sides. Immediately Georgia felt bereft of his touch, as if some integral part of her had suddenly been ripped away.
‘Does that include a man, perhaps?’ he demanded.
Shadows seemed to shift in his penetrating glare, and Georgia wished she could look away—but— she couldn’t.
His question threw her into a state of near panic. If he knew…if he even guessed how little experience she’d had of intimate relationships he probably wouldn’t be able to believe it. He might mock her, or— simply conclude she must be lying.
Fiddling with the neckline of her skimpy cotton robe, she was certain her lack of experience must show. Because it was so hard to contain her reaction to him and keep it hidden neatly away, like a secret letter stowed amongst her personal things in a bedroom drawer. His nearness was making her feel as if she stood too close to a scorching fire, yet at the same time she desired it above all else…
‘You’re right. This isn’t the moment for night-time— confessions, and I really think you should go now. We both need to go to bed…I mean to go to sleep…In our—in our own beds is what I mean!’ Her face went beetroot red at the hash she was making of what should have been a simple statement.
In response, Keir looked grim. There was certainly— no amusement evident at her clumsy phrasing.
‘I had better go, then,’ he announced clearly. ‘Before I finish what I started to do before my loyal housekeeper knocked on the door and ruined everything. An event that with hindsight you will probably no doubt welcome!’
He left her then, shutting the door with deliberately— firm emphasis behind him, and Georgia stood frozen for a full minute, locked in the myriad emotions that welled up inside her. She no longer felt afraid of the storm that vented its fury outside because her head was too full of wild, heated thoughts to be fully aware of much else but her own disquiet.
Keir was wrong about her welcoming the interruption— from his housekeeper…so wrong.
‘Good morning, Moira.’
‘Georgia, my dear!’
The friendly housekeeper glanced up from the cooking range as the younger woman entered the large bright kitchen. Immediately she observed the telling signs of a sleepless night on Georgia’s slightly paler than usual face.
‘You look like you had as restless a night as I had, love. Goodness gracious, but that was some hullabaloo last night, wasn’t it? Come and sit down, lassie, and— I’ll make you a nice rejuvenating cup of tea.’
‘Thanks, I’d really appreciate that…And I’m sorry if I added to your sleepless night with that slamming door.’
‘Think nothing of it. The truth is it gets harder to get a decent night’s rest as a body gets older so I’m not blaming you. Now, sit yourself down and I’ll get you that cup of tea.’
Pulling out a shaker-style chair from the large pine table, Georgia picked up a pot of marmalade standing with the rest of the jams on the square placemat which had a picture of the Scottish Highlands imprinted on it, and absently read the contents label—her mind preoccupied with the fact that her boss could walk through the door at any minute.
During the night, after he’d left, she’d been kept awake far more by thoughts of him than the thunderous— storm. Her lips had ached without cease for the touch of his mouth against hers, for his inviting, addictive— taste, and she wondered what would have happened if Moira hadn’t knocked at the door when she had. What perturbed Georgia even more was that she would have welcomed Keir’s kiss instead of repelling— it. What did that mean?
She’d always avoided becoming involved with men she worked for and for very good reason. She was responsible for her brother, and that responsibility took precedence over everything else. She had to give Noah the sense of security that had been so devastatingly snatched away from him by the deaths of their parents. And trying to make a living and keep a roof over their heads and not get into debt was hard enough, without making things even harder by getting romantically involved with her boss!
But now it seemed as though all her previous common sense was suddenly coming under serious fire. It must have been the storm, Georgia told herself…That was why she’d acted so uncharacteristically. Storms were her Achilles’ Heel. Plus the fact that she had truly believed someone had broken into the house. If she hadn’t been so jumpy and on edge about those two factors she would never have allowed Keir to even enter her room…let alone comfort her and then try to kiss her!
But even as her mind tried desperately to defend her actions, she knew she was only kidding herself. The fact was that she had seriously missed him when he’d been away in New York, and she hadn’t been able to wait for him to return. Even though she knew her feelings weren’t at all sensible, or even welcome, Georgia couldn’t help them. She just hoped that in the cold light of day what had happened wouldn’t make things too awkward between them for them to continue to work together. The bottom seemed to drop out of her whole world even at the thought that she might have to leave Glenteign sooner than she’d planned…
‘Oh, by the way…the Chief is back from New York, dear. He returned late last night in the middle of that terrible storm! What a homecoming! Come to think of it…it was probably him coming home that woke me up! I don’t suppose there’s much chance of you having a quiet day today with him back, though,— dear. He had his breakfast and then went straight out to see if there was any damage to the gardens. That wind was fierce! No doubt there’ll be a few branches thrown about the place—and he was concerned about some rare plants and shrubs that your brother planted too. Anyway, he came back a little while ago, and he’s in his study now.’
Swallowing hard, Georgia contemplated the news that Keir was already in his study with mounting trepidation. ‘Well, then, I’ll have my tea, give Hamish a quick walk, and then join him. By the way, where— is Hamish?’
Glancing around her, Georgia guiltily realised that she’d forgotten all about the Labrador. That was how distracted Keir’s appearance last night had made her!
Moira was quick to reassure her. ‘Young Lucy came in early, to help me prepare a few meals I’ve got planned for the next few days. She asked if she might walk Hamish, and I’m afraid I told her yes. Was that all right, dear?’
Georgia rose to her feet again wanting to delay facing Keir until she’d got herself properly together, and— saw her last excuse emphatically disappear now that Lucy was walking Hamish.