‘Anyway, I decided to give myself the week off to take stock of things. I’ve told the agency I’ll start back at work next Monday.’
‘You know you could doubtless sue him for unfair dismissal, citing sexual harassment?’
‘And give myself even more grief?’ Maya shook her head with a bitter little laugh. ‘He’s probably done me a favour. At least I won’t have to put up with his sleazy behaviour any more!’
The implacable look on her visitor’s mesmerising face gave her no clue as to his thoughts right then, and Maya sensed her stomach sink. Did he think she was a fool for not putting up more of a fight for her rights than she had? Right then she could have wept at the injustice of it all. No matter how hard women had fought for equality it was still a man’s world when all was said and done—and didn’t birds of a feather flock together?
‘I’d still like to come in, if that’s okay? I promise this won’t take long. I can see that my timing could have been a bit better.’
‘I was in the shower when you rang the bell.’
‘So it appears.’
His definitely interested gaze made a casually bold appraisal of Maya’s partially clothed state. It was as though the beam of a red-hot laser touched her everywhere at once. In contrast, an icy drip of water slid down the back of her neck from her wet hair and caused a convulsive shiver.
‘You’d better come up, then. You’ll have to let me finish dressing and drying my hair before we talk.’
‘Don’t feel you have to do that on my account.’
His huskily voiced drawl made another wave of heat submerge Maya, and she quickly turned back inside the house, before he could witness the fierce, revealing blush that scorched her cheeks, and headed up the stairs. Her teeth nibbling worriedly on her lower lip, she wished she could relax about Blaise being right behind her, but it was seriously challenging knowing his gaze was doubtless lingering on the natural sway of her shapely hips, and he would be fully aware that beneath her robe she was as bare as the day she was born…
Having reluctantly watched his very diverting hostess disappear into a bathroom on the landing, and having been directed by her to enter the room next to it, Blaise breathed out to try and ease some of the inevitable tension that had gathered inside his chest. He knew he was taking a risk, forcing the issue rather than waiting for Maya to ring him, but damn it he was going back up north the day after tomorrow, and he simply couldn’t wait any longer for a phone call that—going by the deafening silence of the week—was probably not even forthcoming. It wasn’t his style to chase a woman, but it was as if something stronger than his own will—some force of nature he could not ignore—was now in charge where this girl was concerned. It compelled him all the more to find out why.
Noticing a little pottery vase of yellow and white freesias on the mantelpiece above a small fireplace swept meticulously clean, Blaise briefly bent his head to sniff their distinctive piquant scent. Glancing round, he interestedly examined the rest of the room. Not that there was a lot to see. A simple light brown couch, submerged beneath a veritable bazaar of silky cushions in varying shades of purple and red, faced an armchair that looked like a refugee from a charity shop. With its frayed arms and flattened seat, it had definitely seen better days. Apart from a small pine wardrobe tucked away in a corner, and a stout oak bookcase with its shelves literally crammed with paperbacks and hardbacks, Maya’s furniture was very slim pickings indeed.
He sensed a frown forming. He knew stagehands at the theatre who lived more luxuriously than this! As he released a sigh, his gaze inadvertently collided with the most stunning portrait of a young girl. Apart from a couple of film posters it was the only picture in the room. Even at a distance he could see it was a sublime work. Moving closer, Blaise realised two things that made his heart almost jump out of his chest. Firstly, the portrait was of a teenaged Maya—a very vulnerable-looking and beautiful Maya, on the cusp of young womanhood—and secondly, the artist who had painted it, confirmed by the scrawled name at the very bottom right-hand corner, was only one of a handful of British artists whose work could literally command millions.
Blaise should know, because he was the envied owner of one of his paintings himself. A searing, frank depiction of a well-known actor his father had mentored, it had captured him on stage during dress rehearsals for the play that had made his name. It had been left to Blaise by his parents after they’d passed away, and it hung in pride of place at his house in the North. He could have sold it a thousand times over, such was the worldwide demand for this particular artist’s work. and he’d long craved to own another one.