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Authors: Emma Carr

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BOOK: London Falling
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“What do you think?” The puppy raised his head at the sound of her voice, but lowered it when nothing important seemed to be happening, curling into a tighter circle. “Well I think I’m done.” Lord Snobby certainly couldn’t find fault with it, although she had switched all the pins in the weight machines, just to mess with him.

She picked up the load of towels, and the puppy trotted over, prepared to keep her company on the trip downstairs.

“I know he said I shouldn’t clean, but what else did he expect me to do?

Doesn’t he understand that I need money?” The puppy tilted its head as if he wondered the same thing. “I mean, you understand, don’t you puppy? And you’re just a dog.” The dog’s head straightened. “Oh, I’m sorry. Avery smart dog.”

She shook herself. “I can’t believe I’m talking to a dog.”

After flipping off the lights, she headed downstairs, being careful on the narrow, curving steps. She heard a whimper behind her. The puppy was frozen at the top of the stairs, afraid to go down. “Oh no. You got yourself up there, you better get yourself down.”

The puppy whimpered again.

She almost hiked back up to coax him down, but at the last second, the puppy made up his mind and started down the steps. Half-way down, his back paw slipped and pushed his front paws off the step, and she watched in horrified slow motion as he tumbled down the remaining steps, landing at her feet and not moving a hair on his body.

She tossed the towels away and crouched down. “Oh my God, are you okay?” The puppy lay still. “Please, please, please be okay.” She reached her hand toward him.

His ears twitched and a half-second later he was standing and shaking, first his head and then it traveled all the way down to his tail, which twittered in excitement.

She let out a deep breath. This puppy was going to be the death of her.

She bent down to re-pick up the towels. The puppy thought it was a great game and tried to bite each towel as she picked it up.

“Darn dog. Don’t you know you’d be better off following His Highness around all day? I’m going to be gone and then where will you be?” He paused and looked up at her. “Out on the street. Serves you right for choosing me.”

She headed down the hall to the second set of stairs, the puppy racing past her on this wider set of stairs. She’d been hoping to pass by Mr. High-and-Mighty’s room unnoticed, but the puppy made such a racket, she decided to check on him.

After she dropped the towels out of sight, she tapped her knuckles on the door. She didn’t need him chastising her for cleaning against his wishes, especially since she’d told him that she’d already finished cleaning.

“Have you got a sensor that sounds an alarm every time I move?” His voice was muffled through the door, but she could make out every word.

She decided to take that as an invitation. “I see why everyone admires the excellent manners of you Brits,” she said.

Simon was standing next to the bed, bent over at the waist and tugging on the sheets. His pajama bottoms sat low on his waist, revealing a strong lower back that hinted at a highly toned backside. He definitely got his money’s worth from the weight room upstairs.

“Decided to do a little housecleaning and remake the bed to your high standards?” she asked.

He turned to glare at her. His forehead glistened with sweat, and the edges of his hair looked damp. “My fever broke and the sheets are wet.”

And he was changing the sheets himself. She almost forgot she hated him. She shooed him from the bed, pushing him toward the chair she had vacated earlier.

“No, let me do it,” he said, stepping around her.

Warmth emanated from his body. Images of late mornings and breakfast in bed flitted through her consciousness. She was suddenly aware that she was alone in the house with him. She stepped away from the fire. “You don’t have to be so embarrassed. Everyone’s wet the bed before. Of course, I haven’t since I was about two, but some people are just late bloomers.” He ignored her. While she circled the bed and pulled the bottom sheet off the corner, he did the same for the other side. She tried to ignore how domestic this seemed, but then had to tamp down her frustration when he tossed the sheets in a pile in the corner. She was two seconds away from nagging like a wife.

He rummaged in the armoire for a few seconds. “What did you do with the clean sheets?”

“Cut them up into tiny strips and made macramé plant hangers out of them.” He quirked his eyebrow. She was starting to notice a few of his habits, including the ever popular eyebrow quirk. It was effective, though. “I washed them. They’re downstairs in the laundry room.”

He walked toward the door, as if he were going to get them himself, but then he would see the towels piled on the floor in the hall and know that she had been cleaning while he slept.

She raced to the door, beating him by a millisecond. “I’ll get them. I need to let the dog out anyway, so it will just be easier. Besides, you don’t know where the laundry room is.”

He shook his head. “After I change my clothes, we can discuss our options for your departure sometime in the next century.”

“Great. I can’t wait.” She slipped out the door, and picked up the towels, only to realize she should bring down the dirty sheets as well. She dropped the towels just as she heard the shower turn on. He must really be feeling better, darn it. She knocked on the door and called out a warning. “I’m coming in.”

Nothing in response.

She opened the door a crack. “I forgot the sheets. I’m coming in.”

Still nothing in response.

The bathroom door was closed, so she raced in, picked up the sheets, and raced back out. Her heart beat a faster rhythm, but she didn’t know whether it was because she was disappointed or relieved that she hadn’t caught him naked. Or maybe both.

Once again, she picked up the towels and the sheets and headed downstairs, careful to feel her way down since she couldn’t see over the pile of linens in front of her face. The man had too many stairs in his house. What she wouldn’t give for a one-floor ranch right now.

“Who are you?” a cultured, feminine voice asked from the bottom of the stairs.

Her heart flopped as if it had tumbled down the stairs. She shifted the pile so she could peer around the side. A perfectly coiffed, Gwyneth Paltrow look-a-like stood in the entry. Ah, the girlfriend arriveth. Aimee forced herself herself to breathe again.

The girlfriend’s icy facade turned into a question mark when the puppy bounded down to meet her and took a flying leap at her cream pants. She leaned down to scratch him on the head and his ears went back like airline flaps.


Aimee shifted the pile of sheets and towels and continued her journey down the stairs, buying a few minutes to think about her answer. She couldn’t very well tell the woman that she was the housekeeper, because that odious man had never deemed to hire her. And he might get pissed if she hinted at it, to anyone. When she reached the bottom, her mind was still blank.

The ice princess straightened from petting the dog and eyed Aimee’s pajama bottoms with disapproval. She and Lord Snobby were meant for each other. And with one whine, this woman would destroy her chances to earn any money from Simon, let alone stay in the house. Would she be compassionate enough to let her stay the night at least? Aimee doubted it.

Before Gwynnie kicked her out on her rear-end, she got the insane urge to yank her chain.

“Simon’s still up in the bedroom,” she said instead.

The ice princess’s eyes widened. Aimee high-tailed it out of there, before she got kicked in the stomach by a pair of pricey high heels.

“See ya later,” she called, after she’d put enough distance between them to feel somewhat safe. The dog followed her to the laundry room. “Let’s see how he deals with that,” she said to the dog after she shut the door. Then she curled up in a ball on the floor, not even caring that the dog licked her face.

She was going to smell far worse things in the near future when she got kicked out onto the street.

Chapter Four

Simon turned off the water in the shower, although he could have relaxed under the hot water for at least another hour. It felt good to be clean again. As he toweled off, he heard Aimee rustling about in the bedroom.

“After this, do you want to order some take-away? I’m feeling quite peckish,” he called loud enough to be heard through the closed door.

“I already had dinner,” came the answer. He paused with the towel around his calf. That wasn’t an American accent. And there were only two females that kept a key to his house, neither of whom he wanted to see right now.


He tucked the towel around his torso and opened the door.

“I take it that woman downstairs is the reason you haven’t rung me back?” she asked.

Simon sighed. “Remind me again why I have given you a key to my house?”

“Because you love me?” Lucy asked.

“Ah, the never ending joys of family.” Why had his sister been the one to catch him in this situation? Perfect Lucy who never did anything wrong. How could he explain the situation to her when he didn’t understand it? “Forgive me, but my mind has been elsewhere the past few days. Did you ask me to ring you?”

“No. But I left at least six or seven urgent messages. I guess you were too busy to check your messages.” She motioned to the unmade bed. “No wonder you left the house in such a hurry the other night.”

“What?” She wasn’t normally so judgmental. Besides, she was supposed to be on his side. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m not bonking Aimee.”

“I rang you to tell you that I found a temporary housekeeper for you. The Collins’ housekeeper was hoping to earn extra quid while they went on holiday, but unfortunately, she found something else instead. It’s a good thing, too, because I don’t think she would be interested in the extracurricular activities you require.”

“I’ve been sick! I had the lurgy the past few days, that’s why I haven’t rung you. I realize how dodgy this looks, but believe me, I did not sleep with her. I am not sleeping with her. Nor will I ever sleep with her. Full stop.”

Lucy burst out laughing. “You are so gullible!”

“You were winding me up?” He shook his head, but he couldn’t stop the smile from creeping onto his face. When had Lucy got a sense of humor?

“Are you feeling better? Can I do anything for you?”

“I don’t need anything.” His sister would nurse him 24/7 if he let her.

“Judging from the state of the rooms I passed on the way up here, I think it’s clear that she’s cleaning non-stop. Besides, she is so not your type.”

The words were barely out of her mouth before Aimee walked in the room with the clean sheets. She looked at Lucy, looked at him, and looked away. A second later, her gaze snapped back to his chest and he suddenly remembered he wasn’t dressed except for a towel. Heat travelled down his body. At least he wasn’t feeling sick anymore.

Aimee’s gaze turned to the floor as red burned a path up her cheeks. “I just brought up the clean sheets.”

His sister looked from Aimee to Simon and back to Aimee, a gleam in her eye. She strode over to Aimee. “I’m Lucy Ruleford, Simon’s sister. You must be the new housekeeper?”

Aimee’s mouth formed a little ‘oh’ of surprise. What was she surprised about–that his sister introduced herself? Aimee looked back and forth between the two of them. “I see the resemblance now,” she said. She stuck out her hand. “Aimee Kennedy. And I’m not the housekeeper.”

“Then who ?” Lucy asked, looking first at Simon and then at Aimee.

Aimee looked at him, forcing his sister to turn towards him again. The heads were bobbing back and forth faster than at Wimbledon.

This was a disaster in the making. If his sister found out, she might tell their father, and he’d never hear the end of it, but he had to tell her the dog’s dinner he’d gotten himself into, or she might talk to other people outside of the family. The lurgy suddenly seemed preferable to this mess.

“It’s a long story.” He needed a few minutes to come up with a plan. “Give me live minutes to dress, and I’ll meet you both downstairs to discuss it.”

Aimee saluted him. “Yes sir.”

“What’s going on?” Lucy asked.

“Five minutes,” he said, with more force than he intended. They both looked surprised, but they left him alone. He wouldn’t feel sorry for that. It was Lucy’s fault for coming here uninvited, and Aimee was the one who started the issue. He was the injured party and had every right to be annoyed with both of them.

Standing in front of the wardrobe, he stared at his clothes. His life was hurtling out of control, and he had to get a grasp on things before they blew up in his face. Starting with Aimee. He yanked on a pair of jeans and an old polo. Perhaps his sister had a better solution to their stand-off, because there had to be a better option than joint blackmail.

He headed downstairs, still feeling slightly off, but definitely three million times better than the day before. He heard voices in the kitchen and followed them there. The Scottie dog met him in the hall with a short bark.

“Hey there, buddy,” he said, leaning down to give the puppy a few scratches on the rump. “You like that don’t you? Wonder who you belong to?’

The puppy decided he was tired of being admired and trotted back into the kitchen. Simon followed.

The kitchen was warm and smelled like flied heaven. Aimee faced the cooker, and the puppy sat on the floor next to her, watching the floor with great intensity for any bits that might fall from the air above. For the first time in days, Simon wanted food.

His sister stood at the center island and noticed him first. “Aimee was telling me about her situation.” Aimee turned her head to look at him, but then quickly dismissed him.

Great. A one-sided view of the story. “Has she mentioned the blackmail?’

he asked.

Aimee grumbled something, but he couldn’t make it out.

“Of course she did,” his sister said. “And I can’t believe you would ever threaten to send her to jail! She needs our help Simon, not threats.”

“She’s not one of your charities, Lucy.”

BOOK: London Falling
8.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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