‘Well, at least, now that he knows what I look like in the morning, he won’t be anxious to renew his efforts to get me into his bed,’ she muttered, in an effort to cheer herself up. This thought, however, did nothing to alleviate the sting his remark had inflicted.
Delivering his coffee, she asked how he wanted his eggs, then went into her studio to work for a while before preparing breakfast. The man’s presence permeated the air around her; a sensation she attributed to the fact that she was working on his bust. After building the mound of clay into approximate proportions in readiness for the actual shaping, she stepped back to survey her progress. ‘Maybe I should add enough on top to carve out a pair of horns,’ she mused sarcastically, then covering the clay she went downstairs to begin breakfast.
She had removed the bacon and was cracking the eggs into the skillet when Brad came into the kitchen carrying his place setting. ‘I’m not a man who enjoys wasting time, nor do I live on a set schedule. So we’ll eat breakfast together each morning and use this opportunity to map out our days so that neither of us interferes with the other’s schedule.’ When she started to protest, he held up his hand. ‘You can consider it a business meal.’ His manner made it clear that he intended to remain firm on this point.
‘As you wish,’ Sara conceded, unwilling to face another confrontation so early in the morning.
Her easy acquiescence obviously surprised him and he stood leaning against the counter watching her sceptically.
‘Don’t you have a paper to read?’ she demanded, giving in to a fit of nerves.
‘Sorry,' he apologised in a voice that held no remorse. ‘I forgot how disturbing it can be to be constantly under surveillance.’ Then a sudden tenseness filled the air as he added tersely, ‘Tell me the truth. Is that why you’re here?’
‘What?’ Pausing with the food-filled plates in her hands, Sara turned towards him, her face a mask of confusion.
‘I half expected you to have changed your mind when I came by your place yesterday morning to help you move,’ he elaborated. ‘And it’s now occurred to me that you might be here because Steve talked you into keeping an eye on me again.’
‘He didn’t, and I wouldn’t have agreed to such an arrangement even if he had asked,’ she assured him tightly, adding with a perplexed pout, ‘Although I have to admit I was surprised by his acceptance of this situation. I expected him to try to talk me out of it when he showed up instead of helping me move.’ Then as an afterthought she said, ‘Besides, if he thought you were in any danger he wouldn’t have allowed me near you.’
‘He sent you to the ball,’ he reminded her.
‘Yes, but I was supposed to remain inconspicuous and have no contact with you.’
‘You certainly botched that assignment,’ Brad commented drily.
‘That’s why I’m an artist and not a detective,’ she returned coolly, completing her action of placing the plates on the table.
As they began to eat, a heavy silence descended over the meal, in spite of Brad’s earlier pronouncement that they would discuss their daily schedule. Sara forced herself to eat, refusing to give the man the satisfaction of knowing that he was upsetting her. Finally, though, unable to bear the strain any longer she said, ‘You were going to outline your day for me so I could arrange my schedule.’
He had finished his eggs and was pouring himself a second cup of coffee. ‘Since I’ll be working here this morning, I’d like to have lunch around noon. A sandwich will suffice.’
‘You’re staying home?’ she questioned disconcertedly. ‘When I’m developing a new design I prefer to work at home. There are fewer interruptions,’ he replied, watching her closely. ‘But apparently this is going to interfere with your plans. Were you considering a whole-scale rearrangement of my workroom? If so, I should warn you that I don’t allow anyone to touch the materials in there without permission. It may look like clutter to you, but I know every inch of that clutter and I don’t want it shifted.'
'I understand about personal clutter,’ she assured him. ‘The reason I looked a bit dubious was that I’d planned to have a little company today.’ She was about to explain that Helen was bringing her children over for Sara to babysit when Brad interrupted.
‘A boy-friend?’ he queried caustically, ‘coming to check on your new living conditions?’
His manner raised her ire and without thinking, she said haughtily, ‘As a matter of fact, yes, my very best boy-friend!’
‘Then please don’t change your plans on my account.’ Pushing his chair back, Brad rose from the table. ‘I would be interested in meeting the man. I’m curious to find out what type of male naive lady artists fall for and what he thinks of your current situation.’
‘I’ll be certain to introduce you,’ she snapped.
‘Fine!’ he threw over his shoulder as he left.
The minute he was gone, Sara regretted her deception.
This continual atmosphere of war between them had to come to an end. She knew it was mostly her fault. She was continuously overreacting to the man in the most childish way. He had good reason to question her judgment and her motives. She had met him under a lie, and considering her staunch conservative stand it did seem irrational that she should have placed herself in the present situation. She tried again to convince herself that it paid well and was an honest position, but considering the people involved, specifically a very virile male employer, the logic didn’t hold; not if she considered the possible harm to her reputation.
However, right now, the how and why didn’t matter; she needed to correct this present lie before it was too late. After all, she was the housekeeper and she should have asked his permission before making any plans.
Climbing the stairs, she found his workroom door open. He was standing in the windowed alcove gazing out on to the street below, his hands clasped behind his strong straight back.
‘Excuse me,’ she cleared her throat nervously.
‘What is it, Sara?’ he asked, turning to face her, his eyes green ice.
‘It’s about my company,’ she began hesitantly, embarrassed to admit a lie in the face of his contempt.
‘What about your expected visitor?’ he questioned coldly. ‘Are you afraid I might say something to this boy-friend of yours that will besmirch your character or give him the wrong idea?’
‘No. I wanted to correct a misunderstanding. The person coming isn’t a boy-friend in the sense you took it. He’s my nephew ... and my niece is coming, too. During the summer I watch them one day a week to give Helen a chance to run errands and do her shopping in peace. But I’ll cancel out for today. This is your home and I apologise for not checking with you first before telling Helen it would be all right.’
‘Why didn’t you explain all this downstairs?’ Brad demanded.
Her mouth tightened into a hard line as her hope for a truce gave way to anger. ‘I started to, but you interrupted.’ He stood rigidly regarding her as if weighing her defence, then his jaw relaxed and the ice left his eyes. ‘I suppose I can be a bit overbearing,’ he admitted gruffly. ‘Guess I sounded like Steve.’
‘A little,’ she agreed, unable to totally hide her shock that he would shoulder some of the blame for the misunderstanding. ‘But I shouldn’t have overreacted. I’ll call Helen and tell her not to bring the children over today.’
‘No. They won’t bother me,’ he assured her, sitting down at his drawing board and picking up a pencil. ‘In fact, I would like to meet them.’
‘Of course,’ she mumbled, still off balance from his sudden change of mood.
‘And would you mind bringing me up a cup of coffee?’ he requested as he swung a straight edge into place and began to draw.
‘Yes, sir,’ she replied, leaving the room to comply with his wish. While pouring the coffee and carrying it upstairs, she frowned at herself. She had her truce, so why did she feel disgruntled? Brad’s reference to sounding like Steve played over and over in her mind. Obviously he had totally given up the idea of seducing her, probably after this morning’s exposure to her appearance, and now saw himself in the role of a big brother protecting an incredibly naive kid sister. Well, she wasn’t so naive as he thought just a little confused lately, and she didn’t need another big brother. Steve filled that role more than adequately.
When Helen came by to drop off the children, her bright blue eyes were filled with curiosity. ‘Steve’s not pleased with this arrangement, but he doesn’t seem to be as adamantly against it as I thought he would be,’ she said, walking into Sara’s bedroom and bath for a quick inspection. ‘This is really nice. Much better than that apartment you were in with those awful outside stairs.’
‘True,’ Sara agreed, smiling at the slightly plump blonde who continued to rattle on without pausing for a breath.
‘And when I get back, I want a complete tour, but right now I have to rush. As usual I’m running late. I never used to be late all the time, but for some reason I’ve never been able to get my act together since Joanie was born. Don’t let anyone tell you that the second one is only half as much trouble as the first!’ She finished with a quick kiss on each of the children’s cheeks and one for Sara, then with a wave was out the back door in a flurry, her car keys jangling in her hand.
‘Have a nice day,’ Sara called after her from the doorway.
‘Be back around three,’ Helen shouted back and with a second quick wave drove off.
‘What are we going to do today?’ Tommy demanded excitedly as soon as his mother was gone and his aunt’s attention could be devoted entirely to himself and his sister.
Sara smiled down at her nine-year-old nephew, so like his father with his brown hair and brown eyes, and his seven-year-old fair-haired, blue-eyed sister who was almost an exact replica of her mother. ‘I thought you two could make kites while I do some sculpting,’ she replied, leading them up the stairs to her studio.
‘Excellent!’ Tommy exclaimed, using the latest word that had replaced ‘terrific’ in his youthful vocabulary.
‘Yes, excellent!’Joanie copied her brother.
The door of Brad’s workroom was open and as they reached the landing, he came out to meet them. ‘What’s so excellent?’ he smiled. It was a warm open smile that caught Sara completely offguard as she realised how very charming the man could be when he chose to show that side of himself.
‘We’re going to make kites,’ Joanie informed him, her cheeks pink with pleasure.
‘This is my niece Joanie and my nephew Tommy,’ Sara introduced her charges. ‘And children, this is Mr Garwood.’
Tommy had been standing silently studying Brad, his demeanour not unlike that of his father’s when Steve found himself in a new situation of which he did not totally approve. As Sara finished and he reached out to accept Brad’s proffered handshake, his expression became pronouncedly critical. ‘So you’re the man my aunt is living with,’ he frowned.
Sara flushed scarlet. ‘I’m not living with Mr Garwood,’ she corrected.
‘You told Mother that the room downstairs was your bedroom,’ he reminded her.
‘I’m living in Mr Garwood’s home, but I’m not living with Mr Garwood,’ she struggled with what was obviously a losing battle.
‘Does that mean that the two of you are married?’ Joanie asked, her mouth forming a pout. ‘You promised I could be in your wedding when you got married.’
‘I’ve already told you that they’re not married.’ Tommy turned towards his sister, his voice expressing his exasperation with her single-minded concern. ‘That’s why no one wants to be the one to tell Grandma Ida.’
It was apparent that the children had overheard their parents discussing this situation. Still flushing, Sara met Brad’s gaze. ‘I suppose you find this amusing,’ she accused.
‘Perhaps a little,’ he admitted, a slightly sardonic gleam in his eyes.
‘What’s “amusing” mean?’ Joanie asked her brother as she watched the exchange between the adults with interest.
‘Funny,’ he whispered back.
‘Funny?’ she mused, then with that angelic look of wisdom only children can achieve, announced loudly, ‘No one is going to think it’s
when Grandma finds out.’
‘Why don’t we forget about Grandma and go make your kites?’ Sara suggested, taking both children by the hand and dragging them down the hall, followed by a pair of thoughtful green eyes.
Later, as she attempted to mould the clay into the correct form, Sara was forced to admit that children had a way of making a point more clearly than any adult argument. No matter how properly she behaved, the majority of people were going to believe that she and Brad Garwood were having an affair.
Only halfway able to concentrate on her work, she was having a great deal of difficulty getting the head proportioned correctly, which did not help to soothe her taut nerves.
‘Here he is,’ Tommy announced, startling her out of her contemplation as he re-entered the studio holding on to Brad’s hand.
She had noticed him leave, but had assumed he had gone to the bathroom. ‘What?’ she questioned in some confusion.
‘You were muttering about how you couldn’t get the head right without Mr Garwood, so I went and got him for you,’ the child explained matter-of-factly, adding, ‘Is he an artist too?’
‘He’s the model,’ she replied, the flush returning to her face. ‘But you shouldn’t have bothered him.’
‘You did say you needed him,’ Joanie came to her brother’s defence. Then as if she felt it was necessary to explain her aunt’s eccentricities, the little girl smiled up at Brad and said, ‘Aunt Sara always mutters to herself when she has a problem. She says it comes from living alone and having only herself to talk to. Tommy and I always try to help when we’re around.’
‘I knew I should have cancelled today,’ Sara frowned.
‘Only God can cancel a day,’ Tommy mimicked one of his mother’s favourite sayings.
‘How can I help?’ Brad cut into the exchange, indicating with a nod of his head that the boy should return to his kite building. Surprisingly the child obeyed.
‘I’m sorry Tommy disturbed you,’ Sara apologised, still feeling flustered.
‘I was going to take a break anyway.’ His voice held an indulgent note. ‘What can I do to help?’