A Millionaire for Cinderella

By: Barbara Wallace

He reached for a change of topic. “Do I smell coffee?” There was a distinct aroma of French roast in the air, a unique scent in his tea-drinking aunt’s home.

Patience nodded her head toward a stainless steel coffeemaker tucked in the faraway corner. “Cream and sugar are in the dining room. Do you prefer a full breakfast or continental.”

“Neither.” Was she offering to make him breakfast? Considering the circumstances, he wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or suspicious. “Are you waiting on me?” he asked when she took a coffee mug from the cupboard. “Why?”

“Because it’s my job,” she replied. “I serve breakfast every morning. So long as someone’s here, I’ll keep on serving it.” Filling the cup, she handed it to him.

Stuart stared into the black liquid. What gives? Last night, Patience had made it quite clear that she didn’t appreciate his staying at the brownstone, yet here she was pouring him coffee and offering breakfast. Citing her job. Was she truly that dedicated or was this some kind of tactic to throw him off his game? If the latter, it was working.

“Something wrong?” she asked. “Would you feel better if I drank the cup first?”

“All right, you’ve made your point,” he said, setting the coffee cup down. “You didn’t appreciate my questioning Ana’s accident.”

“Not the accident—me. You all but accused me of pushing your aunt down the stairs.”

Yes, he had. Now that he thought about it, the accusation wasn’t his finest moment. Treating the woman like a hostile witness wouldn’t accomplish anything. A situation like this called for a more delicate touch. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I tend to be wary when it comes to strangers around my family.”

“Well, I tend to have a problem with being accused of crimes I didn’t commit,” she replied, snapping his olive branch in two. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a job to do.”

* * *

“Can you believe the guy? I think he actually considered that comment an apology.”

“Some people aren’t very good with apologies.” Her sister Piper’s face filled the screen of her smartphone. Thank goodness for Wi-Fi and internet chat apps. She so needed a friendly ear right now and Piper was the one person in this world she could trust. Patience called her as soon as she sat down at Ana’s desk.

“Maybe he’s one of those people,” her sister continued.

“Probably because in his mind he’s never wrong.” She sighed. “I can’t believe I’m going to be stuck working for the man while Ana’s in the hospital. Talk about a nightmare.”

“Oh, come on, it won’t be that bad.”

“Are you kidding? We’re living under the same roof. How am I supposed to avoid him?”

“I doubt he’s going to be hanging around the house.”

Wanna bet? Patience caught the smirk in his eyes last night. He probably considered the arrangement the perfect opportunity to vet her. Who used words like vet anyway? Couldn’t he say check her out like a normal person.

“I don’t like him,” she said. “He’s...”

“He’s what?”

Too imposing. With his unwavering blue eyes and long lean torso. “There’s something about the way he looks at me,” she said, keeping her thoughts to herself.

“Guys are always looking at you.”

“Not like this.” Those guys were skeevy. All hands and leers. “It’s like he’s trying to read my mind.” She wasn’t used to a man looking at her as anything more than a chick with a nice rack. It was unnerving to have a man look deeper. “Plus, he keeps talking about secrets. I’m worried one of these times I’ll slip up and say something incriminating.”

“So, don’t talk to him. There’s no rule that says a housekeeper has to be chatty.”

“True.” Except she seemed unable to help herself.

“If it helps,” Piper added, “I watched a movie the other night where the woman drugged her husband’s dinner so he’d leave her alone. You could always try that.”

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