His Millionaire Maid

By: Coleen Kwan

Chapter Two

Beggars can’t be choosers, Joe told himself. He needed a maid, and Nina was here, so he would let her stay. It all made sense. But deep down, he didn’t feel sensible. He felt like an idiot. Because of her. Because of how she made him feel when she tipped those bright blue eyes and slanted that sexy, mischievous smile at him.

After all these years, he hadn’t thought it possible that a woman could get him so hot and bothered, but Nina did something to him, got him doing and thinking crazy things, and he wasn’t sure he liked that.

“So tell me more about the Comet Inn,” Nina said as she caught up with him.

They were back in the reception lobby, and Joe paused to take in the cozy, wood-paneled interior. No matter how many times he saw this place, he always felt a thrill from knowing he was the owner. When he was fifteen, he’d gotten his first job here as a lowly kitchen hand; then five years ago, he’d bought the historic but dilapidated inn and worked his butt off bringing it up to scratch.

“As you can see, it’s pretty old.” He gestured at the timber beams and windows. “About a hundred years. Originally built to accommodate sailors, but we get most of our trade on weekends and vacations. Accommodation upstairs for eight couples. We don’t do breakfast, but there’s a good coffee shop on the corner. Nowadays most of our revenue comes from the bar and restaurant. We’re open for dinner six nights a week, and the kitchen does a bar menu, too.”

He led her through stained-glass doors into the bar, a spacious area with exposed brick walls, a long, polished counter, and French doors exposing the view to the courtyard.

Vince, his bartender and friend, nodded at him from behind the counter. “Hey, how did it go at the bank today?”

Joe shook his head. “Not so great. I’ll fill you in later.”

But Vince wasn’t paying him much attention. His focus had slid past Joe and fastened on Nina. Joe gestured to her.

“Vince, meet Nina Summers. She’s new in town and will be cleaning the rooms, busing tables, and helping out in the kitchen. Nina, this is Vince Nucifora, the guy in charge of the bar.”

The bartender wiped his hand on a cloth before eagerly shaking hands with Nina.

“Hey, Nina. Welcome to Hartley and the Comet Inn.” Vince winked at her. “You’ll like it here, as long as you don’t mind having a slave driver for a boss.”

“A slave driver, huh? I never would have guessed.” Nina peeked impishly at Joe.

She likes to tease, Joe thought, refusing to react. “I’ll take you through to the kitchen and introduce you to Sarah.”

When Joe had started turning a profit at the inn, he’d built an extension to house the restaurant and fitted out a brand-spanking-new kitchen. This was now the undisputed domain of Sarah Wainwright, his exacting, talented head chef. As they entered the kitchen, Sarah was complaining loudly, and when she spotted him, she marched over.

“Look at these.” She thrust a handful of mushrooms in his face. “That Greg has some nerve, trying to pass this garbage on to me. They’re not even good enough for soup. I’m going to call him right now and give him hell.”

Joe didn’t feel much sympathy for Greg. Every supplier to the restaurant knew Sarah’s rigorous standards.

“Go ahead and call him,” he said, “but first I’d like to introduce you to a new employee.” He made the introductions. Unlike Vince, Sarah greeted Nina with some reserve.

“Have you worked in hospitality long?” Sarah asked, eyeing Nina’s disheveled appearance.

Nina cleared her throat. “About eighteen months. I was waitressing down in San Francisco.”

“Where in San Francisco?”

“A coffee shop,” Nina said.

“Which one?”

Nina blinked nervously several times. “Uh, the, uh, Daily Grind. Good name for a coffee shop, huh?”

Sarah didn’t let up. “And where in San Francisco is it?”

“Well, uh, it was in the Embarcadero, but it closed down a month ago.”

“So you’ve never worked in a restaurant before?”

“No.” Nina stood her ground. “But I’m eager to learn.”

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