Halfway back to the house the sound of shattering glass made her spin towards the pergola.
Declan Carstairs stood, frozen in tableau, one arm stretched towards the table. On the ground before him lay the splintered remnants of a glass.
Curiously it was his stillness that snared her gaze rather than the broken glass so dangerously close to the pool. Too late she caught herself staring at those broad, straight shoulders a little too avidly.
'It's all right, Mr Carstairs, don't you bother with it. I'll fetch a brush and pan.' Chloe hurried back to the laundry, dumped the towels and scooped up her equipment.
Strangely, on her return he hadn't moved, as if he waited to make sure she did the job properly.
She'd worked for wealthy people before, some demanding and others so relaxed they barely noticed what went on around them. None would have questioned her ability to do such a simple task. Yet his stillness and the furrow of concentration on his brow told her he had other ideas.
Chloe crouched before him, brushing up the shards.
'I'll just be a moment.' Yet her usually brisk movements seemed slow, her limbs heavy as his silent presence loomed close. Deliberately she turned from the sight of those strong sinewed feet planted wide on the flagstones.
Ridiculous that even the man's naked feet looked sexy. He disapproved of her, was checking on her. She didn't want to feel anything for him.
'Thank you, Ms Daniels.'
Chloe bit down on a bubble of laughter. Such formality when her mind buzzed with unsettling memories of his bare body. Just as well he couldn't read her thoughts.
If only he'd move and leave her to get on with this.
Thinning her lips, she concentrated on locating shards that had spread further than the rest. 'I think that's almost-No! Watch out!'
Too late she saw his heel come down on a splinter as he turned.
A single, low oath blasted from his lips as bright scarlet bloomed and spread across the flagstones.
'Wait, there's another one.'
Chloe scuttled across to pick up the shard. 'There, that's all. You can move to the chair now.'
Above her he stood still as a bronze god, though in the silence she heard the hiss of his indrawn breath. Blood streamed from the gash at his heel.
Finally he spoke. 'Perhaps you'd help me, Ms Daniels.'
Frowning, she got to her feet, put the brush and pan aside and moved closer. What did he want her to do? Surely he had the strength to hop the short distance to the chair?
'You want me to support you?'
Something like anger flashed across his face and his nostrils flared. 'Nothing so dramatic.' He spoke through gritted teeth. 'Just give me your hand.'
Bewildered, Chloe complied, slipping her hand into his. Absorbing the heat and sensation of hard strength surrounding her work-roughened fingers. Registering the ridges of scar tissue across his palm. A shiver of sensation skated up her arm and shoulder, raising the fine hairs on her nape.
She ignored it and looked into his face. This close she read the tiny lines bracketing his mouth as if he spent more time compressing his lips than smiling.
His features were stiff and the scar stood lividly on his taut cheek. Fierce energy hummed through him and into her, like a power source without a safety valve, inexorably rising. Tension twisted as she waited for him to speak.
Her eyes were at the level of his mouth and she watched, fascinated, as his sensuously sculpted lips thinned into a pained line.
'You need to sit down so I can get the glass out. It won't hurt so much then.'
His bark of laughter, rough and raw, echoed across the flagstones, jerking her gaze up to those impenetrable dark glasses.
'The pain doesn't bother me.'
Chloe frowned. If he wasn't in pain, then what...?
He exhaled slowly through his nostrils, his fingers tightening around hers. When he spoke there was resignation as well as an undercurrent of anger in his words. 'Just lead me to a chair, will you?'
'Yes, damn it. Haven't you realised you're talking to a blind man?'Reviews Behind the Book Return