She felt a flicker of love and pride. Every sacrifice— she’d made to help Noah get his business off the ground had been worth it…
‘You found us, then?’
Abruptly lured away from her reverie, Georgia found her glance commanded by a pair of eyes that were so faultlessly, intensely blue that for a moment no speech was possible on her part. The rest of the features in the masculine face before here were not exactly difficult to look at either. It was as if they might have been sculpted—the planes and angles so strongly delineated that they were surely the loving work of an artist’s reverent hand? But Georgia wasn’t the only one who was transfixed…The man’s unflinching— perusal of her own face came as a shock.
She wasn’t used to being regarded with such uncommon directness and everything inside her clenched hard in sudden self-consciousness. But before she could find her voice, he was opening the driver’s door and standing aside for her to step out onto the gravel.
‘Yes…hello.’ She held out her hand, then awkwardly— withdrew it almost as soon as her skin came into contact with his. Such an acceptably polite gesture shouldn’t feel as if it was bordering on intimacy but somehow it did. As he considered her further, his gaze no less direct, Georgia silently bemoaned her travel-worn appearance. After several hours’ travelling her clothes must resemble unironed laundry, she was sure. The cream linen shift dress she wore, with its scooped neckline, had been cool and fresh when she’d donned it early this morning, but it definitely didn’t look like that now.
‘Did you have a good journey?’
Beneath the polite questioning Georgia thought she detected a slight strain—as though he neither welcomed nor enjoyed this kind of inconsequential chit-chat. Her heart sank a little.
‘Yes, I did. The directions you gave me were spot-on.’ —
‘I presume you must be the Laird?’
‘Yes, I am…And you are Georgia…Noah’s sister.’
It was a statement of fact, not requiring a reply.
‘How do I address you?’ she asked, her voice determinedly— bright.
‘The correct title is “Chief,” but I would be quite happy for you to call me Keir—the same as I told your brother. Talking of which…I have to say I can hardly see a resemblance between the two of you.’
‘People usually say that.’
‘Then I’m sorry to be so predictable.’
He was still a little perturbed by the handshake they’d shared—although the contact had been less than brief, Keir had been genuinely taken aback by the warm electrical ‘buzz’ that had flowed straight through him. It had been a very arresting wake-up call, and now he sensed his attention magnetised by Georgia Cameron’s lovely face. He was surprised that she was so different in colouring from her tall, blond,— blue-eyed brother, and perhaps more pleased than he should be by the contrast. Anybody with a penchant for beauty would admire such dazzling green-gold eyes, but in a face as animated and compelling— as hers, with its high, elegant cheekbones and wide, generous mouth, it was hard not to elevate them as perhaps the most beautiful he’d ever seen…
But Keir could hardly attest to welcoming such distracting assets. It was her professional skills he was interested in, not her looks. He had employed her because her brother had assured him that if he was looking for a first-class secretary, he should look no further than his very capable sister. He’d said she was temping with an agency in the City, and her current job would be coming to an end soon, so she could start at Glenteign practically straight away.
Way behind with the administration of running such a large estate, after reluctantly inheriting the mantle of Laird from his brother Robert, who’d been killed in an accident abroad, Keir was in urgent need of some first class secretarial and organisational skills. Doubly so since his own secretary Valerie had unfortunately tumbled down the stairs and broken her leg. Only the next few days would tell if Noah Cameron had exaggerated his sister’s capabilities or not…
‘I expect you’d like to go straight to your room and freshen up?’
‘There’s something that I really need to do first if you don’t mind?’
‘I need to take Hamish for a bit of a walk. The poor creature’s been cooped up for too long in my small car, and to tell you the truth I feel the same. We won’t be ages…is that all right?’
‘That’s fine. I should have thought of it myself.’
Keir moved to the passenger door behind the driver’s seat of Georgia’s dusty little car, pulled it open and invited Hamish to jump out. The Labrador was ridiculously grateful, leaping up at him excitedly and wagging his tail at a rate of knots.
‘Oh, my gosh—he’s taken to you straight away! He doesn’t do that with everybody…he must sense that you’re friendly.’
Georgia’s smile was genuinely delighted.
Being the unexpected recipient of such a fulsome expression of joy, Keir stared—caught between wanting to arouse more of the same rather beguiling delight and needing to assert some formality between them pretty quickly. The truth was he suddenly found himself having serious reservations about the wisdom of employing this rather disarming woman to work for him…even though the post was only temporary.
He decided to try and keep her gestures of friendliness— at bay as much as possible. Theirs was a strictly business relationship, and if she didn’t come up to scratch then Keir would have no compunction in telling her she was no longer needed. And he wouldn’t cut her any slack just because her brother had impressed him either. James Strachan certainly wouldn’t have. A less compassionate and sentimental— man would have been hard to find anywhere! And, even though his father had shown evidence of relenting his rather austere manner towards the end of his life, the die had been cast. His efforts to try and forge with his younger son an emotional bond that had never existed before had come too late, Keir acknowledged— with some bitterness. It had certainly come too late for his brother Robbie…
‘I wouldn’t read too much into it,’ Keir said, deliberately— pushing his hands into the pockets of his light coloured chinos, as if signalling that he wouldn’t be paying the animal any undue attention while he was there. He had agreed to her request to bring the dog with her, and that should be enough. ‘He’s just grateful to be let out. You can walk anywhere, but I’d be glad if you kept the dog away from the flowerbeds. Is your stuff in the boot? All the staff in the house are busy, so I’ll take it upstairs to your room. It’s on the second floor. I’ll leave the door open so that you know which one it is. Dinner is at eight, and I like people to be prompt. Enjoy your walk.’
Her smile gone, Georgia frowned and murmured, ‘Thanks.’ And if the withdrawal of that smile made Keir feel as if he’d deliberately deprived himself of something extraordinary, then he told himself he deserved it. Watching her collect Hamish’s lead from her handbag beside the driver’s seat and walk away, he— opened the car boot and lifted out her luggage to carry it into the house.
Freshly showered after her walk round the grounds with Hamish, Georgia sat on the bed in her room and examined the employment contract Keir had left for her to sign. He didn’t waste much time, did he? What did he think she was going to do? Run away after driving since the early hours of the morning to get here?
Even though she might have briefly entertained the thought, after the distinctly frosty way he’d shut down on her following her remark about Hamish liking him, Georgia was not about to give him the satisfaction. She would show Keir Strachan, Laird of Glenteign, that she was a reliable, efficient and skilled worker—and most of all that she kept her word when a promise was made.
Signing her name with a deliberate flourish, she laid the paperwork aside, then shook her damp hair free from the towel she’d wrapped it in. Pushing her fingers through the dark slippery strands, she let her gaze wander over her new surroundings. The room was the height of elegance, with plenty of loving feminine touches everywhere—from the rose-pink velvet curtains, with their matching gathered tiebacks and deep swags, to the rather grand mahogany dressing table with its gleaming surfaces, ornate lace doilies and sparkling oval-shaped mirror. The drowsy scent of late summer pervaded the air, and there was a breathtaking bouquet of white roses in a pink vase arranged on top of a polished satinwood chiffonier that made Georgia’s heart skip with pleasure.
She wondered who had been responsible for such a delightful touch. Noah had told her that Keir wasn’t married, so it must be some other female…Georgia felt vaguely annoyed that she was even speculating about it at all. She should be concentrating on getting ready to present herself to her new boss; that was what she should be doing!
Jumping up, she went to fetch her hairdryer from her almost empty suitcase. Realising that it was almost ten to eight, an unwelcome twist of anxiety knotted her stomach at the recollection that her new employer expected people to be ‘prompt’ for dinner. Trying to quell the feeling of rebellion that the thought surprisingly inspired, she turned her mind instead to the prospect of meeting the other staff who worked in the house.