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I'm Jan Carol, author of many contemporary romance novels.
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Marida hates being The Senator's Daughter. Threats come often because the ex-senator is a powerful lawyer who puts criminals away. This time, though , the threat is made against Marida, and The Senator has to make sure she is safe.
Bodyguards around her constantly, whisked away from her home in Sacramento, her social calendar erased... She's had enough. It's time to change her life and find her own way.
She has everything planned out in her mind, then... a handsome Canadian comes to help his brother, The Senator's bodyguard, to make sure The Senator's daughter remains safe.
See below to read the first chapter of this book.
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SHE LAY on the chaise lounge wearing only the skimpy green bikini she knew her father detested. I wish you would put some decent clothes on, he would scold her every time he saw her in it. She had it on so seldom, only when her busy schedule allowed her time to layaround the pool. This was one such time, and she was going to enjoy every minute of it.
She heard footsteps on the concrete patio, continuing down the walkway, into the fenced area where she lay relaxing. They were not familiar, but she didn't move a muscle to look out from under the floppy black and white hat she wore on her head. The steps were not lazy, but heavy, precise, knowing exactly where they were going.
Eliminating who they didn't belong to was easier than guessing whose they were. Her father, the Senator, had short, slow steps. They weren't his. They were most definitely male, eliminating the young housekeeper, and their cook, Mrs. Fussell. That was a dear lady, Marida's thoughts wandered for a moment. The woman had literally taken over raising Marida when her mother passed away. It had been many years and her father wasn’t a Senator any longer, though most people still called him that after his two terms. He was heavily into politics even yet, though his law practice took up more of his time.
Her attention snapped back on the footsteps and she listened with more interest. They couldn't belong to the chauffeur. He was a stuffy, old man. To look at and listen to him, you would dub him as a butler for an English Governor in London.
"Miss Carruth?" The unfamiliar masculine voice received nothing but silence in answer. After waiting a long moment, he continued, "Your father would like a few words with you." The sunbathing form remained still and silent before him.
Through her sunglasses she could see brown trousers from his knees to the top of his shiny dark
brown boots. She wondered how long he would stand there, curiosity was getting to her, but she would not submit to it by raising her eyes to look at him.
"Miss Carruth, will you come quietly or would you rather I carry your beautiful, naked body into the house." He spoke with a deliberate husky voice, low and sexy.
Somehow she knew he'd be capable of carrying out his threat and she would loathe the man's hands on her bare anything. "Oh, all right." She was graceful in getting to her feet.
He stood back as she started out the enclosed pool area, watching the feminine swing of her hips. She was rich, as in money, anyone could see that without having to know anything about her.
Marida walked through the patio door, into the study where her mother used to do her painting. It hadn’t been touched, other than to be dusted and cleaned around, in the many years the woman had been gone. Sentimental husband, her father.
The hallway was too dark for her taste. The floor was marbled tile, reflecting any light that could reach it. Very few paintings adorned the walls, not that anyone would have been able to see them. Her father’s office was near the double front doors, and she entered, knowing the mysterious man was behind her.
Taking one of the chairs in front of the large mahogany desk, Marida made as much noise as she could to let her father know she was there. His head remained bent, as his attention was on the paperwork in front of him. Beside his right hand was his cigar, sitting in the ashtray, smoldering, hardly smoked. Mainly her father held the smelly thing between his lips, chewing on the tip now and again.
“Father, you wanted to see me?” She was getting impatient. If one called for her attention, that one should have his attention fully upon her as soon as she arrived.
“In a minute, dear,” was her father’s answer. Her lips had formed the words as he spoke them, as this was almost a ritual for the two of them. Always just a minute.
“You know I’m very busy, usually, and find so little time to enjoy myself. I would like to get back to sunning, if you don’t mind.”
Her flippant way of speaking to her parent was very rude, thought the man who still stood behind her chair.
“Yes, dear.” Still he was going through what lie on his desk before him. He turned a page over, placing it on the other side of the folder, continuing with the next one.
She studied him as if seeing him for the first time in a very long time. His hair was getting more gray, thinning now, and was that a bald spot beginning to show? His fingers were very round, and his dark skin made her think of the nasty cheroot still sitting in the ashtray. He was quite large in stature, but she loved him.
He knew just the minute that his daughter was about to get up and walk out. “Yes, Marida.” His attention was now on his daughter. “I want you to remain calm.”
She hated hearing that statement. She knew what it meant, and that she hated most of all. “You’ve been threatened again.” That was how his I want you to remain calm made her react, every time. She was up, about to pace the room, when her eyes caught the man she’d all but forgotten about.
Openly she assessed him. His hair was a dark brown, very neatly combed, short cut. His eyes were brown, a velvet soft brown. He wore a suit coat that had to have been tailored to him, western cut, a nice shade of brown, matching the pants she had seen earlier. The trousers looked special made for him, going down to cover the top of his boots. Her eyes traveled back up to join his.
She wondered if he had taken assessment of her also, openly. Of course he had, she told herself. She knew she was worth looking at, and she didn’t mind men looking, as long as they didn’t touch. She liked being like a China doll, on a shelf, never touched.
The lawyer cleared his throat to get his daughter attention. When she turned around, it was as if he had seen her for the first time since she’d come in. “I wish you would put some decent clothes on, I can’t talk to a naked woman.” He stood, sidestepped, and pushed his chair in.
Marida knew she had been excused to do exactly what he said, there wouldn’t be another word spoken to her until. Leaving the room, she bounced up the front stairs, going into the first room on the right.
The spacious bathroom had a soft pastel purple shag carpet. Hung on the towel holder were white towels with a dark purple monogrammed C in the center of the bottom. Turning on the water for a shower she knew was going to take longer than her father had anticipated her being, she turned to look in the mirror at her complexion. The lights around the large mirror made it easy to put on her makeup, as she could turn them low for evening light, or up for daylight lighting. Her complexion was as beautiful as she was.
Getting into clothes that could be seen as a tennis outfit, she used her blow dryer to brush her hair into a style she liked. It was about time to be getting back down to her father’s office, to finish what he wanted to say.
Bouncing down the stairs, she slowed her steps as she heard the man arguing with her father. The latter’s words could hardly be heard, but the stranger’s were carrying down the hallway, he being close to the door.
All conversation stopped once she showed herself inside the room. They weren’t finished, she knew by the looks on their faces, but wouldn’t continue as long as she was in there.
“All right, Father, you have my undivided attention for a short time. I’m going to put a few sets in on the tennis court.” Sitting in the same chair she had been in before, she noticed the one next to her remained empty. Again that man was standing behind her.
He had put all his things in his attaché case, which was now standing on the desk. He was ready to leave as soon as he could get his orders spoken to his daughter. “I’m going to send you down to Pebble Beach this weekend.” The words were softly spoken, no sign of the apparent anger as he began to talk with his daughter.
“But, Daddy, you know my calendar is full. I can’t just up and leave. I have obligations to fulfil.” The whine didn’t meet with the way she carried herself.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to make a few calls and do the best you can.” His hands were on the back of his chair, as if he was holding it down on the floor.
The voice behind her was more quiet than it had been before she came in. “This is against my feelings...”
“Mr. Britton, if and when I want your opinion, I will ask for it. Until I do, you will keep it to yourself. Do you understand.” His only answer was a nod from the man. Composing himself, he spoke again to his daughter. “I am sorry you had to hear that, Marida. Now, I have to go to the office. I’ll have Norman with me, and Mr. Britton will stay here with you.”
“Marida, please don’t give me any grief over this. You know I can’t have you here when threats are made.” Picking up the briefcase, he walked around his desk to place a quick kiss on his daughter’s cheek. “I shan’t be out too late. See you in a bit.” She heard the front door shut shortly after the squab figure left the library.
“Well!” Marida stood, flipping her skirt purposefully. “Will you be joining me, or do I have to call someone to come over to keep me company?” She walked out the library door, followed by the impressive male mass.
“You,” his voice was right behind her, “are a,” he swung his large hand at her buttocks, “spoiled flirt.” Just to see the look on her face was enough to calm most of his anger.
“How dare you!” Her squeal was expected as much as his slap was not. She stopped directly in front of him, having to back two steps before he came to a halt.
“You need a lot more than that. Had I been in your father’s place, you would have been over my knee.” He knew he was out of line, but having witnessed the disrespect she had shown her father, bristled him more than he could tolerate.
“You arrogant, disdainful, pompous...”
“Temper, temper,” his warning came with a grin. “You just might explode.” He ducked her fist as it flew up at him. “Violence is unbefitting a young lady of your social standing.” His smile now showed contempt. He had been around his share of her kind and he had learned how to handle most situations like this one, whether or not it was professional.
Marida tried sidestepping to go around him, finding he moved deliberately in her path. “Do you mind?” Her tone dripped with the anger she felt, which only deepened when he blocked her next step.
“I thought you and I were going to play tennis.” He could see his laugh only supported her growing
“I’ve changed my mind. Now step aside and let me pass.” She stomped her foot on the mirror-like, black and white tiled floor. When his bulk moved, she stomped by him.
Grabbing her arm with his large hand, he spun her around to face him. “I don’t like spoiled brats. Maybe your father is right about sending you to the country club. But be warned, young lady, and watch yourself. My feelings are most always right, and I have a bad feeling something is going to happen to you down there.” Letting her go, he saw her open her mouth to retort, only to close it again and stomp up the stairs in silence. Shortly he heard her bedroom door slam closed.
He was still in the hall near the stairs when she came down them after changing into a pair of tight-
fitting jeans and red halter top. As she reached the double doors at the bottom of the steps, his hand grabbed her arm as before. Her blazing eyes met his in a challenge. “And where do you think you’re off to?” Silence met him again, he was getting used to her way of confronting his questions. “My orders are to keep you on the premises. Don’t make this any harder on yourself,
She tried shaking his hand off her arm, but found there was no budging this man. “Let me go.” Her words came from between clenched teeth. “I’ll have your job for this brutal behavior.”
“Whatever you think.” His voice remained calm. “Why don’t you take a swim to cool off.” His grip
dropped before he found himself picking her up and carrying her out to the pool to do the dunking he suggested. As soon as she was free, he watched as she ran back up the stairs. His next words carried up to her. “Don’t try the back way. I know where all the exits are.”
“But you can’t stand by every one of them at the same time, can you?” Her quip was loud enough for him to hear. Hoping he would run for the back way, she waited for a few minutes before going back down the front steps. He was nowhere in sight. Good!
Inside the large garage, Marida slid behind the steering wheel of the sports car. Finding the keys in the ignition where they usually were, she turned the engine over until it caught. Swinging her shoulder length brownish-red curls, she turned to watch as she backed out. With a look of triumph, she headed down the tree lined private drive. Halfway to the gate, she began searching for her small black control box. It was usually in the empty seat beside her. Her thoughts reeled as she began looking about the floor. Not locating it anywhere under the seat, she checked the glove compartment.
Stepping on the breaks rather hard, she stopped just before running into the iron bars which crossed the driveway, fuming in her thoughts. “Mr. Britton, I assume.”
He stood at the edge of the pavement, not noticed by the woman as of yet. “You assume right.” As soon as he reached the car, he opened her door. “Scoot over.”
“I most certainly will not.” Her voice carried far. “And I suppose you’re the one who took my control.”
“I most certainly did,” he mocked her. “Either you scoot over, or get out.”
She swung her legs out of the car, standing, glaring up into his playful brown eyes. Stepping aside, she turned as he got in behind the wheel.
“Are you coming?” His only answer was the cold turn she made away from him. “See you back at the house then.” He let the clutch out and the car began moving backward.
“That’s what you think,” she mumbled to herself. As soon as the silver sports car was out of her sight, she took the navy pumps off her feet, running alongside the nine-foot rot iron fence.
Trees were planted several feet from the vertical iron rails. Asters, poppy and ivy gave the three feet coverage between the fence and trees. The air was quite warm and humid. The shade from
the pine and maple trees blocked the sun’s harshest effects.
She slowed to a walk as she neared the intended area.Her foot caught hold in the natural step in the corner support as her hands found their grip. It had been her favorite place for hide-and-seek as a child, being able to leave the grounds unnoticed. Another space for the other foot, her arms pulled her body higher. One more foot and she would be over, on the other side of the prison walls.
His hand clamped around her slender ankle before she could go any further. “No you don’t,” his voice was playful, yet serious. “You aren’t being very lady-like today, are you?” She hadn’t known he was anywhere close by.
Pulling against his grip, she hung onto the rock ledge to keep from giving into his strength, screaming at him with the rest of her might. “Let me go!”
“Come down, Miss Carruth. Haven’t we played at this game long enough?” His chuckle echoed in her ears.
Considering the situation she found herself in, she knew if she was to let go she would fall right on top of him. If she didn’t, she wasn’t sure what would happen. She knew he wasn’t going to turn her loose. She took the first option, seeing that she really couldn’t do anything else, and landed on him as she feared, his upper body crushing a beautiful flowering plant. She heard the wind knocked out of him as her one hundred ten pounds came crashing down on his chest.
Scampering off him very unlady-like, Marida got to her feet. “Look what you’ve done.” The accusation was made lightly. “You better pray my father doesn’t come around to this corner before those flowers grow back upright.” Her tone was almost comical, the situation was not.
He took a halting breath, trying to speak in as normal a tone as he could. “I think you cracked some ribs.”
Feeling around on her mid-section she joked, somewhat embarrassed at the predicament, “I don’t find anything wrong with mine. What about you?” She began walking away from him, toward the big house.
“Aren’t you going to help me up?” His voice was still a little strained. “I’m serious about my ribs.”
“I’m just as serious. I’ll see you back at the house.” Marida continued walking.
Finding her Porsche sitting outside the garage, control box in the front seat, she decided she had best take the opportunity to leave while she could. She didn’t like being kept home against her will. She’d show both him and her father. “But I’d better go out the back gate,” she told herself. “He was probably faking and will be waiting for me in front.”
Leaving black marks, the car screeched out the drive, down the blacktopped path around the back of the house. As she went, her thoughts began nagging at her. Maybe she should listen to Mr. Britton, and stay on the premises like a good little girl. Who knew just what was waiting for her outside her fortress?
“Hey, wait a minute. What am I thinking?” But the thought kept harassing her. Slowing the car, she turned the key toward her, sitting a few minutes to sort out her thoughts. Leaving her car to soak up the sun, she walked back around the house.
“What’s the matter? Run out of gas?” He stood leaning against the front door as if he’d known she would be coming around any minute. “Or maybe you do have a conscience and came back to check on me?”
“Hold your tongue, Mr. Britton. I just decided I didn’t want to go anywhere.” Marida’s expression was as sour as her words. “You see, when I show up in town, someone always asks me to do them a favor. Right at this very moment, I don’t want to do anything for anyone.”
Her snobbish look made him think that his first impression was right about her being a spoiled brat. She walked past him, opening the door to enter the house. “You know you are the typical rich kind of bitch. I would ask you to take me into town, but I doubt that you could tear yourself away from your snobbishness to see anything but yourself.” Walking inside behind her, he stopped in the formal living room, taking the nearest overstuffed chair, moaning as he sat. He felt the need to
rest a bit.
She turned around looking him square in the eyes. “Are you really hurt?” The bitter look in his honey-brown eyes told her the answer. “Do you want me to call for an ambulance then?”
“No. If you could just find it in your little heart to drive me in for x-rays, I would appreciate it.” He sat as straight as was possible with his left arm wrapped protectively around his middle.
“Some bodyguard you’ve turned out to be, getting yourself hurt on your first day. I’ll bet you get a real good recommend from Daddy for this one.” Marida stood at the door speaking sarcastically. “Well, are you coming or not?”
Standing with great effort, he followed her out the right side of the double front doors, around the house and down the pavement to the abandoned car. He went to the passenger’s side, having some difficulty bending to open the door. “Is there anyway I could get you to...”
“Not on your life!” The interrupting words were spat out. “What would the newspaper reporters say if they saw me opening a door for a man!” She got into the driver’s side. “If you were such a man, you should be able to take some pain.” She watched as he bent his knees to be able to reach the door handle more easily.
Getting into the low seat was more difficult for him, but she didn’t feel even a little bit sorry for not helping him. “Newspaper reporters. Ha!” he quipped when he was finally situated in the seat as comfortable as he could get, having closed the door. “You think you’re all they’re interested in? That they have nothing better to do than stand outside your gate and wait for you to open a car door for a man who needs a little help? I can’t believe your simple mind. I hate to be the one to burst your little bubble, but the world does not revolve around Miss Marida Leigh Carruth.”
She raised her eyebrows at him, giving him a look that spoke thousands of words. “Are you quite finished?” He didn’t move his eyes from hers, nor did he answer. “I am not simple-minded. I know they don’t stand at my gates. You never know, though, when somebody will do just that for a picture to sell to a newspaper.” Turning the key in the ignition, she shoved the gear stick into the first hole and took off rather abruptly. Grabbing the control box from between the seats as soon as she was in range, she pushed the button and activated the back gate.
She drove without speaking, not hearing a word from the man who suffered in the heavy silence. Several times she glanced at him and knew his pain must have been close to unbearable. Well, he probably deserves all he gets and then some. She was tempted to tell him that very thing aloud.
As she waited in the emergency waiting room, she thumbed through several boring magazines, more hiding her face from any passers-by. She was brought out of hiding, though, when a nurse came in asking her to sign papers so that Mr. Britton could be sent home.
“Will he be all right?” She couldn’t see that the man was standing several feet behind the large woman. As she stood, her face reddened at the look he gave her.
“Thanks for your concern, Miss Carruth. If you will just sign the papers, I will be fine.” He wasn’t wearing his shirt, probably to show her the white wrapping around his middle, to let her know he had indeed been hurt.
“You really do have some broken ribs?” Her concern was showing a bit more than she knew, as her cheeks began to lose their high pink.
“Four, to be exact.” The nurse handed the clipboard to her. “Just what happened to cause that? We haven’t been able to get Mr. Britton to say.”
Handing the signed papers back, Marida quipped smartly, “I guess if Mr. Britton wanted you to know, he would have told you. And seeing that he hasn’t, it looks like he doesn’t.” She smiled bitterly at the woman in white.
“We’ll be sending the bill out in a day or two, Miss Carruth.” The heavy woman walked out the door, leaving the strong scent of perfume in the air.
“Are you ready to leave now? I think we should get back to the house before your father gets home. I’m sure he’ll worry himself sick if you aren’t where you’re supposed to be.” He was walking out the same door the nurse had gone through, trying to put his shirt on.
“Yes, sir.” Her haughty attitude bristled him. Passing him, not offering any help, she led the way to the car, knowing she was going a bit too fast for him. “Just what happened to cause that? We haven’t been able to get Mr. Britton to say.” Marida mocked the nurse within the woman’s hearing. As she walked out the door she heard a “humph” come from the nurses’ station. The smirk that found her lips didn’t set right with the man who was trying to stay at her side.
“You are above all the others, aren’t you, Miss Carruth?” He began to slow down, making his own pace. “So much better than the working women who would be there to help you if you ever needed medical attention, or your hair redone, or whatever you wanted.”
“Mr. Britton, if you don’t mind, I would rather that you just shut up!” Before he was in the car, she had the engine running, revving it up to hurry his slow progress to sit near the ground once more.
Back at the house, she parked in the garage. “Aren’t you going to be leaving since I obviously cannot stop you now?” He took his time getting out of the car.
“No, Mr. Britton, I don’t believe I will.” She walked up the two steps that would take her into the utility room just before the kitchen.
“Don’t find getting away exciting enough unless there is someone who can try to stop you?” Up the steps behind her, he kept his pain to himself. “Don’t worry. I’m sure your father will call for another bodyguard to come take my place soon.” He went into the hall, toward the study to find a place to relax.
“Mr. Britton, if you were half the man you are supposed to be, I would...” Her words stopped. She didn’t think she wanted to find out if he was strong enough to do something that would make her eat her words.
“Yes, Miss Carruth?” He had turned back when she spoke his name. “What is it that you would do?”
“I wouldn’t have been able to break your ribs, would I?” She substituted what she was going to say with the first thing that popped into her head. Her feet took the steps two at a time as she went up to her room for silence. She didn’t have to listen to him, nor did he her.
This was going to be an interesting few days, while she was to remain in this house. She knew her father would not be turning Mr. Britton out, even if he did get another guard to take his place. If the man had needed hospital care, that would be one thing, but since he did not, he would be convalescing right there. Like it or not, that was how it would be.
She couldn’t remember the last time her father was really angry with her, and she knew he was going to be, if Mr. Britton related exactly how his ribs got broken. Not that he would be mad about it happening. No, he would be angry at her for trying to get away, knowing that he had given Rick orders to keep her in. Orders were orders, and when Daddy gave them, everyone better obey. Even his darling little girl. If she didn’t want to hear it from her father, she had better go butter up the one that could keep her out of her daddy’s wrath.
Looking through her closet, she selected just the right dress that would catch his eye, without seeming over done. She dressed quickly, leaving the discarded clothing on the floor where she had left the others earlier. The housekeeper would be there directly and straighten it up once again. She always straightened Marida’s room three or four times a day. It was what she was getting paid to do.
Dressed in her colorful, sleeveless jersey dress, with the full skirt going to her knees – she didn’t want him to call her a spoiled flirt again – she went down the stairs in a lady-like fashion. She found him in the study, laying on the too short couch, one leg resting on the floor, the other miserably hanging over the farthest arm. She knew he was more than just uncomfortable.
“Mr. Britton, wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your room?” She had been so quiet entering the room, when she spoke, she startled him.
“I wasn’t given a room,” he spoke almost in a whisper, his eyes still closed to the world. “Your father was much too busy when I arrived. The only thing he told me was to fetch his spoiled daughter from the pool-side, and that he was sending you to Pebble Beach in a few days, until this thing blows over.” He moved the leg off the couch arm, intending to sit up.
“Don’t get up on my account.” She sat in the chair across the room from him. “If that is all you know about the problem at hand, how come you think it isn’t safe for me down there?”
“Who said I said it wasn’t safe?” He sat up anyway, with a little moan. Looking her over carefully, he smiled through his pain. “Do you always change your clothes this many times each day?”
“What I do with my clothes, or whatever else is mine, Mr. Britton, is none of your concern.” Her frown wasn’t as much for him as it was at herself, letting his remark get to her like that. She was going to try to be nice so she could ask him not to tell her father about the accident he’d had. “Anyway, I overheard you and Daddy arguing about it in the library. Daddy sure didn’t like you saying what you thought about it. When he makes up his mind about something, he gets upset if someone
tells him it should be otherwise.” Too late she thought she shouldn’t have brought that up. Biting her bottom lip, she thought it must have been a blow to his ego when her father had yelled at him, then not apologizing to him, but to her!
“I just have a bad feeling, and my feelings are usually right.” He reached into his shirt pocket, producing a pack of cigarettes. “Do you mind?” Without waiting for her to answer, he pulled one out, lighting it. “I usually don’t smoke on duty, but then, right now I don’t consider myself on duty. The doctor’s orders are that I get complete bed rest for the next three days, and three weeks off duty, thanks to you. I supposed that your daddy will be finding a plane ticket for me as soon as he finds out I’m not good as his guard.”
“Oh, no.” Marida crossed her legs at the ankle. “Daddy won’t send you off. I know how he is. Since you were hurt on the job...”
“Who was hurt on the job?” He interrupted his daughter as he entered the room the two were lounging in. “Rick? Has something happened?”
Darn! No chance to talk to him now. She couldn’t help the thought. Now I’ll hear it all. She stood, going over to her father, kissing him on the cheek.
“Yes, sir, I’m afraid I’ll be no good to you for a few weeks. I hope this doesn’t inconvenience you too much, sir.” He stood slowly, trying not to show the pain he was feeling.
“A few weeks? What are you talking about?” Her father sat on the couch, inviting the other man to sit back down, which he did with more pain on his face than he wanted. “I demand to know right now what is ailing you. You look like you are in a lot of pain.” Out with the brown cheroot, just something to hold on to.
Taking a drag off the cigarette he held between his forefinger and thumb, he slowly began his tale. “You see, Mr. Carruth, your beautiful daughter, whom I would enjoy strangling...”
He obviously wanted to rub it in as he told it, were her thoughts as she watched him intently. She drew in a breath that caught the attention of both men, as he continued.
“She was in a playful mood, and decided to make me miserable. Said she wanted to do some jogging around the premises. Since I am to keep an eye on her, I had to join her.” He took a sideways glance at the woman sitting in the chair again, and smiled at her puzzled look. “Not knowing the grounds very well,” he continued, “I took a rather nasty fall and I have four broken ribs to deal with.” There was a relieved look on her face then. “I’ll understand if you send me back and
ask for a replacement. I won’t fully be able to work, the doctor tells me, for at least three weeks.”
“No, sir.” Mr. Carruth chewed on the cold cigar. “You’ll be staying here.” He didn’t see the I told you so look that his daughter gave the man. “I’ll get another to replace you, of course, but as far as your recuperating goes, you’ll be taken care of by the best. If need be, I’ll order a full-time nurse...”
His smile said he was enjoying it. Funny how her father couldn’t pick up on those things as she could. That, too, must have been something she had inherited from her mother’s side of the family.
“That won’t be necessary.” Rick had interrupted the Senator. “I will accept your hospitality, though.” Seeing how it had been his daughter’s fault he was in that condition, Rick felt it should be his employer’s obligation.
The lawyer stood to leave the room. “I’ll be on the phone in the library. Marida...” he turned to his daughter, “if you would be so kind, make up the guest room for Mr. Britton. I think he would do better downstairs. Climbing the stairs may be a little uncomfortable.” As he gave his command, he walked out of the room.
Did he not believe the story as his bodyguard had told it? “Yes, Father.” Marida was right behind him. Making a right turn when he continued down the hall, she entered the downstairs spare room, looking it over to see what actually needed to be done. The housekeeper kept it ready for anyone who might stay at a moment’s notice.
“Looks wonderful just as it is.” Rick was right behind her. “What is it that you need to do?”
“Maybe some fresh flowers from the garden?” She turned to face him, her tone changing. “Why did you make up that story, instead of telling my father what really happened? I’m sure it would have been less embarrassing. I would have been to humiliated to say I’d tripped.”
“More embarrassing than having a woman fall on my chest?” His whisper was filled with the mischievous smile on his face. Then his voice changed to serious, and the smile faded somewhat. “I just know your father would have been angry with you for not doing what he demanded. I wanted to keep you from his fury.” He winced as he sat on the bed, testing the firmness.
“Is that going to be comfortable?” Marida fluffed the pillows on the double bed. “Thank you for being so perceptive, Mr. Britton.” This sincere tone was new to him, coming from her.
“My name’s Rick. And I don’t expect thanks. Seeing someone as pretty as you get yourself into trouble isn’t something I’d enjoy. You should be kept behind bars, as your father has obviously done all your life."
“Mr. Britton, I am not kept behind bars. Maybe he shields me more than you think he should, but...” Marida moved about the room, fussing with nothing in particular. “...well, I am his only child. He has lost two wives, which would be enough to make anyone wonder about the rest of the things in his life.”
“I apologize.” Rick lay back on the fluffed pillows, gently swinging his legs up on the spread, his voice strained with the movement. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m very tired.”
Without asking, she was at the foot of the bed, untying and removing his shoes. “Is there anything at all I can get for you? Lunch? An extra pillow? Or maybe those flowers?” Finished, Marida walked around the bed, looking down at the well-proportioned form of the man who lay on it. “Truly, if there is something I can do for you, just let me know. And I really am sorry that you had that accident.”
“Accident?” His voice raised a little. “You sure know how to call them, don’t you? There is one thing you can do for me.” His voice was normal again as he reached into his shirt pocket and handed her a small piece of paper. “I don’t know if I will need this, but it would be nice to have the pain pills on hand, just in case I’m not man enough to take it.”
“I am sorry.” She hung her head in regret for the trouble she had caused, eyes on the paper she had taken from him. “I guess I shouldn’t have questioned your masculinity. I’m sure your ego has taken a beating today, hasn’t it?” She turned to leave the room, still speaking to the man. “I’ll be happy to phone the prescription in for you. They will deliver it within the hour. And I do know that broken bones hurt, and even the toughest men feel pain.” At the door, she turned to say something more.
His words came first. “Why, you do have a conscience. Maybe you aren’t as bad as I thought.” He closed his eyes and Marida left the room, feeling she deserved what he had said.
<<<< jc >>>>