Chapter Nine
They made it simple for James.They sat him on the sofa and explained what would happen if he ever spoke a word about Ames-Beaumont’s family, or about what Geoff and Katherine could do.
They waited on the veranda while Sir Pup killed the demon in front of him.
When the hellhound was finished, Maggie cut through James’s handcuffs and let him go.
Maggie awoke in a familiar bed that wasn’t hers, with the most powerful vampire in the world glowering down at her.
She sat up, clutching royal blue satin to her chest. A chest that was, thank God, covered by the tank she wore beneath her uniform.
“Sir,” she said, and in the course of the word, tried desperately to remember how she’d ended up sleeping in his mansion.
She hadn’t fallen asleep on the plane. She did remember disembarking, and that her employer and Savi had met them at the airport. She’d said “Sir.” He’d said, “Good God, Winters. You’re bloody exhausted.”
That was the last she could recall. Which probably meant that Ames-Beaumont had given her a psychic shove and put her to sleep.
He sat on the edge of the bed, avoiding the sunlight streaming in through the eastern windows. When she’d first met him, she would have sworn the sun rose every morning purely out of hope it might shine on his face. There was beautiful, and then there was Colin Ames-Beaumont. He . . . glowed. Not physically, she knew, but psychically. The first weeks of her employment had been filled with humiliating leaps of her heart every time he’d entered the room she was in. Then she’d adjusted, the psychic effect had worn off, and she’d finally been able to look at him without catching her breath.
His deep frown could still affect her heart rate, though. She waited, holding her breath.
“I am disturbed, Winters.” His gaze, when it met hers, was slightly accusing. “I believe my nephew plans to steal you away from me.”
Her fingers clutched the sheet more tightly. God, she wished whoever had put her to bed had left her uniform on. “I have no intention of giving up my position here, sir.”
He tilted his head, and the sun hit the wild disarray of his hair, lighting the burnished gold. Mirrors were of no use to him, and Maggie knew he didn’t possess a single comb. “I can hear them plotting downstairs. My own family. She tells him where the dragon blood is, and he says he will persuade me to allow you to accompany him while he retrieves it.”
Maggie’s expression was a perfect blank. “It would be prudent, sir, for someone to accompany him—and to protect him.”
His gaze narrowed. “He also intends to spend a good fortnight flying about the world, so that if he were to be followed by some unknown party, they would lose track of him.”
“That also seems a well-conceived plan, sir.”
“A bloody expensive one, if you ask me. And what will I do, Winters? You cannot serve me if you are family.”
“I do not serve you, Mr. Ames-Beaumont. I am employed by you. I do not see any reason for that relationship to alter, whatever my relationship with Mr. Blake may become.”
He stood and slid his hands into the pockets of his tailored trousers. A pleased expression lit his features. “If you do become family, Winters—I suppose that means I will be able to pay you less?”
“I think, sir, you would have to pay me more.”
The vampire heaved a melodramatic sigh and turned toward the sitting room. “Do not break his heart, Winters, or we will have words.”
Maggie began to breathe again. She must have been breathing his entire visit—she only just now realized she was able to.
“And if he breaks mine, sir?”
He looked back and flashed a grin that seemed to be all fangs. “I would have to thrash him quite soundly. I have many nephews, but there is only one Winters.”
She was still clutching the sheet to her chest when Geoff came through the sitting room doors.
And she couldn’t allow this to happen again. Geoff in her bedroom? Yes. In her employer’s house? In his bed?
Far too awkward.
Geoff stopped at the foot of the bed. His hair was still damp from a shower, his jeans and T-shirt new. His gaze locked with hers.
And he couldn’t see her at all.
Her heart slipped into a heavy, steady beat.
“Uncle Colin said he spoke with you.”
“He did.” She threw back the covers and held his gaze as she walked on her knees to the end of the mattress. “And apparently, we will be spending the next two weeks in each other’s company.”
He reached out, his fingers brushing the sides of her waist. Her skin tightened and prickled with delicious sensation. “I’ll be happy with a fortnight in your garden, Maggie.”
She touched his jaw. “I wouldn’t be.”
“And I lied.” His laugh rumbled over her fingers. “I wouldn’t be, either. Ah, Maggie. I’m pushing you into this too fast.”
“What makes you think I can be pushed anywhere I don’t want to go?”
“No, I don’t suppose you could be.” He drew a deep breath. “Look, I ought to tell you—I crossed lines, Maggie. I had reason to go over your files, but I went over them again and again, and I went deeper than I should have. I was desperate to know you. If James hadn’t taken Katherine, if we’d met later, after I’d moved here, I’d have pushed you then. And if you’d said no, I’d likely have followed you everywhere in hope that someone would look at you, so that I could, too.”
Did he expect her to back away because of that? Not a chance. She didn’t know what they had now or what it would be, but she was going to grab on to it—on to him—and hold tight.
“So, stalking and surveillance.” She shook her head, smiling. “To someone like me, that’s either a precursor to killing someone . . . or to sleeping with them. So I think we’ll work out fine.”
He was still laughing when she bent forward and eased her mouth over his. Last time, she’d surprised him. It had been just a press of lips, her hands through his hair. Now she took her time, explored his taste, sought more of him to touch.
His hands at her hips pulled her closer, and he was warm, hot, would burn her alive.
Her pulse raced when she pulled away. “Not here,” she panted. “I can’t here.”
His large hand cupped her cheek. He kissed her again, then nodded. And she felt his disappointment when he let her go.
She walked past him, into the bathroom, and closed the door. A wall panel, when she slid it aside, revealed the one mirror in the house. He would see her there. She would lean back against the door, and he would lift her, and watch her face as she welcomed him in.
And it would be hard the first time, and rough, because she cared so much she knew that she’d be a little careless.
But it wouldn’t be her employer’s bed. She cracked the door open again and called out softly, “Mr. Blake?”