Taming the Billionaire(3)

By: Dani Wade

Her wet tennis shoes squeaked on the tile as she made her way to the bottom of the staircase. Reaching out, she grasped the wooden balustrade. Her light trailed upward, showcasing the stairs’ brilliant blue tiles with a mother-of-pearl glaze. The silver filigree in the blond wooden rail looked delicate but remained firm in her grip. As her light reached the next floor, she caught a shadow move out of the corner of her eye.

Startled, Willow dropped the flashlight from her hand. The clatter echoed through the massive room.

“Hello?” She tried to project her voice, but fear made it tiny. She almost couldn’t hear it herself over the rain and rumble of thunder.

Just as she bent forward for the light, a strong arm snaked around her neck, forcing her back against a hard wall of muscle and heat that she recognized as human…and huge.

The size and strength of her attacker told her it had to be a man, but she was too busy trying not to wet her pants to figure out more than that.

The arm around her neck tightened, almost cutting off her air. Then she felt the man’s face near hers, his breath harsh in her ear. “Want to explain what you’re doing in my house?”

* * *

Tate Kingston felt a surge of adrenaline like he hadn’t felt in years.

He’d thought there was a burglar. When he first heard the sounds, he knew they didn’t belong in the house where he’d lived his entire life. His brain had automatically drifted down dark alleys with nefarious characters. Not surprising for a horror fiction author.

Then again, he’d never experienced an intruder in this house. Just to be sure, he’d slowly made his way down the back stairs. Spying what he thought was a young man, he stalked him as he came into the center rotunda. A teenager, he’d thought. Maybe someone who’d been dared to sneak inside Sabatini House, the place of legends.

Instead, Tate found a woman pressed against him in his tight grip.

She came only to the hollow of his throat, even though she had to be taller than average. She froze in fear. Not that he blamed her. He’d be scared stiff, too, if he’d just broken into what he assumed to be an empty house.

Only this one was occupied.

He pressed his forearm down against her collarbone, careful to avoid the more fragile area of her neck. Though his knowledge of this hold was completely cerebral, he wanted to instill simple fear. Not find himself with a lawsuit on his hands.

“I asked you a question,” he said, letting his voice drop even deeper. He carefully emphasized every word. “What are you doing in my house?”

“Your house?” she squeaked, trying to get her words out even though he could tell she was short of breath. From fear? Good. When she walked back out that door, he didn’t want her or her friends to even think about coming back here.

“What are you talking about?” she gasped.

He loosened his hold, giving the impression of leniency even though he had no intention of giving in to whatever she wanted. But if he wanted answers, he needed her to talk. “How about you answer the questions?” he demanded. “Who are you?”

Her sudden lunge forward took him by surprise. He loosened his grip and let her go, not wanting to injure her just to keep her contained. After all, she couldn’t escape. There wasn’t a place in this house he couldn’t find her.

But she went only as far as the stairs, sinking down to grab her flashlight. From her crouch against the railing she let the beam slowly travel up the length of him. “You can’t be Mr. Kingston,” she breathed as the light paused right below his face.

“Clearly I am.”

“No…” That breathless quality distracted him more than he cared to admit. “Mr. Kingston is…um…”

“Is what?”

This time she didn’t answer.

“Look, I don’t care why you’re here. But if you leave right now, I won’t contact the police.”

Behind her flashlight he could barely make out a frown.

“But I’m supposed to be here,” she said.

What? “I don’t think so.”

“I am,” she insisted, her voice quickly firming up. “I’m the new housekeeper.”

For a moment Tate’s very active brain froze. Somehow this scenario had never occurred to him. “Absolutely not.”

Now it was her turn to ask. “Why?”

“You cannot be my new housekeeper.”

Murdoch would not have done that to me.

Tate let his own powerful flashlight travel up her body, till the beam hit her full in the face. His author brain kicked in automatically, narrating the view. Pale, creamy skin. Hair that glinted fire, even in the strong light. And a thin, soaked T-shirt that outlined her curves perfectly beneath an open rain jacket.

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