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A CAREER HAD TO COME FIRST DIDN'T IT?
When Kate and her mother were left in financial difficulty, she had little choice but to become Lady Cowder's housekeeper. Kate's only salvation was her dream of starting her own catering business. Ideas of love and marriage would have to wait—until Lady Cowder's nephew came to visit. James instantly knew that Kate did not belong "downstairs." And he also knew he wouldn't be able to stop thinking about ...
A CAREER HAD TO COME FIRST DIDN'T IT?
When Kate and her mother were left in financial difficulty, she had little choice but to become Lady Cowder's housekeeper. Kate's only salvation was her dream of starting her own catering business. Ideas of love and marriage would have to wait—until Lady Cowder's nephew came to visit. James instantly knew that Kate did not belong "downstairs." And he also knew he wouldn't be able to stop thinking about her .
He was standing at the window overlooking the garden, listening to her gentle, complaining voice cataloguing her various aches and pains, her sleepless nights and lack of appetite - aware that her doctor had recently examined her and found nothing wrong, but nonetheless offering suitable soothing remarks when appropriate.
Someone came into the room and he turned round to see who it was. It was a girl - rather, a young woman - tall, splendidly built and with a lovely face. Her hair, a rich chestnut, was piled tidily on top of her head and she was dressed severely in a white blouse and navy skirt.
She was carrying a tea tray which she set down on the table beside his aunt's chair, arrangingit just so without fuss, and as she straightened up she looked at him. It was merely a glance; he was unable to see what colour her eyes were, and she didn't smile.
When she had left the room he strolled over to a chair near his aunt.
"Who was that?" he asked casually.
"My housekeeper. Of course, it is some time since you were last here - Mrs Beckett decided to retire and go and live with her sister, so of course I had to find someone else. You have no idea, James, how difficult it is to get good servants. However, Kate suits me very well. Efficient and rather reserved, and does her work well."
"Not quite the usual type of housekeeper, surely?"
"She is rather young, I suppose. She had impeccable references - Bishop Lowe and Lady Creswell."
Mr Tait-Bouverie accepted a cup of tea and handed his aunt the plate of sandwiches. "Someone local?" he hazarded.
"I believe so. She lives in, of course, but her mother lives locally - a widow, so I am told. Left rather badly off, I hear - which is to my advantage, since Kate needs the job and isn't likely to give her notice. I must say, it is most convenient that she drives a car. I no longer need to hire a taxi to go to Thame to my hairdresser each week - she takes me and does the shopping while I'm at Anton's. It gives her a nice little outing ..."
Mr Tait-Bouverie, watching his aunt eating sandwiches with dainty greed, wondered if shopping for food could be regarded as a 'nice little outing'.
"And, of course," went on Lady Cowder, "she can cycle to the village or into Thame for anything I need."
"A paragon," murmured Mr Tait-Bouverie, and passed the cakestand.
He left half an hour later. There was no sign of the housekeeper as he got into the Bentley. He had half expected her to show him out, but it had been Mrs Pickett, the daily from the village, who had opened the door for him and stood watching him drive away.
Kate watched him too, from the kitchen window. She had to crane her neck to do so, for although she had looked at him in the drawing room it had been a quick glance and she wanted to fill in the gaps, as it were.
Tall, very tall - six and a half feet, she guessed - and a very big man. He had a clever face with a high-bridged nose and a thin mouth, straw-coloured hair going grey and, she supposed, blue eyes. He was a handsome man, she conceded, but there was nothing of the dandy about him. She wondered what he did for a living.
She went back to her pastry-making and allowed a small sigh to escape her. He would be interesting to meet and talk to. "Not that that is at all likely," said Kate, addressing the kitchen cat, Horace.
She went presently to clear the tea things away, and Lady Cowder looked up from her book to say, "The chocolate cake was delicious, Kate. My nephew had two slices. A pity he was unable to stay for dinner," She gave a titter. "These men with their girlfriends."
Kate decided that she wasn't supposed to answer that.
"You asked me to remind you to ring Mrs Johnson, my lady."
"Oh, yes, of course. It had quite slipped my mind. I have so much to think of," Lady Cowder closed her book with an impatient frown. "Get her on the phone for me, Kate."
Kate put down the tray and picked up the telephone. She still found it difficult to be ordered about without a please or thank you. She supposed it was something she would get used to in time.
Back in the kitchen, she set about preparing dinner. Lady Cowder, despite assuring everybody that she had the appetite of a bird, enjoyed substantial meals. Kate knew now, after almost three months, that her employer's order for 'a morsel of fish and a light sweet' could be interpreted as Dover sole with shrimp sauce, Avergne potato puree, mushrooms with tarragon and a portion of braised celery - followed by a chocolate souffle or, by way of a change, creme caramel.
It was of no use to allow that to annoy her; she had been lucky to get work so near her home. She suspected that she wasn't being paid quite as much as the going rate for housekeepers, but it included her meals and a small, quite comfortable room. And the money enabled her mother to live without worries as long as they were careful.
Kate had plans for the future: if she could save enough money she would start up on her own, cooking and delivering meals to order. It would need enough capital to buy a van, equipment for the kitchen and money to live on while she built up a clientele. Her mother would help, although for the moment that was out of the question - Mrs Crosby had fallen and broken her arm and, although she made light of it, it was difficult to do much with it in plaster.
Excerpted from The Right Kind Of Girl by Betty Neels Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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