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'Pack your bags, Andi, we're going to Scotland for a few days!'
Andi looked up, frowning, to where Linus stood in the doorway that separated their two offices on the top floor of Tarrington Park. She had already known he was here at his private apartments just down the hallway from their offices, having seen his car parked out on the forecourt when she'd arrived for work this morning. It was what he had said that caused her to react so sharply. 'Scotland?'
'Hmm.' Linus strode further into the room to lean against the side of her desk. His dark hair was styled only slightly shorter than it had been a year ago; the pale green of his eyes was still as icily astute in the rugged handsomeness of his hard, chiselled features as he looked down at her. 'Now that Tarrington Park has opened, I'm looking for another big project to work on. There's a castle in Scotland I'm thinking of buying.'
Andi eyed him. 'And you want me to go with you?' He had never suggested taking her away on business with him before. He hadn't suggested it now, either, Andi reminded herself derisivelyLinus had told her they were going.
'You are my PA,' he reminded her.
Andi was well aware of what she was. Just as she was aware that during the last few months she had started to see Linus as more than just the demanding employer who would appear for a few chaotic days to check on progress at Tarrington Park, and then just as abruptly disappear back to his life and apartment in London.
Expecting Andi to accompany him to Scotland on business was a perfectly reasonable request for Linus to make of his PA. In fact, when Andi had worked for Gerald Wickham, she had gone away on business with him allthe time. But Linus wasn't Gerald
Totally aware of Linus's ruthless reputation when it came to women as well as business, Andi had been determined to keep him safely at arm's length when she'd begun working for him a year ago. Not difficult to do when she still felt so emotionally numb following the deaths of David and her father.
But graduallyinsidiously, it seemedAndi had found herself looking forward to Linus's whirlwind visits. She had become aware of the sexy seductiveness of Linus's pale eyes; the wolfishness of his rare smile. She had come to appreciate the width of his shoulders and leanness of his muscled body as he strode forcefully through Tarrington Park issuing orders that he would expect to have carried out by his next visit.
Just as Andi was now totally and heatedly aware of his close proximity as he leant against the side of her desk.
Andi gave a self-disgusted grimace as she pulled her laptop towards her. 'Which airport are we flying to?' she prompted briskly, thankfully able to breathe a little easier as Linus stood up and moved away slightly.
'I thought I might drive up in the Range Rover.'
'Drive?' Andi glanced out of the window at the bleakness of the winter sky. 'Doesn't it snow in Scotland in February?'
'Stop being picky, Andi,' Linus rasped dismis-sively. 'Anyone would think you don't want to go to Scotland with me.'
That was because she didn't!
Just the thought of being alone in Scotland with Linus for several days, when she was now so physically aware of him, made her stomach-muscles clench and her pulse race.
He scowled down at her. 'What is your problem, Andi? Do you have other plans for this weekend? A romantic tryst, perhaps?' he added mockingly.
'Of course not,' she snapped.
Linus gave a taunting smile. 'Of course not,' he parroted derisively. 'It's been over a year since the saintly David Simmington-Browne died, so isn't it time you started living again?' Especially as her fiancé really hadn't been that saintly, Linus acknowledged disgustedly. He had unfortunately found out far too many of the other man's secrets in the last year. Secrets he knew Andi was totally unaware of
His decision to make Andrea Buttonfield his on-site PA, and give her a free hand when it came to the interior of Tarrington Park, had been the best business move he'd ever made, Linus acknowledged ruefully. But the newly renovated hotel and conference centre had been open for a month now, managed very successfully by Michael Hall, and it was time to move on to something else. For both of them.
Andi had stiffened at Linus's remark about David. 'My private life is none of your concern.' Her tone was frosty.
Linus gave a disgusted snort. 'You don't have a private life.'
'Then it's just as well you have enough of one for both of us, isn't it?' Andi gave him a scathing glance, knowing from the photographs that often appeared in the newspapers that Linus's life in London involved evenings, if not nights, with the latest woman in his life. Women who rarely engaged his interest longer than a couple of months.
Linus raised mocking brows. 'Jealous?'
Andi stiffened. 'Certainly not!' she gasped, even as she felt the heated colour enter her cheeks.
She wasn't jealous of those women in Linus's life. In fact, Andi found her own awareness of him totally confusing. David had been smoothly charming; suave and sophisticated. Linus possessed charm and sophistication when he chose to, but his attraction was raw. Sexual, sensuous, earthy
She stood up abruptly. 'What is there for me to feel jealous of?' she scorned. 'If those women are stupid enough to accept the little you want to give them, then that's their problem. I can assure you that I have absolutely no interest in warming your bed!' Andi regretted the words almost as soon as she had said them, realizing she might have said too much. Revealed too much.
Linus regarded Andi through narrowed lids, inwardly surprised by her vehemence. He only came to Tarrington Park every couple of months, but never during any of those visits had he seen the coolly distant Andi this rattled by anything; those gorgeous brown eyes were positively gleaming with her indignation, and bright spots of angry colour were on her usually pale cheeks.
His mouth hardened. 'Maybe you should wait until you're asked before saying no,' he teased. 'I was referring to your own lack of a love-life just now, Andi,' he explained.
She blinked, her polite, businesslike mask falling back into place as she resumed her seat behind the desk. 'I knew that,' she dismissed sharply.
Linus continued to look at her for several long seconds, contemplating Andi's completely defensive reaction.
Things had been a little tense between the two of them when they'd first begun working together, probably due to a certain amount of understandable resentment on Andi's part at almost being bullied into working for him. But once Andi had accepted that Linus genuinely did want her complete input into the renovations to Tarrington Parkand that his long absences gave her a free rein when it came to the inner décor, the awkwardness between them had started to fade. Now, a year later, Linus totally appreciated that when it came to his business affairs Andi was quiet, efficient and everything that he could wish for in a PA.
Her reaction just now reminded him that she was also an extremely beautiful woman. The tailored suits and blouses she always wore could never hide the fact that she was shapely in all the right places, with long, sexy legs that went all the way up to her
'Sorry.' He gave an impatient shake of his head as he brought his wandering thoughts back from considering just how sexily attractive his PA was. 'We'll start the drive up to Scotland tomorrow,' he bit out abruptly as he straightened. 'Besides viewing the castle near Edinburgh, there's someone I need to visit.'
'Edinburgh?'Andi echoed. 'Just a moment.' She eyed him suspiciously. 'Isn't the Scottish rugby team playing against Wales over the weekend?'
'I think that they are, yes,' Linus confirmed lightly, his expression deliberately innocent.
'You think that they are,' Andi echoed knowingly.
She knew that Linus didn't just like to play hard, but that his business success was due to the fact that he worked like a fiend too. But, no matter how wealthy he had become, or how busy he was, Linus had maintained his boyhood love for the game of rugby, and whenever possible he attended the games played by the Scottish team.
It was impossible to miss the fact that the Six Nations tournament was about to start this weekend, or that Scotland were due to play at home at Murrayfield, an area of Edinburgh, on Sunday. Too much of a coincidence in the circumstances.
'You know that they are, Linus.'Andi gave a derisive shake of her head. 'In fact, I bet you have a ticket for the game.' She raised mocking brows.
'Actually, I have two tickets,' he conceded dryly.
Andi's eyes widened. 'You're expecting me to go to a rugby match with you too?'
He scowled. 'Why not?'
For one thing, Andi had absolutely no interest in the game of rugby. For another, attending a rugby match with Linus certainly wasn't in her job description.
Andi shrugged. 'If you're visiting friends and going to a rugby match I really don't see why you need me with you in Scotland at all.'
Linus's scowl darkened ominously. 'This is the first time I've asked you to come away on business with me and you're refusing?'
'I didn't say that.' She shook her head slowly, aware of that dangerous glitter in Linus's eyes.
'That's what it sounded like to me,' he rasped tersely.
'Then you must have misheard,' Andi came back calmly.
Had he? Linus wondered, frowning. He and Andi had worked well together on the occasions he'd come to Tarrington Park, but on a personal level they had never got past the stage of his being allowed to call her Andi', instead of the 'Andrea' she had initially insisted upon. A situation that Linus had thought suited them both, until Andi's sharp response just now
He frowned darkly. Are you coming to Scotland with me or not?'
Andi gave a cool inclination of her head. 'Of course I will accompany you, if that's what you want.'
'What I want from you, Andi, is your input on the castle near Edinburgh. You did a good job with Tarrington Park; I could use your help,' he stated clearly. 'Will Marjorie be okay left on her own for four days?'
'She isn't on her own any more since you employed Mrs Ferguson as our housekeeper,' Andi reminded him waspishly.
Linus scowled impatiently. 'Don't tell me you're still annoyed about that?'
Andi had been more than a little put out when, during one of his whirlwind visits to Tarrington Park six months ago, Linus had calmly informed her that he had hired a housekeeper for the gate house. Not that it didn't make a lot of sense to have someone taking care of the house; Andi just didn't like feeling any more in Linus's debt than she already was.
Her mother's health was much improved from a year ago. The scandal of bankruptcy that had been revealed following Miles's death had died down eventually, allowing Marjorie to pull back from that emotional edge she had been teetering onalthough her mother was still more delicate than Andi would have liked.
But her mother and Mrs Ferguson were of a similar age and got on very well together, meaning there was absolutely no need for Andi to be in the least concerned about leaving Marjorie for a few days. 'I wasn't annoyed,' she assured Linus frostily. 'I just wish you had consulted me before you did it, that's all.'
'If I had, you would only have said no; I decided not to put us both through that particular argument.' He dismissed her with his usual arrogance. 'I keep you pretty busy here, and the gate house is far too big for your mother to manage on her own.'
'Don't bother trying to explain, Linus.' Andi sighed. 'We both know that in my mother's eyes you can do no wrong.'
He raised dark brows. 'What can I say? Women of a certain age seem to like me.'
It had come as something of a surprise to Andi that Linus chose to visit her mother whenever he came to Tarrington Park. His manner towards Marjorie was always warm and considerate. The fact that he had watched his own mother struggle to bring him up alone perhaps answered some of his softer feelings towards her mother. Whatever Linus's reasons, he seemed to have a genuine affection for Marjorie, and she was constantly singing his praises.
Andi's mouth twisted. 'The newspapers seem to think it's women in general!'
'Oh, give it a rest, Andi.' He gave her an irritated frown. 'You can't deny that employing Mrs Ferguson has made things easier for Marjorie.'
'I'm not denying anything.' Andi gave him a considering look. 'Is life always that easy for yousomething isn't quite right, so throw some money at it and fix it?'
Brought up at Tarrington Park, surrounded by the indulgent love of both her parents, Andi couldn't even begin to imagine what life had been like for Linus as a child, or a teenager. There had been lots of love initially from his mother, and then from his Aunt Mae after his mother's death when he was fifteen. But there certainly hadn't been any money to spend on 'fixing' anything. It was one of the perks of his now considerable wealth that Linus could buy anything he pleased; could do what he wanted when he wanted. And usually did
Andi had never complained about the long hours she had to work to bring about the changes in Tarrington Park, but Linus had been aware on his brief visits that she worried about her mother being left on her own so much. It had been easy for Linus to solve that problem by hiring a housekeeper. The way Andi had reacted at the time, anyone would have thought he'd been trying to move into the gate house with her!
'It's not always about money, Andrea,' he conceded dryly. 'But nothing I seem to do or say stops you from being stubbornly argumentative.'
Colour heightened the hollows of her cheeks. 'I'm independent, Linus, not stubborn. There is a difference, you know.'
His mouth thinned. 'Could you afford to take on a housekeeper?'
'You know that I couldn't.'
'Then stop complaining because I could! It seemed the right time, especially with the new development in Scotland.'
'Linus, you aren't actually expecting me to move to Edinburgh to oversee the renovations if you buy this castle, are you?' Andi gasped as the idea occurred to her, her expression one of horrified disbelief at the prospect.
'Of course I'm not expecting you to move to Scotland,' Linus taunted. 'Live there for several weeks at a time, maybe, but not actually move there.' He looked at her challengingly.
Andi stared at him. 'Is that the real reason you employed Mrs Ferguson?'
His mouth thinned. 'What are you talking about?'
Andi grimaced. 'You employed Mrs Ferguson because you knew that once Tarrington Park had opened my full-time presence would no longer be needed here.'