Read an Excerpt
Sydney airport. Eight o'clock. One Friday evening in March.
"THANKYOU for flying with us, MrArmstrong," the female flight attendant purred as Sebastian disembarked through the first class exit.
He nodded and hurried on by, anxious to get out to the taxi rank before the hordes descended. Thankfully, he'd only brought a cabin bag with him and didn't have to collect any luggage.
The warm air outside the air–conditioned terminal came as a shock and Sebastian was glad to step into a taxi with minimal delay. He momentarily thought of ringing Emily to let her know he'd caught an earlier flight, but decided against it. It wasn't as though he needed her to cook him dinner, and really, he wasn't in the mood to talk.
All he wanted was to get home…
Emily's hands trembled as she picked up her resignation letter from the computer printer and read it through.
Just a few simple sentences, yet it had taken her over an hour to compose.
But it was done now. Her decision had been made.
"And it's the right decision,"Emily muttered to herself as she propped the envelope against her desk calendar. 'The only decision."
For how could she continue as Sebastian's housekeeper, now she realised she'd fallen in love with him?
When he returned home tomorrow morning, she would hand him her resignation, then, first thing next Monday morning, she'd ring the employment agency and tell them she was accepting the job she'd been offered that afternoon.
In truth, Emily had been taken aback at securing such a plum position after just one interview: assistant manager at an exciting new conference centre on Sydney's prestigious Darling Harbour. Which was why, when the agency had rung her just after five today, she'd asked for the weekend to make up her mind.
But she hadn't needed the weekend. Just a couple of hours of soul–searching, plus listening to her head instead of her foolish female heart.
Of course, Sebastian's being away had helped with her decision making. She certainly wasn't looking forward to his return tomorrow, especially after he found out she was leaving.
He was not going to be pleased. Not pleased at all.
Emily knew that Sebastian liked her. Made no secret of his liking her. That was what made it all so hard, her heart squeezing tight as she recalled the many evenings he'd invited her to sit with him over dinner, or a night–cap, clearly enjoying her company.
But not as much as you enjoyed his, came the timely warning. What Sebastian likes most about you, my girl, is the smoothly efficient way you run his house.
Sebastian liked employees who did what he wanted, when he wanted, the way he wanted. When his much valued PA had tendered her resignation last year, Sebastian had offered her every incentive to make her stay with him. More money. Better working conditions. Even a different title.
Nothing had worked. The woman had left anyway and Sebastian had been in a black mood for days. No, weeks!
Emily quivered inside at the prospect of her boss's reaction to her own resignation.
No doubt he would first offer her more money.
But more money would not persuade her to stay.
Better working conditions would not be possible either, she thought as she glanced around her beautifully furnished bedroom. The desk she was sitting at was made in rosewood, with the most elegantly carved legs. And her four–poster mahogany bed had once been slept in by a European princess. The rest of the one–bedroomed flat which came with her present position was just as exquisite, full of even more antiques, plus many elegant little touches that any female would love. She especially liked the flat's position above the garages, which meant she had total privacy from the main house.
Emily shook her head regretfully. She was really going to miss living here.
But not enough to make her stay.
As for offering her a new title…
There weren't many other ways of describing a housekeeper.
Domestic goddess, perhaps? Emily ventured wryly.
A musical chiming coming from the adjoining living room had Emily glancing at her watch. Eight o'clock. Time to go over to the house and check all the doors and windows, a job she always did every evening around this time when Sebastian was away. She found it impossible to settle down for the night till she felt certain everything was safe and secure.
Picking up her set of keys from where they lay on her desk, Emily headed for the front door of her flat, startled to find, once she stepped outside, that the night air was still very warm. Obviously, the predicted southerly change hadn't arrived yet.
She stood there for a long moment, staring over at Sebastian's house, saddened by the thought that this might be the last time she would do this.
It was such a beautiful house, a Georgian style sandstone mansion sitting on an acre of land on the Hunter's Hill peninsula overlooking the Parramatta River. Originally built in eighteen eighty, the house had been in serious disrepair when Sebastian had bought it several years ago. he'd had it lovingly restored, filling the grand rooms with antiques and adding a conservatory and heated swimming pool.
Upstairs, there were four spacious bedrooms and two bathrooms, one being the private domain of the palatial master bedroom. Downstairs, all the rooms had French windows leading out on to coolly shaded verandas. On the left side of the hallway as you entered, sat a formal reception room which led into an equally formal dining room, which in turn led into the sunny and much more casually furnished conservatory. On the right side of the front hallway, the first door opened into a billiard room. Next along was Sebastian's study–cum–library, followed by the kitchen and utility room.
Out the back was a sunny flagstoned courtyard, a perfect setting for the new swimming pool. On the courtyard's left was a row of golden pines, which gave privacy and acted as a wind–break. On its right, set back a little from the house, were the garages, Emily's flat above reached by way of a flight of steps attached to the side of the stone building, with a small landing at the top on which Emily was currently standing.
Beyond the pool, the beautifully kept lawns fell away in a gentle slope to the river bank, where there was a boathouse and a jetty. Beyond the bank at this point, the river widened into a great expanse of water. In the distance, directly opposite Sebastian's property, the arch of the Gladesville Bridge formed a wonderful backdrop for what was already a magnificent view. At this time of night, the lights on the bridge, and the city lights beyond, created a magical and rather romantic atmosphere.
Emily had fallen in love with the place on her very first day.
Falling in love with Sebastian had taken longer, she conceded as she started walking slowly down the steps. In truth, Emily hadn't realised she had till he'd announced one day about a month back that he and his supermodel girlfriend had parted company, with Lana planning to marry an Italian count whom she'd met during a recent fashion week in Milan.
Emily's over–the–top pleasure at this news had been very telling, as had her fierce regret that she'd down–played her looks to secure the job as Sebastian Armstrong's housekeeper. At the time, she'd desperately wanted any job and had been advised that Australia's most eligible bachelor was unlikely to hire a thirty–three–year–old blonde with a pretty face and a provocative figure.
Apparently, the mobile phone magnate had been trying to find a suitable housekeeper for some weeks and had expressed his displeasure at the number of applicants so far who'd waltzed into their interviews looking far too glamorous and sexy!
Putting her age up a couple of years, dyeing her hair back to its natural midbrown, donning glasses and wearing loosely fitting clothes had done the trick: Emily had secured the job.
She'd managed to get rid of the glasses after a few weeks, pretending to take Sebastian's advice to have laser treatment on her eyes. But she'd kept the brown hair, with its plain, pulled–back style, along with the sensible clothes.
Till this last week.