Inexperienced housekeeper Megan gets more than she bargains for when she takes a job at the house of architect Bryan Fitzmaurice in order to support her family. Sparks fly from the moment they meet. Through the comedy of errors that their meeting triggers, they grow closer with every passing minute.
Despite their many misunderstanding, Megan’s new life with her handsome, enigmatic employer is everything she could ever have hoped for except for one thing: Bryan is engaged to another.
Megan’s head tells her all the reasons her new boss is out of bounds romantically. Her heart whispers a different story, one that dares dream of a happily ever after. Can she and Bryan ever build a future together, or is her harlequin heart making her a fool for love?
Bryan has never met anyone like Megan, but he’s already engaged to a woman everyone says is perfect for him. Why then does he feel like such a fool for ever having agreed to marry the glamorous Amanda?
Only through his daring to risk all and open his heart and mind to love, to share the gift of joy and laughter with the beautiful woman Fate has presented him with, can Bryan find the courage to live a life of passion.
Does Bryan dare risk all on his harlequin heart, which whispers to him that it’s not yet too late to find real happiness with his one true love? Or will he try to do the honorable thing and keep his word to Amanda despite all he has learned about her, and let Megan walk out of his life forever?
Word Count: 75,000
Buy Now: $3.99
Megan flitted from room to room, assessing everything with her calm emerald eyes. She couldn’t believe it. Talk about bad luck. She had been dying to meet her new employer ever since she had taken this job at Fitzmaurice Manor outside Dublin a month ago. She certainly hadn’t thought it would be under these circumstances.
Bryan Fitzmaurice had not only returned from overseas at last, but his brother David had told her to prepare a meal for seven top VIPs only a few hours before.
Curiosity over the elusive Bryan whom she had heard so much about had immediately given way to the urgency of making sure that everything was ready and as perfect as it could be given such short notice.
“Hey, there’s no need to look so nervous,” Geoffrey said with a reassuring smile.
She gave her tall blond cousin her best attempt at a grin. “I know, it’ll be a piece of cake,” she said with false bravado. “It’s just, well, we want to make a good impression, don’t we?”
“We will. The house looks fabulous.”
“Considering whoever decorated it either had no taste or the worst sense of humor imaginable,” she said, grimacing at an overdone gilt cupid leering down at her from a corner of the ornate but chill marble foyer.
“And the food will be superb. If Mr. Fitzmaurice has any complaints, it’s his own fault for leaving his brother David to hire us. And for us to see to all his unpacking.”
“At least his fiancée isn’t here. Women are so much more critical of household arrangements.”
“I imagine that Mr. Fitzmaurice will be as well, but the furniture can be rearranged easily enough. As for the rest, well, I’m sure he can’t fail but be delighted by your cooking.” He gave her another warm smile, but she was still as pale as a swan’s wing.
“Oh, I’ve got butterflies in my tummy.”
“Don’t be silly. You’re a season campaigner. I know it’s short notice, but you’ve done it plenty of times in the past. Do you remember how Uncle Oliver used to just take a notion and invite twelve people to dinner on the spur of the moment?”
She nodded, and then blew an ebony curl out of her eye. “Yes, but he raised us. We were all family. And cantankerous though the old buzzard was, he would never have fired us. This man can, any time he likes, him or his soon to be wife, and we all need these jobs and this new home desperately now that Uncle is gone.”
“Stop worrying so much. It’ll be fine. If Bryan Fitzmaurice is anything like his brother, he’s bound to be a reasonable man, even if I do think David is a bit too fond of the ladies for my tastes,” Geoff said with a pointed look at his attractive raven-haired cousin.
“He’s behaved like an absolute gentleman to me,” she replied, speaking no less than the truth. “I don’t think you need have any fears on that score.”
“All the same, a young woman can’t be too careful these days. Especially one brought up so sheltered as you’ve been.”
“Point taken. But I think you’re making a huge fuss over nothing. We’re only the hired help. Bryan Fitzmaurice won’t even notice me,” she said with an airy wave.
“Now that would be a pretty tall order in that ridiculous uniform,” Geoffrey laughed.
“Please, don’t remind me,” she said, her mouth turning down into a moue of distaste at the Victorian parlormaid’s outfit which the future mistress of the house had left for the housekeeper to wear.
“Besides, I don’t know what you’re so smug about, Geoff. You look like something out of an Edwardian melodrama.”
Her cousin flashed her a brief smile. “I won’t tease if you don’t. Just remember, no matter what goes wrong tonight, and there’s bound to be something, try to keep hold of that feisty little Irish temper of yours.”
“It’s hard not to lose your temper in this thing. The petticoats and underthings are so starched I can barely bend over,” she complained, giving the apron a wrathful tug.
Then she smoothed it over her dress, and yanked the gown down all over. She adjusted the floppy mob cap for the hundredth time, trying to tuck all of her unruly ebony hair under it to keep it away from the food.
“How do I look?”
Geoffrey gave her an appraising glance. “You look fine, if you like that sort of thing. No, really, it’s not that bad. Don’t worry. Just remember, however fussy he is, he couldn’t be as bad as our uncle. Old Oliver was continuously going around picking up individual specs of dust.”
Megan laughed at the shared childhood memory and patted her cousin on the shoulder. “Thanks, that’s exactly what I needed to hear. You always do have a great knack for putting things into perspective.”
“Besides, David has paid us in full for the next four months, us and the children, to make sure we stay during this big transition in Bryan’s life, with him getting married and them having to merge two very different households into one. Plus tending to the place while they’re on their round the world honeymoon. Even if we make a total mess of things tonight, we really have nothing to lose.”
Megan shook her head. “You’re only saying that to make me feel better. We both know the chidlren and their mother are counting on our help. We can’t let them down.”
He took both her hands in his own for a brief moment. “You’ve never let us down in your life, and you’re not about to start. Tonight is going to be the beginning of something incredible for us all, I just know it.”
“That’s what I’ve been feeling all day too. But you’re right, I’m letting my nerves get the better of me for no reason.” She took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and swallowed hard to steady her nerves.
Her fears put to rest for the moment, she headed to the reception room to introduce herself to Mr. Fitzmaurice and see if wanted her to pour the drinks or get him anything special.
Geoffrey as butler would answer the door and take the guests’ coats. The children would stay in the kitchen for the most part, helping with arranging all the different courses onto the expensive if gaudy china which was as overdone as the rest of the house, not to mention her much-hated uniform.
Megan was relieved she wouldn’t have to spend much time with the guests, since she was always so painfully shy amongst strangers, as were the Haugheys. She hoped they wouldn’t be too overwhelmed by the grand occasion, especially poor Patricia.
She had known the girl for a decade, ever since she’d been eight, and still Megan couldn’t help but wonder what it was like for the girl to be deaf in a hearing world. She only prayed Bryan Fitzmaurice would be tolerant if he discovered her disability.
But then, Megan reminded herself as she crossed the large hall and foyer, they were just the hired help. They were most likely invisible to a man of Bryan Fitzmaurice’s wealth and power.
She paused outside the thick oak door to the drawing room, as Geoffrey had insisted she call it. She listened for a moment and heard the tinkle of ice in a crystal glass, and some liquid being poured. She smoothed the gown down over her shapely hips once more, and took a deep breath.
Megan tapped on the portal softly. She entered as soon as she heard a voice call, “Come in.”
She stepped into the room briskly and gave her brightest smile, though inwardly she was trembling with fear. She had hears so much about Bryan Fitzmaurice from his brother David, she was sure he walked on water. And with everything for her family riding on keeping this job and home, she was desperate to make a good first impression.
“Yes?” the tall dark man demanded. He stared at her, his icy blue eyes, as a pale as a wolf’s, boring into her own emerald green ones.
Then he began to laugh. “Oh no, not now of all times…”
She stared at him, not sure how to respond to this odd reaction. “I’m sorry to disturb you, sir. I thought I might just see if there was anything I could get you.”
“My brother does seem to have the most ridiculous sense of timing for his absurd jokes. Though I suppose under the circumstances, I can’t blame him. It is tradition, after all. But I have some very important guests arriving within the next half hour. Please spare me the display of your, er, talents, and go.”
“But sir, I only came in here to ask if you had any specific instructions. Whether you had anything you particularly wanted. I am here to please you, after all.”
He gaped at her for a moment, then cleared his throat and shook his head. “Yes, er, thank you, but really, this is too much. Though I must admit, you are a rather lovely little thing.”
His frigid glance thawed slightly as he gazed down at her. He resisted the temptation to toy with the ebony curl which had sprung out of her flouncy mob cap, and was resting upon her delicate porcelain brow and rosy cheek.
Megan stared up at Mr. Fitzmaurice’s stunningly handsome face shyly as he towered over her. She was easily five foot ten, so his remark about her being little struck her as amusing. She had never felt dainty before. But then anyone would seem small from his commanding six foot six height.
“Mr. Fitzmaurice, there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding. Maybe we should start again. I’m Megan. I need to know if there’s anything special you want me to do for you or your guests tonight.”
He stared at her in what she could only describe to herself inwardly as horror.
“You mean they’re all in on it? Oh no, I’m not giving them the satisfaction of taunting me about this for the rest of my life.”
She blushed to the roots of her hair, sure he was referring to the absurd housekeeper’s uniform. Talk about Upstairs, Downstairsâ€¦
His next words seemed to confirm her thoughts.
“I must admit, though, I’m a bit curious to see what you have on under that ridiculous outfit. So, all right, I have a few minutes, and nothing important to do. So do it.”
She stared up at him, a blank expression on her lovely face. “Do what?”
He sat down on the sofa and crossed one leg over the other. “All right. I’m ready.”
“Mr. Fitzmaurice, I really have no idea what you’d like…”
He frowned, his black brows lowering threateningly over his incredible piercing eyes. “I guess coy is part of the act, but I haven’t got all night. So just strip them off, and then leave, preferably by the back door.”
“What did you say?” Megan gasped, suddenly going cold all over.
He folded his hands with exaggerated patience. “I said, strip for me, show me your stuff, whatever you’d like to call it, then go.”
Megan was convinced her whole world had come crashing down around her ears. She had had such high hopes for this new job. They all had.
She sucked in a shaky breath, and then let fly. “I’ve never been so insulted in all my life! Geoff warned me the world was full of perverts. I thought I could handle it. Well, if that’s the way you want to me to behave in ordered to keep this position, you can go to hell! Stuff your bloody job. I’ll pack and be out of here in five minutes. Dinner is in the kitchen. Serve your sleazy guests yourself.”
She whirled on her heel and would have stormed out.
But Bryan had jumped off the sofa at her words, and grabbed her arm to stay her.
Megan didn’t even stop to think. Her right hand shot up automatically, delivering a cracking blow to his cheek. She could see the red welt raise at once on his lightly tanned cheek as he tugged her more tightly to him.
“Now hang on a minute.”
“Let me go, you bastard!” She somehow managed to jerk her arm free of his vice-like hold and yanked at the door handle desperately. She fled through the opening before he could stop her again.
Megan heard him calling out to her to wait, but she ran to the attic of the house and bolted her door.
Grabbing her suitcases from the top of the wardrobe, she threw them down on the bed and began to hurl all her clothes into them willy-nilly. The tears began to stream down her cheeks unheeded.
Damn it, just when they had all been starting to feel like Fitzmaurice Manor was really home….
Word Count: 75,000
Buy Now: $3.99
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