Friday, March 7, 2014
New release from Etopia Press - Whatever He Requires
She was to perform all the duties Sir Peter Breit required. The e-mail actually said that. Verbatim.
Then it got even better, or it would have, if it was meant as a joke. But it was worse, actually, because Larry Sullivan, her boss, didn’t joke around when discussing prospective buyers at Hawthorne House:
As a Knight of the Realm, Sir Peter expects and receives top-notch service wherever he goes. We’ll give him nothing less during his stay in the property. Wine him, dine him, flash your big brown eyes at him. Make sure he enjoys himself no matter what you have to do. Am I making myself clear? We’re all counting on you, Susan.
Well, screw that. Susan Christopher switched from Internet to telephone and called the offices of Bay Vista Properties Limited. If management wanted to order her to play babysitter—or worse—to a blue-blooded British billionaire, they could tell her to her face. Or voice, or something like that.
“Good afternoon, Bay Vista Properties Limited, this is Lauren speaking. How may I direct your call?” Lauren parroted.
Good Lord, Lauren had to have a pair of lungs to get all that out in one breath. Susan waited a second to make sure the receptionist had finished. “I need to talk to Larry.”
“Susan?” Lauren said.
“Who else? Is the boss man there?”
Which meant Larry was dodging her calls, and that was a very bad sign. When she’d hired on at the company a year ago as a combination concierge and Jane-of-all-trades, she’d made it clear to Larry that she’d bend over backward to keep the customers happy…within reason. That meant maintaining professional relationships at all times. She’d emphasized the word professional when she’d accepted the job so Larry would understand that meant no flirting, no touching, and nothing more intimate than a handshake. Over time, Susan had become used to unusual requests from customers. After all, one didn’t plunk down a couple million dollars for a prime piece of real estate in San Francisco without expecting beyond-the-call-of-duty service. She’d walked dogs and delivered laundry. She’d picked up stray relatives at SFO, Oakland, and San Jose. She’d hooked up computers and spent hours on the phone with tech support. No one had ever asked her to perform whatever duties some man said he required.
“Did he tell you what my latest assignment was?” Susan said.
“Something about an insanely wealthy Englishman who’d bought the top floor of Hawthorn House,” Lauren said. “He’s really excited.”
“Excited? Desperate is more like it.”
“You know how much that place cost to buy and restore. If Larry can’t sell the units, the company is in trouble.”
And so was the job that would get Susan through architecture school. Nothing else paid as well or fit into her class schedule. Besides, old buildings, like Hawthorn, tugged at her love of fantasy. These days no one bothered with luxurious materials or fine detail. All that came with a price that would choke your everyday millionaire. Sir Peter Breit hadn’t flinched at how much it would cost him, but he had come with a long list of demands.
“Does anyone know anything about this guy?” Susan asked.
“Other than that he’s filthy rich?”
“Like how old is he? What does he look like?” Did he like to play slap and tickle with the staff?
“What do you care?” Lauren said. “You’re not going to be sleeping with him.”
“Gawd, no. He’s probably horse-faced, old, and bald.”
“Well then, what’s the big deal?”
“I’d like to know his intentions,” Susan said. “And if I’m going to have to wear a chastity belt.”
Lauren giggled. “In a fight with a droopy, old Englishman, my money’s on you.”
“I don’t like having to give some idiot the knee to the privates,” Susan said. She’d do it if she had to, of course. No one put one over on Mrs. Christopher’s little girl.
Lauren’s giggles stopped. “Do you think it would really come to that?”
“Don’t be naïve. Men get ideas, especially the privileged types.” Like men with Sir in front of their names. “They figure you’re there to serve them any way they want.”
“Larry wouldn’t ask you to do that.”
“Not to my face, which is why he’s ducking my calls and sticking to e-mail.” Lord, please, let her be wrong about this. The fluttering in her stomach told her she wasn’t.
“Maybe you can get him to hire a temp to do the job. After all, you’re not really secretarial material,” Lauren said.
“A temp? Are you kidding? Someone from outside the company? Not going to happen.”
“You can take care of yourself,” Lauren said.
“Yeah, I can. I just hope I don’t have to.” She searched her brain for some way out of this mess. When she didn’t find any, she sighed. “I guess if Larry’s not going to let me talk him out of this insane assignment, I have no choice but to wait for the guy to show up with his ‘requirements.’”
“When’s he due?”
Susan checked her watch. “In an hour. More than enough time for me to make a last pass through the condo.”
“Give me a call once you’ve seen him. I might be interested,” Lauren said. “If he isn’t too droopy.”
“Get serious, girl.”
“Who says I’m not?”
“Bye.” Susan broke the connection and headed toward the back of the unit. New appliances stood ready in the laundry room, although Sir Peter hardly sounded like anyone who’d use them. If asked, she’d take his things out to be cleaned as she had for other clients. She would not fold his boxers.
The kitchen gleamed with stainless steel stove and refrigerator. Copper pots hung over a butcher block worktable. Not knowing Sir Peter’s tastes, she’d stocked the fridge with the basics and a few luxury items, and a wide variety of wines filled a climate-controlled cabinet almost as tall as she was. Important things first. With everything spotless there, she proceeded down the short hallway to the master bedroom suite.
The lord of the manor had his own sitting room—a custom a British knight would find fitting. The antique writing desk complemented the hardwood floor and Oriental area carpets. All very discreet and in keeping with the age and style of the house.
Past the sitting room lay the master bedroom with its plush carpeting and airy space. The huge bed sported a canopy of muted desert colors in brown and red that fell to the floor at all four corners. Matching drapes billowed around the doorway that led to the balcony. In the unusually warm weather she’d left the French doors open. In general, the house stayed cool, but Sir Peter could turn on the central air conditioning if his English blood was too thin to stand a little heat. After a quick check of the bathroom with its huge shower and sunken tub, Susan left the suite and headed toward the front of the building.
She’d just passed the formal dining room when a buzzer sounded from the foyer. The signal that someone was down at the main gate asking for admittance. She glanced at her watch again. Far too early for her client’s arrival. Still, she went to the front hall and pressed the button to speak to whomever was waiting for her to let them in.
“Sir Peter Breit,” a heavily accented English voice replied.
“Now?” she said. “He’s not due for nearly an hour.”
“Sir Peter Breit,” the man repeated.
She pushed another button, one that would open the gates long enough for a car to come through. If not the great one himself, this could be someone who worked for Sir Peter. Maybe this person would fill some of Sir Peter’s requirements and let Susan off the hook.
She went to the window to get a view of the newcomer and watched as a limousine made its way up the drive. Because the car’s windows had a dark tint, she couldn’t make out anyone inside. At the front steps, the limo stopped and a man climbed out. Or rather unfolded himself out, because when he’d straightened, he revealed himself to be of considerable height. He wore a suit that seemed sculpted for his body. With wavy dark hair and a strong jawline, he could have graced the pages of a gentlemen’s magazine.
This for sure couldn’t be Sir Peter. For one thing, it took decades to acquire the sort of wealth one needed to buy this property. A person generally didn’t become a billionaire or an English Sir before the age of sixty. Fifty at the very earliest. This man must work for Sir Peter and had come to check things out before his boss arrived. Fine. She could deal with him, even if he did resemble a Greek statue come to life.
When the main entrance to the building buzzed for admittance, she didn’t question the man, but pushed the button that would free the lock. Then she opened the door of the flat and waited for the antique elevator to make its way to the fifth floor. With her hands folded together before the skirt of her business suit, she straightened her shoulders and did her best to appear businesslike.
At age twenty-two that wasn’t easy. People often judged her because of her age, despite her advanced education. So she wore the company uniform—navy blue suit with pinstripe blouse beneath the jacket, small red tie at her throat. Pantyhose and sensible heels completed the outfit. Prudish, but effective in making her appear serious to narrow-minded clients.
After a few clanks and groans, the elevator arrived at the fifth floor and the man let himself out. Propping the door open with his foot, he pulled a couple of suitcases and a laptop into the hallway. Definitely not Sir Peter. The exalted CEO of a luxury car company wouldn’t tote his own luggage.
When he finally spotted her, he did the usual double-take, his head jerking slightly in surprise. “Miss Christopher?”
“Ms. Christopher.” She extended her hand. “You must work for Sir Peter.”
“Not precisely.” Precisely. How veddy, veddy British. He spoke with one of those accents that made you wish he’d read the phone book so you could listen for hours. Honey-soft. Pear-shaped tones. And while the sound of his voice washed over her, he clasped her fingers in his larger ones. His palm felt warm and dry against her own.
After a few seconds, she pulled her hand free. “Let me help you with the bags.”
“No need.” He juggled all his bags inside the condo, and she entered behind him, closing the door with a soft click of the lock.
She didn’t say anything about the condominium and its amenities. The place spoke for itself. He made a full circle, first gazing at the restored wainscoting and cherry wood furniture. Some pieces were authentic Victorian and others reproductions, but all fit with the natural elegance of the house.
“Not bad,” he muttered as he walked to the marble fireplace and admired the brass fittings. A large vase sat on the mantle, full of enough sprays of cymbidium orchids to cover a parade float. Turning, he placed his hands at his back and stared up at the lofty ceiling. “In fact, it’s rather good.”
Susan couldn’t help but bristle a bit. “Rather good” didn’t begin to describe the splendor of Hawthorn House. Whoever this man was, he wouldn’t have studied architecture as she had, but if he had a soul, he had to be moved by the beauty here.
“If Sir Peter finds something unsatisfactory—” she said.
“I didn’t say that.”
“—he can change anything he wants,” she continued. “He owns the place.”
“That won’t be necessary,” he said. “For now.”
A silence settled over them as they sized each other up. He certainly appeared to be doing that, as his gaze traveled over her. Not intrusive or lecherous but just curious, he took in her clothing and her hair, which had more or less remained in the French braid she’d shelled out good money to get done at the stylist’s. For her part, she noted the gray-green of his eyes, a shade that seemed to change depending on the light. Right now, standing far from a window, they took on the color of the ocean before a storm.
After a bit, all the quiet seemed to settle on her shoulders, and if she didn’t move, she might actually tremble. Clearly, she’d never win a game of staring with this man. Whoever he was. She walked to a chair and set her hands on the back of it. “Will Sir Peter be arriving soon? I’d like to show him the condominium.”
He gestured toward the dining room. “Show away. I’m here.”
To read a more explicit excerpt, visit here: http://www.alicesexcerpts.blogspot.com