As landing time approached, Dominic eased open the bedroom door and glanced in on his temporary employee, modern Joan of Arc. She was rolled up in the quilt, only her wild copper curls and a portion of her face visible above the swaddling silk. Her skin was slightly flushed in sleep, her angelic profile incredibly childlike.
Christ, he’d be ten kinds of stupid to mess with her.
Softly shutting the door, he slowly exhaled. He shouldn’t even be thinking about dragging her into his wayward world of carnal games. He should give her a free pass. Or maybe just give her the illusion of a free pass. Cold-blooded manipulation or decency? What would it be?
It was only a debate in the abstract.
He wanted her and nothing in his life had ever seemed so simple.
‘Don’t,’ a voice behind him warned.
‘I’m still thinking about it,’ Dominic said, perjuring himself without a qualm as he turned to face Max.
‘Stop thinking about it. Let her go home after Singapore.’
Dominic’s face went blank. ‘Thanks for the advice. What time’s our appointment at the bank?’
The plane landed on an airfield that largely serviced private planes. Closer to the city in terms of drive time than the commercial hub, it saved twenty minutes of commuting for busy executives.
At five-thirty a.m. the temperature was already twenty-eight degrees, the humid air stifling as they exited the plane. A faint pink glow low on the horizon signalled sunrise and another day of sweltering heat.
Still half asleep, Kate followed the men down the ramp to the tarmac where another sleek, black Mercedes awaited them. Public transportation wasn’t a consideration for people like Dominic Knight, she grumpily thought, lack of sleep adding to her resentment, or perhaps pique, at her employer’s casual acceptance of his exalted lifestyle. On the other hand, she decided with a yawn, she wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Climbing into the back seat of the air-conditioned car while the men talked to some uniformed official, she curled up in a corner and promptly went back to sleep.
When Dominic entered the car, he took one look at Kate and cautioned the driver, ‘No race driving today, Chu. The lady’s sleeping.’
‘No problem, boss. You won’t even know we’re moving.’
The driver was as good as his word, smoothly navigating the early morning traffic like a jockey guiding his mount through a jostling pack in the home stretch. While Chu and Max exchanged local gossip, Dominic had an undisturbed opportunity to study his sleeping passenger. She looked young, or younger than she was, he corrected himself; at twenty-two her age wasn’t an issue as much as her innocence. Although she was neither young nor completely innocent, according to Max.
But Miss Hart was so far outside his sophisticated world and his usual taste in women, that he felt as though patterns he’d followed his entire life were being rewired in his brain.
Or maybe he was just willing to suspend disbelief.
Or he was being rash.
Whatever. It didn’t matter. She pleased him.
It was as simple as that.
He found her delicacy a serious turn-on, her fine-boned slenderness perversely virginal. As were her discreet curves that you didn’t notice at first and when you did you couldn’t stop looking.
He tried not to stare. He tried not to think of how soft her skin would feel if he touched her. He tried not to imagine her sleeping in his bed, or not sleeping, doing other things to him, for him, accommodating him with her delectable body and defiant mind because he could make her do anything he wanted.
He even briefly considered taking Max’s advice, being virtuous and sending her home. But even before the idea had fully formed he’d dismissed it because she stirred some raw emotion in him, unleashed a sense of feeling again that took him by surprise.
She stirred something in him that was over and above lust, something that distinguished her from other women – like an explosion of colour in a brown and grey world caught your attention. That captivated the hell out of him. Jesus – captivated? What the fuck?
He grimaced, looked away, felt a sudden guilt as though he were cheating on Julia. He softly swore, called himself every kind of fool, then deliberately asked Max a question and ignored Miss Hart for the remainder of the drive. Fun and games were fine. Anything else wasn’t.
When they reached the house, Dominic jumped from the car, then waited for Max to step out. ‘I’d appreciate it if you’ll see Miss Hart to her room. Tell her someone will wake her at twelve thirty. Breakfast is at one. We leave at one forty-five.’ A quick glance to see that Kate still slept. ‘Also, if you could talk her into wearing something of Greta’s for the meeting at the bank, I’d be grateful enough to order wheels up for Hong Kong as soon as we’re done at the bank.’
Dominic grinned. ‘I wish I had your charm.’
‘You’ve got charm enough if you’re in the mood, but what can I say?’ Max quipped. ‘She likes me.’
Dominic’s eyelids dropped a fraction. ‘Just so long as she doesn’t like you too much.’
A flash of a grin. ‘What would you do if she did?’
‘The polite answer or the truth?’
‘Don’t bother,’ Max drawled. ‘I’m years past intimidation.’
‘Good. Glad to hear it. That means you give a damn. It’s been a while since you have.’
When Kate walked into the sunny breakfast room shortly after one, both men seated at the table came to their feet.
Dominic smiled. ‘I hope you were able to sleep, Miss Hart.’
‘I did. The house is amazingly quiet.’
Dominic pulled out a chair for her. ‘The gardens blunt the noise of the city.’
‘They’re fantastic,’ she said, setting her laptop on the table. ‘It’s a tropical paradise outside, the colour and variety of flowers, the heady scents. I’ve only seen the kind of birds you have here in the zoo.’
‘We’re fortunate to have the acreage so close to the city centre.’ As she sat, he pushed her chair in. ‘Tell her, Max, how we constantly have to fight off developers.’
While Kate was served, the discussion turned on the history of the old trading station constructed in the traditional style with large overhanging roofs, open-air porches, bedrooms with garden views and a central courtyard protected by tall, sturdy, iron-strapped gates. She learned that Singapore had been a major port for the colony when it was English, still served that purpose for the independent city state and the trading station had come into Dominic’s hands nine years ago when the former owner had gone back to England.
Two white-coated, unobtrusive servants saw that everyone had what they needed. Dominic had already eaten. He drank coffee while Kate and Max had their breakfasts. It was a cosy gathering in an exotic venue, the sensation of having every whim quietly satisfied by soft-spoken servants as close to a fantasy world as Kate could imagine.
How easily one could be seduced by such luxury. How easily one could be enticed by a man like Dominic Knight, who offered that luxury with a kind of casual disregard. Not that his looks alone wouldn’t guarantee him legions of women at his beck and call. Including those in that unforgettable blog she wished she’d never seen.
Jolted from her musing, she managed a quick smile. ‘Yes, of course. Thank you for breakfast.’
‘You managed without bacon,’ Dominic said, his voice amused.
‘Because you managed not to have it served.’
‘You could have had it if you’d asked.’
‘Then I will next time.’
He liked it that she alluded to a future breakfast. ‘If you ever want something, Miss Hart, just ask. I’m more than willing to oblige.’
‘Please. You’re the least obliging man I know.’
‘I could change.’
Max decided it was time to retreat. He had no intention of getting in the middle of whatever game Dominic was playing.
As the door closed on Max and the servants, Dominic said, ‘I could change, Miss Hart. You never know. Anything’s possible. And thank you for wearing the suit for the meeting.’ Greta’s teal-blue suit, simply cut, was a masterpiece of tailoring. ‘Your clothes reflect on me.’
‘Surely, you’re not an unknown here.’
‘But you are.’
‘My problem is that these clothes of yours reflect on me,’ she coolly pointed out. ‘So whatever you want me to be, I prefer being myself.’
‘You don’t know what I want.’
‘I can guess. Particularly after the show in Amsterdam. And this.’ She flipped open the top of her laptop, tapped the keyboard a few times, looked up. ‘There. See for yourself.’