Penniless, pregnant and alone, Iona Lockwood wants to settle and put down roots. Life's delivered her a few hard knocks lately.... When wealthy architect Daniel Hamilton finds Iona living in the empty building he's bought, he knows he should be asking her to leave. But Daniel can't turn his back on a pregnant woman, and offers her a job as his housekeeper. Stepping into his beautiful home, Iona feels like Cinderella. But she knows dreams don't come true. She's there to keep house, not to fall in love with the millionaire who saved her.
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May 12, 2008
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Excerpt from His Pregnant Housekeeper by Caroline Anderson
'What on earth--?'
Daniel paused, thumb poised on his car's remote locking button, and watched the woman in amazement.
She was going to do herself a mischief, struggling about in the dark trying to get that huge mattress into the skip--never mind the fact that it was his skip and she had no business putting anything in it, but since she was clearly bent on the task--literally--he had no choice but to intervene.
And shouldering her gently out of the way, he slid his keys into his pocket, seized the mattress and lifted it towards the skip--
For someone so tiny, she was surprisingly strong. 'That's the wrong way!' she cried, running round to the other side and hauling on the mattress. 'I'm not putting it in the skip, I'm taking it out!'
He stopped struggling with it and studied her thoughtfully over the top. It was about shoulder height on her, and he could clearly see her stubborn, defiant chin, tilted slightly up as if daring him to argue. He scanned her face, bare of any make-up, taking in the lank brown hair scraped back into a ponytail, the wide, determined eyes and the firm set of that really very soft, lush mouth. He dragged his eyes from it and met her eyes again. 'Excuse me?'
'I said, I'm taking it out--'
'I heard you. I just don't understand. It's an old mattress. Why would you want to take it out of the skip?'
'Because it's better than the one I've got? For goodness' sake, it's unmarked--or it would have been if someone hadn't put it in the skip. Ridiculous waste. So I'm--recycling it.'
'Re--?' He folded his arms, propping them on the top of the mattress, and met those fiery eyes over the great divide. Not the physical object that separated them, but the light years that divided their understanding. She really wanted this old mattress?
'That's right, and we've only got a minute before the security guard comes back round. Either give me a hand, or get out of my way and let me move it, but don't just stand there leaning on it until he's back!'
Daniel glanced over his shoulder towards the door of the security guard's Portakabin, then back to the girl. 'You want me to help you steal the mattress?' he said incredulously, suppressing the urge to laugh.
'Well, it's hardly stealing, it's been thrown out,'she said logically, and he couldn't argue with that. He'd sanctioned it himself. 'So--what's it to be? Are you getting out of the way so I can do it, or are you going to help me?'
He hesitated a moment too long, because she reached out to grab it and move it herself before he could react.
And he couldn't let her do that. What if she hurt herself? She was only a little bit of a thing.
'Get out of the way,' he said, sighing in resignation and glancing at the security guard's door again. If he got caught--
He grabbed the handles and lifted. 'Where to?'
'Round the corner--it's really not far.'
It wasn't, but it felt far enough. One end bumped the ground, and he lifted it a bit higher and thought it might be time to take Nick up on his offer of the use of his home gym. His biceps were clearly suffering from lack of exercise--either that or it had been a rather good mattress in its day, which would have surprised him since nothing else coming out of the old hotel was much cop.
But then she stopped, sooner than he was expecting, and fumbled for a key. 'In here,' she said, pushing open a door that led into the derelict rear annexe of the hotel, and leaving him to follow, open-mouthed in surprise, she headed up the stairs. 'Be careful, there aren't any lights--they've cut off the power to this part,'she warned him, then, reaching the top, she opened a door and went into a room.
He paused on the landing to get his breath back, and a smell in the air caught his nose. He sniffed. Damp. Definite, overwhelming damp. No wonder she'd needed a new mattress, he thought, wrestling it through the doorway and wondering if he'd lost his mind.
Yup. Definitely. He shouldn't be doing this, making it easier for her to stay. Nick and Harry would kill him, but--
In the harsh glare of the street light outside, she bent and moved a few things out of the way, then pointed to the space she'd cleared, on a floor scarcely big enough to take the mattress. 'There will do fine,' she said, straightening up, and he got his first proper look at her without the mattress in between them, and it stopped him in his tracks.
Squatting in their hotel, holding up progress on the renovations, screwing up their budget and deadlines, piling on the legal fees, and she was pregnant?
Oh, dear God. It went from bad to worse.
He put the mattress down, just because it was easier than standing there holding it, and she promptly lay down on it, sighed hugely and grinned up at him, her bump sticking up into the air like a little football. Her T-shirt had rucked up to reveal the safety pins holding the bottom of her jeans zip together--or trying to. The baby seemed to have made that impossible, and through the gaps he could see a glimpse of smooth, pale skin, curiously vulnerable in the harsh light.