Melissa turned away, exhaling shakily as she checked her appearance. Tucking in the hem of her blouse that had worked loose from the waistband of her trousers, she brushed a particle of lint from their black cotton.
“Stay calm,” she told herself. “Be business-like and professional, he’ll expect it—”
The door opened.
“Mrs Medina,” Kane’s focus was on a red file in his hands, “I’m real sorry to have kept you,” he looked up then, “waiting.” Shock pure and clear masked his face.
She smiled nervously. “Hello, Mr Kane.” Kane was over six feet tall and extremely well built. Extremely.
He strode across the room towards her confidently, urgent. Kane stopped in front of her seeming to fill the entire world. Panic clamped down tight inside Melissa.
“Your eyes are . . . pure gold,” he said.
The sun sometimes made them look that way. She knew it, but she couldn’t say it because every synapse in her brain was working overtime and keeping an intelligent reply a logjam in her throat.
Kane glanced at the file in his hands. “You’re Mrs Eleanor Medina?” His gaze fixed on her again. “Born seventeenth of February fifty-eight?”
“No.” Her denial popped out in a weak whisper, a poor segue into any coming confession.
They stared at each other, something surging between them, the unnameable force refusing to dissipate.
“No?” he finally questioned.
“You were expecting my mum, Mr Kane,” she managed.
“I’m afraid she’s been taken ill.”
“I see.” Kane’s oaky brown hair was businessman short, though long enough on top to lure eager female fingers to slide into it happily. He snapped the file shut with one hand and dropped it on the sofa. “So it’s Miss Medina then?”
“Yes.” Was that a swift smile across his full lips?
“Well, Miss Medina, I’m Alexander Kane.” He offered his hand.
Melissa slipped her hand into his, angry at the tremor in it. The warmth of his skin spread from her fingers to her feet to her brain. He shook her hand, brushing the pad of his thumb along her knuckles. She stilled, eyes flashing to the gesture and back to his.
“Sorry, what is your first name?” Kane didn’t let go of her hand.
He swallowed, his working throat capturing her attention. “Well, I’m very pleased to meet you, Melissa Medina.”
His smoky Texan voice was whisked with English charm. The Internet had stated though born in the state, Kane had made England his home for many years. “And I you, Mr Kane,” she said.
Kane finally let go of her hand and stepped back. “Please, sit down.” He remained standing near the mantelpiece as she settled back on the sofa. The supreme elegance of his dark grey suit, with bespoke cut, electrified the contours of his powerful physique. The black shirt beneath it was open at the collar with no tie in place to tame it. Still, with an estimated net worth of twenty-eight billion dollars, ties would hardly be a problem buy for the man. Melissa crossed her legs as heat rose in her cheeks at his intense gaze.
“So, your mom’s ill, Melissa?” She nodded. “And you came all the way here to tell me that?”
“No.” She took a deep breath. “I’m here in her place, Mr Kane.”
“I see.” The knowledge seemed to sink into him. His eyes widened. “I see,” he said again.
“If you’ll have me.”
He cleared his throat. “What’s wrong with your mom?”
“She’s been fighting cancer for a number of years—”
“And it’s back?”
Genuine concern? “Oh no, she’s in remission. But she’s picked up stomach flu. It’s likely she’ll take some time to recover from it.”
Kane took the space beside her on the sofa. His face, centred by a sharp nose, had a mouth crowned by a deep cupid’s bow, its kissable curves accentuated by the whisper of dark stubble surrounding them. A three-inch scar crossed the left side of his throat, an old wound, the slash of white unnatural against such smoothness. She leaned away from him, struggling to find composure as she placed her handbag back down on the floor.
“So you’re a Spanish teacher too?” he asked.
Skirting it was the only hope. “Well, I do speak fluent Spanish—and French, Mr Kane. I was born in Spain.” Good, her brain had distorted the panic and gone back into thinking mode.
“Then shouldn’t you have two surnames?”
“I do. But I stopped using my mother’s name as a surname when we came to live in the UK.”
“Do you have any qualifications to teach me Spanish, Melissa?”
The question she’d dreaded. “No. I don’t.”
“Right,” he said.
Damn it, she was failing, and she couldn’t afford to fail here! His generous wage offer could drag her family out of their debt mire: for good. “Mr Kane,” she rushed on, “I know this isn’t exactly what you were expecting, but I can do this job. I can teach you Spanish as well as any qualified teacher. I only need the opportunity to show you that.”
“Say something in Spanish for me.”
His sea-green eyes held her transfixed. Around the core of each pupil was a corona of brilliant sapphire blue. “Tus ojos son del color del mar.”
“Most people say my eyes are the colour of a meadow.”
“You can already speak Spanish?”
“I have a basic understanding of the language from my teens, but I’m very rusty.”
“Well, that’s a starting point at least.” Kane smiled at her and her heart thumped.
“Melissa, are you okay, you look a little flushed?”
Her face: movie screen for her thoughts. “Warm,” she spluttered. “I’m a little warm.”
He leaned closer. Alexander Kane had not a shred of boyishness about him. “Would you like a cold drink?” She shook her head, unable to reply. Kane placed his arm along the sofa back behind her and rested his other on his thigh. His gold watch glistened in the sunlight. “So, you have no actual qualifications to teach me Spanish?” he carried on.
“I don’t have paper qualifications, no.”
He looked ready to pounce on her. A surge of fear, acute in its warning, skittered through her but she kept talking through the maelstrom. She owned her fear. It did not own her. “But I can teach you how to speak Spanish. I’ve taught three of my friends, one who now lives in Madrid and runs her own advertising business there.”
She kept her reply flat. “Thank you.”
“When can you start?”
“Start? You’re offering me the job?”
“Yes—but I’m warning you, I might be a difficult pupil, Melissa.”
“Why do you think that?”
“You’re the first person I’ve interviewed who asked me that question.” He smiled. This man was fiercely handsome.
She swallowed, her mouth dry. “Why do you wish to reconnect with the Spanish language again, Mr Kane?”
“I’m working on the buyout of a Spanish hotel chain and I want to be able to discuss things with that team in their own language.”
“You don’t have access to interpreters?”
“Anytime I need. But a similar deal recently went sour for me because the correct information was filtered instead of relayed straight to me. This deal is costing me a big chunk of money and I want to know I’m spending it wisely.” He crossed his long legs. “You know the contract I’m proposing runs for three months, right?”
“I do, yes.”
“And you understand it will cover unsociable hours?”
“I understand. I’m willing to work late nights and weekends if necessary.” Her mother had already arranged that if she got the job with Kane she would return to Spain with her Aunt Cissy and spend some recuperation time there.
“That’s not what I meant by unsociable,” he said.
“No. I’m a busy man, Melissa. I run lots of companies. Consequently, I keep odd hours. I also don’t sleep much. So when I say unsociable, I mean I’ll need you to be able to teach me at any time I can fit it into my busy schedule. Most likely that will be in the early morning hours, so my Spanish teacher will have to live here at the hall for the contract’s duration.”
“Live here?” Under his roof! “With you?” Damn it to shit! “I see.”
“I appreciate this is probably something you want to think over.” Kane stood up. Reaching into his inner suit pocket he pulled out a business card. He gave it to her. “Call me in the morning and we’ll discuss it. My personal number is on that card.”
He held out his hand and she grasped it. Kane urged her to stand and she followed his unspoken command. His flesh radiated an exotic heat against her chilled skin, her awareness of him acute. The very pores of her flesh seemed to pull towards him. It was a new feeling—a terrifying taunt.
Three months sharing his home with him. Living with Alexander Kane?
“I’ll sleep on it.”
He let go of her hand. “Did you drive here? I didn’t see a car in the courtyard.”
She got from A to B on two legs most of the time. “I came by taxi. I’ll phone them now.”
“No need, my chauffeur will take you home.”
“Oh, no, Mr Kane, please don’t trouble yourself. It’s not far.”
“It’s no trouble at all.” He walked over to the mantelpiece and pressed a button on it she had not noticed herself. A minute later the butler walked in. “Harris, have Jade bring the Rolls round the front of the house. Miss Medina needs a lift home.”
“Yes, sir.” The older man left them.
“Well, whatever your decision, Melissa, it was nice to have met you.”
She smiled. “And you, Mr Kane.” She picked up her handbag and headed for the door.
The sound of his voice suddenly so close halted her mid-stride. She turned around, a shiver surging through her again at his closeness. No. She would not step back. She owned her fear. Could defend herself now.
“Don’t forget to call me tomorrow.”
Those eyes of his had her again. “I won’t forget.” She wouldn’t forget a thing about this meeting.