A Spanish Christmas

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A Spanish Christmas


   A Spanish ChristmasPenny Jordan

   In A Spanish Christmas Meg Scott is spending Christmas in the castillo of tall, dark and imperious Don Christian Felipe Martinez, a truly hot-blooded, dark Latin lover! What would be her favourite Christmas present?

   Christmas is a time for joy and love. The shops are packed, children are singing carols; we are all busy buying and wrapping presents, and arranging family feasts. In the midst of all this, take a little time for yourself and enjoy one of our short Christmas treats by some of our favourite authors.

CHAPTER ONE

   ‘OH, THIS must be our car.’

   Carefully parking her patient’s wheelchair amongst the throng of people besieging the all too few taxis pulling up to collect the departing airport passengers, Meg hurried towards the sleek chauffeur-driven limousine which was just in sight and which, after the long wait they had had, just had to be the hire car they had pre-booked in London before leaving for Seville.

   Her patient, Elena Salvadores, was an elderly sixty-something and still very frail following the accident whilst she had been on holiday in London, which had resulted in the operation to her knee. This in turn had necessitated her hiring a private Spanish-speaking nurse from the agency for which Meg worked, to accompany her back to Seville and to remain there with her until after the Christmas holiday. Meg had taken to the Señora as soon as they had met and the Señora on her part had been almost embarrassingly grateful to Meg for the care she had given her.

   Perhaps it was because of her own accident that she was so easily able to empathise with the anxiety and pain suffered by her patient, Meg acknowledged. As a busy young theatre sister who loved her job, the last thing she had been prepared for was to be attacked late at night in Casualty by a knife-wielding drunk who had inflicted such serious injuries on her unprotected hand and arm that they would never again be strong enough for theatre work.

   The pain of losing her career as well as the complications and physical suffering her injuries had caused might have daunted someone less strongly grounded than Meg, even embittered them, but Meg had firmly told herself and everyone else who asked that working for an agency as a private nurse was helping her to become multi-functional. It had been the fact that she was fluent in Spanish which had gained her her present job.

   When she had been growing up her father had managed an exclusive marina in Spain and she had spent her holidays there with her parents, quickly learning the language. Her parents were retired now and living in Portugal, where her father could indulge his twin passions of sailing and golf.

   The limousine had pulled into the kerb now, a huge highly polished black beast of a car which was attracting the discreetly awed attention of the crowd on the pavement—and no wonder. Personally Meg would have thought that her request for a car suitable to take a wheelchair-bound patient and her luggage might have resulted in something rather more modest, but as she already knew Elena Salvadores was an extremely wealthy woman.

   They had flown out from Heathrow first class, and the Señora had insisted that there was no way she wanted to have Meg wearing a uniform, which was why now, as she hurried to speak to the driver of their car, she was wearing a pair of warm trousers along with a toning butter-soft leather jacket. The trousers, with their fine blending of wool and cashmere, like the leather jacket, had been a birthday present from her parents.

   She had reached the car now, and was just about to lean forward to speak to the driver when—’Excuse me!’

   A note of icy warning entered Meg’s voice as she drew herself up to her full height of almost but not quite five feet four inches—six if you included the heels of her boots—and confronted the arrogantly imperious Spaniard who had appeared out of nowhere to try to lay claim to ‘their’ car.

   Tall, he dwarfed her, Meg recognised, and had to be a good two inches over six foot, and broad-shouldered—he was practically blocking out what little winter light there was. Everything about him commanded—demanded—that Meg give way to him, to his maleness, his arrogance—and that she allowed him to take ‘their’ hire car.

   Thoroughly infuriated by him, as well as concerned for her patient, who she had sensed had not enjoyed the flight and who was now looking tired and unwell, she opened her mouth to tell him what she thought of his bad manners. But before she could say a word the Spaniard was addressing her.

   ‘Madre de Dios,’ he stormed. ‘Are you a thief, that you dare to try to steal my car?’

   His car?

   Pink-faced with anger and disbelief, Meg turned to face him. His eyes were the colour of obsidian and as cold as ice, his hair thick and black, and as for his face! Meg could all too easily imagine that hawkish, far too good-looking profile impressing some women, but fortunately she was not one of them, she congratulated herself as she exclaimed in righteous indignation, ‘Me steal your car. I was here first.’

   It was ridiculous, Meg knew. She was not normally given to making impulsive judgements about people on first sight, but there was just something about this particular man that infuriated and antagonised her. Her heart was jumping with emotion, thudding almost painfully against her chest wall—not because he was too good-looking but simply because he was too arrogant, she assured herself.

   ‘First?’ He stopped her, scanning her smooth pale skin and wide-spaced turquoise-blue eyes, speaking to her in English, Meg suddenly realised, as she had done to him, forgetting in the heat of the moment just where she was.

   Was it her imagination or was he staring rather longer than necessary at the silky length of her dark red hair? It obviously was her imagination, Meg acknowledged ruefully, when he began smoothly, ‘For your information—’

   He broke off suddenly as Meg gave a soft exclamation of concern and, ignoring him, hurried towards her patient, who she could see was looking tired and stressed. But as she did so the arrogant Spaniard who was so determined to hijack their transport stared after her, suddenly exclaiming, to Meg’s shock, ‘Tia Elena! What on earth …?’ at the same time striding past Meg to reach her patient ahead of her.

   ‘Christian,’ Elena Salvadores was exclaiming in pleasure as he reached her. ‘What a surprise. What are you doing here?’

   ‘I’m just on my way home from a business trip to South America,’ Meg heard him answering. ‘But what on earth has happened to you?’

   ‘I had an accident in London,’ Meg’s patient was explaining in Spanish. ‘Fortunately nothing too serious, and I am on the mend now, but they would not allow me to return on my own, and since my leg still has to be dressed and bandaged Meg here has accompanied me. She is a trained nurse,’ she added, giving Meg a fond smile. ‘But I’m afraid she will find it very dull here in Seville with only me for company, especially since it will be Christmas.’

   She gave a small sigh.

   ‘I miss my Esteban so much, even though it is over ten years now since he died. Your mother and I were both widowed in the same year, but she has the good fortune to have her children.’

   ‘I’m afraid she does not always consider us to be “good” fortune.’

   The rueful smile that illuminated his whole face as he spoke did decidedly dangerous and unwanted things to Meg’s heartbeat, things she had no wish to so much as acknowledge, never mind go to the risky lengths of trying to analyse.

   So he was good-looking, very good-looking. So what? Without realising she was doing so, Meg gave a small toss of her burnished hair, unwittingly causing the object of her thoughts to break off his conversation to look at her. And Meg, although she was too modest to know it herself, was very well worth looking at from a male point of view.

   Small, slender, but with a deliciously curvaceous female shape. The harmonious toning of her hair and skin colouring with her caramel clothes allied to the unexpected brilliance of her spectacular eyes set in a soft heart-shaped face, guaranteed to bring out the hunter in even the mildest of men.

   Unable to break the contact his gaze was deliberately locking her into, Meg felt her heart start to race whilst tiny flutters of anger-edged nervousness infiltrated her body. It was as though he was silently, subtly taunting her, telling her that of the two of them he had the more power, the power over her as a female, the power to do whatever he wished with her, to her.

   Abruptly he looked away, breaking the spell, addressing her patient for all the world as though that oh, so male look of domination and power he had just given her had never existed.

   ‘You look tired, Tia Elena,’ he said softly, his voice warm with sympathy and concern. ‘You shouldn’t be waiting out here in the cold like this. Your nurse should—’

   Once again he was looking at her, this time with very evident disapproval, Meg recognised wrathfully.

   ‘It isn’t Meg’s fault,’ Elena Salvadores insisted, immediately coming to Meg’s rescue. ‘We ordered a hire car but so far it hasn’t arrived.’

   ‘Allow me to give you a lift,’ came the swift and firm response, followed by a very sardonic look in Meg’s direction before Christian added, ‘I have my car here.’

   Unable to help herself, Meg glared at him. A quick fresh look at the waiting limousine had conveyed to her what she should have recognised much sooner: namely that it was far too expensive and exclusive a vehicle to be anything other than privately owned. However, there was no way she was going to acknowledge her error to him! Instead she pointed out grandly, ‘This is a public taxi rank, and private cars are not allowed.’

   Before she could finish what she was saying Elena was informing her gently, ‘Christian has special status, Meg. His diplomatic duties mean that he is allowed to park wherever he wishes.’

   His diplomatic duties? Meg was struggling not to betray her chagrin, refusing to be impressed even when her patient introduced them formally. So the Spaniard was titled, a member of the Spanish nobility. Don Christian Felipe Martinez, el Duque de Perez!—and her patient’s godson. So what?

   His suave, ‘You may call me Christian,’ made Meg’s eyes shoot sparks of brilliant angry fire, but somehow she managed to hold her tongue, busying herself instead with ensuring that the chauffeur who was helping her patient did not inadvertently add to Elena’s discomfort in any way.

   But it wasn’t the chauffeur, it was Christian himself who took charge and helped Elena into the car, making sure she was comfortably settled inside it—whilst Meg, who had been about to do exactly that herself, was forced to stand back and look on in helpless indignation. How dared he both pre-empt her and at the same time manage to subtly imply that he didn’t trust her ability to take proper care of her patient?

   Stiff-backed with growing hostility towards him, Meg allowed the chauffeur to usher her into the car, which had to be the most luxurious she had ever been in—a huge Mercedes with black leather upholstery, and a far cry from her own little compact at home.

   For the first ten minutes of their journey Meg listened in silence whilst her patient talked to Christian about his family and various shared friends, but when Elena started to tell him she was concerned that Meg would be lonely and bored in Seville, with only her for company, Meg started to frown.

   However, before she could interrupt to remind Elena that the purpose of her being in Seville was for her to nurse Elena, she heard Christian telling the older woman very much the same thing, his voice becoming crisp and rather cool as he looked pointedly at Meg and then away again.

   Infuriated by the fact that he dared to disapprove of her, Meg did some interrupting of her own, telling him pointedly in Spanish that she could both speak and understand his language.

   Instead of recognising that she had been warning him against discussing her, Christian reacted to her interruption by telling her sharply, ‘I am relieved to hear it, since Tia Elena does not speak English very well. You should really have told us about your accident.’ He turned away from Meg to gently scold Elena. ‘I could have come to London myself to bring you home. My mother will be very cross that you did not let us know.’

   ‘I didn’t want to bother any of you,’ Elena was admitting. ‘I know how busy you are, Christian. Your mother told me the last time we met that this charitable work you have taken on for our government is taking more and more of your time.’

   Christian was shrugging. ‘As my late uncle’s representative, it is my duty to ensure that the orphanage he founded in Buenos Aires is properly administered and if, whilst I am there, I can represent the views of our country on certain matters, then it is also my duty to do that as well.’

   Unable to stop herself, Meg murmured sardonically under her breath, ‘Noblesse oblige.’

   But to her dismay she recognised that Christian had overheard her. ‘You think it a matter for mockery that a person should acknowledge a sense of obligation and duty?’ he asked her coldly. ‘You surprise me, given your choice of career—but then, perhaps I should not be surprised since you obviously choose to sell your services to the highest bidder rather than work in the public services, as so many other nurses do.’

   The arrogance and sheer unfairness of his comment took Meg’s breath away, but she knew that her hot face and angry eyes betrayed her feelings, even if his comment had been said too softly to reach Elena’s ears. Let him think what he liked, Meg decided furiously. There was no way she had any need to justify herself to him, or to explain just why she could only now work as a private nurse.

   At her side Elena was saying wistfully, ‘I envy your mother so much, Christian. It has always been a deep sadness to me that I never had children, and I especially feel the lack of them at times such as Christmas. You will all be going to the castillo, of course. Christian owns a most beautiful estate,’ she informed Meg. ‘It was given to his family by King Felipe in the sixteenth century, but Christian can trace his ancestry right back to the Moors.’

   ‘I am sure your nurse does not wish to be bored with the history of my family,’ Christian chided Elena, though the smile he gave her and the warmth in his voice robbed his words of any unkindness and instead made Meg feel as though somehow she was the one who was not worthy to receive such information. But Elena was totally oblivious to the underlying note of antipathy and sarcasm in his voice, and was already assuring him innocently, ‘Oh, no, Christian, you are wrong. Meg is very much interested in our history and culture, and very knowledgeable about them,’ she added, giving Meg an approving smile before continuing fretfully, ‘I would have liked to have shown her something of our city whilst she is here, but of course with my knee the way it is that is out of the question.’ Her face brightened as she suddenly exclaimed, ‘But you are an expert on our local heritage, Christian. Perhaps you—?’

   ‘No.’

   Meg’s face reddened when both Elena and Christian turned to look at her as she voiced her sharp denial.

   ‘I … I’m here to work,’ she pointed out, trying to alleviate the emotional intensity of her exclamation as she saw the bewilderment in Elena’s eyes.

   Quite what she might see in Christian’s eyes if she could bring herself to meet them, she suspected she already knew. It was so unlike her to let a man get so immediately and so dangerously under her skin, but then Christian was no ordinary man. Meg’s heart gave a small frantic jump as she recognised the dangerous allure of her thoughts.

   Sexy, high-born Spanish aristocrats were not her type, she reminded herself firmly. She liked her men good-humoured, tolerant, compassionate and down to earth, not the embodiment of a female sexual fantasy.

   ‘Ah, here we are.’

   Meg jumped guiltily as she realised how little attention she had been paying to her patient whilst she wrestled with her rebellious thoughts. The limousine was pulling up outside an impressive building which Elena had already explained to her had been a grandee’s private home prior to its conversion into several large apartments.

   ‘Elena, if you will give me your keys, my chauffeur will go ahead and open the doors for us whilst I escort you inside.’

   As Christian handed the keys the older woman gave him over to his chauffeur, he began to frown, his voice taking on its now familiar harshness as he addressed Meg.

   ‘Elena’s apartment is on the top floor. There is, of course, a lift, but it is not large. I trust you have checked that it will accommodate her wheelchair.’

   ‘Of course.’ Meg was pleased to be able to answer him with crisp efficiency. ‘I took the precaution of telephoning the concierge before we left London, to give him the precise measurements of the chair, and he assured me that the lift could accommodate it.’

   ‘I trust you also took the precaution of ensuring that it would accommodate you as well,’ was his dulcet response. ‘Otherwise my poor godmother will be travelling up and down in the lift, waiting for you to either ascend or descend the stairs.’

   Meg took a deep breath, but for once her training deserted her. ‘I am not exactly unfamiliar with the necessity of travelling in a lift with my patient, Don Christian,’ she informed him with formal hauteur. ‘As a theatre sister I once worked in a hospital which had its operating rooms several floors below its wards; I am used not merely to standing in a lift with a patient but also to ensuring that his or her various drips and drains are not dislodged.’

   ‘A theatre sister?’

   She could see him starting to frown, but Meg was not interested in whatever it was he was going to say. She had her patient to attend to.

   As she had guessed, it was a far more painful process for Elena to get out of the car than it had been for her to get in, and Meg was particularly careful to make the transition to her waiting wheelchair as easy as she could for her.

   ‘It’s all right,’ she quietly reassured her at one point as the older woman winced and cried out in pain. ‘Your leg will have stiffened up during the flight and that’s why it’s hurting so much now. Once we’ve got you in your apartment, I’ll massage it for you.’

   Instinctively Meg touched her own hand. The damaged tendons still caused her a good deal of pain at times, although she was far too professional to say so whilst she was working. She had forgotten, though, just how much those steely obsidian eyes saw, and suddenly Christian was at her side demanding, ‘Is something wrong?’

   ‘No, nothing,’ Meg fibbed, and to prove it she reached into the boot of the car to remove her medical bag. To her consternation, as she did so it slid from her grasp when her stiff tendons refused to react as quickly as she had wanted.

   Christian caught the bag before it reached the ground but it was Elena’s sharp exclamation of concern that caused her cheeks to redden as much as her own clumsiness as her patient sympathised,

   ‘Oh dear, is it your hand?’ and then, before Meg could say anything, she was telling Christian emotionally, ‘Poor Meg has been so brave, Christian. She was attacked in the hospital where she worked by a man with a knife, when she was trying to protect his girlfriend …’

   ‘I was just doing my job,’ Meg started to protest. The look Christian was giving her was making her heart bump heavily along the bottom of her ribcage and she fought to regulate her betrayingly unsteady breathing.

   ‘Leave the luggage. I shall see to it,’ she heard Christian instructing her sharply as she returned to the boot of the car whilst he manoeuvred the wheelchair.

   ‘I can manage,’ Meg insisted, and then gave a gasp of shock as he left Elena to stride towards her, lean brown fingers manacling her wrist as he lifted her hand away from the case she had been reaching for. Turning it over, he studied her palm, his eyebrows snapping together as his gaze absorbed the extent of her scars. But the shock she had felt when she had seen him bearing down on her was nothing compared to what she felt now as his thumb brushed slowly along the length of the scar that disfigured her wrist.

   Totally unable to bring herself to meet his eyes, and equally unwilling to suffer the humiliation of an undignified struggle to remove her wrist from his imprisoning grip, she fixed her gaze straight ahead which, unfortunately, meant she was staring at the shirt-covered expanse of a male chest which she could see all too plainly possessed the kind of muscular physique normally only found on a sportsman. Wretched man. Surely there must be something about him which she, as a woman, could disdain?

   ‘He must have virtually severed your wrist.’

   The quiet words, uttered in a tone of voice that seemed to rumble towards her from the depths of the chest she had just been unwillingly studying, shocked her into lifting her unguarded gaze to meet his.

   ‘No … Well, not … I was lucky in that our hospital had the country’s top microsurgical team. They—the surgeon …’ She stopped and bit her lip, remembering how shocked she had been when Michael Lord had told her compassionately that he had done everything that he, as a surgeon, could do for her and that the degree of movement she would recover was down to her own determination and, as he had put it, ‘the goodwill of the angels’.

   She had been lucky, very lucky—due in the main, she was convinced, to his skilled repair work. So far as most things went, she was perfectly able to operate normally, but theatre work was not ‘most’ things, and the risk that she might be too slow to hand an instrument over to a surgeon or, even worse, might not be able to react at all to instructions, had closed the door on theatre work to her for ever.

   ‘Oh, darling, I’m so very, very sorry,’ her mother had tried to comfort her, adding, ‘Look, why don’t you come and stay with Daddy and me for a while?’

   But Meg had refused, signing on instead with the private nursing agency for whom she now worked.

   She felt Christian’s grip on her wrist slacken and immediately she bent back towards the boot of the car, stubbornly determined to remove her own luggage. But Christian moved in the same direction at the same time, so that their heads were close together and he was still holding her wrist.

   A sensation of intense awareness and sensitivity to his proximity filled her, making it impossible for her to breathe or think properly. Every protective urge she possessed screamed at her to move away from him, but something deeper, stronger and far more elemental, was refusing to let her do so.

   Christian was looking at her mouth and she … she was letting him, feeling her lips moisten and part, feeling too her eyes growing heavy and her breathing becoming unsteady.

   What was the matter with her? Just because he was totally and undeniably male … just because … just because her head felt dizzy and her legs felt weak and her heart was pounding—bounding helplessly from one beat to another like a newborn foal finding its legs—that didn’t mean … that didn’t …

   ‘Christian, is Meg all right?’

   Elena’s voice seemed to reach her from a long way away. Like a drowning man, Meg clung to it, forcing herself to remember where she was and why.

   If this was a film, right now its audience would be in no doubt at all about what would happen next. But it wasn’t a film, she reminded herself fiercely as she realised that Christian had released her wrist and she was free to escape from him and the dangerous sorcery of the spell his proximity had woven around her.

   Get a grip, for goodness’ sake, she berated herself mentally as she hurried towards Elena’s wheelchair. It was totally unlike her to react like this and she couldn’t understand why she was behaving so idiotically.

CHAPTER TWO

   ‘THERE, how do you feel now?’

   ‘Much better.’ Elena thanked Meg gratefully as she finished massaging her patient and smiled at her.

   It was less than two hours since their arrival at the apartment, which had proved to be even more luxurious and elegant than Meg had expected.

   The bedroom she had been shown to by Elena’s elderly housekeeper was more of a small suite than a mere room, complete with its own luxurious marble bathroom and a small sitting room as well, but Meg had been more concerned about her patient than the luxury of her new surroundings, insisting on making Elena comfortable before settling herself in.

   The telephone beside the ornately luxurious bed rang just as Meg was slipping the covers back over Elena, and discreetly she left the room to allow Elena to speak to her caller in privacy whilst she made her way back to her suite.

   She was, of course, fully familiar with the Spanish custom of eating late at night, but hunger pangs were now beginning to gnaw faintly at her tummy. It seemed a long time since she had eaten the delicious meal they had been served in the First Class cabin on the plane.

   Presumably she would eat her meals in the kitchen with Elena’s housekeeper, Anna, whilst Elena herself either dined alone or with friends—or her godson … Meg’s heart gave a betraying thump. But, no, he would not be visiting whilst she was here, Meg reassured herself. Hadn’t Elena herself mentioned the fact that he and his family would be spending Christmas at his family estate in the country?

   His family … Was he married? Her heart gave another sharp thump. Meg guessed that he must be in his early thirties and, although he had made no mention of a wife, a man with a background like his would surely want to have a son to continue the family line.

   The intercom telephone on the table next to Meg rang, making her jump. When she answered it, she heard Elena’s voice excitedly asking her to come to her room.

   When Meg got there, her patient was sitting up in bed, looking pink-cheeked and happy.

   ‘My telephone call was from Luisa, Christian’s mother. She has invited us both to spend the Christmas holiday with them. Christian must have told her how concerned I was that you would find it dull here on your own, with just me for company. Oh, I am so pleased. You will love Christian’s family, I promise you.’

   Valiantly, Meg tried not to show her own consternation. The mere thought of seeing Christian again, never mind spending time in his home, was doing the most alarming things to her nervous system. But Meg knew there was no way she could refuse to go. Elena’s wound still needed careful cleaning and bandaging, and her surgeon had been insistent that she had to have proper nursing care for at least three weeks after her operation.

   Meg had always taken her professional responsibility very seriously and there was no way she was going to stop doing so now, just because of a mere man.

   A mere man? Christian? A delicate hint of pink colour tinged her skin as certain unassailable facts forced themselves in front of her.

   Christian bore just about as much resemblance to being a ‘mere’ male as a medical student did to a senior consultant, which was to say that when it came to quantifying ‘maleness’ Christian was in a class of his own.

   What was she doing, boosting the wretched man’s already far too high opinion of himself with her foolishly treacherous thoughts?

   Anyone would think that she was in danger of finding him attractive—which she most certainly did not, she assured herself vigorously, as Elena started to plan what she was going to need to pack for their visit, suddenly becoming far more animated and happy than Meg had previously seen her.

   ‘This is all Christian’s doing. He really is the most thoughtful person. But then all the men in his family have been known for their benevolence to others. Christian’s uncle, the one he mentioned, was so affected by the plight of the street children in Buenos Aires that he set up and financed a special home for them and left money in his will for its continued maintenance. Christian’s family have had business links with South America for many generations, and now our government has requested his help when it comes to any kind of delicate negotiations.’

   It was obvious to Meg just how much Elena admired her godson and how much she was looking forward to spending Christmas with his family. No doubt he was used to women doting on him. Well, she certainly wasn’t going to become one of his besotted admirers!

   ‘So, if you will wait here with the luggage, Meg, I shall take Tia Elena down to the car in her wheelchair and see her safely installed in it, whilst I send Esteban up to collect the luggage.’

   ‘Oh, but you will make sure that the apartment is securely locked up, won’t you, Christian.’ Elena intervened anxiously.

   ‘Of course,’ he told her.

   Gritting her teeth, her hackles already rising in antagonistic response to the lordly mantle of control Christian had assumed since his arrival at the apartment ten minutes earlier, Meg tried not to notice how sexually male he looked wearing a pair of casual snug-fitting jeans and a soft cotton shirt, the top couple of buttons of which were unfastened.

   Meg was forced to swallow hard against the taut feeling of female awareness threatening to sabotage her determination not to find him in the least bit attractive.

   So why on earth was her tummy fluttering, just because as he’d turned towards her patient she had glimpsed the disturbingly male darkness of his body hair where his shirt lay open? And, even more disconcertingly, why was she having to control that upsurge of female wantonness that said so clearly and mortifyingly that it wanted to see more?

   Naked male bodies were nothing new to her, as a nurse, so why should the thought of this particular male body turn her into a quivering, dithering mass of desire?

   Meg had no idea. She was just relieved that Christian was finally wheeling Elena out of the apartment, leaving her to await the arrival of his chauffeur, Esteban.

   The amount of luggage Elena deemed it necessary to take with her for a fortnight’s stay with friends for what she had told Meg would be a ‘family Christmas’ had reduced Meg to awed silence as she had watched Anna pack, reverently wrapping everything in layer after layer of tissue paper.

   The addition of a large, old-fashioned leather jewellery case had been the final confirmation, if Meg had needed one, that the rich were indeed different.

   Everything she needed for their two-week stay had taken less than half an hour to repack into her one single case and, indeed, she had spent longer packing her medical bag—not just with everything that she felt Elena would need, but with the basic medical essentials without which she never travelled.

   Esteban arrived and then departed with Elena’s cases, whilst Meg waited in trepidation for Christian to return to release her to go down to the car with her own luggage, whilst he made sure the apartment was securely locked.

   The apartment door opened and Christian strode in, giving Meg an inimical, sweeping glance.

   ‘You have everything?’ he asked her, the tone he used to her far more curt and abrasive than the soft affectionate one he used to his godmother, Meg noticed.

   Simply nodding her head tersely, she bent to pick up her two cases, intending to make her way to the lift and then down to the waiting car, leaving him to lock the flat on his own.

   She was wearing the clothes she had travelled to Spain in, but today she was carrying her jacket over her arm, deeming the soft cashmere sweater she was wearing warm enough for the car journey. Just to be on the safe side, she had also swathed a toning honey-coloured pashmina around herself.

   As she leaned forward to pick up her cases, Christian stopped her, telling her, ‘I’ll carry those.’

   It was on the tip of Meg’s tongue to remind him sharply that she was not a sixty-year-old invalid like his godmother, and was more than capable of carrying her own bags, but the truth was that her injured wrist and hand were feeling stiff and painful. She knew that she would have to carry each of her bags out into the hallway individually, and that her medical bag was particularly heavy.

   Even so, her eyes smouldered with the feelings caution told her it would be unwise to voice and, for a moment, as their glances clashed, Meg could see in Christian’s an answering smoulder daring her to defy him, before it was banished to be replaced by a look of coolly thoughtful consideration.

   In silence, he placed her bags outside the apartment door in the elegant hallway, then told her, ‘We’ll go down in the lift together, if you will just wait until I have secured the apartment.’

   Only the fact that she was wary of trying to carry her medical bag prevented Meg from going down to the car on her own. Not that he kept her waiting long … She had barely had time to do more than chide herself for the way she was reacting to him when he was locking the outer door to the apartment and striding past her to summon the lift.

   As Meg had already discovered for herself, the lift to the apartments was not exactly generously proportioned. It held Elena’s wheelchair with Elena in it and herself—just—which meant that it allowed two fully grown adults, especially if one of them was over six foot in height and with the breadth of shoulder surely more appropriate for a top-scoring polo player than a businessman, just about enough room, provided they did not mind sharing their own personal ‘space’.

   Even with her two cases in the lift between them, Meg still discovered that her body felt that Christian was standing very intimately close. But that was still no excuse for it to start reacting as though it liked that proximity rather than objected to it.

   Determinedly, Meg stared forward, her soft lips clamped tightly closed. There was no way she was going to allow Christian to guess how idiotically her body was behaving. But suddenly the lift jolted to a halt, throwing Meg off balance and into Christian and, of course, it was only natural that he should reach out to steady her. Field her was probably a more appropriate term, Meg recognised, the breath whooshing out of her lungs as she collided with the impressive hardness of his chest.

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