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By Robyn Grady. Tristan Barkley knew danger when he sensed it. As he whipped open the sliding glass door and scanned his expansive backyard, he sensed it in spades.

His heart beat like a war drum against his ribs while the hair on his nape prickled and every muscle in his body bunched tight. Perhaps she was out shopping. It was one of the reasons he valued her—or rather, her dedication to her job—so highly. A second later, his gut wrenched at the sight of her practical leather handbag and its contents strewn over the kitchen counter.

Her uniform had been turned inside out and discarded on the cold marble tiles. One black lace-up shoe lay near the timber meals table, the other had been left upside down near this door. Now as he shaded his eyes against a single ray piercing the brewing black sky, his heart squeezed like a fist in his chest. He strode onto the lawn and movement beyond the northern courtyard caught his eye. Twenty-twenty vision said the long, tanned limbs were female.

A flash of a pink swimsuit, and the curves it partially concealed, confirmed she was of his generation or younger.

Tristan let out a territorial growl. The police suspected the work of a couple. One poor grandmother had been assaulted and tied up in her own home. Was that woman in his pool the girlfriend of some brazen burglar? He charged forward even as another scenario came to mind. Might be that Ella had simply invited a friend over.

Or family. Her glistening body might have belonged to a swimsuit model—buxom with shapely, tanned legs that seemed to go on forever. Tristan braced his own legs shoulder-width apart and crossed his arms. Unsuspecting, the woman straightened fully, sliding her hands back over her hair, like some Bond girl from a beach scene. When she finally noticed him, when she looked up with those big blue, suddenly startled eyes…. Then he dragged a hand down over his mouth and blinked several times.

The hair was the wrong color. Still, he ground out the question. Driven by testosterone-fueled force, his gaze dipped lower and his blood began to stir. She folded her arms over the top of the swimsuit, which only made her amazing cleavage appear twice as deep and ten times more alluring.

I rolled my ankle on a run this week, she explained. I like to keep fit. Her wet hair sprayed a cold arc on his business shirt as she threw a look at the pool then back. His brain stumbled up to speed. Ella, his unassuming housekeeper, ran to keep fit? Out of uniform, however, in that amazing swimsuit, she looked nothing short of… sensational. As telltale heat flared through his system, he shook himself and squared his shoulders. That kind of reaction was totally inappropriate.

Miss Jacob was the hired help—his housekeeper—and she still had more than a little explaining to do. He cleared the thickness from his throat and stabbed a reproving finger toward the house. Your uniform and shoes were tossed around the kitchen. Your handbag was tipped upside down on the counter. I wanted a change. This week I wanted to change it back. He growled loud enough to be heard. She was avoiding his question.

His voice deepened with concern. Are you in some kind of trouble, Ella? When she blinked at him over her shoulder, her full lips slightly parted, she looked so vulnerable. She curled strands of blond behind her ear. She continued on toward a sun lounger, her step favoring one leg. A very nice leg. Very nice body. When she turned toward the house, he barred her way. She peered up at him as rivulets of water trickled down her flawless face. Her eyes were the color of Ceylon sapphires.

How had he missed that before? Did she usually wear glasses? Finally she blew out a defeated breath. I was going to tell you tomorrow. Her chin lifted slightly. He ran a hand through his hair. Of all the crazy things, this had been the farthermost from his mind. Is it the pay? Her wage was more than generous, but if that was the problem, it could easily be solved.

Name your price. However, given the querulous past he and the mayor shared, frankly, Tristan could use all the help he could get. Tristan scratched his temple and replaced the gravel in his voice with a more understanding tone. Look, if this is about that episode before I left….

The red in her cheeks spread down the column of her throat. Her chest rose and fell as she shook her head and, dodging him, moved away. That morning has nothing to do with my leaving. As his sense of control returned, Tristan eased out a relieved breath. Now that he knew what was behind her resignation, he could fix the situation.

Admittedly it was an awkward moment, he said. His mind went back to that day. In that moment, he had reflexively stepped closer—to assure her not to be alarmed, nothing more. They lived together. Tricky situations were bound to occur, like her walking in on him buck-naked that morning, like his discovery of her swimming today—. Her pace eased as she wrapped the towel more securely under her arms. My inheritance from my mother finally came through.

She flicked him a glance. The executor organized to have the funds transferred through to my account last night, but when it bounced back this morning, he rang to check the BSB number.

Well, I overreacted and dumped it upside down. Her heart could have raced, her hands might have shaken. She was normally so composed and ordered, as was he. But having overreacted himself just now, he could better understand how she might have lost control in that moment. Her face pinched, then she shrugged. When I ended the phone call and knew the money would be in my account on Monday, I had this overwhelming urge to be free of them.

I ripped the uniform off where I stood. Then I kicked off my shoes. She focused on her bare feet as she continued walking, moving slowly now. Tristan slid his hands into his trouser pockets. So Ella had come into an inheritance. Not that there was much happening in his personal life these days. He stood aside as she entered the kitchen through the still open door.

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Bedded By Blackmail Book by Robyn Grady


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Bedded By Blackmail



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