Heiress Behind the Headlines

Heiress Behind the Headlines by Caitlin Crews

Book: Heiress Behind the Headlines by Caitlin Crews Read Free Book Online
Authors: Caitlin Crews
choreographed it. As if they’d performed this simple, shared ritual a thousand times before. It occurred to her, with a little thump of shock, that this was the most intimate she had ever been with anyone. Much less a man.
    The realization made a shiver run through her. She felt as if the floor beneath her feet was suddenly precarious.
    “That’s not the first time you’ve chopped vegetables, clearly,” Jack observed, in that deceptively casual way of his that made her suspect he was looking for clues. Did he think she was some great mystery he felt called upon to solve? Or was he merely looking for confirmation of existing prejudices? In her experience, it was always one or the other. And it never ended well.
    But tonight, she couldn’t let herself think of that, not in the way she should. Not while the kitchen was so bright and cheery, holding the storm and the dark at bay. Not while she could smell garlic and basil in the air, and not when she sat at a simple wooden table to eat a meal she’d helped prepare, with a man who looked the way she’d always dreamed a man—
man—would look, should she ever find one of those.
    If she took this moment out of time—forgot what came before, what had just happened in the sitting room—maybe,just this once, she wouldn’t have to pretend. Maybe she could simply, truly enjoy herself.
    “I haven’t cooked anything in longer than I can remember,” she started to say, and then cut herself off—sure, somehow, that she had revealed too much. That he would call her
poor little rich girl
or something worse and she would deserve it, and she wasn’t sure she could handle the necessary self-recrimination just now. But he only gazed at her, his beautiful face inscrutable, his dark eyes so much more compelling than they should be. She swallowed. She should know better than to let this night, this man, get to her. She should be more realistic. She knew she should.
    “My mother had a housekeeper at her home in France,” she said as she settled herself in the heavy wooden chair across from him. She pulled the coarse linen napkin onto her lap. “Her name was Hilaire and she was ferocious. More a displaced tyrant than an employee.”
    She gazed at the wide bowls in front of them, the ceramic surfaces gleaming with the bright blues and joyful yellows of Provence. It almost felt as if she was tucked away in the château across the Atlantic with her silent, perpetually unwell mother, surrounded on all sides by plane trees, azure skies and fields of lavender. She could almost hear Hilaire’s ill-tempered muttering as she forced spoiled, defiant Larissa to perform any chores she deemed suitable, and the more menial, the better. They were some of her favorite memories, though Larissa knew better to admit such things aloud. People always got the wrong impression.
    But when she looked up, she saw only the deep brown of Jack’s eyes, and the way he lounged there, his big, powerful body so relaxed in that chair, his elegant fingers toying with his wineglass. Why that should make her feel at ease in response, she was afraid to examine.
    “She believed that every woman should know how to prepare a decent meal,” Larissa said.
    She shrugged out of habit, always so quick to pretend that these things meant nothing to her. That she had not looked upon those endless hours in the airless kitchen, making inevitable messes that would cause Hilaire to unleash a torrent of abrasive French, as the highlights of her childhood. At least someone, somewhere, had cared enough to correct her, to show her how to improve. Later, she would hate the way leaving Provence made her feel—though she would never admit that to herself in so many words—and so she’d stopped going. And in time, Hilaire had left her mother’s employ, and Larissa had only visited the château when she grew bored with the yachts cluttering up the St. Tropez harbor or with the celebrity-infested commotion of Cannes. And so her life

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