Thunder crashed, and Daisy cursed under her breath. Glancing up and down the block for some sort of shelter before the storm began in earnest, she hitched her backpack higher on her right shoulder and took off in the direction of the biggest house on the block. It also happened to be the darkest—no warm glow lit up the windows from the inside. Chances were, nobody was home and she could hide out on the porch until the rain stopped.
The front porch was empty—perhaps it was too early in spring for the occupants to have put the outdoor furniture back for the season. But the wood flooring was dry, and Daisy wasn’t feeling particularly well. With a sigh and a glance at the curtained and dark windows, she sank down, sitting with her back against the house.
She was stupid. So terrifically stupid. Why she’d ever thought running away from home and becoming a ‘traveler’ would be fun was, now, beyond her. It had seemed like a good idea two months ago, when her boyfriend had convinced her she was spoiled and her parents were assholes, and what she needed to do was take off with only what she could fit in her backpack.
But week after week of staying in hostels—or crashing on people’s couches—had taken its toll. She was tired. And miserable. And when Shawn had pushed her around earlier in the day, she’d had enough. Nobody pushed her around.
Fuck Shawn. Fuck being on the run. She wasn’t going home, but living like this wasn’t the answer either.
Yawning, she patted her backpack into something resembling—but not feeling like—a pillow, then lay down, curling into herself to keep warm. The shivering had started about an hour ago, and it was getting worse. But she felt too tired and weak to seek out a warmer place to stay for the night, so this would have to do. In the morning she’d decide what steps to take next. For now, she just needed some sleep.
As she drifted off, she noticed the brass door knocker, and the ornately carved wooden door itself. And the grandeur of the home on whose porch she lay. Her last thought before falling asleep was to wonder what it would be like to own a house like this. To have so much money you could probably buy the world.
“What the fuck?”
Daisy’s eyes flickered open. A man’s voice had interrupted her sleep, but she felt thick and weak, like speaking, let alone sitting up, would be a monumental task.
Through heavily lidded eyes she saw two pairs of legs in dress pants. Men, obviously. They were standing close to her, and she wanted to look at their faces, wanted to tell them she’d be on her way in just a moment, but it was impossible to summon the energy. Something was wrong with her body.
“I’ll call the police,” one of the men said, his voice brusque and cold.
“Yes,” said the other man. Then, “Wait.”
She sensed him moving closer to her, though her eyes were still half shut. What was he doing? Looking at her? Staring? She’d jump up and sprint away under normal circumstances, but there was nothing normal at all about how she was feeling at the moment, where the smallest movement was herculean.
“Don’t get too close,” the other voice said. “Might catch something.”
“Help me bring her inside.”
“I’m going to bring her inside. Get the door for me?”
“You’re fucking crazy.”
But she heard keys jingling at the same time she felt a strong arm under her upper back, another beneath her knees. And then she was in motion, being lifted up, light as a feather.
Inside was bright, and she squeezed her eyes tighter. A flurry of voices. A woman, older, fussing and muttering about a guest bed being made up already. A soft mattress. Cool towel on her forehead. Someone forcing her to take pills and swallow, and then darkness. Warm, still darkness.
The next time she opened her eyes she was in a bedroom, her body warm and comfortable, a comforter softer than any she’d ever felt enveloping her. Pale rays of sun filtered in through gauzy white curtains. The room was big yet somehow intimate. The off-white walls were decorated with gorgeous black and white framed photographs. A plush silvery carpet covered the floor. A white, expertly distressed dresser matched the nightstand next to her, on which sat a pitcher of water, ice cubes sparkling in the sunlight.
A door opened and a plump woman, humming, entered the bedroom. Behind her was a sparkling bathroom, and the scent of lemon cleaner wafted over to Daisy. Had the woman been cleaning? Did she live here?
With many questions that needed answers, Daisy forced her leaden body into an upright position, despite the pounding in her head.
“Oh!” The woman noticed Daisy’s movement and rushed over, putting her palm on Daisy’s forehead.
“Your fever’s gone down.” She nodded at Daisy, her eyes kind but worried. “You were burning up last night. Here.” She picked up a glass on the nightstand and filled it with icy cold water from the pitcher. Handing it to Daisy, she said, “We’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”
“We?” Daisy sipped the water, the cold liquid refreshing, like it alone could cure whatever was wrong with her.
“Well, I have been. Victor has no doubt been working.” She sat on the edge of the bed and took the glass back from Daisy, setting it on the nightstand once more.
“Who’s Victor? Who are you?” It sounded a little rude, thought Daisy, but here she was in a stranger’s home, and she needed, at the very least, some basic information.
The woman chuckled, a warm sound, and the skin around her eyes crinkled as she did. Her graying brown hair was pulled back into a bun, and her makeup-less face showed her age, but Daisy could tell she had once been beautiful. Was, in fact, still beautiful.
“I’m Marian Foster,” the woman said. “I work here for Victor Bennett.” She said Victor Bennett as if Daisy would recognize the name.
Daisy frowned slightly and shook her head. “I don’t…”
“Well, he’s my employer. I take care of the house, mostly. And now, you.” The woman got up and fussed with the filmy curtains.
“I, uh, I need to go.” It struck Daisy suddenly, as the haze of sickness and sleep lifted, that she was here in someone’s home. A stranger’s home. And as beautiful as it was, and as kind as Marian Foster seemed, she didn’t belong here. She was used to the austere though clean comfort of the youth hostels she’d visited. Or the grungy, loud, smoke-filled living rooms of people she and Shawn had met as they traveled.
Daisy swung her legs over the side of the bed and fought the wave of dizziness that threatened to overtake her.
In a second, Marian was in front of her, kneeling down and gazing earnestly into her eyes. “There’s no hurry.” Her blue eyes were filled with kindness. “Please stay for breakfast. A shower and some Advil too. Then I’ll pack you some supplies before you go. A sandwich and some hardboiled eggs, at least, I think.” She got up. “Let me start the shower for you.”
Daisy closed her eyes for a moment, imagining how exquisite hot water would feel right now. And despite the urge to get out of here, to figure out where she was going next, a little time to collect her thoughts—and some supplies—wasn’t a terrible idea.
“All right,” she sighed. “A shower sounds really, really great.”
“Wonderful!” Marian clapped her hands together. She disappeared into the bathroom and returned with a bottle of Advil. She laid two pills on the nightstand next to Daisy’s water. “Take these while I get the water going. You’re going to feel so much better after you bathe.”
The bathroom was gorgeous. She ran her hand over the smooth marble counter and realized that her bare feet were warm. The floor was heated! Every surface gleamed and sparkled, and as she stripped out of her clothes, she realized how dirty she actually was. Refusing to look in the mirror, she left her jeans and T-shirt in a pile on the floor, then ran her hand through her greasy long blonde hair before stepping into the steamy water.
It felt good. Better than good. After only a second, she’d already decided that she wanted to be in there the entire day. An assortment of body gels, shampoos, and conditioners, as well as loofas and sponges, presented a dizzying array of choices, and Daisy used one, then another, lathering up and enjoying the sweet smell of each.
She dimly heard Marian knock then enter the bathroom, state she was taking Daisy’s clothes to wash them and leaving a robe. The door shut once more as Marian departed.
After scrubbing her body three times, shampooing twice, and applying conditioner once, Daisy was done. Turning off the water made her momentarily sad, until she stepped out onto the plush bath rug and dried off with the thickest towel she’d ever touched. Even softer was the robe waiting for her, bright white and big, the kind of robe in which she could curl up. She imagined a life where she could do just that: cover herself in the lush softness and get back in bed, where she’d read for hours between naps.
Marian had also left a pair of white puffy slippers, and in a bowl on the sink counter were various lotions and body sprays. Daisy chose one of each and applied them, the slightly fruity smell intoxicating in the still-steamy bathroom.
The bedroom was empty when she returned, and she assumed Marian was off in the laundry room, wherever that was, washing Daisy’s clothes. Although she’d have to wait longer to leave, the thought of staying in the comfortable robe and relaxing in bed a little longer made her smile. It would feel good. And would give her time to figure out where to go next.
Home was an option. Her parents wouldn’t turn her away. But she could already the see the I-told-you-so looks on their faces, their long-suffering expressions letting her know they weren’t even surprised she’d disappointed them one more time. She mentally ran down the list of friends, and either she’d already crashed with them or she wasn’t close enough to them to call with such a big favor. She did have some pride, after all.
She and Shawn had been on their way to stay with a friend of his, get jobs and save some money. But when he’d hit her, she’d known it was over. There was no returning from that. She’d left him and that’s how she’d, somehow, ended up here. In this big and beautiful bedroom in the most comfortable item of clothing she’d ever worn.
She pulled the robe around her tighter, then headed to the window to look outside, check out the neighborhood during the day. The curtains’ filmy fabric was delicate as she pushed it aside, and when the bedroom door opened, she spoke without turning.
“The shower was wonderful. Exactly what I needed. I feel so much better now.”
“It’s good to see you on your feet today.” She’d expected Marian, but it was a man’s voice, low and confident, with a touch of humor in it.
Daisy whipped around and stared at possibly the best-looking man she’d ever seen. He was dressed in a suit, and though she knew nothing about men’s attire, she could tell, somehow, that it was expensive. He stood casually just inside the door, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed in front of him, a half-smile gracing his face. Green eyes that assessed everything stared at her from under dark brown slightly messy hair, the one nod to casual in his otherwise impeccably professional appearance.
“Oh. I, um…” Her voice trailed off, and this time when she pulled the robe tighter around her it wasn’t for comfort; it was an impulse. Not that he was staring. But he was a man. And he was looking at her. And even though she knew nothing about him, her heart pounded and her belly swirled with sudden and surprising desire. She’d just met him!
“Victor Bennett.” He strode across the room and offered his hand to Daisy.
“Daisy Underwood.” Her voice was hesitant; she felt small in his presence. And the difference in their attire made her feel on edge as well. It was hard to be confident in the presence of a man like this when you’d just gotten out of the shower and weren’t even dressed.
His hand held hers tightly for a moment, and then he let go, staring into her eyes the whole time.
“How are you feeling today, Daisy Underwood?” He smiled that half-smile again, the one that made Daisy feel things she was positive she shouldn’t after only knowing him for a few minutes.
“Better. Thanks. I wasn’t well last night.”
“That much was obvious. We almost called an ambulance, but Marian—you’ve met her, right?—insisted she could take care of you. At first I thought you were passed out from drinking, but as soon as I lifted you up, I could feel how hot you were. Feverish,” he added, as if wanting to make sure she didn’t think he was calling her hot in another way. But his eyes burned as he spoke.
“I’m sorry,” Daisy stammered. “I needed to get out of the rain, and it didn’t look like anyone was home. I planned to rest a little on your porch, but then I fell asleep. I’m just waiting for my clothes, and then I’ll, um, leave.”
“There’s no hurry.” He was standing close enough that Daisy could smell him, clean and spiced, like aftershave. There was an intensity in his eyes as he stared at her that terrified her at the same time as it turned her on, and she felt a throbbing between her legs.
Daisy shrugged. “Thanks. Still. I don’t want to, you know, take advantage or anything.”
“Stay for breakfast. I’ve asked Joe to cook something up, and he’ll be disappointed if you leave before eating. He takes pride in his work.”
Daisy assumed Joe was the cook or chef or someone hired to produce meals. Apparently Victor had people to do everything for him.
“All right,” she mumbled.
“Good.” There was no relief in his voice; it was as though he’d known from the second he’d asked that she’d stay. “I’ll see you downstairs in a bit, then.” He gave her one last lingering look, that half-smile, half-smirk on his face again, before turning and walking away, his long legs crossing the floor quickly. Without a look back he was gone, closing the door behind him.
Daisy breathed out, aware only at that moment that she’d been holding her breath. She felt both deflated and turned on, and angry at herself for being so insipid. It was as though her body insisted on feeling something despite the fact that her brain knew he was just some rich dude used to always getting his way. And she wasn’t that easy or pathetic.
Of course, he had kept his distance. There’d been heat in his eyes, yes, but he hadn’t come on to her, and he didn’t seem like the sort of man who would ask for anything from her or force her into something she didn’t want.
On the dresser were some copies of Architectural Digest, and Daisy leafed through them while she waited for Marian to return with her clothes, enjoying the glossy photos in a distracted way, both because they were of homes she’d never have and because she was thinking about what her next move would be. It would be nice to have more time to plan, but that luxury wasn’t hers right now.
Daisy jumped when there was a light knock on the door, but relaxed when Marian opened it, her kind face peering inside. She stepped into the room carrying a bag, and she approached the bed, pulling clothing out of the bag and spreading it out onto the comforter.
“Your things are still in the dryer, but Victor sent out for some items in your size,” Marian said.
“What time is it?” Daisy glanced at the small silver traveler’s clock on the dresser. It was nine in the morning. “Is anything even open yet?”
Marian shrugged. “Victor is uniquely capable of always finding a way to get what he wants. And this was no exception.”
“I should probably just wait for my own stuff.” Daisy turned away from the items on the bed. She wasn’t going to keep them. They weren’t hers. So it was better not to even look at them.
“What’s he going to do with them if you don’t take them? Come on; don’t be silly.” Marian’s tone was light yet her words convincing.
“This will be quite pretty on you. It will bring out the beautiful blue of your eyes.” Marian held up a sweater that, even from across the room, Daisy could tell would feel luxurious against her skin.
“All right. Thank you.” Daisy approached the bed, eyeing the clothing on it. Designer jeans in her size. The sweater plus a few T-shirts and silk blouses. A skirt. Even underwear and bras and socks. She couldn’t wrap her mind around how Victor had gotten these items so quickly, but the thought of putting something new onto her clean body was hard to resist.
“I’ll leave you to get dressed. There’s a hair dryer and some makeup in the bathroom, if you’re interested. Make yourself at home. And when you’re done, come downstairs for breakfast. The cook has outdone himself today, and he’s easily offended, I’m afraid. You’ll need to eat something, if for no other reason than to spare his feelings.” Marian smiled warmly and left the room once more.
Daisy couldn’t help grinning as she pulled on clean underwear and a bra that fit perfectly, both lacey and in a delicate lavender shade she’d never have chosen but was absolutely gorgeous. The jeans fit like she’d spent hours in a dressing room searching for the perfect pair. And the sweater, as she’d imagined, was soft against her skin.
In the bathroom she brushed out her long blonde hair, which was still wet, and looked at the makeup that had been placed on the counter. An expensive brand, and more than she even knew what to do with. After some mascara, powder, and blush she was satisfied she looked passable. She wouldn’t bother drying her hair. It was a pain in the ass, and would just revert to thick curls anyway, no matter what she did.
Satisfied that she looked presentable—more than presentable, actually, given the amazing new outfit she wore—she headed out into the rest of the house. Like the bedroom, the hallway was painted in shades of white and grayish silver, and though the décor was sparse, each piece was elegant and perfect. A hallway table with a fresh bouquet of white blooms in a crystal cut vase. A framed black and white photo of a cityscape Daisy couldn’t identify.
The staircase was huge, the kind Daisy had seen only in movies—wide and winding, the sort you could use to really make an appearance. Daisy imagined parents waiting for their daughter to come down in a prom dress. Or wedding dress. Pride on their faces as they beamed up at the young woman descending.
Stupid, she hissed to herself. Fantasies like that were useless. She pushed the thought out of her head as she continued down to an open foyer with gleaming marble floors and, by the front door, a palm tree so large it wouldn’t have fit into her entire living room back home.
She remembered none of this from the night before, and the realization of how sick she’d actually been hit her hard. She couldn’t believe she felt so much better now, but she’d been worn out and starving and freezing cold.
The smell of food—bacon, she thought, and cinnamon too—and coffee drifted toward her, and she followed the scent and the sound of dishes clattering and people talking, until she entered a gigantic kitchen, with shiny surfaces and sun streaming in the windows, and Victor with his head thrown back, laughing at something either Marian or the cook had said.
For a moment she was stunned at how different he looked. He’d removed the suit jacket and tie, and the stark white button-down dress shirt was unbuttoned around the neck and upper chest. He was barefoot, which surprised a smile out of Daisy, and his hair looked even more disheveled that it had before. Those green eyes, though, were the same. Part playful, part intense, assessing every movement she made, as though he were a wild animal, a predator, and she was the prey.
“Hi.” She nodded at him, feeling suddenly and uncharacteristically shy. “Thanks for the clothes.”
He gestured at the table in the sun room off the kitchen, and she walked toward him, aware that he was watching every single step she took.
“Perfect fit.” He tilted his head slightly and raised an eyebrow. “It’s my pleasure. Daisy.”
Daisy gently lowered herself into the chair kitty-corner to his, afraid to look at him, afraid of the pounding that had started in her chest from the way his eyes glinted at her.
They were interrupted by the cook bringing over steaming platters of cinnamon rolls and bacon and eggs, and setting them in front of Daisy. He looked questioningly at her, as though he already wanted her approval, and she smiled at him.
“It looks really good.” She put a cinnamon roll on her plate, and scooped up some eggs and bacon as well.
“I’ll bring some coffee!” Joe swirled off, half walking and half dancing, to a French press on the counter and returned a few moments later with a hot mug of coffee that smelled expensive, not like the dollar coffees Daisy could afford on the road.
“Thank you.” She smiled at him again, this time genuinely grateful for everything.
As they ate, she felt her energy returning, and with it some of her usual confidence. “So,” she asked, sipping the delicious coffee, “what happened to your outfit?” She gestured at the unbuttoned shirt and the lack of a tie and jacket.
“I can’t fucking stand wearing a suit. I try to get out of it as soon as I can.” He ran a hand through his hair.
“But aren’t you going to work? Or something? It’s early.”
He laughed, the sound loud and contagious. “I already went to work. Had a six a.m. meeting with the board of directors. Usual bullshit.” He rolled his eyes and picked up his coffee mug, eyeing Daisy over it as he brought it to his lips, which, she couldn’t help noticing, were full and really, really bitable. “And then I came back here to check on my houseguest.”
“Oh.” Board of directors reinforced the idea that he was someone important. Rich, obviously. In a league so far above hers she wondered how it was possible they even spoke the same language. “So it wasn’t, um, good? Productive?” She wanted to show him she could converse about business, though really she knew nothing about it.
He laughed again as he set his coffee down. “There’s nothing productive about my father controlling the meeting and forbidding anyone else to express opinions. Although his and my definition of productive are vastly different. He’d say the meeting was, indeed, effective.”
“My parents are assholes too. I mean, we don’t meet in boardrooms or anything. But still.” Immediately she felt foolish for saying it; it had sounded so juvenile.
But Victor looked thoughtfully at her and nodded. “You think that someday you can earn their respect, and that someday just never comes.”
As if on cue, a hardy voice sounded out as an older version of Victor walked into the kitchen. Same hair, though graying and dignified. Same green eyes, though his were judging rather than mischievous. Same tall, strong build and commanding presence.
“Coffee.” He nodded in Joe’s direction, and Daisy couldn’t help noticing Joe and Marian, who was busy at the counter sorting mail, stiffening slightly.
“Dad.” Victor turned to his father.
Without even glancing in Daisy’s direction, Victor’s father sat down across from Victor and accepted the coffee Joe brought over without so much as a thank you.
“What are you doing here? Didn’t get enough of your hellion son at the meeting?” Victor’s tone was light, but his eyes narrowed slightly.
“Victor.” His father shook his head. “I don’t know how many times I need to impress upon you that questioning me in board meetings is not fucking acceptable.” His eyes sparked in anger.
Daisy wanted nothing more than to get up and leave the table, but she felt glued to the seat, as though any movement would call unwanted attention to her.
“And I don’t know how to impress upon you that I have a third interest in the company, the same as you and Steven.” Victor sat back in his chair and eyed his father.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Victor!” His father slammed his hand down on the table. “We had a goddamn agreement, and now you…”
“There was no agreement. There was only you telling my brother and me how you wanted us to vote. I don’t recall agreeing to anything.”
Victor’s father growled, then turned to Daisy, as if seeing her for the first time. “I suppose we shouldn’t talk in front of your… what? Last night’s conquest?” His words were bitter, as though even in this small observation he wanted to get in a dig at his son.
Victor sat forward, eyes glinting at his father. “There’s no fucking need to insult…”
“You’re an insult to me. Everything about you, from the way you defy me in meetings to the sluts you bring home.”
“She’s not a slut.” Victor’s voice was quiet but firm, hidden anger swelling in each syllable.
How would he defend her, wondered Daisy. Was being a homeless runaway better than a one-night stand? She should have left earlier, before the conversation had turned to her.
“No?” Victor’s father laughed, an ugly sound.
“No. She’s my new assistant.” A moment of surprise passed over Victor’s eyes, as though he didn’t know he was going to say that. “It’s her first day.”
“And you’re sitting around having coffee with the help, who isn’t dressed appropriately and her hair…” Victor’s father gestured at Daisy’s hair, which was still half-wet.
Daisy hoped he didn’t look under the table and see her bare feet.
“How I run my house is my business.” Victor stood. “Now, if we’re done here, I’ll see you at the office later.”
“We’re done for now. And you can run your house any way you choose.” He looked disdainfully at Daisy once more. “But how you run the company—our company? That is my business.” He rose and stalked off without another word.
Victor paced back and forth for a few moments, then muttered fucking asshole under his breath before sitting one more. “So, you’ve met my father.” He grinned at Daisy, raising one eyebrow as he did.
He’d morphed from angry into handsome and funny once more, and Daisy couldn’t help grinning back at him. “Seems like a nice guy.” She laughed.
Victor chuckled, then his face grew serious as he stared hard at Daisy. She felt her cheeks grow hot under his gaze, and her lips parted slightly. What did he want? Why was he looking so intently at her?
Elbow on the table, he ran his thumb along his lower lip as he assessed her. “Be my assistant.”
“Wait. Are you…? What?”
“I need an assistant. And you, obviously, need a job, as well as a place to stay.”
“You don’t know anything about me!” she sputtered, but they both knew it was the truth. She did need a job and a place to stay.
He shrugged. “And if you don’t become my assistant, I’ll have lied to my father. You don’t want to be responsible for me being a liar, do you?” He grinned broadly.
Daisy couldn’t help laughing again. “You can’t turn this around on me! I’m not responsible for you being a liar.”
“Look. I really could use some help. And I’m not going to pry, but you were sleeping on my porch last night for a reason. We’ll help each other out. You can stay here for a while. Or not. It’s up to you.”
“And what, exactly, would I have to do?” She leaned forward, interested but nervous for some strange reason.
“Phone calls. Help keep me organized. I’m kind of forgetful.” He rubbed his chiseled jaw and smiled in a rakish way.
“I could do that. And you wouldn’t want anything else? I won’t, like, be your live in, you know?” She glanced around and lowered her voice at the last part, making sure Marian and Joe were out of earshot. But she had to ask. The situation was too strange for her to assume anything.
“Jesus. No. I’m not asking you to be my, you know.” He repeated the phrase she’d used, rolling his eyes in exasperation. “I can get you know any time I want.” His lips formed a smirk. A sexy, know-it-all smirk.
Daisy blushed. “I’m sorry. I just had to ask.”
“We’ll talk pay later. And specifics. Tonight. Over dinner. I have to get back to the office now. And you need to get back in bed and rest.” He stood, buttoning his shirt as he did, and grabbing his tie from where it hung over the back of a chair.
Even though he’d made it clear he wasn’t interested in her for anything other than a job, she couldn’t help the tingling between her legs at the phrase you need to get back in bed, especially uttered in his gruff yet playful voice.
“I’ll be home by eight,” he informed Joe. “Can you make something light and fun for dinner? And I’ll be dining with Ms. Underwood.” He glanced over at Daisy and winked.
“Yes, sir.” Joe bowed theatrically.
“You’re ridiculous, Joe.” Victor laughed and shook his head. “Daisy, I’ll see you later. I’m sorry dinner will be so late, but I know work will keep me. Marian and Joe will make sure you have everything you need, and they know how to reach me.”
Daisy nodded, practically reeling in shock from everything that was happening, and so quickly at that. “I’ll be fine.”
“Later, then.” He took one long last look at her, a look that lingered past the point of comfort and verged into something else, something sultry and demanding.
Or maybe that was all just her imagination, because seconds later he was headed to the front door, leaving Daisy alone with Marian and Joe.
“Dear, would you like any more food?” Marian stood beside her.
“No, I’m full. Everything was so good. Thank you, both of you.” She glanced at Marian and Joe, smiling warmly at them.
“All right then. Victor asked me to make sure you get some rest. There’s a retractable screen in the guest room, and we have all the channels, of course. I’ll bring in snacks, and if you need anything—books, magazines, more clothing—just let me know and I’ll see that we order it right away.”
“Oh, no. I don’t need anything at all! If you just show me how to work the TV, I’ll probably nap and relax.” Daisy couldn’t believe, still, that she was here. With a job. And a place to live, with a ridiculously handsome and enigmatic man, in turns playful and dominant. She wasn’t sure why he’d asked her to stay, if there were any motivations other than to piss off his father. But she was intrigued. And out of options. There could be worse things to do.
Later in the day, Daisy felt sick once more, both hot and cold at the same time. Marian gave her some more Advil, and Daisy slept, her body weary. When she awoke, Marian ran her a bubble bath in the same spotless bathroom she’d used that morning. The scent of lavender and vanilla swirled through the steamy air as she sank down into the hot water, sighing and closing her eyes at the feeling. Never before had she been so pampered; she could get used to this.
But, she reminded herself, she wouldn’t let herself get too comfortable. She’d learned that whatever was given to you could be taken away in an instant. This wasn’t hers. And it wasn’t forever. It was a good place to stay for now. Nothing more.
Marian had laid out clothes for her, a low-cut black blouse and a filmy black skirt. “I don’t mean to overstep, and of course you can choose your own clothes.” Marian looked chagrined. “But I thought this would be perfect for dinner tonight. The other things are in the closet, though, if you’d prefer something else.”
“No, it’s perfect. So beautiful.” Daisy touched the crepey, delicate fabric of the outer layer of the skirt, knowing without trying it on that it would be short and flouncy and flirtatious, and that her legs would look good in it.
“And I can do your hair, if you’d like.”
“Oh, my god. I’m so sorry about this morning, when Victor’s father came in and my hair was still all wet…”
“That man is an…” Marian stopped short. “Don’t you worry about what he says. I only offered because my daughters, who are older than you now, used to let me do their hair. And I’d love to try my hand at it again.”
“Yes, that sounds great.”
At some point during the day, Marian had obtained a few bottles of perfume, in addition to the lotions and body sprays that were already there, and they were lined up on the bathroom counter, each container more sparkly and beautiful than the last. Daisy chose one that smelled light and fruity, and she took more time applying makeup than she had in the morning.
She was excited about dinner, intrigued by Victor and yearning to learn more about him. She wanted to impress him—both so he’d know asking her to work for him wasn’t a mistake, and because she wanted him to look at her again, the way he had from time to time that morning. She still wasn’t sure if it was merely her overactive imagination making her think there had been desire in his eyes. And she wanted to find out for certain.
Marian told Daisy to wait in the living room, a huge yet somehow cozy space with a wood-burning fireplace, a silvery gray rug, white couches that looked austere yet were amazingly comfortable, and plants everywhere. Joe brought her a glass of the most delicious white wine Daisy had ever tasted, and she sipped it slowly as she watched the fire crackle and pop. She was comfortable and would be completely relaxed, she was sure, if not for Victor’s impending arrival, which had her a little on edge with excitement. Every second seemed to take forever as she waited for the sound of him returning home.
When he came, finally, she was almost finished with her glass of wine, and she sat up straight as the front door in the foyer opened. She couldn’t see him from the living room where she waited, but his steps across the marble floors sounded angry. Quick.
He entered the living room, his brow furrowed and his gorgeous lips frowning. Yet the second he saw her, he stopped and stared. In an instant his expression went from enraged to amused, a smile lighting up his face and those green eyes sparking.