Naughty Nights in the Millionaire's Mansion. Robyn Grady
fish; clearly he was going to a good home. She was sure he’d be fed the finest fish food and have his home regularly cleaned by the housekeeper.
She went to lift the tank. ‘Do you have any names in mind?’
Frowning, Mr Stuart took over the weight of the tank. ‘Fish have names?’
At the counter, she collected flakes, stabilising drops, a complimentary miniature Poseidon and his trident, then went through everything with Mr Stuart regarding the care of his new goldfish. After he’d scrawled a signature on the transaction slip, she handed back his card. ‘I’m sure you’ll have no problems.’
‘If I do?’
She whisked a business card from its holder. He gripped it, genuine victory shining in his eyes. ‘I feel good about this.’
‘Then so do I.’
Mr Stuart collected his bundles. On his way past the puppies, he faltered, but then shot a glance over his shoulder and held up the fish with a smile that said, Right decision.
She winked and saluted. Another satisfied customer. And the puppies would go quickly to homes filled with love and adequate attention. Maybe one day Mitchell Stuart would return when he was ready for a bigger commitment.
Would she still be here? She had to believe tomorrow’s appointment with her bank manager would save the day. She couldn’t bear to think of the alternative.
Two hours later, she flipped the sign on the door as the phone rang. If that was the feeders and drinkers supplier after a payment, the cheque was definitely in the mail. If it was the landlord reminding her to be out in two weeks…
She held her nervy stomach. Maybe she wouldn’t answer.
When it rang again, she buckled and picked up. No hello from the other end, just a straight out, ‘I’ve found a name for my fish.’
That deep voice was even more bone-melting over the phone—low and unconsciously inviting against her ear.
‘Mr Stuart. Hello.’
She stammered. ‘B-Beg your pardon?’
‘He won’t quit jumping out of the tank. He’s on a suicide mission.’
She sank down onto a chair and rubbed her brow. Oh, dear. ‘That sometimes happens.’
‘I filled the tank, added the right amount of drops, set up the filter, gave him a feed. When I turned my back, he jumped out. I put him back in. He jumped out again, and again.’ His voice dropped to a growl. ‘Clearly he’s not happy.’
‘Could be a couple of things, like not enough water.’
‘I’ve already put more in.’
‘Maybe there’s too much.’
His voice cracked. ‘A fish can have too much water?’
‘Only in so far as making it easier to leap out.’ She gnawed her bottom lip. ‘And then there’s the possibility…’
‘Some fish are just, well, jumpers.’
She heard his groan, then a shuffle as if he’d moved and dropped into a seat himself.
A vision flashed to mind: gorgeous Mitchell Stuart dead on his feet after staying up all night, a scoop in one hand, a fist made out of the other, ruing the day he’d ever set foot in Great and Small.
Vanessa gripped the receiver tight. She’d said she’d help if need be. Statistics said people bought pets from shops relatively close to their homes. Doctors made house calls. No reason she couldn’t.
‘Mr Stuart, I’ve just shut up shop. Would you like me to drop over and see what I can do?’
‘You do that kind of thing?’
She lied. ‘All the time.’
A relieved expulsion of air travelled down the line. ‘I’ll give you my address.’
‘You think this is funny?’ Mitch manoeuvred Kamikaze off his redwood dining table into the net and, suppressing a shudder, plopped him back into the tank water. ‘Well, fun and games are over, buddy boy.’
Help was on the way. Help in the form of a petite, twenty-something-year-old whom he had no intention of getting to know beyond, Thanks for saving my fish. He wouldn’t acknowledge Vanessa Craig’s long, glossy hair, iridescent green eyes or the way his blood warmed like syrup on a stove whenever she smiled that I’m totally harmless smile. He was on sabbatical from women.
When his father had passed away fifteen years ago, Mitch had become the man of the house. Although he’d moved out of the stately Stuart mansion seven years ago, he was still the one the females of the family scampered to for help…and it seemed they always needed help. Help with their finances, help with repairs, booking flights, computer glitches—you name it, he got the call.
Like a stealthy airborne virus, recently the helpless female factor had followed him into more intimate relationships. Up-and-coming lingerie model Priscilla Lawson had seemed independent and resourceful when they’d met at that charity dinner. After three weeks together, their liaison had warmed up nicely, until Priscilla had tickled his chin one night and mentioned her family reunion… Would he mind booking her flight to Melbourne and, while she was gone, clean her pool and take her cat to its monthly check-up? It had liver problems.
His upper lip twitched.
He did not do cats.
But damn, he sure had liked that Rottweiler pup.
He was a busy man. His work was his life. However, while he had close associates at the firm as well as friends he knocked about with on weekends when he could spare the time, he’d wanted someone to come home to. Someone male who could watch football without a moan, not complain if he put his feet on the coffee table, who didn’t flutter eyelashes or resort to tears to get their own way. Someone who didn’t demand much time or emotion.
He gazed at his goggle-eyed companion.
A goldfish qualified.
The doorbell rang, echoing through the contemporary two-storey that enjoyed a privileged view of Sydney’s magnificent harbour. Mitch rolled the tension from his shoulders, then stabbed a finger at Kami. ‘Don’t move a fin till I get back.’
He opened the door and there she stood, looking unaffected and fresh, one long leg pegged out in those bun-hugging jeans, conspicuously busty in her white T-shirt with the pink swirly logo that said Great and Small. If forced to vote, he would go with Great rather than Small. In fact, she looked pretty darn hot—
Mitch slammed on the mental brakes.
Sweet blazes, what was he doing? Visualising this woman naked wasn’t going to help. In fact, it was highly inappropriate for more reasons than one.
Think ‘fish’, Mitch. Think ‘through with females’.
Clearing his throat, he gestured her in. ‘Thanks for coming so quickly. He’s over here.’
In the dining room, Vanessa Craig set her hands on her knees and inspected the patient while Mitch stood back, eager for a diagnosis. When the examination went on and her left knee bent more, which meant her right hip hitched up, he scowled and scrubbed his jaw. If she’d done that on purpose, he didn’t need the aggravation.
Finally she straightened, one hand on her lower back as she arched to stretch out her spine. Although Great jumped out at him, Mitch kept his eyes fixed firmly on hers.
Her question was sombre. ‘When was the last time he jumped?’