The Nanny and the Millionaire. Линда Гуднайт

The Nanny and the Millionaire - Линда Гуднайт

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Probably she had been in love with him when she was chief bridesmaid at their wedding. She must have thought then, end of story, only the marriage hadn’t worked out. A never to be missed opportunity had presented itself and Aunt Lois had seized it.

      While not unsympathetic, Marissa couldn’t help thinking Aunt Lois didn’t stand a chance.


      IT TOOK Georgia less than twenty-four hours to decide she didn’t want to remain in her own bedroom. She wanted to join Club Devlin in the west wing. Used to pushing and pushing for whatever she wanted, she was starting to sound a bit strident, repeating herself over and over.

      ‘I want to come over to you, please, please, Marissa! We shouldn’t be all over the place. We should be together!’

      Riley ran his fingers anxiously through his curls wondering what having Georgia over might mean. He had never met such an explosive kid in his life.

      ‘God, you’re a dreadful child!’ Lois stood at the door of the schoolroom, listening in. She felt vindicated at hearing her niece playing up on the unwanted governess.

      Marissa was going about arranging the classroom the way she wanted it, while the children sat at their desks drawing whatever they fancied. In Riley’s case an excellent representation of a space shuttle complete with astronaut in his space gear; in Georgia’s, a forest of gnarled trees standing in some kind of swamp inhabited by fierce four legged black creatures that Riley identified as wild boar.

      At the sound of Lois’s cutting voice the chatter stopped. ‘What would you know?’ Georgia swung into stride, screeching over her shoulder.

      Really she was being baited Marissa thought, but took the time to correct the child. ‘Georgia, please turn around and go on with your drawing,’ she said, slipping easily into her schoolteacher mode. It had proved effective in the past, though her girls had never behaved remotely as badly as Georgia. ‘If you expect to have your wishes considered, you must act in a courteous manner. It’s not nice to shout at your aunt.’

      ‘Okay, sorry,’ Georgia said gruffly, adding a particularly ugly boar to her drawing. ‘Tell her to quit being rude and shouting at me. You haven’t heard her. Neither has Holt.’

      ‘Shouldn’t you call your father, Daddy?’ Riley couldn’t understand how Georgia came to be using her father’s first name.

      Georgia turned fully to face him. ‘He doesn’t mind, Riley,’ she assured him. ‘He likes it.’

      Riley didn’t look convinced. ‘I always called my father Daddy.’

      ‘Okay, I’ll call Holt Daddy, if it’ll please you!’ Georgia had no wish to put Riley offside. She was absolutely enchanted with him. In fact he was so much fun he’d put Zoltan out of her head. ‘I really love him. He’s a great guy. I just wish I was a boy like you, then he’d love me more. Why are boys so bloody important?’ She threw off the swear word effortlessly, demonstrating it was one of her favourites.

      Marissa shook her head. ‘No swearing, Georgy.’

      Georgia’s face settled into a wicked grin. ‘Can I say damn and blast?’

      ‘Only if you really have to say it,’ Marissa said. ‘As in falling over and hurting yourself, but I prefer you didn’t. We’re going to be learning lots and lots of new words. We won’t need swear words, I promise.’

      ‘It’s true, Georgy,’ Riley said, taking another look at her wild drawing. It made his look ordinary. She had added what looked like a clump of black barbed wire. ‘I love words.’

      ‘So do I,’ Georgia said earnestly. ‘But I love swearing, too,’ she whispered behind her hand. ‘I won’t swear at you and Marissa. You’re too nice.’

      ‘Could I see you outside, Ms Devlin?’ Lois asked very shortly indeed, her eyes dark with multiple resentments and thwarted hopes.

      ‘Of course.’ Marissa paused for a moment to speak to the children. ‘When you finish your drawing, Georgy, would you like to show Riley your favourite books and Riley can show you his. There’s a big selection in the bookcases. I’ll be right outside.’

      ‘So, can I shift my bedroom down to you guys?’ Georgia called after her, a lot of appeal in her hoarse little voice.

      ‘We’ll talk to your father about that,’ Marissa said. ‘I can’t see he’ll have any objection, but we must ask.’

      ‘You’re not going to see him today unless you go looking for him,’ Georgia warned her. ‘You can find him.’ She turned about to offer encouragement. ‘I know where he is. I’ll tell you. Riley and I can find plenty of things to do, can’t we, Riley?’

      ‘You bet!’ Riley laughed, a carefree sound that was music to Marissa’s ears. ‘This is a marvellous place.’

      ‘We’ll see.’ Marissa kept walking to the door, wondering if it might be a good idea to find Holt McMaster and settle the matter. Georgia wouldn’t give up. ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day,’ she remarked. ‘Please remember, Riley, the two of you must stay inside the home compound at all times.’

      ‘Right, Ma!’ Riley promised.

      As she went out the door she heard Riley launch into a thumbnail sketch of Julius Caesar, undisputed master of ancient Rome and how he came to his gory end. Georgia hung on his every word.

      Lois beckoned Marissa farther down the corridor, her face tight and cold. ‘You’re really going all out to ingratiate yourself here, aren’t you? Holt, Olly, even my quite impossible little niece. I suppose you’ll drop a curtsy to Mrs McMaster, when you meet her?’

      Breathe in. Breathe out. Count to ten. Maybe fifteen. ‘Why do you dislike me so much, Ms Aldridge?’ she asked, wishing it weren’t so. ‘You don’t even know me. I don’t want to be on bad terms with you, rather the reverse. What’s the problem? Georgy does need a governess and a firm hand. I’m hoping to supply both.’

      The reasonable approach didn’t touch Lois. The unwelcome glare never left her eyes. She didn’t want conciliation. She wanted confrontation. ‘I suppose because you’ve had a child you think you know all about how to handle them?’ There was a bitter twist to her mouth. She was nearing thirty and her biological clock was ticking away like a time bomb. It was all too sad!

      ‘Why in the world do I have to keep repeating myself.’ Marissa gave a heartfelt sigh. ‘Riley is my half brother. I don’t seem to be able to get you to understand that.’

      Lois made an unladylike snorting sound. ‘Stupid to deny it,’ she spoke scornfully. ‘It can be easily checked out.’

      ‘Maybe then I can expect an apology?’

      Lois didn’t answer.

      ‘What is it you wish to see me about?’ Marissa asked, not wanting to hang around crossing swords.

      ‘I actually want to warn you,’ Lois said, her eyes glowing eerily. ‘My sister may have left Georgia in Holt’s care, but she is still Georgia’s mother and she’s still in love with Holt no matter what she says. Don’t try to get too close to him, that’s all.’

      Marissa suddenly felt intensely irritated. ‘I have no intention whatever of getting too close to him, Ms Aldridge, whatever that means. Maybe you can relay that to your sister. I’m sure you report to her.’

      ‘Why ever not!’ Colour flew into Lois’s cheeks. ‘She is my sister.’

       And I bet she knows you’re in love with him. Probably gets a cruel kick out of it.

      ‘What?’ The word came out like a gunshot. Lois obviously had ESP. She had read Marissa’s mind.

      ‘I didn’t say anything,’ Marissa protested.


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