The Nanny and the Millionaire. Линда Гуднайт
you should be,’ he bit off, determined to subdue the pounding in his blood. ‘From now on you’re under surveillance. It could have been a whole lot worse. You could have rolled the ute.’
‘I know.’ She was repentant. Water lapped her ankles, soaking her shoes and the hem of her trousers but she didn’t even notice it. The way she felt the water could have been steaming hot!
‘Nobody should be that stupid,’ he muttered disapprovingly, making a real effort to shake off the effect she was having on him. A woman used her fragility to bring out a man’s protective streak, he thought, stunned by his own susceptibility. Of course it had to happen some time, but this was Georgy’s governess, for God’s sake!
‘I know. I know.’ To Marissa’s horror her legs suddenly gave way from under her.
‘Aw, hell!’ He reacted swiftly, getting a tight supporting arm around her. It brought her right up against his body, all but shattering his composure. Even for a man like him, a man who had trained himself to resist temptation, it sent out shock waves. ‘It’s all right. I’ve got you!’ She was all but in his arms.
Marissa was too breathless to reply. Her body felt engulfed by heat. She was one quivering mass of sensation. The terror was, she was betraying that agitation. She wasn’t a complete innocent, inexperienced around men, yet this man’s touch turned her muscles to jelly.
‘I’m sorry,’ she gasped out an excuse. ‘I must be in shock.’
‘Could be.’ He crouched a little to hoist her into his arms, while she made a helpless gesture with her hands. ‘Just relax.’ He strode across the rocky bed of the gully and up onto the sandy bank.
‘It’s okay now,’ she protested, marvelling how her body fitted so neatly to his. ‘You can put me down.’ Those powerful arms that enclosed her weren’t offering comfort. Rather she felt a hard impatience in him that helped sober her up. As it was, her heart was beating like a large bird penned in a tiny cage.
‘I should think so. You weigh a ton!’ he groaned, as he lowered her to the pale ochre sands.
‘I don’t!’ Her answer was an automatic wail.
‘Oh, what does it matter? We’ll sit for a minute.’ He sounded mightily annoyed. He was, but Marissa didn’t know the real reason.
She was getting to him. Plain and simple. Far from weighing a ton she had felt incredibly soft and fragile in his arms. Her skin gave off a light ellusive fragrance he found very seductive. He almost wished he didn’t care about hurting her. But he did. This young woman had been caught up in enough trouble. Time to do something to defuse the situation.
‘Do you know how stupid that was leaving the track and speeding through stretches of long grass?’ he asked, crisply, folding his long length on the sand. ‘You could have struck a rock or a huge rut or some animal perfectly camouflaged by the grass. You don’t have a roo bar on the ute. You’ll have to get one.’
She risked a sideways glance at his strong, handsome profile. Right then it was more than a little brooding. ‘It was a goanna.’ She knew it was time to explain herself, regain some respect. ‘A perentie, isn’t it? It had to be seven or eight feet long and it stood up.‘ Her voice still held traces of shock. ‘I had no idea they could do that. It lumbered out of the grass and planted itself on the track right in front of me. I don’t believe a crocodile could have frightened me more.’
He laughed in an abrupt change of mood. ‘How close have you been to a crocodile?’ He didn’t even try to keep the mockery out of his voice.
‘As close as I want to be.’ She couldn’t control an involuntary shudder. ‘I’ve seen them on wild life shows. They’re pretty fearsome creatures.’
‘And amazing! They’ve outlived the dinosaurs. I’ve flown a helicopter extensively through the Territory so I’ve seen hundreds in swamps, lakes, rivers. If you’d seen a croc up close you’d think a perentie could be trained as a pet. Did you think of beeping the horn? Stupid question!’
She rallied at his look of scorn. ‘I didn’t for the simple reason I was terrified of doing anything to provoke it. It looked like it was going to charge the ute and clamber up onto the hood. I know they can climb trees.’
His glittering eyes narrowed sharply over her. ‘I suppose it’s just possible it was protecting a nest.’
‘That fact had occurred to me,’ she said tartly, suddenly reckless.
‘So you weren’t hooning around after all. You were taking evasive action.’ He laughed again. ‘I promise I won’t tell anyone about this.’
‘I wish I could be sure about that.’
His eyes came back to hold hers. ‘Didn’t you hear the word promise?’
Lord but this man made her feel vulnerable. And, what was a great deal more dangerous, very much a woman. If she was going to stay on as Georgia’s governess she would have to learn how to handle it. ‘I was scared it was going to come after me. Don’t laugh. I hit a deep rut and lost control of the wheel for a minute or two. By the time I managed to get it back again, the ute was hurtling towards the gully with a mind of its own. The mud locked around the wheels like cement.’
‘Well, you were lucky,’ he said. ‘I suppose the real question is, what are you doing out here?’
He couldn’t help himself. His gaze was drawn to her mouth, so soft and cushiony, beautifully shaped A mouth for kissing.
It made Marissa so nervous she slid the tip of her tongue around her lips to moisten them.
Holt almost let out a sigh. She should be very grateful he was such a gentleman. ‘I thought I hired you as the governess, teaching the children their lessons, supervising their play, stuff like that?’
Her white skin flushed. ‘Olly is looking in on them while I’m away. I’ve given them things to do. I drove out here because Georgy wants to shift out of her bedroom and join us in the west wing.’
‘Is that a fact?’ He might have sounded teasing, but inside he felt pretty heated. Did she know everything about her was charming him?
‘Well … yes.’
‘And you drove all the way out here to ask me if it’s okay?’
‘Was there someone else I should ask?’
‘Now, now, Ms Devlin!’ His clipped tones became a deep taunting, ‘Don’t totally forget yourself. The idea is to act respectful.’
Of course it was! She picked up a pebble and hurled it at the water, finding some satisfaction in seeing it bounce several times across the surface. ‘Believe me I’m trying. You’re Georgy’s father. The person I should consult. Her aunt Lois is very much against it.’
‘Well, that’s par for the course!’ He fell back on his elbow, his long, lean body faultlessly arranged. ‘All that money and imagination squandered! I suppose Georgy lost no time making her demands?’
Marissa shrugged her shoulders, amazed she was sitting on the banks of an Outback billabong with one of the nation’s cattle barons resting nonchalantly beside her, even if he was making infuriating little comments. ‘She’s set on it, but it’s not really a bad idea. I can keep a better eye on her and you may have noticed she’s taken a great liking to Riley.’
‘And you,’ he said, ‘for which I’m immensely relieved. Out of nowhere, on the face of it, the answer to my fervent prayers! Are you feeling any better?’
What kind of answer could she give? That she was feeling excited, nearly breathless as if something extraordinary was about to happen. There was such a charge in the air. It was dangerously worrying. Things seemed to be moving very fast. She slicked a stray curl away from her cheek. ‘I’m fine,’ she announced which wasn’t strictly true. ‘Right now I’m worried