The Nanny and the Millionaire. Линда Гуднайт
into the wide front pocket of her apron. ‘She really has made an effort to come downstairs for dinner. She likes you, love.’
That made Marissa feel better. ‘Well, I like her,‘ she exclaimed rather emotionally. ‘I would love to have a grandmother like that.’
‘But what about your own grandmothers?’ Olly prompted. She had formed the definite opinion—and she was rarely wrong—Marissa had braved her way through a dysfunctional childhood into adolescence and young womanhood. Talking about it might take a lot of pressure off her Olly reasoned.
Marissa allowed her mind to range back to the beginning of the bad times. ‘My maternal grandmother was lovely, but she was shattered when my mother was killed. She turned overnight into a different woman. It took her years and years to recover. In fact she never did. She’s dead now. My father’s mother had a very full social life. Neither of them was in the position to take on a grieving child. My uncle Bryan, my father’s brother and his wife, Allison, reared me. I lived with them until I started University. After that, I lived on campus in a women’s college.’
‘Uncle Bryan and Aunt Allison, were they good people?’ Olly didn’t want to be too pushy but there were things she wanted to know. Marissa and young Riley were already weaving tendrils around her heart.
Marissa met Olly’s shrewd but kindly eyes. ‘Uncle Bryan is a good, conscientious man. He did his best for me.’
‘And Aunt Allison?’ Olly had her first glimmering of what Marissa’s home life might have been like.
‘She did her best, too,’ Marissa said briefly.
‘And your dad?’ Olly rushed in where angels fear to tread.
But Marissa couldn’t talk about it. She feared bursting into tears. ‘I’m sorry, Olly.’ She shook her head. ‘I can’t go there. There’s too much pain. Maybe when I—’
‘Now, now, I understand, love,’ Olly broke in, cursing herself for speaking too soon. ‘You’ve let your meal go cold.’ She clicked her tongue looking at Marissa’s half empty plate. She had served up a beautiful roast beef fillet wrapped in prosciutto with potato gratin and fresh green peas ‘There’s plenty more in the kitchen.’
‘And it was lovely, too, Olly. But really I’m fine. You’re a wonderful cook. Perhaps some time when you’re in the mood you could give me a few lessons. I’ve done a lot of study in my time but I’ve never had cooking lessons. Aunt Ally wouldn’t let me anywhere near the kitchen except for the cleanup jobs and emptying the dishwasher. She hated that. So did Lucy.’
Olly sank into a chair, her face bent across the table. ‘And Lucy was?’
‘My cousin. Lucy is two years older than I am.’
‘I would have expected you to be good friends?’
‘We weren’t friends from the start,’ Marissa said. ‘I expect a lot of it was my fault. They were very painful times. I spent a lot of time battling tears.’
‘Nothing unusual about that, love,’ Olly said softly.
Marissa lowered her head. ‘I didn’t storm around the place like Georgy may do in an effort to contain her pain. I didn’t shout or swear or pick fights with Lucy. I didn’t tell anyone I hated them. I might as well have. My aunt told me frequently I was a selfish, ungrateful girl.’
‘She sounds like a perfect horror!’ Olly said indignantly.
Marissa reacted by laughing. ‘She was, you know,’ she said, marvelling someone had finally put it into words. ‘Because of her mother Lucy had difficulties with me. I think now, we both suffered. But enough of that! I don’t usually talk about myself.’
‘You’ve got to let yourself go now and again, love,’ Olly advised, getting to her feet again. ‘You can’t always bottle it up.’
‘I’ve come to believe in the power of silence, Olly,’ Marissa said.
As well she might!
Holt had been standing a while outside the doorway listening unashamedly to the conversation. He fully understood Olly’s efforts to get the new governess to talk. The strange part was, so great was Marissa’s appeal, not only his grandmother and Olly were starting to worry about her, so was he! It was even difficult to think about her as an employee. She was more like a young family member who had sought refuge on Wungalla. He’d have to stop her calling him Mr McMaster, correct though it might be. He didn’t like the sound of it on her lips.
‘Good evening!’ he greeted them satirically, walking back into the room.
‘And good evening to you, too, sor,‘ Olly responded with a thick Irish brogue. ‘How’s Mrs McMaster?’
‘She’s settled. I expect you heard the ruckus?’
Olly’s eyes shifted to Marissa. ‘I’d have been deaf not to,’ she said. ‘Such a shame when Mrs McMaster had been enjoying herself.’
‘There’ll be other nights, Olly.’ Holt glanced down at Marissa’s silky head, a mass of waves and curls. ‘You okay?’
‘I’m fine, thank you,’ she answered, very politely. She didn’t twist her head to look up at him.
‘In that case you’ll be ready for the next course.’ He resumed his seat, opposite her, tossing off the last of the fine red in his wineglass. ‘I would have thought good manners required not starting a fight at the dinner table, but how times do change! What’s for dessert, Olly?’ he asked.
‘Those little ricotta fritters you like with a citrus sauce,’ she answered with satisfaction.
He waved a hand. ‘Perfect! Bring them on. My nerves need soothing.’
‘Will do!’ Olly laughed and walked away.
Marissa, feeling at her most vulnerable, began to fold her napkin, uncertain what to do next.
‘You’re not going anywhere surely?’ His brilliant black eyes pinned her in place. ‘I thought I told you to stay.’
‘Well, I thought probably my being here had something to do with your frayed nerves?’ she found herself saying.
He stared at her for some time. ‘You know you’re right! But let me worry about that. Have dessert, maybe a coffee, afterwards we can take a turn in the garden.’
Her heart fluttered like a bird, right up into her throat. ‘Isn’t that a bit social for a governess?’
He took his time considering. ‘Do you know, I think it is, but you seem to have transformed yourself into a little friend of the family. My grandmother is quite taken with you. That’s not always the case. It’s certainly not in the contract. And you and Olly are into sharing secrets.’
She could feel herself flush. ‘How do you know?’
He leaned forward, giving her a slow, mocking smile. ‘This is my house, Ms Devlin I have no compunction whatever about eavesdropping.’
Simply for something to do, she started to drum her fingernails against the timber table. ‘I’ll have to remember that.’
‘Then I shouldn’t have told you. Can you do that while rubbing the top of your head?’
‘What?’ Completely thrown, she stared back at him. My God he was handsome!
‘I can,’ he said. ‘Perfect co-ordination.’ He began to drum the fingers of his right hand on the table while with his other hand he circled the top of her head.
‘Easy!’ She took up the challenge, thinking she would have the children try it.
That was how Olly found them.
Marissa checked on the children; found them soundly asleep, before