The Nanny and the Millionaire. Линда Гуднайт
have Dusty with us, either,’ he lamented.
‘And Dusty is?’ The taut expression gentled as the man looked down on Riley’s dark curly head. ‘Don’t tell me. Let me guess. Your guard dog?’
‘A good one, a cattle dog.’ Riley gave their rescuer a warm smile. ‘Thank you, mister.’
‘McMaster,’ the man said, little brackets of amusement etched into either side of his handsome mouth. ‘Holt McMaster and you are?’ He transferred his gaze to Marissa, a brow tilted in interrogation.
She cleared her throat. Holt McMaster, who else! Here was a man who was genuinely daunting, but highly unlikely to go bothering women. More like the other way around. ‘Marissa Devlin,’ she said, extending her hand. ‘This is my brother, Riley.’
‘Hi,’ he said, taking a good long look at her but in a totally different way to Pearson. Just as Deidre had said Holt McMaster was a seriously stunning looking man but very much on the stern side, Marissa thought, herself engrossed in staring at him. He had great bone structure—he’d probably still be handsome at ninety—hollowed out cheekbones, fine straight nose, a firm, but definitely sensuous mouth, sculpted chin and jawline. She wasn’t sure if it was she or he, or maybe both of them were the cause of it, but tiny electric sparks were shooting off their momentarily locked hands.
He seemed to wait a few seconds before letting his gaze settle back on Riley. ‘Are you all right, son? Sounds like you’re having a bit of trouble catching your breath.’
‘He has asthma,’ Marissa said worriedly, starting to rummage around in her leather shoulder bag. ‘He’s been fine but your station hand gave us a fright.’
‘A big mistake,’ McMaster responded tersely. ‘You need to keep calm, Riley.’ He put a hand on Riley’s shoulder. ‘Think you can do that?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Riley rasped.
‘You’ve got the puffer?’ Those fathomless eyes rested on Marissa again.
‘Right here.’ Marissa put the puffer into Riley’s hand.
Both adults stood watching while the little boy inhaled. ‘Good man,’ McMaster praised him. ‘You’ll be fine now.’ He gave Riley a nod of approval. ‘What are you doing all the way out here?’ he questioned Marissa. There was close enough to a frown on his striking face.
She felt herself blush. It was unnerving being the focus of that brilliant gaze. ‘I’m looking for a job.’
‘What sort of job?’ he asked crisply.
She had a strong sense he didn’t approve of her being out here; on the road with an asthmatic child. ‘I’m a trained schoolteacher. I have excellent references. I was hoping to get work as a governess on one of the stations.’
‘Do you want a governess, Mr McMaster?’ Riley piped up, with touching hope.
McMaster suddenly smiled and his whole face changed. Marissa watched in fascination as the dark severity was totally wiped away. Light radiated off him like an actual aura. ‘I hadn’t been planning on hiring one, Riley. At least not at this time.’
‘Perhaps you might know someone, some other station owner who needs a governess for their children, Mr McMaster?’ Marissa asked, doing her level best to mask her awe of this man. But it was there, and she couldn’t do a thing about it.
He seemed preoccupied for a moment. ‘Why don’t we all sit down and get something to drink,’ he suggested. ‘I could do with a coffee.’
‘What about Deidre’s?’ A smile curled Riley’s naturally rosy lips. ‘She makes very good coffee. And hamburgers. She makes everything!’
‘You know, you’re absolutely right. Deidre’s it is!’ McMaster extended an arm to indicate they should all go across the street to the café.
Hope soared! Instinct told Marissa he was at least considering her situation. If so, it would be another case of Destiny at work.
‘Well, look who just walked in!’ Deidre greeted McMaster with the greatest good humour. ‘Hiya, Holt! It’s good to see yah!’
‘Good to see you, Dee,’ Holt McMaster responded, bestowing on her that transforming smile. ‘I could do with a strong black coffee.’ He paused a moment, turning to Marissa and Riley, waiting on their order. ‘And?’
‘We’ve just had a really good breakfast, but I won’t say no to a cappuccino,’ Marissa said. ‘What about you, Riley? Are you feeling better?’
‘He’s fine,’ McMaster said. It was almost a ‘don’t fuss!’ ‘What’s it to be, Riley?’
‘I don’t think I could fit in another thing,’ Riley said, his breathing mercifully restored to normal.
‘What about you come out to the kitchen and help me?’ Deidre suggested. ‘Let your Ma talk to Mr McMaster.’
Marissa fought to keep her composure. How was she ever going to be able to counteract this? There was that Ma again!
Deidre put out her hand and Riley took it, going willingly. ‘What about Dusty?’ he asked. ‘I should go check on him. He’ll be missing me.’
‘Don’t you go worrying about Dusty,’ Deidre said. ‘Marj is lookin’ after ‘im. Marj likes dogs. She’s had plenty in her time, all cattle dogs or kelpies. Now I had a kelpie one time, called Shorty….’
‘Riley is my brother by the way,’ Marissa repeated a few minutes later when they were seated in the same banquette as she and Riley had occupied for breakfast. Deidre had already set their steaming coffee and a plate of freshly baked pastries in front of them. ‘Half brother, actually.’
‘And where are your parents?’ he asked, lifting the cup to his mouth.
His scepticism was painfully obvious. ‘Dead,’ she said. She wasn’t all that good at hiding her grief, so she masked it with a show of long acceptance.
‘They must have died very young?’ His gaze pinned her like a laser.
She had to be careful here. ‘Yes,’ she replied briefly.
‘Okay.’ Clearly he thought she was running away from something. ‘So where do you come from? Married, engaged, any involvement?’
She looked out the window at the blossoming jacarandas, realising she was shaking a little inside. ‘I was born and reared in Brisbane.’
‘Surely Riley was, too?’ he asked in a dry, almost mocking voice.
She felt very much on edge yet strangely more vividly aware than she had ever been in her life. ‘Of course.’ She wasn’t about to discuss hers and Riley’s dysfunctional childhoods. ‘I’m not involved with anyone except Riley. He’s quite enough. He’s asthmatic as you’ve seen. The dry air out here is supposed to be beneficial to asthmatics.’
He had removed his akubra when they came in the door, so now she had learned he had a fine head of hair, black and shiny as a crow’s wing. It was brushed straight back from a distinctive widow’s peak that lent a surprising rakishness to balance out the severity. She started to panic thinking perhaps she was giving him too much attention.
He didn’t appear to notice, so she relaxed a little. ‘I’ve seen cases of a complete cure,’ he was saying. ‘I don’t know, but it seems to me Riley’s condition has an emotional component. He’s a fine-looking boy, but he’s on the frail side.’
It was perfectly true. Even so, her blue eyes flashed. ‘I’m hoping to change that. I’ve had him with me since our father died but it wasn’t working out. I taught at a private girl’s school. I often had early and after-school commitments. It was difficult with Riley, difficult to find minders. Then there was his asthma. People don’t like the responsibility.’
‘One can understand