Outbid by the Boss
towards friendship had impressed her. To be so close to falling in love, and then having to pretend it never happened, was going to be a challenge.
    Don’t think about it, she scolded herself; you’ve got work to do.
    In fact, she was looking forward to the day, not just because of Chas, but because he was offering her a chance to pore over the treasures at Porter Hall. And that was like catnip to an antique specialist like her. Really, it was amazing. A few days ago, Chas could have presided over a board meeting without either of them giving each other a second look. His reserve ran deep and his employees respected his privacy. Sadly, it also meant they had never seen his vulnerable side, or the way his ice-blue eyes softened when he was aroused. At least, she hoped they hadn’t. That particular pleasure had been all hers. And she’d like it to stay that way. Forever.
    Enough daydreaming. She really should get up.
    A discreet knock on the door ended her procrastination. The doorknob turned and in walked Evelyn Weekes carrying the now-familiar silver tray.
    “Chas thought another morning with breakfast in bed was in order.”
    Sam struggled into a sitting position. “I could get used to this you know, and then where would you be.” 
    “Down in the kitchen watching your breakfast get cold.” The woman smiled.
    “Touché,” said Sam stretching out her arms to receive the tray. Like yesterday, the housekeeper had come bearing gifts. “I see my jeans under your arm, all clean and ready for another fun-filled day in the country, but what else have you brought?” Sam asked suspiciously. “Not more hand-me-downs, I hope.”
    “Oh, I suspect you’ll like these ones,” said the housekeeper setting a pile of men’s shirts on the end of the bed. “They belong to Chas. He thought they’d be more suitable than, and I quote ‘a suitcase full of little black dresses.’” She put her hands on her hips. “Nuff said.”
    Sam snorted. “Men have no idea. And he’s waiting where?”
    “In the library.Been hauling boxes back-and-forth for an hour now.”
    Shaking her head at life’s mysteries, the housekeeper left the room. As soon as the door snugged shut, Sam set her breakfast to one side, and drew the pile of shirts towards her. Most were light blue, button-down and long sleeved. She fingered the soft cotton marvelling at her boss’s thoughtfulness.
    She put the shirts back down, but found she could barely take her eyes off them. If the gang at Burton-Porter & Sons ever caught wind of the special treatment she was receiving, they’d be aghast. For more reasons than one, Sam realized. She poured herself a cup of tea, plastered her croissant with butter and damson jam and ate like it was Christmas morning.
    She slipped out of bed and padded across the room. It was only after her chat with Chas at the stables, that she’d come to realize how badly she wanted to stay at Porter Hall. As soon as she’d returned to her room, she’d emptied her suitcases. Her clothes were now in the armoire, her toiletries in the cabinet, and with the candlestick on the dresser, she felt at home.
    It was odd really, how comfortable she felt at Porter Hall, thought Sam as she brushed her hair, now that she and Chas had come to an agreement. Even having Evelyn Weekes fuss over her seemed somehow acceptable. Sam paused mid-stroke, trying to work it out. She usually guarded her privacy. Maybe, she thought as she resumed her brushing, it was because the housekeeper was a calm and friendly presence. It was a nice change.
    Sam laid her brush on the table and set about deciding what to wear…
    … Holding out her shirttails with her fingertips, she did a little pirouette in front of the mirror, and then bowed to her reflection. Her grandmother would have said she was “do-lally” dancing about in her leggings, and ballerina flats. But what she really was, Sam decided, was happy. Unfortunately, she couldn’t share it with anyone

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