A Man Needs A Maid
Ebook ISBN: 9781504500753
Print ISBN: 978-1508443346
[ Paranormal Romance, MF ]
When Aviva becomes maid to a billionaire, she can’t help falling in love. But if Wallace is a dream, his house is a nightmare–it’s haunted by a violent ghost!
Rumour had it Theresa tried to get her boss into bed the very first day she started cleaning for him. He came home after work to find her draped across his duvet, naked as a jay-bird, and bathed in rose petals. Romance up the wazoo. Apparently, he took one look at her, did a swift one-eighty, and closed the door behind him.
Aviva didn’t usually listen to rumours, but she’d heard this one from so many reliable sources she believed it might be true. Theresa sure did gush about her boss. She never mentioned the nudity, though—or the rose petals. Aviva could only imagine why: it would have been embarrassing for Theresa to give herself over to a total stranger and be rebuked.
“Are you sure I’m the best person for the job?” Aviva asked as Theresa led her up a garden path surrounded by roses. “You know I’m the world’s biggest klutz.”
“You won’t be cleaning fine crystal,” Theresa said. “Wallace wants the silver shined up for his big party, and I can’t stand the smell of that polish. I’m sure you can handle silver.”
A chill ran down Aviva’s spine even though the morning sun felt lovely and warm against her back. There was something ghostly about the huge house with the creamy stone façade. Even though the garden and front path were well-maintained, she expected it to be dilapidated on the inside, like Mrs. Havisham’s sad, neglected mansion in Great Expectations. She hadn’t even walked through the front door and already Aviva was totally creeped out.
“Will your boss be home?” Aviva asked, crossing her fingers. She avoided meeting men as much as possible. They had an amazing ability to disappoint her.
Theresa glanced at her watch. “He’s long gone by now.”
“That’s a relief.”
“Don’t be so quick to judge,” Theresa shot back. “There’s something about him, Viva. All he has to do is look at me and I tremble.”
“Thank goodness he isn’t home during the day or I’d never get any cleaning done.” Theresa punched a code into the lock, then pushed the door open. “Wallace practically lives at the office. I think he even sleeps there some nights—that, or he’s away on business. Sometimes I wonder why he bothers having me clean every day.”
“That’s simple enough,” a dark voice said from the end of the hall. “I have you clean because a man needs a maid.”
Aviva’s stomach clenched. She bit her tongue—literally—to keep from cussing him out. All she wanted to say was, “A man needs a maid? What kind of sexist bullshit is that? You think women were put on this earth to wash your dishes and make your bed?”
But she didn’t. She didn’t say anything at all.
“Wallace, you’re home!” Theresa kicked off her shoes and ran to him like a maiden in a meadow. “It’s so good to see you. Come, meet my friend Aviva. She’s helping with the silver.”
“Ahh, Aviva.” Wallace emerged from the darkness, extending his hand to shake hers. “It’s kind of you to lend your time and attention. The silver hasn’t been out in ages, and I’d love to see it restored to its former glory.”
Aviva’s heart thundered. This man, this Wallace—he didn’t look anything like she thought he would. The way Theresa described him, he came off sounding like some young buck with more muscles than brains. But Wallace was lean, almost sallow. A lesser suit would have swallowed him whole, but his was finely tailored. It probably cost more than her entire wardrobe.
What Aviva didn’t expect were the silver strands throughout his hair and his neatly trimmed beard. He was much older than Theresa made him out to be. Not in a bad way. Aviva couldn’t deny that her pulse raced when she looked into his steely eyes. He was actually strangely… handsome.
“A man needs a maid?” she asked, without shaking his hand. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
His cunning smile fell for a moment, but it came back even stronger. “Ask Neil Young.”
“He’s a singer,” Theresa said from across the room. She dragged open the closed drapes, shining the morning sun on Wallace’s austere face. “Sorry, Wallace, she’s too young to understand.”
Aviva’s chest burned when Theresa talked about her that way, like she was a little kid, like she was stupid. But Wallace smiled kindly and said, “It’s a song—A Man Needs A Maid. I gather you’re not familiar?”
“I don’t know.” Aviva’s skin blazed. She felt like Wallace and Theresa were speaking a different language. “I guess not. Maybe if you sing a few bars?”
Wallace chuckled gently, setting his large hand on her shoulder. “Trust me, you don’t want to hear my singing voice. It would scar you for life.”
“Oh, don’t worry about Aviva.” Theresa chuckled as she fluffed the sofa cushions. “That girl’s made of metal. You couldn’t hurt her if you tried.”
Aviva’s heart pretty much stopped beating, and Wallace must have known how embarrassed she felt. His gaze softened noticeably and his grip tightened around her shoulder. She looked away from the boss, blinking quickly to drive her tears into her lashes.
Clearing his throat, Wallace let go of Aviva’s shoulder. He began to walk past her, gently brushing her arm with his in a way that seemed accidental, though Aviva never put a thing like that past any man. Before he’d moved beyond her, he stopped and turned his head, like he was about to say something.
And then he sang. He actually sang the words, “When will I see you again?”
Everything about it shocked her—not just the singing, but the sentiment. His breath warmed her cheek, and she could only imagine how deeply she was blushing. Why would he want to see her again? They’d only just met, and she didn’t think she’d made a particularly good impression.
“It’s from the song,” Theresa called out, laughing.
“Oh.” Aviva met Wallace’s fleeting glance as he made his way to the front door. There was something about him…
“Have a good day at work,” Theresa called as she led Aviva to the dining room. “Mustn’t keep the boss. Here’s the silver. Get polishing.”
When Theresa raced through the hall to say her goodbyes to Wallace, Aviva couldn’t resist eavesdropping. Maybe there was something going on between those two after all. Maybe everyone was wrong and Wallace had accepted Theresa’s invitation that very first night she’d worked for him. Maybe they were trying to keep it on the DL.
“I packed you lunch. Did you see it in the fridge? A nice prosciutto and bocconcini sandwich on a mini baguette.”
Wallace seemed flustered when he said, “Oh, yes, that was very kind of you, Theresa, but I have a business luncheon today—and most days, in fact. There’s no need to make me sandwiches.”
“Well, eat it as a snack, then.” Theresa sounded a little desperate, to Aviva’s ear. “You’re withering away, Wallace. Skin and bones! I wish you’d let me whip up a nice meal for you. Something hearty. You need it.”
“That’s very kind, but not at all necessary.” The front door opened, letting the chirps and chuckles of sparrows and squirrels echo through the long, narrow hallway. “I prefer eating out, to be honest.”
Aviva’s pulse quickened.
“If you ever change your mind, just let me know,” Theresa said. “I’ll whip up something special just for you.”
“I appreciate the thought,” he replied, noncommittally.
And then the door closed. That was it. Wallace was gone.
Aviva placed a hand on her shoulder. It was still warm where he’d touched her, and a weird sort of buzz flowed down her arm, like a memory inside her skin. Very odd, especially because it usually bugged her when a man she barely knew placed his hand anywhere, even somewhere as seemingly innocent as her shoulder. It didn’t bother her at all, with Wallace. In fact, she kind of liked it.
“So, how’s it going in here?” Theresa asked in a voice that was high and falsely cheerful. “Oh, you haven’t even started yet. Well, what do you think I’m paying you for? Get to work. Chop, chop.”
“Yeah, for sure.” Aviva was about to ask how exactly this worked, but Theresa had already disappeared. She’d never polished a piece of silver before. She’d only taken on the task because it seemed easy enough and the money was a godsend. She read the package instructions, picked up a rag, and cracked the lid.
“You weren’t kidding!” she called out. “This stuff is foul.”
Theresa must have gone to a different part of the house, because she didn’t reply. The place went quiet in a creepy way, and it felt dark despite the sun raging through the windows. Aviva picked up one of the cups that matched the huge silver punch bowl. This set must be worth… oh, she couldn’t even venture a guess. More than she earned in a month, that was for damn sure. She poked her cloth into the pot of polish and spread it in quick circles around the underside of the cup. Seemed to be working. A little elbow grease and she’d have this job done in no time.
Or so she thought.
After five minutes, by count of the mantle clock, the polish had made her so nauseous she opened a window. Ten minutes after that, even fresh air wasn’t helping.
No answer. Though the house’s silence was intimidating and weighty, Aviva slipped from the dining room to the kitchen. The sun warmed the natural stone countertop, which sparkled like diamonds embedded in coal. Feeling like a thief in the night, Aviva opened the cupboards until she found a glass. She filled it with tap water, hoping to settle her stomach. While she drank, she opened the fridge and peeked inside. Not much there—milk, eggs, Dijon mustard.
Oh, and something else, something that looked very much like it didn’t belong: a sandwich. A prosciutto and bocconcini sandwich on a mini baguette. Wallace had willfully neglected it. That made Aviva feel a little sorry for Theresa, who was obviously trying to get at this man through his stomach.
Aviva went back to polishing silver, and just when it seemed like she might be catching her stride, a wail erupted from somewhere in the house. Perhaps “erupted” wasn’t the perfect word, because the wail was actually quite faint. Poor Theresa. She was in love with her boss, wasn’t she? And every little rejection, like the sandwich left in the refrigerator, broke her aching heart.
Poor, poor Theresa.
Setting down the silver, Aviva crept along the quiet hallway. By the time she got to the front door, where the staircase was located, she couldn’t hear Theresa crying anymore. She stood by the door, taking in the view. Despite the sunshine, the house seemed dark. That probably had to do with the wooden floors and panelling. The house was decorated with luxurious items—classic, if somewhat outdated, furnishings mixed with antiques that complemented the home’s age. It must have been at least a hundred years old.
Everything seemed ridiculously expensive, and Aviva wondered what that said about the owner. Had Wallace picked out everything here? Had he chosen that sofa? Had he placed it there, by the window, facing the fireplace? Or had some million-dollar designer arranged all these pieces?
Suddenly, the stuffiness of the house clenched tight around her lungs. She called up the stairs, “Theresa?”
“Aviva?” Theresa appeared at the top of the stairs, shaking a pillow into a clean case. She pulled headphones from her ears. “Were you calling me? I listen to books on tape while I’m cleaning—I should have mentioned that.”
“Good idea.” Aviva smiled, and so did Theresa—she didn’t look at all like she’d been crying. “I was just wondering if we could take a walk or something. That polish is really getting to me.”
“I know what you mean. That stuff is killer.” Theresa tossed the pillow into one of the rooms upstairs. “Fresh air is a good idea. I’ll show you around the back gardens. They’re so beautiful you’ll lose your mind.”
A keen smile grew across Aviva’s lips. “I’ve always wanted a garden. Mom grows a few plants on the balcony, but it’s not the same as planting in the earth.”
“Wait until you see the roses!”
Aviva slipped her shoes on her feet. “I saw them when we came in.”
“That was nothing. There are even more in the back. The boss has this strange pink variety that’s always in bloom. I don’t know if they’re on drugs or what, but they’ve always got new growth, even in the dead of winter.” Reaching for the slick, dark railing, Theresa started down the wooden staircase. “Here’s an idea: we cut the best buds and make a centrepiece for Wallace’s table—for the party. There’s nothing better than a big show of roses. I think he’s already hired a florist, but we could…”
Without warning, Theresa lurched forward, chest first. Her head followed, snapping violently as she tumbled down the stairs. Aviva screamed, probably while Theresa was too shocked to realize what was happening.
“Theresa!” Aviva raced to her friend’s side at the base of the stairs. “Are you okay? Say something, please!”
Theresa’s body crumpled on the wooden landing. Face-down, she looked like a doll that had been dropped from a great height. She groaned, and even that dull sound came as a relief.
Aviva touched her gently, not wanting to move her. On hospital shows, they always said you shouldn’t move someone who might have internal injuries. She didn’t want to do any more damage than the fall had already done.
“Where does it hurt?” Aviva asked, pulling her phone from her pocket.
“Uhhh…” Theresa turned her head and looked despairingly at Aviva. “Everywhere.”
“I’m calling an ambulance.”
Theresa looked oddly disappointed. After a moment she said, “When you’re done with the ambulance, would you mind calling Wallace?”