Brenda Murphy © 2019
All Rights Reserved
“Are you sure this is what we need?” Elaine lowered the hairbrush and shifted her gaze to Martha’s face, reflected in the dressing table mirror.
Martha quirked her mouth. “We’ve been over this. Just give her a chance. You can’t keep up with our client requests.”
Elaine tossed the brush on the top of the dressing table. “Because you and Lucia don’t help.” She swept her titian hair back and up into a high ponytail.
Martha handed her an elastic. “We’re not having this argument again. Lucia and I are finished with that side of the business. We can’t keep putting people off or they’ll find other houses to visit.
Elaine knotted a hunter-green ribbon in her hair. “Oh please. Like they could find anyone like me. Or what we offer here.” She shoved away from the vanity and turned to face her sister. “Fine. We’ll see how she handles herself. But the timing sucks.”
Martha placed her hands on her sister’s shoulders. “We had to work with the dates she gave us. Lucia thinks she’d be a good fit. We’ve had our trip planned for a long time. We trust you to make a good decision.
Alone. Again. “I’m not worried about making a wrong decision. Who’ll sub for her? Benita and Fallon are on holiday. No one else likes heavy pain play.”
Martha grinned wickedly at Elaine. “Maybe you could give it a go?”
Elaine rolled her eyes at her sister. “The switch gene is not in me. Go on, go on your holiday. I’ll figure it out.” Somehow. Damn, I miss Roxy.
Lucia and Myfanwy stood next to the car, their breath visible as they chatted in the frosty gray morning. Millie loaded the last of their luggage into the trunk and closed the lid gently. Martha placed her hand on Elaine’s forearm. “You have our itinerary. We can return if it’s an emergency”—she straightened to her full height and squared her shoulders—“but we are not to be disturbed unless it is.”
Elaine rolled her eyes at her sister. “Yes, sister dear, goddess forbid I interrupt your honeymoon. Like you haven’t already had one. I won’t bother you.” She let the devil show in her eyes. “I expect you’ll be tied up.”
Martha settled her fedora on her head. “I’m not going to waste my time replying to that, and please for the love of all that’s good, try to get along with Petra. We don’t have any other candidates.”
“So we should settle?” Elaine placed her hand on her hip.
“No one is saying settle. What I am saying is do not make a snap judgment. Or piss her off so much she leaves.”
Elaine shrugged. “If she can’t stand the heat…”
“Martha, we need to leave now.” Lucia spoke over Elaine, her voice a soft command. “I’m sure Elaine and Petra will sort things.”
“See, even your Miss agrees.” Elaine smirked at Martha.
Martha smiled at Elaine, not giving her the argument she craved. “Try it some time. You might find you like it.”
“Ha. A cold day in hell. Go now or you’ll miss the ferry.”
Martha gave Elaine a quick hard hug before she hurried down the steps to the car.
The limousine stopped squarely at the foot of the walk leading to Rowan House. Elaine stood on the steps, her hands planted on her hips, dressed in a form-fitting pair of tan riding pants, black riding boots, and her favorite thick blue sweater to greet the new arrival. No use getting dressed up. Don’t want to give her the wrong impression. A stiff wind blew across the porch. Elaine shivered and shoved her hands in her pockets to warm them. She winced when the thick raised scar on the back of her hand scraped on her pocket seam. Ridiculous time of year for an audition with half the staff on holiday. Catering to her dates. She should have been willing to take whatever dates we set.
Millie exited the car and opened the rear door. A pair of shapely legs covered in black hose, wearing burgundy Manolo pumps appeared. Elaine blinked. Good taste in shoes, that’s a plus. Must be doing well to afford those. Fantastic legs. The woman wearing the shoes emerged from the car and pulled her navy-blue wool coat tighter around her body. Her jet-black bob brushed the top of her shoulders and a large pair of sunglasses shielded her eyes. Millie offered her arm and the woman placed her black-gloved hand on her forearm and allowed Millie to escort her to the steps.
“Petra Grendahl, Elaine McLeod.” A mischievous grin settled over Millie’s face. Elaine stepped down off the porch, her gaze fixed on the new arrival’s face.
Petra removed her sunglasses. Her eyes were brown, so dark they appeared black. She met Elaine’s direct gaze with one of her own. A smattering of freckles was scattered across the bridge of her nose and wide cheekbones. Her elegant mouth pulled into an insolent smile. Fuck. I should’ve reviewed her application. Those eyes. Bewitching. Get it together. She’s here for an interview not for playtime. Pity that.
Petra tilted her head to the side and peeled her glove off slowly before she extended her hand.
Mesmerized by her deliberate motions, Elaine stared at her perfectly manicured hand with blood-red nails. Say something.
Elaine thrust her hand out and clasped Petra’s hand. “So pleased you’re here.”
“Really?” She lifted her chin in challenge and squeezed Elaine’s hand with a firm grip before releasing it.
Elaine’s face burned. “Yes.” Oh hell, does she think she’s going to be in charge? Hell no.
“You seem surprised. You were expecting someone taller maybe? Younger? Whiter?” Her tone was mocking.
Elaine pursed her lips. “No.”
Petra crossed her arms over her chest and rocked back on her heels. “If you make an offer, and we come to an agreement, would your clients be annoyed when I walk into their room instead of a white blonde-haired goddess?
Elaine frowned at her. “We’re not that kind of establishment. We do not tolerate racists and we would never allow our clients or staff to engage in such appalling behavior. Why would you expect we would?”
“With my name”—Petra uncrossed her arms—“I like to get it out of the way. Saves time.” Her expression remained guarded.
Where has she worked that her race has been an issue? Elaine studied Petra’s face. Beneath the carefully applied makeup and hard expression she noticed her soul-deep weariness and simmering anger. Saves time. Not the first time she’s had this conversation. There’s more there. Later. After she’s rested. “Millie will place your bags in your suite. Would you like tea? Or coffee? Something to eat?”
“Coffee.” A gust of wind blew the hem of Petra’s coat open and she shivered.
“Forgive me for keeping you in the cold. It’s warmer inside.” Elaine held Petra’s gaze, unable to look away from her dark eyes. She took a step back and opened the door. She held it open and stepped to the side to allow Petra to enter the house. Her pumps clicked loudly on the hardwood floor as she strode into the hallway. She removed her other glove and handed the pair to Elaine. After she shrugged out of her coat she tossed it toward Elaine. What the hell? I’m not her sub. She caught the coat in spite of herself.
Elaine straightened her shoulders and dropped the gloves and the coat on the sideboard. “Millie will show you to your room. I’ll send someone to attend you.”
Petra tilted her head to the side and fixed her gaze on Elaine. “Not you?”
Oh hell no. Time to let her know who is in charge. Elaine stepped closer to Petra, pressing her height advantage. Even in four-inch heels Petra was a head shorter than her, and Elaine used every inch of her six-two frame to make her point. “Perhaps it was unclear from our introduction but I am one of the Mistresses of this house.”
Petra’s lips pulled into a taunting smile. “Not unclear at all.”
A hint of gardenia perfume rose from Petra. The challenge in her eyes stoked Elaine’s interest and made her mouth water. Elaine stepped closer and drew in a breath, indulging her need to assert her power. “Whatever decision you have arrived at concerning me, I will not tolerate disrespect.”
“Understood.” Petra held her ground, their bodies a breath apart, her dark gaze locked onto Elaine’s face. “Just know it goes both ways.”
Her mouth. Goddess I want to kiss that smirk off her face. Maybe flog it off. Maybe flog then kiss. Trouble. She is so much trouble. Get it together. Interview. She’s here for an interview. Don’t screw this up. Elaine stepped back. “Wait here. I’ll send someone to attend you.” She turned her back on Petra and the raging fire of want burning low in her belly.