The Spanish Billionaire's Hired Bride(3)

By: Rachel Lyndhurst

“I owe you an apology, Senorita Marshall. My behavior was unfortunate. I felt compelled to protect my stepmother from an intruder. I had not been informed of your employment. I made a mistake.”

Tall, dark, and angular, he would tick all the boxes if he wasn’t such a misery. “And I’m sorry I kicked you so hard in the—I apologize for being so vicious,” she said, recalling the ferocity with which she’d slammed her foot into his groin. A slow smile changed his countenance entirely and a lump formed in her throat.

“You were frightened, it was understandable.”

“Yes. Yes I was,” she murmured. No air moved and the atmosphere was heavy as a clock chimed five times. She gritted out a smile. “Will that be all today, madam?”

“Going so soon?” Ricardo interjected before the Condesa could answer. “Please, there’s something I’d like to know before you go. What exactly did you do here today?”

“Do?” Helen switched to the Condesa, silently pleading for guidance. She was sure her employer didn’t want her stepson to know what happened most afternoons during siesta.

“Yes, fulfilling the terms of your contract, you know, earning your pay.” He shot a scornful glance at his stepmother and appeared to ignore the vitriol in her expression.

“Well, um, today we started learning Mandarin,” Helen said brightly.

“Mandarin? Is that so?” Ricardo slapped the back of the sofa. “Well, well, well that’s going to be so incredibly useful when you go handbag shopping in Milan, Antonella. How forward thinking of you. I am so very, very impressed.”

“Shut up, Ricardo,” the Condesa snapped. “I have every right to expand my mind and improve my education.”

“You certainly need to,” he muttered.

The Condesa shot him a look of contempt. “And before you complain and penny-pinch for one more second, I absolutely refuse to let her go until I can speak some basic Russian as well. So essential these days.”

“What a waste of money.”

Helen simmered with indignation. It was bad enough being employed as an overqualified slave to a spoiled and vain old woman, but to be discussed like this was insulting. They were behaving as if she didn’t exist! She straightened her spine and lifted her chin. She’d heard quite enough of their bickering. “If that will be all today, I’d like to catch the next bus home. I’ll have to wait another two hours if I miss the five-thirty down to the harbor.”

“Harbor? You are not staying in the staff wing?” He turned on his stepmother before Helen could reply. “Please don’t tell me you’ve filled the whole villa with staff dedicated to your ‘wellness.’ I didn’t think it would be possible to pour any more money down the drain.”

“I choose to live out,” Helen said. “It means I can bring nice fresh things for her from the market each day on my way here. I haven’t asked for an increase in salary to reflect this arrangement, so there’s a cost saving, a matter close to your heart, it appears.”

Ricardo stood silently for a moment, and then raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Why Ibiza town? You don’t like luxury villas with spectacular views and oligarchs as neighbors?” He lazily ran a fingertip across his chin. “Or maybe it’s because you enjoy being herded like cattle on public transport twice a day?”

“I love this villa,” Helen replied sharply. That was twice he’d likened her to an animal, the arrogant sod. “But the current living arrangement suits us both well.”

More silence. She may have gone too far.

“Fair enough.” He took a set of car keys from his trouser pocket and smiled again. His teeth were as white and perfect as the Condesa’s best pearls. “It’s probably more fun in town anyway, but I won’t hear of you catching the bus tonight. I’ll see you safely back.”

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