‘There’s an en suite with towels and …’ His deep voice trailed off and for a second she wondered if he felt as awkward as she did. His dimples, she noticed, had disappeared.
‘Help yourself.’ He paused again, cleared his throat. ‘I’ll be in the kitchen when you’re ready, it’s at the end of the corridor.’
‘Okay.’ She nodded again. Then thrust out her hand. Having threatened him with physical violence—twice—her granny, Maud, would have expected her to introduce herself.
He glanced down at her palm, but didn’t take it.
‘I’m Madeleine Westmore.’ The words sounded deafening in the pregnant silence. She lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘But my mates call me Maddy.’
He’s not your mate, you ninny.
‘Just in case you were wondering,’ she added, her hand still hanging out there.
He brushed his palm on the towelling. ‘Hello, Maddy,’ he said, as long strong fingers folded over hers at last. ‘Ryan King. But Rye will do.’
The heat of his palm—rough with calluses—had a jolt of electricity shimmering through her bloodstream and making her pulse dance.
She let go and stuffed tingling fingers under her arm. ‘Nice to meet you, Rye,’ she murmured, although nice didn’t quite cover it.
His smile spread and her hormones joined the party.
‘You have no idea, Maddy,’ he said cryptically.
She jerked a thumb over her shoulder. ‘I should probably head to the spare room before I flood your hallway.’
Or that super sexy grin gives me a heart attack.
He chuckled, the sound low and easy this time. ‘Yeah. You probably should.’
She shuffled off in the direction he’d indicated, all her nerve-endings two-stepping in time to the deep relaxed rumble of laughter that followed her down the hall.
THE spare bedroom turned out to be a large, ornately furnished mausoleum dominated by a gigantic bay window that looked onto the cliffs.
The storm raged outside, wind and rain buffeting the glass and making the room even more funereal. Maddy trembled, the draught from the window penetrating her damp clothes. Skirting a four-poster bed covered with an antique satin bedspread, she made a beeline for the bathroom.
White ceramic tiles, an elegant claw-foot tub and an inbuilt gas wall heater marked this room as another refugee from the Victorian era. Luckily, the heat spread quickly as soon as she lit the fire, making the bathroom considerably more welcoming than the bedroom next door. A couple of fluffy towels, an unopened bar of soap and a bottle of men’s shampoo lay on top of a wicker laundry basket. Maddy sneezed as she stripped off her muddy clothes and stepped into the tub.
Great—nothing like a snotty nose to put the finishing touches to her uber-sexy drowned rat look.
The minute the thought entered her head, embarrassment scorched Maddy’s cheeks and her hormones started two-stepping again. She blew out a breath and whipped the frayed shower curtain into place.
Oh, for goodness’ sake. Get real.
Ryan King wasn’t interested in her. A man that good-looking probably only dated supermodels. She hadn’t turned him on—she’d made him almost crack a rib laughing. There was a difference.
And, anyway, she wasn’t really interested in him, either. Except in a purely physical sense. Which was simply due to her sex-starved hormones going AWOL after a year of disuse.
However delicious Rye King might be to look at, she wasn’t dumb enough to have a wild fling with a sexy stranger just to scratch an itch. Whatever her hormones might want. Especially as this particular sexy stranger had an attitude problem.
A seductive smile, a few seconds of charm and chest muscles to die for hardly made up for his Rottweiler routine beforehand.
She cranked the vintage brass shower control and listened to the plumbing gurgle and hiss. Then sighed with pleasure as the water went from frigid to steaming in a matter of seconds.
She stepped under the needle sharp spray, let it massage abused muscles—and made a pact with herself not to give Ryan King’s sexy grin or phenomenal pecs another thought.
And promptly broke her pact a second later.
After the luxury of a ten-minute shower, Maddy searched the old oak chest of drawers in the bedroom for something dry to wear. In the end she had to settle for a worn LA Surf Academy sweatshirt, a pair of thick wool socks and her still slightly damp knickers. All the sweatpants were far too big to wear. Luckily, the sweatshirt fell to mid-thigh. Maddy assessed her appearance in the wardrobe mirror. As long as she didn’t bend over in front of him, she could preserve her modesty.
She stared at her pale legs and the shapeless lump of her torso. If only she hadn’t been wearing the full-body wetsuit all summer she’d at least have a tan. Not that there had been enough sun for her tan resistant skin to get much colour. She puffed out a disappointed breath and sucked in the scent of pine soap. The sudden reminder of being nestled against Ryan King’s magnificent chest had her body aching with need and her heart crashing against her ribcage.
The pact. Remember the stupid pact.
Agitated and annoyed with herself, Maddy finger-combed her shaggy curls. She sighed as they fell back into an unruly bob.
Fabulous. She was about to spend an evening with the best-looking man she’d ever set eyes on—and she looked like an undead tomboy playing dress up. If Ryan King even noticed she was female it would be a miracle.
She frowned. Which was a good thing, of course, because she didn’t want him to notice her.
Do not forget the pact.
As she made her way down the darkened corridor towards the back of the house, she tried to picture Ryan King wearing his Rottweiler look to help her keep the pact front and centre. But in the picture he looked all sexy and intense, his blue eyes gleaming with …
Face it, the pact’s history.
She let out a breath as she stepped into the kitchen. He wasn’t there. Good, it would give her time to stop hyperventilating and think of a more doable pact. Maybe.
She took several slow breaths and tried to ignore her throbbing breasts as she studied his kitchen. The pitter-patter of rain against the large window above the stove added yet more eerie atmosphere to the cavernous space. Even in the dingy light, the window offered another spectacular view of the cliffs. If she pushed onto tiptoe, she could see Wildwater Beach below.
She flicked the light switch, illuminating beautifully carved teak cabinets, a butler sink with an authentic wooden draining platform and what looked like an original Aga cooking range. The room felt warm and inviting, thanks to the roaring fire raging in the grate. Her feet padded against the checkerboard tiles as she walked towards the heat and dumped her wet clothes in an old wicker basket under the sink. She did a three hundred and sixty degree turn but could see no sign of a washing machine or dryer or even a dishwasher.
It also occurred to her that, apart from a bowl and cup drying on the draining board, the room was spotlessly clean and completely bare and impersonal, just like the spare room. She rubbed her hands together, chilled despite the heat.
The quaint antique decor had to date back to the eighteen hundreds and suited the gloriously Gothic old house perfectly, but when she thought of the sleek black sports car she’d passed in the driveway and her host’s overpowering physique and appearance, she realised the house and its furnishings didn’t suit its resident at all. It seemed strange he hadn’t made any effort to personalise the space. If