Who ever said billionaire bachelors and modest maids don't mix?
Celine Santini couldn't have been more shocked when billionaire bachelor Pierce D'Amato offers her a job as nanny to his four-year-old charge. After all, he hardly even knows her. But after finding herself thrown into an unexpectedly intimate encounter with him, are they really strangers? Celine is captivated by the green-eyed heartthrob who takes her heart ransom but how can she give in to her feelings when they're from two totally different worlds?
From the first day he lays eyes on the dark-eyed beauty, Pierce D'Amato knows he is lost. He immediately devises a plan to get her under his roof ... and it works. But the more he gets to know the sweetly seductive Celine Santini the more he realizes there's a lot more to this woman than he could ever have imagined. Her intriguing combination of sophistication and innocence keeps him forever off-balance and, before he knows it, his bachelor heart turns traitor. The heart knows what the heart wants and it wants Celine Santini...whatever the cost.
Celine hummed a love song as she pushed the housekeeping trolley down the carpeted hallway. Today was going to be a great day she'd told herself, no matter that she was stuck in Cambridge for yet another summer when she'd much rather be back home in France with her mother and two rowdy little brothers.
She smiled as she thought about Marc and Sylvan. The ten and twelve year olds were probably driving her maman crazy at this very moment with their constant pranks and rough play. If only she could be home with them. She was the only one who could keep those two in check.
She stopped at the door to suite 1206. No time to dwell on that now. She had twelve suites to clean in the next few hours and she wanted to make a good impression. For the last two summers she'd worked at small hotels where the pay was minimal and the hours long. This summer she'd been lucky to land a job at one of the largest hotels on Main Street. She'd be earning almost fifty percent more than she'd made at her previous job. It was still a far cry from adequate but if she kept to a tight budget she might just be able to save enough to go home for Christmas.
Celine knocked on the door. No answer. She knocked again just to be sure then stuck her keycard in the slot and pushed it open. Gathering up a handful of towels and tiny bottles of toiletries she tucked them in the crook of her arm, grabbed the handle of the vacuum cleaner then backed into the room.
The presidential suite was magnificent with a spacious living room filled with antique furniture and ornate carpeting. A sparkling crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling. Celine paused to admire the elegant room. Oh, to be able to live like this. She chuckled to herself. It would probably take a month's salary for her to pay for one night in this suite.
Now where to start? She had an armful of towels so the bathroom it was. Still humming she pushed the door and walked into the bedroom.
At that moment she heard a click and the bathroom door opened. She gasped and the towels fell from her hands. Standing in front of her, his face hidden by a thick towel, was a tall, muscular and very naked man.
"What the..." The man dropped the towel and stared back at her in obvious shock. "Where did you come from?"
"I...I'm sorry," Celine said as she backed away. "I thought the suite was empty. I'm so sorry."
The man was staring at her with eyes that were shockingly green. "I was in the shower," he said, raking his fingers through his dark brown hair, "so if you knocked I wouldn't have heard a thing."
Mon Dieu. He was standing there, tall and lean and every inch a man, and he was making no move to cover himself. Celine dropped her eyes, her face hot with embarrassment. She turned to flee.
"Wait. I want to talk to you."
Was he serious? She would not turn back to talk to a naked man no matter how handsome. She was back in the living room and had already grabbed hold of her vacuum cleaner when his voice stopped her.
"Don't leave," he said, his voice imperious and bold. He sounded like the kind of man who expected to be obeyed. He was standing in the bedroom doorway and this time, thankfully, he had the towel wrapped around his waist. "Wait for me in the living room. I'll get dressed."
Without bothering to wait for a reply he turned and went back into the bedroom, leaving Celine staring at the empty doorway. Who did this man think he was, to be ordering her around like that? She frowned as her thoughts raced wildly. Come to think of it, that was a good question. Who was he, really? He had to be a very important person or else a very rich one to be staying in the presidential suite of one of the most expensive hotels in town. Her heart pounded as a new thought crowded her mind. Was he going to come back and reprimand her for violating his privacy? Was he going to report her, or worse, get her fired? Her palms grew damp and she slid them down the sides of her uniform. She couldn't afford to lose this job, she just couldn't. When he came she would have to plead her case.
In less than a minute the man was walking out of the bedroom in dark slacks and a white shirt which he buttoned casually as he approached. His long, lean feet were bare.
"Have a seat," he said and beckoned to the couch by the window.
"Excuse me?" Celine stood stock-still, her hand on the vacuum cleaner, her eyes wide as she stared back at him. Why was he offering her a seat? If he was going to reprimand her why not do it quickly and let her go? He must really plan to lecture her. She decided to speak up, maybe appease him before he got the chance to blast her.
"I'm very sorry for barging in on you like this," she said, her voice earnest. "It won't ever happen again. I'll be back later to clean your room." With that she started toward the door, pushing the vacuum cleaner before her. Maybe if she made a quick exit nothing more would come of this. At least, that was what she hoped.
She was halfway to the door when he laughed, a deep husky laugh that sent a little shiver up her back. It stopped her in her tracks. She turned to stare at him.
"No need to fly so fast," he said, tucking the ends of his shirt into his trousers. "I'm not going to bite. I just want to talk to you about something."
He wanted to talk to her? About what? Her curiosity got the better of her and when he waved her over to the couch again she released her hold on the vacuum cleaner and went to sit demurely on the edge of the chair.
"My name is Pierce D'Amato," he said and plucked a business card from the desk. He reached over and handed it to her. "And you are?"
"Pleased to meet you, Ms. Santini," he said with a smile then cocked an eyebrow. "You're Italian? Your accent sounds French."
She nodded and smiled. "Good guess. I'm from France but my dad was an Italian American serviceman. I speak all three languages."
He gave her quick bow of the head and looked impressed. "Now that we know each other we can talk." He leaned against the desk and folded his arms across his chest. His face grew serious. "I'm in a dilemma, Ms. Santini, and I wonder if you can help me?"
Celine frowned. What in the world could she do to help a man like him? He was obviously a powerful, wealthy man and she was nothing but a PhD student moonlighting as a hotel maid.
"I'm a busy man," he said, deftly buttoning his cuffs as he spoke, never once taking his eyes off her, "but I suddenly find myself in a difficult situation. I've got my business to run and now I've got a four year old. I need the services of a nanny."
Celine could only stare at Pierce D'Amato, convinced that the man had gone mad. He didn't know a thing about her. What was he thinking?
"I know this sounds crazy," he said, giving her a smile that told her he'd seen the confusion on her face, "but I was just appointed guardian for my cousin's little girl and...I'm a bit lost, to say the least." He shrugged. "What do I know about children?"
"So you're looking for someone to take care of her."
"Yes, a nanny, companion, helper. Whatever you call it. I already have a housekeeper but she's got her hands full and I don't think she's up to the challenge of a four year old. Mrs. Simpson is almost sixty."
"But what about the agencies? They can help you find lots of people who would be happy to take care of a child."
"I went that route already. Hated it." He grunted as if in disgust. "They sent me young, old, fat, thin. Kylie hated all of them. She's really picky, that little one."
"And you think...she'd like me?"
He chuckled. "I'm sure of it. From the second I laid eyes on you I knew you were the girl for Kylie."
The second he laid eyes on her? How could he form an opinion that fast? And then she remembered she'd formed an opinion of him in that split second, too. And as she remembered their encounter her face grew warm. Celine shook her head. "I don't understand."
He laughed then stood up and walked over to the window. He looked down at the street below then turned to look at her. "As funny as it sounds when my eyes met yours something clicked. You have a freshness about you that I think will appeal to Kylie. And you look like a girl who isn't afraid to have fun."
Now what did he mean by that? Celine frowned and rose to her feet. "I'm sorry, Mr. D'Amato. I don't think that would be a good idea. I've got a good job here and-"
He laughed. "Working at what? Minimum wage? I could give you many times that without blinking."
Celine sucked in her breath. The nerve of him. "Money isn't everything. I don't know you. How can I leave my job to go to a man I don't know?"
"Is that all?" He waved his hand dismissively. "I've got great references, starting with the man who owns this hotel. He's one of my clients."
"Mr. Pierrefond?" she asked, her voice a reverent whisper. "You know him?" Every one of the hotel employees knew and respected John Pierrefond. He was one of the few billionaire businessmen in the area who took a personal interest in his employees. He was in his seventies but he remained as involved in the operations of his businesses as when he'd started out. The veteran employees never stopped talking about him.
Pierce shrugged. "We've been doing business for years. Ask him." Then he gave her a grin that revealed a charming dimple in his right cheek. "He'll stand by my character. I don't go around ravishing innocent maidens, if that's what you're worried about."
The smile disappeared as quickly as it had come. He glanced at the heavy gold watch on his wrist then back at her. "Listen, I have to go. Keep the card and call me. You have until tomorrow. I'm heading back to Springfield and I need an answer before I go."
Celine nodded and slid the card into her pocket. "Of course," she said, hurrying to retrieve the vacuum cleaner. "I'll think about it and let you know."