When Baylee answers an ad to restore the library at an old estate, it’s a way to escape her obsessive ex. She doesn’t expect to find two handsome men waiting to seduce her. Duncan and Nick, her bosses, are sexy and charismatic, but it’s clear they’re hiding something from her. Why does she never see them after dark, and what about the beasts that wander their land at night? Unraveling the mystery will either leave her in grave danger or lead her to twice the happily ever after.
This novella was originally written for a boxed set that is now unpublished (“Taming The Beast”).
Her new employers were even more attractive in person. Baylee Edwards knew that was an inappropriate thought to have as they introduced themselves, but she couldn’t stifle it. All week, since she’d interviewed via Skype with Duncan Fitzhugh and Nick Wellington, she’d been thinking of them far more than she should. Her thoughts had focused on them rather than on the temporary job she was taking at their estate.
As she shook Duncan’s hand, she had to resist the urge to push back strands of reddish blonde hair that was presently obscuring one of his blue eyes. Then she had to resist the urge to throw herself against him as heat sparked up her hand and spread throughout her body.
As quickly and as discreetly as possible, she pulled her hand free and turned to Nick Wellington. When his fingers touched hers, she barely bit back a moan. She had the same reaction to her dark-haired, dark-eyed temporary boss as she’d had to the other one. Her heart was galloping in her ears, and once again, she released his hand as quickly as possible.
“We’ll show you to your room, and then the library. As we mentioned in the interview, it’s a disaster. It hasn’t been modernized or catalogued.”
She nodded at Duncan’s words. “I’ll be happy to evaluate it as we discussed, Mr. Fitzhugh.” That was the first step to organizing it. She was here for however long it took to modernize the estate’s extensive library collection. It was a live-in position, and with Sam being persistent, she was happy to get away from the city for a few days, or perhaps even a few weeks, depending on the scope of the job.
“Call me Duncan,” he said as he put a hand on her lower back to steer her in a polite fashion toward an impressive set of stairs. They were at least four times wider than a standard set, and the polished wood shone with a mellow patina of age. She couldn’t help caressing the wooden banister and found it as smooth as it looked.
“And you must call me Nick,” said her other boss. He gestured for her to go ahead of him.
It was a bit nerve-racking to climb all the stairs and be aware of them just a couple of steps below her. She had a vivid mental image of tripping and falling backward. If she injured her new bosses, she imagined that would be the end of the assignment.
The flight of stairs felt like it went on forever before they reached the second landing and found two more staircases. She cast a glance over her shoulder at Duncan, cocking her eyebrow in question.
“Keep going straight. These stairs lead to the left and right wing, but the library and your room is in the main wing.”
She climbed more stairs, feeling the burn in her thighs. She wasn’t exactly a couch potato, but she wasn’t an avid exerciser either. She preferred yoga and swimming, and only grudgingly went to the gym upon occasion when her girlfriends guilted her into it. She was feeling the consequences of that choice now, and it was a relief to reach the second floor.
“To the right,” said Nick. He had already turned that way, as had Duncan.
Now, she followed behind them again, and when she should have been paying attention to her surroundings, instead she was admiring the view. Both men were dressed casually in faded denim jeans that hugged their bodies lovingly. She quickly reached the conclusion they both had very fine buttocks.
Fortunately, she wasn’t so engrossed in staring at their asses that she kept walking and stumbled into them when they stopped. She smothered another groan when she realized it was yet another set of stairs, though these steps were more conventional, being narrower and less fancy. When they reached the top, both men turned to the left, and she followed them. She was hoping she would remember how to find her way back to the main area with all the twists and turns.
Nick stopped in front of a set of French doors and pushed one open. The gleaming gold handle complemented the pearlescent white paint. This time, when they stepped inside, she couldn’t hide her gasp. “This is my room?” It was huge, with delicate Victorian furniture, and a massive four-poster bed that could have easily held all three of them. She blinked at the thought, subtly shaking her head to clear it as she tried to focus on why she was there instead of allowing herself to indulge in unrealistic fantasies. “It’s lovely.”
“We’ll leave you to settle in, and then we can show you the library in a little while.”
She waved a hand. “That’s not necessary, but thank you. I just need to get my luggage from the car, but that can wait. Right now, I’d like to see the library.”
Duncan nodded. “If you prefer, we’ll show you the collection, and then we’ll bring up your luggage.”
She supposed she should protest, or tell them that wasn’t necessary, but the idea of dragging her three suitcases up all the stairs was enough to have her acquiescing without protest. “Thank you. I’d appreciate that.”
Moving almost as one, they turned back to exit her room, and she fell into step behind them. Going down the stairs was a lot easier than going up them, and the view was just as nice, if not better. Watching their muscles flex with each step was making her heart rate increase, and she was embarrassed by how hardened her nipples had grown. She was thankful for the thick sweater she wore that surely hid the evidence of her arousal.
They only descended the one utilitarian flight of stairs, walking down the landing and straight past the staircase that led to the main entrance. She followed behind them as they bypassed several other doors in the hallway before pausing before a set of French doors similar to the ones gracing her own room. Duncan pressed down the handles on both doorknobs simultaneously and pushed the doors open with a flourish.
She crossed the threshold, and her eyes widened at the size of the library before her. It easily rivaled the suburban library where she had worked until budget cuts had forced them to reduce staff. It was almost as large as the university library where she had spent so much time getting her degree in Library Sciences. Just looking at it, she was certain she wouldn’t be finished in a matter of days.
Neither Duncan nor Nick had followed her inside, and she turned to look at them. Before she could ask, Nick said, “We’ll leave you to get familiar with everything, and your bags will be in your room shortly.”
Nick glanced at his watch. “Mrs. Farley usually serves dinner at five, since we like to eat before it gets dark—early risers, know—so that gives you about four hours to look things over and settle in. Please don’t feel like you have to work here in the library for all those four hours.”
She nodded her appreciation and watched them leave. After the door closed behind her, she let out a long sigh. She couldn’t decide which was more exciting about this temporary assignment—her employers, or the books.
At least the books were a sure thing, and she wouldn’t humiliate herself by approaching them. Casting a rueful glance down at her short, curvy body, she reminded herself neither one of her bosses were likely to find her as attractive as she found them. They were both outstanding specimens of manhood, while she was on the plain, average side. She certainly wasn’t a size two, and she wasn’t the type to make men swoon.
Abruptly, she recalled Sam telling her she needed to be more enthusiastic in bed to compensate for her flaws. She flinched before snorting aloud. Sam had been an ass, and he’d been all wrong for her. She needed to remember that any time one of his small barbs worked its way through her memory. With any luck, she wouldn’t have to think about Sam much at all. Now that she was out of the city, and she had changed her phone number, she was unlikely to have to deal with him again.
That thought left her in a cheerful frame of mind, and digging into the books only improved her mood. Duncan and Nick hadn’t exaggerated when they’d told her it was a mess. Nothing was in order. Someone hadn’t even taken the time to alphabetize the titles, let alone group them under the Dewey Decimal System for the nonfiction works.
Someone had kept them clean though, because each book she pulled out randomly to determine just how out of place it was came out clean and dust free. She was pleased someone had taken care of the books, but puzzled by why they hadn’t cared enough to restore some semblance of order.
There was a large grandfather clock in the library, and abruptly, she realized it was four-thirty when it chimed again. She had lost herself in the project and the pleasure of all the books. There were so many first editions that it made her head swoon, and they had obscure works in every classification.
Realizing dinner was going to be served soon, she stood up, getting off the floor where she’d been seated to examine a shelf full of books on the occult. Those had appeared more thumbed-through than the others, and she wondered if one of her employers had an interest in the subject, or perhaps it had been one of their ancestors. This library was clearly at least as old as Midvale Manor itself, which she pegged to be at a few hundred years old.
Dusting her hands down her pants, though they were remarkably clean after dealing with all the old books, she left the library and returned to her room. There wasn’t time for a shower, but she did spend a few minutes freshening up and applying a light layer of makeup.