One Real Man

By: Coleen Kwan



At the thought of her parents, she smacked her palm against her forehead before jumping out of bed. How silly of her not to have tried to contact her mother last night! Her mother would be furious to find out Owen Bellamy was occupying her house. Maybe there was some way Crystal could get rid of him, some clause in the rental agreement he’d violated.

Paige’s fingers shook as she snatched up the phone on her nightstand and dialed her mother’s mobile number. Her parents were on a cruise in the Caribbean. She hadn’t the faintest idea what time it was over there, but this was an emergency. The call instantly went to voicemail. Sighing in frustration, Paige left a brief message before hanging up. It was no use trying to explain everything or leaving a contact number. She didn’t have a mobile phone anymore, and she had no idea where she’d be by this evening.

That thought chilled her even further. In an effort to keep the panic at bay, she sprang into action. A long shower in her en suite bathroom revived her. Afterward, she styled her hair and made up her face before dressing in a pair of skinny white jeans, a printed silk top, high-heeled white sandals, and a judicious amount of silver jewelry. Even if Owen was expelling her, she’d show him she hadn’t lost everything.

At a measured pace, she made her way downstairs and into the kitchen. There was no one around. The counters and sinks were cleared, the stove untouched, the fruit bowl empty. She opened the fridge, hoping to find some orange juice, but it held only a carton of milk, a half loaf of bread, and some Chinese takeaway leftovers.

“Morning.” Owen’s greeting came from close behind her.

She jerked around, nerves screeching at his sudden appearance. “I didn’t hear you creeping up.”

“I wasn’t creeping.” He looked miffed. “Must be these sneakers of mine.”

His chain-store canvas shoes were identical to the ones he’d worn in his pool boy days. His no-name brand jeans were faded, and not in a fashionable way. Clearly Owen didn’t place much importance on his clothes, even though money was no object to him these days.

“Where are you going in that getup?” He eyed her immaculate appearance with faint derision. “Off to do lunch at the country club with the girls?”

“I wouldn’t meet the country club’s dress code in this ‘getup.’” She wafted her polished fingernails at herself. “They’re very particular about who they let in.”

“I’m sure they’d make an exception for you, seeing as you’re a Kerrigan.”

She lifted a shoulder before changing the subject. “What’s happened to Daphne?”

“Daphne?”

“The housekeeper. Judging by the contents of the fridge, she hasn’t been around lately. She always makes sure the house is well-stocked.”

“Your mother fired her.”

“Fired her?” She winced.

“Well, maybe ‘let her go’ is the more polite term.”

Frowning, Paige continued, “You should get her back. She’s been with us for ages, and she knows how to keep this place running smoothly.” She indicated their Spartan surroundings. “You need a housekeeper.”

“Yeah, I realize that. I tried to rehire Daphne, but she’s moved on to a much better job. So I’m in the market for a housekeeper, and as a matter of fact I have a candidate in mind.” Folding his arms, he rested his hip against the kitchen counter. “You.”

She couldn’t have heard right. “Me?”

“Yes, you.”

She felt her jaw slowly sagging. “Me?”

“Don’t look so shocked. What’s so incredible about hiring you?”

“But…but…” Damn, she must resemble a goldfish the way she was sputtering. “Why me?”

“Because I need a housekeeper and you need a job.”

He made it sound so logical, this—this outrageous proposition. She, Paige Kerrigan, a housekeeper? In her own house? How dare he! Blood thumped in her eardrums. “You’re just doing this to humiliate me,” she burst out.

“Now why would I want to do that?” His voice lowered, deceptively calm.

“Because you want to exact your revenge.”

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