The Wrong Sister

By: Kris Pearson



“Cold water,” he ordered, pulling her along to the sink to hold her hands under the flow with a steely grip.

“Is it bad?” He was far too close again; taller by almost a head. Her perfectly adequate five feet six felt curiously petite beside him.

“No, it was more a fright than anything.” She tried to wriggle away. “Let me go. I’ll be fine.”

She struggled free, trembling with annoyance at her incompetence, and teased by feathery flickers of desire. She closed her eyes, willing the sensation to go. Gorgeous he might be, but he was Jan’s.

“Keep it under the cold for five minutes,” he muttered, turning back to his tools. Fiona seethed, and stifled the sharp reply that had so nearly sprung from her lips.

The hot pain subsided quickly enough to a dull throb, but the sensation of wanting to press close to him took a lot longer to ebb away.

She let out a shaky sigh and turned to watch him working again as the water held her prisoner. He had beautiful hands with long, capable fingers. He flipped the toaster over, investigated the locking screws, and then removed the cover. A few seconds later Fiona saw the tendons in his wrist twitch into sharp relief as he exerted pressure on the spring to re-attach it. He grunted with satisfaction as it clicked home.

“Porridge has probably had it.”

She whirled aside to check, scattering cold water everywhere, and making the hot stove-top hiss and steam. Why hadn’t she used the microwave oven? Sure enough, the gluey mixture had stuck fast to the bottom of the saucepan. She scraped at it with the spoon, closing her eyes in fury. Oh, wouldn’t it just!

“So really,” Christian continued with maddening calm, “You’re no help at all. You’ve broken the toaster, burnt the toast, wrecked the porridge and hurt yourself. We’re much better off without you.”

Fiona held his triumphant brown eyes with her own snapping green ones... embarrassed, maddened, but not quite defeated.

“How can you sleep at night, you sanctimonious pig?” she heard herself snarl.

He clicked his tongue. “An honest reaction at last.” He regarded her with something like amusement. “Right now, I don’t sleep too well, thanks, but the doctor says time will help take care of that.”

The awful reality of what she’d just said hit her. “Sorry—so sorry, Christian.” The tell-tale heat of embarrassment rushed through her again. “That wasn’t what I meant, of course.”

The half-grin faded from his face. “No, I know that.” His voice was bleak. “You must be hurting too.”

“My only sister.”

“But it’s difficult having you here.”

“Because I remind you too much of Jan?”

He shrugged. “Just difficult. We truly don’t need your help. Amy Houndsworth agreed to continue as part-time housekeeper. She’s been preparing an evening meal for us ever since Jan got really sick. A great fill-in, but I’ll be getting a proper nanny for Nicky now that Jan’s... gone.”

Fiona heard the hurt and hesitation in his voice.

Yes, Jan was gone for always, and it was so hard to say it.

“A nanny is something I could arrange for you, perhaps?”

He blew out a frustrated breath. “There are several agencies in the city. I thought I’d start with those. I’d prefer to choose someone myself, Fee. She’s my daughter.”

“And my only niece. Fifty/fifty then? How about I contact the agencies and you do the interviewing of anyone suitable?”

He shot her an assessing look, nodded and turned away. “So you’ll only be here another few days with any luck,” he tossed over his shoulder.

“Five and a half more weeks,” she managed to return with equal firmness.

He stopped and swung back to her, bristling like an animal protecting its territory. “Five and a half weeks? That’s pretty precise. What are you up to exactly?”

Fiona raised her chin. “Not ‘up to’ anything, Christian. But that’s how much more leave I’ve got. That’s how long the ship’s replaced me for. We all hoped Jan would be with us for longer than this.” She poked at the sticky porridge pot to escape his accusing eyes. “I’ve nowhere else to go until then. I want to see more of Nicky, and help if I can. It’s here or a hotel—and that would be pretty silly. It gives you time to do proper nanny interviews and find someone really suitable anyway.”

He glared at her, outmanoeuvred for the moment. “Use the microwave oven for your next attempt at porridge,” he said with unkind directness. “You might manage not to burn it second time around.”

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