Lara Callaway has been cheated on for the last time. She's enjoying a peaceful stay at her employer's London town house before embarking on the holiday of a lifetime - alone! Until the unexpected arrival of Rueben Tyler throws her senses into overdrive!
The rebellious millionaire becomes her unlikely travel companion, and somewhere between romantic Venice and glamourous Monte Carlo, he is beginning to make Lara feel beautiful again. But can Lara return the favour and show cynical playboy Rueben that, he too, is worthy of love?
Holiday with the Millionaire
Lara tried to hide her sniffles as the door opened and Addison’s chin nearly hit off the perfect hardwood flooring.
“Lara? What on earth…”
She didn’t wait for her to finish. Rain was dripping off the end of her nose and running down her back as she tried to bump her impossibly heavy case over the entrance way of the house. The case gave a squeak and one of her wheels catapulted merrily into the air, spinning off down the front steps and along the exclusive London street.
She swallowed the impossible lump in her throat. It pretty much summed up her life right now.
Addison pulled her by the elbow and slammed the door behind her. “What’s wrong? What’s happened?”
Lara’s stomach coiled up. She hated this. She hated turning up like this. Even though she tried to hide it she knew Addison was stressed enough without adding anything else into the mix. Her pretty face had been marred by a permanent frown for the last few months Lara had been acting as a nanny for her and her husband Caleb.
She took a deep breath. She was still in shock and the words just seemed to come out of nowhere. “I had a Sliding Doors moment,” she breathed before dissolving into tears.
“A what?” The frown was back. Addison had no idea what she was talking about.
Lara shook her head, her blonde hair sending raindrops splattering all around them. “I went home earlier than he expected. I caught the earlier tube.” Her voice wobbled.
Addison took a deep breath and stood up a little taller. “And?” She could be scary when she wanted to be.
“And Josh was in bed with the next door neighbour.”
She wobbled and Addison caught hold of her elbow and steered her through to the kitchen. “I’m sorry Addison. I know you’re just about to go on holiday but I had nowhere else to go. I just stuffed everything into my case and left.”
Addison flicked the switch on the coffee machine. “That rat bag. How dare he? You’ve paid the rent on that flat for – how long? And he does this to you?”
She opened the cupboard and pulled out two cups then sat down on the stool opposite Lara. “What are you going to do?”
Lara hesitated. The timing was oh-so wrong. “I’m sorry, Addison. I know you’re leaving in the next few hours. This is the last thing you need.” It was the absolute last thing. Although to outsiders Addison and Caleb Connor had the perfect life, Lara could tell that things were strained. Their son, Tristan was a dream to nanny, a happy, well-mannered little boy with the biggest smile in the world. But things in the household were far from happy. Addison had been strangely silent these last few weeks – Caleb’s presence had been virtually non-existent and Lara had the distinct impression this month long holiday was make or break for the couple.
She bit her lip. “I wondered…can I stay for the next two weeks? Just until I try and sort things out. I’ll need to find somewhere else to stay.”
Addison didn’t hesitate. “Of course you can. No problem at all. Caleb and I will be gone in the next few hours. You can have the place to yourself and take some time to get sorted.”
She pressed some buttons on the state-of-the-art coffee machine. She frowned at Lara, “Double shot?”
Lara nodded. Addison pressed a few more buttons for the extra shot for the Lara and decaf for herself and the steaming hot lattes appeared in seconds. She held up two syrup bottles. “Gingerbread or caramel?”
“Vodka,” Lara groaned. It might only be three o’clock in the afternoon but after the day she’d had she wanted to cut straight to the chase. She pointed over at the one in Addison’s left hand. “Caramel.”
Addison poured a healthy amount of pure sugar syrup into the latte before adding the tiniest dash into her own.
She looked Lara straight in the eye. “What are you going to do about your holiday?”
The holiday. Of course. Lara pressed her head down on the counter worktop. “Oh no.”
Addison reached over and squeezed her hand. “You’ve been looking forward to this all year. Don’t let him spoil this for you. You deserve a holiday. You need a holiday. Spend the next two weeks sorting yourself out, then go and lie in the sun. Relax. Chill out.”
“By myself?” The holiday she’d been looking forward to for months had instantly lost its shine. There was something really wrong about going to a couples resort on your own. Talk about awkward.
Addison’s glare had a steely edge. “Yes, by yourself. Why not? You don’t need a man to determine who you are in this life. You’ve saved hard for that holiday. Go and enjoy it.” She picked up her latte. “Now, I need to finish packing. Will you be okay?”
Lara shifted on the stool. She really needed to get out of these rain-soaked clothes. Her stomach was churning. She could sense the tension in the air around Addison. It wasn’t like her to say something so direct. She usually kept all her cards played safely close to her chest. Still, it wasn’t her place to say anything. The line between employer and employee still existed and it wasn’t her place to cross it. Her only concern should be Tristan and by all her observations he was a happy, healthy little boy. Whatever was going on between the adults was up to them to solve.
She nodded her head in grateful relief. “I’m not right now, but I will be. Thanks, Addison. I promise I’ll take good care of the place.”
“I know you will,” Addison replied with the quiet reassurance she always possessed. She paused for a second, “I won’t be able to call or email you. The place we’re going – it doesn’t have a phone line or Internet.” She paused and gave a sad kind of smile. “You’ll be fine, Lara. You don’t need him. He didn’t deserve you – not at all. It’s amazing how strong you can be on your own when you need to be.” She fixed on Lara’s gaze. “The world needs good people like you. Look after yourself.” She gave a nod of head and disappeared out into the hall.
Lara sucked in a deep breath, looked around the immaculate show kitchen and put her head back on the counter.
Two weeks to sort herself out. Perfect.
It was almost midnight. Reuben fumbled with the key in the lock yet again and swore under his breath.
Maybe he shouldn’t have had that extra drink but his flight had been delayed six hours, jetlag was kicking in and he’d decided to stop to try and get something to eat before he got back to the house.
Only something to eat had turned into something to drink. The takeaway hadn’t looked too appetising and the pub across the road had stopped serving food at 7pm. So, he’d just had a drink. That had turned into another. And then another. Watching a football match in a pub had that effect. After five minutes everyone was your best friend.
The key finally clicked into place and he shouldered the door open, falling over the front step, and landing in a heap on the hardwood floor. The entrance hall was so big the noise echoed all around him.
He picked himself up and tried to feel his hand along the wall looking for a light switch. When was the last time he’d been in Caleb’s house? Must have been over a year ago – Addison wasn’t exactly welcoming. She didn’t seem to like her husband’s bad boy friend.
The light switch wasn’t beckoning. All he felt was the flat walls. His eyes tried to adjust to the dark. If he remembered correctly the kitchen was to the right and the living room to the left, looking out over the exclusive London street.
He sighed and headed towards the living room. He’d collapse on the sofa and watch TV for a bit.
He froze midstep. What was that? Was that a noise?
He held his breath for a second. Caleb, Addison and their kid should be on holiday. Caleb had said he could stay here for the next few weeks whilst his house was getting roof repairs. He tipped his head to the side and listened again.
He dumped his bag at his feet and walked over to the outline of the door to the living room and pushed it open. All he really wanted to do right now was sprawl out on the sofa.
But everything was wrong. And the jetlag meant that all the senses in his brain were firing in slo-mo.
If he’d been firing on all cylinders he would have noticed immediately the glowing television on the wall, the sweet wrappers and wine bottle on the living room table and the duvet on the sofa. His sofa.
Instead all he noticed was the flash in the corner of his eye and the thudding pain at the back of his head. As he made contact with the floor and looked upwards all he could see was something pink and fuzzy.
Then, everything was black.
She couldn’t breathe. There was a tight strap across her chest and her heart was thudding wildly in her ears.
One minute she’d been lying half-dozing on the sofa watching Saturday night TV, next she’d heard footsteps walking across the entrance way. She’d gone into automatic pilot – years of watching too many TV shows – and picked up the nearest thing to hand. It was one of Caleb’s awards and it was currently lying splatted on the floor next to the burglar in black.
She picked up the phone and dialled the police. “Emergency services, which service do you require?”
“Police, how can we help you?”
“There’s a burglar. In my house. I’ve hit him.”
“What’s your name?”
“Lara. Lara Callaway.”
“Can you give me your address, Lara?”
“17 Crawford Square, Belgravia.”
“Where is the suspect now, Lara?”
She gulped. “At my feet.” Police, she’d asked for the police. Maybe she should have asked for an ambulance?
“Lara, what do you mean the suspect is at your feet? Are you in any danger?”
Her mouth was suddenly dry. Maybe she shouldn’t have drunk all that wine? “No. I don’t think so. He’s unconscious. I hit him.”
The operator spoke slowly. “Without putting yourself in any danger, can I ask you to check that he’s breathing? I’m adding an ambulance to the dispatch call?”
Lara bent her knees and squinted at the guy on the ground. He was lit only be the TV glowing on the faraway wall. His chest was going up and down slowly.
She took a deep breath. For a man breaking into people’s homes he was actually very handsome. He didn’t have that furtive, shady look about him. There was a hint of suntan under the shadow along his jawline. He gave a little groan and she jumped back.
“Yes, yes he’s breathing. But I think he’s going to wake up.”
“Lara, take yourself to a safe place. The police are on their way and will be at your address in under two minutes. Keep this phone with you. You can keep talking to me if you’re scared.”
She backed off out of the room and headed to the front door. Her head was starting to throb. This was turning into a nightmare.
Maybe this was her fault. This was a prestigious London address – of course they would be at risk for house breaking. The house had a state of the art alarm system – which she hadn’t put on yet. She would have done when she was going to bed. She just hadn’t got that far yet.
Something struck her as strange. How had the burglar got in? The front door was still closed. None of the windows seemed open. What if he’d damaged the house somewhere? The glow of blue lights in the distance made her breathe a sigh of relief.
How was she going to explain this to Addison?
This was the worst jetlag EVER.
“Sir, can you open your eyes for me please?”
And why was this bed so hard?
“Yeow!!!” Someone had nipped the soft flesh on his hand. He sat bolt upright, ignoring the pounding headache.
Wow. He swayed. Dizzy. That was a new experience for him. He hadn’t been dizzy since that time he’d been knocked out at football ten years ago.
Knocked out. He narrowed his gaze as the pieces started to fall into place. Two policemen. Two green suited ambulance folk – one male, one female. And another female dressed in a pink fuzzy suit with her blonde hair in some kind of weird bundle on top of her head. She looked like some kind of giant kid’s toy.
He lifted his hand to the back of his head and winced. “Someone want to tell me what on earth is going on here?” He frowned and turned to face the pink teddy bear. “And who the hell are you?”
The teddy’s bear face looked indignant. He could tell she was trying to place his Irish accent, which got thicker the angrier he was. “Who am I? Who are you? You broke into my house!”
One of the policemen stepped forward but Reuben held up his hand. “Wait a minute, you’re not Addison. This isn’t your house.”
He stood up and dusted himself off. “And I didn’t break in anywhere. I have a key,” he pulled it from his back pocket, “because I am supposed to be staying here. So who are you exactly?”
The policeman looked from one to the other. “It would probably help if you could both identify who you are.”
The paramedic stepped forward. “I’m not finished yet.” She held up a pen torch and shone it into Reuben’s eyes. He flinched but didn’t object. He knew better. After a second she gave a nod. “Both pupils equal and reactive.” She walked over to write some notes.
Reuben pulled his wallet out from his back pocket and handed it over to one of the policemen. “Reuben Tyler. I just landed from LA a few hours ago.” He folded his arms across his chest. “My own apartment is under repair. It had damage during the recent storm and when they went to do repairs they discovered asbestos in the roof.” He turned to glare at the teddy bear once again. She really was quite cute. If he hadn’t been having such a bad day he might have been quite taken by her strange get up, perfect skin and mussed-up hair. “My friend, Caleb Connor, who owns this place said I could stay here while he and his family were on holiday.”
The policeman turned towards the teddy bear who was shifting uncomfortably on her feet at the mention of Caleb’s name. “And you are?”
“I’m Lara Callaway. I work for the Connor’s. I’m their nanny.”
Ahh, their nanny. Things were starting to fall into place in his brain. Caleb had said the last nanny had left and they’d hired someone new.
“And I can verify this with the Connor’s?”
He watched as she gulped and glanced at the clock. This was a girl who obviously wasn’t used to being around the police.
“Well…not right now. They’ll be midway across the Atlantic – and they’re going to a place with no phone or Internet.” She turned around to look at Reuben. “You’re not going to take him at his word, are you? I’ve never seen him before – and I’ve never heard Mr Connor mention his name. He could be anyone.”
Reuben rolled his eyes and sighed. The teddy bear was starting to get annoying. He glanced about the living room, his eyes fixing on a far away photo frame. He stalked across the room and picked it up, thrusting it towards the policeman whilst glaring at Lara. “Here, photographic evidence. That’s me and Caleb at an award’s ceremony around five years ago. And,” he pulled his phone from his pocket, “here’s a text from Caleb telling me how to switch off his alarm.” He ran his eyes up and down Lara’s fuzzy covered frame. She might be wearing the most unsexy nightwear in the world but it still gave a hint of her curves. She wiggled her pink painted toes as if she could sense his gaze on her. “And as for the nanny,” he gestured his head towards her. “I’ve never heard of her. According to Caleb, I would be the only one staying here.” He gave a little laugh. “As for no phone and no Internet? I’ll bet Caleb didn’t know that before he left. He might be on the other side of the Atlantic but I’m pretty sure we’ll hear him blow.”
All he really wanted to do was get his head down – and maybe find something to eat. His head ached and he couldn’t believe the commotion. So much for some quiet down time.
Lara looked flustered by his words. “I’ve been here six months. The nanny before left. Addison – Mrs Connor said I could stay here for the next two weeks. I’ve had a bit of a… misunderstanding and she agreed at short notice.”
Reuben’s ears pricked up at her words and he couldn’t stop a smile appearing on his face. She was obviously easily flustered, not used to being around cops and feeling distinctly uneasy. Then again, she was in her night wear – even if it did cover her every part of her body – and it was obvious she’d decided to have feast in front of the TV. Probably not the scene you wanted all these people to see.
“What was the misunderstanding?” he pressed. He was amused now. “The one that made you hit me over the head with something.”
He looked around the floor to see what she’d hit him with and saw the remains of something on the floor. He bent down and picked up the smashed marble and gold trophy. His mouth fell open. “You hit me with the Businessman of the Year award? Oh wow, Caleb will be mad.” He pointed over to the photo with him and Caleb, showing Caleb clearly holding up the award with pride.
If she’d been flustered before she looked positively pained now. “But, I didn’t know who you were. And I thought you were a burglar. I thought you were going to attack me,” her voice started to wobble and her eyes started to fill, “I didn’t know what to do.”
The policeman put a hand on her arm. “We understand, but Mr Tyler does have a right to press charges.”
“Charges?” She could barely get the word out and he could see her start to shake.
“For assault.” She wobbled. She looked as if her legs were going to give out completely.
Enough. He needed this to be over with.
“There won’t be any charges. Not from me anyway. I’m sure she’ll be able to speak to Caleb about replacing his award.” He looked toward the other policeman who’d been talking quietly into his radio. “Have you verified us yet? Can we finish this?”
The paramedic raised her eyebrows at him. “Actually no, we can’t. You were knocked out Mr Tyler. We should really take you to hospital to be checked over.”
“No. No. I definitely don’t want to do that.”
But as he shook his head he realised how dizzy he was. It was all he could do not to sway. He eyed the sofa for a second, wondering if he should sit down.
“We’re obliged to take you Mr Tyler. There can be serious repercussions from a head injury. It will only take a few hours.”
“In London, on a Saturday night? You’ve got to be joking. Every A & E around here will be queued out the door.” He waved his hand. “I’m fine.”
The paramedic frowned and her lips thinned. This woman was formidable. It was time to take a different tact.
“Look, I’ve just got off a long flight from the US and I’m tired. I just want to find something to eat and get to sleep. I haven’t slept in the last 36 hours. You said my pupils were equal, surely that means I’m okay?”
She hesitated and glanced at her partner. “After a head injury some symptoms take a while to appear. You might feel okay now, but in a few hours it could be different.”
The policemen were exchanging glances. The only person in the room that couldn’t look at him was Lara – the giant teddy bear.
“I really don’t want to go to hospital,” he said steadily.
The paramedic glanced from him to Lara. “Well, I’ll have to get you to sign something. Then, I’ll give you a final check and some head injury instructions. You can’t be left alone. There needs to be someone around you in case you feel unwell later and need to go to hospital.”
A smile broke across his face. “Oh, I’m sure Ms Callaway will oblige.”
Her head shot up. “What? Me? No?” She turned towards the policeman. “You’re not actually going to let him stay here, are you? I don’t know him. I don’t want to be left in a house with a stranger.” Her indignance made him smile even more.
The policeman looked at her. “Then perhaps you’d like to stay somewhere else? You did say you made this arrangement at short notice. Maybe there’s somewhere else you can stay?”
She cringed. “What? No.” She was starting to look a bit panicked. But there was no way at this late stage he was going to ring around friends to find a bed for the night. He’d made this arrangement with Caleb and he was sticking with it – whether Ms Teddy Bear liked it or not.
The paramedic stood in front of Reuben. “Can you sit down for a second while I do some final checks?”
She couldn’t possibly know how grateful he was to sink down onto the comfortable over-stuffed sofa. His stomach gave a little growl as he noticed all the sweetie papers on the coffee table. The smell of chocolate and cheese and onion crisps was drifting in his direction. He didn’t care who it belonged to. As soon as he got rid of these folks he was eating the entire lot.
A paramedic made a few final notes and handed him a clipboard and pen. “Sign here.”
He scribbled his name and took the leaflet she proffered. She gave him a suspicious glance as she stood up. “If you have any of the symptoms on the card you must attend the nearest A & E.” She gestured with her head. “It’s St David’s, about a mile in that direction.”
He gave her a nod. “Thanks.”
The policemen headed towards the door. “We’ll file a report but I take it things are settled now?”
Lara stood with her mouth gaping. She looked shell-shocked. “But…”
“I’m sure everything will be fine,” the other policeman cut in. “Good night, Ms Callaway, Mr Tyler,” he said as all four people filed out the front door.
Reuben stood again, waiting for them all to leave before finally closing the front door behind them. His legs were heavy, but nowhere near as heavy as the thudding in his head.
He stalked back through to the sitting room, collapsed on the couch and tore open one of the chocolate bars, grabbing the TV remote.
Lara hadn’t moved. She was still rooted to the spot.
He grinned at her wickedly. “Well then, I guess it’s just you, and me.”
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