First Page: Unnamed contemporary
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There was a woman in the kitchen.
Harris rubbed a hand across his jet-lagged eyes and tried to focus. Yup, definitely a woman. She was sitting at the dining table, pulling her lip between her teeth. Her very white teeth. Her left hand was twisted into the dark corkscrews of hair that she had just about constrained with a brightly coloured bandana, and the other tapped a pen against her cheek impatiently. Piles of alarmingly thick textbooks surrounded her laptop and the papers she was currently looking through. Eyes narrowed in concentration, she clearly had no idea that she was being observed.
Harris coughed politely. He had no idea who the woman was but she didn't seem to be doing any harm.
She gave no sign that she had heard him. He coughed again, a little louder.
"Excuse me,' he tried. Then he noticed the wires trailing from her ears and the little iPod placed by her elbow. He shrugged and walked across to the refrigerator to grab a can of chilled soda, too tired to care very much. She had to look up sooner or later and they could do the introductions then. He opened his drink and leaned against the counter, waiting for the mystery girl to finally notice him.
He'd almost drained the can dry by the time she looked up. Harris watched as her eyes sharpened into focus and her mouth opened in surprise. She tugged the earphones out and stood up in a rush.
I'm so sorry,' she began, hastily packing her things away. "You must be Mr Bond. Mr Lennox said you'd be out at work all day. I wasn't expecting to see you here.'
Harris nodded slowly. Simon Lennox was a friend and business associate of his father. He had offered Harris a three-month internship at his company and use of his London flat for the summer. He hadn't mentioned anything about a cute girl who liked to do her homework in his kitchen. "My flight arrived late last night,' he explained. "I'm taking the day to get over the jetlag and find my way around before I show up for work.'
"Of course.' She smiled at him and her whole face lit up. Harris couldn't help but smile back. "Well, don't worry,' she continued, "I'll leave you to it. There's plenty of food in the fridge. If there's anything you particularly want me to get, leave me a note. I usually come in on Mondays and Thursdays from eight to eleven. I clean, tidy and shop. Anything else you need me to do, let me know.'
"You're the housekeeper?' Harris blurted out in surprise. Angie gave him a questioning look so he raised an eyebrow and pointedly glanced down at the laptop still sitting on the table.
She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head as if in amazement. "Cleaner, actually,' she replied curtly, closing the computer down. "Angie Ferguson. Didn't Mr Lennox mention me?'
Harris smiled ruefully, remembering Simon's email. "He did. I was rather expecting someone, ah-' He made a vague gesture in her direction. "-older.' That wasn't quite what he meant but it would do.
"I'm twenty-four. Perfectly old enough to hold down a part-time job, thanks.'
He shook his head. "Not what I meant. Sorry, my body still thinks it's the middle of the night.' He glanced over at the kitchen clock. Half past ten.
"Sure.' She'd picked up her satchel and slung it over her shoulder.
"Wait,' Harris urged her. "You said you work until eleven?' Did Simon have any idea how this girl was ripping him off? Studying while she was supposed to be working, and now bunking off early?
"Well, then, I do have something else I need you to do.'
Dark eyes narrowed suspiciously. "The bathroom's clean, the fridge is stocked, there are fresh towels in the airing cupboard. Mr Lennox left a list of useful phone numbers on the hall table, and the code for the wifi is on there, too.' She folded her arms and met his gaze full on.
Harris nodded, desperately trying to think of something else to keep her busy. To keep her here. "Great.'
"So unless you need me to unpack for you, I'll be going.' Her voice oozed with sarcasm and for an instant Harris wondered why on earth Simon kept her around. She might be easy on the eye, but if she was always this lazy and disrespectful of her employer, he'd have fired her long ago.
‘Actually, I do.' It was as good an excuse as any. Last night he'd barely kept his eyes open long enough to pull an old t-shirt and pajama pants from his bag. He kept his gaze fixed on her face, watching as her jaw tensed and her mouth set into a hard line. She hadn't expected him to call her bluff. Interesting.
Still, she shrugged the heavy bag off her shoulder and automatically Harris reached out to take it from her, only realising too late that he was now standing inches away from the most unpredictable, gorgeous girl he could ever remember meeting. And although he was still tired with the jetlag, he wasn't too tired to respond.
Angie's fingers tightened around the leather strap. "I can manage.' Her eyes met his, daring him to disagree, but her breath was coming quicker and her voice was shaky.
"I'm sure you can,' he murmured, but he couldn't stop his fingers from curling themselves around hers, effortlessly taking the weight of the satchel from her. He leaned in closer, drawn irresistibly by the intoxicating fragrance of her hair, and the temptation that lurked in every inch of those gloriously full lips.
Her head tilted slightly upwards towards him and Harris took the silent invitation to press a light kiss at the corner of her mouth. He shifted a little and closed his eyes as he moved in for a second attempt.
An instant later her knee made contact with his groin and the resulting sharp stab of pain forced him to pull away, bent double and moaning in agony. Harris grabbed the back of a chair and concentrated on breathing through it.
After a couple of minutes of biting his lip to prevent himself from cursing in a way that really wasn't appropriate in front of a lady, Harris just about recovered enough to look up. He was startled to see that Angie had picked up her bag and was on her way through the door.
"Hey, where do you think you're going?'
She shot him a look of pure contempt. "You work it out.'
"Look, I'm sorry, okay? I just wanted to see what it would be like-'
His voice trailed off as Angie turned back, very slowly. Menacingly, he thought, with a shudder. She took a step towards him.
Harris straightened up, ready for the next onslaught.
"You wanted to see what it would be like to kiss a black girl?' she spat at him, each word more forceful than the last. She had dropped the bags again and at her side, her hands curled into fists.
Harris stood his ground and tried to keep calm. "No! I wanted to see what it would be like to kiss you.'
That didn't seem to pacify her any.
"That's what they teach you in America, is it? That it's okay to kiss any woman you happen to fancy, just to see what it would be like?'
She was standing right in front of him now. She was only a few inches short of his six foot, but she was considerably slimmer. And curvier. Harris forced himself to keep his eyes fixed on her face. He didn't like to think what she would do otherwise.
"Let me give you some helpful advice, Mr Bond.' There was the sarcasm again, mocking and condescending. No one had ever spoken to Harris like that before. "In this country, that's harassment. And if you try it again, you'll be lucky to get away with a pair of bruised balls.'
Damn, she was gorgeous.