She wasn’t exactly what he’d been expecting. Not that he’d given it much thought. The agency had said she was an experienced housekeeper with a teaching background and naturally this had conjured up images of a woman in her fifties, flat shoes, sensible. Yes, sensible was the word he would use. But Amelia Chadwick appeared to be no more than twenty, barely able to pull her own suitcase and tiny. She was also one of the most sensationally beautiful women he’d ever seen.
She was also timid and nervous and looked like she could just about look after herself let alone his home. He couldn’t help feeling irritated. He was expecting, and needed, a strong confident housekeeper to take charge and did not have time to babysit a silly girl, no doubt looking for romance and adventure. He’d make sure she knew just what he expected from her, that she was here to work hard and not to waste his time partying. She would soon learn that he did not make friends with his staff and he certainly didn’t do warm and friendly. He had a reputation for being ruthless in business and not someone to cross. He’d dated some of Europe’s most glamorous and beautiful women, but none of them lasted more than a few weeks. He did not like to be questioned, he didn’t accept people saying ‘no’ to him and he absolutely never compromised.
He knew what people said about him, especially women. That he was cold and unfeeling, only interested in money and power. He had to admit that was true to a degree. Business was all important to him, he’d worked hard all his life to get to where he was today and it wasn’t that he was unfeeling, but there was simply no place in his life for emotions or relationships. But he wasn’t a robot either and had needs. Needs he had fulfilled all too infrequently the last six months.
He was more tense than usual, he’d been at the office all night, finishing up the paperwork for what could be one of the biggest deals Kellias Industries had seen since his grandfather’s day and it wasn’t going well. If successful it would be the culmination of twelve months work. No, his whole adult life. He was determined to secure at any cost, Knosscs Inc. A rivalry which had started in his Grandfather’s day and was still going on. He planned to crush that rivalry once and for all and with it, put the Knosscs family back in their place. He didn’t care who it upset along the way, as long as he got what he wanted. And that was to control Knosscs and then destroy it.
He’d only offered to pick up the new housekeeper as he was leaving the city that night anyway so it wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. But exactly who was Amelia Chadwick and what had brought her to Greece at such a young age? She was exactly the type of distraction he didn’t need, particular at the moment. He always insisted on seeing a photograph of new staff, but Sarah kept promising to send one but never did. He wasn’t sure if he would have hired her if he’d known how gorgeous she was.
They’d had an unsuccessful run of housekeepers over the last twelve months. They were either terrible housekeepers but kept Talia entertained with pool parties, late night ice cream feasts or vice versa. He had to admit that he felt some guilt about making so many changes in Talia’s life and hoped that this time he had got it right. He’d met Sarah from Maids-4-U while he lived in London and she had a gift for knowing exactly what he needed and he guessed this time it would be no different. But right this minute, he was struggling to see how.
She followed him through the hall and into a vast kitchen and at the end he opened a door to reveal a small sitting room and bedroom combined. It was a simple but beautiful room. She glanced further into the room and could see a small desk, sofa and small table with a TV. But it was the view from the patio doors that had her attention. The doors opened up onto the veranda and overlooked the pool and back gardens. It was wonderful.
“Talia won’t be up for a couple of hours so I suggest you get some sleep. Mariska, our chef, will be here at 7.30am and she will show you the housekeepers office and the house. You will meet with me and Mariska in my office at 8am to discuss the arrangements for this week.”
And with that he moved towards the door to leave.
“Mr Kellias, I really am sorry about the misunderstanding earlier, I’m not normally so obtuse, lack of sleep I expect. I’m really excited to be here and totally committed to providing the best service to you and your family. I hope we can put this behind us and start again? Friends?”
She stepped forward and being her most sincere, she offered out her hand as a peace offering. He looked down at her hand and simply nodded, then carried on out the door. For a few seconds she stood there with her hand outstretched, shocked that once again he had been incredibly rude, refusing her apology. Great, her first attempt at independence and suddenly she felt like a very silly girl, very far from home.
But she was never negative for long and thought ‘I must keep positive’.
An hour later she was unpacked, showered and dressed in the white and grey uniform the agency had supplied and she felt ready to take on the world.
She’d noticed there wasn’t a lock on her room. No key or lock. There was no way she would be able to sleep without a locked door, one hangover she still hadn’t been able to shake off. But she didn’t want to bother an already irritated Mr Kellias. She’d ask Mariska later. Would she ever feel safe again?
She made her way back into the kitchen and explored a little. It was clearly an old house restored with a wonderful mix of modern and old architecture and despite it’s opulence it was warm and homely. She wandered outside and was stunned by the large pool area. She pictured herself lying on one of the day beds, reading and sipping a cold juice. Didn’t she read somewhere that she got to use the pool on her day off? The grounds were extensive and landscaped to provide quiet private spaces with comfortable chairs dotted about. She gave a little shriek as she found the tennis courts. The villa had two tennis courts? She laughed then and ran along the stone path back to the house. Yes, she’d enjoy living here.
She found her way to the housekeepers office and laughed when she saw a tall cupboard full of spare towels and wondered was she really going to have to monitor the linen?! Brilliant, she was a real life housekeeper. Just as she was hugging herself and smiling ear-to-ear, the door flew open.
“There you are. I’m Talia.”
A young girl, with a mass of curly black hair, bounded in and unexpectedly threw her arms around Amelia. So this was Talia, Mr Kellias’ niece. They looked incredibly alike.
“I am very excited that you are here. Uncle Alex tell me that you are tired, you sleeping. But I could not wait.”
Amelia couldn’t help but smile at her.
“Well I’m glad you did come and find me as I’ve been looking forward to meeting you too. I hope I can help you with your English. But I really hope we will become great friends.”
Her energy and warmth was infectious and she found herself beaming down at her.
“Yes, my uncle he like my English to be better, one day I work in the business with him. I’m so happy you are here. Do you know Girls Aloud? They live in London like you, yes?”
“Well yes, I did used to live in London, but I don’t know them I’m afraid.”
She chuckled at her sweet naivety.
“But I did see Cheryl Cole once getting out of a taxi once. She’s very small and very very pretty, like you.” Talia looked up with such wide eyes.
“You’re very pretty too. Do you have a boyfriend? I don’t, uncle would not like it. Uncle Alex is very serious and he only work work all the time.”
Grabbing Amelia’s hand.
“Come, I want to show you my room, I have all of Girls Aloud CD’s. I love all of them, but Cheryl is my favourite.”
She dragged her through the kitchen and up the stairs to her room. It was like any young girls room with an abundance of pink and even posters on the wall of Girls Aloud. She hadn’t expected that. Talia turned on her iTouch and straight away Girls of the Underground blasted out from the speakers and started dancing around, holding onto Amelia’s hands. After a minute Amelia put her fingers in her ears and shouted.
“That’s probably a little too loud Talia……”
As she bent down to turn it down, Mr Kellias stormed in and unplugged it from the wall. He turned to Talia and spoke rapidly in Greek resulting in a little red face and sulky pout. She watched him as he spoke and whilst it was clear he was telling her off his voice ended on a gentle note. She took the opportunity to look at him in daylight for the first time. He was big, that was the first thing you noticed about him. Tall and broad with a handsome face, fine cheek bones and the blackest eyes she’d ever seen. She could see the defined muscles of his chest through his shirt and found herself staring, surprised at how attractive she found him. She’d never really felt anything for the guys at college and was shocked that she did so now. She wondered why he wasn’t married. Or if he had a girlfriend? ‘Of course he has a girlfriend, idiot. Who looks like that, is a millionaire and single?’ she thought.
“Miss Chadwick, I think you are late for our meeting.”
Oh crickey, was she? She looked at her watch and yes she was. Why was it that every encounter with Mr Kellias she ended up stammering and stumbling over her words?
“Erm, yes, I was just on my way when I bumped into Talia. We were just getting to know each other.”
She gave a gentle smile in Talia’s direction and then back at Mr Kellias, who was waiting by the door, looking mildly irritated.
“Well I’m ready now, if that is convenient to you of course?”
Daunted, she followed him downstairs to his office. It was more masculine than the rest of the house, more traditional with dark wooden furniture and leather sofas. He moved to sit behind the large imposing desk. She suddenly felt like she was back at school and had been called to the headmistresses office. “Skirt a little too short again today Miss Chadwick?” she remembered with a smirk.
“You find something amusing Miss Chadwick?”
He asked bringing her back to reality. Kicking herself she replied.
“On no, sorry, no I was just thinking about something, I…”
“No please, enlighten us, I’m sure we’d all enjoy what it is you find so funny.”
He waited for her to reply. She was mortified to be put on the spot like this, she hadn’t done anything wrong and refused to behave as if she had. She raised her chin a little and looked directly at him.
“No? Well if you’re ready to begin…………..” He paused and she altered the look on her face to one of ‘I’m listening and taking this very seriously.’
“This is Mariska, our chef. Mariska this is our new housekeeper Miss Chadwick.”
Amelia put out her hand but like Talia, Mariska reached over for a more informal welcome and kissed her on both cheeks, gripping her by the shoulders.
“Welcome to Villa Agios, I am so pleased you are here, at last”.
She spoke softly and had a kind face. She was in her fifties, small, long hair tied up in a tight bun with the warmest eyes.
Alexander watched the two women talking and was relieved to see there was a rapport; an improvement on the last two housekeepers who Mariska had taken an instant dislike to. As usual, her assessment that they were not right for Agios, Mr Kellias or Talia, had proved quite correct.
“I welcome you Miss Chadwick to my home and to Greece. I hope that you will enjoy your work here with us at Villa Agios. We have a small team, Mariska, Andreas the gardener and Sophia the cleaner who comes once a week, and now you. We all work together to make the house and apartment run smoothly. I spend many nights in Athens, so I require your to help there too, as well as at the villa.”
As he spoke he waved his hands around to add emphasis to what he was saying and she noticed there was no wedding ring. So he’s not married she thought.
“Your duty as housekeeper is to ensure everything is maintained to the highest standard. I have your daily duties here, which Mariska will take you through in a minute. We often entertain at the villa but I will give you notice before that is likely in order to give you time to prepare. We also entertain on the boat in the marina and you may be required to help out there too. But as you know your other priority is tutoring my niece Talia. I very much want her English to improve.”
He launched into the detail of her routine, but looked up and said.
“You’re not writing this down Miss Chadwick?”
It was less of a question and more of an instruction. Good lord, I think I can remember a few details about school bus times and rules about how much TV Talia is allowed to watch, she thought. But she reached into her pocket anyway and pulled a pencil and small note book out to at least gave the impression writing it down.
“I want you to concentrate on Talia’s English conversation. And I want to make sure she is expanding her reading, so I’ve ordered a copy of all the English classics. Perhaps you can start with something like Jane Austen or the Bronte’s? Is this something you can have a look at and we talk again next week?”
Was he for real, she thought? Talia’s English was good but no where near good enough for the classics.
“Well yes, the classics of course, they’re wonderful, romantic, inspiring. But I think they might be a little challenging for her at her age and whilst her English is good, I think we should take it slow. I think maybe we should start with something by Roald Dahl, maybe Charlie and The Chocolate Factory? Or perhaps Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson? Both very engaging and something I think she’ll really enjoy.”
He had been standing looking out of the window but swung round and was now staring straight at her. Annoyed at her disagreeing with him she guessed. His direct attention made her uncomfortable and she instantly looked down at the floor. She felt painfully shy around him, especially when he looked at her like this. Why did she react this way to him? It wasn’t just his good looks, she went to college some great looking guys and never felt like this with any of them. No, it was more than that. She felt he was trying to read her thoughts, judging her.
“How about I put together some suggestions and if you approve, I can order them online to arrive within a few days?”
Perhaps he hadn’t made himself quite clear.
“Miss Chadwick, I want Talia to expand her mind and her vocabulary. I don’t see how that can be achieved by reading entertaining, glorified fairytales.”
He was glaring at her, waiting her response. Pompous, arrogant and ignorant…………none of which she said of course. Calmly, but firmly she replied.
“But that’s the whole point of great books written by Dahl. They are fun and easy to read but are packed full of great language and are used in many schools up and down England. Both my nine year old cousins are reading them at the moment and love them. Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”
He thought for a moment, could he have got it wrong and this young girl fidgeting and blushing in front of him, looking at him with the brightest blue eyes, actually knew better than him?
“Order one or two samples and we’ll talk again next week.”
He rarely accepted people disagreeing with him but for some reason he chose to let it go, this time.
“That’s great, I’ll get them ordered. Actually while we’re talking about Talia, I wanted to ask, where are her parents?” Amelia asked, looking up from her notebook.
“The agency didn’t give any details in their handover notes but I’d like to know, just in case Talia mentions it………”
But she broke off as from the look on his face she could see she wasn’t supposed to ask questions like that.
“We do not speak of it.” He burst out aggressively.
It was so sudden that it made her jump and take a small step back. He hesitated, regaining his composure.
“I…… her parents died four years ago and Talia came to live here with me. I am now her guardian.”
He looked angry and she could tell that it wasn’t something he spoke about easily.
“I’m so sorry, that’s terrible. But what happened, how did they die…… ”
Ignoring her he handed her a large folder and a bunch of keys and told her that Mariska would take her through her duties and show her where everything was. He walked straight passed her and slammed the door behind him.
She kicked herself for being so insensitive and took a step to go after him but was stopped by Mariska’s gentle hand resting on her arm.
“Mr Kellias he very sad about his sister, so we do not talk about it, not even with Talia. It too painful for him. He a very private, proud man, but good man too. I know him since he was a small boy. Please do not be angry with him. Give it time and you will settle in here of that I am sure. So, come let’s go through your work.”
Her eyes twinkled and she had that knowing smile which said ‘Trust me, I know that everything is going to be ok.’
He leaned against the door and closed his eyes. He knew he had been blunt, rude in fact, but he hadn’t been expecting questions about Narisa, or how his warm adorable sister had died. He could barely think it, even after four years. And certainly wasn’t going to discuss such painful, personal matters with his housekeeper. She would have to learn to keep the personal questions to herself or there would be consequences.
As she climbed into the strange bed that first night, exhausted and emotional she wondered how after only being in Greece for just twenty four hours she’d managed to irritate and annoy her new boss at least three times. But she was determined to make it work and make amends and drifted off to sleep writing lists in her mind of things to say the next time they met.
Over the following days she had to admit it wasn’t glamorous or exciting work, she rarely set foot outside the house and hadn’t met anyone except the team at the villa. But it wasn’t particularly difficult either and made so much easier by the beautiful surroundings and stunning villa. She was enjoying her new regime, being anonymous and felt she was actually good at being a housekeeper. Well ok, she was actually a bit rubbish at the housekeeping bit, but she was a fast learner and Mariska was a great help. It was like having her mum around, she was so kind and considerate showing her the ropes. And more importantly she found that she was starting to relax and be more her old self. When he wasn’t around that is.
Talia was so much fun and they were settling into a routine. In the afternoon she walked down to meet Talia from the school bus and they walked back to the villa, talking in English. Talia would fill her in with the daily school adventures. An argument with Leandros and a discussion with the teacher about the history of the Ottoman empire. They spent time together before she had to do her homework and talked girl talk, fashion, music. She was really beginning to like her.
Today they were making fairy cakes, something her own mother had done with her many times and she had wonderful memories. Mr Kellias had been away all week but she’d learned from Mariska that he was now home. The cakes wouldn’t win any prizes at the WI, but Talia wanted to take a plate to her uncle to show him her efforts. They knocked on his office door and went in.
“Uncle, we’ve made something for you. Look.”
She was excited and so proud of the little cakes and had carefully decorated them with a variety of sugary glittery trimmings. Amelia hung back as Talia held them up to show him.
“Well, you have been busy. Which one is mine? This one…”
She was pleased he was playing along and watched as he took a bite of large pink iced cake.
“Mmm delicious Talia, thank you. I think Mariska may have some competition. Now, I’m sure you have some homework to do and I really have to get back to this report.”
Amelia guided Talia to the door, when he called her back.
“Actually, can I have a word Miss Chadwick?”
Closing the door after Talia, she turned to face him.
“Next week I’m entertaining some business associates and their wives down in the marina on the boat. It has a full crew of course but I would like you there for the two day trip to oversee things, make sure everyone has what they need and well, make sure that everything is perfect.”
She was surprised that he needed her if the boat had a full crew. What could she possibly add, tidy away the towels? He could see her looking perplexed.
“I want to make sure everything runs smoothly, it’s a very important two days for me and the wives will also be on board and I’d like you to look after them.“
He ran through the itinerary for the two days, guest list, names, titles, which were mostly Mr and Mrs’, but she was excited to see that there was a Lord, and a Prince.
“I’d like you to look after the wives on both days. I’ve organised for a spa team to come on board, you know the sort of thing manicures, pedicures, facials, massage…….”
She smiled at him knowing so much about women.
“Miss Chadwick, I have known many women and there is nothing you like more than being pampered.” He smiled back at her, a charming smile making her more than a little flustered.
The women were to join the men for champagne before dinner and only after dinner was finished would she be off duty. It was going to be a long two days.
“I’ve arranged for you to have a new uniform, something a little more…..”
Waving at her grey dress, he tried to be diplomatic, unusually for him.
“Well let’s just say it’s more appropriate. It will be delivered here tomorrow.”
She started to protest but he held up his hand and stopped her.
“Miss Chadwick, my guests are some of the most important in Europe. I intend to make the best possible impression, not just in the boardroom, but in every little detail. I’m not going to argue with you on this one Miss Chadwick so please don’t try. I’ve ordered a dress and shoes through my PA and you will wear them next week. Now, is there anything else you need to know?”
She knew he was right but she was furious at being told what she should wear, but gave in graciously. ‘Pick your battles Amelia’ she kept saying to herself ‘Pick your battles’.
She knew she had a lot to learn. How to read him, when was a good time to talk to him, how to tell him bad news and how to get him to agree to things. But already she could tell he was proud, hated being wrong, didn’t like her disagreeing with him and wanted his own way at all times. She had her work cut out. But she also had her own determined way of getting what she wanted. She wasn’t quite the pushover her gentle nature implied.
On the morning of the trip, the driver dropped them at the marina early and she was amazed to see they were heading towards the largest boat in the marina. Scrap that, it wasn’t a boat but a luxury super yacht and was simply the most ostentatious show of wealth she’d ever seen.
“Just a little something for the weekend?” She drawled sarcastically.
It was out before she realised how rude it sounded.
“You think it too extravagant? It offends you?” Stopping in front of her, challenging her to defend her comment.
She laughed nervously, knowing she had said the wrong thing. Men like Mr Kellias didn’t take kindly to being ridiculed about the way they lived their life.
But it was a ridiculous boat and she thought of her parent’s modest home and life back in Derbyshire. How many of the local schools would benefit from that money, books, computers and new sports equipment, she thought. Carefully this time, but determined, she replied.
“No, no of course not, sorry, it’s just, well it does look very expensive.”
He resented her insinuation that he squandered his money on unnecessary luxuries.
“I’d stick to housekeeping Miss Chadwick as you clearly know nothing about the workings of a global business and the need to entertain some of the world’s most prestigious dignitaries and at times, even royalty. What would you have me do, take them for a pizza?”
How dare she make him feel…….what? What did she make him feel? That he wasn’t worthy, that somehow she had caught him doing something flashy and tasteless? This was not a feeling he was used to.The women he knew loved the boat and no one had ever made him question it before. So why did he feel suddenly feel gauche? Seeing how angry it had made him, Amelia stopped and looked up at him and gently said.
“I’m sorry Mr Kellias. Clearly I know nothing about your business, at best I’m an English teacher and now just a housekeeper. I have no right to comment on your business or lifestyle. I was merely pointing out it is a very big boat and I suppose I was surprised, I, well, I……”
“Go on, spit it out.”
He moved even closer to her, so close that she caught a trace of his fresh aftershave, which felt far too close for comfort. She could see a muscle jumping in his neck and the dark velvety skin of his chest visible above his polo shirt. She could tell he was angry and worried he might reach over and shake her. She couldn’t help but stare at his mouth as he talked, twisting angrily.
“Well I suppose I hadn’t realised just how wealthy you are. Look, it’s none of my business how you choose to spend it. I’m really sorry I was rude, I really didn’t mean to offend you. Please forgive me.”
He had already turned away as he said.
“Forget it, I don’t have time for this.”
What was wrong with him, getting so angry over what was clearly an innocent comment, pointing out that the boat must have cost a fortune and to be honest, one he felt uncomfortable with himself. Sixty five million Euros was a lot of money, even for him. But the company had made the investment and it had proved an extremely valuable asset when it came to entertaining some of the world’s wealthiest businessmen. But what concerned him more was the fact that in his anger the only thing he could think about was grabbing her by the shoulders and kissing her lips hard until he proved he was…….he was what? What did he want to prove to her? That he was good enough? Where had that come from? She wasn’t even his type, all sweetness and righteousness. Little miss ‘I always do the right thing.’ He didn’t need to prove himself to her, or to anyone. And he certainly wasn’t going to kiss her. Miss Chadwick was not the sort of woman you had ‘no strings attached sex’ with, which was the only thing he was willing to offer any woman. Miss Chadwick was the sort of woman men married and cherished. Something that he would never do, with anyone, least of all his housekeeper.
With both of them still angry, the tour of the boat was quick and tense.
“And this is my office and suite. You may need to find me.” He explained.
“…and the mobile phone signal doesn’t always work when we are out in the bay……..”
She felt unnerved being so close to his private and intimate space, which clearly smelled of him. Where he worked, showered, slept…….
Escaping him finally, she took her overnight bag down to her cabin to change into her uniform. She was astounded, and more than a little excited, to see that the dress was Chanel. She’d never owned anything so beautiful, or expensive, in her life. She slipped the dress on and found herself staring in the mirror at a woman she did not recognise. The black dress was figure hugging, with a low heart shaped neckline revealing far too much cleavage, a thick fabric band cinched in her tiny waist and was cut just below the knee giving the illusion that her legs were much longer than they were. Admittedly it showed off her figure to its best advantage. But the last thing she wanted to do was draw attention to herself in this way.
No it was no good, there was no way she could wear it. She hurried upstairs to find Mr Kellias to let him know that she would need to go back to the villa to change, but as she reached his suite she heard Mr Kellias up on deck welcoming his first guests.
“Lord Irving, welcome on board the Ourania, you are most welcome.”
They greeted each other but stopped short when they saw her coming through the door. No one spoke for a few seconds and she wondered if she had done something wrong, until Mr Kellias finally said “Lord Irving…”
“……Charles, this is my…. my assistant, Miss Chadwick.”
Assistant? Where had that come from, she thought. He stepped forward to shake her hand and was surprised by how young he was. She’d always imagined that Lords were old, grey and a bit stuffy. But he was about thirty five, attractive, blonde with a very cheeky smile on his face.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Lord Irving. I hope your stay on board will be an enjoyable and productive one. If there is anything you need while you are here, you only have to ask.”
She’d rehearsed what she would say to each of the guests.
“You’re English! How marvellous. Now that is a nice surprise. It is a pleasure to meet you Miss Chadwick.”
Unsure of how she should react to such friendliness she glanced quickly at Mr Kellias for some sort of reassurance before responding, but was met with a furious scowl. Ok, so being informal with guests was out of the question then. Back in your place Amelia she thought just as the other guests started to arrive.
Damn it she thought. There was simply no way she could leave the the boat now and change. She’d be stuck wearing the bloody dress all day.