Why is this happening to me?
What is it about her?
She’s fucking exquisite, the still, small voice roars in my head.
Yes. For a woman dressed in a nylon housecoat, she’s hot.
Concentrate. She hasn’t answered my question. “No. I meant how long have you been here in my flat.”
Where does this girl come from? I rack my brain. Mrs. Blake had organized Krystyna through some contact she had. But Krystyna’s replacement remains silent.
“You speak English?” I ask, willing her to speak. “What’s your name?”
She frowns, looking at me like I’m an idiot. “Yes. I speak English. My name is Alessia Demachi. I have been in your apartment since ten o’clock this morning.”
Wow. She really does speak English.
“Right. Well. How do you do, Alessia Demachi. My name is…”
What should I say? Trevethick? Trevelyan?
She gives me a brief nod, and for a moment I think she might curtsy, but she stands still, grasping the broom and stripping me naked with her anxious gaze.
Suddenly I feel like the walls of the hallway are closing in and suffocating me. I want to flee from this stranger and her soul-searching eyes. “Well, good to meet you, Alessia. You’d better get on and clean, then.” As an afterthought, I add, “In fact, you can change the sheets on my bed.” I wave in the general direction of my bedroom. “You know where the linen is kept, don’t you?”
She nods again but still doesn’t move.
“I’m going to the gym,” I mutter, though why I’m explaining myself to her I don’t know.
* * *
As he stalks back down the hallway toward his bedroom, Alessia wilts against the broom and takes a deep, relieved breath. She watches the flex and pull of the muscles on his back—right down to the two dimples that show just above the waistband of his jeans. It’s a distracting sight—very distracting. He’s even more distracting upright than when he was lying down. He disappears into his room and she closes her eyes, her heart sinking.
He didn’t ask her to leave, but he may call Magda’s friend Agatha and ask her to find someone else to clean his place. He seemed so cross that she had disturbed him, and then he became angrier still.
Alessia frowns and tries to quell her rising panic as she glances into the living room at the piano.
No. That cannot happen. She will beg him to let her stay if she must. She doesn’t want to leave. She can’t leave. The piano is her one source of escape. Her only happiness.
And then there’s the Mister himself. His honed stomach, his bare feet, and his intense eyes sear her imagination. He has the face of an angel, the body of…well…She blushes. She should not think of such things.
He’s so handsome.
No. Stop. Concentrate.
With frantic strokes she continues to sweep the wooden floor of nonexistent dirt. She will have to be the best cleaner he’s ever had, so he won’t want to replace her. With her mind resolved, she goes into the living room to sweep, tidy, and polish.
Ten minutes later she hears the front door slam as she finishes plumping the black cushions on the L-shaped couch.
Good. He has gone.
She goes straight to his bedroom to strip the bed. The room is untidy as usual—clothes and strange cuffs on the floor, curtains half open, and the bedding a tangled mess—but she collects all the clothes and strips the bed quickly. She wonders why there’s a wide silk ribbon tied to the headboard but unwinds it and places it on his nightstand next to the cuffs. As she throws a clean white sheet on the bed, she wonders what these items are for. She has no idea and doesn’t want to hazard a guess. She makes the rest of the bed, then ventures into his bathroom to clean.
* * *
I run like I’ve never run before. I complete my five miles on the treadmill in record time, but I can’t stop playing the conversation with the new daily in my mind.
Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.
I bend down and place my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. I am running from my fucking daily—cleaner, whatever she calls herself—escaping from her big brown eyes.
No. I’m running from my reaction to her.
Those eyes are going to haunt me for the rest of the day. Standing, I wipe the sweat from my brow, and a vision of her in that headscarf on her knees in front of me comes unwelcome to my mind.
My body clenches.
And this is just at the thought of her.
Angrily, I rub the sweat off my face with a towel and decide to do some weights. Yes. That should get her out of my mind. I pick up two of the heavier dumbbells and start my routine.
Of course, doing weights gives me space to think. In all honesty, I’m confused by my reaction to her. I can’t remember meeting anyone who’s had that kind of effect on me.