Nine Months to Redeem Him

By: Jennie Lucas


Four Months Earlier


After hours of being cooped up in the backseat of the chauffeured car, with the heat at full blast as the driver exceeded speed limits at every opportunity, the air felt oppressively hot. I rolled down the window to take a deep breath of fresh air and rain.

“You’ll catch your death,” the driver said sourly from the front. Almost the first words he’d spoken since he’d collected me from Heathrow.

“I need some fresh air,” I said apologetically.

He snorted, then mumbled something under his breath. Pasting a smile on my face, I looked out the window. Jagged hills cast a dark shadow over the lonely road, surrounded by a bleak moor drenched in thick wet mist. Cornwall was beautiful, like a dream. I’d come to the far side of the world. Which was what I’d wanted, wasn’t it?

In the twilight, the black silhouette of a distant crag looked like a ghostly castle, delineated against the red sun shimmering over the sea. I could almost hear the clang of swords from long-ago battles, hear the roar of bloodthirsty Saxons and Celts.

“Penryth Hall, miss.” The driver’s gruff voice was barely audible over the wind and rain. “Up ahead.”

Penryth Hall? With an intake of breath, I looked back at the distant crag. It wasn’t my imagination or a trick of mist. A castle was really there, illuminated by scattered lights, reflecting in a ghostly blur upon the dark scarlet sea.

As we drew closer, I squinted at the crenellated battlements. The place looked barely habitable, fit only for vampires or ghosts. For this, I’d left the sunshine and roses of California.

Blinking hard, I leaned back against the leather seat and exhaled, trying to steady my trembling hands. The smell of rain masked the sweet, slightly putrid scent of rotting autumn leaves, decaying fish and the salt of the ocean.

“For lord’s sake, miss, if you’ve had enough of the rain, up it goes.”

The driver pressed a button, and my window closed, choking off fresh air as the SUV bumped over ridges in the road. With a lump in my throat, I looked down at the book still open in my lap. In the growing darkness, the words were smudges upon shadows. Regretfully, I marked my place, and closed the cover of Private Nursing: How to Care for a Patient in His Home Whilst Maintaining Professional Distance and Avoiding Immoral Advances from Your Employer before placing it carefully in my handbag.

I’d already read it twice on the flight from Los Angeles. There hadn’t been much published lately about how to live on a reclusive tycoon’s estate and help him rehabilitate an injury as his live-in physical therapist. The closest I’d been able to find was a tattered book I’d bought secondhand that had been published in England in 1959—and when I looked closer I discovered it was actually a reprint from 1910. But I figured it was close enough. I was confident I could take the book’s advice. I could learn anything from a book.

It was people I often found completely unfathomable.

For the twentieth time, I wondered about my new employer. Was he elderly, feeble, infirm? And why had he sent for me from six thousand miles away? The L.A. employment agency had not been very forthcoming with details.

“A wealthy British tycoon,” the recruiter had told me. “Injured in a car accident two months ago. He can walk but barely. He requested you.”

“Why? Does he know me?” My voice trembled. “Or my stepsister?”

Shrug. “The request came from a London agency. Apparently he found the physical therapists in England unsuitable.”

I gave an incredulous laugh. “All of them?”

“That’s all I’m allowed to share, other than salary details. That is sizeable. But you must sign a nondisclosure agreement. And agree to live at his estate indefinitely.”

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