Following the recent death of her father, and in need of both a job and somewhere to live, Kiya takes a housekeeping job on the spur of the moment. She soon finds herself living in a beautiful but neglected mansion, working for a strange and reclusive man.
St. John is a man scarred by the past, both physically and emotionally, and is determined to live out his life alone. They are two very different people, drawn to each other almost against their will, but can Kiya convince St. John that he is not the monster he believes himself to be?
Eventually the taxi pulled up outside an impressive set of wrought iron gates, through which could be seen a sweeping driveway disappearing into thick foliage. Only a couple of miles from the village she had visited yesterday, the grounds were obviously large, although nothing could be seen of the house by virtue of the high stone wall surrounding the property.
‘Will you be all right here, love?’ enquired the taxi driver, placing her suitcases on the ground beside her.
‘Yes, this is fine, thank you.’ Kiya paid the rather considerable fare, wincing slightly at the expense, and watched as he drove away down the narrow lane. She turned back to the huge gates, wondering how on earth she was supposed to get in, then noticed the electronic box set into the wall at one side. Moving closer, she pressed the button hesitantly.
‘Yes?’ Despite the crackle of static, the deep voice managed to convey irritation.
‘Hi, it’s Kiya Williams, I…’
With a click, the intercom abruptly switched off and the gates swung slowly open. Kiya stared down the driveway in exasperation; during the limited conversation she had had with the man, she had not yet managed to complete a single sentence. Realising that the gates were beginning to close again, she snatched up her suitcases and hurried through.
Kiya followed the curving driveway with more than a fair amount of trepidation, the less than reassuring words of the two shopkeepers she had met yesterday flying around her head. She came to an abrupt halt when the house came into view, her breath quite taken away. It was a beautiful, rambling, ivy-covered mansion – the kind that, as a young girl, she had dreamt of owning. She walked towards the house, noting as she got closer that although the circular lawn in front had been mown recently, the flowerbeds were overgrown and choked with weeds. Looking more critically at the house, she noticed that the whole building had a slightly forlorn air of neglect, as if it were empty.
Just as Kiya lifted her hand to knock on the enormous double front door, she saw the envelope taped to one side of the brass doorknocker; her name scrawled on it in large, bold handwriting. Opening the envelope, she took out a letter and a set of keys.
Please find enclosed a set of house keys for your convenience. We did not discuss remuneration on the telephone yesterday, but I have made enquiries regarding the current rate of pay and trust that monthly payment will be satisfactory. As this is to be your home as well as your place of employment, you may have free access to all rooms, excluding my bedroom (first floor, last door on the left) and my study, which is the second room to the right of the hall. I expressly ask that you do not disturb me here. A bed has been made up for you in the first room on your left at the top of the stairs, however you are free to choose any room you wish. The only other proviso I have is that you do not use the kitchen between the hours of 7am-8am, 1pm-2pm, and 6pm-7pm, when I shall prepare my own meals.
St. John O’Neill
Kiya read the note in disbelief. Don’t use the kitchen between certain hours? She had thought the two women in the shop were exaggerating when they’d told her he was strange, but now she was beginning to wonder.
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