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Authors: Fredrica Alleyn

Cassandra's Conflict

BOOK: Cassandra's Conflict
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Cassandra's Conflict

Cassandra stared back at him, trying to will his hands to reach out and comfort her,fondle her aching breasts. The thought horrified her. She knew it was lewd and wrong, but at that moment it was all that mattered.

'Please,' she whispered.

'What?' He smiled his most charming smile and smoothed a strand of hair back off her face.

'Touch me,'she implored him.

'Where?' He was still smiling indulgently.

She couldn't say it; even drunk she couldn't bring herself to say it and shook her head helplessly.

'Tell me what you want,' he said softly.'How can I help you if I don't know what you need?'

By the same author:

The Bracelet
Cassandra's Chateau
Deborah's Discovery
Dark Obsession
Dramatic Affairs
Fiona's Fate
The Gallery

Cassandra's Conflict

Fredrica Alleyn

This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

ISBN 9780753515907

Version 1.0

www.randomhouse.co.uk

Black Lace books contain sexual fantasies.
In real life, always practise safe sex.

This edition published in 2008 by
Black Lace
Thames Wharf Studios
Rainville Rd
London W6 9HA

Originally published 1993

Copyright © Fredrica Alleyn 1993

The right of Fredrica Alleyn to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

www.black-lace-books.com

Typeset by Palimpsest Book Production Limited, Grangemouth, Stirlingshire Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Bookmarque, Croydon, CRo 4TD

Distributed in the USA by Macmillan, LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue,
New York, NY 10010, USA

ISBN: 9780753515907

Version 1.0

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

This electronic book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser

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1

As the taxi sped through the streets of Hampstead, Cassandra Williams tried not to get too optimistic. Certainly the job sounded ideal, and the woman at the preliminary interview had seemed to think that she was highly suitable, but as always at times like this, her ex-husband's parting words came back to haunt her.

'You're hopeless, Cassie!' he'd shouted, throwing his clothes into a suitcase. 'I should have left you years ago. Most men would have given up after the first six months.'

'I don't know what you mean,' she'd cried, but deep down she did. She'd always known, right from the wedding night, she just hadn't wanted to hear him say it.

'You're frigid!' His voice echoed round their small flat, and even Paul had the grace to try and soften the accusation once he saw the look in her eyes. 'It's probably not your fault,' he conceded. 'Your parents were old enough to be your grandparents, and they never let you out of their sight long enough for you to learn what life was really about, but I'm not wasting the rest of
my
life trying to show you.'

For a moment Cassandra had considered suggesting that his clumsy fumblings and lack of experience hadn't helped her either, but in the end she kept quiet. After all, Louise obviously found him exciting or she wouldn't have bothered to entice him away.

When he reached the front door she made one final appeal to him. 'But what shall I do, Paul? I've never worked. I came straight from home to this flat. How am I going to live?'

'I've no idea, but don't try going on the streets, you'll starve to death,' he said cuttingly, and that had been the end of her marriage.

'Here we are, Miss,' the driver said. Cassandra came back to the present with a start and climbed slowly out onto the pavement. The taxi had stopped in front of a pair of wrought-iron gates at least eight feet high. Behind them she could see a long gravel drive curving away out of sight behind some tall trees.

'Seven pounds fifty,' the driver said impatiently.

Cassandra handed him a ten pound note and he promptly drove off without even offering her the change. It didn't seem a good omen.

The gates were locked, but there was no sign of a bell. Glancing up, Cassandra saw a tiny surveillance camera pointing down at her, its glowing red light indicating that she was being filmed. As she remained staring at the camera in surprise, the gates swung silently open. Swallowing hard, she began to walk up the drive.

Once round the bend and out of sight of the road, it straightened again, ending in front of a low-built, Georgian-style house. There were numerous windows, most of them with continental shutters on the outside, and as Cassandra stared about her she thought how very quiet it was after the bustle of central London. She might almost have been in the middle of the country. Distracted by the silence, she failed to notice the young woman looking down at her from one of the top floor windows.

Before she had time to ring the bell, the front door was opened by a very pretty young maid in a smart grey and white striped uniform. Cassandra held out the letter of introduction that the woman had given her. 'My name's Cassandra Williams,' she explained. 'I have an appointment with Baron von Ritter at eleven o'clock.'

The maid smiled but still didn't speak, she merely gestured for Cassandra to follow her across the rather dark hall with its highly polished parquet flooring and into a small ante-room. She sat slowly down on one of the two winged chairs set on either side of an ornate marble fireplace.

After the maid had gone there was the sound of a door opening and a woman in a navy and white uniform walked briskly past Cassandra's line of vision and out of the front door. Cassandra guessed she was another applicant and thought despondently that the woman looked far more qualified to be a nanny to the baron's two small daughters than she was.

As she continued to wait she realised that the house was amazingly silent. There were no sounds of children's laughter, no footsteps to indicate that people were moving around anywhere, and no sounds of conversation. If she hadn't seen the young maid and the woman leaving she could have imagined herself entirely alone, and yet she knew from the first interview in the Kensington office that the baron had a fiancee, two young daughters and what the interviewer had called 'a full complement of staff'.

Cassandra began to feel a little uneasy. Apart from the woman in Kensington, no one knew of her connection with this house. If anything were to happen to her, no one would realise. Both her parents were dead now, and she never heard from Paul. Fear tightened her throat and she started to get out of the chair. Suddenly her instinct was telling her to go, and go quickly.

'Mrs Williams?' asked a low, cultured voice.

Cassandra turned. The man in the doorway was about six feet tall. He was tanned a golden brown and his fair hair was parted at the side to flop untidily down over his right eye. His face was round, almost cherubic, but his eyes didn't match it. They were a dark brown, large and widely spaced with arched eyebrows that made him look as though he were about to ask a question. They were unusual eyes, and wise in ways that Cassandra couldn't even begin to imagine. A pulse in her neck started to throb and she felt strangely excited.

He was studying her carefully, his eyes taking in the pleated grey skirt, the high-necked cream blouse and the shining dark hair pulled back off her face in a loose ponytail. He also noticed the full lower lip and the fact that his presence had caused her breathing to quicken.

'You are Mrs Williams?' he repeated, and this time she could detect a trace of accent in the voice. The woman in Kensington had told her that he was from Austria.

'I'm sorry, yes I am. You took me by surprise. I was just wondering if there was anyone else in the house and ...'

He nodded thoughtfully to himself, his expression grave, and then suddenly he smiled and a tiny dimple appeared in his left cheek while his eyes crinkled at the corners. It was a dazzling smile, and Cassandra felt her solar plexus take on a life of its own as it seemed to rise up into her chest and constrict her breathing. Her legs also felt inexplicably weak. She wondered if she was ill.

'I'm sorry to have kept you waiting,' he said smoothly. 'You know how it is.'

She didn't, but she nodded. 'Yes of course. Anyway, I think I was probably early.'

'No, you were on time. Please, follow me.'

Wondering how he knew she'd been on time, Cassandra followed him across the hall into a large, sun-filled drawing room. Surprisingly heavy dark red drapes hung at the windows and the deep wool carpet was also red with an oriental-style black pattern on it. Despite the sun she felt suddenly cool and shivered.

The baron seated himself in one of the easy chairs, then indicated that Cassandra should sit in a ladderbacked chair directly opposite him. She sat well back on the seat and folded her hands in her lap. Unseen by her, the baron's eyes gleamed with appreciation.

'You sit well,' he said softly. 'I believe in good deportment, and good manners also. Whoever has the care of my daughters must have old-fashioned values. I do not approve of modern methods of child care. Discipline is a necessary part of life, and if we do not teach it to our children how will they learn to discipline themselves in later life?'

Cassandra nodded. 'That's absolutely true. My parents were very strict.'

'And that has helped you in your adult life?'

She hesitated. Considering what a mess she'd made of everything it would hardly be truthful to say yes. 'Well, I'm not sure. I mean, I'm certain they were right but ...'

'Perhaps you didn't learn the lessons well enough?' He smiled, but there was an intensity to the question that she didn't understand, and his constant scrutiny unsettled her. She tried to be honest.

'Maybe not,' she conceded. 'I suppose I rebelled against them a bit. All children do, don't they? And I thought they were old-fashioned and out of date. That's probably why I married Paul, because I knew they disapproved. Now he's run off with a wealthy older woman, so obviously they were right all along.'

'Have you admitted this to them?'

'I can't,' Cassandra said quietly. 'They're both dead now.'

He leant forward in his chair. 'But you have brothers and sisters?'

Cassandra shook her head. 'No, I'm all alone.' Her voice was forlorn.

He leant back again so that his face was partly in shadow, but she could see him nod to himself and he said something in a quietly satisfied tone.

'I'm sorry, I didn't catch what you said,' she apologised.

'I said that you were quite perfect.'

Cassandra's eyes widened in surprise. 'But you haven't asked me about my qualifications. I mean, I've never actually had any experience with children. I like them of course, but ...'

'Why of course?' he interrupted.

'Well, everyone likes children, don't they?'

'No, they do not. Katya,' he hesitated, glanced at Cassandra's innocent face and then continued smoothly, 'she's my fiancee, she most certainly does not like children. This is why I need someone young enough to be like a mother to them as well as strict enough to teach them the rules that I believe are necessary in the nursery.'

Cassandra remembered her own childhood and although she badly wanted the job she knew that she had to speak out. 'I think that love is just as important as discipline,' she said resolutely.

The baron's eyes fixed themselves intently on hers and although his face was grave a trick of the light made it appear to Cassandra that they were dancing with amusement. 'I absolutely agree,' he said quietly. 'Love and discipline together make the perfect combination.'

Cassandra was delighted that she'd found the courage to speak out, because far from antagonising the baron, her statement seemed to have confirmed his feeling that she was perfect for the job. Within minutes he was instructing his secretary to draw up a contract and asking Cassandra when she'd be free to start. She was dazed by her success.

'As soon as you like really. I only rent my flat by the week and at the moment I'm unemployed.'

'Then you will return and gather together your possessions and in the morning I will send a car to collect you, yes?'

Cassandra nodded. 'That would be wonderful.'

'Good.' He put out a hand and his surprisingly long fingers touched the back of her wrist. 'I hope you will stay with us for a long time. Change is not good for children.' Her flesh seemed to burn beneath his touch, and yet she was still cold. She had great difficulty in wrenching her eyes away from his, which seemed to hold some kind of message for her.

'Don't worry, I don't like change either,' she said at last, her voice unsteady. 'One of the things that attracted me to the job was the fact that you avoid the public eye. I know it's unusual these days, but I've always lived a protected life and it's wonderful here. I mean, you're almost in a world of your own, aren't you?'

'Yes, we are,' he said slowly. 'I think you'll fit in here very well indeed, Cassandra. The outside world is never allowed to intrude into this house. We are very self-contained.'

Cassandra realised she didn't even want to go and collect her things. All she wanted to do was stay in this house with this strangely charismatic man and his family. 'When do I get to meet the children?' she asked, suddenly realising she should have mentioned them earlier.

For a moment the baron looked surprised, as though he'd entirely forgotten their existence. 'Ah yes, the girls. I suppose you should see them now, before you commit yourself to anything!'

He stood up and pressed a bell by the mantelpiece. Within a few minutes there was a light tap on the door and a statuesque redhead ushered two tiny blonde-haired girls into the room. The baron glanced briefly at the redhead. 'Thank you,
Abigail. I'm pleased to say that we have found a replacement for you. This evening you can return once again to the pleasures of the outside world.'

The girl averted her red-rimmed eyes, her porcelain skin flushing a delicate shade of pink.

'Abigail is unfortunately not a believer in discipline,' continued the baron. 'She has therefore decided to leave us. She has been a great disappointment, I'm afraid.'

Feeling awkward, Cassandra turned to smile sympathetically at the girl, only to find Abigail's eyes were full of tears as she stood in front of her employer waiting uncertainly for his instructions. 'That will be all,' he said sharply and she hurried from the room. There was a brief, uneasy silence.

The two girls stood in front of their father looking up at him through thickly-lashed blue eyes and Cassandra was relieved to see that they looked happy and relaxed in his company. He put a hand on the head of the taller of the two girls. 'This is Helena, who is four, and this little one, who looks so mislead-ingly angelic, is Christina; she is two. Girls, this is Cassandra, who is to be your new companion as long as you don't frighten her away.'

The girls giggled, covering their faces with their hands and peeping out at Cassandra as they did so. The baron shrugged. 1 understand that all little girls giggle. It's irritating but harmless, I suppose.'

'I expect they're shy.'

He frowned. 'I hope not. I don't allow shyness in this house.'

Cassandra didn't know if he was joking or not but she noticed that the girls quickly uncovered their faces. 'I'm quite shy,' she confessed.

The baron looked thoughtfully at her. 'That we will cure. Now children, off you go. I'm sure lunch is ready for you in the upstairs nursery. You will see Cassandra again tomorrow.'

They both gave tiny little curtsies before walking decorously out of the room. Cassandra quite expected to hear them giggling once the door closed behind them but she couldn't even hear their footsteps in the hall.

'Now you have met them, do you still wish to come?' the baron asked.

'Of course. They're wonderful, and so beautiful!'

'They look like their mother.' He didn't sound as though that pleased him. After a brief silence he glanced at the clock. 'I'll have someone drive you home.'

Cassandra couldn't believe how much she wanted to stay, and wondered what it was about the house and its owner that attracted her so strongly. 'A taxi will be fine,' she assured the baron.

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