I expected a monster. I mean, I know he’s a player, I know he’s smart, I know he’s rich. Everyone says how amazing he is, although he’s a psycho since he’s a Hammett.
But I don’t see anything but a handsome man looking for someone to help him clean his enormous house.
He hesitates a second. “Eden, can I ask you a little about yourself?”
I shrug. “Sure.”
“Tell me if I’m being a little too nosy, but I’m curious. Why did you come back to Pine Grove?”
I raise an eyebrow. “How’d you know I left?”
“You told Fox you went to Indiana University over the phone,” he points out. “I figured you weren’t commuting.”
I nod. “Yeah, right. I went to college, but my mom got sick last year. So here I am.”
“That sucks,” he responds. “Most people that leave this town stay gone.”
I smile a bit. “Not me, I guess.”
“Guess not.” He sighs. “Well, I’m glad you came back. I really do need the help.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll do my best.”
“I’m sure you will.” He cocks his head. “One more thing. How come you weren’t too afraid to apply?”
“I’ve learned that you can’t take anything you hear in Pine Grove too seriously,” I say.
He laughs. “Okay, that’s a fair point.”
“Anyway, all the rumors are just so… over the top. I figure it’s just a bunch of people that are jealous of your family.”
He smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Could be,” he agrees. “Nasty rumors aside, we don’t have a lot of fans in town.”
“Nobody does. They just normally hide it better.”
He grins at that. “Okay then, Eden. How about you start tomorrow?”
“Sounds good. Is there anything I need to bring?”
He shakes his head. “Just clothes you’re comfortable cleaning in. I’ll provide everything else.”
“Great.” I stand up. “Thanks a lot, Master—er, I mean, Mr. Hammett.”
He rolls his eyes. “I’m barely ten years older than you. Call me Case.”
“Okay, Case. See you tomorrow.”
“See you then.”
I turn and head to the door. My heart starts beating fast again, but I can’t say why.
Maybe it’s because I’m not looking at his handsome face. I glance back, and he’s still looking at me. I swear, his eyes dart up to meet mine, and he smiles.
Oh, wow. Holy shit.
I just caught Case Hammett checking out my ass.
I leave his study, face red, heart racing even faster.
Fox is standing in the hall, waiting for me. He leads me back to the front door.
“I’ll be back tomorrow morning,” I tell him.
“Eight o’clock sharp,” he says. “Don’t be late.”
And with that, he shuts the door.
I turn away from Hammett’s End and start back down the driveway toward the old gate. I can feel my heart working overtime, and I don’t know what to expect.
People say a lot of bad things about the Hammetts. They call Case a liar, a killer, a cheat. They say his sister is a psychopath. They say his father made people disappear. They say his mother was insane.
I don’t know how much of that I believe. Sure, the house is creepy, but it’s old. Case himself, though, he seemed totally normal.
More than that, he seemed nice, and funny, and really, really freaking gorgeous.
Maybe working here won’t be so bad after all.
I hate living in Hammett’s End. I hate Pine Grove almost as much.
But it’s home and has been for a long, long time.
My family moved here just before the Civil War broke out. My great-great-whatever grandfather made his money during that war, and my grandfather made our fortune during World War II. Now my family owns most of Pine Grove, and all its wealth and power runs through Hammett’s End.
And since I’m the oldest living male relative left, it all comes through me.
I should love being the head of the family, but it’s not as great as it seems. Sure, we’re rich beyond anyone’s wildest dream, but all that money comes with a lot more responsibility. I’m in charge of keeping the mill afloat, despite a crappy economy. I’m in charge of our investments, our property, our rental units, everything. It all goes through me.
Maybe Jessamine could’ve helped me, once upon a time. But not anymore. That girl wouldn’t lift a finger to make my life easier.
Which is why I need a maid. Hammett’s End is slowly turning into a pile of crap, and if I don’t start actively trying to repair it, we’re going to end up completely homeless.
Hiring Eden is my first step. Once she’s settled, I’ll get a groundkeeper to take care of the lawn, hire people to help him out, hire people to repair all the broken parts of the house, basically turn this heap around.
I’ll make Hammett’s End respectable again. People can stop whispering about our family, stop spreading rumors.
Stop making children afraid of me.
Fox delivers coffee to my study at seven the next morning. I drink it and read the paper, thinking about the new maid that’s coming soon. I did my research on Eden Ricks, and she looks great on paper. Smart, hardworking, did well in school.