Heat from that brief touch slid down her spine in intoxicating ripples. Her heart pounded fiercely in her chest and Natalie concentrated on breathing evenly. A cab was already pulling into the parking lot and she saw the tow trucks drive up together as well.
Five minutes later, she sat in the back of the cab next to him, clutching her purse to her chest and trying to understand the reaction she was having to him. Evidently, the course of her day had just taken a huge turn.
His home was a penthouse apartment, located in the middle of Downtown. The building was a huge glass and steel monolith, and Natalie rode beside him in the private elevator that made only one stop. The top floor.
The doors opened with an almost silent whoosh, and Natalie found herself walking directly into a huge living area. A wall of windows faced the west, and the sun was already turning the sky into a brilliant kaleidoscope of colors.
The interior was very modern, with white walls, metal sculptures and impossibly sharp lines. It was minimalistic, the furniture was straight and the most prominent colors in the room were black and white. It screamed wealth and affluence but lacked in any real warmth or comfort that she could see.
She hated it immediately.
She schooled her features to hide her thoughts and stood quietly waiting for his instructions. He walked across the room and began unloading his pockets onto a glass- topped table that stood behind a sofa.
When he was finished, he glanced up and his eyes landed on her, as if surprised to see her in his home. "Get to it."
"Where--where do you want me to start?" she asked as she looked around.
"Kitchen would be best. It's through there." He lifted a hand and motioned behind him while picking up and sifting through a small pile of mail.
"And then? The rest? Vacuum, change your sheets, that sort of stuff?"
"Yeah. And my laundry. Suits and shirts are dry-cleaned, so there won't be much. Just look around and help yourself. I'm sure you can figure out what to do. I don't know how any of it's done."
"It just magically happens for you?" She asked the question with no emotion.
His mouth flattened and as he looked across at her she tried to breathe normally under his scrutiny. "Yeah. Pretty much."
She fidgeted a moment, worry making a fine crease between her brows.
"What's the hold up?" he asked.
"Am I putting someone out of work? Someone who needs this job more than me?"
She sensed a tensing of his body as his gaze became more thoughtful, and he seemed to study her features, one at a time. "No, the service I was using is a large corporation. No one will go hungry, if that's what you're worried about."
"Okay." She tried to smile at him but was afraid she missed the mark by a mile. "Is it just you here? Or do others live here as well?" She wasn't asking if he was married. She absolutely was not asking if he was married.
He raised an eyebrow. "Just me. I'm not married, Natalie." He said the words without inflection as he studied her intently, his eyes roving over her, from her head to her feet and then back again.
She dropped her eyes from the intensity of his. "I'll get started then."
"You do that. I'm going to shower in one of the guest bedrooms so I won't be in your way when you clean the master. I'm leaving later for an event tonight so I'll be out of your hair in a couple of hours."
He turned to leave the room and she called out to stop him, "Mr. Donati--"
"It's Marco. Call me Marco. What do you need?"
"I was wondering if--if I could fix a quick bite to eat before I start--"
He frowned, giving her a layered look. "You're hungry?"
"Yes, I haven't eaten since last night. I was too nervous this morning, I guess, from trying to find a job."
He watched her for a moment more, the distance of the room between them. "You can help yourself to absolutely whatever you want, Natalie."
The look he gave her was both piercing and inscrutable, and Natalie lost her courage and dropped her eyes from his. "Thanks," she mumbled.
Five hours later, his home was pristine again. Natalie was tired and a little bit sore. The kitchen had been a mess. It looked as if it hadn't been cleaned in a week and the dishes were piling up. Although it didn't appear as if much cooking was being done in the room, there were dirty coffee cups, beer cans, and highball glasses left strewn about. She cleaned the refrigerator out as well while she was at it.
She'd easily located the master bedroom and had stripped and washed his sheets. Doing his laundry had given her pause, because it was his underwear as well as some casual clothing. She'd never washed a man's underwear before. And she was a little shocked to find it wasn't a wholly unpleasant task.
Everything else had been basic cleaning. The floors, mirrors, and his bathroom. The bathroom hadn't been as bad as she had expected, except for the dirty towels and the pile of clothes.
It was just past nine-o'clock now, and Natalie was wiped. She'd gotten up early that morning and had spent the day running around town, looking for a job, until the wreck. And now she realized she didn't have a way home. She certainly couldn't afford a cab back to her cousin's house, and she didn't know if Marco expected her here tomorrow anyway.
She absolutely could not do anything to raise his ire--which leaving might do. There was no way she could afford a lawsuit against her, or even to lose her driver's license. She didn't want him to get home and think she'd done a runner on him.
She almost plopped down on the white couch, but realized her clothes were a bit grimy and chose the chaise longue upholstered in black instead.
She'd think about the problem while she rested. Maybe Marco would drive her back to her cousin's when he got home.
All the lights were still on when Marco let himself into the penthouse. God, he was glad to be home. Tanya had almost driven him out of his fucking mind tonight, and even the thought of her naked body couldn't get his libido running. In fact, it did just the opposite. She'd tried her damn best to get him into her apartment when he'd dropped her off, but there had been no way he would allow himself to be cornered.
She'd flirted her ass off and flaunted herself at every man at the charity event tonight, and he knew she'd done it in a bid for his attention. It had gotten his attention; that was for damn sure. Why hadn't he ever noticed that side of her character before tonight? And just as quickly realized he had noticed--he knew exactly the kind of person she was, but overlooked it because he flat didn't give a shit. He'd never given a shit. She was a convenient sexual outlet to him; that was all. And lately, she wasn't even that.