Spanish Groom(14)

By: Lynne Graham

'I've engaged a fitness instructor to put you through your paces,' Cesar completed drily, and rang off.

A fitness instructor? Dixie stared into space with wide eyes, picturing some giant, suntanned muscle bound male standing over her like a bullying sergeant-major, bawling instructions liberally splattered with abuse. She shrank. Maybe the instructor would be nice and break her in gently. She tried to imagine Cesar hiring someone nice. Hope dwindled fast. The fitness instructor would be tough and pitiless. Cesar was, after all, the male who had called her a lazy lump.

Scrambling out of bed, Dixie roused Spike and left the bedroom. A short corridor beyond led out to a small enclosed courtyard.

On her arrival the night before, Dixie had been handed over to Cesar's butler, Fisher, like a unwelcome parcel. The comfortable en suite bedroom she had been assigned on the ground floor was former staff accommodation. Dixie had understood the distinction being made. She was not going to be treated like an honoured guest in Cesar Valverde's palatial Georgian mansion.

Having attended to Spike's needs, she went for a shower. Appropriate clothing? Dixie had never been in a gym in her life. A baggy pair of sweat-pants and an oversized T-shirt were all she had to wear. The unflattering combination made her look as wide as she was tall. A slimline Dixie Mark Two? But what if the exercise routine worked? a more seductive voice asked, and she dawdled by the mirror then, imagining Scott suddenly recognising her as a member of the female sex...

Her stomach growling with hunger, she was about to go off in search of the kitchen when a quiet knock sounded on the door.

Fisher appeared with a tray bearing a tall glass filled with some strange greyish green liquid. 'Miss Stevens faxed your diet plan to Cook yesterday,' the butler explained. 'I believe this is the lady's own personal recipe for an early-morning energy boost.'

'Oh...' In bewilderment, Dixie accepted the glass. Diet plan? She didn't like the sound of that. She was willing to exercise, but diet? And who on earth was Fisher talking about?

'Miss Stevens?' Dixie queried with a frown.

'Gilda Stevens, the fitness instructor,' Fisher supplied expressionlessly. 'Her instructions regarding your menus were most precise.'

At that point, Dixie's tummy gave an embarrassing gurgle. So her fitness instructor was a woman. Taking a sip of the noxious brew, Dixie tried not to grimace. A cruel woman. The drink tasted like dishwater with bits of floating weed, but, remembering her manners, Dixie drank it down and waited eagerly to be told when she might receive her first meal of the day.

'Mr Valverde will be in the gym in five minutes,' the butler informed her as he retrieved the glass and returned to the door.

'What about breakfast? Do I eat later...or something?'

'That was breakfast, Miss Robinson.' At her aghast look of disbelief, the older man averted his eyes.

'A drink...a drink is all I'm allowed on this plan?' Dixie breathed shakily.

In silence, the older man nodded.

Fisher gave her directions to the gym. On her way there she caught tantalising glimpses of magnificent paintings, marble floors and wonderful rugs. She was not surprised to walk into a superb purpose-built gymnasium worthy of the most elite health club.

At the far end of the spacious room, Cesar was lounging elegantly back against a piece of machinery that looked like an instrument for torture. He was talking to a brunette wearing less clothing than Dixie wore in bed. Presumably Gilda Stevens. A tiny white crop top adorned the lady's dainty bosom. Skintight white shorts hugged her impossibly slender hips. Every inch of visible skin was tanned and satin smooth.

Oh, no, why does she have to be so gorgeous? Dixie thought, cringing from such a cruel comparison, such an impossible peak of feminine perfection.

Tall and supremely authoritative in a dark designer suit, sunglasses dangling from one brown hand, Cesar spoke without turning his dark, arrogant head. 'Don't skulk, Dixie. Come and join us. Gilda's done us a very special favor in agreeing to devote her personal attention to you at such short notice.'

The very thin brunette studied Dixie critically as she walked towards her.

Dixie flushed, her soft mouth tightening with embarrassment. Cesar swivelled round, as light as a dancer on his feet in spite of his size. His winged brows pleated as he took in her appearance with frowning dark deepset eyes. 'Haven't you got anything more suitable to wear?'

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