Authors: Chantelle Shaw
By the end of the week he felt as wound up as a coiled spring.
Sexual frustration was not conducive to a good mood, he’d discovered. There were several women he could call—casual mistresses who would be happy to join him for dinner at an exclusive restaurant followed by a night of mutually enjoyable sex, with no strings attached. So why wasn’t he tempted to pick up the phone?
The answer could be found in a pair of grey eyes that regarded him coolly across the dinner table every evening. Sometimes the expression in those eyes was not as dismissive as he suspected their owner wished. Emma was fighting the sexual chemistry between them. But it was there, simmering beneath the surface of their polite conversation, and blazing in the stolen glances they shared. He heard her swiftly indrawn breath when he leaned close to refill her wine glass, and he knew they both felt a tingle of electricity if their hands accidentally brushed.
Their attraction to one another was undeniable, but for the first time in his life Rocco could not simply take what he wanted.
lives on the Kent coast, five minutes from the sea, and does much of her thinking about the characters in her books while walking on the beach. She’s been an avid reader from an early age. Her schoolfriends used to hide their books when she visited—but Chantelle would retreat into her own world, and still writes stories in her head all the time. Chantelle has been blissfully married to her own tall, dark and very patient hero for over twenty years, and has six children. She began to read Mills & Boon
as a teenager, and throughout the years of being a stay-at-home mum to her brood found romantic fiction helped her to stay sane! She enjoys reading and writing about strong-willed, feisty women, and even stronger-willed sexy heroes. Chantelle is at her happiest when writing. She is particularly inspired while cooking dinner, which unfortunately results in a lot of culinary disasters! She also loves gardening, walking, and eating chocolate (followed by more walking!). Catch up with Chantelle’s latest news on her website: www.chantelleshaw.com
Recent titles by the same author:
AFTER THE GREEK AFFAIR
HIS UNKNOWN HEIR
Did you know these are also available as eBooks?
had been falling across Northumbria all day, burying the moors beneath a thick white blanket and icing the peaks of the Cheviot Hills. Picturesque it might be, but it was no fun driving on slippery roads, Emma thought grimly as she slowed the car to a crawl to negotiate a sharp bend. With the onset of dusk the temperature had plummeted to well below freezing, and most of the minor country lanes had not been gritted, making journeys treacherous.
The north-east of England often saw snow in the winter, but it was unusual to last this late into March. Thankfully, her battered old four-by-four, which had once seen service on her parents’ Scottish hill-farm, coped well with the conditions. It might not be the most stylish vehicle, but it was practical and robust—rather like her, Emma acknowledged, with a rueful glance down at the padded ski jacket she was wearing over her nurse’s uniform. The jacket made her resemble a beach ball, but at least it kept her warm, and her thick-soled boots were sturdy and sensible.
The narrow road wound uphill, bordered on either side by the walls of snow that had been piled up when a farmer had cleared the route with a tractor earlier in the day. Nunstead Hall was still three miles ahead, and Emma was growing concerned that even if she made it to the isolated
house she was in danger of being stranded there. For a moment she contemplated turning back, but she hadn’t visited Cordelia for two days, and she was anxious about the elderly lady who lived alone.
A frown furrowed her brow as she thought of her patient. Although Cordelia Symmonds was in her eighties she was fiercely independent. But six months ago she had fallen and broken her hip, and then recently she had had an accident in the kitchen and badly burned her hand. Cordelia was becoming increasingly frail, and it was no longer safe for her to live alone at Nunstead, but she had refused to consider moving to a smaller house closer to the village.
It was a pity Cordelia’s grandson did not do more to help his grandmother, Emma thought darkly. But he lived abroad, and always seemed too busy with his high-powered career to have time to visit Northumberland. She had heard the pride and affection in Cordelia’s voice on the many occasions when she had spoken of her grandson, but sadly the old lady seemed to have been abandoned by her only living relative.
It wasn’t right, Emma thought fiercely. The subject of care for the elderly was close to her heart—particularly after the terrible event at the beginning of the year when she had visited a ninety-year-old man and discovered he had passed away in his armchair in a freezing cold house. His family had gone away for Christmas and had not arranged for anyone to check on him. The thought of the poor man dying alone still haunted her.
Remembering Mr Jeffries, Emma knew she could not allow the situation with Cordelia to continue. Perhaps she could somehow contact Cordelia’s grandson and persuade him that he needed to take some responsibility for his grandmother? she brooded.
The car slid on the icy road, and she concentrated on driving through the increasingly heavy snowfall. It had been a long and difficult day, due mainly to the weather. Just this last visit, she thought wearily, and then she could collect Holly from the childminder, go home to the cottage and light a fire before she started cooking dinner.
She chewed on her lip as she recalled how her daughter had been coughing again when she had dropped her at nursery that morning. Her flu virus had been particularly severe, and the long winter wasn’t helping the little girl to pick up. Spring couldn’t come soon enough. Warm sunshine and the chance to play outside in the garden would do Holly the world of good, and hopefully put some colour back on her pale cheeks.
Rounding the next bend, Emma gave a startled cry when she was faced with car headlights blazing in front of her. Instantly she braked, and let out a shaky breath when she realised that the other car was not moving. A quick inspection of the scene told her that the car must have skidded on ice, spun around and then hit the bank of snow at the side of the road. The back end had actually crashed through the snow wall, and was partly submerged in the ditch.
There only seemed to be one occupant—a man—who flung open the driver’s door and climbed out, apparently unhurt.
Halting her car beside him, Emma leaned over and wound down the window.
‘Are you all right?’
am, but that’s more than can be said for my car,’ he replied tersely, his eyes on the sleek silver sports car half buried beneath a mountain of snow.
His voice was deep-timbred, with a faint accent that Emma could not immediately place but sent a tiny frisson down her spine. It was a very sexy voice—as rich and
sensuous as molten chocolate. She frowned at the unexpected turn of her thoughts. A practical and down-to-earth person, she was not prone to wild flights of fancy.
The man was standing to one side of his car, out of the glare of the headlights, so she could not make out his features. But she noted his exceptional height. He was easily several inches over six feet tall. His superbly tailored sheepskin coat emphasised the width of his broad shoulders. Although she could not see him clearly, she sensed his air of wealth and sophistication, and she wondered what on earth he was doing in this remote area. The nearest village was miles back down the road, whilst ahead stretched the vast Northumberland moors. She glanced down at his leather shoes, which were covered in snow, and immediately dismissed the idea that he might be a hiker. His feet must be freezing.
Even as the thought came into her head he stamped his feet, as if to get the blood circulating, and pulled a mobile phone from his pocket.
‘No signal,’ he muttered disgustedly. ‘Why anyone would choose to live in this godforsaken place is beyond me.’
‘Northumbria is renowned for its unspoilt beauty,’ Emma felt compelled to point out, feeling a tiny spurt of irritation at his scathing tone.
In her opinion, anyone who chose to drive across the moors in a snowstorm should have the sense to pack a spade and other emergency supplies. Personally, she loved Northumberland’s dramatic landscapes. When she had been married to Jack they had rented a flat in Newcastle, but she hadn’t enjoyed living in a busy city and had missed the wildness of the moors.
‘There are some wonderful walks through the National Park—although it is rather bleak in the winter,’ she conceded.
Sensing the man’s impatience, she continued, ‘I’m afraid my phone doesn’t work out here either—few of the phone networks do. You’ll have to get to a village before you can call a garage, but I doubt anyone will send a truck to tow your car out until tomorrow.’ She hesitated, instinctively wary of offering a complete stranger a lift, but her conscience nagged that she could not leave him stranded. ‘I’ve got one more visit to make and then I’ll be going back to Little Copton, if you want to come with me?’
He had no choice but to accept the woman’s offer, Rocco realised as he walked around his car and saw that the back wheels were submerged in three feet of water. Even if he could clear the mound of snow that had collapsed on top of the roof, it would be impossible to drive up the side of the ditch; the wheels would simply spin on the ice. There was nothing for it but to find a hotel for the night and arrange for his car to be rescued in the morning, he concluded, reaching over to the back seat to retrieve his overnight bag.
He glanced at the bulky figure of the woman in the four-by-four and guessed that she was from one of the farms. Maybe she had been out to check on livestock: he couldn’t imagine why else she would be driving across the moors in the snow.
She was certainly well built, he thought, as he climbed up into the car and squashed himself into the small space on the seat beside her. But her woollen hat was pulled low over her brow, and a thick scarf covered most of the lower half of her face, so it was impossible for him to guess her age.
‘Thank you,’ he murmured, closing the door and feeling a welcome blast of warm air from the car’s heater. It was only now sinking in that he was lucky not to have been injured in the crash, and that he could have faced a long,
cold walk to find civilisation. ‘I was fortunate you were driving this way.’
Emma released the handbrake and carefully pulled away, her hands tightening on the steering wheel when she felt the car slide. She rammed the stiff gear lever into second gear, and tensed when her hand brushed against the man’s thigh. In the confines of the vehicle she was even more aware of his size. His head almost brushed the roof, she noted, darting him a lightning glance. The collar of his coat was pulled up around his face, hiding his features, so that all she could really see of him was the dark hair which fell across his brow.
In the warm car the spicy scent of his cologne teased her senses. It was an evocatively masculine smell and stirred an unbidden memory of Jack. Her mouth tightened as the image of her husband’s handsome face, his shock of blond hair and his lazy grin, flooded her mind. Jack had been a natural-born charmer who had loved the finer things in life, she remembered bleakly. She had bought him his favourite, ruinously expensive aftershave the last Christmas they had spent together, naively unaware that he probably wore it when he slept with other women.
She slammed a brake on her thoughts and became aware that the stranger was staring at her.
‘What did you mean when you said you have to make one last visit? It’s not a good night to be out socialising,’ he said, glancing through the windscreen at the snowy lane illuminated by the car’s headlights.
The area was familiar to Rocco. He knew there was only one more house ahead before the road dwindled to a track that wound across the moors. It was a stroke of good luck that his rescuer was heading in the direction of his destination, but he was puzzled as to where she was going.