Authors: Penny Jordan
A CELEBRATION OF
Two favorite stories in one
They say revenge is best served
cold…but for these couples, hot is better!
THE MISTRESS ASSIGNMENT
Kelly Harris feels out of her depth cast in the role of femme
fatale. But she reluctantly agrees to play the seductress and teach a lesson to
the man who’d betrayed her best friend. It’s a scheme fraught with danger—especially when sexy stranger Brough Frobisher gets caught
in the crossfire and wants in on the game himself!
LOVER BY DECEPTION
When Anna Trewayne wakes up in hospital with amnesia, the first
person she sees is Ward Hunter. The chemistry is so immediate and intense that
she’s convinced he is her lover. But Ward is not who he seems. And as their
relationship deepens and Anna’s memory returns, deceptions threaten to destroy
New York Times
“Women everywhere will find pieces of themselves in Jordan's
“[Penny Jordan's novels] touch every emotion.”
âRT Book Reviews
“Penny Jordan builds the suspense nicely in this fan-favorite
plot featuring dynamic dialogue and strong characters.”
âRT Book Reviews
Lover by Deception
“Jordan's record is phenomenal.”
, one of Harlequin’s
most popular authors, sadly passed away on December 31st, 2011. She leaves an
outstanding legacy, having sold over 100 million books around the world. Penny
wrote a total of 187 novels for Harlequin, including the phenomenally successful
A Perfect Family, To Love, Honor and Betray, The
New York Times
bestseller list. Loved for her
distinctive voice, she was successful in part because she continually broke
boundaries and evolved her writing to keep up with readers’ changing tastes.
said about Jordan, “Women
everywhere will find pieces of themselves in Jordan’s characters.” It is perhaps
this gift for sympathetic characterization that helps to explain her enduring
A Little Revenge
The Mistress Assignment
Beth; let’s hope that this trip to Prague is a success and that it helps her to get over that rat Julian,’ Kelly Harris announced, picking up her glass of wine.
‘Well, she certainly deserves some good luck after all that’s happened,’ Anna Trewayne, Beth’s godmother, sighed, following suit and pausing before drinking her wine to add worriedly, ‘I must admit that I feel partly to blame. If I hadn’t persuaded the two of you to open your shop here in Rye-on-Averton, Beth would never have met Julian Cox in the first place.’
‘There’s only one person to blame for Beth’s unhappiness,’ the third member of the trio, Dee Lawson, Beth and Kelly’s landlady, announced starkly, ‘and that’s Julian Cox. The man is a complete and utter...’
She stopped speaking momentarily, lifting her glass to her lips, her eyes darkening painfully as she quickly hid her expression from the others.
‘We all know what he’s done to Beth, how much he’s hurt and humiliated her, telling her that he wanted to get engaged, encouraging her to make all those plans for their engagement party and then telling her the night before that he’d met someone else, making out that she’d misunderstood him and imagined that he’d proposed. Personally, I think that instead of bemoaning what’s happened what we should be doing is thinking of some way we can punish Julian Cox for what he’s done to her and make sure he can never do it again.’
‘Punish him...?’ Kelly enquired doubtfully. She and Beth had been friends from their first days together at university and Kelly had enthusiastically agreed to her friend’s suggestion that they set up in business together.
‘Rye-on-Averton is the kind of pretty rural English town that artists and tourists dream about, and my godmother was only saying the last time I was there that the town lacked a shop selling good-quality crystal and chinaware.’
‘Us...open a shop...?’ Kelly had protested a little uncertainly.
‘Why not?’ Beth had pressed enthusiastically. ‘You were saying only last week that you weren’t particularly enjoying your job. If we found the right kind of property there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make your own designs to sell in the shop. With my retail experience I could be responsible for the buying and we could share the work in the shop.’
‘It sounds wonderful...’ Kelly had admitted, adding wryly, ‘Too wonderful... We’d need to find the right kind of premises, and it would only be on the strict understanding that we share the finances of the business equally,’ she had warned her friend, knowing that although Beth had no real money of her own her grandparents were rather wealthy and Beth was their adored and adoring only grandchild.
But Beth had swept aside all her objections, and in the end Kelly had been as enthusiastic about their shared project as Beth herself.
Over the last twelve months since the shop had first opened they had gone from strength to strength and then, just over eight months ago, Beth had met Julian Cox.
He had pursued her relentlessly whilst Kelly had stood helplessly to one side and watched as her friend became more and more emotionally dependent on a man whom Kelly had never liked right from the start.
‘Don’t you think you’re letting him rush things a little bit?’ she had suggested gently, just after Beth had announced that they were getting engaged. But Beth’s face had clouded and they had had their first real quarrel when she had responded uncomfortably, ‘Jules said you’d say something like that... He...he thinks that you’re...that you’re jealous of us, Kelly... I told him that just wasn’t possible, of course...’
Jealous of them! With that comment Kelly had been forced to acknowledge that Julian Cox had very skilfully robbed her of the chance to pass on to her friend a piece of information she ought to have given her weeks before. But right now, under the influence of her second glass of the strong Italian wine the three of them had been drinking in the busy Italian wine bar where they had gone for a drink after they had seen Beth off on her buying trip to Prague, the idea of revealing Julian Cox as the unpleasant and untrustworthy character they knew him to be seemed to have taken on the air of something of a crusade, a moral crusade.
‘Why should he be allowed to get away with what he’s done, to walk away from his guilt in the same manner he walked away from Beth?’ Dee had asked the others now.
‘Walk away! What he did was even worse than that,’ Kelly exploded. ‘He practically forced Beth to publicly humiliate herself. I can’t believe how many people seem to have fallen for the lies he’s been spreading about her, implying that not only did she misunderstand his intentions but that she also actively pursued him, to the point where he was supposedly thinking of taking legal action to stop her. Bunkum! I know which one of them was doing the lying and it wasn’t Beth. For goodness’ sake, I even heard him telling her how much he loved her, how much he couldn’t wait for them to be married.’
‘That would have been around the time when Beth’s grandfather was so seriously ill, I expect?’ Dee said grimly.
Kelly looked at her in surprise, but it was Anna who answered her question first, exclaiming, ‘Yes, that’s right! It was when her grandfather was ill that Julian proposed.’
At thirty-seven Anna was the oldest member of the quartet. As Beth’s mother’s younger cousin she had just missed out on being a bridesmaid at the wedding through a serious bout of German measles. In compensation Beth’s mother had asked her several years later to be one of her new baby’s godparents. Only a teenager, Anna had been awed and thrilled to be considered grown-up enough for such a responsibility and it was one she had taken very seriously, her relationship with Beth even more precious to her since she and her husband had not had any children of their own.
‘What’s the connection between Beth’s grandfather’s illness and Julian’s proposal of marriage?’ Kelly asked Dee curiously.
‘Can’t you guess?’ Dee responded. ‘Think about it. The girl Julian dropped Beth for is known to have a substantial personal trust fund.’
Kelly made a small moue of distaste and looked shocked.
‘You mean that Julian proposed to Beth because he thought...’
‘That her grandfather would die and Beth would inherit a lot of money,’ Dee finished for her. ‘Yes. Once he realised that Beth’s grandfather was going to recover he must have really panicked, but, of course, he met this other girl, whose inheritance is far more accessible...’
‘It sounds like something out of a bad melodrama,’ Kelly protested, her forehead puckering as she added, ‘Besides, I thought that Julian was wealthy in his own right. He certainly gives that impression.’
‘He certainly likes to give that impression,’ Dee agreed. ‘Needs to, in fact. That’s the way he draws the innocent and the naive into his web.’
Kelly’s frown deepened as she listened to Dee.
At thirty, Dee was older than Kelly and Beth but younger than Anna, and the two girls had originally met her after their estate agent had suggested that they might want to look at a shop property Dee owned and wanted to let.
They had done so and had both been pleased and impressed with the swift and businesslike way in which Dee had handled the letting of her property to them. She was a woman who, although at first a little reserved and cool, and very choosy about her friends, on later acquaintance revealed a warmth and sense of humour that made her fun to be with.
Anna, who had lived in the town for the last fifteen years following the tragic death of her young husband in a sailing accident off the coast of Cornwall, had known Dee a little before Beth and Kelly had arrived on the scene. After the death of her father Dee had taken over his business affairs as well as his position on several local charities, and so was quite a well-known figure in the town.
Dee’s father had been an extremely successful entrepreneur, and others in her family were members of the local farming community, and the more Kelly and Beth had come to know her, the more it had astonished them that such a stunningly attractive woman, and one whose company the male sex quite plainly enjoyed, should not have a man in her life.
‘Perhaps it’s because she’s so busy,’ Beth had ventured when she and Kelly had discussed it. ‘After all, neither of us have partners at the moment...’
This had been in her pre-Julian days, and Kelly had raised her eyebrows a little, reminding Beth wryly, ‘We’ve only been in town a matter of weeks, and besides...I saw the look in Dee’s eyes the other day when we all went out to dinner and that little girl came trotting up to talk to her—the one from the other table. Do you remember? She made an immediate beeline for Dee and it was as though the pair of them were communicating on some special wavelength that blocked out the rest of us...’
‘Mmm... She does have a very definite rapport with children,’ Beth had agreed, adding helpfully, ‘Perhaps she’s just not met the right man yet. She strikes me very much as a woman who would only commit herself to a relationship if she was a hundred and fifty per cent sure it was right for her.’
‘Mmm...’ Kelly had agreed reluctantly. ‘Personally I think there must be rather more to it than that.’
‘Well, maybe,’ Beth had agreed. ‘But I wouldn’t like to be the one to pry into her past, would you?’
‘No,’ Kelly had agreed immediately.
Friendly though the four of them had become, and well though they all got on, there was a certain reserve about Dee, a certain sense of distance, an invisible line over which one knew instinctively one would not be encouraged to cross.
‘You seem to know a lot more about Julian’s background than the rest of us,’ Kelly told Dee now.
Dee gave a dismissive shrug.
‘He’s...he grew up locally, and in my position one...learns things.’
Kelly’s frown deepened.
‘But surely if you knew his reputation was unsavoury you could have warned Beth?’
‘I was away when she originally met him,’ Dee reminded her, adding dryly, ‘And anyway, I doubt she would have listened...’
‘No, you’re probably right,’ Kelly agreed. ‘I never liked him, but Beth was so loyal to him she wouldn’t hear a word against him. It’s all very well saying that we ought to do something to show him up for the rat he really is, but how can we? He’s dumped poor Beth, humiliated her, and he’s got clean away with it.
‘I’d like to tell this new girlfriend of his just what he’s like...’ she continued darkly.
‘It wouldn’t work,’ Dee warned her. ‘She’s as besotted with him as Beth was. No, if we’re going to have any chance of getting any kind of restitution for Beth, any kind of public recognition of the way Julian lied about her as well as to her, we’re going to have to use his own weakness, his own greed against him.’
‘We are? But how...?’ Kelly asked her curiously. Beth was such a loving, gentle, kind person, the last thing she had needed was the kind of pain and humiliation Julian had handed out to her, never mind the potential damage it could do to their own just burgeoning business. The whispering campaign Julian had so carefully and cleverly instigated when he had dropped Beth, insinuating that she had been the one pursuing him, obsessed by him, was bound to have its repercussions.
‘I do hope that Beth will be all right on her own in Prague,’ Anna put in anxiously, joining the conversation. Fine-boned and very youthful-looking, Anna was, in many ways, so far as Kelly was concerned, the epitome of a slightly old-
fashioned type of femininity and womanhood.
Married young and then tragically widowed, in a medieval century she would have been the type of woman who would no doubt have withdrawn to the protective security of a small convent, or perhaps in the Georgian or Victorian age she would have been the doting aunt to her siblings’ large broods of noisy children.
As it was, she was apparently content with her single life, her pretty little house and her pets—a large fluffy cat and a smaller but just as fluffy dog. Her home had become for both Kelly and Beth a surrogate home from home since they had moved into the area and, whilst Kelly could never for a minute imagine Anna ever stepping into the role so vigorously occupied by her own energetic and feisty mother, there was still something very comforting and special about the gentle concern Anna showered on them both.
It was a pity she had never remarried, in Kelly’s opinion, and she knew that Beth agreed with her.
‘She adored Uncle Ralph; they were childhood sweethearts and they had only been married a few months when he died,’ Beth had told her.
‘Beth will have a wonderful time,’ Dee responded robustly now. ‘Prague is the most beautiful city.’
‘I’ve heard that it’s a very romantic city,’ Anna agreed a little wistfully, or so it seemed to Kelly. ‘I just hope it doesn’t make her feel even worse. She’s lost so much weight and looks so unhappy.’
‘She’ll be far too busy going round glass factories to think about anything other than business,’ Dee predicted firmly.
‘Mmm... It’s a godsend that this trip came up when it did,’ Kelly agreed. ‘And that’s all thanks to you, Dee. That was a brilliant idea of yours to suggest to her that we should think about buying some crystal from the Czech Republic. It’s been so awful for her.
‘You’d think that after what he’s done to her and the way he’s let her down Julian would at least have the decency to keep a low profile with his new girlfriend, but he actually seems to enjoy flaunting their relationship.’
‘Like I said, the man needs teaching a lesson and being given a taste of his own medicine,’ Dee reiterated. ‘And if you want my opinion we’re just the ones to do it.’
‘Us...? But...’ Anna started to protest uneasily.
‘Why not?’ Dee overruled her. ‘After all, you are Beth’s godmother, Kelly here is her best friend... If the three of us can’t be relied upon to do the right thing by her...if she can’t depend on us...then who can she depend on?’ Dee said firmly.
‘It sounds a good idea in theory,’ Kelly allowed, moved by Dee’s obvious emotion. ‘But—’
‘Have some more wine,’ Dee interrupted her. ‘There’s still over half a bottle left.’