Authors: Jackie Williams
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Romantic Suspense, #Teen & Young Adult, #Contemporary Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
2012 Jackie Williams
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form without the prior written consent of the author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual people, either living or dead is entirely coincidental.
Caroline’s hands shook violently as she shoved the thick glass panel, trying to open the heavy door as quickly as possible. She couldn’t wait to see the back of the stifling building.
A light breeze cooled
the thin layer of perspiration on he
forehead. At last she could breathe again as she stepped out into the bright sunlight.
She slipped a trembling hand into her
jacket pocket and fumbled for her sunglasses. She shoved them awkwardly onto her face to hide her tear laden eyes and then rummaged in her bag for her car keys.
, all too aware of her own pounding heart and almost too angry and upset to concentrate. She wondered where she had parked her car as she cast her eyes over the sea of vehicles that had materialized since she had arrived earlier that morning. Relief swept over her as she spotted her beloved old Mini at last.
The aging vehicle that she had saved from a scrap heap
in a moment of sheer nostalgia a few years before was almost hidden between two huge four by fours. She sighed deeply, thinking that her car looked a bit like how she felt; a tiny thing squeezed between two giant, immovable monsters.
Officialdom and Progress. How she hated those words and what they represented.
She pushed her long dark hair back from her face, winding it into a tight swirl and fastening it with a clip over her shoulder. She needed the breeze to touch and cool her overheated neck. Her hands still shook as she opened the car door.
A sleek black car
with a bear of a man driving slowed and pulled across the space in front of her Mini. She stared at the man’s massive outline through the car’s tinted windows. His huge hands were visibly clenching on the steering wheel. He stared back at her, dark eyes narrowed while he moved slowly past and then off around the car park.
Her dream was about to end.
It had been such a gamble at the start; using every last penny she had saved, and some of the bank’s too, but it had started to work. The knowledge she had gained at catering college at the same time as catering for children’s tea parties had paid off. The queue outside the door every day proved that. To lose it all now when it was clearly successful was gut-wrenching.
Two minutes. That’s all it had taken the council to hear her side and dismiss all her objections. She felt sick.
How had everything gone so badly?
At first she couldn’t believ
e that nobody had backed her up but after seeing the plans submitted by the development firm and the compensation package for the shop owners, there hadn’t been a hope.
It was all so glamorous and shiny. They had even produced tiny but beautiful scale models of the new seafront apartments, bars, trendy shops and restaurants.
Who in their right mind wouldn’t want it all to go ahead? The whole of the esplanade was being demolished and then upgraded. She had little hope of continuing her business as it was. The councilors had decided that for her. Her shop was far too old and small and was therefore earmarked for destruction along with several others.
The meeting following hers would settle it finally. The developers were c
oming in that morning to finalize and sign contracts.
The black car with the big driver was passing her again.
He may have turned his head but at that moment she was in no state to really see. She couldn’t help salty tears from squeezing between her lashes and blinding her vision.
She had held herself together while in front of the council members but now she wiped a tear from t
he corner of her eye as she sat slumped in the driving seat. She rested her head on the steering wheel of her Mini trying to control her breathing as she fought off the waves of despair. She swallowed miserably, knowing that there was nothing she could do.
Breaking the news in the shop was going to be heartrending. Her friends
would be devastated to lose their jobs. Part time though they were, money was tight everywhere and she knew that the loss of even the small amount she paid her staff would be a blow.
With a resigned sigh she pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head and turned the key in the ignition, trying to make sense of everything.
Loud tapping on the window next to her caused her to jump in shock. Her head shot up and her sunglasses fell back onto her nose at the jolt. She pushed them back up again, catching her hair where it had fallen forwards. She scooped it back quickly, plucking at the strands that had stuck to her tear-stained face.
She turned to see glowering b
ut beautiful charcoal grey eyes looking right back into her green ones. A straight black brow creased into a tight line was just above them. She wound down the window, dabbing furiously under her eyes with a crumpled tissue, desperately hoping her mascara hadn’t run.
“Can I help you?” Her voice was slightly
sharp in response to his steel-cold look. She breathed in deeply as his expensive, spicy scent wafted through the open window and enveloped her just before he spoke.
“Only if you’re moving your car.” He replied just as sharply, pushing back his
dark shoulder length hair from his face where it had fallen due to bending so far. His long fingers twisted it behind his ear. “You’ve been sat there for ages and I have to be in a meeting. I was hoping that you were leaving as there are no other spaces.” He sounded agitated and in a hurry. A muscle was flexing hard in his jaw and she caught a whiff of delicious peppermint breath just before he clamped his mouth shut.
She shrugged, glancing at his wide shoulders so close to the window and she tucked more loose strands of hair back away from her face.
“Yes, I’m going now if you want it. If you can fit your car into this space, that is. It looks as though it’s going to be a little tight.” She looked pointedly at what she now recognized as a gleaming black Mercedes parked across the front of one of the four by fours. The beautiful car was not one of the largest models, more sporty than most, but it was still a lot bigger than her Mini. His eyes flickered slightly as he cast his eyes over her aging car and then back to his own spectacular model again.
“I’ll make it fit.” He growled with a determined smile, his lips parting over beautifully even white teeth. His charcoal eyes burned into hers as he pulled his dark purple tie slightly tighter up to his collar, running his long finger round the inside of it as though it were uncomfortable. “I have to be in that meeting so if you’d like to move your car anytime soon, that would be super.” The smile was gone and sarcasm was thick in his tone as he glared at her again. He stood up straight, turned suddenly and then strode purposefully back to his car.
Caroline breathed in once more, hoping to catch another whiff of his scent as the air around him swirled about. The mixture of his spicy perfume and the peppermint was intoxicating.
She could not help noticing that he wasn’t just tall. He was absolut
ely huge. His easy stride took him back to his car in just a couple of seconds. She watched as he opened the door, ducked his head and folded his long legs and body into a seat that seemed far too small for him.
She drove her
Mini forwards out of the bay, glancing over at him as she passed. He was now half hidden behind tinted glass again. She could see the bottom half of his face quite clearly, jaw square and hard. He was drumming his irritated fingers impatiently along the top of the steering wheel.
He lifted his chin slightly as she pulled away from his precious
space, twisted his body round and rested his long arm across the back of the seat as he negotiated the parking bay. He was definitely very good looking and she might have admired him even more if he hadn’t sounded so arrogant in his snappy shirt and flashy car with his all-important meeting.
rolled her eyes and cringed as she suddenly realized that she was being very childish. It was only a parking space. She was only reacting like this because her morning had gone so badly.
She dug around in the glove compartment and found her usual supply of sherbet pips waiting there. One small and much appreciated advantage to owning a
cake shop with traditional sweets as a sideline, she thought. She shoved a handful into her mouth rolling them around on her tongue and giving a tiny shudder as the tangy sherbet fizzed there. She drove, deep in thought, towards the exit.
d been warned that there was potential for development in the area but it had been a rumour for years and nothing had happened so far. Her beautiful cake and sweet shop right on the sea front was perfect. Delicious even. Caroline had thought she’d been so lucky when one of the tiny shops had at last become available to rent. Now she wasn’t so sure. To have success plucked from her grasp like this was more than annoying. It felt like a personal attack.
She should have questioned why the lease had been offered at such
favourable terms but she had been so excited at the time she had put it to the back of her mind as she signed on the dotted line.
Now it was obvious why the lease was such a short one. The landlords had used the excuse of not wanting to commit her new business for too far into the future and she had assumed that she would be able to re-negotiate with them as the shop progressed.
She was furious with herself now for relying on old assumptions. She should have asked around a lot more. None of the other shop owners were in the least bit surprised by the outcome of the planning meeting.
Waiting for the project to be completed wasn’t an option either. Twelve months until it would be ready for occupation was just too long. She needed the income from the shop now, not in a year’s time. Perhaps she could look for somewhere else similar?
It had been hard enough to find the place and she wasn’t at all confident of finding another. She sucked hard on the little sherbets, rolling them round in her mouth again.
A shadow darted
from between two cars just on the edge of her vision, breaking into her thoughts. She slammed on the brakes, thanking heaven that she had replaced them the previous week, as Mercedes Man ran across the car park in front of her.
Her heart jolted into her mouth and
she gasped violently, nearly choking on her sweets as he slipped by her bumper, missing it with millimetres to spare. His thick briefcase clanged noisily against the bonnet of her car. She swallowed hard and the sherbet made her wheeze. The breath rushed out of her lungs.
“Idiot!” She yelle
d through the still open window just as his case sprang open, sending papers cascading to the ground. She was about to shout something else when she saw the expression on his face. She closed her mouth as a look of undisclosed fury crossed his features. He glared at her, his grey eyes black with anger.
spair replaced the rage as he saw the pile of papers strewn across the ground. His massive shoulders slumped in resignation. He pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and lifted the knees of his trousers as, squatting slightly, he started to gather up his work.
She studied his hard, tanned forearms, so out of place in the stiff white shirt, his wide chest and shoulders straining the material slightly as he bent forwards. She wondered if he had mo
ved either of the four by fours by hand to fit his car between them. Looking at the size of him now, it seemed entirely possible. Caroline sighed deeply as she stared appreciatively at his beautifully toned physique and gave in.
She slipped out from behind the steering wheel and walked to the front of
her car, stooping to pick up the scattered paperwork with him. She noticed his scent again, deliciously spicy. She breathed in deeply and enjoyed the subtle fragrance as she gathered up the letters and drawings. He stood up, towering over her, and started putting them in order, resting his case on the top of her car. He hurriedly sifted through the pages, the muscle in his jaw working hard as he seemed to grit his teeth together.
Caroline handed over some more sheets and pushed her hair back from where it had fallen over face again.
“There you go. No harm done, but please look where you’re walking in the future. You nearly gave me a heart attack!” She attempted a tentative smile at him.
He took the last drawing from her hand and turned his head to look down at her for a long moment. She couldn’t fathom his expression as h
is eyes travelled over her face and she swallowed noisily as a last piece of sherbet pip found its way out from between two teeth.
His dark grey eyes
, surrounded by even blacker lashes, were mesmerizing in their deepness and almost magnetic. For a mad moment Caroline thought he was going to lean down to kiss her. Then hesitantly, he lifted his huge hand and brushed his forefinger gently just beneath her eye, skimming over her skin so lightly she could hardly feel it.
She gasped in surprise as
her heart rated shot up and electric shocks ran through her whole body. She jerked her face away from him. His expression was curious and he raised his eyebrows as he watched her reaction to his touch. He dropped his gaze and looked distractedly at his watch. He pulled his frown firmly back into place as he growled out, “Now I really am late. Another time, for goodness’ sake, concentrate when you’re driving. Even this little thing,” he indicated her Mini with a wave of his hand, “could have killed me.” His tone was as hard as his jaw and his face remained stern. “Now I must get to that planning meeting, before you manage to destroy me and my contract completely.” He turned towards the council buildings, dismissing her without a second glance, his broad shoulders swinging and straining the shirt again as he jogged fluidly away from her.