In the Millionaire's Possession

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In The Millionaire's Possession

   
by

Sara Craven

www.millsandboon.co.uk

Table of Contents

About the Author

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Sara Craven
was born in South Devon and grew up surrounded by books in a house by the sea. After leaving grammar school she worked as a local journalist, covering everything from flower shows to murders. She started writing for Mills & Boon in 1975. Apart from writing, her passions include films, music, cooking and eating in good restaurants. She now lives in Somerset.

Don

t miss Sara Craven

s exciting new novel,

The Santangeli Marriage,

available in January 2009 from

Mills & Boon® Modern™.

CHAPTER ONE

HELEN had never been so nervous in her life.

The starkness of her surroundings did not help, of course.

This was, after all, the London headquarters of Restauration International

an organisation supposedly devoted to historical conservation projects.

She

d expected panelled walls hung with works of art, antique furniture, and possibly a Persian carpet. Something with the grace and charm of the past.

Instead she

d been greeted by a receptionist with attitude, and dumped in this glass and chrome box with only a water cooler for company as the long, slow nerve-racking minutes passed.

And although she had to admit that the arrangement of canvas slats that formed her chair was surprisingly comfortable, it couldn

t make her feel at ease mentally.

But then, in this life or death situation, what could?

Her hands tightened on the handle of her briefcase as she ran a silent check on the points she needed to make once she came face to face with the directors of Restauration International.

They

re my last hope now, she thought. Every other source has dried up. So I need to get it right.

Suddenly restless, she walked across to the cooler and filled a paper cup. As she moved, she saw the security camera become activated, and repressed a grimace at the idea that unseen eyes at some control point might be watching her.


Look businesslike,

her friend Lottie had advised her.

Get out of those eternal jeans and put on a skirt. Remember you

re making a presentation, not mucking out the ruins. You

ve had a lot of help over this,

she added with mock sternness.

So don

t blow it.

And Lottie was quite right, Helen thought soberly. So many people had rallied round with quite amazing kindness. Checking the draft of her written report and making suggestions. Providing quick facelifts to the outside buildings and grounds with painting and weeding parties, in case the committee came to see the place for themselves. And even offering films of various events held at Monteagle over the past couple of years to use in the video, itself the result of a favour that had been called in by Lottie.

But now, at last, it was all down to her. She

d taken her friend

s advice and put on her one good grey skirt, teaming it with a demure white cotton blouse and her elderly black blazer. Hopefully they wouldn

t look too closely and see the shabbiness of her attire, she thought.

Her light brown hair

which badly needed cutting and shaping, when she had the time and the money

had been drawn back severely from her face and confined at the nape of her neck by a black ribbon bow, and there were small silver studs in the lobes of her ears.

Not much there for the hidden spectator to criticise, she thought, resisting the impulse to raise her cup in salute.

She made the trip back to her chair look deliberately casual, as if she didn

t have a care in the world and there was nothing much riding on the coming interview.

Only my entire life, she thought, as her taut throat accepted the cool water. Only everything I care most about in the world now at the mercy of strangers.

Apart from Nigel, of course, she amended hastily.

Somehow I have to convince them that Monteagle is worth saving. That I

m not going to give up the struggle like my father and Grandpa and watch the place slide into total oblivion. Or, worse still, into the hands of Trevor Newson.

She shuddered at the memory of the fleshy, complacent face awaiting with a smile the victory that he thought was inevitable. Counting the days until he could turn Monteagle into the gross medieval theme park he

d set his heart on.

It had been those plans, as outlined to her, that had sent her on this last desperate quest to find the money for the house

s urgently needed repairs.

All the other organisations that she

d doggedly approached had rejected her pleas for a grant on the grounds that Monteagle was too small, too unimportant, and too far off the normal tourist trails.


Which is why it needs me,

Trevor Newson had told her.

Jousting on the lawns, pig roasts, banqueting in the great hall…

His eyes glistened.

That

ll put it on the map, all right. The coach parties will flock here, and so will foreign tourists once I get it on the internet. And don

t keep me waiting too long for your answer,

he added.

Or the price I

m offering will start to go down.


You need not wait at all,

Helen said with icy civility.

The answer is no, Mr Newson.


And now you

re being hasty,

he chided in the patronising tone she so resented.

After all, what choice have you got? The place is falling down around you, and it

s common knowledge your father and grandfather left little but debts when they died.

He ticked off on his fingers.

You

ve got the rent from the grazing land and a bit of income from the handful of visitors who come when you open the place up each summer, and that won

t get you far. In fact, it

s a wonder you

ve hung on as long as you have.

He gave a pitying shake of the head.

You need to sell, my dear. And if you really can

t bear to leave and move away I might even be able to offer you some work. These tournaments used to have a Queen of Love and Beauty presiding over them, apparently, and you

re a good-looking girl.

He leered at her.

I can just see you, properly made-up, in some low-cut medieval dress.


It

s a tempting offer,

Helen said, controlling her temper by a whisker.

But I

m afraid the answer

s still no.


Ghastly old lech,

Lottie had commented.

Better not tell Nigel, or he might deck him.

She

d paused.

Is he going with you to confront this committee?


No.

Helen had resolutely concealed her disappointment.

He

s incredibly busy at work right now. Anyway,

she

d added,

I

m a grown up girl. I can cope.

As Nigel himself had said, she recalled with a pang. And maybe she

d simply taken too much for granted in counting on his support today. But they

d been seeing each other for a long time now, and everyone in the area presumed that he

d be fighting at her side in the battle to save Monteagle.

In fact, as Helen admitted to no one but herself, Nigel had been pretty lukewarm about her struggles to retain her home. He wasn

t a poor man by any means

he worked in a merchant bank, and had inherited money from his grandmother as well

but he

d never offered any practical form of help.

It was something they would really need to discuss

once she got the grant. Because she was determined to be self-sufficient, and, while she drew the line at Mr Newson

s theme park, she had several other schemes in mind to boost the house

s earning power.

Although lately they hadn

t had the opportunity to talk about very much at all, she realised with a faint frown. But that was probably her fault in the main. Nigel

s work had kept him confined to London recently, but she

d been so totally engrossed in preparing her case for the committee that she

d barely missed him.

What a thing to admit about the man you were going to marry!

But all that was going to change, she vowed remorsefully. Once today was over, win or lose, it was going to be permanent commitment from now on. Everything he

d ever asked from her. Including
that
.

She knew she was probably being an old-fashioned idiot, and most of her contemporaries would laugh if they knew, but she

d always veered away from the idea of sex before marriage.

Not that she was scared of surrender, she thought defensively, or unsure of her own feelings for Nigel. It was just that when she stood with him in the village church to make her vows she wanted him to know that she was his alone, and that her white dress meant something.

On a more practical level, it had never seemed to be quite the right moment, either.

Never the time, the place, and the loved one altogether, she thought, grimacing inwardly. But she couldn

t expect Nigel to be patient for ever, not when they belonged together. So why hold back any longer?

She was startled out of her reverie by the sudden opening of the door. Helen got hurriedly to her feet, to be confronted by a blonde girl, tall and slim, with endless legs, and wearing a smart black suit. She gave Helen a swift formal smile while her eyes swept her with faint disparagement.


Miss Frayne? Will you come with me, please? The committee is waiting for you.

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