Romance: Duke Romance: The Duke’s Search for a Wife (Marriage Romance First Time Romance Historical Romance) (Royalty Wedding Regency Romance) (6 page)

BOOK: Romance: Duke Romance: The Duke’s Search for a Wife (Marriage Romance First Time Romance Historical Romance) (Royalty Wedding Regency Romance)
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“As you can see it is need of some renovation”

Jonathan Thornton was a slightly built man with platinum blond hair and the same sort of piercing blue eyes that brought Matt leaping to the forefront of Catharina’s mind. It wasn’t his fault, but she could do without being forced to think about him quite so often, or at all, ever, preferably.

Getting her mind back on the task in hand Catharina cast her not-so-expert eye around Stonewold Hall.

“The last owner did not have much inclination towards property maintenance. He might have been eccentric and had rather a lot of collections that we’ve only just cleared.”.

Catharina nodded earnestly, thinking; hoarding loner eaten by own cat. They were sadly more common than people realized.

In the cold light of day it seemed utterly impossible that she had been unable to find this place – it was huge! It was literally, the big house on the hill and dominated the view for a good couple of miles to come.

“Wow” Murmured Catharina as she was shown in to a seemingly endless array of big, draughty rooms. “This place really is the real thing isn’t it?”

Like all Americans, she was completely in love with anything old and English and so Stonewold Hall scored big time on both those points. She wandered around, taking a childlike interest in it all.

“Everything, right down to the stream there is included in the estate. There’s a wood, a moat, a couple of out buildings and the hunting lodge. Oh, about that…”

Jonathon broke off, with a slight frown. “There’s been a few problems there.”

“Really?” said Catharina, who had become momentarily distracted by a kestrel that had flown over the house.

“Yeah, it’s being squatted at present.”

Catharina opened her eyes wide. It was bad enough having to deal with sitting tenants who didn’t want to move, but she had not had to deal with squatters before. She snorted angrily.

“Goddam cheek, what gives them the right? Do they think they own the place or something?”

“Well, sort of, I believe. It’s all rubbish of course and it’s been legally challenged. We’re in the process of getting him evicted of course, but it would be best if you didn’t go down there on your own. Make sure you take Bob with you – he’s the new caretaker – I’ll introduce you later on… the lad there, he’s got a reputation and might give you trouble. C’mon I’ll show you the wine cellars next. Maybe if we’re lucky the old man left us a couple of bottles of premier cru!”

He laughed as shuffled the big bunch of keys in his hands, but seemed to have difficulty finding the right one.

“Here” guided Catharina instinctively to a large rusty gold key. The door opened instantly and smoothly.

Jonathan raised an eyebrow. “Well guessed”

“I have a sixth sense for keys, it is no guess.” Replied Catharina drily and Jonathan laughed some more. Damn. Even his laugh reminded her of Matt!

The door fell open to another dusty, stripped bare room. She duly appraised it, then, with surprise noticed a bundle rammed into a long hunting bag by the left of the door.

Jonathan frowned and unzipped it. Inside were easily half a dozen guns, ranging from hunting rifles to shot guns.

They both stared at each other.

“Was the owner keen on hunting then?” asked Catharina “Only I’ve read the inventory and I can’t see any mention of these.”

“I know, I wrote it and it’s not in it because I have never seen these before.” Jonathan said, looking perplexed.

“What? Do you mean someone has been in here? Someone with a key. Who could that be?”

“I could hazard a guess it’s our guest in the hunting lodge. Your first task will be to change the locks Miss Morgan. I will inform the police. Again...”

“Right. Oh… where... where is the hunting lodge, just remind me?” She said, struggling to decipher the map.

“Oh, you don’t need that.” smiled Jonathan, beckoning her out of the room and up a small set of steps, over to a solid oak window seat in the entrance hall. He pointed through the dirty and cracked pane of glass, over the top of the hill, by the wood.

“You see where that clapped out car is parked? It’s just there.”

Catharina’s eyes opened wide in amazement.

“You see it alright?” He said.

“Y-yes” She wisped, turning deathly pale.

She saw it alright, her death trap of a car parked outside Heath’s cottage.

*****

She had tried calling him like three thousand times but was only getting voicemail. When she had finished doing the absolute bare minimum that could be conceivably gotten away with in the small office that she was gate crashing with Jonathan, Catharina scooted off as fast as her stiletto heels would carry her back to the village.

The shop was locked up when she approached so there was nothing for it, but to head back up the steep hill for Hunter’s Lodge, on foot.

There was clearly someone in, she could see the fire burning through a chink in the velvet curtains and a radio on somewhere. At least, there was a voice.

But he just wouldn’t open the door. For a moment or two she wondered what to do and tried the door. It was locked. Then inspiration grabbed her. She was the freaking estate agent. She had a key.

Catharina lost no time in locating it in the lock and bursting into Heath’s worn kitchen. The waft of stew was bubbling on the stove, his boots by the door.

“Hey!” She shouted loudly and opened the door to the sitting room. It fell open to a startled blonde woman who was sitting on the same sofa she had been exactly twenty four hours previously, in only her bra and panties.

Catharina’s mouth fell open.

“Excuse me but who the fuck are you?” Asked the woman, understandably peeved, reaching for her blouse quickly and buttoning it up apace.

The second door to the upstairs opened sharply, to a startled Heath.

“Oh. Oh shit.”

Catharina looked to the woman, who had succeeded in getting dressed in double quick timing and was now making for the door.

“I know you said you wanted to tell me something Heath, I get the message.” said the blonde woman in a distressed voice.

“Sarah!”

“Look this is none of my business” Said Catharina in the most matter of fact voice she could muster. In reality, none of this was her business. “I was just gonna drop off your gran’s snow boots and  ...”

Raw emotion penetrated her attempts at a monotone. She felt her eyes pricking with tears.

“Gotta go” She said, bolting for the door and gulping in the cold night air in great big gulps.

This is exactly the sort of thing you should expect from someone like him, how stupid can you be Catharina?

*****

It was snowing thick and fast – in actual fact it was one of the iciest Decembers in Yorkshire for a number of years.

Catharina was beginning to regret leaving the ugly boots behind. She tugged at the motorbike jacket – she’d kept that at least – she didn’t have a complete death wish.

“Catharina” He yelled across the hills. “I can explain”

Yeah right, I bet you can.

The wind whistled its shrill intent right past her eardrums. It planned to turn her to ice then devour her, one frostbitten finger at a time.

Then let it, ha! She thought suddenly. The numbness and pain that was tingling around her hands and toes was absolutely nothing on what that bastard had just done to her heart.

“Catharina, this is madness...”

Out of nowhere a patch of black ice caught her heel on the dirt track, causing her to fall heavily. On her way down, she thought she would be able to steady herself by reaching out to a branch poking out of the hedgerow, but it snapped. Even then, she was pretty sure she could get to her feet, but was inexplicably unable to. Before knowing it, she was rolling down hill and starting to gather some speed in a haze of white ice.

She fell for what felt like forever then out of nowhere, it all just stopped and turned to a very abrupt black silence.

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

He watched her fall in abject horror for what felt like forever, an ice cold tingle ran up his spine that wasn’t down to the cold weather. Panic, fear, guilt all washed over him, and something else. Heath didn’t know what exactly and wasn’t really analyzing his feelings right at that moment in time.

He knew he had to do something to get her back from the very thin ledge she was perched on and had to do it quick before it gave way and she fell to her death.

But he wasn’t going to be able to do it in his man shape. He would have to shift.

In a few seconds his bear was complete – he had never attempted a transformation in such a short time before. It only took a couple of minutes to lift her to safety, but he needed to do more than that.

She was still breathing by the look of it, but frozen, utterly and completely. The nearest house was about half a mile away on foot, but he would just have to risk it.

Out cold, but through her dream, Catharina was aware of what was going on. She was being carried, through the snow topped hillside by his big strong hairy arms.

The door fell open with a swift kick and he placed her down by a fireplace that hadn’t seen a fire in years and hastily set about rectifying that.

She opened half an eye blearily.

“Catharina!” Said Heath but of course she could not hear him – not just because of her altered state of consciousness but because she was merely human and did not have the instinct to communicate as a bear could.

He had missed that, but all the same, he had to admit it was nice to have someone that he could literally ‘bear’ everything to.

He opened his mouth, to somehow try and explain this and the loneliness that he had been feeling, but of course no audible sound came out and even if it had done, Heath was not very adept at expressing his feelings.

“Heath?” Catharina’s eyes groggily mapped the large brown intense eyes before her, the same ones that she had seen in her car.

Of course, he had picked her out of the ditch! She couldn’t believe it had taken her this long to realize this.

But Heath was changing back, fast, before her very eyes.

“Well” Asked Heath, as the man, “Any broken bones?”

Catharina checked herself over, getting up cautiously.

“Don’t think so... I”

They both hesitated.

“About before, Catharina, Sarah isn’t anything serious, in fact I was trying to tell her that….”

“You know Heath I really like you, but what you do is really none of my business.”

Catharina was trying to remain icy but found she was thawing. So she had stumbled in on unfinished business between Heath and an old girlfriend. She had literally gone barging in there. Maybe she should cut him some slack.

“No but it …” This was hard for him to say. “You see Catharina I…”

At that moment the door fell open.

In walked the short tubby officer from that morning, surrounded by four or five other officers.

“It’s in the wine cellar down there lads.”

With a jovial grin a mile wide, he walked up to Heath, slapped him on the back in an over familiar fashion and said “Ah you’ve saved me a journey Heath.”

Heath looked at him blankly. There was an uncomfortable pause that the tubby officer luxuriated in.

“I do hope our friend hasn’t been giving you any trouble Miss” Said the smug PC.

One of the junior officers who had sped off to the cellar returned, with an anxious look.

“There’s nowt there gov.”

Another uncomfortable pause, PC Tubby did not enjoy this one quite so much though.

“You.. you what of course there is, look again – in fact search the whole place whilst you’re at it.”  Then he turned to look at Heath again “There’s no getting out of it this time lad.”

“Well this has been nice but I think we’re going” He said getting up.

“We looked sir and there’s nothing there.”

Heath burst a grin which split his face in two and that Catharina had never seen before. It was hard for her not to laugh.

Red faced and flustered the officer turned to shout at his subordinates some more.

“Get forensics in here. Do it now!”

Then he turned to Catharina “You saw them didn’t you, you’re a witness.”

She stared down, uncomfortably, and then watched as he approached Heath with an exaggerated swagger.

 

“Jack Heath I’m arresting you for breaking and entering, trespass...” then he whispered in his ear “and a whole lot more besides”


Nervously she started the motor on the Harley Davidson. She found it parked up not that far away from Stonewold Hall. She’d never actually ridden a motorbike before.

Obediently it started up with a furious roar.

Now all she had to do was get the hell out of here and try and find out whatever Godforsaken police station they had dragged Heath to.

But first she needed to make a little detour.

It didn’t take long, running off from the kerbside. There it was, still in some sort of disused shaft by a small arrangement of rocks, still unopened.

Phew!

The moon hurried behind a cloud and it turned pitch black for a minute, Catharina took a moment to reflect on her situation. She never would have thought that when she came to England she would be gunrunning on the Yorkshire Moors.

“Jesus you could have sold tickets it’s so public, it’s only a bloody picnic area Catharina!”

She swiveled around on the stiletto heel that had caused her to tumble down the hillside and immediately came face to face with a picnic bench that she somehow hadn’t noticed in the darkness. Catharina felt her cheeks redden despite the subzero temperatures.

Heath stood before her, amusement hiding itself on his face, but she knew it was there.

“And who the hell said you could take my bike”

A smile curled around his lips. He liked the look of her like that - hair flowing, curves pouting on the bike. Only it was better when she was at the back, with him at the wheel.

He was unaware that his smile was giving her involuntary spasms of pleasure up and down her body.

“Anyway what we want to do is get rid of these and find somewhere safe to put them.” said Heath, trying to remain focused. Although it was hard with her looking so damn hot.

 

“Not Stonewold Hall then? That was a bit risky wasn’t it?”

Heath rolled his eyes. “As if I’d have put them anywhere that stupid, it’s almost as daft as here!”

“Wh.. what do you mean?” She asked confused.

“I mean I didn’t put em there. Have a guess who wanted a quick bust.”

“So they’re not yours then?”

“Nope. Mine are somewhere safe” Said Heath, as if she was a child. “But I’m sure he managed to get loads of my DNA over them. That’s my bag for a start. All the same, we need rid of them”

He fished them out of the crevice they had been dangled into.

“Hang on, you haven’t explained how you got here.. did you… you know change?”

Heath laughed shaking his head.

“Didn’t need to. PC Tubby is so dozy it was not exactly hard to give him the slip...

…can’t wait to see the look on his face when he realizes”

He brought his face closer to hers.

“That wasn’t the only reason I wanted to get out of there quick. I still haven’t finished explaining...”

They were kissing, again, all over. Shots of adrenaline were biting her all over her body, melting the snowflakes as they landed on them.

“I wanted to tell you that...”

She kissed his on his mouth.

“No need “

“No.. I”

She caressed him tenderly.

“I know, I feel it too... and I think everything will work out, he’s got nothing on you at all, as long as we get this sorted.” She said indicating the bag. “Come on let’s go.”

He took her hand and squeezed it gently as he got beside her and led to the pillion seat.

“Sure, but I’m driving.”

*****

THE END

BOOK: Romance: Duke Romance: The Duke’s Search for a Wife (Marriage Romance First Time Romance Historical Romance) (Royalty Wedding Regency Romance)
10.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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