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Authors: Glenna Sinclair

STORM: A Standalone Romance

BOOK: STORM: A Standalone Romance
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STORM

A Standalone Billionaire Romance

 

 

Glenna Sinclair

Copyright © 2016

 

All Rights Reserved
. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

CHAPTER 1

 

She had never met the man walking toward her, yet she wouldn't consider him a stranger, either—after all, she had just spent the night at his house, and even slept in
his
bed. Not that he had been in the bed with her; that would have been a far more conventional start to their relationship.

              Cara Langford tried to move her legs again, but she was stuck fast. Escape was impossible. The fields of mud that she had been navigating around on the property all morning had caught up with her at last. The black mire sucked at her borrowed galoshes, drawing her farther into the earth the more she moved. It was like a quicksand scene in an old-timey movie.

              The man had reached the foot of the hill, and paused at the shore of the mud patch. Cara twisted her body to look at him, but was unfortunately caught in a position with her back facing toward him. She couldn't make out much before her pride dictated that she turn away and try to raise her foot again; sure enough, she was still rooted to the spot.

              "Need some help coming unstuck?" an unexpectedly posh voice inquired. She thrilled at the unexpected English accent and blushed. This was the Connecticut countryside, after all; nothing she had encountered so far had indicated that her mystery host was an Englishman. His voice was deep and educated, and full of amusement.

              "I'm not stuck," she said confidently. Confidence was key in these sorts of situations—at least, she thought that it was. She tried her left foot again, and struck her shin against the inside of the unmoving boot, nearly collapsing forward in the process. Her arms pin-wheeled.

              "Don't be daft." She could hear the man slogging out to join her. Cara finally stopped moving, going beet-red as she felt a pair of hands alight on her waist. His fingers glided along the outline of her bra band and slipped beneath her armpit as the other arm hooked beneath her legs, pulling her out of the foundered boots and hoisting her into his arms. She latched onto his neck at the last second and tried to fix her eyes on everything but his face. Even from a distance, she had perceived that he was handsome—the English accent only made it worse. Scratch that, the hand pressed firmly on the outer swell of her breast made it worse.

              "I'm not," she said sulkily as her rescuer began to stride back through the mud. "I just didn't want to leave the boots I borrowed out there is all."

              "The boots you stole," the man corrected mildly. "Before you came out here to spy on me."

              "I wasn't
spying
. I was interested, and…mobile."

              "Mobile. Certainly." She felt his hands clasp her a bit harder as they came to a deeper patch of mud. His touch was so assured that she couldn't help but imagine how it would feel, were they locked in a very different embrace. Cara glanced down to look at their progress, before finally summoning the courage to glance up. The man holding her wasn't looking at her; he was concentrating on navigating the treacherous terrain, which made it easier to conduct an up-close-and-personal study. He was much younger than she had guessed he would be—he couldn't be much older than thirty, though he hadn't shaved yet that morning, and the stubble that abraded his jaw might have given him the appearance of additional years. His hair was auburn, almost copper-colored. He was probably in dire need of a haircut, because it looked a little long behind his ears, but he had effortlessly groomed it back before setting out on his morning walk. His eyes were a deep-set blue, and fringed with dark eyelashes. They were in such close proximity that Cara could see the shallow divot of a scar at the left corner of his temple.

              Somehow, coming to the realization that her rescuer was even more gorgeous than she’d thought at first made their situation all the more worse. Thankfully it would be over soon. Thankfully the press of warm, insistent hands wouldn't be distracting her for much longer.

              Their progress halted abruptly. The man hefted her closer and gazed about himself.

              "Uh-oh."

"What do you mean, 'uh-oh'?" Cara looked as well. They were stuck about ten feet from the perceived shore of the quagmire.

For the second time in less than twenty-four hours, she found herself once more stranded at the mercy of this stranger.

 

CHAPTER 2

 

The first time Cara Langford had found herself stuck had come late last afternoon. She had been driving home from Hartford to New Haven, taking the backroads to avoid holiday traffic, when the wheels of her car decided to stop churning the mud on a seemingly abandoned stretch of road.

              It was her second summer coming home from Trinity College, and she thought she had traveling all figured out. What she
hadn't
accounted for was a rash of summer storms washing out every means by which she had planned on getting home.

              She exited her car, and as soon as she did, it started to rain. She pulled a windbreaker out of the backseat and stretched it over her head, stooping to assess the damage, even as the downpour threatened to drive her into the ground. All four wheels were sunk; what's worse, the back right looked more deflated than usual.

              She managed to salvage a discarded piece of board she found submerged in the ditch and prop it beneath her back tire. Another attempt at accelerating out of the mud had only splattered the side of her car with black mud. The rain certainly wasn't helping matters. By the time Cara decided to abandon ship, she was soaked to the bone and shivering. Her phone was dead, and she had no idea where she was. She was in dire need of help.

              The stranded woman looked around. Through the sheeting rain, she thought she spotted an estate on a hill maybe a half mile from the road. She trudged toward it, pulling her windbreaker closed around her until all but her vision was obscured.

              By the time she arrived at the gate, she looked more like a frightening apparition who had drowned along the road and haunted it ever since than a student seeking help. Her chin-length blond hair was streaming water, her mascara was running, and her jaw was jumping with cold—she knew all this because she could see herself in the monitor posted at the gate. She pressed the button beneath the screen to buzz up to the house. She didn't have long to wait.

              The gate swung open.

 

#

 

She was greeted at the entrance to the mansion by two individuals: a stuffy-looking older man, and a harried-looking woman. She was given no time to introduce herself or her situation before she was ushered in out of the rain by the latter.

              "Come in! Come into the foyer! I've brought towels down from the upstairs," the woman urged her. Cara found a stack of freshly laundered towels thrust toward her, and quickly shed her windbreaker so that she could take one and wrap it snugly about herself.

              "My car broke down," she explained through chattering teeth. "I'm so sorry to bother you, but I didn't see any other houses around."

              "I'm afraid we're the only residence for miles," the woman said gravely. "It's a lucky thing you broke down when you did. Can I get you some coffee? Some hot tea?" She motioned to the elderly gentleman without awaiting Cara's answer; the man bowed stiffly and disappeared, presumably to start the preparation of both. Cara wanted to reject any offer of further hospitality, but her body craved heat more than her brain craved ceremony. She nodded gratefully.

              "I'm sorry again. I promise I won't be long. I was wondering if I could use your phone?"

              The woman showed her down the hall, and didn't seem to mind that Cara trailed water behind her on the expensive-looking runner. Come to think of it,
everything
looked expensive—the ceiling vaulted up to a grand old height, and a single chandelier hung suspended from the rafters, although she could see that it was cobwebbed and undusted. And that was only the main
hallway.
She suddenly couldn't remember how large it had looked from the outside, and felt grateful for her ignorance. She had clearly wandered into more wealth than she had ever known in her life, and doubtless
would
ever know.

              And she was now more certain than ever that the woman who led her didn't own the estate. While she clearly had a comfortable relationship with the house, she led Cara like the latter were part of a museum tour group, and she the guide. There was a landline posted toward the back of the hallway; Cara nodded gratefully, but caught the woman with a word before she could escape.

              "I'm Cara. Thank you so much again. You've really saved me."

              "I'm Melinda." The woman smiled, and pleasant lines fanned around her eyes. "I'll be back in five minutes with something more to warm you. Please call me if you need anything before then."

              Cara nodded gratefully. As soon as she was alone, she fumbled for her wallet with numb fingers and extracted her insurance card. She dialed several numbers before she managed to reach anyone.

              The forecast wasn't good—literally. The male voice on the other end informed her that they wouldn't be able to reach her for another day at least. She would have to overnight at a hotel until a tow could get to her.

              Cara ground her teeth and tried to remain calm. She could feel the strain manifesting in her expression, and she heard it in her voice in the next instant. "I'm just borrowing this phone, actually. There
are
no hotels where I am."

              The man didn't know what to tell her, other than to stay dry and appeal to the sympathy of complete strangers.

              Cara stood frozen in the hallway with the receiver still pressed to her ear long after the other line had gone dead. She was just summoning her scattered thoughts to decide what to do, when she thought she heard the distant
click
of another headset being hung up.

              What the hell? Had someone else been listening in on her conversation?

 

#

 

"So you see, you aren't any trouble to us at all," Melinda informed her. "The master has already given his permission for you to stay here, and I've already sent the servants down to collect your things from the car. We aren't lacking for spare bedrooms, as you can probably tell." Melinda chuckled and brought her own tea to her lips. Cara's cold hands tightened around her mug of coffee. They were seated together on the steps of the stairs; she was still cloaked in the bath towel, but unwilling to trespass any further into the house for the time being. Melinda seemed unfazed by her decision to remain in the foyer.

              "The master?" Cara repeated in disbelief. "You mean the homeowner?"

              "The very same. He's a very private man, but he has a good heart. He sympathizes with your situation and would not have it any other way. Please, you must allow us to host you for as long as it takes."

              "It won't take long," Cara assured her quickly. "They might even be able to send someone by today." Both women glanced out the tall windows at the apocalyptic rain outside. Within minutes of her saying as much, the scattered-marbles sound of hail could be heard bouncing on the roof. Cara sank back into the towel. Melina patted her shoulder warmly.

              "Come. I'll show you where you'll be staying."

              Cara's room was on the second floor, and it almost defied description. After living on campus for two years, an adjoining bathroom was already a heavenly concept to the young woman—but the sheer size of the quarters with which she was presented dwarfed almost an entire story of her dorm room. When Cara attempted to back out of it into the hallway, Melinda pushed her fondly from behind.

              "Now, I've already asked the servants to draw you up a bath. Rest assured that you'll be allowed complete privacy. You must feel free to treat this room as your own for the time being, Miss…?"

              "Cara really is fine," Cara stressed.

              "Miss Cara," Melinda insisted. "I'll have the servants bring your things up for you while you're washing up. I'll have dinner brought up for you as well."

              Cara's immediate instinct was to ask after the master—she wanted to properly thank the man who had invited her into his home. At least, she assumed he was a man. Weren't female masters 'mistresses'…? But by the time she could think to get the vocabulary right, Melinda had vanished back into the labyrinth of the mansion's hallways. Cara realized too late that without the woman around to guide her, she stood little chance of finding her way around on her own.

              She closed the bathroom door and locked it immediately behind her; then, she peeled her wet clothes off and dropped them on the floor. She was in and out of the bath in less than five minutes—while she would have liked to languish, she was too aware of the fact that she was in somebody else's home to feel comfortable being naked for long. If someone could listen in on her phone conversation, might someone also be able to spy on her as well?

              Maybe she was just being paranoid. When she exited the bathroom with a fresh towel wrapped securely about herself, she found her luggage waiting for her on the bed, and a steaming meal waiting for her on the table. She got dressed and tucked into her dinner; it was easy to eat with gusto when the food was
that
delicious. It was so good she imagined a five-star chef must have prepared it—but whose chef, and why was he here, and not running an expensive restaurant?

              Twenty minutes later, and she had resigned herself to the fact that her mysterious benefactor would not be making an appearance.

 

BOOK: STORM: A Standalone Romance
2.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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