A SUMMER'S LEASE                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In a midsummer's dawn, high in the woods above Beaumont Court, Charlotte Palmer encounters a man who at first sight she thinks is the ghost of Harry Beaumont, the buccaneer who built the Court in the 16th century.

His passionate kiss blasts away this illusion but when he extends a hand to her, an invitation to go with him, she hesitates and in a heartbeat he's gone. But not for long.

When the late baronet's heir arrives to take possession of the Court she discovers that Matthew Ryan might be the image of Elizabeth's favourite, but he has no interest in the title he's inherited or the beautiful Tudor manor built for Harry's beloved Maria.

Charlotte Palmer's family has been serving the Beaumont's for centuries and is horrified that he intends to wipe out the history of the family who rejected him. He's equally horrified that he's stuck with her under the terms of his late Uncle's will.

Charlotte has until the end of summer to persuade him to change his mind. A summer's lease before she will have to leave the only home she's ever known. and the man with whom, despite everything, she's fallen in love.

Can she change his mind about the house, about her, in the few short month before her time at Beaumont Court runs out?

What people are saying ...

 

"This one had me so invested in the story I was almost yelling at them but what a fabulous story, one that kept me turning the pages. I loved the setting, the story line old buccaneers and family history and that sensual pull throughout. Yes I can highly recommend this one." 5*

"A lovely gentle book with a tough backbone. Heroine is a total sweetheart. Hero is a closet romantic, though I'm not are he realises it. Read in one sitting because I couldn't put it down." 5*

"Charming story. Pure Liz Fielding quality." 5*

 

 

taste test...

CHARLOTTE Palmer woke long before dawn and lay in the not-quite-dark of midsummer listening as the night sounds were gradually overlaid by the birds stirring and trying their early morning voices.

She had toured the house the evening before when everyone had gone and it was quiet, saying goodbye to the past.

      Now, in the dawn, she would walk through the gardens and up into the woods to the special place she had always gone when she was unhappy or life was difficult. A place where she could see the house nestling in its hollow and the river beyond.        

Beaumont Court.

The one thing that had always been a constant in her life.

 She finished plaiting her hair and picked up the miniature portrait of Harry Beaumont — painted when he was a favourite at the first Elizabeth’s court — from the table beside her bed. She could almost hear the laughter promised by bold blue eyes that glinted with a wicked merriment. She would need a friendly face to see her through this day and on a sudden impulse, she slipped it into her pocket.

      ‘Daisy,’ she called softly, when she reached the stables. The horses had long since been sold, but RichardBeaumont would never have a dog in the house and her spaniel had slept there ever since she’d been forced to move into the Court.

Last night she would have welcomed the comfort of Daisy’s soft warm body on her bed, but now that Richard was dead and she could have done what she liked it would have felt like a betrayal to take advantage.

The small liver and white spaniel needed no second invitation, but bounded joyously to heel, then ran on ahead, giving short excited yelps as she snuffled at trails in the grass.

‘No, this way, girl.’

      It was a long walk to the top of the hill and the church clock had chimed six before she finally sank onto the dew-soaked grass of the clearing. She hugged her knees and gazed down into the valley.

Swathed in the golden mist rising from the river the house — built by the same Harry Beaumont who smiled from her precious miniature — had an ethereal, magical quality. It was easy to imagine him pausing here as he caught his first glimpse of its tall brick chimneys after the long ride from Elizabeth’s court at Richmond. Easy to imagine him spurring his horse on, eager to hold his beloved Maria, see his children.

He had been the first in a long unbroken line of Beaumont men to hold the house against the world. Today the latest to be given that trust would arrive at Beaumont Court.

      He was late by any standards.

MatthewRyan had, it seemed, been too busy with business commitments in the Far East to come home to be with the dying Richard. To come to his funeral. It was nearly two weeks since RichardBeaumont had been laid to rest with his ancestors in the family vault below the church and only now had his heir found some time in his crowded schedule to come and take control of his inheritance.

      ‘Daisy, be quiet.’ The spaniel was barking at something in the woods, drawing her mind back to the clearing, away from disturbing thoughts of the changes that were bound to be made with his arrival and how they would affect her. The dog, intent on her quarry, ignored her. ‘Daisy!’ she called again, more urgently, scrambling to her feet as she disappeared into the thicket well aware that if she took off after a rabbit she would be gone all day.

But Daisy danced backwards into the clearing letting out excited little yaps. Narrowing her eyes against the slanting sun,Charlotte took a step towards the copse, halted uncertainly, her breath catching in her throat as she saw the shadowy figure of a man astride a large black horse, at the edge of the clearing, the low slanting sun giving him a halo about his dark curls.

The trees began to retreat giddily and, as her legs buckled beneath her, the man threw his leg over the animal’s head and slid to the ground moving swiftly to catch her, his shadowed expression so familiar that she whispered his name.

‘Harry…’

      He eased her gently to the ground. ‘Are you all right? You look as if you’d seen a ghost.’

      His voice, low-pitched, full of concern, dispelled the mist of uncertainty and she managed a faint smile. ‘For just a moment I rather thought I had.’

      His forehead creased in the slightest frown. ‘As you can see I’m plain flesh and blood.’

      ‘Yes…’ The colour flooded back into her cheeks as she realised that this flesh and blood man was cradling her in his arms, holding her close against him, so that she could feel the strong beat of his heart, the warmth of his body. Definitely not a ghost.

She should move.

      As if sensing her disquiet, Daisy bared her teeth and uttered a low warning growl. The man tore his gaze from Charlotteto glance at the dog and said, ‘Quiet, Daisy.’

To her chagrin the dog immediately obeyed, flinging herself down in traitorous supplication, wagging her tail in the hope of being forgiven for her bad manners.

      She turned to look at him again and caught her breath. Her first impression had been right. It was as if her thoughts had conjured HarryBeaumont out of the mists of time and instinctively her fingers sought the miniature, through the thick cord of her trousers.

This man had the same black curls, the same long, straight nose and firm jaw, the same lines creasing deeply around his dark, laughing eyes. The likeness was disturbing.

      Then the smile died from his eyes, to be replaced with something altogether more searching. Everything seemed to stop, the clamour of the birds, the gentle sound of his horse cropping at the grass and in that brief moment, as the world held its breath, he bent his lips to hers.

There was nothing of the ghost in his kiss. His mouth was warm, vibrant, thrilling and her body quickened with an instant meltdown. This was it, this was the man of her dreams, the man who, like Sleeping Beauty, had come to wake her.

She moaned softly into his mouth, wanting more and he raised his head to look at her, the flare of desire reflected in those bright blue eyes. His own shock at the sudden flare of desire…

The illusion faltered and then evaporated and she saw the intruder for what he was; not an Elizabethan courtier, but a twentieth-century man. Taller than average it was true, with hair that curled overlong at his neck. He had a fencer’s figure, broad-shouldered, narrow at the hips and strong wrists that could control a wayward horse. Or woman. The words dropped into her mind unbidden. But he was clean-shaven and, rather than fine lawn and brocade, he wore a white polo shirt and a pair of washed-soft jeans.

      ‘Who are you?’ she whispered.

      Daisy whimpered softly and he turned away to fondle the spaniel’s ear. ‘Not your ghost, whoever he might be.’ No, he was not a ghost, but his appearance had been every bit as unsettling. She pulled away from him and he stood, helping to her feet.

‘Your horse is straying.’

      ‘He won’t go far.’ But he let go of her hands, gathered the reins and placing his foot in the stirrup rose in one smooth movement to the saddle. High above her now, he extended a hand. ‘Come with me.’

Her heart rolled over as the temptation to do just that, to take his hand and let him pull her up before him, ride away with her, almost overwhelmed her. Where would he take her? She shook her head. This was no time for questions. "Where" didn’t matter. It was an act of faith. Surrender.

In the magic of a golden dawn she would surrendered without a thought but the moment was over. He was a nameless stranger and overcome with embarrassment at what he must be thinking, colour flooded into her cheeks and his mouth curved into a wry smile.

‘Don’t wait too long for your ghost.’

      ‘There are no such things as ghosts.’

      ‘You think?’ He glanced briefly at the house below them and for a moment the world was quite still, then the horse threw up his head, impatient to be off and a second later she had only the sound of hooves pounding along the bridle way to convince her she had not imagined the whole thing.

      She touched her lips. No. She hadn’t imagined the warmth, the potent charge that had caught and held her for that brief moment when he’d kissed her. Flesh and blood he had said. He was certainly that.

      She took the miniature from her pocket and held it in the palm of her hand, trying to ignore the racketing of her heart.The likeness she told herself, her breast rising and falling much too quickly, was superficial. The early morning light and her own stupid flight of fancy had done the rest and returning it to the safety of her pocket she whistled Daisy to her and raced down the path, away from the clearing.

 

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From the book A SUMMER'S LEASE by Liz Fielding

Copyright © 2016 by Liz Fielding