‘WHAT’S got Miles’ knickers in twist?’ Natasha Gordon poured herself
half a cup of coffee. Her first appointment at been at eight and she’d
been on the run ever since. She had to grab any opportunity to top up
her caffeine level. ‘I was on my way to a viewing at the St John’s Wood
flat when I got a message to drop everything and come straight back
Janine, Morgan and Black’s receptionist and always the first with any
rumour, lifted her slender, cashmere-clad shoulders in a don’t-ask-me
shrug. ‘If that’s what he said, you’d better not keep him waiting,’ she
said but, shrug notwithstanding, the ghost of an
I-know-something-you-don’t smile tugged at lips on which the lipstick
was always perfectly applied.
Tash abandoned the untouched coffee and headed for the stairs, taking
them two at a time. Miles Morgan, senior partner of Morgan and Black,
first port of call for the wealthy flooding into London from all corners
of the world to snap up high end real estate, had been dropping heavy
hints for weeks that the vacant “associate” position was hers.
Damn right. She’d worked her socks off for the last three years and had
earned that position with hard work and long hours and Janine, who liked
everyone to know how “in” she was with the boss, had casually let slip
the news on Friday afternoon that he would be spending the weekend in
the country with the semi-retired “Black” to discuss the future of the
‘Down pulse, down,’ she muttered, pausing outside his office to scoop up
a wayward handful of hair and anchor it in place with great-grandma’s
She always started out the day looking like a career-woman on the up,
but haring about London all morning had left her more than little
dishevelled and things had begun to unravel. Her hair, her make-up, her
She tucked in her shirt and was checking the top button when the door
‘Janine! Is she here yet?’ Miles shouted before he realised she was
standing in front him. ‘Where the hell have you been?’
‘I had a viewing at the Chelsea house first thing,’ she said, used to
his short fuse. ‘They played it very close to their chests, but the
wife’s eyes were lit up like Blackpool illuminations. I guarantee
they’ll make an offer before the end of the day.’
The prospect of a high five figure commission would normally be enough
to change his mood but he merely grunted and the sparkle of anticipation
went flat. Whatever Janine had been smiling about, it wasn’t the
prospect of the office party Miles would throw to celebrate the
appointment of new associate.
‘It’s been non-stop since then,’ she added, and it wasn’t going to ease
up this side of six. Is this urgent, Miles? I’m showing Glencora Jarrett
the St John’s Wood apartment in half an hour and the traffic is solid.’
‘You can forget that. I’ve sent Toby.’
‘Toby?’ Her occasionally significant other had been on a rugby tour in
Australia and wasn’t due home until the end of the month. She shook her
head. It wasn’t important but Lady Glen… ‘No, she specifically asked—’
‘For you. I know, but a viewing isn’t a social engagement,’ he cut in
before she could remind him that Lady Glencora was desperately nervous
and would not go into an unoccupied apartment with a male negotiator.
‘Forget her ladyship,’ he said, thrusting the latest edition of the
Country Chronicle into her hands, cutting her off. ‘Take a look at
The magazine was open at the full page advertisement for Hadley Chase,
an historic country house that had just come on the market.
‘Oh, that came out really well…’ A low mist, caught by the rising sun
had lent the house a golden, soft-focus enchantment that hid its many
shortcomings. Well worth the effort of getting up at the crack of dawn
and driving into the depths of Berkshire on the one day in the week that
she could have had a lie in. ‘The phone will be ringing off the hook,’
she said, offering it back to him.
‘Read on,’ he said, not taking it.
‘I know what it says, Miles. I wrote it.’ The once grand house was
suffering from age and neglect and she’d focussed on the beauty and
convenience of the location to tempt potential buyers to come and take a
look. ‘You approved it,’ she reminded him.
‘I didn’t approve this.’
She frowned. Irritable might be his default mode but even for Miles,
this seemed excessive. Had some ghastly mistake slipped past them both?
It happened, but this was an expensive full page colour ad, and she’d
gone over the proof with a fine tooth comb. Confident that nothing could
have gone wrong, she read out her carefully composed copy.
‘“A substantial seventeenth century manor house in a sought after
location on the Berkshire Downs within easy reach of motorway links to
London, the Midlands and the West. That’s the good news. The bad
news...”’ She faltered. Bad news? What the…?
‘Don’t stop now.’
The words were spoken with a clear, crisp, don’t-argue-with-me
certainty, but not by her boss and she spun around as the owner of the
voice rose from the high-backed leather armchair set in front of Miles
Morgan’s desk and turned to face her
Her first impression was of darkness. Dark hair, dark clothes, dark eyes
in a mesmerising face that missed beauty by a hair’s breadth, although a
smile might have done the business.
The second was of strength. There was no bulk, but his shoulders were
wide beneath a crumpled linen jacket so old that the black had faded to
grey, his abdomen slate-flat under a t-shirt that hung loosely over
His hand was resting on the back of the chair, long calloused fingers
curled over the leather. They were the kind of fingers that she could
imagine doing unspeakable things to her. Was imagining…
She looked up and met eyes that seemed to penetrate every crevice, every
pore and a hot blush, beginning somewhere low in her belly spread like
wildfire in every direction—
Miles’ sharp interjection jolted her back to the page but it was a
moment before she could catch her breath, gather her wits and focus on
the words dancing in front of her.
“…the bad news is the wet rot, woodworm, crumbling plasterwork and
leaking roof. The vendor would, no doubt, have preferred to demolish the
house and redevelop the land, but it’s a Grade II listed building in the
heart of the Green Belt so he’s stuffed. There is a fine oak Tudor
staircase but bearing in mind the earlier reference to wet rot and
woodworm, an early viewing is advised if you want to see the upper
Her heart still pounding with the shock of a sexual attraction so
powerful that she was trembling, she had to read it twice before it sank
in. And when they did her pulse was still in a sorry state.
‘I don’t understand,’ she said then, realising how feeble that sounded,
‘How did this happen?’
Her question had been directed at Miles, but the response came from Mr
Tall, Dark and Deadly. Who was he?
‘Hadley,’ he said, apparently reading her mind. Or maybe she’d asked the
question out loud. She needed to get a grip. She needed an ice bath…
She cleared her throat. ‘Hadley?’ His name still emerged as if spoken by
a surprised frog, but that wasn’t simply because all her blood had
apparently drained from her brain to the more excitable parts of her
anatomy. The house was unoccupied and the sale was being handled by the
estate’s executors and since no one had mentioned a real life, flesh and
blood Hadley, she’d assumed the line had run dry.
‘Darius Hadley,’ he elaborated, clearly picking up on her doubt.
In her career she’d worked with everyone from young first time buyers
scraping together a deposit, to billionaires investing in London
apartments and town houses costing millions. She knew that appearances
could be deceptive but Darius Hadley did not have the look of a man
whose family had been living in the Chase since the seventeenth century,
when a grateful Charles II had given the estate to one James Hadley, a
rich merchant who’d funded him in exile.
With the glint of a single gold earring amongst the mass of black curls
tumbling over his collar, the crumpled linen jacket faded from black to
grey, jeans worn threadbare at the knees, he looked more like a gypsy,
or a pirate. Perhaps that’s where the Hadley fortune had come from —
plundering the Spanish Main with the likes of Drake. Or, with the legacy
now in hands of a man bearing the name of a Persian king, it was
possible that his ancestors had chosen to travel east overland, to trade
in silk and spices.
This man certainly had the arrogance to go with his name but, unlike his
forebears, it seemed that he had no interest in settling down to live
the life of a country gentleman. Not that she blamed him for that.
Hadley Chase, with roses growing over its timbered Tudor heart, might
look romantic in the misty haze of an early summer sunrise, but it was
going to take a lot of time and a very deep purse to bring it up to
modern expectations in plumbing, heating and weatherproofing. There was
nothing romantic about nineteen-fifties plumbing and, from the neglected
state of both house and grounds, it was evident that the fortune needed
to maintain it was long gone.
On the bright side, even in these cash-strapped days, there were any
number of sheikhs, pop stars and Russian oligarchs looking for the
privacy of a country estate no more than a helicopter hop from the
centre of London and she was looking forward to adding the Chase to her
portfolio of sales in the very near future. She had big plans for the
Miles cleared his throat and she belatedly stuck out her hand.
‘Natasha Gordon. How d’you do, Mr Hadley?’
‘I’ve been stuffed, mounted and hung out to dry,’ he replied. ‘How do
you think I feel?’ he replied, ignoring her hand.
‘Angry.’ He had every right to be angry. Hell, she was furious with
whoever had meddled with her carefully worded description and they would
feel the wrath of her tongue when she found out who it was, but that
would have to wait. Right now she had to get a grip of her hormones, be
totally professional and reassure him that this wasn’t the disaster it
appeared. ‘I don’t know what happened here, Mr Hadley, but I promise you
it’s just a minor setback.’
‘A minor setback?’ Glittering eyes — forget charcoal, they were jet —
skewered her to the floor and Tash felt the heat rise up her neck and
flood her cheeks. She was blushing. He’d made her blush with just a
look. That was outrageous… ‘A minor setback?’ he repeated, with
the very slightest emphasis on “minor”.
His self-control was impressive.
Okaaay… She unpeeled her tongue from the roof of her mouth, snatched in
a little oxygen to get her brain started and said, ‘Serious purchasers
understand that there will be problems with this type of property, Mr
‘They expect to be able to view the upper floors without endangering
their lives,’ he pointed out. He hadn’t raised his voice, he didn’t have
to. He’d made his point with a quiet, razor-edged precision that made
Miles’ full blown irritation look like a toddler tantrum.
‘Natasha!’ Miles prompted, more sharply this time. ‘Have you got
something to say to Mr Hadley?’
‘What?’ She dragged her gaze from the seductive curve of Darius Hadley’s
lower lip and fixed it somewhere around his prominent Adam’s apple which
only sent her mind off on another, even more disturbing direction
Do not look at his feet!
‘Oh, um, yes…’ She’d tried desperately to get her brain in gear, recall
the notes she’d made, as she stared at scuffed work boots, jeans smeared
with what looked like dry grey mud and clinging to powerful thighs. He’d
obviously dropped whatever he was doing and come straight to the office
when he’d seen the ad. Did he work on a building site? ‘Actually,’ she
said, ‘there’s more than one set of stairs so it isn’t a problem.’
‘And that’s your professional opinion?’
‘Not that I recall there being anything wrong with the main staircase
that a thorough seeing to with a vacuum cleaner wouldn’t fix,’ she
added, hurriedly when Miles sounded as if he might be choking. Come on,
Tash… This is what you do. ‘I did advise the solicitor handling the sale
that they should get in a cleaning contractor to give the place a good
A muscle tightened in his jaw. ‘And what was their response to that?’
‘They said they’d get the caretaker to give it a once over.’
Some property owners did nothing to help themselves, but this probably
wasn’t the moment to say so.
‘So it’s just the woodworm, rot and missing lead flashing on the roof
that a potential buyer has to worry about?’ Darius Hadley raised his
dark brows a fraction of millimetre and every cell in her body followed
as he’d jerked a string.
Amongst a jangle of mixed messages — her head urging her to take a step
back, every other part of her wanting to reach out and touch — she just
about managed to stand her ground.
‘Actually,’ she said, ‘according to the paperwork, the woodworm was
treated years ago.’ Something he would have known if he’d taken the
slightest interest in the house he’d apparently inherited. ‘I think
you’ll find that it’s the cobwebs that will have women running
Behind Hadley’s back, Miles made a sharp, mouth-zipped gesture. ‘Mr
Hadley isn’t looking for excuses. What he’s waiting for,’ he said, ‘what
he’s entitled to, is an explanation and an apology.’
She frowned. Surely Miles had already covered that ground? She assumed
she’d been called in to discuss a plan of action?
‘Don’t bother, I’ve heard enough,’ Hadley said, before she could get in
a word. ‘You’ll be hearing from my lawyer, Morgan.’
‘Lawyer?’ What use was a lawyer going to be? ‘No, really—’
Darius Hadley cut off her protest with a look that froze her in
mid-sentence and seemed to go for an eternity. Lethal eyes, a nose bred
for looking down, a mouth made for sin… Finally, satisfied that he’d
silenced her, his eyes seemed to shimmer, soften, warm to smoky charcoal
and then, as she took half a step towards him, he nodded at Miles and
walked out of the office leaving the room ringing with his presence.
Leaving her weak to the bone.
She put out a hand to grasp the back of the chair he’d been sitting in.
It was still warm from his touch and the heat seemed to travel up her
arm and spread through her limbs, creating little sparks throughout her
body, igniting all the erogenous zones she was familiar with and quite a
few that were entirely new.
Whew. Double whewy whew…
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From the book
FOR HIS EYES
ONLY by Liz Fielding
Text Copyright © 2014
by Liz Fielding
Cover Art Copyright ©
2014 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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