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Heaven Here On Earth

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«Heaven Here On Earth» - Кэрол Мортимер

Carole Mortimer is one of Mills & Boon’s best loved Modern Romance authors. With nearly 200 books published and a career spanning 35 years, Mills & Boon are thrilled to present her complete works available to download for the very first time! Rediscover old favourites – and find new ones! – in this fabulous collection…Enticed by the brooding Lord of the Manor…The loan of her friend's studio should mean three blissful weeks of peace for artist Ryan to sketch and paint. But arriving at Montgomery Hall, she finds she’ll be sharing her stay with her friend’s arrogant and uncompromising brother, Grant!Everything about Grant sends shivers of excitement through Ryan. But his misunderstanding of her situation evokes a response too powerful to ignore. Nothing she can say can convince Grant of her integrity. And resisting the Lord of the manor is more difficult than she thought!
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Heaven Here on Earth Carole Mortimer


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“YOU’LL love it there,’ Mark assured her. ‘I have the most fantastic studio.’

‘Yes, but Yorkshire!’ Ryan grimaced.

He frowned at her, a very good-looking man of twenty-four, with the overlong hair of their contemporaries, clear hazel-coloured eyes, dressed as casually as Ryan in denims and a loose-fitting shirt. ‘I’ll have you know Yorkshire is very beautiful at this time of year.’

‘Beautiful Yorkshire in April!’ she scorned, sitting opposite him in her flat while her flatmate Diana was in the bedroom preparing for her date with him. ‘You just want to get rid of me for a few weeks so that you can pursue Diana without me in the way!’

Mark began to smile, his eyes crinkling at the corners, his teeth very white against his dark skin. ‘How did you guess?’

‘It wasn’t hard!’ She made a face.

He sat forward in his seat. ‘Maybe my reasoning is partly selfish—–’

‘Mainly,’ she substituted firmly.

‘All right, mainly,’ he sighed. ‘But I really do have a great studio. My brother had the whole of the top floor of the house converted for me.’

‘That’s another thing—your family. How will they feel about having a complete stranger foisted on them?’ Ryan frowned, looking younger than her twenty-one years with her long blonde hair and big blue eyes, her face small and heart-shaped. The deceptively youthful appearance hid a strong determination, a determination that had got her through art college against all the odds—that, as much as her talent, had won her a scholarship. It was at college that she had met Mark Montgomery, and while she had no romantic interest in him herself, he had been instantly attracted to her secretary friend and flatmate, Diana. The attraction was reluctantly reciprocated, as Diana doubted Mark’s sincerity.

Ryan and Diana had been brought up in the children’s home together, and both of them were a little wary of romantic relationships, although Diana more so, remembering her own parents and the bitter break-up of their marriage. In a way Ryan was a little luckier, she remembered nothing of her parents—if that could be called lucky!

Mark shrugged dismissively. ‘They won’t think anything of it, I often let friends use the studio. Besides, there’s only Grant and Mandy, my brother and sister. Grant’s always busy on the estate, and Mandy’s only eighteen, so you’d be company for each other. And you don’t have to stay in the main house, there’s a cottage you can use on the estate.’

Ryan knew that Mark came from a wealthy family, that far from having to struggle through like a lot of their fellow-students, he always had plenty of money. The existence of the family estate in Yorkshire had come to light since he had been dating Diana, an incentive for her to trust him, Ryan believed. It had been wasted on Diana, just making her more wary.

‘Besides,’ he added enticingly, ‘you don’t want to pass up the opportunity of seeing a whole room full of Paul Gilbert paintings.’

Her eyes widened, the deep blue of violets, her lashes thick and silky, naturally dark. ‘Your family have a Paul Gilbert collection?’ she gasped; Gilbert was one of her favourite artists, and had been popular for the last fifty years since his death.

‘Better than that,’ Mark said with satisfaction. ‘He was my great-grandfather. Encouragement enough?’

‘If it’s the truth,’ Ryan said sceptically.

‘Oh, it is,’ he told her seriously.

She frowned. ‘Then why haven’t you mentioned him before?’

He grinned, his eyes full of mischief. ‘One doesn’t like to boast.’

‘Doesn’t one?’ she taunted.

‘No,’ he shook his head. ‘Especially when “one” doesn’t have even a tenth of his talent,’ he added seriously.

She raised dark blonde brows.

‘Fishing for compliments, Mark?’ It was an accepted fact that Mark had been the most talented one in the class through the previous college year.

‘No,’ he laughed, dispelling the mood of seriousness. ‘Oh, be a love, Ryan! Three weeks, three lovely weeks, when you can have a studio all to yourself. You’re looking a little pale, the fresh air would put colour in your cheeks—–’

‘All right, all right,’ she interrupted laughingly, ‘I’ll spend the Easter holidays in Yorkshire. But if you do anything to hurt Diana while I’m away,’ she sobered, ‘I’ll have you hanged, drawn, and quartered! Understood?’

‘Understood,’ he nodded happily.

And so it was that two weeks later Ryan found herself on a train bound for Yorkshire, her case in one hand, her empty canvases in the other.

As the train neared the station for Sleaton her trepidation grew. Mark swore he had made all the arrangements, that he had told his family she would be arriving today, that his brother and sister didn’t mind her visit in the least. But Mark wasn’t known for his reliability. What if she should arrive at Montgomery Hall only to be turned away?

Montgomery Hall—just the name of it was enough to make her feel nervous, and it wasn’t an emotion she usually admitted to. But Mark’s family sounded a little out of her league, despite Mark’s claim of how hard his brother worked on the estate, and how glad of her company Mandy would be.

Yes, Montgomery Hall sounded very daunting. And what would the Montgomerys make of Ryan Shelton?

She was wearing her newest denims, the ones with no paint splashed over them, and a light blue fluffy jumper that hugged her body and just touched the top of her denims, riding up a little if she should raise her arms. Despite it being April, and the sun shining brightly in a blue sky, there was a nip in the air, and although the jumper had shrunk a little in the wash, it was a pretty colour, and made her hair look like gold. It also emphasised the dark blue of her eyes.

The train drew slowly into the station of Sleaton, and she stepped down on to the platform, dragging her case off behind her, scratching it in the process. Not that it mattered, the case was battered enough already.

A couple of other people got off the train too, although they seemed surer of their destination, hurrying from the platform to disappear from the station building.

After dragging her case and canvases through the busy London station, with no chance of getting a porter, and Mark conveniently unavailable until the last minute, she had had no choice. But as the only person on this tiny station platform she should have been able to get help with her luggage now.

An old man leant on a broom a short distance away, bent over with age, looking as if he would fall down if someone were to remove the broom.

Ryan staggered over to him. ‘Is there a porter?’ she enquired politely.

‘Yes,’ he nodded, looking at her over the top of his gold-rimmed glasses, his hair and moustache a light grey colour.

She bit her tongue to stop her sharp retort. ‘Could you tell me where he is, please?’ She kept her voice light.

‘I’m the porter, miss,’ he told her in an important voice, as if daring her to challenge his claim.

She wouldn’t dare! ‘Would you mind carrying my case?’ she persisted brightly.

He looked down at the battered brown case at her feet. ‘It looks on the heavy side.’

‘It is,’ she nodded.

‘I’ve got a bad back, you know,’ he began to shake his head. ‘The doctor told me to lay off heavy lifting.’

Again Ryan bit her tongue, deciding silence would be better than any criticism she would care to make about a porter who couldn’t lift heavy objects. By the look of Sleaton it was a small community, and this man could be related to half the population! Upsetting the village people would be a great start with the Montgomery family.

She gave a resigned shrug and moved to the lady taking the tickets. She looked as if she could be the porter’s wife!

‘You mustn’t mind Jack,’ the woman confided. ‘He retires next month.’

Not before time, by the look of him! And that didn’t exactly help her now. She could see she would have to become used to a slower and less efficient way of life the next few weeks.

Still, as Mark had claimed, Yorkshire was looking very beautiful; the gorse was in full bloom, everywhere a deep rich green after the early April showers. Flowers were in bloom along the neat garden at the side of the station—although Ryan doubted if Jack kept it in that neat state. Too much bending!

She thought of the next three weeks, three weeks of peace and quiet, three weeks of sketching and painting as much as she wanted to. Heaven on earth!

Once she got outside the station she looked around for possible transport to Montgomery Hall. There wasn’t any! She doubted this sleepy little village, with its homes all grey-brick thatched cottages, sported a local taxi. And Mark didn’t seem to have taken into account the fact that she had to get from the station to the house. The idea of a holiday in this remote part of Yorkshire suddenly began to lose its magic, the white-painted cottage that had the look of a picture-postcard beauty seeming perhaps too much of a drastic change from London. Well, it was too late to change her mind now!

She went back to the ticket-collector, who also seemed to double as the ticket-seller!

‘Going straight back, are you, love?’ she quipped. ‘The shortest stay on record,’ she smiled at her own joke. ‘We usually keep our visitors a little longer.

Ryan smiled back, beginning to feel weary now. ‘I was wondering if there’s a local taxi …?’ She hardly dared voice the question.

The woman frowned. ‘Bert Jenkins from the village used to do a bit of driving, but he’s got a funny leg.’

‘Funny leg …?’ Ryan returned resignedly, beginning to think the whole village had one medical complaint or another.

‘Arthritis, I think,’ the woman nodded.

‘So there’s no taxi?’

‘Not any more.’ The woman shook her head.

Ryan pursed her lips and straightened her shoulders determinedly. ‘In that case, could you direct me to Montgomery Hall?’

The woman’s interest deepened. ‘Friend of the family, are you?’

‘Er—yes.’ She was taken aback at this open questioning, being used to the surliness of London transport workers.

‘Would you be the friend of Mr Mark’s they’re expecting?’

Her eyes widened even more. ‘Er—yes, I would. How did you know?’

The woman laughed. ‘Not much is a secret in Sleaton! Besides, my sister-in-law helps out in the house.’

‘I see,’ Ryan nodded. ‘The directions?’ she prompted.

‘Oh—of course.’ The woman looked disappointed that she didn’t want to stay and chat. ‘Turn right out of the station, it’s about three miles down that road—–’

‘Three miles?’

‘Mm,’ the woman nodded. ‘You can’t miss it. A big old manor house on the right-hand side of the road, set behind high iron gates.’

Ryan thanked the woman and moved off a little way down the road. Three miles! She couldn’t remember the last time she had walked that far—and certainly not with a heavy case and half a dozen canvases.

It looked a very long winding road, with a stone wall either side, the same grey stone the cottages and farmhouses were built from, and she began to see several of the latter as she walked along, the occasional dog barking in the distance, lambs bleating to their mothers in the fields. Ryan had never seen so many sheep in her life, they seemed to be everywhere, and most of the ewes were accompanied by one or two young frisky lambs. Spring was a beautiful time, a time of new beginnings, when all the world seemed fresh and new. Maybe it would be a new beginning for her too?

It was over a month since she and Alan had decided they weren’t suited, and yet she still hadn’t been able to accept the fact that he was gone from her life. Her break-up with him was partly the reason she had been so easy to persuade to come here, although after the first mile or so she was beginning to more than regret the decision. With no obvious public transport and no car of her own, she was going to be very tied to Montgomery Hall for the duration of her stay here.

In that moment she forgot all about how tired she was, and how much her legs ached, as a huge dog suddenly bounded down the road towards her! It looked enormous, a dirty grey and white colour, and Ryan looked around desperately for somewhere to hide. There wasn’t anywhere, and she held her case and canvases protectively in front of her. So much for the pleasure of the countryside; she was going to be attacked by a wild dog now!

But instead of attacking her the dog put its front paws on her thighs, looking up at her expectantly, its tongue hanging out, its stumpy tail wagging in a friendly manner.

‘Why, you’re just a big softie!’ Ryan went down on her haunches beside the dog, roughly patting its neck. He didn’t have a collar on, she ascertained that much. She also realised that his fur was all matted, besides being dirty, as if he hadn’t had a good brush in weeks. In fact he looked neglected altogether. ‘Where’s your owner, boy?’ She looked about them for an angry farmer demanding she leave his dog alone, but all she saw were the inevitable sheep in the neighbouring fields. ‘Are you lost then, hmm?’ she allowed the dog to jump over her excitedly. ‘I think you are,’ she nodded, standing up to brush down her denims, the dog’s dirty paws having put dusty marks all over them. ‘Maybe we’ll find him on the way,’ she reassured the bright-eyed animal as he gazed up at her adoringly. ‘You walk along with me. I could do with the company anyway,’ she added ruefully.

The dog needed no second bidding, but trotted along happily at her heels. Just having him along with her lightened her own mood, the sun suddenly seemed brighter, the birds sang happily in the trees.

She glanced down at the dog occasionally, realising that underneath all that dust he was probably an Old English Sheepdog. It seemed a shame that someone had let him get into this state. A good wash and brush-up and he would be a beautiful dog. And he had a lovely friendly nature, occasionally running off to chase an unsuspecting butterfly, coming back to her side quite happily once the creature flew out of his reach.

He was still at her side when a Land Rover appeared on the road behind her, the first vehicle to pass down the road either way.

‘Careful, Ragtag,’ she soothed as the dog began to growl at the approaching vehicle. ‘Mm, it suits you,’ she said ruefully as she realised the name she had unwittingly given him. ‘Now behave,’ she warned. ‘And if we’re lucky we may get a lift the rest of the way. I’m already beginning to fear for my sanity—this is the first time I’ve had a conversation with a dog!’

The Land Rover went straight past her, giving her a brief glimpse of the man behind the wheel, the peaked cap he wore concealing his face. The vehicle suddenly came to a halt a few yards past her.

She ran eagerly to the passenger side, and the man in the driving-seat leaned over to wind down the window.

‘Like a lift?’ he offered; he was a man probably in his early thirties, with hair as blond as her own, with warm blue eyes, very attractive in an outdoor sort of way. ‘Don’t worry,’ he smiled at her hesitation, ‘I’m the local vet, so if I attacked you the whole area would know about it in ten minutes!’

She laughed, instantly liking him. ‘I’m going to Montgomery Hall—–’

‘Mark’s friend,’ he nodded, already climbing out from behind the wheel.

Ryan followed him to the back of the vehicle, watching as he opened the double doors. ‘Does everyone in Sleaton know I’m coming here?’ she asked with a sigh, handing him her suitcase. ‘No, I’ll keep the canvases,’ she clung to them.

He smiled. ‘Okay. And the answer to your question is yes. There isn’t much that’s a secret in a place this size. I’m surprised Grant didn’t send someone to pick you up,’ he frowned.

Ryan grimaced. ‘Well, I thought that was because Mark had forgotten to tell them that I was coming, but that’s been firmly ruled out.’

‘Not necessarily,’ he shook his head. ‘He could have forgotten to tell them when you were arriving.’

‘That sounds like Mark,’ she nodded.

‘Yes,’ the young vet laughed. ‘My name’s Peter Thornby, by the way.’

‘Ryan Shelton,’ she introduced herself.

‘Nice to meet you,’ he shook her hand. ‘Where’s your dog gone? I thought he could go in the back with your suitcase, I have a wire mesh up.’

Ryan looked down in surprise. Ragtag seemed to have disappeared! She frowned, looking up and down the road. He had gone. She felt strangely alone again.

‘He wasn’t my dog actually,’ she explained huskily, already missing him. She had never had a dog make friends with her before, and the liking had been mutual. ‘He just followed me. You haven’t seen him before?’ As the local vet he might have come across Ragtag in his work.

Peter Thornby shook his head. ‘I didn’t get a good look at him, but I don’t think I’ve had him as a patient. Still, that isn’t surprising, he could be living wild. He didn’t look very old.’

Ryan climbed into the Land Rover beside him, still looking out of the side-window for Ragtag. He couldn’t have disappeared so completely. It was pretty open countryside, with a few odd trees, masses and masses of gorse bushes, an occasional wall to divide the fields, certainly nowhere a dog of Ragtag’s size could really hide. And yet he had gone.

Peter Thornby started up the engine. ‘I shouldn’t worry about it, Ryan. He could turn up again, but then again, he’s survived this long on his own, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to do so.’

She knew he was right, and yet she couldn’t help missing the friendly dog. She hoped that, as Peter Thornby said, he would continue to be able to take care of himself.

She shook off her despondency with effort and turned to look at the man at her side. He was dressed in a dark green anorak and old brown corduroys, his feet thrust into Wellington boots, the bottoms of his trousers tucked inside them.

‘Do you live locally?’ Ryan asked conversationally.

‘About five miles away.’ He drove the large vehicle confidently down the narrow lane. ‘I have a large area to cover,’ he smiled.

‘Is it far to Montgomery Hall?’

‘About another half mile. Why didn’t you call Grant from the station?’ he frowned. ‘I’m sure he would have sent a car for you.’

Ryan grimaced. ‘I don’t even know him, I thought it seemed a bit of a cheek. I tried to get a taxi, but—–’

‘Bert’s leg is playing him up.’

Her eyes widened. ‘How did you know?’

Peter spluttered with laughter. ‘He’s used the same excuse for the last twenty years.’

She smiled too. ‘How does he make a living?’

Peter shrugged. ‘I have no idea, but he manages somehow. And if he gets a bit short of cash his leg is miraculously better for a couple of weeks. Once you’ve been in Sleaton a few days you’ll realise it’s full of characters like Bert Jenkins.’

‘And Jack the porter,’ she joined in his teasing.

‘Right,’ he nodded with a grin. ‘He’s got a bad back, you know,’ he told her in a derisive voice.

‘So have I now!’

‘How do you like Sleaton so far?’ he quirked a mocking eyebrow.

Ryan gave a laugh of enjoyment. ‘Strangely enough, very much.’

‘Me too. I even came back here after completing my training.’ He brought the Land Rover to a halt and turned with his arm along the back of her seat. ‘Well, here we are.’

‘We are?’ She looked over to the right-hand side of the road. Montgomery Hall was indeed behind ‘huge iron gates’, as the woman at the station had told her; it was also surrounded by a ten-foot wall!

She couldn’t help her gasp of surprise, as her gaze passed on to the house itself, a big Georgian manor house about half a mile from the gate down a gravel driveway, neatly laid lawns and trees fronting the house, with a gardener busy working on the numerous flower-beds.

Peter was watching her reaction. ‘Impressive, isn’t it?’

What an understatement! ‘Very,’ she gulped.

‘It’s just as beautiful inside,’ he told her. ‘I wish I had the time to drive you down to the house, but I was called out to a sick cow over half an hour ago …’

‘You’ve been very kind already.’ Ryan got down from the Land Rover and came round to get her case from the back. ‘Thank you,’ she smiled up at him.

He nodded. ‘My pleasure. No doubt I’ll see you again soon. And if you do happen to see that dog again perhaps you could bring him to my surgery? I usually call in at Sleaton Monday and Friday evenings.’

She frowned. ‘You don’t think there’s anything wrong with him?’

‘Not at all,’ he answered instantly. ‘But I doubt if it would do any harm to have him examined.’

‘I’ll bring him if I see him.’ She somehow felt a responsibility to the stray dog.

‘Fine,’ he smiled. ‘Give my regards to Grant and Mandy.’

Ryan turned to look at the house once again when Peter had driven off. She had been right to suppose it was a big house, only it was all more, much more, than she had imagined. She only hoped Mandy and Grant Montgomery proved to be as nice as Mark.

She felt something wet nuzzling her hand, and looked down to see Ragtag. Her face lit up with pleasure, and she bent down to him. ‘Where did you go?’ She cuddled him, regardless of his dirty coat. ‘I thought you’d gone for good! But I’m glad you haven’t—I was beginning to feel like Maria in The Sound of Music, standing out here looking up at the house. Still,’ she stood up, ‘at least there aren’t seven children in there—I hope!’ she grimaced.

It took all her strength to open the gate, and she made no objection when the dog followed her. She liked his company. Besides, he gave her confidence.

The gardener gave her a curious look as she walked down the driveway, and she suddenly realised what a mess she must look. She was covered in dust from cuddling Ragtag, her hair was windswept, and her case even more disreputable after being in the back of Peter Thornby’s Land Rover. It looked as if he often carried animals in there. She shrugged resignedly; there was nothing she could do about her appearance now.

‘You’ll have to stay outside,’ she instructed the dog as she rang the doorbell. ‘I just have to pick up the key to the cottage. I think one Ragtag going inside is enough,’ she added ruefully.

The butler didn’t even blink an eyelid when she told him who she was. ‘Miss Amanda is in the drawing-room,’ he told her stiffly.

Thank goodness she was staying in a cottage on the estate—far away from the main house, she hoped. She was used to doing what she wanted, when she wanted. It must be strange having a houseful of servants.

‘Stay, Ragtag,’ she instructed as he sat down on the top step. ‘I shouldn’t be long,’ she added hopefully, leaving her luggage in the hallway before following the butler through to the drawing-room. At least she was going to meet the Montgomerys one at a time!

It was a very long room, almost running the entire length of the house, and the whole room had an air of comfortable elegance; one end was obviously the sitting area, the suite having an unobtrusive floral pattern, the curtains at the long windows matching the pattern exactly.

Huge double doors were opened into the garden at the other end of the informal room, and it was the girl seated behind the piano who held Ryan’s attention. She couldn’t be any other than Mark’s sister; she had his rich dark hair, kept short and boyish, her eyes, as she stared sightlessly into the garden, were the same hazel colour. She was a pretty girl, extremely so, and her pale lilac dress suited her dark colouring.

The butler coughed rather pointedly, and although the girl’s shoulders stiffened slightly she made no effort to stop playing, her fingers flowing fluidly over the piano keys. Ryan had no sense of music, modern or old, but she thought this playing was probably good.

Suddenly the girl crashed all ten fingers down on to the keys and turned to face them, her eyes flashing. ‘What is it, Shelley?’ she snapped in a haughty voice, totally ignoring Ryan as she stood beside him.

The butler appeared unperturbed by her abruptness. ‘Miss Ryan Shelton,’ he announced.

Cool hazel eyes were turned on Ryan, who withstood the appraisal very well in the circumstances. This girl was very insolent, nothing at all like the easygoing Mark.

‘Thank you, Shelley,’ she said dismissively, not even looking at him. ‘You may go.’ She stood up, a tall girl; her lilac dress was very elegantly styled, her legs long and shapely, the heels high on her matching sandals. ‘So you’re Ryan Shelton,’ she mused slowly. ‘My brother’s little friend from college.’

Ryan bit her lip, not taking to Amanda Montgomery at all. She only hoped first impressions were wrong! ‘Mark and I are at college together, yes,’ she answered calmly, feeling her untidiness more against this young girl’s sophistication. She looked much older than the eighteen Mark had said she was! As for the two of them being company for each other—the only thing they had in common was their youth!

‘My name’s Mandy.’ The other girl began to thaw a little, humour lightening her eyes. ‘You aren’t what Grant was expecting at all,’ she commented.

‘No?’ Ryan frowned.

‘No. You see, he—–’ Mandy broke off as a man strode into the room, a man who instantly held Ryan’s attention.

He had to be Grant Montgomery, that much was obvious once again by his dark colouring, but that was where all similarity to Mark ended! This man was incredibly tall, well over six feet, with the powerful physique of an athlete, his shoulders wide, a flat hardened stomach, muscular thighs and long legs all shown to advantage in the checked working shirt and close-fitting faded denims.

But it was his face that held her attention. It wasn’t just that he was so much older than she had expected, at least ten years Mark’s senior, it was also that he was so incredibly good-looking, in a harsh way. His hair grew long and dark over his ears and collar, his face was tanned a dark teak colour from the wind and sunshine he worked in, his eyes were the colour of emeralds, the nose long and hawkish, the top lip of the firmly compressed mouth thin and uncompromising, the lower lip fuller, sensually so. His jaw was firm and strong, the top two buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned to reveal an equally tanned chest.

Those green eyes flickered over her with a keen intelligence, his brows lifting slightly in surprise. ‘I didn’t know you had a friend coming over this afternoon, Mandy.’ His voice was deep and gravelly, sending shivers of awareness down Ryan’s spine.

His sister’s mouth twisted. ‘I haven’t.’

The green eyes narrowed now. ‘Then who—–’

‘Ryan Shelton,’ Mandy supplied with obvious relish.

He drew in an angry breath. ‘Another of Mark’s little jokes, I take it?’ he rasped, his voice no longer pleasurable to listen to in his displeasure.

Ryan listened to the exchange between brother and sister with a sinking heart. It didn’t sound as if she was exactly welcome here! And Mark had sworn he had arranged everything! She should have known. She would kill him when she got back to—–

‘Please excuse us, Miss Shelton,’ Grant Montgomery spoke to her directly now. ‘When Mark informed us of your visit he omitted one thing.’

At least it was only one!

‘The fact that you’re a girl,’ Grant finished in a derisive voice.

Ryan swallowed hard, as the sinking feeling returned. ‘He did?’ she grimaced. What did it mean? Wasn’t she welcome if she was a girl?

‘Yes,’ Grant Montgomery bit out, his eyes icy now, derogative as he looked her up and down. ‘He merely said it would be a friend called Ryan.’

‘Does it make a difference?’ She chewed on her bottom lip.

‘To your visit here? No,’ he shrugged dismissively. ‘Although I’m a little surprised at your interest in art.’

‘Interest?’ she echoed sharply. ‘It’s more than an interest, it’s my career,’ she defended, sensing his criticism.

‘Oh yes?’ he scorned. ‘And what do you intend doing with it?’

‘Well, I—–’

‘Because unless you have an exceptional talent,’ which his tone seemed to imply he doubted, ‘or intend going into advertising or teaching, art is a complete waste of time, especially for a woman.’

Ryan flushed. ‘Maybe I have an exceptional talent,’ she snapped, her chin at a challenging angle.

‘Maybe,’ Grant Montgomery drawled. ‘And now you have the use of an exceptional studio. But not of the cottage, I’m afraid,’ he added with a frown.

‘No?’ She tried to remain calm in the face of what looked like being a wasted journey. Even supposing Grant Montgomery did let her have the use of the studio, she doubted if the village had a hotel. If it didn’t have a taxi it was highly unlikely to have a hotel!

‘No. You see—–’ He broke off as a strange noise sounded through the house. ‘What the hell—–!’ He strode off through the open patio doors to the back of the house where the noise appeared to be coming from.

Ryan followed more slowly. She already knew what the strange noise was. Ragtag howling. …


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