In a seductively beautiful seventeenth-century chateau in the South of France, a young woman torn between two men discovers that the luxurious rooms conceal a host of secrets.
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Charmaine Pauls, romance author
In a seductively beautiful seventeenth-century chateau in the South of France, the elegant rooms conceal a host of secrets. When Marlien Marais arrives in picturesque Castries to claim her family estate, she slowly uncovers this web of deception that lifts the veil on her past, and changes her future forever. Shimmering with romance, intrigue, and the elegance that only the French can fashion, Charmaine Pauls’ dazzling Between Yesterday and Tomorrow creates a tale of resplendent love—with a thoroughly French twist.
A graphic designer who was raised by her father on a farm in South Africa, Marlien leaves home for Bon Soleil, the luxurious estate of her French grandmother, May de la Croix. She finds herself enmeshed in connections that hark back to days well before her birth, as she seeks an understanding of her long absent mother.
From the moment she lands at the lavish estate, Marlien meets a cast of characters who alternately confound, cajole, and coax her into a new French life. Yves, her grandmother’s husband, strives to buy her property, and see her off of it. Jean-Christophe Fontaine, a young veterinarian, aims to capture her heart, which is grieving from the mysterious loss of her fiancé, Paul van Wyk. The estate manager Vincent Leclerc and his son David, who possesses supernatural gifts, extend a familial embrace. Marie-Helene, the taciturn family caretaker, dangles innuendo on the family past, but leaves Marlien hopelessly in the dark. Soon, curious events compel Marlien to come to terms with the guilt and longing that she has deeply buried, and is forced to choose between the man in her present and the man of her past.
In her epic journey of self-discovery, Marlien must face the past in order to make way for the future. Worldly, sophisticated, and steeped in mystery, Between Yesterday and Tomorrow weaves an elegant, old-world tapestry that is rich in metaphor and emotion. It’s certain to satisfy anyone seeking a transporting story of beauty and heart.
Excerpt 1 (Chapter 1)
I changed into dry clothes before meeting Yves in the big, handsome room that served as his office when he worked from home. He was pouring himself a whiskey. “Apéritif?”
“No thanks. We need to talk,” I echoed his earlier words, sitting down on the leather sofa facing his desk.
He took the swivel chair behind the desk. “So we do. I don’t usually engage in small talk, so let’s get down to business. Your grandmother left the estate to you, the business to me. I want to make you a proposition.”
“Why did my grandmother leave the estate to me, when she…you…didn’t want to have contact with me and my father?”
His gaze was steady as he took a sip of his drink. “Your grandmother had her reasons. That’s the past. I prefer to focus on the present dilemma.”
“The fact that I now legally own the estate?”
“Precisely. I take it you know nothing about running an estate of this size or nature. It takes a lot of money to keep a place like this, which I assume you don’t have. I want to buy you out.”
“You want to buy the estate from me?”
“Yes. I’ll offer you the market value. That way you will have a handsome investment and I can continue my life. It’s a win-win situation. Do you have any idea how much this property is worth?”
“You didn’t do your homework.” He got me and he knew it, giving me a victorious smile.
“I hardly thought about figures when I learned about my grandmother’s death.”
“You should have. It will take two months for the legal transfer of the property into your name, maybe three if the notary is slow. After that, you will have to start covering the bills. Water, electricity, property tax, salaries, maintenance, insurance, telephone, and internet bills, food, living commodities. Get my drift?”
“I do.” I was out of my depth. We both knew it.
“I’ll give you two months to consider my proposal. If you’re wise and you accept, you will walk away with a handsome amount of money. If not, you will be forced to sell sooner or later, when the bills that you can’t cover start mounting up. I’m not even talking about the complexities of opening a bank account. Places like this don’t sell very well anymore. No one can afford to keep them. They sell for far less than what they are actually worth, if they eventually sell, but it can take months, even years. Long before then, you’ll probably be declared bankrupt, and the state will take possession of the property. Thus, the only option available to you is to sell the property to me.”
I wanted to buy time to find out more about my estranged grandmother and mother, but I knew what he had said was true. Yet, I kept a poker face. “I’m not for sale.”
“Everyone is. Sooner or later.”
“I want to know more about my grandmother and my mother.” I hoped that it sounded like a proposal.
“You’ve come to the wrong place. You’re wasting your time.”
“When I was old enough to understand that other children had mothers, the fact that mine had left me used to bother me a lot. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t long for my mother. I want to know why she left us. I want to know what happened that my grandmother didn’t want to know me. And why leave her estate to me if she didn’t want me to be a part of her life?”
“As I’ve said, she had her reasons. But I wouldn’t encourage you to try and find your mother. Mainly because she is a vicious and evil person. More to the point of business, there is a legal clause regarding inheritance in France that you should familiarize yourself with. Children cannot be excluded from their parents’ will. Normally, the remaining spouse is entitled to half of the estate, while the other half is divided equally between the children. In this case, since I’m your grandmother’s second husband, the law doesn’t hold, but if your mother decides to make herself known, half of the property will most certainly be her legal inheritance. Only, since your mother disappeared thirty-one years ago and hasn’t attempted any contact, the law states that your grandmother was within her legal right to make you her sole beneficiary.”
“Are you saying that I shouldn’t try to find my mother, because if I do, I…you…will lose half of the property?”
“What kind of a man are you?”
“I’ll have a proposal drawn up for you to look over.”
“As I’ve said, I’m not for sale. Whether you like it or not, I’m staying until I have decided what to do, and I would appreciate just a little bit of understanding. Can’t we at least try to be civil to each other?”
He smiled. “Civility doesn’t come cheap. I would like for you to remember that I pay the bills. You are going to find that this is too much hay on your fork. When you do, the contract will be ready. In the meantime, I suggest that we keep the living arrangements as they are. I want you to see just how much money and time go into a place like this.”
“Fine. I would appreciate learning a little bit more about the property, and the running of it. Yes, you’re right. I have no idea of what it takes to run a place like this, but I am interested. The lawyer said that you inherited my grandmother’s business. What kind of business did she have?”
“Your grandmother designed top-end cutlery. There is a boutique in Montpellier. We also imported some artifacts, mostly from North Africa. Satisfied?”
“Can I visit it sometime?”
He shrugged. “Why would you?”
“I told you. I am interested.”
“Who else knows about the will?”
“I thought it best to keep it quiet. For now. Until we…I know how to move forward. I understand that the village is small. People talk quickly.”
“I agree to that. I had to tell the staff and Jean-Christophe, who is a close friend. Of course, the lawyer knows. I don’t trust him too much. We’ll have to see how long he keeps the information confidential.”
“Can I see some photos?”
Yves took another sip of his whiskey and turned his chair to face the window. “I’ll try to find some albums. There aren’t many left.”
When he turned back to face me, he had an icy look in his steel-gray eyes. “They’ve burnt. Anything else?”
I was taken aback, but it was clear that he wasn’t going to say more. “Yes. When can we start going over the estate affairs?”
“That’s Vincent’s job. You can speak with him.” I could see that no help was going to come willingly from Yves’s side. As I got up to leave, Yves jabbed a last warning at me. “It will be better for both of us if we stayed out of each other’s way as much as possible. I hate complications. Don’t start looking for long-lost love from your youth because you won’t find it here. This isn’t your home. Don’t think it will be. You’re not part of this family.”
I considered him for a long, cold moment, my eyes piercing his. “Neither are you,” I said before closing the door quietly behind me.
Excerpt 2 (Chapter 6)
In the later afternoon, at low tide, our group set off to the beach. I wanted to take the opportunity to speak to his mother, but Laurent took my hand and pulled me aside.
“I want to show you something.” We walked along the beach and then inland before we stopped at the edge of a flat moor. “Look.” He pointed toward the hilly side of the landscape. Not far from us, five white horses grazed on the moor, their manes rippling in the breeze.
“They’re beautiful.” We watched in silence for a while.
“I am like one of them,” he said. “Wild, free, untamed.”
“You love horses.”
“I had a horse once.”
“What happened to it?”
“My father gave it to me for my birthday. I was a boy. I learned to ride it bareback. It was the best gift that anyone had ever given me. Then he gave it away.” His eyes were hard.
“He sold it. Needed the money. For drink. My father wasn’t a good man.”
“You don’t see him anymore?”
“He left.” I didn’t ask and he didn’t say more.
“What happened to your grandfather?”
“After May?” I didn’t answer because my question suddenly didn’t seem appropriate, but he continued, “He came back to my grandmother. Somehow I always knew that the songs he sang after that, the love songs, they were never about my grandmother.”
“Were they happy?”
“In their way. They made it work.” He looked into the distance to where the horses were moving to the next patch of green.
“My father was a good man,” I said softly. “I loved him very much. He made me feel loved. My mother ran off, too, when I was a baby.”
He looked at me, his long loose hair flying in the wind. “My father…your father. The yin and the yang. Your mother, my father; your grandmother, my grandfather…”
“I don’t believe in that. You know.”
He looked back at the horses. “I think I will forever feel like those wild horses. I pray that no one ever gets to tame them. I don’t think I can ever live in one place. I want to travel. Go around the world.”
“Travelling to one country is hardly going around the world. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t move from one place. If my father didn’t force me to go to school in the city I would have happily stayed on the farm forever.”
“Yet, here you are.”
“Here I am. You could be happy with a girl just like you, someone with your fire, your untamed desires for life.”
He shook his head. “I don’t like her. I like you.”
“I’m all of the opposite that you are and want. You’re life, I’m death.”
“The yin and the yang,” he repeated.
“It doesn’t work like that in reality. I like you, I like you like a brother. You inspire me, and you make me sad and happy with your music, but I don’t like you like that.” I wanted to be clear.
“It doesn’t matter.”
When we got back, the sun was setting. Manual had built a fire on the beach and the group was sitting around it, Manual playing the guitar. Alexia looked up when we walked up, fire shooting from her dark eyes. Laurent took his guitar and went to sit next to Manual, playing a slow, sad song. His mood was nostalgic. We all stared into the fire. When I looked up Alexia was looking at Laurent, and he was looking at me.