The clash of a young woman’s self-respect with her loves . . . for her brother, her family home and the new man in her life . . . threatens to
bring all her dreams down in ruins.
Anna Childers is desperate to save her family home, Childer’s Hall, from bankruptcy and support her irresponsible younger brother.
On an early Spring day, help and passionate attraction arrive in the
form of Mark Clifton, whose film company will pay handsomely for the
use of the Hall.
But life isn’t as simple as Anna’s dreams: must she make a loveless
marriage to rescue the future or can Mark get past the tragic loss of
Magda, his first real love?
A contemporary romance, set in England. 55,000 words, currently issued as an audio book: 6.5 hours listening time. Available on standard CD's as a 6-disc set or as a single Mp3 disc.
Due out in paperback next year.
Relaxing in the soft, summer-night’s air, Anna let her arms fall to her sides and put her hands out to lean on the parapet. In the darkness her left hand came down on the rough stonework, still warm with the absorbed heat of the vanished sun. Her other hand settled on something even warmer but yielding and moving. Before she could react and move it away, Mark’s hand turned palm-upwards and his fingers closed over hers.
The unexpected contact had a different effect on her than before. Instead of reacting like a jelly in a high wind, she felt an enormous satisfaction flow easefully through her. The happiness of it, she realised immediately, was because this time it was a deliberate, unmistakable gesture on his part. For some reason which she hardly dared to guess at, the man at her side had taken her hand in his and was holding onto it . . . . because he wanted to!
As she soaked in the marvel of what was happening to her, Mark drew back from the parapet, turned and led her silently towards the centre of the roof. By the solid square column of the chimney-stack he stopped, leant his back against the brickwork and turned Anna to face him. The surface on which they stood was all uniform grayness and in the silence the star-dusted sky was a blue-black canopy hung at immeasurable distance over their world; its twinkling diamond lights and quarter-moon seeming set to provide exactly enough light for them . . . . and for them alone.
As Mark raised his hands and laid them to rest on her shoulders, Anna looked up into his face without fear or shyness. Steadily she explored every feature revealed and highlighted by the moon shining softly over her shoulder. Her eyes moved from the strong, stubborn jaw with its dimpled chin, up over the mouth which was now a shadowed double curve of mystery: his nose, long, straight and almost arrogant but for the smile-lines curving away below the slightly gaunt cheeks. Her gaze was arrested when it reached his eyes, set below the dark, almost bushy eyebrows for some reason drawn together at that moment in a slight frown. By this light his eyes were almost colourless, she saw, but the moon behind her was reflected in them like two points of ice-white fire. What was it she could see moving there, she wondered: puzzlement, speculation . . . . even some hint of pain? There was a certainty in the steadiness of his gaze but she began to feel a kind of troubled doubt, a tension boring out towards her.
It was to escape that and to reassure both of them of what she felt lay unspoken between them in their nearness, that Anna moved forward to him, till the length of her body stood against the bulk of his and his hands fell behind her back, encircling her slender, warm body. As she laid her head into the hollow of his shoulder, resting her cheek against his jacketed, hard-muscled chest, Anna felt his hands firm at her back, accepting her nearness, holding and pressing her closer.
She sighed with contentment and then with pleasure as Mark moved one hand up to her head, first stroking gently and lingeringly the nape of her neck, then combing his fingers in amongst the soft strands of hair. After a timeless, floating interval, his fingers closed around a handful of her hair and gently but firmly he pulled her head back so that her face was tilted up towards him.
Knowing what was coming and wanting it utterly, desiring nothing else, nor to see what expression would accompany it, Anna waited longingly with her eyes closed, unmoving until he should move to her.
The first touch of his lips brought her to life again. She slid her hands up behind his head, running her fingers into the curly, down-like hair at the base of his neck and pulling him to her, increasing urgently the depth and pressure of their kissing. Anna felt herself blending into him, losing all consciousness of her own, separate identity and, when a warm, probing creature entered between her lips and pressed for deeper entry into her, she opened her inexperienced mouth and welcomed it with instinctive hunger.
Whether her eyes were still closed or not she had no knowledge: only that there were more stars than ever she’d dreamt the sky could hold and that they were closer and more scintillatingly brilliant than anything she’d ever seen.
Then, suddenly, as if someone had removed a slide from the projector, the sky was black with only a faint dusting of gem-lights. The sudden, jolting swiftness with which Anna found herself parted from her other half, left her numb for a moment; until Mark’s voice, jagged, rasping and with something despairing in it, tore appallingly into her.
“I wonder . . . . was that more or less satisfactory than Gregory’s response to you?”
Anna gasped and stiffened beneath the hands on her arms. Appalled and transfixed by shock, she stood opening and closing her mouth soundlessly as she absorbed waves of pain. His words, the tone of his voice, the expression of pain and anger on his face: all seemed to tell Anna that the happy hours and blissful minutes just past had been no more to him than some sort of exercise: a beastly, cynical punishment planned to its climax with deliberate intention.
Into her hurt, bewildered silence, Mark threw more searing words, stoking the fire of Anna’s pain from some inner torment of his own: until hers became resentment, humiliation and anger, all boiling and climbing rapidly to spill over.
“I understand you’ve had plenty of opportunity to plumb Gregory’s special depths? An experience you’ve shared with lots of other women of course, but then you must have realised that for yourself? Or was that part of the attraction? Certainly you seem to have learnt from his seduction technique: dinner, drinks, the tete a tete? It’s an old gambit of course but it still works sometimes, it seems!”
Betrayed now in every direction, Anna struggled to find some defence. “But . . . but it wasn’t like that! It wasn’t my doing, Mark . . . “
“No? Well, Gregory seems very sure of himself where you’re concerned! And a number of people apart from myself have that impression!”
Stung by the injustice of Mark’s apparent assumption and feeling already condemned for something that wasn’t her fault but in which she knew she wasn’t entirely blameless, Anna launched the first retort she could find, attacking now that she felt defence was useless.
“Well, perhaps he has reason to! More reason than you have anyway!” Into her furious mind came the memory of how Mark had seemed to deceive her about his position, how he’d betrayed her secrets to Gregory. Since the first time she’d seen Mark, there’d been a difference between the appearance and the reality of him and now she knew, with terrible certainty and bitterness, that she’d fallen in love with the appearance.
As if to fix for all time the distance between them, she threw at Mark now the most final words she could think of; wanting to hurt him as he’d done her and aiming for what she felt would be his most vulnerable point.
“However much less subtle his approach, at least Gregory is real! One knows what he is and what he wants and he doesn’t really pretend to be anything different! But you! . . . You’re just a sham, a ghost playing games! Gregory may be basic but he is real! I hate the games you play . . . . and I hate you!”
She turned, tearing herself away from his hands and ran towards the trapdoor which gave onto the stairs to the house below. As she started to stumble down them, she turned her head towards the dark, shadowed figure still standing by the chimney. “I don’t think you’re very good at managing people, Mark . . . . I think you ought to be an actor instead: you’re cut out for it!”