His unconventional bride!
Will Radcliff is the perfect English lord. He's handsome and honorable, but a stickler for convention. And he's just inherited Elmhurst Hall....
Rebelling from her stuffy, controlled upbringing, Josie has never followed the rules. She's a waitress at the stately home, and is like a breath of fresh air. But her new boss, Lord Will, thinks she's nothing but trouble!
Then one moonlit night, Will and Josie share a kiss which, for a moment, makes them feel not so very different after all....
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from English Lord, Ordinary Lady by Fiona Harper
Will stopped the car and got out, leaving it slap-bang in the middle of the road. He left the door hanging open and walked forward a few steps.
The turrets and chimneys on Elmhurst Hall rose above the surrounding trees, its sandstone walls warmed to a golden yellow by the slanting afternoon sun. Long-paned windows filled the stonework and high arches curved over the heavy wooden doors.
This was the moment he'd been waiting for since he'd opened the letter from the solicitor a month ago. The moment his family had anticipated for three generations. If he failed--uncharacteristic for him, but not impossible--it could take another three generations to recover. An eventuality he was not prepared to contemplate.
He got back into the car and glanced at the publicity brochure on the passenger seat. It said that Elmhurst Hall was 'a vision from a fairy tale'. At the time, he'd just thought that was sales talk.
He took a deep breath and gazed through the windscreen. It was more than a vision. It was breathtaking.
And now it belonged to him.
He turned the key in the ignition and drove down the country lane towards the hall, keeping at an even twenty miles an hour. It was just as well there was no other traffic, because he was hogging the road completely.
He brought the car to a halt as he reached the large wrought-iron gates. They were more than ten feet high and were bolted shut--probably to keep the peasants like him out. The thought only made him smile again. Too bad. He was here now, and there was nothing the rest of the Radcliffe family could do to stop him.
Now he was closer, the grandeur of the building faded a little. Gutters hanging off and crumbling stonework made her seem like a tired old movie star, past her heyday, but with the echoes of her former beauty still visible beneath.
He smiled. How ironic that the grandson of the family outcast might just have enough money and skill to give this old lady the nip and tuck she needed. It was obvious that the late Lord Radcliffe hadn't had either the cash or the inclination to do so.
What a waste. He'd found old buildings in a much worse state of repair and seen them restored so that no one would guess they'd ever lost their fairy-tale quality. He'd built a business on it. Now he would just have to work his magic here.
Down to his left was a small road. He followed it and found himself in a large and rather empty visitor car park.
The way back towards the hall was through a large walled garden. He checked his watch. Mr Barrett was expecting him at four o'clock and it was almost five to. He'd better get a move-on. Two tugs at a rickety-looking gate covered in peeling green paint gave him entrance to the garden. It wasn't the big open space he'd expected; it was divided into much smaller sections by thick yew hedges.
After five minutes of going this way and that, he decided there was no logic to the layout. He reached a crossroads and considered his options. The path ahead of him seemed to be the obvious choice to take him to the hall, but he knew from the experience of the last five minutes that nothing in this place was as it seemed.
He was just about to take the path on his left when a creature with shimmering wings burst from the shrubbery and landed on the path in front of him.
'A vision from a fairy tale' the brochure had said. Still, he hadn't expected to see actual fairies. His feet were frozen to the spot while his heart galloped on ahead.
Before he could rub his eyes, another figure tumbled from the foliage and landed spread-eagled on the path. Laughter, light and musical like bursting bubbles, filled the air. The sound vanished abruptly as the pair noticed they weren't alone. Two pairs of impish eyes fixed themselves on him.
Will stared back, his senses still reeling from the sudden assault of noise and colour.
The little one with wings spoke first.
'Who are you?'
He stared at the protuberances on her back. They were made of pink netting and were held in place by a criss-cross of elastic stretched over a fur-trimmed coat.
'I'm Will,' he said, then wondered why he hadn't introduced himself properly. He never forgot his manners.
She stood up and brushed the dirt from her sticky-out skirt.
'I'm Harriet,' she said and offered him a pink-gloved hand to shake. Will bent forward and took it, too surprised by the gesture to think of doing anything else.
He had no idea how to gauge the age of a little girl. It was something that came with experience he didn't have. Older than three--her speech was clear and lisp-free--but probably younger than seven. He didn't know why knowing how old she was seemed important. Maybe because he needed a concrete fact to ground this rather surreal meeting in reality.