For Better?Corporate wife Mallory McIver has promised her new husband a businesslike marriage, with no messy emotions involved.For Worse?Then Torr announces he's moving to the Highlands of Scotland to restore the derelict castle he's inherited. And he expects Mallory to accompany him.... Forever!As Torr swaps his suits for jeans, Mallory is bewildered. She married a sophisticated city type, but in the country he's rugged, capable and altogether gorgeous.... Soon Mallory realizes she's breaking the terms of their arrangement--by falling for her own husband!
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July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from Newlyweds of Convenience by Jessica Hart
'This year has seen record sales of Valentine's Day cards, while florists report that red roses are still the most popular choice for--'
Mallory reached quickly for the remote control and pointed it at the television to switch off the tail-end of the news. She didn't want to be reminded about Valentine's Day. This time last year Steve had surprised her with a trip to Paris. He had given her a diamond pendant and talked about when they would be married. It had been the happiest day of her life.
Instinctively, she lifted a hand to finger the tiny diamond that nestled at the base of her throat. She wore it still, in spite of everything.
At her feet, Charlie lifted his head from his paws, suddenly alert, and the next moment she heard the sound of a key in the front door.
Her husband was home.
Mallory dropped her hand abruptly.
Charlie was already on his feet, tail wagging.
He trotted over to the door of the sitting room, whining and sniffing with anticipation, and would have started scratching at it if Mallory hadn't gone to open it for him. She knew he wouldn't settle until he had welcomed Torr home. He was a dog with a mind of his own.
Mallory had to acknowledge that Charlie wasn't the most beautiful dog in the world--he had a Labrador's soft ears, a collie's intelligent eyes and the bristly coat of a lurcher, but was otherwise a standard, scruffy mongrel--but from the moment she had taken him home from the animal rescue shelter, seven years ago, he had followed her with a slavish adoration.
Perhaps it wasn't surprising that Charlie had been jealous of Steve. He'd been used to being the centre of Mallory's life before Steve came along, and the surly relationship between man and dog had been the only tiny cloud on her horizon in that otherwise golden time.
It was harder to understand the instant attachment he had formed for Torridon McIver, who spent little time with him or his mistress. Charlie was always delighted to see him, though, and didn't seem to mind that he rarely got more than a brusque acknowledgement of his presence in return.
When Mallory opened the door, Torr was standing in the hall, looking through the post she had left on the table for him. He was a tall, forbidding-looking man, with dark hair, stern features and an expression that rarely gave anything away. Raindrops spangled his hair and the shoulders of his overcoat, winking in the overhead light.
When not building a reputation as one of the sharpest and most successful businessmen in the city, Torr went climbing, and it always seemed to Mallory that he carried something of the mountains with him. There was a force about him, something hard and unyielding, that put her in mind of bracing air and desolate peaks. It sat oddly with the expensive suits he wore to the office and with this immaculate Georgian townhouse that he had bought as a sign of his success. They didn't go with the kind of man she sensed him to be.
Any more than she did.
'Down!' Torr ordered Charlie, and when the dog dropped obediently to his belly, tail still wagging ingratiatingly, he bent and gave his head a cursory stroke.
Satisfied, Charlie bounded back to Mallory, and Torr noticed her for the first time as he turned. She was standing in the doorway, and her dark, silky hair fell forward to hide her face as she bent to pat her dog, who pressed his head against her leg, panting gently with excitement. They made an unlikely pair, the dog all bright eyes, scruff and gangly legs, the woman dark and elegantly groomed. In loose silk trousers and a fine-knit top in mushroom colour, she looked stylish and slender to the point of thinness.
'Good dog,' she said affectionately, but when she straightened and her eyes met Torr's, the warmth faded from her face.
'Hello,' she said.
They faced each other as the familiar constraint crept into the atmosphere. No one looking at them would ever guess that they had been married for five months and that this was Valentine's Day. Torr was hiding no roses behind his back; there was nojewellery secreted in his jacket pocket. He wasn't sweeping her into his arms or telling her he loved her. He wasn't even smiling.
Mallory hugged her arms together and forced her mind away from last year, from Steve, laughing, enveloping her in his golden charm.
'I was just watching the news,' she said after a moment.
Torr shrugged off his overcoat, shaking raindrops on the tiled floor, and hung it up. 'Have you got a minute?'
'Of course,' said Mallory, echoing his stiff, formal tone. They didn't talk very often, but when they did they were always polite.
Charlie bustled into the sitting room behind Torr and flopped down on the rug in front of the fire, satisfied that his two favourite people were where he could keep an eye on them. There was something almost embarrassing in his evident pleasure at getting the two of them together.