Claire Thackeray: Hardworking single mom and gossip columnist. Hoping for the inside scoop on sexy billionaire Hal North, aka her teen crush!
Most wary of: Gorgeous men who set her heart racing. (Been there, got the T-shirt--and the baby!)
Hal North: Bad boy made good. Back in his hometown as new owner of the Cranbrook Park estate. Determined to put his troubled past behind him.
Most wary of: Journalists--especially pretty ones, like new neighbor and tenant
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
July 01, 2012
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Excerpt from The Last Woman He'd Ever Date by Liz Fielding
Cranbrook Park for Sale?
The future of the Cranbrook Park has been the subject of intense speculation this week after a move by HMRC to recover unpaid taxes sparked concern amongst the estate's creditors.
Cranbrook Park, the site of a 12th century Abbey, the ruins of which are still a feature of the estate, has been in continuous occupation by the same family since the 15th century. The original Tudor hall, built by Thomas Cranbrook, has been extended over the centuries and the Park, laid out in the late eighteenth century by Humphrey Repton, has long been at the heart of Maybridge society with both house and grounds generously loaned for charity events by the present baronet, Sir Robert Cranbrook.
The Observer contacted the estate office today for clarification of the situation, but no one was available for comment. --Maybridge Observer, Thursday 21 April
Sir Robert Cranbrook glared across the table. Even from his wheelchair and ravaged by a stroke he was an impressive man, but his hand shook as he snatched the pen his lawyer offered and signed away centuries of power and privilege.
'Do you want a sample of my DNA, too, boy?' he demanded as he tossed the pen on the table. His speech was slurred but the arrogant disdain of five hundred years was in his eyes. 'Are you prepared to drag your mother's name through the courts in order to satisfy your pretensions? Because I will fight your right to inherit my title.'
Even now, when he'd lost everything, he still thought his name, the baronetcy that went with it, meant something.
Hal North's hand was rock steady as he picked up the pen and added his signature to the papers, immune to that insulting 'boy.'
Cranbrook Park meant nothing to him except as a means to an end. He was the one in control here, forcing his enemy to sit across the table and look him in the eye, to acknowledge the shift in power. That was satisfaction enough.
Cranbrook's pawn, Thackeray, hadn't lived to witness this moment, but his daughter was now his tenant. Evicting her would close the circle.
'You can't afford to fight me, Cranbrook,' he said, capping the pen and returning it to the lawyer. 'You owe your soul to the tax man and without me to bail you out you'd be a common bankrupt man living at the mercy of the state.'
'I have no interest in claiming you as my father. You refused to acknowledge me as your son when it would have meant something,' he continued, ignoring the protest from Cranbrook's solicitor, the shocked intake of breath from around the room. It was just the two of them confronting the past. No one else mattered. 'I will not acknowledge you now. I don't need your name and I don't want your title. Unlike you, I did not have to wait for my father to die before I took my place in the world, to be a man.'
He picked up the deeds to Cranbrook Park. Vellum, tied with red ribbon, bearing a King's seal. Now his property.
'I owe no man for my success. Everything I am, everything I own, Cranbrook, including the estate you have squandered, lost because you were too idle, too fond of easy living to hold it, I have earned through hard work, sweat--things you've always thought beneath you. Things that could have served you. Would have saved you from this if you were a better man.'
'You're a poacher, a common thief...'
'And now I'm dining with presidents and prime ministers, while you're waiting for God in a world reduced to a single room with a view of a flower-bed instead of the park created by Humphrey Repton for one of your more energetic ancestors.'
Hal turned to his lawyer, tossed him the centuries-old deeds as casually as he would toss a newspaper in a bin and stood up, wanting to be done with this. To breathe fresh air.
'Think about me sitting at your desk as I make that world my own, Cranbrook. Think about my mother sleeping in the Queen's bed, sitting at the table where your ancestors toadied to kings instead of serving at it.' He nodded to the witnesses. 'We're done here.'
'Done! We're far from done!' Sir Robert Cranbrook clutched at the table, hauled himself to his feet. 'Your mother was a cheating whore who took the money I gave her to flush you away and then used you as a threat to keep her useless drunk of a husband in a job,' he said, waving away the rush to support him.
Hal North had not become a multimillionaire by betraying his emotions and he kept his face expressionless, his hands relaxed, masking the feelings boiling inside him.