Secretary Sara Browning has just discovered that relationships with the boss don't always work--especially when he's decided to marry someone else! Desperately needing to hide from her humiliation, Sara decides to leave London and stay at her parents' home in Shropshire while she works things out. But Shropshire offers a distraction Sara never expected....
Tree specialist Stuart Delaney is everything her former boss and ex-love isn't. He's reliable, kind, sympathetic...and from the sound of it, has a few romantic scars of his own. In fact, he's exactly what Sara wants in a husband--and Stuart is crazy about her. Suddenly Sara finds herself engaged to be married to the perfect guy--but she doesn't love him. Still, if everything looks good on paper, shouldn't there be a happily ever after...eventually?
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March 10, 2008
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Excerpt from Second-Best Husband by Penny Jordan
'So you've actually done it, then? You've handed in your notice and left?'
'Yes,' Sara agreed in a low voice, flinching a little as though hearing the words physically pained her.
Her friend and neighbour grimaced sympathetically. She was ten years older than Sara and had known her ever since Sara had bought the house next to their own four years before, and personally she felt like giving a very, very loud cheer. Ian Saunders, Sara's boss, might be six feet odd of blond good-looking manhood, all outward charm and attractiveness, but inwardly he was as cold and callous as it was possible for a man to be. That was her considered opinion, but in the past, no matter how many times she had voiced it, Sara had refused to listen to her, to hear a word against the man she worked for and loved.
'Well, you know what I think,' she told Sara now. 'For what it's worth, I consider that leaving is the best thing you could have done.'
Sara's mouth twisted sadly. She was a tall, slender woman of twenty-nine, with a quiet, calm manner that masked a keenly efficient brain. Her looks mirrored her personality. Her face was delicately oval in shape, her features elegant and well-proportioned, only her mouth, with its unexpected fullness, hinting that her outward control might mask deep and fiery passions.
'It wasn't exactly a calm and reasoned decision made of my own free will.'
The pain in her voice made Margaret, her neighbour, turn her head away from her in angry sympathy.
How could Ian Saunders have treated Sara so badly after all she had done for him, working for him like a slave, helping him to build up his business into the success it was today, and all the time loving him, hoping...? Although Sara had always been openly honest in her own knowledge that Ian didn't return her love, privately Margaret suspected he must have surely guessed how she felt, and, having guessed, out of compassion and concern ought to have suggested years ago that it might be wiser for Sara to find a job elsewhere. Instead of which he had allowed an intimacy to develop between them, a closeness, even if that relationship had been completely non-sexual, which had held out just enough unspoken promise, just enough allure, to make poor Sara go on hoping that maybe one day a miracle would occur and that he would turn to her...want her...need her...not as his faithful PA but as a woman, his woman.
Instead of which he had calmly walked into his office a week ago and announced that he was getting engaged and that he would soon be married.
Sara had been devastated, but when she, Margaret, had urged her then to hand in her notice and make a new life for herself she had selflessly refused, shaking her head, pointing out that if she left it would damage the business which Ian had worked so hard to build up.
'You were right,' Sara was saying unhappily now. 'I should have had the sense to hand in my notice when Ian told me that he and Anna were getting married. But, like the blind fool that I was, I had no idea that Anna wanted my job as well as...' She broke off, swallowing painfully.
It wasn't like her to unburden herself like this, but what had happened yesterday had upset and distressed her so much...
She had gone to work as usual. Ian had been away seeing one of their clients, and although she had felt wary and uncomfortable at first when Anna walked into the office, she had had no idea of the real purpose of the other woman's visit until Anna had launched into the speech which had ultimately led to Sara's acknowledging that for her own sake she had to make the break from Ian and forge a completely new life for herself well away from him.
'What exactly did she say to you?' Margaret pressed gently, sensing Sara's need to unburden herself.
They were sitting in Sara's neat, spotless kitchen. Margaret had called round to see her, alerted to the fact that something must be wrong by the fact that Sara had arrived home from work halfway through the afternoon and, after parking her car haphazardly in front of the house, had practically run inside.
Margaret had followed her, anxious to discover what was wrong and if there was anything she could do to help.
Sara shrugged, bending her head over the mug of coffee she was nursing. Her hair was straight and silky, a soft, pretty fair colour which she had expertly highlighted and styled into an elegant shoulder-length bob, which added to her air of competence and efficiency.
Margaret, who had seen her when she was at home, doing her housework, her hair tied up in a pony-tail, her face free of make-up, had been surprised to discover how very young and vulnerable it had made her look, how very much more approachable.
'More sexy,' Ben, her husband, had corrected her with a grin. Margaret had frowned him down, even while she acknowledged that it was true. Sara might know how to present herself to make herself look efficient, but when it came to presenting herself in a way that made men...