After her mother died, Ashley Jones spent her childhood in care and foster homes. Alone in the world, she desperately needs her new live-in job as an author's assistant. But she is filled with trepidation when she arrives at isolated Blackwood Manor and meets the formidable Jack Marchant.
Ashley thinks she is just a drab nobody...but her heart goes out to handsome but arrogant, tortured Jack, though she has no idea what troubles him. What is the secret that he keeps hidden? It is only after Jack proposes marriage and Ashley joyfully accepts that she finds out...and, for this innocent bride-to-be, the truth is shocking....
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May 31, 2011
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Excerpt from The Forbidden Wife by Sharon Kendrick
The last thing she wanted was a walk. The air was raw and the grey skies heavy but Ashley was jittery. Her morning had been spent on a stuffy train, watching the bleak and unfamiliar landscape whizzing by while she psyched herself up to meet her new boss. Telling herself that there was no need to be jittery and that he couldn't possibly be as intimidating as the woman at the employment agency had implied.
Unfortunately, her arrival at his imposing manor house had done little to reassure her--because the powerful and wealthy Jack Marchant wasn't there. And when she'd asked Christine--his part-time housekeeper-- when he was expected, the middle-aged woman had raised her eyes to heaven in that you-tell-me kind of way.
'Oh, you never can tell with Mr Marchant,' she'd pronounced airily. 'That man is a law unto himself.'
Now, as Ashley made her way along the frozen lane, flexing her fingers inside her woollen gloves to try to keep them warm, she realised that Jack Marchant seemed to have a daunting effect on women of a certain age. The woman at the employment agency had already described him as 'formidable'--a word which covered a multitude of sins, in Ashley's experience. Did that mean he was bad-tempered and bossy--or just rude enough not to bother turning up to meet his new secretary?
Not that it mattered what he was like--his personality was irrelevant. Ashley needed this job and she needed the money. Badly. It was a lucrative short-term contract and she could put up with pretty much anything--even this brooding northern landscape where the air seemed so cold and so biting.
She still wasn't good at change--even with all the practice she'd had growing up in the care system, and then being passed from one foster family to another. She still got that claustrophobic feeling of dread whenever she had to meet new people and ease herself into a different situation. Learning what people liked--and, more importantly, what they didn't like. Listening out for what they said--but looking in their eyes to see what they really meant.
Because almost from the cradle, she had learnt to read between the lines. To differentiate between words and intent. To trace the truth behind a smile. She had learned her lessons well. It had been a survival technique at which she had grown to excel and one she still instinctively practised all the time.
Her fingers fractionally warmer now, she stood still for a moment as she looked around her. Leafless trees stood sentry over the bare branches of the high hedgerows and over to the left lay the wild expanse of the moors. It was a lonely place, she thought--with a stark and austere air to it. But as she walked further up the incline of the lane towards the brow of a hill she could see the distant spire of a church and the jumble of rooftops. So at least there was a village--with people and shops and who knew what else?
And if she turned to look the other way, she could see Blackwood Manor spread out below her. From this distance, it looked even more imposing than when she'd been inside--its elegant grey form straddling the land and making her realise just how large the house was. From here she could see its dark woods and the scattering of outbuildings--as well as the distant glitter of a lake.
She looked down at the estate and tried to imagine what it must be like to own that much land. Was that what made Jack Marchant so 'formidable'? Did having buckets of money corrupt you, as people often said it did? She was so lost in this particular daydream that at first she barely registered an unexpected sound until it grew louder, and closer. An unfamiliar...