This book in its current version is just about to be withdrawn for a major re-write. It is now the third book in a quartet - more detail on the blog.
Love Forever is the first in the Forever series set at Whyton Country House. A billionaire romance with a damaged hero and an innocent heroine who thinks she is starting her dream job for a jovial fat cat businessman. Reality is very different. Her new boss is not fat or friendly. Mad, bad and possibly dangerous to know, Mathew Phelan is nothing like his deceased brother.
It felt like a momentous step. Sam told herself that she was getting spooked by the quietness of the place and there was nothing momentous about stepping into someone’s back garden, even if it was a very big and grand back garden. Even so, she was beginning to feel nervous. Not new job nervous. It was something else which she could not define.
She moved on along the back of the house peering in through each window and getting to know the interior layout. The first two windows showed the drawing room again. Then two windows looked into a formal dining room with a long shiny mahogany table and seating for at least twenty people. She walked past a single window, then by a set of tall French windows which she could see opened from a large reception room. The presence of a full size grand piano was a clue that this huge room might be used for dances, parties or maybe even chamber music concerts. This last possibility occurred to Sam when she saw the name of the piano manufacturer – Steinway. A name which she had only ever seen before on concert pianos. Then, where the main building ended at a corner, a conservatory extended into the garden. Only it was larger and more grand than any conservatory Sam had ever seen before, and extended along the remaining side of the house. There were large green plants in tubs set by the window, but in the gaps between the leaves, Sam could see the bright sparkling turquoise of an indoor swimming pool. Luxury, she thought. Everything about this place, from the rolling landscape and the top end very expensive cars to the swimming pool it all said luxury. No wonder Roger Carver-Phelan was always smiling, he had a lot to be happy about.
Sam frowned, it was all very well admiring the surroundings of the rich and powerful, but where were all the people? She needed to find her new boss and introduce herself.
She retraced her steps back to the empty courtyard. Where was everyone? The agency had told her to get there by eleven and yes she was early but only thirty minutes or so. She tried the kitchen door. Amazingly, it was unlocked. Security not great here then, she thought but decided not to go in. She called out but no one came. This is stupid, she thought. Clearly there must be someone here. The house is unlocked, there are cars in the garage, there must be someone here, but where are they? The stables – that was the one remaining place for her to look.
Mathew Carver-Phelan heaved the first of the hay bales off the trailer and into place. Nearby an insect buzzed. This sunny Sunday morning in early June was hot and getting hotter. The stable yard was quiet apart from the occasional sound of a horse moving around its loose box. He was expecting Sam Mayhew, his new assistant, to arrive at eleven a.m. So, he thought, there was just enough time to get the bales stacked, have a shower and give the new man a tour of the place before Deborah got back from church.
Sam turned the corner of the first loose box and stopped in her tracks. At the far end of the yard she could see someone working. Unaware of her presence, the man worked silently, every movement spare and graceful, as with seeming ease he lifted each oblong hay bale and stacked one upon another into the high open fronted barn. The only time Sam could remember seeing a man move with such strength and elegance was when she had gone to watch the ballet Swan Lake with her sister and they had been in raptures over the handsome male dancer in the role of Prince Seigfried.
Shirtless and with faded jeans low on narrow hips, he moved with an easy grace that was impossible to ignore. His lean sinewy body was lightly tanned and slightly sheened with perspiration. Small dark kiss curls of sweat dampened hair stuck temptingly to the back of his neck. Sam continued to watch as he lifted another bale. The muscles flanking his spine flexed as he took the weight and his biceps hardened into knots and cords of strength as they took the strain to easily lift the bale to the very top of the stack. There was not one ounce of surplus flesh to mar his perfect body. Sam realised that she was holding her breath.
Suddenly aware that he had an audience the man turned. Mathew dropped the hay bale. He could not believe what he was seeing. How dare she come here! Not a word in nearly ten years and now she appears without warning. Of course it had to be the money, he thought cynically. Word must have got to her of Roger’s death.
Sam shuddered. She was chilled to her core by the expression on his face. The man was looking at her as if he hated her. Crazily, she found herself unable to move as he started to walk towards her, fixing her with tired but hostile eyes. Eyes, she thought, that had seen the world and found it wanting. Were they green or blue? She could not be sure. Their colour seemed to shift and shimmer making it impossible to decide their true shade.
“What the hell do you think you are doing here?” he yelled. “Get out!” he shouted again and waived a muscular arm dismissively.
Sam shivered. She could see the tiredness in his features and the bleak gauntness in his angular jaw line. Irrationally, somewhere deep inside her, she felt a pang of sympathy for the stranger. How peculiar and confused, she thought, that she should feel sympathy and fear at the same time for what seemed to be a mad man rapidly closing in on her.