- Decmeber 2010 -
MILLS & BOON CHERISH
- January 2011 -
Published in the UK as
"A WINTER PROPOSAL"
Read more about HIS DIAMOND BRIDE - the second book in the Diamonds Are Forever duet here.
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"Lucy Gordon kicks off her wonderful new duet, Diamonds are Forever, with A Mistletoe Proposal, a poignant and immensely readable story that is absolutely impossible to resist!"
DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER DUET
Solicitor Pippa Jenson is stunning, intelligent and successful—and she just wants a man who sees beyond her looks! Her new client, brooding, levelheaded stockbroker Roscoe Havering, seems more interested in setting her up with his brother than in trying to charm her himself. Intriguing…
Roscoe is finding it increasingly difficult to fight his feelings for Pippa. She is a woman of contradictions—flighty yet organized, bubbly but with hidden depths. Roscoe can't decide whether to kiss her senseless or propose a more permanent solution!
On the journey back to Pippa’s apartment Roscoe was frowning again, but this time in confusion. On the one hand there was her appearance, young, dainty, vivacious. On the other hand there were the papers with their plethora of facts and figures that only a skilled, serious mind could understand. He tried to fit the two sides together, and couldn’t.
This time he found a parking space and entered the building, going to study the list of residents by the elevator.
“Can I help?” A middle-aged man was passing by.
“I’m looking for Miss Farrell’s address.”
“Blimey, another one. They pass through here like an army. Mind you, even she doesn’t usually have two in one evening.”
“Indeed,” Roscoe said carefully.
“I tell you, it’s pathetic. They come here with their flowers and their gifts, begging her, pleading with her, but it’s no use. When she’s bored with them she dumps them. I’ve tried to warn some of them but will they listen? You’d expect a man to have more dignity, wouldn’t you?”
“You would indeed,” Roscoe said, still guarding his words.
“But they say she’s magic and they can’t help themselves.”
“You spoke of two.”
“Yes, the other one hasn’t been here long so you’d better go carefully. Good looking young fellow. Shouldn’t think you’d stand a chance. She’s got a pick of them you know. Best of luck, though.”
He passed on out of the front door, leaving Roscoe wondering what he’d wandered into. But what he’d just heard was good news in that it made Pippa likely to be more useful to him, and nothing else mattered. He located the apartment and got into the elevator.
As soon as the doors parted he heard the noise coming from just around the corner, out of sight, a male voice crying out,
“You can’t be so cruel – ”
Then Pippa’s voice. “Can’t I? Get out now or I’ll show you how cruel I can be. I’m told I have very sharp knees.”
“But I only – ow!”
“Now go. And don’t come back.”
Roscoe turned the corner just in time to see the young man stagger back, clutching himself, then collapse to the ground. Through the open door he could see a woman, or perhaps a goddess. She was completely naked, leaving no detail of her glorious figure to the imagination. The hour-glass shape, the curved hips, the tiny waist, the breasts slightly too large, although his view of them was partly obscured by her glorious hair, not pinned back now but cascading down in a riot of curves.
After a moment he realised that the vision was Pippa, but not the light-hearted girl he’d met earlier. This was a very angry woman, standing triumphant over her defeated foe who was writhing on the ground. Literally.
The vision vanished at once, not in a puff of smoke but in a hasty movement to make herself decent by pulling on a robe as soon as she saw Roscoe. Only the fury on her face remained.
With the robe safely concealing her she came to the door and addressed the young man.
“I’m sorry, Jimmy, but I warned you. Don’t come back here, ever.”
Jimmy’s face was sullen as he hauled himself to his feet; all good nature gone.
“You haven’t heard the last of this,” he spat. “Jezebel!”
Incredibly a smile flickered over her beautiful features.
“Oh come on, you can do better than that. Who was Jezebel after all? Now if you’d said Mata Hari I’d have been insulted – or maybe flattered, one of the two.”
“Oh go and look it up!” she said with the exasperation of a school mistress. “But go!”
Scowling he dragged himself to his feet and began to limp away, but not before turning to Roscoe.
“You’ve been warned,” he spat. “She won’t treat you any better.”
Roscoe held up the envelope. “I’m just the delivery man,” he said mildly.
Jimmy flung him a speaking look and limped away. Roscoe waited until he was out of sight before saying,
“I’m sorry to arrive unexpectedly, but you left this in my car.”
She made as if to take the envelope that he held out, but snatched her hand back as the robe fell open.
“I’ll take it inside,” he said, moving past her.
She followed him, slamming the front door, hurrying into the bedroom and slamming that door too. Roscoe wondered at her agitation. After all, she’d been the victor, conquering and subduing her foe. He would have given a good deal to know the history behind that scene.
The apartment was what he would have expected, lush and decorative in a way he thought of as ultra-feminine. The furniture was expensive and tastefully chosen and the shelves bore ornaments that suggested a knowledge of antiques.
In one corner of the room was a desk with a computer and various accessories, all of which were the very latest, he noted with approval. It seemed to tell a different story to the rest of her. Ditzy dolly-bird on the one hand, technology expert on the other.
She came whizzing back into the room, dressed in sweater and jeans. They were sturdy and workaday, unglamorous except that they answered all questions about her figure.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“Certainly I’m all right. Why shouldn’t I be?” She sounded a tad defiant.
“Just that he seemed rather overwrought – ”
“And he called me Jezebel, implying that I’m a floozie, that’s what you meant.”
“That’s not what I meant at all.”
Even to herself Pippa couldn’t have explained why she was on edge, except that she liked to stay in control, and being discovered as she had been was definitely not being in control.
“Look, I just came back to return your papers,” he said hastily. “Don’t blame me for finding – well – what I found.” Too late he saw the quagmire stretching before him.
“And just what do you think you found?” she demanded, folding her arms and looking up into his face. It was hard because he had a good six inches over her but what she lacked in height she made up in fury.
His own temper rose. After all, he’d done her a favour.
“Well, I found a girl who’d been a bit careless, didn’t I?”
“Careless with her own safety. What on earth possessed you to get undressed if you were going to knock him back?”
“Oh, I see. You think I’m a vulgar tease?”
“No, just that you weren’t thinking straight – ”
“Or maybe you’re the one not thinking straight,” she snapped. “You jump to the conclusion that I stripped off to allure him, and the true explanation never occurs to you. Too simple, I suppose. He arrived while I was in the shower.”
“Oh heavens, I should have thought of that. I’m sorry, I – ”
“I didn’t get undressed for him,” she raged on, barely hearing him. “I’m not interested in him and so I’ve told him again and again, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Just like a man. You’re all the same. You all think you’re so madly attractive that a woman’s no never really means no.”
“I didn’t – ”
“Conceited, arrogant, bullying, faithless, treacherous – ”
“If you’d only – ”
“If I could just – ”
“No, you can’t ‘just’. Leave!”
“I understand that – ”
“Listen, the last man who came in here wouldn’t go when I told him to, and you saw what happened to him.”
“All right,” he said hastily. “I really only came to return your property.”
“Thank you, kind sir, for your consideration,” Pippa responded in a formal voice that was like ice, “but if you don’t leave of your free will you’ll do so at my will and that – ”
“I’m going, I’m going.”
He departed quickly. Whatever the rights and wrong of the situation this was no time to argue. For some reason she was ready to do murder. It was unfair, but there was no understanding women.
From Pippa’s window a bend in the building made the front door visible. She stood there watching until she saw him get into his car. Then she turned and glared at photograph of her grandparents on the sideboard.
“All right, all right. I behaved terribly. He came to return my things and I was rude to him. I didn’t even thank him. Why? Why? I don’t know why, but I was suddenly furious with him. How dare he see me naked! Yes, I know it wasn’t his fault, you don’t have to say it. But you should have seen the look on his face when he saw me on display. He didn’t know whether to fancy me or despise me, and I could strangle him for it. Grandpa, stop laughing! It’s not funny. Well, all right. Maybe just a bit. Oh, to blazes with him!”
Down below, Roscoe took a quick glance up, just in time to see her at the window before she backed off. He sat in his car for a moment, pondering.
He’d gained only a brief glimpse inside her bedroom, just enough to see a double bed and observe that it was neatly made and unused. He’d barely registered this but now it came back to him with all its implications.
So she really had refused him, which meant she was a lady of discrimination and taste as well as beauty and glowering temper. Excellent.
Later that night, before going to bed, he went on-line and looked up Mata Hari.
Dutch, 1876-1917, exotic dancer, artist’s model, circus rider, courtesan, double agent in World War 1, executed by firing squad.
“Hmm!” he thought.
It was a word that occurred to him often in connection with Pippa. With every passing moment he became more convinced that she would fit his plans perfectly.
From the book A MISTLETOE PROPOSAL by Lucy Gordon.
Copyright 2010 by Lucy Gordon
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
~ a taste of italy at home ~