Enchantment by Anne Hampson - Read Online
Enchantment
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Summary

When Miles tells his fiancée, Monique, that they must keep their engagement a secret if she comes with him to live on Grand Cayman Island, she has misgivings. Once they reach the island, she realizes all her fears were right--and Miles breaks her heart.

But then she meets Dirk Anderson, Miles' new employer. Handsome and domineering, Dirk couldn't be more different from Miles, and Monique finds herself strangely drawn to him. But he may be involved with another woman--the same one who came between her and Miles. Can she trust his love--or will her heart be broken once more?

Published: RosettaBooks on
ISBN: 9780795338977
List price: $4.99
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Enchantment - Anne Hampson

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Page 1 of 1

Ten

Chapter One

Monique Thornton picked up the receiver, her eyes moving from the ring she wore to the half-finished letter in her typewriter.

‘Holburn, Sayers and Ford.’

‘So efficient!’ A chuckle came over the line and a tender smile curved Monique’s lips.

‘Miles! I didn’t expect to hear from you at this hour.’ Her glance went to the clock above her desk. A quarter past five; she was working late at the request of her boss.

‘I took a chance, knowing that you so often oblige Mr. Ford, and knowing I couldn’t contact you at home because you don’t have a phone.’ He paused a moment before dropping his bombshell. ‘I’m changing my job, Monique! I’ll tell you all about it tonight—yes, I know you weren’t seeing me because you had some sewing to do for your sister—’

‘I promised to make some curtains for the room we’ve just decorated….’ Her voice trailed off. She did not want to talk trivialities when her fiancé was changing his job, leaving the firm he’d been with since he left college.

‘Can it wait? I must see you, darling.’ His voice vibrated with excitement. ‘It’s the most marvellous post and I can’t wait to tell you about it. Will Sadie mind if you leave the curtains for another time?’

‘No, but—’

‘Meet me in the lobby of the Dun Cow at half-past seven and we’ll talk over dinner.’

‘Miles, wait a minute…’ The line went dead. Monique wore a troubled frown as she finished the letter. For some quite indefinable reason, she felt uneasy. Miles must know what he was doing; he was levelheaded and cautious. Nor did he exhibit that kind of excitement very often. Easygoing and possessed of a charm which seemed to have an inordinate attraction for women, he had swept Monique off her feet. Within six weeks of their meeting, he had all but coerced her into becoming engaged to him, and now all she desired was to become his wife and raise a family. They had been saving hard for just over a year, but both knew that it would be at least another two years before they had saved enough for the down payment on the kind of house they had set their hearts on: a small manor with a few acres of garden and woodland.

Monique’s uneasiness persisted as she rode all the way home on the bus, and there was a frown on her brow as she entered the neat, semidetached house on the outskirts of Dorchester where she had lived with her sister and brother-in-law since the death of her parents five years ago. They had died in a boating accident when Monique was just seventeen years old. The appetising smell of meat and vegetables being cooked in a casserole met her as she entered the living room; a huge tabby cat rose from the rug and purred loudly against her legs.

‘Hi!’ greeted Sadie as she came from the kitchen. Her ready smile weakened as she noticed the expression on her sister’s face. ‘Had a tough day at the office?’

Monique began unbuttoning her coat. ‘Miles phoned me just before I left.’ She paused, suddenly reluctant to tell Sadie that Miles was leaving his excellent post. ‘He wants to see me this evening. Do you mind if I leave the curtains?’

‘No, of course not.’ Sadie lifted her bright cotton apron to deal with the dampness on her hands. ‘You look troubled—sort of.’ The trace of anxiety in her voice forced a reassuring smile to Monique’s lips. There was no need for Sadie to be worried, especially as Monique was not willing to explain just yet—not until she had seen her fiancé and learned a little more about his plans.

‘I’m not troubled,’ she said cheerfully. ‘It’s just that I wanted to get those curtains off my mind.’

‘They’re not important; they’re only for the guest room, after all.’ Sadie paused a moment. ‘What time are you seeing Miles? Shall you be in for dinner?’

Apologetically, Monique shook her head. ‘Miles said we’d dine at the Dun Cow.’

‘Very nice—rather expensive, though, especially when you’re both saving so hard to get married.’

No comment from Monique. She supposed that the dinner was in the way of a celebration. A deep sigh escaped her; she was impatient with her depression and with asking herself questions she could not answer. Determinedly, she thrust them all away and concentrated on looking her best, taking time over her appearance after having a shower and choosing what she would wear. Standing in her underslip, she stared into the mirror on the wardrobe door and surveyed herself critically, flashes of memory bringing back flattering comments Miles had made on various occasions. Her hair, he had declared, was like silk spun from pure gold and embellished with sunbeams; her big blue eyes were the colour of newly-opened cornflowers when she was happy and of lapis when she was sad.

‘But I’m never sad since I met you,’ she would say.

‘Sometimes I see a mysterious quality in your eyes that looks like sadness. I always know, darling, when you’re thinking of your parents.’

Expressive eyes, revealing what was in her soul… Monique’s grandmother had said that, many years ago, when Monique was only a child.

Picking up the hairbrush from a silver-backed set that was a present from Miles for her twenty-second birthday, she used it briskly while continuing to examine herself in the mirror. Pale, classical features, a high, wide forehead, a small, retroussé nose above a full, compassionate mouth and elfin chin. Miles said she looked no more than eighteen and she had to agree, but then her figure helped, for she was slender and dainty and rather less than medium height.

She was prompt for the meeting. No sooner had she entered the lobby of the hotel than she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to look up into the face she knew so well—a handsome face, clear-skinned, evidence of the perfect health of its owner.

His eyes slid over her in open admiration, the smile on his lips all that the girl who loved him could desire.

‘You’re so adorable,’ he murmured close to her ear. ‘What colour is this dress?’

‘I suppose you would call it midnight blue, although I daresay the designers would probably have a different, more exotic name for it.’ Monique laughed up at him, slightly reassured and no longer quite as uneasy, although she was naturally curious.

‘I think that midnight blue’s exotic enough—at least it’s romantic.’ His brown eyes roved from her lovely face to her feet. ‘It brings out the colour of your eyes; you must wear more of it, my love.’ His gaze fixed hers; she smiled tenderly at him as, taking her arm, he guided her past several chatting groups of people towards the dimly lit lounge. ‘Let’s have a drink first. I’ve ordered a table for two in a quiet corner where we can be private.’

Eager though she was to ask questions, Monique contained her impatience as he conducted her to a table and saw her seated in a deep, velvet-covered armchair. After taking possession of a matching chair opposite to her, he wasted no time in saying. ‘I’ve landed a marvellous job, darling, on a fabulous island in the Caribbean—Grand Cayman—’

‘The new post’s abroad?’ broke in Monique faintly. ‘You’d go and leave me?’ She stared bewilderedly at him across the low table, on which stood a flickering candle and a vase containing a single rose. ‘How did you know of this job…?’ Her voice faltered to a stop, but then she noticed that Miles was smiling reassuringly at her.

‘In no way would I go without you, dearest.’ To add strength to the assertion, he leant across and covered her small hand with his. ‘Let me begin at the beginning. About three weeks ago I happened to see an advertisement in the Times. It was for a man with flair and architectural experience to supervise extensive restorations to an old plantation house in the Cayman Islands.’ Miles stopped on noting her expression.

‘You applied for a post abroad without mentioning it to me?’ She stared disbelievingly, pain and censure in her eyes. ‘I don’t understand, Miles.’

He was about to give their order to the waiter, but he again sent her a reassuring smile. When the waiter had gone he resumed his explanation, supplying her with details to which she listened attentively. He told how he had applied for the post on impulse, not expecting for one moment that he would even get an interview, much less land the job. He had given a brief outline of his experience in redesigning old houses in the country districts around Dorchester, but, because he felt he had little or no chance, he decided not to mention anything to Monique. ‘I felt, darling, that you’d become excited and then, if I failed to impress the advertiser, you’d be bitterly disappointed.’

‘Yes, I understand.’ But she sounded as if she did not understand in the least. ‘You said just now that you wouldn’t go without me.’ She looked interrogatingly at him, her eyes dark with anxiety. ‘Please tell me more,’ she begged.

‘Well, they were willing to interview me, but I still felt sure I’d have no chance, so I went without telling you. To my astonishment, I found myself on the short list, and two days after the second interview I received a letter—following a phone call—to the effect that I had been chosen for the post. I still made no mention of it to you, Monique, because, obviously, I had no intention of going away without you. It still seemed impossible that I could have the job. At the first interview, the man said that they wanted someone totally unattached—a single man who would devote his entire time and energy to the task in hand. So—’

‘But, Miles, you are engaged….’ Monique’s voice faded to silence as her fiancé lifted a hand.

‘Let me finish, dear,’ he said. ‘I knew that I couldn’t take you with me in any capacity other than as my secretary, so the request was sent in and, to my surprise, there was no objection to my having my own secretary accompany me. You’ve worked for me for just over two years, love!’

‘I couldn’t!’ she exclaimed, shaking her head. ‘I’m no good at telling lies and you know I’m not.’

‘Leave all that to me.’ His calm voice, the relaxed expression on his firm, regular features, the way his hand closed over hers… all these combined to reassure her, to quell the nervous tension that had been building up during his explanation of what had been happening. ‘I’m not expecting you to come into contact with the owner of this plantation house very often, since it is I who am employed by him—’

‘But I shall be employed by him, too,’ she interrupted swiftly.

‘You’ll receive your salary from him, but I feel sure that his dealings will be with me. Don’t worry, Monique, dear, I’m quite capable of handling the situation. I doubt he’ll even be interested enough to question you about how long you’ve worked for me.’

It was some moments before Monique commented, for she was suddenly aware of the uneasiness that had assailed her before.

‘The salaries,’ she began.

Miles spoke before she could go any further. ‘The salary’s twice as much as I earn at present. Your salary, too, will be excellent.’ He paused as the waiter came up with the drinks and placed them on the table. ‘We’ll be able to save much more than we estimated,’ he continued when the man had walked away, ‘and be able to marry as soon as we return.’ He was eager, excited, yet Monique was unable to catch his mood. ‘What is it, dearest? There’s nothing to be afraid of.’

‘No.’ She forced a smile to her lips. ‘I think I must be a stick-in-the-mud,’ she confessed, and it was natural that Miles should say, ‘Don’t you like the idea of spending a year or more on an island in the sun?’

‘I feel that… that…’ What did she feel? It was impossible to explain the tremors of apprehension within her, the unfathomable quickening of her heartbeats, the fear of the unknown. ‘We’ve been so happy, darling,’ she said at last. ‘Nothing exciting’s happened, but nothing troublesome, either. It’s been smooth riding on an even keel all the way.’

Miles’s smile was tender, his voice gentle and patient. ‘You’d wish it to continue like that all our lives?’ He had withdrawn his hand to pick up his glass. ‘We’re young, Monique, and without ties; if we’re to have any adventures, we must act now, because later we’ll settle down and, like any other married couple, have a family and become staid parents. But for the present…’ He stopped, and his silence became a question.

Monique found herself nodding and saying, in that sweetly modulated tone which was an integral part of her exceedingly attractive personality, ‘I do understand, Miles, and I know I shall love being on this island, but the initial upheaval… I’ve never even been away from Dorset.’ She thought of the green hills she loved, the streams meandering through lush meadows, the quaint little villages through which she and Miles drove on their Sunday afternoon runs out in his car.

‘I know, dear,’ he said understandingly, ‘but that’s no reason never to leave it for the rest of your life.’

‘Well…’ She looked deprecatingly at him. ‘You can see why I called myself a stick-in-the-mud.’

‘I shan’t let you be. You’re going with me to this island and you’re going to enjoy every minute of it. Promise me.’

‘I promise, Miles.’ Did he realise just how he had planned her life? Not even asking if she was