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And Angela was tempted, but could a small town home-loving woman manage a passionate affair with a predatory seducer and still keep her heart - and the secret that had been entrusted to her?
Like all Vanessa Grant's novels, ...
And Angela was tempted, but could a small town home-loving woman manage a passionate affair with a predatory seducer and still keep her heart - and the secret that had been entrusted to her?
Like all Vanessa Grant's novels, Angela's Affair takes the reader on a real-life romantic adventure to an authentic setting.
Vanessa Grant received the inspiration for this novel when she and her husband Brian tied up their sailboat in the beautiful harbor of Port Townsend, Washington, and stayed for two months. When they decided to have a local craftswoman make a new canvas dodger for their boat, Vanessa became fascinated by the canvas worker's occupation, and asked the craftswoman--Nonie--if she could interview her about her business.
Thus, Angela's Affair was born. This title was originally published in hardcover in 1991, and later in paperback. Muse Creations Inc. is pleased to offer this book, a favorite of Vanessa Grant readers, in this RocketEdition.
About the Author:
Vanessa Grant is the author of 27 romance novels, which have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, and of the critically acclaimed non-fiction guide Writing Romance. Her vivid characters and adventurous west coast North American settings are popular with readers worldwide.
Vanessa lives with her husband and an assortment of pets on the West Coast of Canada.
Angela lifted her foot off the sewing machine pedal, swung her chair around and reached for the telephone receiver, one hand stretched back to anchor the canvas fisherman's shirt she was sewing. She blinked against the glare of the morning sun through the window, her green eyes widening as the double doors to the shop burst open.
Her father-in-law Harvey exploded into the shop, his movements rough and sharp, his jaw clenched. He was normally soft-spoken, quiet-moving, a haven for other people's storms. Yet right now his lean body was tensed like an overloaded spring.
Angela put the receiver to her ear and announced, "Dalton Welding and Canvas. Good morning," then put her hand over the mouthpiece and whispered urgently, "Dad, what's wrong?"
In her ear, a woman's voice was framing a long, complicated explanation. Angela hardly heard it, distracted by the impossible sight of Harvey with his graying hair wild around his head and his eyes jerking everywhere. He planted both hands on the counter and demanded, "Where is she? Where's Charlotte?"
The voice in her ear said, "...survey of merchants in Port Townsend, to ascertain their satisfaction with insurance serv--"
"No," she said firmly. "I don't want to take part in a survey."
"The results of this survey will be used to--"
"I'm not interested," Angela insisted.
Harvey blinked, his breathing still heavy. "What? Angie, if you know where she is, you've got to tell me. I've got to--"
She lifted her hand to silence him and the canvas slid to the floor. Damn! Twenty fisherman's shirts, ten with red trim and ten with blue, and this was only number eleven. Number eleven, and it seemed doomed from the beginning. In her right ear, the insurance voice turned reasonable and overly patient just as Harvey started shouting.
"Angie! Did you hear me? Charlotte is gone! She's not at her boat!"
"Yes--No, I wasn't talking to you! No, we don't want to take part in the survey!"
Sweetly persistent, the voice inquired, "Are you insured with a local firm?"
"Yes," she responded automatically. Harvey pounded the counter with his fist. "Dad, she's probably--Listen, if that's one of the questions in the survey, we don't--"
Behind her, the window to the welding shop slid open and Barney shouted, "Angie? Did you remember to order those stainless fittings for the bows?"
In her ear, the woman's voice probed softly, "Is the amount of your fire coverage greater than a hundred thousand dollars? Or less?"
Through the storefront window behind the display of canvas bags, Angela could see a middle-aged couple crossing the gravel street, coming this way. All she wanted was a quiet morning to get the fishermen's shirts done, but the customers were already coming and Harvey looked as if he might explode at any moment, while Barney in his coveralls was crowding through the doorway from the shop, asking again about the fittings.
The survey-taker repeated her question.
Angela sighed. "Look, I don't have time for your survey. I--"
Harvey slammed the counter. "Angie!" His thick, salt-and-pepper eyebrows drew together over worried brown eyes. "Hang up and listen to me! Charlotte isn't on her boat. It's all locked up and she's gone."
"Gone shopping?" No. If it was a shopping trip, Charlotte would have stopped here at the shop to say hello.
He exploded, "Gone! The shades are all pulled down over her portholes. Her dinghy's up on deck, and the guy in the next slip said Charlotte left at dawn this morning, carrying a suitcase."
Two months ago the middle-aged Charlotte had sailed into the quiet shipbuilding town of Port Townsend. A burst of sunlight, Harvey had said. He had been lonely since his beloved Anna had died, but he had started smiling because of Charlotte, even laughing.
Now Barney leaned on the desk beside Angela, his welding mask pushed up. "What's this about Charlotte? Angie, did those fittings come? Get on the blower, would you, and chase them up. I can't do this job without them."
The voice in her ear was repeating the question about coverage. Angela snapped, "Listen, I don't want to take part in your survey. I'm hanging up." She winced as she put the receiver down. She never hung up on people.
Harvey leaned over the counter, his face haggard and older than it should be. "Do you know where she went? Angie? Did you know she was going?"
"No, of course not." She had been afraid of it, though. Hadn't Charlotte confessed to Angela that running was the only way she could handle complications?
Angela waved one arm toward a box at the end of the counter and pushed her other hand through unruly auburn curls. "Right there, Barney. That box. The UPS man delivered it five minutes ago."
Barney grabbed the box and strode away toward the shop.
"Aren't you going to say thank you?" Angela called after him.
When Barney got involved in a job, nothing else mattered. He was very much like his father. Both were tall and good-looking in a brown-haired, brown-eyed fashion, although Harvey's browns were fading into attractive gray, while Barney's nose had once been broken by his older brother Ben.
Angela remembered the fight that had broken Barney's nose. It had happened the night before Ben asked her to marry him, Barney's attempt to protect a seventeen-year-old Angela from his wild older brother. As if Barney were her older brother, protecting his kid sister. As if Ben had been a stranger. Angela hadn't wanted protecting, had been terrified when Ben lost his temper and ploughed his fist into Barney's face.
But she had loved Ben.
It had not been a quiet, planned wedding, but an elopement, an exciting adventure. So long ago. Ben was hardly even a memory now, although his family was her family now, while she had not seen her own parents in years. Sometimes she tried to close her eyes and picture Ben's face, but it was years since she had been able to make an image of him in her mind. The bitterness was gone, but she could still feel the echo of the pain. Ben Dalton was the only man she had ever loved and she had loved him with an impulsive, abandoned passion. Until the end, when he left her alone. Doubly alone, because she had lost the baby, too.
The couple outside stopped to look at something in the window, the woman pointing while her bearded partner frowned. Harvey let out a long breath that seemed to leave him limp and worried. "Angie, do you have any idea where she can be?"
Angela remembered the day Charlotte Ferguson had first come into Dalton Welding and Canvas. On impulse, she had said, asking about having a cockpit dodger made for her boat. Angela had liked her on sight, while Harvey had immediately decided that although he had been semi-retired for three years, he would go down to the boat with Angela to do the estimate, instead of Barney.
Barney, already overworked in the summer season, had laughed and warned, "Go ahead, but watch out for her. She's a fifty-year-old bombshell. She'll sting you." It had been meant as a joke. Harvey had been widowed three years, had not once even hinted that he might put another woman in Anna's place.
Only now Harvey was leaning on the counter, worrying, "Do you think she's hurt? Sick? I'd better phone the hospital."
"Didn't you say she took a suitcase?" Angela hated to see Harvey like this, hurting. "Dad, did you put the pressure on her last night?"
He ran a work-hardened hand through his unruly hair. Usually he wore it shorter, tidier, but a few weeks ago Angela had overheard Charlotte telling him that she liked it curling and longish. Harvey had cancelled his barber's appointment. Now he confessed, "I asked her again. To marry me."
Oh, lord. Angela remembered last weekend when Charlotte had taken Angela sailing, claiming she needed a woman's company for a while. There were more than twenty years between the two women, but last weekend, anchored in Mystery Bay, Charlotte had revealed secrets she had never told anyone else.
"She's run away." Harvey decided bleakly. "Why would she run away from me?"
Angela covered Harvey's restless hand with her own. "Dad, take it easy. Maybe she wanted to be alone for a while. To think." Except that Angela knew about Charlotte's flights. Coming back wasn't part of the deal.
He swallowed. "She paid the boat moorage until Sunday. She'll come back by then, won't she? She wouldn't just abandon her boat."
Kent Ferguson received the fax Thursday morning. A message from Charlotte, the last thing he needed in the midst of trying to decide whether to exercise his option on the Wimbley property!
When Patricia slipped quietly into Kent's office, he pushed the surveyor's report aside with a decisive motion of his long-fingered hands. Everything about him was long and lean and orderly. His body, spare and hard with no extra flesh over its six feet, clothed in a dark, tailored three-piece suit. His face, frowning as he watched his assistant approaching with an envelope in her hand. His hair, cut medium, blonde gone dark, waving and precisely-controlled. Behind him, the skyscrapers of the Vancouver financial district were clear and beautiful against the blue of Coal Harbor. As usual, he was too busy to notice or to care.
"Patricia, get Emerson on the phone. Tell him I want to meet with him this afternoon."
"This fax just came. Do you want to check it first?" Her voice was just as it should be to fit into his world, clear and precise and efficient. She was thirty and looked older, dressed quietly but tastefully. Her looks were much like her voice, smooth, dark-haired, tidy to the point of dullness. She had just arrived in the office for the day, and he did not need his watch to know it was precisely nine o'clock.
He knew even before he saw the signature. The fax was from Charlotte, not business. He frowned, feeling the irritation his older sister always brought, and muttered, "You'd think she could at least phone...Go ahead trying to get Emerson. Whatever mess she's in this time can wait until I've seen Emerson."
Five years since he had seen Charlotte face-to-face. He frowned, staring at the unread fax, remembering the day he had come home to the sounds of Charlotte and his mother, their voices raised in an argument that ceased the moment he closed the door. He had caught only a few words, senseless words in Charlotte's raised voice, and his mother saying sharply, "No! Never! If you do, I'll..."
After that, there had been that ominous tension in the air until the day of his father's funeral. Then Charlotte had left, characteristically, without telling anyone where she was going.
Although they had never been close, Kent missed his sister--a weakness he was not about to admit to anyone.
Sometimes he thought about getting married, bringing a woman, a lover, into the forbidding house where his mother lived. Then he wondered what kind of woman he could find who would be able to handle his mother, doubted if it was worth the bother. He was content with his life. He had a suite on Sunset beach, not far from the office, and that was more his home than the big old family house on Marine Drive.
Most of his life was tied up in his work, but occasionally there was a woman. Dinner and dancing, then back to his apartment, but he never asked a woman to stay over for the night. If a man was going to sleep with a lover, wake with her soft in his arms, he should feel something more than Kent ever had.
He would have liked children, but he had never found anyone he wanted to marry. His sister would say he had never fallen in love, but looking at Charlotte's life, love seemed more a disaster than a delight. She herself had left at least two men at the altar, always shying away from commitment at the last moment.
As for Kent's love life, the fault was in him, he knew. He suspected that he would never care enough about any woman to make even the smallest sacrifice of his business affairs. Now, dropping his blue eyes to the envelope, he remembered his older sister's voice, years ago, accusing him of being a cold-hearted bastard.
Perhaps he was cold, but better that than the way Charlotte flitted from one crisis to another, leaving destruction in her wake and always expecting someone else to bail her out. For years it had been Dad who straightened out Charlotte's messes, but Kent had taken over the chore, just as he had taken over the rest of the Ferguson empire when his father died. Charlotte was sixteen years older, but Kent had always been the responsible one. He did the work, including dealing with her discarded men, while Charlotte spent the money and enjoyed the freedom.
Sometimes he felt like shaking her, but it was pointless. If she was ever going to grow up, it would have happened a long time ago.
He frowned over the words of the fax, wondering what kind of mess was hidden in them. When Dad looked after her problems, Charlotte had telephoned. Now she used faxes, probably because her relationship with Kent had never been comfortable.
He reached for the intercom. "Patricia, where's Port Townsend?"
There was a pause while Patricia consulted one of the reference books she kept by her desk, then, "In the States, at the entrance to Puget Sound."
"About sixty miles north, connection by bridges and ferries. There's an airport."
The last time he heard from Charlotte, she had been in Sitka, Alaska, although he couldn't imagine why even Charlotte would be crazy enough to take her sailboat to Alaska. Why not Mexico or Tahiti, somewhere warm? But then, he never had understood her, had thought she was crazy when she bought the boat.
Why couldn't she act like the middle-aged woman she was? Settle down and join a few clubs, play bridge and stop behaving like an overgrown flower child! If she had to flit around, the least she could do was leave her loose ends in a city like Toronto or Seattle, somewhere he had connections. Port Townsend, for God's sake!
"Patricia, tell Wayne I'll want the Lear ready at dawn tomorrow for a flight to Port Townsend. Arrange a rental car to meet me. Call my mother and tell her I won't be able to make dinner tomorrow night."
Normally, he delegated Charlotte's tasks to the lawyers, but they wouldn't have a clue what to do about a sailboat abandoned in a marina in Port Townsend. If Charlotte wanted a damned boat, why didn't she look after it?
Kent left Charlotte's boat unlocked and went ashore to search for the marina office. He didn't have much luck there, although he did get the name of a Seattle firm that specialized in boat deliveries. He had left his briefcase with his cellular telephone down on the boat, so he stopped at a pay phone that was crammed up against the wall of a shipbuilder's shed and dialed, using his calling card.
Behind him, Port Townsend rose against the cloudy sky, a hillside dotted with old Victorian mansions. Picturesque. Peaceful. Kent thought vaguely of digging up someone in town and doing some checking on real estate prices, but he had a sailboat to contend with first.
As he waited for the call to go through, he watched an old gray van park beside his rental car. The driver's door swung open, just missing the Chevette, and Kent winced.
A girl got out of the van. She was dressed in something casual, slacks and blouse that were probably cotton. She reached back into the van and his eyes were caught as her slacks stretched tight over feminine thighs and buttocks. When she straightened, balancing an irregular bundle of dark blue fabric, he decided that she was not strictly a girl. A woman. Late twenties, and she would be a knockout in a green evening gown with that soft reddish hair and those passionately wild curls tumbled everywhere.
She gave the hair a shake and twitched her hip to push the door of the van closed. Firm muscles and soft, white skin. She twisted to balance the bundle of fabric on her hip and he added very female curves to his mental inventory.
A short, stocky man wearing coveralls hurried past her, then stopped and held out his hands as if to take her bundle. She laughed and shook her head. A mechanic, Kent thought, assessing the man out of habit. Probably good at his job, but inclined to take a few minutes off here and there for socializing. And the girl--
Maybe it had been too long since he had been involved with a woman. He watched the girl's back as she walked toward the ramp, feeling his pulses stir and his body harden.
"Smarten up, Ferguson," he muttered to himself. He had more important things to do than stand in a telephone booth, feeling a crazy stirring for a woman he would never see again.
With any luck, tonight he would be home in Vancouver. Then, after he finished going over those contractors' bids, he would call Sheila or Edith. He shrugged, not really wanting to see either of them. He must be getting desperate, though, standing in a phone booth watching the girls go by, fantasizing.
He focused on the telephone booth where a spider was adding to a complex network of cobwebs above the telephone, and finally the Seattle number he'd dialed rang through to an answering service.
Closed until Monday. Damn Charlotte and her trail of chaos!
He strode down the ramp, hurried out the float toward Misfit, Charlotte's rather appropriately-named boat. His mind was back in Vancouver, dealing with the land option and the contractors' bids for the north shore development. As he turned onto the last finger, he caught one glimpse of that warm confusion of curly hair--the woman with the bundle--and his heart crashed against his rib cage in a wild beat before he pushed the crazy fantasy out of his mind.
If he got stuck here overnight, perhaps she would be free for the evening. He felt a heavy pulse beat through his body. Crazy! She wasn't beautiful, just...something.
He passed a big, white powerboat, then a two-masted blue schooner--at least, he thought it was a schooner. His eyes raked over the boats. Had she boarded one of them? Which one? The white? The blue? Why the hell did it matter? Was she inside that old wooden monstrosity at the end, just opposite Charlotte's?
Then he saw her, standing in the cockpit of Misfit with a mass of blue material spread out in front of her. He jerked to a stop, staring at her.
"What the hell are you doing here?" He heard the echo of his own voice and wondered where the anger came from, and why it bothered him to find she had some connection with his sister.
"Who are you?" That was better. His voice was quiet now. He strode out the little float, stopped when he was close enough to see that her eyes were wide and green and staring. He gripped the stanchion but did not step up onto the boat, mainly because he could feel his heart thudding and felt an insane urge to touch her face, feel the softness of those shining curls. A total stranger! What was the matter with him? Delayed adolescence!
He cleared his throat.
The silence was alive. As she turned away, he could see that she was fitting the blue fabric onto the shining metal tubing over the hatch. The clothes she was wearing were not cotton, but natural canvas. Deceptively simple, the kind of garments that turned out to cost four times what you expected. The shirt seemed shapeless, with green trim at neck and wrists to echo the color of her eyes. Shapeless, but it hung on her in some magical way that hinted at the woman's curves underneath.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"Fitting the dodger on." Her voice was slightly husky. She had laughed with the workman up at the road, but she was not smiling now. Frowning, although she had faint lines around her mouth that told him she laughed easily.
That hair, all coppery wildness. The life in the way she moved. He didn't know just what it was, but she bothered him, and he wanted her.
Her eyes locked onto the dodger as she did something to a zipper and muttered, "You're Kent Ferguson, aren't you? Charlotte's brother."