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Billionaire on Her Doorstep (Harlequin Romance #3959)
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Billionaire on Her Doorstep (Harlequin Romance #3959)

4.0 10
by Ally Blake
 

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Billionaire Tom Campbell had to leave the city—it held too many memories. Now he's content with the pace of life in the sleepy town of Sorrento, beachcombing and fishing in the deep blue sea. No complications.

Then he walks up to the doorstep of Maggie Bryce's ramshackle mansion, and he can see both are in need of some loving care. Maggie's alluring

Overview

Billionaire Tom Campbell had to leave the city—it held too many memories. Now he's content with the pace of life in the sleepy town of Sorrento, beachcombing and fishing in the deep blue sea. No complications.

Then he walks up to the doorstep of Maggie Bryce's ramshackle mansion, and he can see both are in need of some loving care. Maggie's alluring mystique captures the billionaire's heart and he can't let go….

Will Tom and Maggie find romance as the sun sets over Sorrento?

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780373039593
Publisher:
Harlequin
Publication date:
06/12/2007
Series:
Harlequin Romance Series , #3959
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.40(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

TOM CAMPBELL slammed the door of his trusty rusty Ute, not bothering to lock it. Not because he wouldn't have cared if it was pinched. Or because the area had an unparalleled neighbourhood watch programme. But because it didn't need to.

The good people of Portsea were more likely to make a steal as doctors or lawyers or footballers than to steal a dilapidated tradesman's car. For Portsea was the land of high brushwood fences and vast homes with purely ornamental tennis courts and architecturally designed swimming pools posturing magnificently on the tip of the Mornington Peninsula.

Tom hitched his tool belt higher on his hips, threw a pink pillowcase full of old rags over his shoulder and strode through one such brushwood gate graced with the word 'Belvedere' burnt into a lump of moss–covered wood.

From the top of the dipping dirt driveway he caught glimpses of white wood and a slate–grey tiled roof, which was not an unusual combination for a house by the beach. What was unusual was that, unlike other properties in Portsea, Belvedere wasn't manicured to within an inch of its life. In fact it wasn't manicured at all.

As the foliage cleared, he saw a house that looked as if it had been built over fifty years by half a dozen architects with incompatible visions. At least five levels ambled down the sloping hill towards the cliff's edge. Most of the original pale green shutters were closed to the morning light and by the deep orange rust on their hinges he guessed many hadn't been opened in months. The rest was hidden behind what looked to be years of neglected foliage. If the local council had any idea that this place was in such disrepair they'd beup here in a Sorrento second waving their ordinances on beautification and escalating land value.

Many of the homes in Portsea were empty most of the year and needed nothing more than basic upkeep by overpaid full–time gardeners. As a hirea–handyman he only did odd jobs. But this place… Already he could see it could do with a lick of paint. And the garden could do with some tender love and care, or a backhoe. It was a renovator's dream. And Tom would be sure to tell Lady Bryce all of that once he had a damn clue what he was doing there in the first place.

Tom smiled to himself. Lady Bryce. That was what the Barclay sisters, the doyennes of Portsea who ran the local haberdashery, had labelled her because she hadn't yet deigned to frequent their fine establishment.

he'd never met her either, though he had spied her driving down the Sorrento main street in her big black Jeep, large sunglasses and ponytail, eyes ahead, mouth in a determined straight line and fingers clamped to the steering wheel as though for dear life. And when weighing up working for a woman who at first glance seemed pretty highly strung against the time it would take away from his fishing he had considered declining politely. But, as usual, when it came to the crunch, he hadn't had it in him to say no.

He could picture his cousin Alex laughing at him even considering turning down a damsel in distress, for Alex seemed to think Tom had some sort of knight in shining armour complex. Tom thought Alex ought to mind his own business.

He ducked out of the way of a low–hanging vine, watched his step for fear of turning an ankle and slowed as a magnificent ten–foot–high wood–carved double front door loomed amidst a shower of hanging ferns. The right door was ajar, but guarded by a sizeable old red–brown hound with a great big smiley–face charm with the word 'Smiley' written upon it hanging off his thick collar.

"Smiley, hey?" Tom said.

The dog lifted its weary head and blinked at him, its floppy ears and sad expression not changing a lick to show that he felt any pleasure at the unexpected company.

Tom reached down and gave the poor old soul a rub on the head. 'Is the lady of the house about?"

A sudden crashing noise followed by a seriously unladylike spray of words told Tom that the lady of the house certainly was about.

"Hello," he called out, but he was met with silence as sudden as the previous verbal spray had been. Not finding any evidence of a doorbell, he stepped over the melancholic guard dog and walked further inside the entrance to find himself face to face with a square stain on the wall, evidence that once upon a time a picture had hung there, a garden bench that had a mildewed look about it as though it had been relegated from outside, covered in a pile of unopened mail, and yet another fern living its sad, bedraggled life in a bright new ceramic pot.

Another curse word, this one softer than the last, caught his hearing and he followed it like a beacon to find himself in a huge main room with sweeping wooden floors in need of a good polish, lit bright by a series of uncurtained ceiling–tofloor French windows through which he had a thicket–shrouded view of the sun glinting off glorious Port Phillip Bay.

Images piled up in his mind of what he could do with this place if given half a chance. And the whole summer, and an open cheque book, and his old team at his side, and a time machine to take him back ten years… He shook his head to clear away the wool–gathering within.

The room he was in was empty. No furniture. No pictures on the walls. Nothing. Well, nothing bar a twisting cream telephone cord snaking across the middle of the room to the far wall, where a large grey drop cloth, buckets of paint, several flat, square structures draped in fabric, a rickety old table, which held numerous jars of coloured water and different sized paintbrushes, and an easel with a three–byfour–foot canvas slathered in various shades of blue.

And, in front of it all, wearing no shoes, paintspattered jeans, a T–shirt that might at one time have been white and a navy bandanna covering most of her biscuit–blonde hair was the lady in question.

Tom cleared his throat and called out, 'Ms Bryce?"

She spun on her heel with such speed that paint from her brush splattered across the all–blue canvas.

Tom winced. It was red paint. 'Holy heck!" she blurted in a toned down version of the language from earlier. Her voice was husky, her high cheekbones pink and her pale grey eyes aglow.

Well, what do you know? Tom thought. My lucky day. For Lady Bryce was a knockout. He wished his cousin Alex was there with him now so he could poke him hard in the side and tell him—this is why you never say no to a damsel in distress.

"Who the hell are you?" the lady asked, seemingly not nearly as impressed with him. But the day was young. 'And what are you doing in my house?"

Tom actually thought it pretty obvious who he was considering the family of tools swinging low on his hips. But the lady looked as if she knew how to wield that paintbrush of hers as a lethal weapon so he answered her query.

"I'm Tom Campbell, your friendly neighbourhood handyman," he said, deciding to pull out all the stops in the hopes she wouldn't use that thing as a javelin. He smiled the smile that had got him out of trouble on any number of occasions and opened his arms wide to show he was not a threat in any way, shape or form. 'You called a few days ago, asking if I could come around today to fix…something."

The lady blinked. Several times in quick succession. Long eyelashes swooping against her flushed cheeks. Unfairly long eyelashes, he thought, especially for a woman who continued to send off such fierce keep–away vibes. Then her eyes scooted down to rest on his tools.

Tom clenched his toes in his boots to stop himself from shuffling under her acute gaze.

"Right,"she said suddenly, punctuating the sharp word by pointing her skinny paintbrush his way.

And dammit if he didn't actually flinch!

Tom took a slow, deep breath. he'd let those crazy old Barclay sisters get inside his head so much that he'd actually begun to believe this poor woman could be some kind of nut job, simply because she hadn't found the need for haberdashery, whatever haberdashery might be.

So far nothing worse had happened than red splatters on her picture. So far she seemed merely antisocial at worst. And at best? Unimpressed by him in particular. Lucky him.

"Tom Campbell. The handyman," she repeated. 'Okay." She unconsciously twirled the offensive paintbrush in her fingers like a cheerleader's baton before turning back to her worktable, choosing a water pot at random and swooshing the brush in the dirty liquid.

She glanced briefly at her big blue painting, saw the red splatters and swore again. It seemed she wasn't the type to pull her punches because she had company.

Tom felt his cheeks tugging into a smile. If the Barclay sisters knew her penchant for French he was quite sure they would drop the 'Lady' moniker quick smart.

With a shake of her head, she tiptoed off the drop cloth, scrunching her toes as she wiped her bare feet at the edge, and moved to join him.

She walked with a sort of natural elegance, like a ballet dancer, heel to toe, long legs fluid. Her skin had an almost translucent appearance and her clothes hung off her as if she had lost weight quickly and had not found the time or inclination to put it back on.

She was pretty tall too. She must have been near five–ten. Tom drew himself up to his full six feet and one half inch to compensate. And though her eyes were grey, when she wasn't glaring at him they held hints of the same pale blue found in the clear spring sky behind her.

She pulled the navy bandanna from her hair and used it to wipe her hands, then tucked it into the back pocket of her jeans. Next she yanked a hair–band from her ponytail and shook the straight length loose until it hung long and dishevelled halfway down her back, before gathering it all and folding it into a messy low bun.

This little act was merely a habit, he was sure. Her movements were fast, spare and not meant to impress. But they impressed him. In fact he found the whole hair shaking move pretty darned satisfying.

Or maybe that was the point after all. Maybe that was how she got her kicks—conning local workmen into her web for a quickie before tumbling them off the cliff on to the jagged rocks behind her secluded home. Perhaps her infrequent trips into town at the wheel of her suburban tank were to buy quicklime and shovels.

Meet the Author

Ally is a hopeless romantic. She had no choice; it was in the blood, as she was born into a family of romance reading women.

She remembers bagloads of books being passed on at family gatherings from her mother, her cousins, her aunt, even her grandmother. She also remembers slithering under the spare bed at her grandmother's house and finding an ever evolving treasure trove of Mills & Boon books. Still today, when staying over at her folks place, there are always a couple of Mills & Boon must-reads left waiting by her bed.

Ally's first real job after completing her Bachelor of Arts degree was as a professional cheerleader. And, yes, that's a real job! For three years she danced for a grand final winning rugby league football team, a basketball team and on a weekly television show.

After dancing came acting. What an unusual progression, you may say with more than a hint of sarcasm. Ally was quite happily roped into acting in friends' short films. She even wrote numerous scripts herself to try to give herself a better angle at becoming a rich and famous Academy Award-winning actress. And that was how she met her husband. He was the big new thing at a local television station and Ally was a bright-eyed and bushy tailed newcomer who fell for his big talk and his big heart.

Ally married her hubby, Mark, in Las Vegas, and it was a blast! Their families and a couple of close friends came along for the ride. They travelled around California (where she developed an unhealthy addiction to Starbucks Frappuccinos) together before going to Nevada for the wedding. They met Hugh Hefner at Disneyland and Tony Curtis in Las Vegas. After being told on the Sunday beforeAlly'swedding that she was getting married on the Wednesday, Tony Curtis leaned in and said, "There's plenty of time between now and Wednesday." Can that guy deliver a line, or what?

After the gorgeous ceremony (which was organized that morning) and dinner in the Brown Derby restaurant in the Mirage (the day after Tiger Woods ate there) and after having Frank Sinatra (Ally swears it was him!) serenade them, they travelled the length and breadth of the United States.

But at the end of the happy trails she had a light bulb moment. She loved the writing side of the biz a heck of a lot more than the acting! So she took a deep breath, opened a new Word file, and for the first time wrote "Chapter One" instead of "Scene One." And it felt all warm and cosy, like slipping on her favorite pair of slippers.

When a young chook, Ally's folks took her to an ear, nose and throat specialist, as they thought she was partially deaf. The doctor diagnosed her as having perfect hearing, whilst being simply "off with the fairies" a good portion of the time. Now as a grown up, she gets to sit at the laptop with a title, a couple of beautiful characters in mind and wait for the fairies to take flight. Constant coffee and bowls full of M&M's make her job that much more pleasurable!

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Billionaire on Her Doorstep (Harlequin Romance #3959) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story my favorite of all time!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the way the characters reeled me in without detailed sex scenes and still felt the passion between them. A great example of an author connecting with her readers. Excellent read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
BILLIONAIRE ON HER DOORSTEP is a tender et emotionally stirring romance that is the perfect choice for the busy reader. Ally Blake provides a quick fast-paced read but one that inspires the heart. A bad marriage and finances drove artist to the beach of Sorrento and a broken down house. Billionaire Tom Campbell escaped the fast-paced city, but one look at Maggie and escape is the last thing he wants! Tom is a man of honor and one not scared of an honest day's work. Maggie is an artist with a vision for portraits --- and an eye for what Tom has inside. When the two come together, love can't be far behind. Ally Blake herself has a gift for portraiture! This romance hero is quite special indeed. He might be a billionaire, but when it comes to restoring homes, he doesn't need others working for him. His heart and his hands appreciate wood and and all the details that go into a home. Readers will like the heroine as well. The Blue Eyes scene was priceless --- a wonderful moment of self-realization through the hero and herself and extremely well-written. Ally Blake prepared this scene well beforehand by describing her paintings. The three friends here were a great extra touch that revealed a lot about the hero and heroine's character. Once I wished the words the heroine said to snap the hero out of his past were seen maybe as internal realizations within him but, the hero-heroine match here is quite exceptional and one of the most beautiful aspects of this romance. I enjoyed seeing this heroine find love! This book was a perfect choice for readers who, despite a hectic schedule, want to get lost in a romance and feel rejuvenated and emotionally moved.