True love, like lightning, never strikes twice—or does it?
As a free-spirited young woman, Hope Elliot was desperate to escape her snobbish high society family. So she ran off to Paris, where she lived for twenty-five years. Now widowed, she’s come home to settle her family’s massive lakefront estate. But before she can put her mother’s house on the market, it needs a major renovation. Enter master electrician Mick McInnes, a traditional guy who’s about to turn her life upside down . . .
Aside from the fact that Mick is hopelessly attracted to his latest client, Hope represents everything he doesn’t want in a woman. She’s ridiculously rich and adventurous, yet she doesn’t seem to know much about the real world. Besides, his policy is to never get involved with clients. But he can’t seem to resist the Chicago heiress’s sizzling advances—and soon enough finds himself in her bed, feeling like a teenager once again. And like teenagers, the two of them will just have to convince their families that opposites can not only attract, but they can also make the perfect match . . .
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A Bolt From the Blue
A Worth the Wait romance
By Maggie Wells
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Maggie Wells
All rights reserved.
Lightning streaked across the night sky. Even though she'd been expecting the crack of thunder, she jumped. Cradling her mug in both hands, Hope Elliot smiled and stepped closer to the paned patio doors, almost daring the elements to put on a show.
The tea was too hot to gulp, but she took a tiny sip anyway, impatient and needing the extra warmth. The tile floor was cool under bare feet, but the room was warm ... ish. Warmer than the drafty old chateau in France. A wave of homesickness engulfed her. To distract herself, she pressed her fingertips to a pane of glass. The next bolt of lightning cut a jagged line from the heavens to the horizon. She traced the pattern on the inside of the rain-spattered glass and centered herself in the moment. After all, living in the moment was her thing.
She'd awakened ten minutes earlier, jolted from sleep by a house-shaking rumble. With only an hour or two of rest under her belt. Damn jet lag. She decided not to fight the insomnia. The shadows the tree limbs cast across her bed spooked her a bit. She had to blink several times before her mind engaged enough to send a cease and desist order to her hammering heart. But then another round of thunder rumbled through. Resigned, she gave in to its siren song and crawled out of bed.
Nothing blew as hard as a Midwestern thunderstorm. Hope knew she wouldn't sleep a wink until the storm cruised through.
Bearings reestablished, she moved through her childhood home without turning on the lights. Moving silently down the wide upstairs hall took her back to her rebellious teenage years. Any attempts her parents made to thwart her late-night forays were futile. She'd reached expert-level escape artist before the age of fifteen. By the time she left for good, she'd given up shimmying down drainpipes and rose trellises altogether and graduated to dramatic door slams. She also excelled at hurling hurtful words at her parents or younger sister, before hopping into whatever escape vehicle awaited her and taking off.
A small, sad smile curved her lips as she brushed the memories away and attempted another sip. Lightning marked the unseen cracks and crevices in the night sky. What a complete shit she'd been. Was it any wonder she never felt the urge to procreate? She'd probably end up every bit as controlling as her own parents had been. Wouldn't that have been a kick in the pants?
Hugging the warm ceramic to her chest, she tipped her head back, enthralled by the light show Mother Nature provided. Storms didn't scare her. One might startle her out of complacency, or wake her out of a dead sleep, but she was never truly frightened by them. She loved their power.
Her late husband claimed her parents should have named her Tempest rather than Hope. Once, after making love on a dark, blustery morning, John told her she embodied all the crackling energy and elemental danger of a raging storm. Best compliment ever.
Hope fed on the wild unpredictability of a good, howling storm. As a girl, she thought the massive summer storms that tore through each spring added excitement to an unflinchingly scheduled and rigid world. These days, she caught herself silently cursing the weathercasters with their sweeps of Doppler radar. Yes, rationally, she knew advancements in storm tracking and warning systems saved thousands of lives each year, but she missed the element of surprise. Some of the best moments of her life were heralded by thunder and backlit by Thor himself.
Blowing into the mug to cool the brew, she chuckled for what seemed the first time in weeks. Probably since the moment the will had been read and she discovered she'd been named executor. Her laughter then most likely registered more on the hysterical end of the scale. Trapped. She was trapped. Again. And she never saw it coming.
Her parents had mastered the art of the long game.
Lifting her mug in salute, her smile turned grim as a fork of lightning that looked startlingly like a spider vein zipped across the night sky. Dismissing thoughts of grasping hands clawing from graves, she took a sip of her tea. The warmth of the liquid filled those cold, creaky spots. She rolled her shoulders and tipped her head up to await the next salvo.
The next crash of thunder rumbled so close the tile beneath her bare feet vibrated. Hope smiled with pleasure as she thought back to the weather forecast on one of the airport televisions. She didn't remember the weatherman — sorry, meteorologist — calling for rain in the forecast. This was a sneak attack.
Hope toasted the rain-spattered panes with her mug. "Well played, Mother Nature. Tell them to take their computer modeling and stick their radar where the sun don't shine."
She barely touched the rim of her mug to her lips when another clap of thunder rattled the windows in their frames.
"Whoa." Hope took a step back from the French doors leading to the terraced backyard. "I'm on your side, lady. Solidarity, sister."
Flash upon flash of blue-white light illuminated the sky. Beyond the darkened lawn, Lake Michigan churned, its normally placid waters whipped into a froth by unrelenting gusts of wind. The old house creaked and shook, but even after decades of absence, she recognized the noises as old friends. No matter how long she'd been away, this house was home. She had never run away from home, only the strictures she had to live by if she wanted shelter under its roof. This house would forever be a touchstone. And soon, like everything else she loved, her family home would soon be gone.
Three previous generations of Winstons had called this cozy seven thousand square-foot lakefront estate home, but her generation wouldn't. Her sister, Diana, and her supercilious husband, Richard, built a fake English manor a couple miles up Sheridan Road. A Tudor monstrosity Hope secretly called Feudal, and not because her sister and brother-in-law were known to bicker a lot. Diana and Dickie tended to attack life with a sort of "Off with their heads!" attitude.
How they could prefer that travesty of a house to this one, Hope would never know. Building something new, but styling the place to look old. An embarrassingly American phenomenon. Compared to Chateau d' Viliene's nineteenth-century charm, this old house was as modern as a Barbie Dream House. Which meant Diana's nouveau-riche mansion might as well be made out of playing cards.
Thunder rattled the rafters again, but the old house held strong. Hope smiled reassuringly at the ceiling as she gave the doorframe a pat. "You might be a relative youngster, but you're no joker, are you?"
An earthshaking crack put the thunder's rumbling to shame. Seconds later, a deafening crash sent her reeling back from the windows.
Tea sloshed out of her mug, scalding her hand. "Ah!" She released the mug and it dropped to the floor, shattering into thousands of pieces. Shaking her hand to relieve the sting, Hope blinked away her shock to discover the already dark kitchen was now even darker. Hot tea ran between her bare toes as she scanned the area, trying to decipher what had changed. Then the difference struck her.
The ambient glows from blue, green, and red digital displays had gone dark. The power lines must have gone down.
Sniffling, she pressed her burned knuckles to her lips to soothe them. She moved her left foot a fraction of an inch. A piercing pain in her pinkie toe confirmed what she already suspected. She was barefoot in a pitch-black room filled with ceramic shrapnel.
Inhaling deeply, she exhaled through her nose. The instincts of a native Midwesterner kicked in. She listened for the purported freight train roar of a tornado, but, thankfully, all she could hear were sheets of rain lashing the windowpanes and the howling wind. Staring straight ahead, she waited. A lifetime seemed to pass before the sky lit up again. The moment she had some illumination, Hope scanned the general vicinity.
Shards littered the entire area. There was no way for her to escape. Her choices boiled down to either cutting her feet to ribbons or standing stiff as the Tin Man until dawn — which was at least four hours away. Neither option appealed.
She ignored the next few flashes of light in favor of experimenting with a slide step, figuring she couldn't pick her foot up and put it down, but she might be able to scoot her way out of the fallout zone with only minimal damage. The plan was crummy and slow, but she managed to move about six inches closer to the island. From there, she might be able to hop up, swing her legs over, and land in a safer spot on the other side.
Her plan almost worked. Would have, in fact, if she hadn't been startled by another deafening crack as she made the leap to freedom.
"Ow!" she cried out as her hipbone hit the edge of the granite countertop. She bounced off, twirled, and landed square in the debris field. "Ah! Fuck! Merde. Fils de pute! Shitfire! Imbécile," she muttered as she danced away from the mess on the floor.
Stinging pains shot through her soles and up her legs. Her hip ached from its encounter with the counter. The minor burns on her fingers decided to start throbbing in time with the dull thud in her head. Reasonably certain she was out of the danger zone, she stopped cussing and dancing as soon as she hit a wall. Then, she slid down until her ass hit the floor.
Her hip protested the jarring touchdown, but at least she could lift her feet off the floor. Too bad they were still on fire. The sky lit up again, and, to her horror, Hope saw the massive oak that once graced the back lawn now lay broken in three pieces. And one of those pieces appeared to be resting on the roof of the house. The rest lay split open across the dark lawn.
"Oh, shit," she whispered.
The words were barely out of her mouth when she smelled smoke.
"Shit! Fuck. Fire. Oh God, fire." Flinging herself to the side, she began to crawl on her hands and knees through the kitchen toward the front of the house. "Fire, fire, fire," she panted as she scrambled across the floor like a drunken crab.
Where was her cell phone? She paused and lifted her head, taking a moment to search her memory. She caught a whiff of burned electrical wiring and cringed as she recalled plugging the temporary mobile in and placing it on the nightstand beside the bed.
No time to dash upstairs.
Halfway down the hall, she doubled back to the kitchen. The cordless phone was on its charger. She grabbed it and took off toward the front of the house again, praying the whole time Diana hadn't shut off the service to the landline. She fumbled with the deadbolt. The second she had the door open, she hit the power button on the handset.
"Crap! Crap! Crappity crap!"
She scuttled back on her ass. Clearing the threshold, she moved to the far edge of the tiny covered entrance. A sharp blast of cool, damp air turned her skin to gooseflesh. Hope looked down, and to her horror, saw that she just crawled out of the house in nothing more than her underpants and an oversized Northwestern University jersey she found hanging in her old closet. She had no idea who owned the shirt or how such a garment came to be there. All she knew was the baggy cotton had felt better against her skin than the silk pajamas she usually wore. But the silk pajamas had pants. Big points for them.
Damp seeped through her panties. She tossed the useless phone back into the house and wrapped her arms around herself. Rain poured from the sky. Water gushed from clogged gutters and ran in rivers down the circular drive. The car she rented at the airport sat parked outside the three-car garage. Her sister hadn't thought to give her a remote control to open one of the bays. Or, maybe Diana had thought about it, but decided the domestic model wasn't deserving of shelter. Her baby sister certainly hadn't liked the idea of Hope staying in the house as they prepared to place it on the market.
Eying the car, she tried to remember if she'd pressed the button to lock the vehicle. She had no idea. But she had to move or she would either get soaked or burn up. Gingerly, she ran a cautious hand over the sole of her left foot, flinching when she touched at least three bits of ceramic embedded into the skin. She sucked air between clenched teeth as she plucked two from her heel. The one in the ball of her foot warranted a yelp, two more merdes, and a compound expletive that made her want to wash her own mouth out with soap. She gave her right foot similar treatment before she could chicken out.
Once she was certain she had extracted the worst of them, she rose as gingerly as she could. Biting her lip, she moved back to the front door and sniffed. The acrid scent of melted plastic and smoldering wood greeted her. The scent of ozone filled the air. The next flash of lightning highlighted a faint haze of smoke filling the house. Time for an outdoor shower.
She dashed out into the rain. The air was warm and heavy with electricity. Each drop of rain felt like a tiny icicle burrowing into her skin, though the cuts on her feet made her feel like she was running across hot coals. The jersey was soaked through in seconds. Worse, the goddamn car was locked. Desperate times called for measures sure to set the North Shore tongues wagging.
Without allowing herself a moment to think the better of the plan, she raced down the driveway toward Sheridan Road. Her heart leaped into her throat when she saw rotating red lights bounce off the stone privacy wall. Police, fire, ambulance, she didn't care. As far as she was concerned, she had need for one and all.
"Ah-ah-ow-ow," she chanted as she picked her way closer to the road. Despite the late hour, a surprisingly steady stream of cars zipped by, windshield wipers shushing at high speed. Swiveling, she scanned the road in both directions, praying she hadn't imagined those magical lights. Arms hugged tight to her sides, she swung back and forth until she caught a glimpse of them again. Seconds later, a fire truck crested a rise in the road. "Oh, thank God."
Raising her arms over her head, she waved her hands in broad arcs, hoping the driver could spot her through the deluge. She blew out a long, relieved breath and dropped her arms when the massive truck downshifted. Then, the damn thing cruised right past.
"No!" Her jaw dropped as she watched the rig roll by. She ran after the truck, heedless of the gravel and grit grinding into her battered soles. Two firemen hung off the back of the truck, in spite of the driving rain, but she didn't feel the least bit sorry for them. At least they had hats. And pants.
"Come back!" she cried, but when the truck hooked a sharp left and headed away from the lake, she knew the chase was futile.
Breathing hard, she eyeballed the subtly played reflectors marking the next driveway. She was halfway between their drive and hers, and since there was no going into her house, she had no option but to forge ahead. Pants or no pants.
Once upon a time, the house to the north of the Winston's had belonged to a family named Mason, but she was sure the property had changed hands in the last twenty years. Mrs. Mason's prized English garden had been replaced by a swimming pool with an infinity ledge that made it look as if one could swim right into Lake Michigan. The landscaping lights were on. Her neighbors had both power and a pool. But she wasn't up for a dip. At the moment, Hope harbored nothing more than a fervent wish never to be wet again.
Teeth chattering, she turned to go up the drive, only to find herself faced with an imposing pair of wrought iron gates.
"Come on. Seriously?" She scowled at the discreet call box. "You afraid of those thugs from Winnetka invading?" she muttered, jabbing at random buttons in the box in hopes of rousing someone to action. "Quick, hide the silver! They're coming in from Lake Forest by the busload. There'll be looting and —"
"Yes?" a disembodied voice boomed through the speaker.
Tucking her sodden hair behind her ear, Hope leaned in close to the box. "Yes! Hello! My name is Hope Elliot and my parents owned the house next door?" For some reason she turned the statement into a question. Clearing her throat, she forged ahead. "I think there's an electrical fire. I'm sorry to impose, but I have no phone ... or shoes ..." She paused, impatience with her situation overtaking the manners drilled into her as a child. "Do you think you can open the gate?"
Excerpted from A Bolt From the Blue by Maggie Wells. Copyright © 2016 Maggie Wells. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
True love, like lightning, never strikes twice-or does it? As a free-spirited young woman, Hope Elliot was desperate to escape her snobbish high society family. So she ran off to Paris, where she lived for twenty-five years. Now widowed, she's come home to settle her family's massive lakefront estate. But before she can put her mother's house on the market, it needs a major renovation. Enter master electrician Mick McInnes, a traditional guy who's about to turn her life upside down . . . Aside from the fact that Mick is hopelessly attracted to his latest client, Hope represents everything he doesn't want in a woman. She's ridiculously rich and adventurous, yet she doesn't seem to know much about the real world. Besides, his policy is to never get involved with clients. But he can't seem to resist the Chicago heiress's sizzling advances-and soon enough finds himself in her bed, feeling like a teenager once again. And like teenagers, the two of them will just have to convince their families that opposites can not only attract, but they can also make the perfect match . . . Review: The thing I have to say that I appreciated most about this book is the mature characters, though I hate the word "mature". As being a person close in age to Mick and Hope it was so refreshing reading a romance about this age group. The sexy was so well done, and it showed them as still vital and sexual people. I found Hope's background interesting, loved her free spirit ways. I did want her to stick up for herself sooner with her sister. Mick tried to be the voice of reason, but soon gave over to the passion between the two of them. They do have some obstacles to overcome to have their happy ending. I have not read this Author before and I enjoyed her writing, characters and story. 3.5Stars *I voluntarily read an advance reader copy of this book provided by the publisher.*