Sara was beautiful, secretiveand haunted. Matt Seton was both intrigued and annoyed by his unexpected houseguest. She wouldn't tell him where she was from, but he could tell she was running from something.
Common sense warned Matt not to get involved, but then a newspaper article revealed that Sara was in fact the wife of a rich man and missing, feared kidnapped. Matt knew he couldn't abandon Sara; she needed his protection. And as the atmosphere became erotically charged between them, Matt also realized that, though he mustn't touch Sara, he couldn't let her go .
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By Anne Mather
Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Copyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter One"We're going to be late, Daddy."
"I know that." Matt Seton managed not to sound as frustrated as he felt. It wasn't Rosie's fault that he'd overslept on the very morning that Mrs Webb wasn't here, or that his head was still buzzing with the effort of falling out of bed just a couple of hours after he'd flaked out.
"Mrs Sanders says that there's no excuse for sleeping in these days," continued Rosie primly, and Matt could hear the echo of his ex-wife Carol's peevish tones in his daughter's voice.
"I know. I know. I'm sorry." Clenching his teeth, Matt tightened his hands on the wheel of the powerful Range Rover. The temptation was to step down hard on the accelerator, but he didn't think that risking another ticket for speeding would improve his standing with Mrs Sanders either.
"So who's going to pick me up this afternoon?" Rosie asked, a little anxiously now, and Matt turned to give his daughter a reassuring look.
"I will," he told the seven-year-old firmly. "And if I can't make it I'll ask Auntie Emma to collect you. How's that?"
Rosie seemed slightly mollified, but as her small hands curved around the bag containing her pencil case and schoolbooks she cast her father an appealing look. "You won't forget, will you, Daddy? I don't like having to ask Mrs Sanders to ring you."
Matt expelled a long sigh. "You've only had to do that once, Rosie," he protested. And then, because it was obviously a cause of some concern to the child, his lean mouth parted in a rueful grin. "I'll be there," he promised. "I can't have my best girl waiting around in the playground."
"Mrs Sanders doesn't let us wait in the playground," Rosie told him pedantically. "We have to stay in school if our Mummys or Daddys aren't there when school's over."
"Right." Matt's mouth compressed. "Well, as I say, I won't let you down. Okay?"
"Okay!" Rosie's eyes brightened in anticipation and Matt felt a heel for even comparing her to her mother. Rosemary was nothing like Carol, thank God, and it was up to him to organise a more stable structure in his daughter's life.
And he was trying, goodness knew. Since ill-health had forced Rosie's original nanny to retire he had interviewed a number of applicants for the position without any lasting success. Few younger women wanted to live in a remote area of Northumbria, far from the nearest town, and the older nannies who'd applied had, for the most part, appeared far too strict for his taste. He didn't want Rosie's confidence, already fragile because of her mother's abandonment, shattered by some fire-breathing dragon who saw the unconventionality of Matt's lifestyle as an opportunity to terrorise the little girl.
In consequence, he was seriously considering contacting an agency in London, in the hope that someone there might be professional enough about their career not to care about living in such rural surroundings. Saviour's Bay wasn't the back of beyond, after all. It was a wild and beautiful area of the Northumbrian coast, whose history was as turbulent as the seas that lashed the rocks below the cliffs. Its moors and hamlets were the haunt of archaeologists and naturalists, and from Matt's point of view it was the ideal place to escape the demands that being a successful writer had put on him. Few people knew where he lived these days, and that suited him very well.
But it didn't suit everyone, he acknowledged, and until the day came when he was forced to consider sending Rosie away to school he had to persist in his search for a suitable replacement for the woman who had virtually brought her up.
Not her mother, needless to say, he added to himself. Carol's indifference, not just to him but also to their daughter, had long since lost its power to hurt him. There were times when he wondered why they'd ever married at all, but Carol had given him Rosie, and he could never regret that. He adored his small daughter and he'd do whatever it took to keep her with him.
Matt appreciated that his success had given him certain advantages. When Carol had left him for another man he'd been the author of two moderately successful novels, but that was all. It was his third book that had hit the big time, and his fourth and fifth novels had sold in their millions. Subsequent sales of screen rights to a hotshot Hollywood director had helped, and these days he could virtually name his price.
But being photographed wherever he went, having his picture exhibited in magazines and periodicals, being invited onto television talk shows and the like, was not what he'd had in mind when he'd written his first book. As a doctor, specialising in psychology, he knew exactly what other people thought he'd expected from his change of career. The truth was, he had never been interested in becoming famous. And these days he just wanted to be left alone to get on with his next manuscript.
Which was why he'd bought Seadrift, the sprawling house overlooking the bay that he'd fallen in love with the first time he'd seen it. It served the dual purpose of giving him the peace he needed to work and the opportunity to put several hundred miles between him and the London media.
The gates of St Winifred's Primary loomed ahead and Matt breathed a sigh of relief. A glance at his watch told him it was still a minute or two to nine o'clock, and if Rosie got her skates on she should make it into class in time for registration.
"Have a good day, angel," he said, exchanging a swift kiss with his daughter before she thrust open her door and clambered down onto the kerb.
"Bye, Daddy," she called, her face briefly exhibiting a little of the anxiety she'd exhibited earlier. Then, cramming her grey hat with its upturned brim and distinctive red band down onto her sooty bob, to prevent the wind from taking it, she raised a hand in farewell and raced across the playground to the doors, where one or two stragglers were still entering the building.
Matt waited until the swirling hem of Rosie's pleated skirt had disappeared from view before putting the Range Rover into drive again and moving away. He couldn't prevent the sigh of relief he felt at knowing that she was in safe hands for a few hours at least. When he was working he could easily forget the time, and it wasn't fair on his daughter that she should have to spend her days worrying that he might not be there when she came out of school.
That was why he needed someone - nursemaid, nanny, whatever - to take up the slack. He had a housekeeper, Mrs Webb, who came in most days to cook and clean and do the ironing, but he'd never realised how much he'd depended on Hester Gibson until she'd been forced to retire. But then, Hester had been so much more than a nanny. From the very beginning she'd been more of a mother to Rosie than Carol had ever been, and when Carol had moved in with her lover Hester had taken Matt under her wing, too.
They had been living in London at that time, but Hester had had no qualms when Matt had suggested moving to the wilds of Northumbria. Like Matt, she had been an exile from the northeast of England herself, only living in the south because she hadn't been able to find suitable employment in her home town of Newcastle. It had been like coming home for both of them, and the house at Saviour's Bay had offered space and comfort.
Matt sighed again, and, turning the heavy vehicle in the yard of the village pub, drove back the way he'd come. The roads between Saviour's Bay and the village of Ellsmoor, where Rosie's school was situated, were narrow, with high, untrimmed hedges on either side. He supposed the state of the hedges was due to the local farmers, who were having a hard time of it at present, but it meant it was impossible to see far enough ahead to overtake the slow-moving hay wagon in front of him. But Matt was in no hurry now. He had the rest of the morning and the early part of the afternoon to himself, and as he'd worked half the night he thought he deserved a break.
Of course, he needed a shave, he conceded, running a hand over the stubble on his jawline. And some coffee, he thought eagerly, having only had time to pour milk onto Rosie's cornflakes and fill her glass with fresh orange juice before charging out to the car. Yes, some strong caffeine was just what he needed. It might clear his head and provide him with the impetus to get this nanny business sorted.
He made reasonably good time back to the house. Saviour's Bay was a village, too, but a much smaller community than that of Ellsmoor. In recent weeks he'd toyed with the idea of buying an apartment in Newcastle that they could use in term time. A would-be employee would obviously find the city more appealing. But the idea of living in town - any town - even for a limited period wasn't appealing to him. He loved Seadrift, loved its isolation too much to consider any alternative at present. And Rosie loved it, too. She couldn't remember living anywhere else.
As he swung onto the private road that led up to the house he noticed a car parked at an angle at the side of the road just before the turning. He slowed, wondering if the driver had missed his way, but the vehicle appeared to be deserted. Whoever owned the car had either abandoned it to walk back to the village, or had gone up to the house, he decided. There were no other houses along this stretch of the cliffs, which was why he'd bought Seadrift in the first place.
He frowned, looking back the way he'd come, but there was no one in sight. He wasn't worried. He'd had too many skirmishes with the press in the past to be concerned about some rogue reporter who might have hopes of finding a novel perspective on his present situation. Thankfully the press in this area accepted his presence without much hassle, and were usually too busy following up local issues to trouble him. But the car was there and it had to belong to someone.
So who? Scowling, he pressed his foot down on the accelerator and quickened his pace. The pleasant anticipation he'd been feeling of making coffee and reading his mail was dissipating, and he resented whoever it was for ruining his mood.
Excerpted from Hot Pursuit by Anne Mather
Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Beautiful well written