The Fire Still Burns by Roxanne St. Claire released on Oct 16, 2017 is available now for purchase.
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The Fire Still Burns
By Roxanne St. Claire
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe charred remains of Edgewater stood like a massive black-and-silver mountain in the middle of a field of fried brown grass. Colin McGrath gazed at the rubble of what was once one of Newport's most glorious summer mansions.
Edgewater was gone. And with it, a piece of Newport's great "Gilded Age." The architect in him mourned the loss of any magnificent structure, since he believed that they all had a soul of their own. But the purist in him wanted to thrust his fist in the air and holler, "Yes!" Good riddance to overopulent, out-of-proportion, Italianate mausoleums. There were still enough of them in Newport, Rhode Island, to attract tourists by the thousands.
In his opinion, excessive extravagance had gone out with the old millennium. In the case of Edgewater, the exit had been accelerated by one strategically placed lightning strike, and then helped along by high winds and a year-long drought. Mother Nature's cleanup campaign. And what had started as a favor to someone dear to him had become a personal mission.
Colin's vision for Edgewater's replacement was so vivid, he really didn't need the sketches in the worn portfolio tucked under his arm.
Just the thought brought a smile to his face as he sauntered toward the three-story carriage house, the only structure on the historic property that had survived the fire.
The finest architects in the country had been called to compete for this job. Colin paused and rolled his head a bit, working out a crick in his neck. He glanced at the sea of dark Brooks Brothers-type suits and stiff white shirts gathered in groups along the wraparound patio. A few women wore the female version of the same uniform.
Not a ponytail, earring or a pair of jeans in the whole gang. Until now.
He took the front steps two at a time, aware that conversations stopped and heads turned at his arrival. Nothing new. He'd been ruffling the feathers of the architecture world since he'd descended upon it six years ago. One thing was for sure: everyone in this group knew his name and his reputation.
But he hadn't bothered to research the other firms. The only real competition for this job was Hazelwood and Harrington, and somewhere in this bunch was some muck-a-muck from that 150-year-old institution. Maybe even Eugene Harrington himself. It didn't matter who H&H had sent to compete - there was only one person on their payroll he cared about and they certainly wouldn't have sent her. No doubt His Highness Harrington kept the princess locked in an ivory tower. Protecting her from wolves ... especially ones with long hair.
"The presentations have already started," a gray-haired undertaker type said to him, making little effort to hide the "you're late" disdain in his voice. "You need to check in with the secretary in the house."
Colin nodded his thanks, unfazed by the warning. Adrian Gilmore, the current owner of Edgewater, would meet with his ten candidates alphabetically. Colin might not know the competition, but he'd made sure he knew everything about the eccentric British billionaire looking to reconstruct his burned castle on Bellevue Avenue. Colin fully intended to land the job.
Only he had absolutely no intention of rebuilding Edgewater.
A young woman holding a clipboard stood in the two-story entryway, pacing in front of a set of closed double doors. Behind them, in what he assumed was the solarium, Gilmore was undoubtedly holding court - er, conducting presentations.
"You must be Mr. McGrath," she said, slowing her step to let her gaze meander over his casual dress, lingering for a moment on the tiny gold hoop in his right ear.
He gave her a self-deprecating smile. "How'd you guess?"
"You're the only person on my list who hasn't checked in yet." Her eyes sparkled with a flirtatious gleam. "And the only man not wearing a tie."
He winked and lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone. "I don't want to choke."
She laughed lightly in response.
"Tell me he hasn't reached M ... yet." He glanced at the closed doors.
"You just made it," she said, chastising him with a wave of her pen. "You're up next, right after Miss Harrington."
"Miss Harrington?" For a split second, the world tilted on its axis. "Grace Harrington?"
Before the woman could answer, the double doors opened, pouring light into the dim entryway. Framed by the doorway and backlit by golden rays of sunshine, the woman who'd haunted his dreams for ten years stood looking as though she'd been beamed down from heaven.
For a moment, he didn't breathe.
She smoothed a lock of pale blond hair, as if by some remote chance a single strand might have defied the rules of nature and wandered out of place. Her hair was shorter than he remembered, grazing her shoulders like blunt-cut satin. But her face hadn't changed in ten years. Unless he called getting more beautiful a change.
She still had a milky-smooth complexion, eyes the color of spring moss and cheekbones designed by an artist. When she smiled at the receptionist, the dimples he remembered so well deepened, zinging arrows straight into his heart.
The memory of Grace Harrington could make his blood hot and his body hard. The sight of her nearly did him in.
"Hey, Gracie," he said quietly, purposely staying out of the light.
Her eyes flashed, and for one second - no, for one millionth of a nanosecond - he saw them register with shock and ... pleasure. The flicker dulled immediately into a blank stare.
Which translated loosely into "no one on earth calls me Gracie and lives."
He stepped out of the shadows. "Colin McGrath." He held out his hand as though ... as though they'd never had an intimate moment. Of course, that would depend on the definition of intimate.
She responded with a blank stare.
"Carnegie Mellon? Your freshman year?" He drank in her pretty face, lingering for a second on her slender throat and the exposed skin peeking from her ivory suit. He swore he could remember exactly what that skin tasted like. He leaned forward and added in a quiet voice, "The Buggy Races?"
A warm flush darkened her cheeks. She obviously remembered the night Lady Harrington had been anything but ladylike.
"Colin. Of course." Her smooth New England tones remained rich with upper-class elegance. "I'd heard you'd opened your own firm, in, uh, Pittsburgh." Was that a note of condescension when she mentioned his humble hometown?
But at least she knew something about him. Had she done an Internet search and followed his career as he'd followed hers? His occasional visits to various search engines had revealed that she'd obtained her Masters at the Rhode Island School of Design and joined her father's revered architectural firm. He knew she lived in Boston and, son of a gun, somehow he'd managed to find out that she hadn't gotten married yet.
"I'm still in Pittsburgh," he said. "But I get around."
Her eyes darted to his earring and his open collar. "I'm sure you do."
Excerpted from The Fire Still Burns by Roxanne St. Claire Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the second book in the McGrath brother series. It's wonderful....a truly romantic love story about two people who met in college and then 10 years later meet again, bidding on the same project It restores my faith in happy endings. I highly recommend this book and the first book in the series, "Like a Hurricane". These two books are St. Claire at her best!
I hightly recommend this book. A great love story. Very refreshing.