The handsome American with whom Charlotte once shared friendshipand, almost, passionis now heir to the castle and land. But he is a man torn between his duties at the helm of an empire and his growing desire to return to the land of his forefathers. And his arrival ignites a string of dramatic events that will change their lives.
For the secrets that have haunted Strathaird Castle will suddenly catapult Charlotte into a glorious new destiny in which she is finally free to love. But to claim the happiness she has so long been denied, she must harness the powerful legacy of three generations of MacLeodsa bold and indomitable will to fight for the impossible.
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The Lost Dreams
By Fiona Hood-Stewart
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDid he feel anything? Charlotte Drummond wondered, gazing at the thin, wax-like body lying perfectly still under pressed white sheets. Was it possible that, despite medical evidence to the contrary, the seemingly lifeless man before her somehow sensed her presence?
She shuddered, took a deep breath, and quickly shifted her gaze to the sterile hospital wall, then reached out blindly to pull the gray plastic chair back from the side of the metal bed and sat down wearily. The trip to Glasgow and the hospital was both physically and mentally wearing. Now, as she prepared to wait out the self-imposed hourly visit she undertook once every two weeks, as she had for the past year, she forced herself to get a grip on her emotions. She gazed at him once again in a more detached manner, studying the vestiges of those strong, handsome features that once had set the world on fire. Although the devastating smile that had flashed across movie screens and into the hearts of millions around the globe was gone now, obscured by the respirator tubes that kept him alive, his good looks were still evident.
Then another image flashed. Not so pleasant, but just as memorable. Instinctively she tensed and her fingers moved to her cheek, where more than once she'd felt the impact of his hand, sending her reeling. She trembled involuntarily, knuckles gripping the metal bed rail, hoping he would never wake, afraid that he would.
She rose nervously, moved quickly away, toward the long, paned window, and stared at the midday traffic trundling slowly under a thin summer drizzle in the street below, wishing she could somehow outrun the obsessive thoughts that always haunted her visits here. Memories she'd never escape, she realized, passing a hand over her eyes. She would never forget the sleepless nights and the obsessive fear that over the years had brought her to her knees. It was only when she'd finally hit rock bottom that she realized anything, even death, would be better than the life she was living, that to survive, she must climb out of the abyss by whatever means, and at whatever cost. It had taken several months, but finally she'd built up enough courage to make the break. Then came that last, harrowing quarrel, her rage and humiliation when he'd laughed at her threat to end the marriage once and for all. A vision of his face, white with fury, as he'd slammed the door, and her surge of satisfaction that at last she'd stood up to him. Then the call, several hours later, that had shattered her newfound confidence; she'd rushed through the streets of London to the emergency room at St. Thomas' hospital, praying, begging for the news not to be true.
The rest of that awful day was a blur of images: the bleak, desperate faces of the director and the producer, the doctor's blunt explanation of just how the fall from the high-rise building, a stunt he normally would never have attempted, had left him in a coma. For how long? she'd asked, recalling the suffocating desperation. But nobody knew.
Worse had been the remorse. Shame for the unexpected rush of freedom, the relief of knowing that he couldn't hurt her mentally or physically ever again, accompanied by the deep-rooted fear that she was the one to blame.
Charlotte's head drooped. She closed her eyes and thrust trembling fingers into her long titian hair. Oh God. Was it her fault he'd left the house in such a towering rage that day? Was this his way of punishing her? For punish her he had, holding her prisoner, silently forcing her on this fortnightly pilgrimage of penance, keeping himself and her guilt alive for as long as he remained tied to the machines that linked him to life.
Perhaps, even in his comatose state, he sensed the guilty secret that she harbored, the unvoiced wish that they'd simply pull the plug.
No. That was impossible. Even considering such a thing was wicked. While there was still an ounce of hope, she had no right. Just as she couldn't possibly divorce him now, however much Mummy and Moira insisted she should. After all, whatever he'd done in the past, he was still her husband and she must stand by him. It was the only decent thing to do.
But what if he did suddenly wake up? It had been known to happen. She doubled over again, willing the wave of nausea to pass, schooling her mind, driving out demons, replacing them with problems of the moment, ones she could do something concrete about.
Raising her aching head, she fixed her gaze carefully beyond the body and the bed to the wall behind, and forced herself to think of something else.
Bradley Ward. She considered his impending visit and felt better. Wonderful, decent Brad, her dear friend and cousin. Well, she reflected ruefully, only a distant cousin, but still, family all the same. But he was also the man who was forcing her to leave Strathaird, that rugged dauntless fortress she adored, the place she called home. In winter, the untamed North Sea plundered the craggy rocks below its grim facade, in summer, laughing frothy crests lapped gently. It was home. Her beloved ancestral home. The one place that had never let her down. Within the sanctuary of its massive stone walls that for centuries had withstood enemy onslaughts, raiding Vikings and plundering rival clans, within the cozy embrasure of the worn chintz window seat of her bedroom or curled under the old mohair rug in the deep leather armchair next to the library fire, watching the rain slash the sturdy diamond-shaped windowpanes, she felt safe from the world.
And now Strathaird would be hers no longer.
Not that Brad had wanted the property-he'd done everything possible to get the estate's entail voided in favor of her mother and herself, but the rule of law apparently trumped a generation of occupancy and dedication to the land.
And broke her heart.
Charlotte swallowed the lump in her throat. Even though she was grateful the estate would be in Brad's capable hands, she didn't think she could bear to witness the changes his tenure would inevitably bring.
And now he'd be coming with a bride.
His engagement had been a complete surprise, one she was still trying to fathom and accept. She should have known that one day it would happen. Not that she objected, of course-far from it; she planned to pull his leg royally at the wedding, then be the first to toast his good fortune. It just felt odd to think of her Brad tied permanently to another woman, when he'd always been there for her. Now, she supposed reluctantly, she'd have to learn to share his strength with someone else.
All at once, Brad's image materialized before her. Not as he was now, but as he'd been that night in Chester Square all those years ago, when he'd taken her in his arms and she'd felt his lips on hers. It had been years since she'd given it any thought, ages since she'd remembered. So why now? she wondered, eyes still carefully pinned above the bed, tracing shadows on the wall, trying to make some sense of these irrational thoughts. It was so silly. For over a decade, they'd had nothing more than a close friendly relationship. Still, she sighed involuntarily. The fact remained that after Brad married Sylvia, things would never be quite the same again.
The loud beeping of a monitor brought her crashing back to earth. She blinked uneasily at the panel of lights to the right of the bed, knowing the nurses would be in soon to check the apparatus. She flexed her fingers nervously and got up, feeling frustrated and cramped, and paced the room, agitated as a caged cheetah. If only there was some way to tear herself away, reach beyond this restless, dark-edged world that hovered constantly. But that was wishful thinking. Like it or not, she was stuck in a deadly impasse, unable to relinquish the past and powerless to claim the future.
Excerpted from The Lost Dreams by Fiona Hood-Stewart Copyright © 2003 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.
Reading Group Guide
Set in Scotland, The Lost Dreams sizzles with passion and hidden desires.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ofcourse, maybe I should have read that it was a sequel. It took me a LONG time into the book, actually not even to the end, to figure out HOW Charlotte and Brad were 'distant cousins'. I mean, they kept saying that the castle was both thier home, and they grew up their knowing eachother but not knowing they were related. It sounded liek they were first cousins for most of the book. The first half of the book was very vague. I guess I might not have been as confused if I'd known it was a sequal when I bought it, and had I read the first book before it! The plot line was good, but predictable. The only way I would recommend this book is by making sure the person reads the first book first. I haven't read it cause I don't expect its much better than this one. I am the type of person who reads a good book in a day or two, but this book took me 2 weeks to read (and I bought and read another book during that 2 weeks) because I just couldn't get into it. I did get into it towards the end though. On another note, the author bio in the back made it sound like shes high on herself. ...'Led a cosmopolitain life from the day she was born....she draws from her own experience in the world of old money, big business and the international jet set'. Kinda turned me off. Glad she found a hobby since she was born rich enough to never have to work.
After many long years, Charlotte MacLeod is ready to begin a new life. She returns to her ancestral home with her child, ready to begin fulfilling her destiny as a jewelry designer. However, the castle's heir and her first, truest love, Brad Ward, has also returned. .......... It has come time for Charlotte and Brad to face one another and resolve the feelings that have never died between them. Although both are committed to others and facing critical career decisions, they can not deny what they feel for each other. Secrets from the past come forth in dramatic confrontations that put lives on the line. Trusted friends turn traitor, and committments must be reexamined. ....... ***** With all the twists and turns of a soap opera, this novel weaves a complex plot that will leave the reader stunned that so much could possibly happen to one person in such a short amount of time. Yet, despite this, it is presented realistically, a novel to rival Barbara Taylor Bradford's work. To further enhance the attraction, a hint of the sequel is given at the end. ***** REVIEWED BY AMANDA KILLGORE.
Though he supported the inheritance going to his Aunt Penelope MacLeod, the court ruled that Bradley Harcourt Ward inherits Strathaird Castle on the Isle of Skye. The American Brad, the CEO of a mega international corporation, schedules three weeks at the castle to straighten out the estate. His fiancée Sylvia Hansen will join him there after she completes company business. Brad arrives to handle the affairs as Lord MacLeod, but is upset to learn that Penny¿s daughter Charlotte and her teenage daughter have vacated the castle. He wants her to return to her home, but Brad also quickly realizes he still loves Charlotte though she married someone else. As three weeks stretches into six weeks, Sylvia realizes that Brad enjoys being the lord of the manor. She also concludes he loves Charlotte but Sylvia did not escape from the wrong side of the Little Rock tracks to go down without a fight. She plans to get him on her turf, New York City, and away from Charlotte¿s backwater castle. THE LOST DREAMS is a pleasant contemporary aristocratic romance. When the enjoyable story line focuses on the powerful romantic entanglements of the quartet, fans receive a superb tale. However, an intrigue subplot slows down the deep prime theme. As she did with THE STOLEN YEARS, Fiona Hood-Stewart endows her fans with an intense enjoyable novel. Harriet Klausner