When Harriet’s world comes crashing down, she’s still able to count her blessings.
Forget London, her failing career and her unfaithful fiance an unexpected legacy of a cottage and stables in an Irish village beckons! Her fresh start on the Emerald Isle is soon threatened: her new neighbor is ruthless businessman Rafael Cavaliere. It was Rafael’s asset-stripping activities that cost Harriet her job and now it seems he’s entitled to half her inheritance. But Rafael has a way with him: always on hand to smooth Harriet’s path as she handles livestock and the locals, he oozes sex and charm. Though at risk of becoming just another notch on Rafael’s bedpost, Harriet decides that she’ll let him
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IN AN INSTANT of searing honesty that came between sleeping and waking exhausted in her Manchester hotel room, Harriet Carmichael recognised that her life was not at all what she had once dreamt it would be. But she still hadn’t the slightest suspicion that she was about to face a day when her every worst nightmare would come true.
In any case, on her seventh birthday her stepfather had taught her to count her blessings when her exquisite mother had failed once again to put in a promised appearance. Those constant disappointments had hurt so much that Harriet had soon learned the art of looking on the bright side. That was how she protected herself. Negative thoughts were banished with a rousing mental mantra of all the things that she felt she should be grateful for. Right now there was her fantastic fiancé, Luke, who had fallen for her in spite of her imperfections. Then there was her wonderful and glamorous extended family. She also had a great job, which earned her a terrific salary and which had finally persuaded Luke to put marriage on the agenda.
A starry smile tilted her generous mouth now. Awash with feel-good buoyancy, Harriet reached for the television remote and flicked on the business news.
‘Following a recent drop in share prices, Rafael Cavaliere’s arrival in London is fuelling rumours of a crash in the electronics sector.’
Harriet sat up in bed with a jerk to study the camera shot of the notorious Italian tycoon at Heathrow Airport. As usual his staff and his bodyguards surrounded his tall, commanding figure while a posse of frantic paparazzi bayed for attention. In the midst of this mêlée, however, Cavaliere strode along without haste in an apparent oasis of personal peace. The iceman cometh, Harriet thought grimly. Although he was only in his mid thirties he emanated the brutal assurance of a powerful male at home with the raw politics of the business world. His enormous wealth and brilliant financial acumen were laced with formidable ruthlessness. Behind the shades he always wore his lean, dark and compelling profile was as unreadable as a granite wall. A disturbing little shiver ran down her spine.
With an impatient hand Harriet thrust back the tumble of rich dark red hair falling across her pale brow, the soft contours of her rounded face taut with disapproval. Ten years earlier Rafael Cavaliere had acquired the pharmaceutical company where her stepfather had worked. Stripped of its every asset, the ailing firm had ceased to exist. Subsequently unemployment had devastated the rural town where she had grown up, and wrecked more than one previously happy family. She despised everything Rafael Cavaliere stood for: he did not create, he simply destroyed, and all in the very convenient names of progress, efficiency and profit.
In those days Harriet had been a country girl, never happier than when she was helping out at the local riding school, and her sole ambition had been to work with horses. Which was exactly why she had been so very unsettled only two months ago, when she’d become the fortunate recipient of a most unexpected inheritance: a relative she’d never met had left her a small livery business on the west coast of Ireland. Initially astonished and ecstatic at the news, Harriet had been downright irritated to be told that a handsome offer had already been made to purchase the property. In fact she had been mad keen to book the first available flight to Kerry. Unfortunately for her, however, absolutely nobody else in her life had shared her enthusiasm for exploring either her Irish legacy or her Irish heritage, she recalled heavily.
Her mother, Eva, had fled Ireland and her family for London as a pregnant teenager. Eva’s memories were bitter and unforgiving, and she had always refused to tell her daughter who her father was. Harriet would have dearly loved some encouragement to visit the village of Ballyflynn, where Eva had grown up, and would have welcomed the chance to see if she could discover for herself the identity of her birth father. But fate had decreed otherwise, for tomorrow contracts were to be exchanged for the sale of the livery stable. Urged to be sensible rather than sentimental, Harriet had given way to pressure and had agreed to sell her inheritance sight unseen. After all, to do otherwise would have entailed turning her life upside down.
Her mobile phone rang. Though discomfited by her somewhat downbeat reflections, Harriet answered it with concentrated brightness.
‘Harriet…do you know if my Armani suit is still at the dry cleaners?’ Luke enquired tautly.
‘Let me think.’ Harriet thought back to the weekend, which had raced past in her usual feverish fight with the clock as she struggled to meet all her obligations. Luke had asked her to pick up his suit if she could manage it, and she had said she would. But had she actually done so? Since working overtime had begun encroaching heavily on her weekends, she had found it increasingly hard to factor in the time to take care of the ordinary things of life.
‘Harriet…’ Luke pressed. ‘I’m running late—’
‘I definitely picked your suit up—’
‘But it’s not in the wardrobe!’ Luke was as clipped and cutting in his impatience as only a lawyer could be. He had been equally blunt when it came to pointing out that the Emerald Isle was famously green because it rained a lot there, and therefore it was not at all his idea of the perfect setting for a holiday home.
‘So where is it?’
Harriet pictured him with his streaky blond hair swept back from his brow, his tanned, lively features lit by light green eyes. Love made her feel hollow with longing. With effort she retrieved a recollection of staggering into his apartment laden with shopping bags, the Armani suit draped over her arm.
‘Give me a minute. I’m thinking.’