Blinded by Desire
Back Cover Copy
Is Jason ready to give love a chance, and can he capture Beth’s heart?
Jason Andre is a successful billionaire architect who thinks he can get what he wants when he wants.
Beth Ashton is a feisty redhead with an up-and-coming career as a landscape designer. And she wants nothing to do with Jason.
From the outset, sparks fly between them. She excites him and he infuriates her.
When Jason’s light aircraft crashes and he loses his sight, Beth steps in and does exactly what she promised she wouldn’t do…she works for him.
Are Beth and Jason destined to love or is passion and desire the only thing on offer?
Chapter Two - Excerpt 5
Beth eased her crushed hand from Jason’s powerful grip and slowly began flexing her numb fingers back into life.
Her eyes travelled up the length of his white shirt to his bronzed, tanned face, and their eyes locked. She was captured, mesmerised by his gaze. She was falling, diving fathoms into their deep, dark, depths while wanting only to escape from his intense, penetrating scrutiny.
“I hadn’t expected a woman,” Jason explained.
Beth’s thoughts were jerked back to the present. “And now that you know Ashton Landscaping is run by me…are you disappointed, Mr. Andre?”
She’d meant her cutting remarks to hit home, and they had.
Jason smiled. But it wasn’t a smile of friendship. It was more like a smile of cautious warning. And then he said, “The tigress has claws, and they are sharp claws. Almost as sharp as her tongue. But how could any man be disappointed with you, Miss Ashton?”
Beth felt Jason’s gaze travel the length of her body from the top of her head to her elegantly clad feet. She’d been examined, assessed, and stripped all in one go.
The atmosphere was tense, and with the friction growing between Beth was thankful when Sophie stepped in to break the strain of the moment.
“I’m sure dinner is nearly ready to be served. Shall we go through to the dining room?” And then, in the style of a perfect hostess, Sophie ushered everyone toward the door.
Entering the dining room, Beth was impressed. A long, hardwood table dressed to precision, held centre place. Soft light from the candles shone onto the crisp, white table cloth and the polished silverware. Everything sparkled. And while a log fire burnt bright in the hearth, a warm heat was being thrown out.
It was a typical English country house setting, and during the evening, Charles played the eloquent host, allowing Sophie to entertain her guests faultlessly.
When the meal was nearly finished, Jason set down his knife and fork and turned to Beth. Instinct told her that he was about to make his move.
Throughout dinner, everyone had talked pleasantries, chatting about the latest films they had seen or the most recent book they had read. But when coffee was served, conversation turned to business.
“Have you been at Clifton Hall long, Miss Ashton?” Jason asked.
“About three months,” she explained. “Staying in the lodge house has been ideal and really convenient. Depending on the size of a project it makes life a lot easier for everyone if I’m on site while landscaping.”
Charles had reached across the table and was busy refilling everyone’s liqueur glass from the decanter. “Having Beth staying in our guest house allows her to come and go as she pleases…day or night,” Charles said.
Beth was on the alert. Was Charles implying something? Day or Night! What did he mean by that? Was there supposed to be a double connotation behind his innuendo? If Beth found her host’s words offensive…she wondered what Jason and Sophie were thinking.
“I prefer to be on base, or at least as near as possible, if I’m working on a project.” For some reason, Beth felt the need to clarify. Especially after what Charles had just said. Then, lifting her glass to her lips, she took a sip of the creamy, whisky liqueur. “I usually rent a house for the duration of a project, but while I’ve been at Clifton Hall, the guest house has been ideal. However, now that the landscaping is more or less complete, I really ought to be getting back to my own home in Devon.”
On hearing Beth say she was thinking of leaving, Sophie became agitated. “But my dear, you can’t go just yet. The flower beds have to be planted, and then there’s the rockery.”
“My team’s quite capable of completing any jobs that remain to be done. And with no real reason for me to stay longer, that leaves me free to move on to my next project.”
Jason swirled his warmed brandy in the glass.
“So, you will be free to take on my garden project…if I should offer you the opportunity to design for me?”
In one massive rush, a sinking feeling came over Beth and hit her in the pit of her stomach. She realised she’d fallen into Jason’s trap. She had told him she was fully booked, and unable to take on extra work. And now, she’d just said that when she left Clifton Hall, she would be free to take on more projects.
“I’m afraid not, Mr. Andre. There’s still work to finish off here and I have other clients on my waiting list. My services are needed elsewhere.”
Charles unexpectedly reached across the table and covered Beth’s hand with his.
Beth was surprised by Charles’s action.
“Yes, we still need Beth’s services,” Charles said, ambiguously. “So, there’s every reason for Beth to remain at Clifton Hall. Isn’t there, my dear?”
His words were suggestive, and Beth felt her cheeks burning with a shameful embarrassment. She didn’t know exactly what Charles was implying, but what was worse, was that his wife was sitting at the same table, listening. What must Sophie be thinking?
Endeavouring not to draw attention to herself, Beth began pulling her hand away from beneath Charles’s, but he wasn’t letting go. And then she was too late. Jason had seen what had happened.
His eyes were like daggers as he looked across the table toward her. It wasn’t a kind look. A dark eyebrow was raised cynically, and as his gaze fixed intently on her hand still gripped tightly in Charles’s, she inwardly cringed. With Jason’s penetrating eyes focused upon her, fearful shivers of dread ran along her spine.
For no logical reason she could think of, she felt a sense of panic. But she had nothing to be afraid of…or had she? There was nothing to hide. And no matter how it might look, she wasn’t having an affair with Charles. Nothing was happening between them.
Whatever Jason might think, she had no reason to feel ashamed. But inexplicably, she did. And when Beth looked at Sophie, and could see the hurt showing on Sophie’s face, she felt mortified. Innocently, and without meaning to be, she knew she was the cause of that pain.
Beth had no intention of hurting Sophie, and she would never consider having a relationship with her friend’s husband…or any other married man.
When Beth first met Charles, she’d suspected he was a bit of a Casanova. He was the type. The sort that looked at a lady and wanted more than what was on offer. But until now, Charles had never tried anything on with her. Beth had kept her distance and had held him at bay.
Perhaps this evening, things had changed because he was trying to compete with Jason for the limelight. But for whatever reason, Charles was coming on strong, and she didn’t like it.
She didn’t like his attentiveness, and she didn’t like being used by any man to make a point.
Eventually, and with some semblance of dignity, she managed to retrieve her hand, but she could still feel Jason’s eyes locked on her. He was staring with a look of pure revulsion.
“Jason, do tell us what your plans are for this weekend.” Sophie had broken the awkward silence caused by her husband.
Jason tore his eyes away from Beth, and looked at his sister.
“If Miss Ashton’s available, tomorrow, I’d like to show her the layout of the villa in Greece. I need her opinion on the gardens. That is…if she’s not too busy with Charles!”
The sarcasm and derision in his voice was coming fast and hard.
As Jason spoke, his eyes had moved from Beth to Charles and back again. He was making a point, and his message was coming across loud and clear.
Jason was waiting for an answer.
Beth didn’t know what to say, and felt she was being backed into a corner. She didn’t like the man, and she had absolutely no intention of working for him.
Sounding smug, Charles announced, “Jason, I’m afraid you might be disappointed about your plans for the weekend. I’m taking Beth out.”
The silence in the room was deafening. It was as if a bomb had dropped.
For a moment Jason said nothing. His teeth were clenched together and a pulse could be seen visibly throbbing along his jawline. He was controlling his rage.
“Really?” Jason replied.
Charles looked triumphant. “I’m surprising Beth. We’re going to a horticultural show tomorrow. Last week, she told me she wanted to go to the show in Middleford.”
Beth was amazed Charles would dare suggest such a thing.
“Charles no…everyone knew I was planning to go home, to Devon. I can’t go with you. I’ve only stayed at Clifton Hall this weekend because Sophie has asked me to see Jason.”
“I’m sure my brother-in-law won’t mind if you looked at his project another time. Will you, Jason?”
Jason drummed his fingers rapidly on the white tablecloth. “No, that’s fine. I’ve nothing urgent to discuss with Miss Ashton, either tomorrow, or any other time.”
Jason’s voice was casual. Too casual.
There was a surface anger in his tone, and his rage was evident for all to see. But the fury wasn’t directed toward Charles, it was aimed at Beth.
Beth felt threatened. So much so, that she almost got up from the table with the intention of leaving the room. All she wanted to do was escape from Clifton Hall and travel, if need be, in the darkness of the night, to the security of her own home in Devon.
For some peculiar reason, Charles’s behaviour was annoying Jason, and Jason was fuming about the apparent set-up at Clifton Hall. Things weren’t working out to his liking.
“Of course Beth can go to the show. The project’s not that important,” Jason said offhandedly, as if indifferent. “Beth doesn’t have to work for me.”
He sounded bored with the whole subject, but she suspected he wasn’t. He was playing cat and mouse. He had a threatening steely glint in his eye and she knew he could ruin her business if he wished to. And although she didn’t want to work for him, she didn’t want to take the chance and lose her business reputation. And Jason could ruin her at the drop of a hat. All he had to do was spread the work and she would be finished as a landscape gardener.
Feeling defeated and beaten, and with her pride about to take a bashing, Beth realised she had to make an effort and save Ashton Landscaping’s good name.
Unwaveringly, she made a decision.
“Charles, my business obligations are very important to me. Mr. Andre has been kind enough to―”
When she had said Jason’s name, he had raised a hand, and stopped her in mid flow.
“It’s Jason. And if you’re going work for me, sooner or later you’re going to have to call me Jason.”
Work for him!
She had no intention of working for this arrogantly conceited, obnoxious man, but she realised it wouldn’t do for her to make an enemy of him either. She wasn’t going anywhere near his project, at any price.
Looking Jason straight in the eye, she carefully repeated his name.
“Jason…” she said softly, and the stiff, sugar sweet smile, she forced onto her lips hurt. “I’m sorry Charles, but Jason is here on business, and business always has to come first.”
It would be pointless for her to look at Jason’s blueprints, but if she refused, it might appear she had other plans. Plans of an illicit, clandestine nature with his sister’s husband. And she couldn’t have Jason, or Sophie, think she was willing to spend the day with Charles.
“Is nine o’clock in the library alright for you, Jason?” She had burned her bridges.
“Yes. Nine’s fine,” And strangely for once, it looked as if Jason felt no jubilation in getting what he wanted.
Beth wondered if he had considered her wishes, or suspected she might have preferred to visit the horticultural show instead, but it was only a fleeting thought. Deep down, she knew he wouldn’t have cared for her needs, at least, not at the expense of his desires.
Then when, Charles pulled out her chair and took her arm, she knew any possible consideration Jason might have felt for her had vanished. Derision was etched on his face.
“I’m afraid it’s early to bed for you, Beth. If you have to be up at the crack of dawn to work, you’ll need your beauty sleep.” Charles, without waiting for Beth’s consent, started steering her toward the door. “Come on, I’ll walk you home. It seems you have a busy morning ahead of you.”
“Charles there’s no need for you to see me home. I’m not likely to get mugged in your grounds, am I? And there’s no need for you to leave Sophie or Mr. Andre at the dinner table. Stay and finish your meal, please. I can find my way back to the lodge, but thanks all the same.”
Beth hurriedly said goodnight, and with the three of them staring after her in amazement, she left the room. But not before she’d heard Charles say, “I think to be on the safe side, I’ll walk Beth to the guest house. I ought to be back before you’ve finished your coffee. I shouldn’t be too long. But if I’m delayed…don’t wait up.”
Beth could only imagine the humiliation Sophie must be feeling, and the revulsion that would be showing on Jason’s face as he mumbled, “So that’s how things are.”
Blinded by Desire
Copyright © 2012 by – Arabella Sheen
Electronic Publication: May 2012
Cover: Fantasia Frog Designs
eBooks are not transferable. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations in articles and reviews.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.
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Arabella Sheen Website: http://www.arabellasheen.co.uk/
About Arabella Sheen
Arabella Sheen is a British author of contemporary romance and likes nothing more than the challenge of starting a new novel with fresh ideas and inspiring characters.
One of the many things Arabella loves to do is to read. And when she’s not researching or writing about romance, she is either on her allotment sowing and planting with the seasons or she is curled on the sofa with a book, while pandering to the demands of her attention seeking cat.
Having lived and worked in the Netherlands as a theatre nurse for nearly twenty years, she now lives in the south west of England with her family.
Arabella hopes her readers have as much pleasure from her romance stories as she has in writing them.
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