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 One - Excerpt 1
Beth Ashton was on the point of stepping out of the lodge house when the ring tone on her mobile phone stopped her dead in her tracks. Although reluctant to answer the call, Beth flicked the mobile open, only to find that the caller ID had been blocked.
It had been one of those days when nothing was going her way and everything seemed to be conspiring to delay her departure for Devon.
Tossing back her hair, she put the mobile to her ear, and listened. She was determined to keep the conversation short.
Beth knew she ought to be on the motorway beating the queues of holidaymakers that were heading south. It was a bank holiday weekend, and if she left now, she might be able to miss the heavy traffic.
“Hello, Beth Ashton here,” she answered.
She hoped her voice sounded business-like because she was feeling anything but cheerful.
“Ashton?” A male voice asked with impatience.
“Ah-ha, yes,” she answered.
“What kept you? I was beginning to wonder if I’d been given the right number.”
And you’re lucky I’m answering at all, she almost barked back.
Instead, Beth took a deep, calming breath, and asked, “What can I do for you?”
He was lucky she was listening to him. She didn’t have the time to talk to arrogant, bad-mannered strangers with no phone manners. Whoever he was, he seemed to be in a foul temper. He was obviously foreign, and his accent sounded Mediterranean―but she could be wrong. His English was fluent, almost faultless. And although the deep, husky voice on the other end of the line sounded cool and sexy, it was clear he was very male and very rude.
Beth was in a hurry to get away, so, pulling the door of the lodge house shut behind her, she picked up her luggage in one hand, while awkwardly juggling her mobile in the other, and headed toward the waiting Land Rover.
The deep voice on the mobile bellowed and barked at her again.
“I’d like to speak with your husband. It’s about work. If I leave my number, could you get him to contact me as soon as possible?” Sarcasm and boredom were dripping from the man’s tongue.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think that would be a good idea―”
“Why?” he asked, before she could finish what she was saying.
Her first impressions were right. She had not been mistaken. Whoever he was, he was definitely overbearing and insufferable. She could even imagine him glancing at his watch and counting the seconds for her to put her non-existent husband on the phone. It was this man who was wasting her time, not the other way round.
Beth didn’t have a husband, and although the man on the phone wasn’t to know that, she detested arrogant and assuming people at the best of times. Especially men.
There was an uncomfortable moment of silence as each of them waited for the other to speak.
“Your husband,” he demanded. “This is his number isn’t it?”
There was no way she was going to be spoken to in this manner.
“I’m sorry, but I think you’ve got the wrong number Mr?” Beth stopped and waited for him to give his name. He didn’t.
“I’d like to speak with Ashton…the gardener,” he said. “I’ve recently been shown some work he’s done for Clifton Hall, and I’d like him to landscape a garden for me in Greece. He’s come highly recommended.”
Beth’s last name was Ashton, and she happened to be a landscape gardener but, she wasn’t a man.
“Well?” He was waiting for a response.
She still wasn’t sure who the caller was.
“Look,” Beth said as calmly as she could. “I’m sorry you’ve had a bad day and you’re in a foul mood Mr?”
“Andre. I’m Jason Andre.”
The name sounded familiar but she couldn’t place it.
“Mr. Andre, I’m not here for you to shout at,” she told him. “And again, I think you’ve got the wrong number because I don’t know who you are or what you want.”
She heard him take a deep breath of irritation followed by a long sigh of frustration.
It was almost as if he’d had enough of the conversation, yet was willing to reason with her like he would reason with a four-year-old child to get what he wanted.
He sounded annoyed, and Beth wondered what she’d done to cause such a negative reaction. She hadn’t met the man and already she disliked him.
“No, you’re quite right,” he said. “You don’t know me and we haven’t met…yet. But, I believe you know Sophie and her husband, Charles. They’re the Fitzgeralds of Clifton Hall.”
Yes, of course, she knew Sophie. And because of this, she realised she would have to be polite to Jason.
Beth was staying as a guest with Sophie and Charles in their lodge house while she finished landscaping their gardens at Clifton Hall. It was a convenient arrangement for all concerned. She was on-site and within reach if she was needed.
Hearing Sophie’s name dispelled some of her worries. Jason Andre couldn’t be a total lunatic. Could he? Not if he was a friend of the Fitzgeralds.
Perhaps her first impression of him was wrong and he wasn’t the ill-tempered, discourteous individual she thought him to be.
Putting two and two together, Beth realised where she’d heard an accent that was similar to Jason’s. It was a Greek accent―the same as Sophie’s.
“Yes, I know Sophie.” Beth waited, wondering what was coming next.
And then, Jason explained. “Sophie’s my sister. So, thank goodness we’ve got that sorted, and I’m not talking to the wrong person. Which is it to be then?” he asked. “Does he prefer to look at plans using the Adobe Reader or does he want the blueprint drawings?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Andre,” was all she could find to say. “It’s been a long day and I must be stupid or something because I still don’t know who you are or what you’re asking.”
Slowly, and somewhat wearily, she ran a hand through her hair. She had just completed a hard day’s work on the estate gardens and was tired.
Looking at her wristwatch, Beth was reminded she ought to be on the motorway battling with heavy traffic, and heading for home.
Instead, she was outside the lodge house, wasting time on her mobile.
“We seem to have our wires crossed Mr. Andre.”
“And it seems I’m wasting my time talking to you…Mrs. Ashton.”
There was a dry, disdainful tone in his voice.
“Goodbye,” she said as politely as she could.
“No wait,” Jason called out with urgency. “Let’s try again, and let’s see if I can explain the situation to you so that you’ll understand.”
“Go ahead.” She was unsure if he’d just made a derogatory comment about her intelligence, or not. But she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Sophie knows I'm in need of a gardener, and she’s recommended Ashton Landscaping. She gave me your husband’s number. I’m at the Hall this weekend and I thought your husband and I could get together and look over the plans.”
Beth was beginning to understand the situation. Jason Andre thought Ashton Landscaping was run by a man―her husband.
The husband she didn’t have.
Beth felt her blood beginning to boil. She was fuming. Why did all men assume garden landscapers had to be men?
If she had thought Jason Andre was rude and arrogant before, she now knew he was all those things and more. He was…sexist. If he wanted someone to work for him and check his garden designs for flaws, Beth knew it wasn’t going to be her. She wasn’t doing it.
As much as she liked the sound of his deep, sexy accent, she didn’t fancy working for someone who was a chauvinist.
“I’m sorry,” she said, determined to end the conversation as soon as possible. “I’m afraid Ashton Landscaping is not taking on extra work at the moment. The Fitzgerald project hasn’t been completed and we've other clients on our waiting list. Perhaps you could try another firm.”
Beth was being unusually diplomatic, and she hoped Jason Andre had got the message. She wasn’t interested in the work he was offering and she wasn’t interested in him. But it was as if Jason was deaf to her reasoning. He hadn’t heard a thing she’d said. He simply hadn’t been listening.
“I think it’ll be easier if I got Sophie to phone you,” Jason told her. “Sophie can explain how things are, and I’ll ask her to set up a meeting for this evening.”
Before Beth could tell him she wasn’t available that evening, he had cut her off. She'd been left holding the mobile and the buzz of the disconnected call was ringing in her ear.
Jason had ended the call without saying goodbye or giving a polite thank you. Shaking her head in disbelief, Beth wondered if all Greek men were as rude as the insufferable Mr. Andre.
Beth threw the mobile back into her bag. And with no one to hear her words of frustration, she said, “One thing’s for sure Mr. Andre, you won’t be seeing me this evening.”
Having loaded the luggage into the Land Rover, Beth was ready to turn the key in the ignition, when her phone started ringing again.
“Drat,” she muttered under her breath. “Am I never going to get out of this place?”
Beth reached for the mobile and looking at the caller ID, she saw Sophie Fitzgerald’s name displayed on the screen, and answered.
“Beth darling, it’s me, Sophie.”
Earlier that morning, Beth had spoken with Sophie to finalise some last-minute details concerning Clifton Hall gardens. Beth knew Sophie couldn’t be calling to talk business, but she was wrong. Sophie did want to talk gardening. Only it wasn’t Clifton Hall’s gardens that Sophie was worried about. The gardens Sophie wanted to discuss were Jason’s, and they were in Greece.
“Jason said he’s been in touch with you about his project. He seems to think there’s been some sort of a mix-up between the two of you, and he’d like to get together tonight, and talk things over.”
That was exactly what Beth didn’t want to do. She wanted nothing to do with Jason, and she felt herself beginning to dig her heels in. She would be happy if they never met.
Beth didn’t like others to make decisions for her at the best of times, and for some reason, Sophie seemed intent on arranging a meeting with Jason.
“Jason’s coming to stay for the weekend,” Sophie said. “He’s on his way and is driving down from London now. I thought it would be a good chance for the two of you to finally get together. Why don’t you come over to the house...tonight? Charles and I would really like it if you came to dinner.”
The more someone wanted Beth to do something she didn’t want to do, the more she tended to rebel. And something seemed fishy about this dinner date.
Once before, Sophie had tried to get Beth on a date with one of Charles’s friends, and it had been a disaster. Now Sophie was trying to arrange a dinner with Jason. And having just spoken to the man, Beth couldn’t imagine anyone she’d rather not have dinner with.
“It’s kind of you to ask me, Sophie, and at any other time, I’m sure I’d be delighted to meet your brother, but right now, I’m on my way to Devon.” And to demonstrate the fact she was in the car and heading for home, she honked the horn on the Land Rover.
But Sophie was persistent.
“Jason’s an architect with Andre & Marsh. I thought his firm might be able to use your landscaping services. Beth, to be honest, I’ve more or less promised you would look over his garden designs. You see, Jason wants someone to plan his gardens in Greece, and I’ve recommended you.”
Beth now knew why the name of Jason Andre had sounded familiar. She’d only just put two and two together. Jason was the Jason Andre of Andre & Marsh Architects.
Everyone in the building development trade knew the name of Andre & Marsh. It was a multi-billion pound organisation with an annual turnover beyond her dreams.
Andre & Marsh employed thousands and subcontracted all over the world. There was no comparison to her business. Ashton Landscaping and Jason’s company were in different leagues. Jason was simply out of her orbit.
Jason Andre was always in the public eye. He was constantly pictured on the front cover of some newspaper or tabloid magazine and there was always a glamorous, alluring woman on his arm.
His reputation was that of a ruthless man, both in and out of bed. He was a sexy billionaire who handled his business and personal affairs mercilessly.
In business, there was none better than Jason. His reputation was excellent. Not only was he known to be one of the best architects in the country, he also had a name and status that had spread worldwide. But in affairs of the heart, it was another matter. He was known to be one of Europe’s wealthiest, jet-setting elite, but he was first and foremost a womanizer and playboy.
Jason worked hard and played hard. He discarded women like a man with a cold would discard used tissues from a box of paper handkerchiefs.
A relationship with him would get you nowhere. No…Jason was very much out of her league and very much not her type.
Beth knew from what she’d previously read about him that if Jason wanted something, he always got it. But he wasn’t getting her.
“It’s nice of you to consider me for Jason’s project in Greece, and normally I’d love to stay and meet your brother, but as I told you earlier, I’m travelling to Devon this evening. I’m going to be away for the weekend.”
“Somehow, whenever Jason’s visited, you’ve always missed one another,” Sophie explained. “And it would be nice if you two could finally meet.”
“Normally, I’m sure it would be a pleasure to meet him, but…” Beth diplomatically left unsaid what she really wanted to say.
In reality, she didn’t know how she kept the irony out of her voice.
Having just spoken on the phone to Jason, she doubted meeting him in person would be any sort of pleasure.
Beth was horrified at the prospect of having dinner with him, and after an exhausting week working on the gardens at Clifton Hall, all she could longingly think about was reaching her farmhouse in Devon.
She imagined herself sitting in front of a roaring fire having just taken a relaxing bath. There would be nothing for her to do except watch television the whole weekend. And it would be blissful.
But when Beth realised what Sophie was really offering was a business meeting with the renowned architect Jason Andre, she began to have second thoughts. It would be stupid to turn down such an offer, and she was on the verge of caving in.
As an established landscape gardener and businesswoman in her own right, at twenty-five, Beth wasn’t yet in the secure position to refuse offers from new clients. Especially clients like Andre & Marsh. She knew she would be a fool to refuse such a job opportunity. Anyone or any company linked with the name Andre & Marsh was automatically pulled along with them and would travel on the tidal wave of their success.
If she was to work for Jason on his project, Beth would more or less be on the road to realising her dreams. But in the process, she might lose her individuality and independence. If she joined his team, she would have to merge with the other smaller businesses he subcontracted to.
“This weekend, you could get together with Jason,” Sophie persisted. “Show him the work you’re doing at Clifton Hall and take him around the grounds. Especially the new lake.”
There was a brief silence while Sophie let Beth mull over the possibilities.
“What do you think, Beth?”
Sophie sounded as if she was offering a treat, but in reality, it was a treat Beth didn’t want. Could she run the risk of snubbing an offer that came from the almighty, all-powerful, Jason Andre? He could crush her fledgling business with one negative word. And it was beginning to look as if a meeting with Jason Andre was becoming more and more inevitable.
Eventually, and with great reluctance, Beth gave in.
“Yes, of course, I’ll come to dinner,” she said, before she had the chance to change her mind.
Switching off her mobile and turning off the Land Rover’s engine, she sat with her head held in her hands, wondering if she’d made the right decision. Would it be a decision she would come to regret?
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.
About Arabella Sheen
|Arabella Sheen - Author|
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.
Facebook Author: https://www.facebook.com/ArabellaSheenAuthor
Blinded by Desire
Arabella Sheen Website: http://www.arabellasheen.co.uk/