“I did try to warn you the other evening.”
“A little late, wouldn’t you say, when I’ve obviously already purchased the Old Vicarage?” he drawled.
“Just a little,” she conceded ruefully. “But don’t worry. If you intend on staying, you’ll soon get used to it.”
“Oh, I intend on staying,” he told her flatly. “But I also intend on living here in quiet seclusion, and have no intention of doing anything that will give the villagers cause to gossip about me,” he added grimly.
Perhaps now wasn’t the time to tell him that he wouldn’t actually need to do anything to be the subject of gossip; just his being here at all, a well-known television star, already had the inhabitants of Aberton agog with speculation as to why he had bought a house here. The last Jaz had heard—from the mailman this morning as he’d handed her her letters—Beau Garrett had come to the village to escape an unhappy love affair, when the woman in his life had left him following the car accident that had left his face scarred….
CAROLE MORTIMER was born in England and is the youngest of three children. She began writing in 1978, and has now written over ninety books for Harlequin Presents®. Carole has four sons—Matthew, Joshua, Timothy and Peter—and a bearded collie called Merlyn. She says, “I’m happily married to Peter senior; we’re best friends as well as lovers, which is probably the best recipe for a successful relationship. We live on the Isle of Man.”
The Vengeance Affair
‘OH!’ SHE came to an abrupt halt halfway across the moonlit terrace as a shadow moved out of the darkness only feet away from her, the pounding of her heart only lessening slightly as she recognized the man who stood there looking at her with the glittering eyes of a cat. She drew in a deep breath. ‘Shouldn’t the guest of honour be inside the house enjoying the party, rather than outside on the terrace—?’
‘Enjoying the peace and quiet?’ Beau Garrett finished harshly.
She had come outside herself in order to do just that. In fact, she had hoped that, once outside, she may just be able to slip quietly away without her hostess, Madelaine Wilder, being any the wiser. Bumping into the elusive guest of honour had not been part of her plan!
‘They’re looking for you inside,’ she told him pointedly.
‘Are they?’ he returned uninterestedly, his overlong hair a dark sheen in the moonlight, his features shadowed. ‘I’m hardly dressed for the role of guest of honour, am I?’ he rasped impatiently, the casual sweater he wore looking black in the darkness, as did his trousers. “‘Do pop in, I’m having a few friends over for drinks”.’ He mimicked a pretty fair imitation of Madelaine’s gushing voice. ‘There must be half the village in there.’ He nodded disgustedly in the direction of the audibly noisy house as people talked and laughed too loudly, their glasses chinking.
‘At least,’ she acknowledged, moving out of the shadows of the house to join him at the balustrade looking out over the garden, a garden sheathed in the mystery of March moonlight. ‘I hate to tell you this, but this is the third drinks party Madelaine has given to welcome you to the village of Aberton—you just didn’t appear at the first two!’
It was somehow easier to talk to this man in the covering of darkness, his sensuous good looks, the sheer masculinity of him that was so apparent on the small screen as he hosted the chat show that had been such a success for the last ten years, muted in the covering of darkness.
The grimness of his dark scowl wasn’t. ‘If I could have got out of this, without being completely impolite, then I wouldn’t have appeared at this one, either!’ he rasped.
If the way he occasionally ripped to verbal shreds his often controversial guests was anything to go by, then she didn’t think politeness was necessarily a part of this man’s character. In fact, it was the sheer uncertainty of what was going to happen each week on his live television chat show that made it so popular.
‘Poor Madelaine,’ she sympathized softly, knowing that the other woman’s heart was in the right place, even if somewhat misguided on occasion.
Beau Garrett gave a snort of dismissal. ‘You’re obviously a local too, so I’ll ask you the same question I’ve been asking all evening—the only reason I’m here at all! The garden at The Old Vicarage is a mess; who do you know who could do something with it?’
She gave a faint smile. ‘What answers have you already received?’
“‘Jaz Logan, old boy”,’ he mimicked. “‘Unorthodox but brilliant”.’
‘The major.’ She nodded.
“‘Jaz turned the chaos of my garden into wonderfully manageable order”,’ he mimicked again, just as distinctively.
‘That was Barbara Scott from the village shop,’ she guessed.
“‘Jaz is an absolute treasure”.’
‘Betty Booth, the vicar’s wife.’
‘And according to our hostess, “Jaz is a darling”,’ he finished with some disgust.
She gave a throaty chuckle. ‘Good for Madelaine.’
‘No, wait a minute, I think I got that quote slightly wrong,’ Beau Garrett corrected harshly. ‘What she actually said was, “Jaz made something beautiful of my darling little garden”.’
She chuckled again; only Madelaine, bless her, could possibly describe the acre of land that surrounded this grand old house as a ‘darling little garden’.
‘So what appears to be the problem with the advice you’ve already been given?’ she prompted interestedly.
‘My “problem”, as you call it, is that this Jaz Logan sounds slightly effeminate to me,’ Beau Garrett bit out tersely. ‘The last thing I want is the Old English village cliché, masses of beds of pink flowers and roses around the door!’
‘Tell me, Mr Garrett—’ she turned to him frowningly in the darkness ‘—if you have so much contempt for village life, why on earth have you moved here?’
‘Surely that’s obvious?’ he rasped, at the same time turning so that the moonlight shone fully on the right side of his face, throwing into stark relief the livid scar that ran from brow to jaw, a lasting souvenir from the car accident that had almost killed him four months ago.
She would be lying if she didn’t inwardly acknowledge she was deeply shocked by the thought of the injury he had suffered to have received such a scar, but she forced her own expression to remain unemotional as she looked at it. She had a feeling, from the bitterness that edged everything he said, that the scars inside