April’s story is Book Three in the Molyneux Sisters
Remember April? She got married in Ivy Molyneux’s book, Nine Month Countdown, and her life has been picture perfect ever since… or maybe not!
Falling for her mysterious boss…
When Australian heiress April Molyneux is left brokenhearted, she looks for a new start in London. Determined to stand on her own two feet, she finds herself working for the reclusive yet sexy billionaire Hugh Bennell.
Hugh likes his life—and his emotions—uncomplicated, but meeting glamorous April changes everything. Hugh doesn’t do relationships, and April wants to keep the independence she’s worked so hard for. But with these sparks flying…resistance might be futile!
Ms. Ashton has given her readers an interesting sweet romance. This story is really about discovery and how in helping Hugh through his “clutter” April is really able to work through her’s. The characters are well developed and very realistic. One thing that I, as a reader, loved was her attention to details in the feelings and how in depth Ms. Ashton made Hugh. This definitely is a sweet one full of emotions. – Harlequin Junkie (4.5 stars)
April is strong, complex and modern woman out to reinvent herself when she meets Hugh. The two are well matched and the setting, Hugh’s house of hoard, makes for a fascinating backdrop. I was completely invested in this love story. The ending was true to Aprils character and I applaud Ashton once again pushing the boundaries of modern romance writing. – Ruth (Goodreads)
This is the one pager at the very front of the book – I don’t normally include it on my web site, but I really love this snippet my editor chose, plus as you’ll see in the excerpt below, Hugh and April don’t meet in the prologue, so I wanted to make sure you got a glimpse of them together 🙂
Hugh was still so close.
Closer than he’d ever been before.
Tall enough and near enough that he needed to look down at her and she needed to tilt her chin up to look at him.
April explored his face. The sharpness of his nose, the thick slash of his eyebrows, the strength of his jaw. This close, she could see delicate lines bracketing his lips, a freckle on his cheek, a rogue grey hair among the stubble.
He was studying her, too. His gaze took in her eyes, her cheeks, her nose. Her lips.
There it was.
Not subtle now, or easily dismissed as imagination as it had been down in his basement apartment. Or every
other time they’d been in the same room together.
But it had been there, she realized.
Since the first time they’d met.
That focus. That…intent.
Between them. Within her.
It made her pulse race, and she became lost in his gaze when he finally wrenched his away from her lips.
Since they’d met, his eyes had revealed little, but enough for her to know, deep in her heart, that he wasn’t as hard and unfeeling as he so steadfastly attempted to be.
Read an excerpt
THE SUNSET WAS PERFECT—all orange and purple on a backdrop of darkening blue. Just the right number of clouds stretched their tendrils artistically along the horizon.
The beach, however, was not so perfect.
It had been a warm Perth day, so April Molyneux hadn’t been alone in her plans for a beachside picnic dinner.
Around her, people congregated about mounds of battered fish and chips on beds of butcher’s paper. Others had picnic baskets, or brown paper takeaway bags, or melting ice cream cones from the pink and white van parked above the sand dunes. There were beach towels everywhere, body boards bouncing in the waves, children building sandcastles, women power walking along the beach in yoga pants, gossiping at a mile a minute. Then a football team jogged by, shirtless and in matching deep purple shorts.
April wanted to scream. This was not what she’d planned.
This was not a private, romantic, beachside tête-à-tête.
Evan lay sprawled on their picnic blanket, his back turned away from April as he scrolled through his phone.
Today was their wedding anniversary. Three years.
#anniversary #threeyears #love #romance
Right now April felt like dumping the contents of the gourmet picnic box she’d ordered all over his head—sourdough baguettes, cultured butter, artisan cheeses, muscatels and all.
‘Do we have to do this?’ Evan asked, not even looking at her.
‘You mean spend time with your wife on your anniversary?’ Her words were sharp, but April’s throat felt tight.
The sea-breeze whipped her long blonde hair across her eyes, and she tucked it back behind her ears angrily. She sat with her legs curled beneath her, a long pale pink maxidress covering her platinum bikini. She stared daggers at Evan’s back. His attention was still concentrated on the screen of his phone.
‘You know that isn’t what I meant.’
She did. But she’d spent weeks leading up to today, posting photos of their wedding to her one point two million followers.
#anniversary #threeyears #love #romance
She’d organised for the Molyneux family jet to take them up north, up past Broome. She’d found the perfect—perfect—private beach. She’d had the stupid picnic box couriered up from Margaret River, and she’d had her assistant organise a gorgeous rainbow mohair picnic blanket, complete with a generous donation to the Molyneux Foundation.
And then Evan had called from work as she’d been packing her overnight bag. He’d asked if they could cancel their trip. He didn’t really feel like going, and could they stay home instead?
Coming to this beach had been the compromise.
It wasn’t even about the beach, really. Just the photo.
All he needed to do was smile for the camera and then they could go home and eat their fancy picnic in front of the TV. Or order pizza.
Whatever. It didn’t matter. And Evan could eat silently, then retreat to his study and barely talk to her for the rest of the evening.
Just as he did most nights.
Again, April’s throat felt tight.
Finally Evan moved. He shifted, sitting up so he could face her. He took off his sunglasses, and for some reason April did too.
For the first time in what suddenly felt like ages he looked directly at her. Really intensely, his hazel eyes steady against her own silvery blue.
‘I don’t think we can do this any more,’ he said. Firmly, and in a way that probably should have surprised her. April pretended to misunderstand.
‘Come on—it’s just a stupid photo. We need to do this. I have contractual obligations.’
For product placement: The mohair blanket. The picnic box. Her sunglasses. Her bikini.
Donations to the Molyneux Foundation were contingent on this photograph.
Evan shook his head. ‘You know what I’m talking about.’
They’d started marriage counselling only a year after their wedding. They’d stopped trying for a baby shortly afterwards, both agreeing that it was best to wait until they’d sorted things out.
But they hadn’t sorted things out.
They’d both obediently attended counselling, made concerted efforts to listen to each other…but nothing had really changed.
They still loved each other, though. They’d both been clear on that. April knew she still loved Evan. She’d loved him since he’d asked her to his Year Twelve ball.
To her, that had been all that mattered. Eventually it would go back to how it had used to be between them. Surely?
‘I’ll always love you, April,’ Evan said, in a terribly careful tone that she knew he must have practised. ‘But I don’t love you the way I know I should. The way I should love the woman I’m married too. You deserve better, April.’
The words were all mashed together, tangled up in the salty breeze. All April could hear, repeated against her skull, was: I don’t love you…
His lips quirked upwards. ‘I guess I deserve better, too. We both deserve that love you see in the movies, or in those books you read. Don’t you think? And it’s never been like that for us.’
He paused, as if waiting for her to say something, but she had nothing. Absolutely nothing.
‘Look, I would never cheat on you, April, but a while ago I met someone who made me think that maybe there was a bigger love out there for me, you know?’
This bit definitely wasn’t practised—his words were all rushed and messy. ‘I respected you too much to pursue her. I cut her out of my life and Ihaven’t been in contact with her. At all. I promise. But I can’t stop thinking about her, and I…’
His gaze had long ago stopped meeting hers, but now it swung back.
He swallowed. ‘I want a divorce, April,’ he said with finality. ‘I’m sorry.’
She could only nod. Nod and nod, over and over.
Her throat felt as if it had completely closed over. She fumbled for her sunglasses, desperate to cover the wetness in her eyes.
‘Let’s just take this stupid picture,’ she said, her words strangled.
His eyes widened, but he nodded.
Awkwardly, they posed—only their shoulders touching. April took the photo quickly, without any thought at all…but amazingly the beach in the photo’s background was perfectly empty just for that millisecond as she pressed the button on her phone.
To her followers it would seem perfect.
A private beach, a handsome, loving husband, a glorious sunset…
Silently she cropped the image, then added her caption and hashtags.
Three amazing years with this guy! #anniversary #threeyears #love #romance
But she deleted the last hashtag before she posted it:
* * *
Hugh Bennell’s gaze was drawn to the black door at the top of the grey stone stairs. The paintwork and brass door hardware all looked a bit dull—and not just because the sun was only just now rising on this rather dreary London morning. A handful of leaves had gathered where a doormat should be, and a single hopeful weed reached out from beneath the doorstep.
He’d have to sort that out.
But for now he simply wheeled his bike—lights still flashing from his pre-dawn ride—straight past the steps that led to the three-storey chocolate and cream Victorian end-of-terrace, and instead negotiated a matching set of steps that led downwards to his basement flat.
Inside, the cleats on the base of his cycling shoes clicked on the parquet flooring, and his road bike’s wheels squeaked noisily. He hung the bike on its wall hanger, immediately across from the basement front door. Above it hung his mountain bike, and to the right of that was the door to one of his spare bedrooms.
That door was painted white, and the paintwork still gleamed as fresh as the day he’d had the apartment painted. He noted that the brass knob still shone—in fact his whole house shone with meticulous cleanliness, just as he liked it.
Hugh settled in at his desk after a shower, his dark hair still damp. The desk was right at the front of his apartment, pushed up against the window. Above him foot traffic was increasing as London got ready for the workday. From his viewpoint all he could see were ankles and feet—in heels and boots and lace-up shoes. The angle was too acute for anyone passing to see him—he’d checked, of course—so he could leave his blinds open, allowing natural light to filter across his workspace.
He placed his mug of tea on the coaster immediately to the right of his open laptop. Beneath that lay the day’s to-do list, carefully formulated and handwritten the previous evening.
He’d always loved lists, even as a young kid. He remembered his mum’s bemusement when he’d stuck a list above his bedside table to remind himself what to pack for school each day of the week. He’d found it calming to have it all written out—a much better alternative, he’d thought, to his mother’s panicked realisations at the school gate and her frantic delivery of forgotten sports shoes at morning break.
‘A neat freak with lists!’ His mum had laughed. ‘How could you possibly be mine?’
To the bottom of his list for today he added Paint front door and polish brass.
He was certain the team at Precise thought his penchant for paper lists eccentric for a man who owned and ran a multi-million dollar mobile app empire—but then, the team thought him eccentric for many more reasons than that.
A reminder popped up on his screen for a nine a.m. appointment, and he clicked through to sign in for the online meeting. Already four of the five other attendees were logged in, their faces visible via their webcams in a grid to the right of screen.
But in Hugh’s box there was only the generic grey silhouette—he never chose the video option, and he kept the camera at the top of his laptop taped over just in case.
Because, for Hugh Bennell, maintaining his privacy was nonnegotiable.
He was in control of exactly what he revealed to the world.
His laptop dinged as the final attendee arrived.
‘Looks like everyone’s here,’ Hugh said. ‘Let’s get started.’
Text Copyright © 2017 by Leah Ashton
Cover Art Copyright © 2017 by Harlequin Enterprises
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books SA. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprise Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.