by LuAnn Nies
Longing for recognition and adventure, and with the prompting from friends and a few bottles of wine, Gwendolyn Johnson buys herself a piece of property in England and the prominent title of Lady. She gets more than she bargained for when she encounters two men, a gentleman and a thief.
Bramwell Avery Price, the twelfth Duke of Whitethorn’s last job for Scotland Yard is to follow a jewel thief from New York to London. However, when Piers Paxton is taken into custody and the jewels aren’t found, Bram is assigned to investigate the American, tourist, Lady Gwendolyn.
When true identities are revealed and Gwen disappears, Bram fears he can’t protect her from a desperate man who has been pushed to the edge.
Release Date: October 22, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Romance
~ A Pink Satin Romance ~
Gwendolyn Johnson glanced at her watch for the hundredth time. Afraid rocks were going to chip his shiny new Chevy pickup, her grandpa crept along the dirt road, which meant at this rate, she was going to miss her flight.
“You’re just throwing good money after bad,” Alvin Larson said, slowing as he approached a curve. “For what you spent on a place you’ve never seen, it’s bound to be a broken-down old pigsty in the middle of a swamp. I bet it’s not even close to livable.”
A long sigh slipped from Gwen’s lungs as she prayed for patience. They’d been over this already. She loved her grandfather and understood his concern, but it was time for her to take a gamble on her life. If she had to travel halfway around the world, so be it. “Grandpa, I’m twenty-eight. I have to at least go and check it out. Besides, I’m entitled to a vacation. To a little fun and adventure in my life.”
“Yeah, maybe, but you don’t have to go all the way to England. There’s plenty of places right here in North Dakota that you haven’t seen yet. How about a week at one of the Casinos or there’s always, The Dakota Dinosaur Museum?”
“I might have to if Miss Autumn doesn’t go any faster than this,” she said with a hint of sarcasm. He shot her a narrow-eyed sideways glance. She liked teasing him about naming his new pickup after its Bronze paint color.
“Well, I don’t like the idea of you being so far away. What if something happens and you need assistance?” The deep lines around his mouth softened. “Besides, I’m gonna miss you. You’ve been a tremendous help to me since you moved back to the farm.”
A slight smile crossed his dry lips. Gwen became aware of the dark shadows under his eyes and his worried expression.
Was that it? He truly needed her help on the farm. She’d been so wrapped up in her own problems for the past few years she hadn’t noticed how much her grandfather had aged. Maybe the farm was getting to be too much for him to handle on his own.
The big truck lumbered off the main road into the Rockville Municipal Airport. They crossed the small parking lot and he pulled up to the main gate and shifted the diesel into park.
Gwen reached over and placed her hand on his arm. “Grandpa, I’ll be fine.” He stared down at his gnarled fingers wrapped around the wheel and shook his head. “Besides, I need to check out the pigsty I accidently bought,” she said, hoping she’d get a smile out of him before she left.
When he turned, his eyes were shiny with the tears he’d held at bay. “Well in that case, you’d better shake-a-leg or you’re gonna miss your flight, Lady Gwendolyn.”
Gwen leaned over and kissed his unshaved cheek. She slid the strap of her bag over her shoulder and stepped out of the truck. Her grandfather retrieved her suitcase from the box of his truck and set it at her side.
“Try not to worry about me Grandpa, I’ll be fine. Nothing’s going to happen to me.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him. “I’ll be back before you know it.”
* * *
Several hours later, Gwen stood in front of a wall of windows at LaGuardia Airport, staring at the tarmac where numerous planes jockeyed for position. She’d started out in North Dakota on a nineteen-passenger puddle-jumper. At the Minneapolis Airport she was thrown into a maze of people in long lines before transferring to a huge plane to New York. With each layover, every airport and plane became larger, noisier and more crowded than the last.
Gwen glanced at the jet that would hold a couple hundred passengers and would take her to her destination, the Heathrow Airport in London. The first two flights hadn’t bothered her, however, flying over the ocean sent her insides whirling and her heart slamming against her ribs. It wasn’t too late to change her mind and go back home.
After her husband’s death two years ago, their house hadn’t felt much like a home. At the time, moving back to the farm to live with her mother and grandfather had seemed like a good idea. Though it wasn’t long before Gwen felt like she’d taken a huge step backwards. Back to a place which was a constant reminder that she’d never accomplished anything special in her life. Back to living in the shadows of the rest of her family.
On a whim and with the help of her friends Tara and Megan and a couple bottles of wine, Gwen had purchased an English title of “Lady” online. However, when the certificate arrived it also stated she’d purchased land, but no photos of the property accompanied the documents.
After a couple of months, the novelty of having a title had worn off, and the words of her friend Megan echoed in her head. “What’s the use of having an English title and a house in England if you don’t do anything with it? You have to at least go and see it.”
Gathered around the computer, the girls searched the website of the company where Gwen had bought her title but could only find a listing for estates for sale in England. Gwen visualized a quaint little house with a thatched roof and pretty gardens. She couldn’t wait to see what she had inadvertently bought. Megan’s plan to take the trip with her had fallen through when she broken out with shingles a week ago and was restricted from traveling. Now, Gwen faced her grand adventure on her own.
The click of the intercom caused Gwen to start. She spun toward the small podium positioned by the door.
“May I have your attention, please?” A petite redhead with a cute pixie face smiled as she spoke into the microphone. “We will be boarding first class passengers in a few moments. Please have your boarding passes ready. Thank you.”
Gwen’s insides wrestled with her common sense. It’s a long flight. What if I get sick on the plane? What if I miss my return flight? What if we crash? She swallowed hard and wiped a sweaty palm across her skirt.
This was such a bad idea.
* * *
Over the corner of his newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Piers Paxton observed the slender blonde who paced back and forth in front of the lounge windows. Most of the individuals in possession of a membership to LaGuardia’s Oxford Room were affluent travelers or high-paid businessmen. But like him, the blonde didn’t fit either role. However, when he returned to England, he’d deliver the jewels, get paid, and reclaim the respect he was entitled to, thus regaining his rightful station in proper society.
The blonde caught the strap of her oversized, pink and black leopard print bag and slipped it up and over her shoulder. Her age, if he had to guess, hovered on the slighter side of thirty. The way she clutched the garish bag to her stomach and glanced at her boarding pass and passport every other second, revealed she didn’t travel often and she most likely was alone. Although her light pink traveling ensemble appeared new, from twenty feet away he could tell the material was of inferior quality. Her skirt was much too long for his taste, her shoes too sensible, and her thick, curly hair hung willy-nilly about her shoulders. He preferred his women more cultured. More experienced. She’s as skittish as a young foal.
Just then she turned. Scanning the room as if searching for a quick escape, her gaze landed squarely on him. How ironic; the startled blue eyes studying him were the identical colour of the rocks concealed in his pocket. A slight blush stained her cheeks and her full lips turned into a shy smile.
He acknowledged her with a polite nod.
She’s perfect, might even be worth a tumble if I have the time.
* * *
A flight attendant with short, spiky black hair approached Gwen.
Gwen froze and stared into the woman’s dark blue eyes. “Yes.”
“My name is Jazell. I am one of the attendants for this flight.” Her voice held a slight hint of an Irish accent, which accentuated her green and black uniform.
Gwen forced a smile and willed her legs to stay strong. She wanted to tell Jazell she’d changed her mind. That she didn’t want to get into a contraption she had no control over and fly across the ocean to England.
Jazell reached for Gwen’s carry-on bag and asked, “May I take that for you?”
“No.” The curt response slipped out before Gwen caught it. Her fingers tightened around the strap of her bag as she clutched it to her side. “No, thank you. It’s not heavy.”
Jazell nodded, her lips curling in a slight smile. “If you’ll please follow me, I’ll escort you to your seat.”
Gwen drew in a deep breath and followed the woman toward the passageway where she was greeted by three attendants. She smiled and followed Jazell through a set of curtains into the spacious first-class accommodations.
“This is your seat, Lady Gwendolyn.” Jazell motioned to a wide, leather seat, which resembled a luxurious recliner. “It extends into a flat-bed for a comfortable sleep.” She pointed to a small desk lamp attached to a miniature table and added, “You also have a USB port and Wi-Fi hookup here next to your reading light.”
The woman moved to the foot of the unit and opened a large cabinet on the floor. “You may place your carry-on bag in here or in the overhead compartments.”
Gwen’s stomach flipped and she prayed it wouldn’t make an appearance anytime soon.
“Do you have any questions?”
“No. Thank you.” Gwen forced a smile. She needed something to calm her nerves, though.
As if reading her mind, the woman asked, “Can I get you a beverage, maybe a cup of herbal tea?”
Hoping to appear casual, Gwen set her bag on the seat and replied, “That would be wonderful, whenever you get a chance.”
The attendant nodded. “I’ll return in just a moment.” She then proceeded around the middle row of seats and headed back down the aisle. Leaning forward, Gwen peered through the window and hoped this wasn’t the last time she would set eyes on the United States. LaGuardia was the largest airport she’d ever seen. She wondered how gigantic Heathrow Airport in London was going to be.
Just then someone bumped her from behind, forcing her to reach out with both hands and steady herself against the outside wall of the plane.
“Oh!” Gwen glanced over her shoulder but couldn’t see the man’s face. He mumbled, “Pardon me,” and disappeared amongst the other passengers in the aisle.
Reaching into her bag, Gwen retrieved a small paperback book. Hoping no one saw what the book really was, she straightened the makeshift cover. She closed her bag and placed it in the cabinet, then settled back into her seat. She still had over half of the book to finish, and if she immersed herself in it, she hoped it would take her mind off the long flight.
Gwen was deep into her book when she heard a flirtatious giggle. Turning, she saw the pretty red-haired attendant enter first class with a tall, attractive man with dark hair and a slight five o’clock shadow. Spellbound by the man’s good looks, Gwen couldn’t help but stare at the handsome couple.
“Mr. Avery, I wasn’t sure you were going to make the flight today. One of these times, you’re not going to arrive before the door closes.”
The man’s intense stare scanned the first-class area. His British accent and flirtatious reply oozed like melted butter. “I assure you, tardiness is my only flaw. I shall strive to be more punctual from this day forward.”
Then his gaze shifted, and his dark eyes met hers. Eyes so serious, so intent, searching. Gwen shivered.
Pulling her gaze from his, she leaned back in her seat, straightened her skirt and opened her book again.
She needed to go over her plans, not ogle handsome British gentlemen that made her heart do cartwheels. Flipping the pages, she thought, besides her property, there were so many places she wanted to see on her vacation. No, this was going to be more than a vacation; this was going to be a great adventure. A trip of a lifetime.