Lizzie York, a young paraplegic, has the chance to reach for her dreams and teach at a new school in Oldcastle. On a quest for independence and to live alone, out from under her brother's watchful eye, she encounters discrimination from narrow-minded villagers. Toss into the mix: a school employee who sets her heart racing, a home of her own, and work she is passionate about.
Peter Barrington, a London solicitor, invests in Bright Academy. Having experienced pain and loss in his past, he became a workaholic. He now desires a quiet life in the country. He meets Lizzie, is immediately smitten, but respects her need for independence. As they work together, their mutual respect and love grows.
When someone hides in the woods and photographs them, Peter does everything in his power to protect Lizzie. But Lizzie is up for a fight. Will their love be strong enough to overcome hatred, and intent to harm, so they can forge a future together?
Page Count: 278
Word Count: 68900
Naomi’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously, you’re considering teaching?”
“I am. And yes, I did,” Lizzie said. Lina seemed to have read her mind and gone swiftly to the elephant in the room. Those same thoughts now clamored for attention, a jumble of screeches, like teach again, independence, get your own life. “I’m ready to sign the contract.” Lizzie held Naomi’s gaze for a moment. “It will be hard for Ollie to get used to, but it’s time. I need more than…” She waved a hand, sweeping it across the table of netting, scissors, and ribbons. “This sort of thing. More mental stimulation, I suppose.”
“Well, yes, but…” Naomi said, a frown crinkling her forehead. “Will you get that from kids?”
Lizzie ignored her comment; being out in the world, employed, would be enough stimulation. “Don’t tell Ollie yet, please. I will, in a day or two.” Naomi’s expression remained guarded, but she gave a slight nod. Lizzie jerked her head toward Lina. “Ollie does know, of course. If you recall, the idea had been raised before he got married. Besides, it’s my life, my decision.”
“It is.” Lina nodded. “I’m glad you’ve come on board. We need you, and you need us.” She reached for a lolly, and popped it into her mouth.
“Ah, here comes the support group,” Naomi said. “About time, ladies. Pull up a chair.”
Oh, my goodness, it looked like half the village had shown up to help. A man entered chatting with Lina’s mother. White teeth flashed in his golden-brown face, and it seemed all of the air was sucked from the room. Lizzie placed a flat hand firmly against her chest. He resembled Dev Patel: dark hair kind of shaggy, dark, dark eyes that took in everything with one swift gaze, and a short, well-trimmed beard and mustache.
“Good afternoon, ladies,” he said, in a deep baritone.
“Peter. What on earth are you doing here?” Lina rose from her chair and hugged him.
“We saw him stop at the gate, so we waved his car in ahead of us,” Catherine Bright said, while the other women grabbed chairs. “Everyone, meet Peter Barrington, my husband’s law partner, and my daughter’s solicitor.”
“I do apologize for the interruption, ladies.” He smiled at Lina. “I need a document signed. From the county. This should be the last. And I have a couple of things to go over with you.”
“Okay,” Lina said, chewing at the sweet in her mouth and swallowing. “No problem.”
Lizzie tried hard to ignore the handsome man who caused her stomach to flutter and her heart to pound. His deep baritone voice, smooth as honey, trickled to places it had no business. She cleared her throat and resisted the urge to clap her hands. “We need to get started.” The women had no clue how much work was involved. She took a quick peek at Peter. He and Lina could attend to business, but this project had to start right away. “In front of you is a stack of yellow netting, a pair of pinking shears, green ribbon and…wait for it, a dish of boiled sweets.”
In three long strides, Peter crossed the room and stood beside her. He wasn’t an overly tall man, his body wiry but muscular. He picked up a piece of the netting and rubbed it between long, tapered fingers, then glanced about at the ribbons and sweets, his gaze turning thoughtful.
“This is amazing. The place looks like a factory. I might need photos.” He fished out his phone.
“No. No pictures, please.” Lina swatted his arm.
Lizzie doubted she’d ever think a wise thought again as she inhaled the man’s delicious scent: clean linen and citrus mixed with something spicy. She swallowed hard, overcome by his nearness. The way the room lacked air. The way his long, elegant fingers, lightly held the netting.
“We’re a mess,” Lina said, laughing. “This is pre-wedding day glamor. Sweatpants, broken fingernails, greasy hair. Starting this evening, we repair all of that, of course.”
“Yes.” Peter nodded. “I’ve no doubt you will.”
“Put that phone away.” Lina grabbed his arm. “Let me make proper introductions.”
Lizzie frowned. Blast. More interruptions. Peter acknowledged that he knew only Lina and Catherine, both being Londoners, like himself. He moved around the table shaking hands, flashing that dazzling smile, and Lizzie remained stunned. She’d thought everything from waist down had gone into a deep sleep six years ago, never to be reawakened. But watching this man work the room had her blood heating. When he finally stood in front of her, he’d stirred up a storm of emotions. Overactive imagination, she supposed. She’d always read that the brain was the best aphrodisiac.
“You must be the amazing, Lizzie.” Peter took her small hand in his large one, gazed into her eyes, then lifted her hand and kissed the knuckles. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
Really? He had?
Lizzie couldn’t get out a word, not at all like her usual garrulous self, and her face became hot. Did she blush? Darn it, that was all she needed to paint the picture of being a little too interested.
“Peter, you would have heard only great things about my sister-in-law.” Naomi winked. “None of us would have snagged our guy without her guidance. She’s a regular matchmaker.”
Peter gazed into her eyes, then at their hands. He chuckled. “Sorry. Guess it’s time for me to let go.”
Lizzie nodded. Although she wished he wouldn’t. Her hand fit his to perfection. Peter moved away, and when she picked up the shears she almost dropped them. She stared at the table while the room buzzed with conversation, but she couldn’t comprehend a word. She’d made a fool of herself in front of the man. Had not said one single thing to him.
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