Two women, a lovely old house, and an ancient family feud, come together in this lesbian romance set in and around the picturesque seaside town of Whitby, North Yorkshire.
When Jaime Fyre inherits Rykesby from her uncle, James, the unexpected bequest proves increasingly problematic. The sudden arrival of Kimberly Marshall, who lays claim to the property, adds to Jaime’s troubles. Why is Kimberly so convinced Jaime is both a liar and a cheat?
The mystery deepens when Jaime finds a photograph of her mother amongst her uncle’s possessions. Why is it there? Did her mother and her uncle have a relationship? Jaime’s search for answers draws a blank. With nobody left to ask, the list of unanswered questions grows, matching the tension between Kimberly and Jaime.
As Jaime’s future happiness, and her relationship with Kimberly, hang in the balance will what Jaime discovers behind a locked door in the library help or hinder her quest for truth and reconciliation?
“Who are you? And, more importantly, what the hell are you doing in my house?”
There was no mistaking the note of outrage in the stranger’s voice. Jaime Fyre skidded to an abrupt halt on the lowest tread of the wide staircase and reached for the carved newel post to steady herself. The shock of this unexpected encounter robbed Jaime of the power to comprehend what was going on. She forced herself to take slow measured breaths whilst she attempted to get a grip of the situation.
The woman – at least she looked like a real live woman and not a ghost – had somehow walked into the hall through a locked door and to add to the confusion was now claiming ownership of the house.
Jaime’s head whirled alarmingly.
Have I strayed into a nightmare?
Am I going mad?
No. Jaime quickly rejected both questions but doing so didn’t begin to solve this new twist to an already surreal day. Every which way she looked at the day’s events and the growing list of questions, the answers always centered on the house, although the word house hardly described this mansion. A museum, or a stately home, might be a more accurate description. Ordinary folks, like her, didn’t aspire to such wealth and faded elegance. Yet from the outset, she’d experienced a weird sense of déjà vu as though the house knew her and was welcoming her home with a big cozy hug. Her puzzlement and sense of unreality mounted as she moved from room to room, finding familiarity at every turn, while knowing that she’d never set foot inside the place before. In fact, she hadn’t even known the house existed until a couple of hours ago and in turn had spent little more than a brief half hour exploring the amazing rooms.
There was a lot to see and Jaime had been so intent on her quest that she’d initially dismissed the faint scrunching sound, like tires on gravel, as a figment of an over active imagination. Not until she heard the unmistakable solid clunk of a car door had she accepted it wasn’t her mind playing tricks. Reluctantly abandoning her exploration to check out the unexpected caller she hurried along the upstairs hallway. After a couple of wrong turns she’d found her way back to the top of the main staircase.
A brief glance out the large arched window and her first sight of the visitor stopped Jaime dead. A frisson of excitement trickled down her spine. She knew this woman, intimately.
No, not literally, but she was the perfect embodiment of Granby. Jaime couldn’t believe her fictitious hero was a real person, here, in the flesh, and looking so perfect.
Good enough to eat.
Jaime’s heart missed several beats as she feasted her eyes on the tall stranger who was clearly in no hurry to announce her presence. Instead the woman leant casually against an expensive looking black SUV while she scrutinized the house giving Jaime ample time to study her. Every detail fitted Granby to a tee, exactly as Jaime had defined her lead character all those years ago. Early forties, short cropped hair, graying slightly, and naturally tanned skin that spoke of a life spent mainly outdoors. Stone washed denims, worn with a red plaid shirt over a white vest, completed the picture and emphasized her rugged good looks. Strong, sexy, and unmistakably butch.
A tingling awareness radiated through Jaime’s body and ignited a flame deep inside her core. She couldn’t wait to discover if the woman matched the other qualities she’d bestowed upon her hero. Anticipation propelled her swiftly down the wide staircase to arrive at the bottom step breathless, and excited, just as the stranger burst through the inner doors into the hall.
Whatever Jaime had expected, an ugly confrontation was the last thing on her mind.
“I asked you a question.” The curt, authoritative, tone a clear indication that this woman was used to giving orders rather than taking them. “And I want a straight-forward answer. What are you doing in my house?” She advanced several paces toward Jaime, as she spoke, reinforcing her air of authority.
Slowly, small fragments of clarity began to emerge from the jumble of unintelligible white noise jamming Jaime's brain.
What the hell is going on?
Jaime swallowed hard, seeking to make sense of this increasingly bizarre situation. A host of conflicting emotions, disbelief, bewilderment, and curiosity raced, like express trains, through her head then disappeared into a distant fog. There was an overwhelming sense of sadness too. The stranger may be the perfect semblance of her hero in looks but there the similarity ended.
Bemused by the wealth of unanswered questions, Jaime attempted to find her own answers and a way to seize control of the situation. v
Whoever this woman is, it’s clear that she believes I’m an intruder or, at least, that I have no valid reason for being here alone.
Yet she didn’t look or behave like a servant, or a caretaker, which might be the logical explanation, she was much too sure of herself and besides, the emphasis placed on ‘my house’ definitely implied ownership. Jaime pulled herself together, this was not the time for a lily-livered retreat, she needed to fight back, and fight hard. To establish her position, and right of ownership, without a shred of lingering doubt.
“I was about to ask you the same question, and how you got in?” Although her voice was steady, Jaime battled to keep hysteria at bay and the continued unswerving scrutiny of the stranger brought uncharacteristic warmth to her cheeks.
The woman’s glare might easily have cut metal. “With my key, unlike you I presume.”
She has a key!
That put a different slant on the situation. A key inferred some legality. Yet it didn’t prove more than a passing connection. Jaime sucked in a sharp breath and tightened her grip on the wooden post. She must stifle the rising panic before it reached the surface and betrayed her vulnerability.
“Did you indeed! I would be very interested to hear how you obtained a key to my house.”
The ensuing silence was palpable, like a thick film of gooey gel.
“Y…Your house?” The woman eventually spat out the words in denial of Jaime’s claim. Her face a picture of disbelief combined with contempt.
In any other circumstances Jaime might have found it rather funny but this situation was no laughing matter. She began to wish that she’d taken the lawyer up on his offer to accompany her then she needn’t have faced this person on her own.
“Dream on girlie. I’m the rightful owner this house. Or I will be when…” The woman stopped speaking abruptly, snapping her mouth shut like a trap.
Anger bubbled like a cauldron set upon the roaring fire in Jaime’s gut. The snarky bitch had taken one glance at her blonde hair and immediately labeled her as an empty headed bimbo. Although, on the plus side, Jaime knew she’d trapped the stranger into making an inadvertent admission. This woman, whoever she was and whatever her motivation, appeared to believe that she owned the property or had a valid claim to ownership but Jaime was certain that couldn’t be right.
Admittedly, she’d been in a state of shock at the time the lawyer explained the details. It’s not every day one learns that a hitherto unknown relative has died and left you both a mansion and a small fortune. However, a misunderstanding of the magnitude that this woman’s claim implied was impossible. Jaime was certain that, there’d been no mention of anyone else. Aside from a few small bequests to servants, and several more substantial donations to various charities, Colonel James Alexander Osbert Montagu-Fyre had left her his entire estate.
Jaime took a much needed breath. If this was a clumsy attempt to rip her off then the woman would find she’d met her match. “There’s an easy way to settle this. Why don’t you telephone Henry Carr – I presume you know him? He will quickly confirm my bona fides.”
“Nice try.” The woman’s lips twisted in an ugly sneer. “The landline is disconnected, as I’m sure you’re already aware.”
The bitch had an answer for everything. Jaime clenched her jaw in frustration. “So use your cell phone. Or, better still, go to his office then you can ask him directly.” Jaime had no interest in how this stranger solved her problem, providing she went away, preferably right now. There were many more rooms to explore but little enough time left to do so before she had to leave for her appointment back in town.
“There’s no signal this far out, and I have no intention of leaving you here alone. No way...” The woman returned to the attack with devastating force. “You can’t think I’m that gullible! Neither of us goes anywhere until I say so.”
Jaime swallowed, trying to shift the sudden lump blocking her throat. It was bad enough that a complete stranger had invaded her house but now the invasion had turned into threats of kidnapping, or worse. Rising panic dried her mouth so her voice sounded distinctly unsteady when she protested. “You can’t keep me here indefinitely, I’ve got an appointment and if I don’t arrive on time then somebody will come here looking for me”
“I have no intention of keeping you here. I’m not into kidnapping. You are free to leave whenever you choose. But—”
“That’s big of you!” Jaime said, employing sarcasm to hide her relief. If the woman didn’t care what she did as long as she left then, presumably, she hadn’t got too much to worry about, at least on that score. The remainder, however, was a real conundrum.
“But,” the woman repeated, placing menacing emphasis on the single word. “I also have a duty to make sure you leave empty handed and if that means I’m forced to wait with you until you go, then so be it!”
“You think I’m a common thief?” The implication that she was up to no good was the final straw. “No… Not exactly.” A disdainful sneer accompanied the dismissive gesture. “Although I suppose anything is possible.”
“Then what did you mean?”
The stranger’s eyes narrowed as she surveyed Jaime from head to toe and back again. “I rather assumed that you must be one of the Colonel’s little friends, here to collect what you consider he owed you. He had a penchant for a certain type of woman, particularly petite blondes.” The accusation, heavily loaded with disgust, hung in the air between them like an invisible curtain. “Or maybe, you nursed him in the clinic and seized the opportunity to feather your own nest, by duping a sick man, a patient, into rewriting his will.”
Ouch! Jaime flinched, feeling completely naked and vulnerable under such keen scrutiny. “How dare you!”
How can she say that, without knowing the slightest thing about me?
“Do I really look like either of those descriptions?”
“How should I know?” The accompanying shrug spoke volumes. “I don’t really care what you are... but be warned, I will stop at nothing to protect myself and my interests. If necessary, I’ll fight through every court in the land to ensure you don’t get your hands on a penny. This house, and all the money that goes with it, is mine. Mine by right.”
“I suppose everyone is entitled to dream.” Jaime remarked sweetly, having come to the conclusion she wouldn’t gain a thing by prolonging this exchange. Her best course of action was to consult the lawyer; maybe he could throw some light on the matter. Taking a firm grip on her nerves, she unstuck her feet then, head held high, swept past the woman into the library to retrieve her purse. When she emerged a couple of minutes later, Jaime ran right into another venomous attack.
“Going are we? Well I hope you have seen all you wanted because you won’t get in again.
We’ll see about that. Jaime tossed a defiant glare at her adversary. “I don’t believe I caught your name…”
“Kim – Kimberly Marshall.”
Jaime savored a moment of triumph that the change of tack had caught the bitch off guard. “Well Ms. Marshall. I can’t honestly say it’s been a pleasure, but I’m looking forward to trouncing you in court. If you’ve got the nerve to take me on.” Jaime didn’t wait around to see Kimberly’s reaction, nor did she want to. Instead, she turned abruptly on her heels and stalked out of the house slamming the door hard behind her.
Time to consult the lawyer, and get his expert opinion. It would certainly be a lot safer than trying to tackle Kimberly Marshall. She might even discover why Ms. Marshall had made those outrageous claims.