Title: When You Find Love
Author: Willa Blair
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Contemporary Romance
When Scottish antiques appraiser Caitlin Paterson accepts a commission in the Hamptons, 'tis the season for Christmas miracles. Too bad she doesn't have one handy.
Successful businessman Holt Ridley resents being forced by his great-aunt's bequest to winter at the family estate he has hated since childhood. Still, the enticing appraiser he finds there is an unexpected holiday gift—or is she?
Among the furnishings Caitlin is tasked with evaluating, she discovers the key to a centuries-old heartache that plagues Holt's family. Caitlin longs to help Holt find the happiness that eluded him his entire life—but this secret could destroy everything.
Holt found Caitlin in the estate’s library, notepad and pen in hand, a camera on the table beside a pair of white cotton gloves. The thoughtful expression on her face as she wrote made her seem worlds away, and given the way her gaze kept shifting to a globe in a stand near her chair, perhaps she was.
He didn’t want to disturb her work, but he owed her an apology for the way he behaved at dinner last night. He crossed his arms, leaned against the doorframe and then scuffed his shoe on the parquet floor.
Her gaze tracked around the room until it landed on him. “Hiya. I thought I heard something.”
“I didn’t want to startle you.”
She studied him for a moment before she spoke. “Are you checking up on me?”
Holt waved a hand. “No. I came to apologize for last night. I shouldn’t have been such a jerk.”
Did they use the word in Scotland? “Yes. My only excuse is jet lag. I took the red-eye to get here yesterday morning.”
Despite her clipped replies, she seemed to be taking this well. She wasn’t frowning at him, at least. Holt decided to try a little charm. “So, am I forgiven?”
Caitlin set aside her writing materials and stood. “Mr. Ridley, you—or your solicitor—hired me to do a job. I’m doing it,” she added with a wave of her hand, then crossed her arms. “What you do with your estate once I finish is up to you.”
So, not forgiven. “As true as that is, I’d still like us not to be at odds while you’re here. Why don’t we start by using first names. I’m Holt.”
“Do names matter? Either way, I’ll do what I was hired to do.”
Frustrated, Holt cast about for a way to keep his apology from turning into another argument. Appealing to her expertise seemed to be the best way to deflect this uncomfortable conversation. “What are you working on?”
“This globe. I’m making notes, then I’ll take pictures so I can do some further research on it.”
“Why? It looks like any other globe to me.”
“Come closer.” She beckoned, then pulled on the gloves.
Holt straightened and went where she directed him. “It’s pretty, I’ll give you that.”
“As well you should. But it’s more than pretty.” She gave it a gentle spin and pointed out the features that made it special, from the quality of the stones and the artistry of its construction to the historic place names and boundaries.
He also noted the bandage on her hand and wondered how she’d hurt it. But she didn’t mention it, and soon he forgot to ask. She clearly knew her subject, and her enthusiasm for it succeeded where her proclamations at dinner last night had not. Holt’s interest was piqued. “Okay, I’ll admit, it’s an attractive and thought-provoking piece.” He could say the same about her. Attractive and thought-provoking. And irritating.
“And if my suspicion is correct, it’s unique enough that it might be the perfect cover image for the catalog of the estate’s furnishings that I’ll put together for the auction.”
Holt nodded. She hadn’t liked his comment last night, but it appeared she’d taken it on board. “Thank you.”
“No need to thank me. I’m just doing what I was hired to do.” She pulled off the gloves. “If that’s all…?”
Dismissing him, was she? “Not entirely. I’d like to get a sense of the age and condition of the estate’s furnishings. Not in detail, just your general impression. What can you tell me, so far?”
Caitlin frowned but resumed her seat and gestured him to one on the other side of the table. “Farrell and Mrs. Smith have done an excellent job maintaining the contents of the estate. It has helped, I suppose, that no young children have resided here in a generation.”
“Who told you that?”
“Mrs. Smith, of course. The house is not, as you say, child-proof. I understand from her that your mother was the latest, and she was in high school during her residence.”
Holt’s belly clenched as he pictured his mother living in this house under her aunt’s thumb. Her parents had died in a car crash early in her sophomore year in high school, and with no other relatives, she’d wound up dependent on her widowed aunt’s begrudged charity.
“For a little over two years, yes.” Holt considered telling her how his mother had been forced to work two jobs to support them, but hadn’t he told Caitlin just last night that her responsibilities didn’t include meddling in his personal life?
As she filled him in on what she’d gleaned so far, ticking off points on her fingertips, Holt understood how she’d won this job. In her professional element, her intellect and expertise were undeniable. He’d been attracted to her beauty at first, but her smarts made her even more intriguing. And that was a problem. Helen Conroe had taught him not to get too close to someone in a professional relationship, not to trust their motives. He needed to remember that. When she wound down, he excused himself and left her to her work.
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Winner will be drawn on October 23, 2020.
Romance author Willa Blair has published nearly twenty titles, including her bestselling Highland Talents and His Highland Heart series. She is also the author of the contemporary ghost romance bestseller Waiting for the Laird.
Her books have won numerous accolades, including the Marlene, the Merritt, National Readers’ Choice Award Finalist, Reader’s Crown finalist, InD’Tale Magazine’s RONE Award Honorable Mention, and NightOwl Reviews Top Picks.
For more information about Willa Blair and her books, visit her website at www.willablair.com .