A New Year Marriage Proposal

Available in stores

Mills & Boon Cherish

Nov 2014

ISBN 9780263913323

 

Harlequin Romance

Nov 2014

ISBN: 9780373743155

When millionaire Quinn O'Neill’s neighbour Carissa asks for his help, he's soon caught up in the work – and the beautiful yet guarded woman behind it. Now Quinn's determined to prove that romance isn't just for Christmas... but for a lifetime!

Also released as:

  • UK hardback (Nov 2014, ISBN 9780263243376)
  • UK large print hardback (Date and ISBN tbc)
  • Also released in Australian paperback (Nov 2014, ISBN: tbc).

 


Behind the Book

What would you do if you were fabulously wealthy? My heroine, Carissa, is a secret fairy godmother. (Which is what I'd do, too.) She works two days a week as a lawyer, and the rest of the time on Project Sparkle (which does what it says on the tin - puts sparkle into people's lives). And, despite some personal heartbreak, she absolutely loves Christmas.

My software designer hero Quinn, on the other hand, loathes Christmas. So when Carissa challenges him to build her a virtual Santa for the opening of the new children's ward (in the memory of her late parents), it ends up as a bet. If she can convince him of the magic of Christmas, he'll do it for nothing.

I had a lot of fun planning their dates. (My editor actually said that she wanted to go on them.) And I had a lot of fun peeling back their layers, too, and making them confront their prejudices.

Oh - and there's the Christmas song. I should probably confess that I write music as well. (Not for public consumption!!) 'Santa Bring my Baby Home for Christmas' owes an awful lot to both my children. My youngest was in hospital with bronchiolitis at the age of six weeks - her first Christmas - and her big brother asked on Christmas Eve, 'Will Santa bring my baby sister home for Christmas?' So that's where it all started. I just had to dedicate the book to them, because they inspired the song and they've made Christmas much better for me. (I find the run-up to Christmas difficult because my mum died on December 19. You might spot that date as well as a small homage from me.)

Anyway. I hope that Carissa and Quinn help you to enjoy the magic of Christmas (which was my original title).

Read a bit

'Go away,' Quinn O'Neill muttered as the doorbell rang. Right now was the worst possible time for an interruption; he was running a test on the new system, and if it fell over then he'd prefer to see it happen, to save him having to wade through thousands of lines of coding to find out exactly where the problem was. Whoever was at the door wasn't expected, hadn't been invited, and definitely wasn't wanted right now. And who would ring someone's doorbell at quarter to eight in the morning anyway?

The bell rang again.

Oh, for pity's sake. It wasn't as if he could pause the test. If he cancelled it, that would be an hour and a half wasted. 'Give up and go away,' he said, scowling.

It rang again.

Whoever was at the front door clearly wasn't going to go away, so he didn't really have any choice. He'd have to answer the door, get rid of whoever it was as quickly as he could, and just hope that the system didn't fall over before he got back to it.

She looked like a lawyer or someone in high finance was his first thought when he opened the door. Wearing a little black suit – expensively cut – teamed with a crisp white shirt, soft burgundy leather gloves and a matching cashmere scarf as concessions to the chilly November morning, and killer high heels, with her blonde hair pulled back severely in a French pleat. Make up that was barely there. Glasses that made her look academic and just a little bit intimidating. Lawyer, then.

'Yes?' he drawled.

She extended one hand, and he noticed then that she was carrying a large cylindrical tin and a plant as well as a briefcase. Leather. Expensive. Definitely something in law or the City.

'Mr O'Neill, welcome to Grove End Mews.' Her accent was totally plummy. Wealthy background, he guessed. Then again, given how much he'd just paid for his new house in Belgravia, it was pretty obviously that all his neighbours would be from a wealthy background. Assuming she was his neighbour; then again, why else would she be welcoming him to the area?

As if his thoughts were written all over his face, she introduced herself. 'Carissa Wylde, chair of the Residents' Association.'

'Clarissa?'

'Carissa,' she corrected chirpily. 'No L.'

Clearly a lot of people made that mistake, then.

She gave him a sweet smile. 'I hope you've moved in OK. I brought you these from the Residents' Association to welcome you to the Mews.'

Oh, no. He really didn't have time for this sort of nonsense. A residents' association was for busybodies with too much time on their hands, and he wanted no part of it. And wasn't that sort of thing normally chaired by someone the far side of fifty, not someone who looked under thirty? 'It's very nice of you to call,' he said, not meaning a word of it, 'but I don't want to join any residents' association, thank you.' Before she could protest, he added, 'For the record, it doesn't worry me who parks where or what colour people want to paint their front doors. I'm not going to complain.'

'The Residents' Association isn't about that sort of thing.' Her smile didn't exactly falter, but it did became slightly more fixed. 'It's about mutual support and making life easier.'

For him, making life easier meant Carissa Wylde going away and leaving him in peace. Preferably right now.

Before Quinn had the chance to say so, she added, 'So you know where to go if you need work doing on your house, that sort of thing.'

He raised an eyebrow. 'You mean a cartel?'

'No,' she said crisply, 'but these are all listed houses, and the building regulations people are just a little bit picky about who they'll allow to work on them.'

'So why don't I just ask the building regulations people for a list if I need someone?'

'Because my list,' she said softly, 'comes with personal recommendations. So you know the contractors are child and pet friendly, clear up after themselves, do the job properly – and you're not going to get unwanted flashes of saggy bottoms.'<

p>

'Oh.' He felt slightly small.

'Welcome to Grove End Mews, Mr O'Neill,' she said again, then handed him the plant, the tin and an envelope that he guessed contained a 'welcome to your new home' card, then turned to go.

OK, she'd come at a bad time – but there was no way she could've known that. Most people would've assumed that he was busy unpacking and would welcome an interruption to give him a break, given that he'd moved in the day before. He glanced at the tin. It looked as if she'd brought him home-made cake. Still slightly warm, from the feel of the tin. She'd been kind. Welcomed him to the neighbourhood. And he'd just been really rude. Obnoxious, even. Not a good start. He raked his hand through his hair. 'Ms Wylde – wait.'

She turned back and looked at him. 'Yes?'

'Thank you for the plant. And the, um, cake.' At least, he assumed it was cake. Maybe she'd brought him cookies.

She shrugged. 'It's a tad more difficult to buy a welcome gift for a man. It's unlikely you'll even own a vase, so I thought a plant would be a safer bet than flowers – and by the way that's a dracaena, so you can get away with neglecting it a bit.'

Just as well. He didn't really do plants. He didn't do anything that needed looking after. Pets, plants and kids were all a total no-no in Quinn's world.

'Um. Thank you,' he said again, feeling weirdly at a loss. How had she managed to do that?

'My pleasure.' The smile was back. 'See you later, Mr O'Neill.'

'Uh-huh.' He glanced at the front of the envelope. Quinn O'Neill was written in bold black script. He stared at her. 'How did you know my name?'

She shrugged. 'I have a good spy network.'

Obviously the surprise showed in his face because she tipped her head back and laughed. And Quinn was suddenly very aware of the curve of her throat. Pure, clean lines. And the temptation to lean over and touch his mouth to her throat heated his skin and shocked him in equal measure. He hadn't had such a physical reaction like that to anyone for longer than he could remember.

'I was friends with Maddie and Jack, who lived here before you,' she explained. 'They told me your name.'

'Of course.' He rolled his eyes. 'I should have worked that out for myself.' Spy network, indeed. Of course that hadn't been a crack about what he did for a living. Because she wouldn't have a clue what he did… would she?

'Moving house is one of the most stressful life events and I've obviously caught you at a bad moment. I'm sorry. I'll let you get on,' she said. 'I'm at number seven if you need anything or want an introduction to people.'

Again, she gave him one of those sweet smiles, and Quinn was stunned to realise that it had completely scrambled his brains, because all he could manage in reply was, 'Uh-huh.' And then he watched her walk swiftly down the paved street outside the mews, her heels clicking on the stone slabs. The way her bottom swayed as she walked put him in a daze.

What the hell was wrong with him?

He never let himself get distracted from his work. Well, except for when he'd dated Tabitha, and he'd been twenty-one and naïve, back then. He hadn't been enough for her – and he'd vowed then not to repeat that mistake and to keep his heart intact in future. He knew it had given him a reputation of being a bit choosy and not letting people close – but it was easier that way. And he made it clear from the outset that his relationships were fun and strictly short-term, so nobody got hurt.

So why, now, was he letting complete stranger distract him?

'Get real. Even if she's single – and, looking like that, I doubt it very much –you are most definitely not getting involved. You just don't have time for this,' he told himself sharply, closed the door and headed back to his computer. And please don't let the system have fallen over…

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