DiscoverContemporary Romance

Cornerstone of Love

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Allison - structural engineer with red hair and a pink hard hat? Not who Lord Hartley expected. She won the job, will she win his heart?

Synopsis

Ian Chalmers’s dream life didn’t include becoming the Earl of Hartley or the CEO of Hartley International Shipping, but he obediently accepted the responsibilities when his father and older brother are killed. Duty to the Hartley title and business reputation becomes his all-consuming focus. Ian’s world revolves around unending work and doing what’s expected of him. Then a nerve-wracking, albeit completely fascinating, free-spirited female enters his structured life and turns it upside down.
Allison Moore is the American constructional engineer hired to direct the repairs on Hartley castle. Despite their instant attraction, Allison doesn’t appreciate Ian’s high-handed control of everything in his sphere of influence. Still she’s determined to placate the vexing ‘master of the castle’ in order to get the job done, bringing her another step closer to achieving her goal of having a home of her own. Her strategy is complicated then frustrated when Ian’s kisses prove so delicious her treacherous heart undermines her immunity to his charm.
With the project almost complete and their sizzling interlude ending, Ian and Allison must decide what they want most in life. Have they been laboring towards the wrong goals? Could what they have together be the cornerstone of true love?

Hailing from Alabama, Allison Moore isn’t who Lord Hartley is expecting to restore the west tower of his castle. Rich red hair and a pink hard hat, Allison knows she breaks the norm of a stereotypical engineer but she doesn’t care. She knows her stuff and if Lord Ian Hartley can’t deal with it, he can get another engineer on site.


But the problem is she’d rather that didn’t happen. Along with her two friends (Mallory and Jordon) from college, they have a successful business (Historic Restorations and Designs) and if she completes the work to the high standards that the Lord has, it will add to their good reputation and further their success.


Immediately attracted to each other, Allison is also instantly irritated with his controlling manor. She has her job cut out for her to not only prove that she is more than capable of restoring the castle's tower but also not to fall for him.


Lord Hartley is a reluctant peer. Running a multi-million-pound business is a far cry from being involved with agricultural issues. However, the responsibility was thrust upon him when his father and brother were killed in a tragic accident. The last thing he needed in his life was a brash American structural engineer.


Just how long can they deny their attraction to each other? As they spend more time together, Allison and Ian discover hidden areas of their lives that make them more appealing to each other such as Allison's penchant for baking.


As Allison continues the necessary repairs on the castle’s tower, she also needs to work out what direction her life is going to take. Any involvement with Ian would be short lived as she’s heading back to the US to settle down to run the business. But does she really want that?


Ian knows that Allison isn’t the right woman for a long term relationship, even marriage. He's after a woman who will look the part as well as act the part of being Lady Hartley. Yet, there is something about Allison - could a relationship with her work?


In the classic style romance of 'will they, won't they', Carlisle's approach is to up date it with a career minded woman who can have a high powered role without losing her femininity. And, whilst Ian Hartley initially comes across as a man oozing pure masculine pride and self-reliance, the reader soon discovers his vulnerabilities and appreciate that there is more to him.


All the characters are believable with depth and the romance is not over-bearing. There are brief glimpses of Allison's business partners and their stories. Whilst the majority of the novel was solid, there were parts which felt a little disjointed perhaps edited too much? Overall though, as the first story of a trilogy, it's a good plot, with likable people and a good introduction to three women who are hard-working, down-to-earth and womanly. A recommended read for fans of romantic fiction. 

Reviewed by

A published author, mom and wife. When I'm not reading, I love to craft - paper, wool, clay, cloth (don't mention how much glitter there is...) as well as bake. My six years old daughter keeps me busy and always smiling. I hail from the UK but have been living in the US for just over nine years.

Synopsis

Ian Chalmers’s dream life didn’t include becoming the Earl of Hartley or the CEO of Hartley International Shipping, but he obediently accepted the responsibilities when his father and older brother are killed. Duty to the Hartley title and business reputation becomes his all-consuming focus. Ian’s world revolves around unending work and doing what’s expected of him. Then a nerve-wracking, albeit completely fascinating, free-spirited female enters his structured life and turns it upside down.
Allison Moore is the American constructional engineer hired to direct the repairs on Hartley castle. Despite their instant attraction, Allison doesn’t appreciate Ian’s high-handed control of everything in his sphere of influence. Still she’s determined to placate the vexing ‘master of the castle’ in order to get the job done, bringing her another step closer to achieving her goal of having a home of her own. Her strategy is complicated then frustrated when Ian’s kisses prove so delicious her treacherous heart undermines her immunity to his charm.
With the project almost complete and their sizzling interlude ending, Ian and Allison must decide what they want most in life. Have they been laboring towards the wrong goals? Could what they have together be the cornerstone of true love?

CHAPTER ONE

Bloody hell!” A deep British male voice barked

from behind Allison Moore. “Have you lost

your mind? Get down from there.”

She gasped as powerful hands encircled her

waist. “How dare you. Who do you think you are?”

“Don’t you have better sense than to stand on

this wall? It’s already crumbling. You could fall.”

The fierce words were whispered close to her ear.

Allison forced herself not to struggle as her

work boots dangled a moment before coming to

rest on the slate roof of the castle. “Didn’t your

mother teach you never to manhandle a woman?”

“I’m not manhandling, just making sure you’re

safe.” He rasped.

“I’ve no intention of falling. Let me go.” Allison

worked to keep her words even as she made

another useless effort to get a good look at the man.

Just as quickly as she had been seized, he released

her. The air at her back cooled. Allison swiftly

turned.

Tall and lean, he stood a head above her. A gust

“B

8\Susan Carlisle

of wind whipped at the toffee-colored locks on his

forehead despite his effort to push them into place.

He wore a business suit that could have only been

tailor-made from the way it fit across his broad

shoulders. Everything about him exuded authority.

And sex appeal.

Allison retreated a step.

Offering an upturned hand, he said, “Don’t

move. You’re not far from the edge.”

She glanced over her shoulder, past the hiphigh

stone wall to the circular gravel drive sixty feet

below. A gray roadster sat parked next to her blue

rental car. She shifted to a safer position.

His forceful expression eased, making him

even more handsome. His full mouth quirked

upward on one side. “Are you the new contractor?

My estate manager said I would find you up here.

I’m Ian Chalmers, Earl of Hartley.”

So, this was the owner of Hartley Castle. The

newspapers pictures didn’t do him justice. He

appeared more impressive in person. Allison

straightened her shoulders and extended her hand.

“I’m Allison Moore, with Historic Restorations and

Designs. My company has been retained to restore

your tower.”

He took her fingers in a firm grasp. “Surely,

you know it’s unsafe to walk on the walls.”

When he released her hand, she had a fleeting

sensation of disappointment. “I’m experienced at

doing so. It’s part of my job.”

“That may be true,” he gave her a pointed glare,

“but accidents do happen. I’d rather one not occur

from the top of my castle. What exactly do you do at

uh…”

“Historic Restorations and Designs. I’m the

Cornerstone of Love/9

structural engineer in charge of this project. I’ll be

overseeing the reconstruction.”

“Is that so?” His forehead wrinkled as he

studied her. “You aren’t at all what I had expected.”

Allison stopped herself from rolling her eyes.

That wasn’t the first time she’d heard something

like that.

He continued to watch her. “You don’t fit the

stereotypical contractor.”

“Is that so?” Allison mimicked his words

knowing full well he referred to her gender. Men

generally made up the world of historical

reconstruction. She and her partners continued to

work hard to change that perception.

His lips twisted slightly, not quite becoming a

smile. “For one thing, you’re a woman. And since

you are from America where there are no ancient

keeps, I’m not sure how knowable you can be about

mine.”

Allison nodded, then swallowed the words

begging to bubble out. She met his chauvinistic

remark with a bold one of her own. “Lord Hartley, I

can assure you that I’m more than capable of

handling this job. Despite my nationality and sex.”

He held up his hand. “I didn’t mean to insult

you. I merely made an observation. As the head of

the Hartley family, I’m responsible for seeing our

heritage is maintained and restored in the most

skilled and factually accurate manner possible. I

take my duty very seriously.”

Allison lowered her chin. His questioning of

her skills grated on her nerves, but she would let

that go for now. And prove him wrong. “I

understand your concerns.” She waited until his

beautiful ice-blue eyes met hers again. “Lord

10\Susan Carlisle

Hartley, I assure you I’m capable of overseeing this

project.”

He lifted a brow. “You have experience

repairing fourteenth century keeps?”

“I do. Years’ worth.” The temptation to stomp

her foot in frustration filled her. Instead, she stayed

cool and professional. “Before I started my

company, I worked with a number of well-respected

historical architectural firms all over the world. I’ve

been a partner and founder in my own business for

the past six years. And by the way, you don’t need

to live in or own a castle to appreciate how they’re

built.”

The lord’s expression turned thoughtful. “That

was quite an impassioned speech, but I’m still not

convinced your company’s right for this job.”

“Is that based on our resume or my

appearance? I understood that my company had

already been approved. We have a contract. I have

supplies ordered and stone masons lined up.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.” A drop of moisture

hit her cheek and she wiped it away. Another late

spring rain. Something else she’d have to contend

with if she managed to keep this project.

The lord’s intent gaze shifted to the sky. “Let’s

get out of the wet. We can finish this discussion in

my office.”

Allison glanced around the castle roof, then

refocused on him. “By the way,” she tilted her head

to the side, “do you regularly rescue people from

the top of your castle?”

“No, but I don’t usually have women climbing

on my castle wall. In that, you are unique.” A

charming grin curved his lips.

Her stomach flipped. She rather liked that

Cornerstone of Love/11

compliment.

The man could charm when he put his mind to

it.

Lord Hartley ducked through the arched

opening and descended the winding stone stairway.

Allison followed, mindful of the damp, steep, and

narrow steps. Even with rubber-soled shoes, she

treaded carefully. If she fell, no doubt Lord Hartley

would show her to the door. She lagged a little

behind. When she came out of the passage, he

waited in the hall. His lips had formed a thin line.

She suspected he didn’t make a habit of waiting on

anyone.

“Ms. Moore, this way.” He turned, taking long

strides down the carpeted hall.

Did he really just speak to her as if he were the

schoolmaster, and she the disobedient child? Still,

she couldn’t help but find Lord Hartley’s soft burr

of an accent pulling at her, making her think of

warm nights by a fire.

Allison stood still for a moment and collected

herself before she entered into a discussion with

Lord Hartley again. Temped to shout, “Who died

and made you king?” she reminded herself the

HRD couldn’t afford to antagonize a client.

Especially one with his clout. She’d settle for

mouthing the words behind him. He might run his

world, but he didn’t run hers.

“Yes.” Allison hurried to catch up.

She watched as his strong, loose-hipped strides

took him along the stone corridor past enormous

portraits that hung on either side of the walls. His

ancestors, no doubt. As he walked, the slit in his

finely tailored suit coat flipped open, giving her a

glimpse of his behind. A nice one. But a good

12\Susan Carlisle

backside didn’t negate his distrust of her abilities.

With an effort, she matched her pace to his. He

took quick, sure steps down the main stone

staircase into the great hall, then disappeared

through a doorway.

Allison entered a small room lined with books

to find Lord Hartley behind an enormous desk

holding his mobile phone. The space suited him.

Had it been established as a show of importance—

or provide intimidation? Everything about Lord

Hartley implied everyone obeyed him.

With a nod of his head, he motioned her

toward one of the two burgundy leather chairs

facing the desk. Settling comfortably, she crossed

one leg over the other, just as confident in her

abilities as he was in his position.

Did she want to work for him? He’d already

irritated her with his assumptions of her skills.

Would he always expect her to prove herself?

Question her decisions? While growing up, her

father had done that; pushed her into his ideas

instead of letting her decide. She’d promised herself

she wouldn’t live under anyone else’s expectations.

Her job, her life, she was completely capable of

running it all.

If she couldn’t work with Lord Hartley, could

HRD take the financial hit if they lost him as a

client? Or the poor publicity Lord Hartley might

give them? Allison, Mallory, and Jordon had

worked too hard for Allison to destroy their

reputation because of her inability to get along with

one self-important earl.

Allison took a cleansing breath, letting it out

slowly. On second thought, she’d have to figure out

some way to make this work. It was too vital to her

Cornerstone of Love/13

life plan and the future of the company.

Still, some jobs, some clients, weren’t worth

the trouble. Lord Hartley and his castle might fall

into that category. She’d had difficult clients. Her

focus on historical projects threw her into the world

of the rich and entitled often. Yet something about

Lord Hartley made him seem a little more exacting

than others. Would he second guess every move she

made?

The repair presented a challenge, and she did

enjoy one of those. Could she convince him she was

the man—person—for the job?

“Roger, I’m not convinced that the firm you

hired is the correct one,” he spoke into the phone.

“I told you to hire a top-rated firm to repair the

west tower. This project has to be done right and

with no issues.” There was another pause. “Yes, yes,

she’s sitting right here. Yes, I’ll discuss it with her.”

Lord Hartley hung up.

The tick, tick, tick of the large walnut clock

standing against the opposite wall echoed in the

cavern-sized silence.

He took a seat in the desk chair, then formed a

temple with his fingers at his mouth. His actions

drew her attention to his full, wide lips. She bet

they could form a beautiful smile, but rarely did.

What are you doing, Allison?

“So, Ms. Moore, tell me about your company.”

Lord Hartley intended to interview her? Did he

micromanage all areas of his world?

She would go along with it. Easy when she

believed in her company. “Historic Restorations

and Designs has been in business for six years. I’ve

two partners. We each specialize in different areas

of restoration. I handle the construction side. My

14\Susan Carlisle

partner Mallory Andrews oversees the historical

design and Jordon Glass, our architect. In three

years, we’ve become one of the foremost authorities

in the field of heritage repairs. In the package sent

to your estate manager, you’ll find

recommendations from previous happy clients,

along with contact information. Feel free to reach

out about their experience with us. We’re currently

based out of North Carolina, but rarely there.”

His brow rose. “Currently?”

“Yes. We’ve plans to move the office to another

state in the next six months, but that won’t change

any services we provide.” In fact, they were doing so

well, they anticipated expanding the company. But

none of that related to the work she’d do for him.

“You’ll receive the best job possible.”

Lord Hartley pursed his lips and nodded as if

digesting that information. “Now tell me about

some of the projects that you have personally

supervised."

“I’ve overseen an entire villa restoration along

with my partners in Italy. I’ve also managed a

manor house renovation in Sussex, one in Scotland,

and another in Wales. Oh, yeah, two more in

France.” She finished with, “Of course, this

information, along with before and after pictures

are included in the packet as well.”

“I’m sure they are, but I want to hear it from

you. Tell me about your most difficult project?” He

continued to watch her as if trying to figure her out.

Allison didn’t think she was that complicated.

She had a job to do, and she had the skills to carry it

out. “One of the manor houses in France. For a

number of reasons.”

“They were?”

Cornerstone of Love/15

She shrugged. “The language difference and a

difficult owner. I got it done. When finished the

manor house had been transformed into a beautiful

hotel. I hear it’s fully booked year-round.” She

didn’t try to keep the pride out of her voice.

He nodded. “What about you?”

“Me?”

“Yes, tell me about you.”

“I’m a graduate of MIT, top of my class.

Growing up, I lived in a dozen countries around the

world and developed a fascination with ancient

structures. I’ve studied them in and out. That’s why

I’m the expert at our company in this type of

reconstruction and why I’m the best engineer to

complete your project.”

“I like an employee with confidence. I’m going

to give my decision further thought.”

“I appreciate your thoroughness, but please

recognize I can’t wait around for too long. I arrived

ready to start this project right away, and now

you’re implying you aren’t sure. Please understand

if you decide to break our contract there will be a

penalty involved along with my expenses to date.”

She stood and pulled her business card from

her trouser pocket. “My cell number. Call me when

you have made a decision. I can find my way out.”

Ian’s brow furrowed as he watched Allison Moore

stride out of his office. She interested him. Her

strength of will and determination intrigued him.

She acted as if she knew her mind. Maybe she did

have the fortitude and talent to get the repair done.

For all these strengths, her petite size

captivated him. His hands had completely circled

her waist when he had lifted her. Her tininess

16\Susan Carlisle

contradicted the type of work she supervised. Her

red hair held by a band on the top of her head, gave

her a fresh young appearance that belied her

responsibility. Her heart-shaped face held vivid

emerald eyes that could snap. He’d experienced

that first hand.

Not at all what he’d expected in a construction

engineer.

The charcoal gray pin-striped suit she wore

with a white scooped-neck shirt hadn’t detracted

from her femininity. If anything, it enhanced her

figure. The work boots broke the business effect.

She must have changed into them to climb around

on the tower. That, at least, showed common sense

on her part.

Women in the trades didn’t normally earn this

much thought from him. Maybe it was her

expressive eyes? Or the way she had stood up to

him? Few outside his family dared that privilege.

She’d accused him of being chauvinistic. He’d

not intended to come off that way. She’d surprised

him. Normally he kept his thoughts to himself, but

this time he’d blurted them out.

Spending his time thinking about Ms. Moore

was counterproductive. Concentrating on the west

tower repair should be his focus. He would discuss

Ms. Moore with Roger tomorrow and settle the

matter.

Roger had taken over the position of the

Midland’s estate manager after his father had died,

ten years ago. A bachelor, Roger lived in a cottage

on the estate and could keep an eye on the

reconstruction. Roger loved the castle as well. He

was as much family as employee.

Ian lips formed a rueful smile. Was Allison

Cornerstone of Love/17

Moore really the right man for the job? He huffed.

The right person, he corrected himself. She

definitely wasn’t a man.

Shrugging out of his jacket, he tossed it over a

chair, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned the top

button of his shirt. His cell phone rang, and he

answered.

“Hello, Clarissa.”

“Hello, big brother. How’re you doing?”

“I’m fine. It’s nice to hear from you. How are

the kids?”

“They’re well. Soon out of school for the

summer. I wondered if we could spend the break at

the castle.”

It didn’t surprise him she wanted to come for

the break. Up until his father and brother had died,

they had spent most of their holidays and summers

at the estate. Their family’s getaway. Even with the

sense of history and heritage, an escape to the

country, wandering fields and horses and sheep and

more. As kids, they’d delighted in their trips to the

castle. “I don’t see why not. Be aware, though, that

I’m having the western tower fixed.”

“The one that’s falling down? Why now?”

“Six hundred years takes its toll. It’s past time I

put it to rights. Father always said the castle’s our

heritage, and that makes it my job to keep it in good

repair.”

“And the ever-loyal lord’s taking care of it.

Dotting each i and crossing every t. You know, Ian,

that when the lordship fell to you, it didn’t mean

you had to become as old and stuffy as the title.”

Someone had to take Hartley Shipping in hand

after their father and older brother’s tragic

18\Susan Carlisle

accident. Otherwise, he, his mother, and his sister

wouldn’t have had a roof over their heads or the

family home. “I could always find you a place where

you might help out. Make the business less stuffy.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. The kids are enough

for me to handle. John certainly isn’t going to do

his part.”

Ian rolled his shoulders. He stopped himself

from saying what he really wanted to concerning

Clarissa’s ex-husband. Ian hadn’t thought much of

John before Clarissa married him, and John had

proved him right. Ian had done what he could to

stop the marriage, wanting his sister to think things

through. Then Clarissa eloped, and that was that.

“Have you spoken to Mother lately? She isn’t

returning my calls.”

“I talked to her a few days ago. She’s off with

some man she met while on the Riviera. When she

calls, I’ll tell her to phone you.”

Great. More money wasted in his mother’s

search for happiness. He had failed his father and

the family name the most where his mother was

concerned. Ian walked to the window and stood

with his feet apart, a hand crammed into his pocket.

He gazed out over the lush lawn covered in a misty

rain without really seeing it. “Thanks. I worry about

her.”

“You worry about us all.” Clarissa paused. “We

give you a hard time, but we do love you.”

Ian’s heart lightened. “And I love you too. It’ll

be good to see you and the kids. Maybe the west

tower will be completed by then.”

“Great. I’ll be in touch before we come. Bye.”

Ian dropped his phone into his pocket. Now he

had another reason to finish the tower. A nice

Cornerstone of Love/19

surprise for Clarissa and the children for them to

have a new suite of rooms to stay in. If he wanted

that to happen, someone needed to start the job

right away. Ms. Moore?

Right now, he needed a pint and time away

from his concerns. Leaving the office, he climbed

the stairs two at a time to his bedroom to change

clothes. Returning downstairs, he found Mrs.

White, the castle housekeeper and cook. “I’m going

out. Please hold my dinner.”

Allison glanced around the dark pub of the Horse

and Hound Inn in Hartshire after placing her order

at the bar. She chose a table in the corner where she

wouldn’t be disturbed. From her vantage point, she

watched people as they came in for a meal, and the

men—all men for some reason—who trickled in to

have a drink.

A few minutes earlier, she’d left the castle out

of sorts confused by Lord Hartley’s attitude. From

the estate manager, she’d understood she had the

job. Now the lord acted as if she didn’t. This

runaround was unacceptable. If he didn’t come to a

decision tomorrow, she would cut her losses and

leave. She hated to do that. Quitting wasn’t in her

DNA. When she made up her mind to do

something, she saw it through.

She studied the construction of the pub as she

waited on her food. The inn had been built in the

Tudor style of half-timbers, with low ceilings and

dark support beams. She loved that type of work.

Her room upstairs, despite being small, was

adequate and homey. Inns like this one made the

constant travel more bearable, even pleasant, since

she visited England often on assignments. Having a

pub attached to the inn also offered a convenient

20\Susan Carlisle

place for a meal. The atmosphere only added to the

charm of the place.

A girl served Allison’s beef pie as the door from

the outside opened. A man ducked his head. Lord

Hartley.

Allison’s blood ran faster. She hadn’t expected

him.

Two men at the bar called “Ian, cheers,”

holding their tankards up in greeting. The

bartender placed a mug on the counter for Ian.

She liked his name. It suited him. Country earl

and all.

“Hello, mates,” he responded in his deep,

refined voice.

The lord looked different dressed in a cable

sweater, tan twill pants, and jacket with a leather

collar and patches on the elbows. Somehow more

approachable. His hair had fallen over his brow and

he pushed fingers through the unruly mane,

mussing it more.

Giving the men at the bar a broad smile, Ian

joined them. He carried himself with a lord-of-themanor

attitude. It wasn’t so much that he acted

above the others but that he stood out regardless,

drawing attention. He certainly had hers.

Shaking off that idea, Allison made a point of

focusing on her meal. Enough sparring between the

two of them today.

“The next round’s on me, lads,” Lord Hartley

said.

Allison quivered. The deep, rich accent grabbed

her, drew her to the man with a beautiful voice.

Give them an English accent, and she was a goner.

Already Lord Hartley’s warm timber had been

Cornerstone of Love/21

embedded in her memory. She wouldn’t be

surprised if she heard it in her dreams.

After reading the local tabloids, she’d learned

she wasn’t the only one who liked his voice. The

magazines often featured Ian Hartley with a tall,

willowy model or a date from the British aristocracy

and always attending the latest social event of the

season.

Just as often, an article in the business pages

described how he’d orchestrated another business

merger. A young earl at thirty-six, he carried all the

history and peerage that went with the title, along

with heading a very successful international

shipping business. Allison couldn’t help but be

impressed. Even if she wasn’t sure about working

for him. Their first meeting had confirmed his

autocratic style and the articles established his

demanding work ethics.

During her meal, Allison's gaze kept drifting to

the bar. Ian and the others enjoyed themselves,

telling stories, and laughing.

“You remember when we were boys, and Ian

bet us that he could walk across the river and never

get his clothes wet?”

A roar of laughter filled the room.

Her interest pricked; Allison listened closely.

Another man took up the tale. “Aye, and he did

it, too. Until we realized that a log rested below the

surface. We pushed him in. He was all wet for sure

then.” Boisterous whoops bounced off the ceiling

beams.

Lord Hartley joined in. “I had you, I did. Until

Mr. Forman walked across right behind me.”

From where she sat, she noticed his sly smile.

He had charisma; she’d give him that. And a nice

22\Susan Carlisle

laugh. Deep and raspy and whiskey smooth. She

grinned to think of the stuffed-shirt of a man she’d

dealt with that afternoon once a mischievous boy.

What had happened in his life to make him so

serious? Or had he covered his humor well when

dealing with her? She took her final bite when he

turned. Their gazes locked.

Ian placed his drink on the counter. With

cheetah-like grace, he raised himself off the stool

and started toward her. One corner of his mouth

turned up. He had a hand stuffed into one pants

pocket looking all virile male. Allison deliberately

stared at her fork as she placed it on her plate.

Bring her hand to her throat, she began running the

charm on her necklace back and forth.

Another man almost as good-looking as the

earl, who had been driven to make his place in the

world, had hurt her. She wouldn’t let that happen

again. The next man she agreed to have a

relationship with would need to care about her

more than how he appeared to others.

“Why, Ms. Moore, are you enjoying our local

food? Nancy’s is one of the finest cooks around.”

Allison tipped her head to meet his eyes. “Yes.”

Two of the men from the bar sauntered up

behind him.

“I hope we haven’t disturbed your meal.” The

earl’s intense gaze didn’t leave her.

“Lord Hartley,” she said with emphasis. She

stood; the wooden chair made a scraping noise.

“No, you didn’t. An excellent meal. Now, if you’ll

excuse me.” She stepped around him.

A roar of laughter sprouted from his friends as

they slapped him on the shoulder. One crowed, “So,

Ian, are you losing your touch with the birds?”

Cornerstone of Love/23

They whooped with merriment again.

Allison stopped and focused on Ian’s friends.

“I’m not one of his women. I’m an engineer here to

oversee the repair of the castle tower.”

“Are you now?” the older of the two men said,

glancing at Ian.

Ian shrugged. “She is.”

“It’s been a long day. So, I’ll say goodnight.”

Crossing the pub, Allison climbed the stairs,

pausing to peek over her shoulder. Lord Hartley

watched her. A sizzling shiver slid along her spine.

About the author

Susan Carlisle has currently authored more than twenty-five books for the HarperCollins Harlequin medical imprint. Her Modern Masters of Their Castles trilogy is under her own imprint. Her heroes are strong, vibrant man and the women that challenge them. Visit her at www.SusanCarlisle.com view profile

Published on March 17, 2020

Published by

50000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Reviewed by

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