THE CHERRY HOUSE by C.J. Carlyon
Genre: Contemporary Romance
— SYNOPSIS —
“Two strangers destined to be lovers, making agreements without even speaking; two souls wordlessly making changes, making room, making space, in seconds, you could feel it.”
When Austen Soren returns home for the summer to the lush beautiful valley of her childhood it’s with the sense that she can be, will be, anything; accepted into the prestigious Writers’ Workshop her life is unfolding just as she planned.
Headstrong and impulsive, Austen’s world is upended the moment she meets Cashel Drai, the enigmatic owner of the storybook estate known throughout the village as The Cherry House. Cashel, devastating and damaged, loves her instantly but is held hostage by his past, falling backwards into its darkness and loss as Austen struggles with the experience of her first great love – at once desperate for him and desperate to be free of their wild longing.
As their relationship reopens the hearts – and wounds – of those closest to them can Austen hold on to the ambitions she has for her own life, is Cashel brave enough to let go of his past, and can they, together, fulfill the destiny that the quiet grave on The Cherry House estate whispered always; that forever is written upon them.
— EXCERPT —
After her swim Austen lay on her back beside her friend close to the edge of the pool. She loved the delicious surprise of cool water splashing her ever so lightly, almost like a touch, whenever someone swam by. She closed her eyes. Her mind wandered. While Lilou had many boys – men – for fun and love while they were away, Austen found she couldn’t be as free. The boys – boys – she had been with had beguiled her with their smiles and their eyes and their young smooth lips, but their fingers were too unsure and too tenacious, not sure exactly where to touch her but determined anyway. They knew only how her body felt under their hands not how their hands felt on her body. And the softness of their skin, prickled with clippered hair rough like pencil shavings, unnerved her, the vanity and the cluelessness of it. Austen longed to feel something hard, something urgent, something real. She wondered what it was that Ruby had seen. “Are you going to fall in love this summer?” Austen asked Lilou.
“Of course; I love every man I’ve ever been with, I just don’t love them for very long. An hour, two hours . . .”
A rush of water sounded in Austen’s ear. She turned towards the noise and the first thing she saw were his devil’s horns, wet. Those curved hollows carved into his hips. She knew immediately, instinctively, it was Cashel Drai. His broad shoulders bulged and his biceps swelled as he raised his body up out of the pool looming over her, almost on top of her, splashing water onto her stomach, her breasts. Her eyes followed the cascade between his muscled chest, winding through the hair that licked across his stomach, down the muscles, down that bump, bump, bump, bump. He was so close Austen surprised herself imagining, just for a second, flicking her tongue along those dark chiselled trenches.
Cashel Drai stood above her. Their eyes met, locked, blue on blue. Austen’s breathing quickened as he ran his hand through the wet tangle of his dark brown hair, dripping water across her thighs. Veins ribboned the tanned skin on his forearms and his gaze traced the lines of her hipbones before coming back to her face where his eyes danced, wicked, his smile cocky. So sure.
“Got you all wet,” he said.
Austen eyed him coolly. Cashel Drai or not, who did he imagine he was, speaking to her that way, as though she would swoon. Please. Slowly she raised one hand, pretending to shield her eyes from the sun. As her arm reached higher towards her face the fullness of her breast shifted upward and her nipple, erect, edged closer and closer to the seam of her bikini. Cashel’s smile faltered his eyes hungry. Austen smirked and her gaze dropped to his black trunks and the thickness she saw there. She arched an eyebrow. All was quiet, as if everyone at the pool was waiting on her reply. For Cashel Drai she had just one word.
The crowd tittered, Lilou winked and no one could tell that Austen had lied.
— ABOUT THE AUTHOR: C.J. CARLYON —
C.J. grew up in a very small town – just 800 people – leaving for boarding school when she was 15. Attending university she attained a law degree and an arts degree with honours, majoring in English. Instead of pursuing the law she was a newspaper columnist for more than 10 years.
The idea for her debut novel, The Cherry House, struck long before the writing of it when travelling through the south of France she found a beautiful Provencal quilt covered with cherries. Unlike her protagonist, C.J. didn’t buy the cherry quilt. She has never found another one like it.