Lancelot’s Lady by Cherish D’Angelo
When palliative care nurse Rhianna McLeod is given a gift of a dream holiday to the Bahamas from her dying patient, billionaire JT Lance, Rhianna has no idea that her ‘holiday’ will include being stranded on a private island with Jonathan, an irritating but irresistibly handsome recluse. Or that she’ll fall head over heels for the man.
Jonathan isn’t happy to discover a drop-dead gorgeous redhead has invaded his island. But his anger soon turns to attraction. After one failed marriage, he has guarded his heart, but Rhianna’s sudden appearance makes him yearn to throw caution to the wind.
To live fully in the present, Rhianna must resolve her own murky past, unravel the secret that haunts JT, foil the plans of a sleazy, blackmailing private investigator and help Jonathan find his muse. Only then can Rhianna find the love she’s been searching for, and finally become…Lancelot’s Lady.
About Cherish D’Angelo
When romance author Cherish D’Angelo is not busy relaxing in her hot tub, sipping champagne, eating chocolate-covered strawberries or plotting romantic suspense with scintillating sensuality, she is ruthlessly killing people off in her thrillers as bestselling Canadian suspense author, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.
Cherish’s debut romance, Lancelot’s Lady placed in the semi-finals of Dorchester Publishing’s “Next Best Celler” contest and went on to win an Editor’s Choice Award from Textnovel. Currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, she enjoys long walks on the beach, except there aren’t any around so she has to make do with trips around the hot tub or a vacation to a tropical paradise. And margaritas.
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Read an Excerpt
Pacing in the expansive marble foyer of Lance Manor, Rhianna McLeod tried to calm her nerves as she waited for her life to change. One man’s decision would determine her fate. Would she have a new job and a place to call home? Or would she be sent packing?
A tall, thin man in a dark gray suit approached her.
“Are you Mr. Lance?” she asked, holding her breath.
The man smiled and fine lines crinkled the corners of his warm brown eyes. “I’m Higginson, Mr. Lance’s butler. He’s resting at the moment. Perhaps you can leave your name.”
Rhianna blinked back tears. She couldn’t be turned away. The trip to Florida had taken most of her savings and she didn’t have enough money to fly back to Maine. Besides, if it weren’t for Mr. Lance’s letter, she wouldn’t even be in this predicament.
“But Mr. Lance is expecting me. I’m Rhianna McLeod, the palliative nurse he contacted. In his letter he said I’d have the job if I came here.”
“I’m dreadfully sorry. Mr. Lance already has a nurse.”
“But I don’t have anywhere else―”
Somewhere in the stately mansion something crashed to the floor. Before Rhianna could comment, a crystal-shattering shriek pierced the air. This was followed by a terrible wailing sound.
The butler groaned. “Oh, no. Not again.” He rushed off in the direction of the commotion.
Unsure of what to do, Rhianna took a determined breath and followed him. When they passed beneath a pillared arch and into a long hallway, she saw a reed-thin elderly man dressed only in a threadbare blue plaid bathrobe. It gaped open in the front, threatening to reveal more than just a hairy chest. Beside him, a plump woman in white scrubs was trying her best to calm him down, even though she was dripping wet and very upset.
As they approached the dueling pair, Rhianna tried to remember everything she could about her potential employer. In the past year, the tabloids had been filled with stories of multi-millionaire JT Lance and his fight against an aggressive disease, a cancerous brain tumor that made him an unruly and difficult patient. From what she could see, the rumors were true. Once exuding strength, confidence and perhaps a touch of arrogance, JT now looked frail and helpless.
“JT?” the butler called out.
“Higginson, get this woman a towel. She spilled my water.”
“I did not spill it,” the nurse snapped. “Mr. Lance refuses to take his meds or draw a blood sample. Now he’s having a temper tantrum. He threw that water pitcher at me.”
JT’s eyes flared. “That’s because you keep trying to poison me, you old bat!”
“I am not trying to poison you,” the nurse sputtered. “The medication will help―”
“How the hell do you know what will help me? Half the time, you keep me so drugged that I don’t even know who I am when I look in the mirror. The other half, you’re busy taking my blood for your tests.”
JT turned his back on the nurse and staggered toward Higginson, oblivious of the broken glass and water on the floor.
“Sir!” the butler warned.
With a resigned sigh, JT leaned against the wall for support. Then he caught sight of Rhianna. His mouth gaped and electric blue eyes lit up like twin lanterns.
“Anna,” he whispered. “You came back.”
He moved toward her and she suddenly found herself wrapped in his scrawny arms. Her first reaction was panic. It gripped her around the throat, strangling her. She wanted to fight him off, but then something strange happened. Calmness washed over her and she felt connected, a sense of belonging. For once in her life, she knew what it felt like to be welcomed home.
But this isn’t my home.
She pulled back, embarrassed. “Mr. Lance, my name is Rhianna McLeod. I’m the nurse from Maine. Remember?”
“Nurse?” He studied her face and something akin to recognition flickered in his eyes. “Ah, yes…”
“What’s going on, sir?” Higginson asked.
“I’ll explain later. First, I need a drink.”
Higginson gave Nurse Simpson an apologetic look. “Get Mr. Lance a fresh jug of water, please. I’m sure he won’t let his temper get out of control now that he has company. Will you, sir?”
All eyes watched as the portly nurse waddled down the hall. Her disappearing act seemed to make the old man extremely happy.
JT nudged Rhianna. “That woman’s a vampire.”
“As you can see,” Higginson said, “Mr. Lance and the nurse don’t exactly get along.” He turned to JT. “Let’s get you back into bed before you end up on the floor―again.”
“Come along, Anna.” JT took her hand. “You can visit while Higgie tucks me in.”
Rhianna stifled a laugh. Higgie?
When she caught his eye, Higginson shrugged.
She followed the two men up a spiral staircase, her shoes clicking on the Italian marble steps and echoing around her. When she entered a handsomely decorated suite accented with polished mahogany and brass, she sucked in a stunned breath.
The suite was larger than four bedrooms put together. A plush sitting room with two suede sofas and a wall of bookshelves greeted her first. Double French doors with glass inserts opened into the bedroom area. On one side of the bedroom, an open door led to a massive walk-in closet that held rows of suits, dress shirts and ties in every shade, and a shoe collection that would be the envy of any man on Wall Street. Another door opened into a bathroom ensuite featuring a Jacuzzi, a glass and tile shower and a sauna room. A sliding door on the other side of the spacious bedroom led out onto a small balcony overlooking a delicately scented rose garden. Between two tall windows stood a huge carved bed, a work of art in itself. A tan-colored suede armchair was positioned next to it―probably for the nurse―and a kaleidoscope of pill bottles lay scattered across the nightstand.
“What do you think, Anna?” JT asked once he was settled in the bed.
“I think it’s definitely a man’s domain.”
Nurse Simpson returned, carrying a plastic jug of ice water. Shoving the pill bottles aside, the woman set the jug on the nightstand and crossed her arms, every muscle in her face pinched in disapproval.
JT dismissed her with an impatient flick of his hand.
In the doorway, the nurse hesitated. “Mr. Lance needs his rest. Even if he doesn’t think so.” Sensing competition, her eyes narrowed in Rhianna’s direction. “Or anyone else, for that matter.”
“Maybe we should talk later,” Rhianna mumbled.
“Nonsense,” JT said. “Stay with me a while.”
The butler glanced toward the door. “Nurse Simpson, why don’t you take a break for an hour or two?”
JT nodded. “Anna will take good care of me.”
As the door slammed shut behind the nurse, Rhianna took a step closer. “Mr. Lance, my name is Rhianna McLeod.”
“Rhianna?” JT sighed. “Well, yes. I guess you are.”
Confused, she turned to Higginson. “I don’t think he remembers writing me about the nursing position. He even contacted the hospital I used to work in and―”
“I hate it when people talk as if I’m not in the room,” JT fumed. “Of course I remember you, uh…Rhianna. And I do want you to be my nurse. Higginson! Make up the Rose-Mist Room for Ms. McLeod. She’ll be staying with us indefinitely.”
“Are you sure?” Rhianna asked, surprised. “You may want someone more experienced. I’ve only worked in one hospital and one nursing home before coming here.”
Higginson cleared his throat. “Have you checked her references, sir?”
“References are for untrusting fools. It’s my blasted memory that’s disintegrating, not my eyes.” JT eyed the door. “And references sure didn’t make a difference with Nurse Dracula. Which reminds me…see that the old bat gets a nice severance package.”
As the butler’s footsteps faded, Rhianna was at a loss for words. “I…uh…thank you.”
“You can thank me by getting my pills over there.” JT pointed to the nightstand. “The ones in the red bottle.”
She fetched his medication and quickly scanned the bottle. The prescription was for Vicodin, a narcotic pain reliever. She shook out two pills and poured a glass of water before approaching his bedside.
“Thank you, Ann―Rhianna.” His breathing was strained.
“Are you feeling all right, Mr. Lance?”
“JT, my dear. When you call me Mr. Lance, I feel so damned ancient, like some old geezer waiting to croak.” He chuckled at his own joke.
After he was resting comfortably, she sat down in the chair and studied him. His thinning gray hair and handsome face suggested the rather dashing young man he must once have been. A once-strong jaw line, now softened by age and illness, still held traces of stubbornness. But it was his eyes, bright and kind, that held her attention. They seemed sad. Tired and sad.
“Now, Rhianna, tell me a bit about yourself.”
“Well, I grew up in Bangor, Maine, and graduated―”
“Not the technical interview stuff, dear. I want to know about you. What are your goals, your dreams?”
Nobody had ever asked her about her dreams. For nearly two years, she had hidden herself in the nursing home in Portland, afraid to let anyone too close. Afraid to dream.
In that bedroom, sitting beside a dying man, she found more than an employer―she found a friend. Tentatively, she told him bits and pieces about her life. It started slowly, like a gurgle of water bubbling up from the center of the earth.
Within an hour, Rhianna had told him all about her childhood, about the terror she had endured, and the fear and abuse that had drained her soul of all self-worth.
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 to Sunday, October 10th, 2010
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