In six weeks, Zoe Harper will marry Dan Costi in an over-the-top Sydney society wedding, complete with fire-eaters and belly dancers. But when she receives an unexpected gift from her future mother-in-law, Zoe realises she’s making a huge mistake. In a blazing sidewalk argument, she breaks up with her fiancé—and his mother, who has joined the fight via conference call.
Following the advice of friends and co-workers, along with some inspiration from late-night-television self-help guru Dr. Pam, Zoe sets out to find the life she thinks she should be living. Always a planner, she makes a list of goals: travel, career, tattoos, and no romantic entanglements. It’s all carefully laid out, until she meets Angus Creed.
Angus is supposed to lead the opening waltz at a charity ball in New York City. Only problem is the handsome billionaire construction magnate with the tabloid past can’t dance. Not one step.
Tainted by gossip and with a well-publicised failed engagement behind him, Angus has become a master at keeping an emotional distance. Until he meets Zoe.
What starts as dancing lessons slowly becomes something more. Angus begins to let down his guard and open his heart, even when his past makes an unexpected and unwelcome return. As Zoe discovers the real man behind the headlines, she questions where her new choices are taking her. Her goals look good on paper, but are they what she really wants? And by the time she realizes where her heart lies, will it be too late?
Guitar music starts filtering through just as I’m drifting back to sleep. It’s a lovely sound, soft and gentle. It rises and falls so evenly, almost in time with my breathing, and I could listen to it forever. Except, I’m supposed to be alone in this cabin, so that means there shouldn’t be guitar music.
My eyes snap open.
Did I leave a radio on? Is there even a radio here? What if it’s an axe murderer? Are they usually musical?
The music keeps playing as I climb slowly out of bed and, thankfully, the room doesn’t spin quite so much this time. The door is open a crack, and when I peek into the living room, my hangover evaporates and my heart starts crashing against my ribs.
There is a man sitting on the sofa.
Who the fuck is he? And what did I do last night? My stomach drops to my toes.
Whoever he is, he’s made himself at home. His bare feet are resting on the edge of the coffee table. There’s a blanket thrown over the arm of the sofa. Across his lap he holds a guitar. He’s frowning, lips pursed slightly, as he studies the movement of his long fingers over the strings. His body moves subtly in time with his music. The muscles in his forearm roll and flex as he plays.
Despite the shock of finding him here, I’m struck by the beauty of his pose. The way he holds the guitar is almost tender. His face is so intent, he’s so absorbed in what he’s doing. And what he’s doing is beautiful. The music is so rich and sweet.
His hair is dark and tousled, and it hangs over his forehead and into his eyes. I would guess he’s about my age, perhaps a little older.
He doesn’t look like an axe murderer. Maybe this is some ridiculous mix up with reservations. Should I confront him? Or climb out the bedroom window and run for help? As I’m considering my options, he looks up.
“Hello,” he says. “You’re awake.” He offers me a smile that’s warm and wary, but it’s his eyes that really have my attention. He has beautiful eyes. Long-lashed and dark brown. He blinks slowly, almost lazily. My unease begins to fade.
I find myself being drawn into the room – one tentative step, then another. Those eyes stay on me, gauging my reaction.
“I’m not sure how much you recall,” he says. His voice is warm and mellow. “Should I introduce myself again?”
“That would be a good idea, yes.” Despite a wildly beating heart, my voice is surprisingly calm. Calmer than the voice in my head, the one yelling at me to move away from the stranger who has appeared uninvited in my cabin. Away. Not closer.
Guitar Man unfolds himself from the sofa. He’s tall. Much taller than he appeared when he was sitting. He smiles and offers me his hand.
“Hello,” he says again. “I’m Angus Creed.”
It could be the shock of what Guitar Man has said, or it could be the hangover, but suddenly my head is spinning again and the floor is coming up to meet me.
I’m suddenly weightless as he scoops me into his arms and eases me onto the sofa. He crouches on the floor in front of me as I sag into the corner cushions and I stare into those dark, guarded eyes with the long lashes. This is Angus Creed?
What the fuck is he doing here? I’m guessing the holiday brochure on Susan’s desk wasn’t for her, after all.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” I start to nod but stop quickly, wincing.
“Um…a bit.” It’s an effort to think straight and I close my eyes, but when I feel his hand on my forehead they snap open again.
This is surreal. I should be asking him to leave, not gazing into his eyes as he strokes his fingers over my forehead.
There’s a roughness to his skin, no doubt from those years spent as a builder, not a businessman. But even so, his touch is gentle and soothing, like his music. A delicious sense of warmth flows through me.
The pounding in my head begins to ease. I sink deeper into the sofa and might never get up again. But my mouth is dry and I run my tongue over my lips.
“I’ll get you some water,” he says. Suddenly his hand is gone, but the warmth stays. There are sounds from the kitchen: the creak of a cupboard door and the splash of water into a glass.
I wrestle myself into a sitting position and catch my reflection in the glass doors. My hair is flat. That means I must have worn my beanie at some stage. But when? Not in front of him, I hope.
I turn my head and see he’s walking across the room to me, his bare feet moving silently over the timber floor. He holds out the glass and I nod at the blanket tossed over the armrest. “You were here all night?”
“You asked me to stay.”
Shit. Mr One Night Stand. What have I done? The horror must show on my face.
“No,” he shakes his head, “not like that.”
And of course his response means he knows exactly where my mind has gone. Quick. Backtrack.
“Oh. Good. I mean…not that I thought…you and me, that we…”
Oh, what am I saying? And why is he looking like that, listening so intently? Just shut up, Zoe. Shut up and drink the water.
But it’s too late. The image is in my head now. It’s probably in his head too. At least I look fabulous and acrobatic in my version of events. I wonder if I’m hungover with flat hair in his.
Guitar Man…Angus…Mr Creed…stays still by the fireplace. He watches me and I watch him. There’s the faint shadow of a bruise on the cheekbone under his left eye.
When I’ve had enough to drink, I set the glass on the coffee table. “Thank you,” I murmur.
“How are you feeling now?”
“Better after the water. I needed that.” It’s true, my head is a bit clearer but the events of last night still elude me. I need him to explain exactly what happened. I also need to find out what I’ve told him. Did I tell him my name? Does he know I work for his company? That I’m the Zoe Harper who sent his reports off yesterday morning? I don’t think so, because I’m quite certain he wouldn’t be here, like this.
My heart pounds. I’m not sure how to play this, but I find myself wishing he’d stroke my forehead again.
Suzanne lives in Sydney with her husband and children. By day she works in an office where she sneakily scribbles plot ideas on yellow sticky notes and hopes they don’t accidentally end up on the departmental monthly report.
One such sticky note has turned into her first novel, Over the Edge.