An excerpt from Margaret’s new book
Unwelcome Stranger is the title of my latest romance, happily published as an e-book this week. My heroine, Amanda, has had so much bad luck in her life that she wants to end it, and isn’t the least bit happy when a complete stranger saves her from drowning. Below are the opening paragraphs:
This was Frazer Benedict’s favourite time of night. And this was his favourite place. Walking along the beach, the dark, clear sky filled with a zillion stars, very little sound apart from the ebb and flow of the incoming tide, it felt like an oasis of peace after a busy, meeting-filled day. He’d even sailed his first yacht in these waters long before he set up his own company.A final late meeting had been called off at the last moment and he’d slipped away. Now he paused to inhale the fresh ocean-filled air, filling his lungs, breathing out again slowly, listening to the faint call of a sea bird. A rare moment. He was normally so busy such self-indulgence played no part in his life.
The tide was coming in fast, lapping at his toes, and he hopped out of the way, almost falling when his foot caught something lying on the sand. He frowned, visitors didn’t usually discard rubbish here. They respected it as one of the most striking natural bays and took their litter home.
On closer inspection he discovered to his horror, what he had thought was a bag of rubbish was actually a person. A woman! Asleep! Of all the places to fall asleep...
He touched her with his toe. Nothing. He touched a little harder. Still nothing. He bent low and shook her. No response.
A frown dragged his brows together as he slid his arms beneath her and picked her up. She felt like a rag doll. His first thought was that she might be dead and a shiver ran down his spine. But she was still breathing – just about.
He carried her to his parked car and gently lowered her on to the back seat before driving as fast as he dared to the nearest hospital. Which was five miles away! Never had a journey seemed so long. Even so he knew it would be quicker than waiting for an ambulance.
After explaining the circumstances to the medics he left her in their care but he couldn’t get the woman out of his mind and an hour or so later rang the hospital. Much to his annoyance, because he wasn’t a relative, they wouldn’t give him any information.
The next morning, determined to find out what was happening, he drove straight to the hospital before going to work. This time, when he explained the situation, he was shown into a doctor’s office.
“You are the guy who found her?”
Frazer inclined his head. “I am indeed. How is she?”
“First things first,” said the doctor. ‘Tell me all you can about this woman and her circumstances.”
Frazer stared at him as though he was out of his mind. “I don’t know anything. I found her lying on the beach. She was spark out. If I hadn’t been there she would have drowned. And it’s not often I walk there, I can tell you. She’s damn lucky. Will she recover? Have you found out who she is?”
The doctor shook his head. “She had no identity on her. My belief is that she desperately wanted to die.”
“What makes you think that?” He was stunned by the man’s theory. How could such a young woman want to kill herself? It didn’t make sense. “She could have simply felt unwell and collapsed.” Surely they were making harsh assumptions?
“It is the only possible conclusion. She had an alarming amount of drugs in her body. Enough to kill most people. She’s very lucky you found her.”
“Does she know?”
“No!” The man looked sad. “She’s not recovered consciousness. But she is alive and is being carefully monitored.”
Frazer reached out one of his business cards and placed it on the man’s desk. “I’d appreciate it if you’d keep me informed of her progress.”
The doctor looked at the card and nodded. “Frazer Benedict – of Benedict Yachts I presume? I used to own one of them.”
“Time caused me to give it up. I work long hours.”
“Surely you need some relaxation?”
“I have a wife and two daughters. They’re enough for me.” He held out his hand. “I’ll let you know as soon as I have any news.”
Frazer envied the man his family. He wanted marriage and children but it hadn’t happened. He was thirty five now and didn’t even have a permanent lady friend. There were plenty who would love to be in that position but none whom he felt deeply attracted to.
His parents were always on to him to find himself a woman but the love of his life was his job. He had built his business up from scratch, to the detriment of having a life outside work, and the pleasure he felt in owning a highly regarded business more than compensated for the lack of a wife.
It was not until the end of a long and busy day that Frazer thought again of the lady on the beach. He wondered whether they had found out who she was. Whether she’d regained consciousness. Since he’d heard nothing he presumed not. But he couldn’t get her out of his head and against his better judgement took a detour on his way home.
The same doctor was not on duty and no one could give him any information. It seemed the fact he wasn’t a relative slammed doors in his face. But he wasn’t prepared to give up.
He stopped a nurse, one who had smiled kindly the day before, and asked which ward the woman was in. His presence was not questioned and he found her in a private room just off the ladies surgical ward.
She was either asleep or still unconscious, he wasn’t sure, and drugs were being fed into her. Dark shadows lay beneath her eyes and her skin was deathly pale. Even so he could see she was a beautiful woman with short, thick dark hair. She reminded him of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a film an old girlfriend had insisted on him watching.
He didn’t normally like short hair on a woman but in this case the elfin look was quite attractive. He wondered what colour her eyes were, envisaging a luminous blue, or maybe an emerald green? Without even stopping to think what he was doing he leaned forward and brushed his fingertips over her cheek.
She flinched lightly as though she felt his touch and he drew back. But there was no further movement and after a few more minutes standing watching he turned and left.
The next day he visited her again. For some odd reason he couldn’t even begin to understand he felt a sense of responsibility. The authorities hadn’t yet identified her. A missing person had not been reported. Logically someone cared, but unless they were close friends or family who kept in touch on a daily basis they wouldn’t know she was in hospital.
Frazer was unsure why he continued to worry, but he did. Something must have gone drastically wrong for this woman to want to take her own life. And he would not be the man he thought he was if he did not care, if he did not want to help.
Once she came round and they discovered her identity, found her relatives, then he would back off. For the moment, though, he would be there for her.