We're thrilled to announce that Diana Thompson's debut romance work Winterflood's Passion is now available for FREE on the Amazon Kindle Store. Click here to download now! You can also check out Diana's website for an exclusive sneak peek at her unreleased novel, coming soon! Check out a bonus extract from Winterflood's Passion below!
Why did the name sound so familiar to her? Charlotte searched the recesses of her memory. She couldn’t place him among James’ and Phoebe’s friends in Sydney. She must have met him at some time in the past. Maybe it was at their wedding? Needless to say, it would be exciting to have James come and stay again, and to bring Daniel along with him.
James’ phone call had come as a surprise. He and Phoebe had stayed with her at Ranleigh only a fortnight ago and she hadn’t expected to see either of them again for at least a month. Still, James’ work as a business broker took him all over the country. The winery sale he was working on down here in the Southern Highlands would be a lucrative deal for him. Besides, she’d missed having visitors at Ranleigh Park. It alleviated the boredom and monotony of endless days spent mostly by herself, far too much alone.
If she was brutally honest, she was becoming boring and apathetic, leaving the property less and less these days, usually only for shopping visits to Bowral or committee meetings for the charities she was involved with. Not healthy for someone who was only twenty-eight.
Charlotte missed her sister Phoebe, but with three year old Emily and five month old Jackson, it was becoming more difficult for the family to come and visit her. Phoebe and James lived on the upper north shore of Sydney, a two hour drive from Ranleigh Park in the Southern Highlands. It was too far to have weekly visits and catch up for coffee chats with each other, made more difficult since the children took up so much of Phoebe’s time.
Nevertheless, happy with the news that James would be visiting with the mysterious Daniel, Charlotte smiled to herself. The day matched her mood. The sun was high up in the sky, having burnt off the early morning mist that often settled over the highlands, and was already warming the rich dark soil. The scent of fresh new growth filled the early spring air.
She and James had always been close, ever since his marriage to Phoebe four years ago. They had grown even closer since Michael’s death. James had been there for her throughout that devastating ordeal. He had been her tower of strength and was more like the brother she had never had. Charlotte was excited to have company for a change — human company, not the four legged kind.
It was lovely to have the two dogs, Ned and Toby, her Hungarian Viszlas. They were gun dogs born and bred, both a rich russet gold colour and impossible to visually tell apart, but the total opposite in personality. Toby was the leader, fearless in all his pursuits, while Ned was essentially very blonde, constantly being led into trouble by Toby and always the one caught in the act. She enjoyed riding the horses on a daily basis, and preferred her beloved Molasses, a gentle rich roan mare. Michael’s favourite horse, Connor, a massive shiny coal black stallion, was a handful. She fought his will power constantly, ever mindful of being kicked or bitten. Michael had his measure and Connor would behave beautifully, but it was open warfare if anyone else tried to ride him. She loved the four animals dearly and would not have parted with a single one of them, but she couldn’t have a spirited discussion about current news events, politics, fashion, wine or food with her four legged family. It was the company of people she craved.
She scanned the old French railway clock on the end wall that hung just above the mantle over the large black enamel Belling stove. Ten o’clock. James and Daniel were due at four, so she had plenty of time to saddle up Molasses to get in a couple of hours of solid riding before their arrival. She quickly removed a tray of chicken thighs from the freezer and placed them into the double French porcelain sink to thaw. A bowl of rhubarb and apple picked from the farm garden that she had cooked the previous day would make an excellent dessert with a nice crumble topping.
The four large guest bedrooms ran along the hallway to the right of the kitchen with the main bedroom at the very end of the house. Each bedroom had its own en-suite, purpose-built during the renovation, for the privacy and comfort of their house guests. Charlotte opened up the linen press to extract fresh bedding and towels for two of the bedrooms. James would be in the blue room beside hers and Daniel would be in the coffee coloured bedroom, being the next one along the hallway towards the back of the house. As she couldn’t recall having met Daniel at all, this would afford her a little more privacy.
When she and Michael had the interior of the house refurbished, Charlotte had chosen a different soft colour for each room and then sourced the furnishings and linen to match. Michael had given her carte blanche and she would spend hours seeking out the appropriate fabrics, sheets and towels on her shopping trips into Bowral or up in Sydney.
James and Phoebe always had the room that was painted a soft duck egg blue, with grey blue toile curtains hanging either side of the French doors. Daniel’s room was identical but in a coffee colour scheme. Charlotte had always loved pure white sheeting and towelling. It had been a contentious issue with Michael at the time, as he would often point out to her that keeping anything white in a country house was difficult with dusty roads and dry paddocks in summer.
The soft colour scheme formed a subtle backdrop, enabling her to cover the walls with wonderful original art that she and Michael had collected over the years, trawling through galleries to find just the right pieces for each room to complete their classically beautiful country home.
Charlotte made up each room, smoothing the covers across the queen size antique cedar beds. She plumped up the double pillows and slid back the curtains, catching them on each side with silk tassel tie backs looped onto large brass hooks fixed to the walls. She unlocked the French doors, swinging them open to let in fresh air and light. It was fun to make up the bedrooms ready for guests, and as she ran her fingers along the beautiful sheeting, it reminded her once again of the times the house was constantly filled with visitors. Of course they were mostly Michael’s polo friends, but they were a rowdy, fun lot. Only Phoebe and James came to stay now with the children, but it wasn’t as often as Charlotte would have liked. It was lovely to be surrounded by beautiful things, but what good were they when you couldn’t share them with somebody?
Charlotte shook off the recurring feelings of loneliness and made her way to her room. Whenever she went riding on Molasses it cleared her mind, the fresh air and exercise always lifting her spirits. She felt almost as if something momentous was about to occur. She couldn’t put her finger on what that might be, but it caused her to smile to herself as she changed into her riding gear.
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