She wanted a life of her own…
Paulette Hamilton loves working in her family’s London bookshop. Strong-willed and sharp-witted, she hopes to one day open a second shop, and she won’t let romantic follies get in her way. But the best laid plans have never met such a handsome Irish widower with a dubious history…
He wanted to leave his behind…
Declan Reeves came to London with his young daughter to escape his life in Ireland. Though he’s vowed to never marry again, he quickly falls prey to the tempting blue eyes of fair-haired Paulette. But her family is suspicious of his past, and before he can make her his wife, he must travel to Ireland to vindicate his reputation. Torn between honor and desire, Declan and Paulette launch a perilous search for the truth. Whether it lies in the past or a present beyond their control, it’s their only hope for a future together…
Praise for the Novels of Kaitlin O’Riley
“O’Riley’s believable, charismatic characters and fast-paced plotline set this novel well apart from the usual romance fare.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) on When His Kiss Is Wicked
“This lovely story makes the most of the warmth and joys of the holiday season.” —Library Journal on It Happened One Christmas
The bells above the entrance of Hamilton’s Book
Shoppe jingled as the front door opened and the drizzling
summer rain drifted in momentarily. It had been
a slow afternoon with little business and Paulette Hamilton
looked up in eager anticipation at the customer
who had ventured out on such a dreary August day. A
tall gentleman stepped into the shop, holding an umbrella
in one hand and clutching the hand of a reluctant
little girl in the other.
“Welcome to Hamilton’s!” Paulette greeted the customers
with an animated smile. New customers always
made her happy.
As the gentleman folded his wet umbrella, Paulette
took careful note of him, which was a habit of hers. Ever
curious and observant, she couldn’t help but pay attention
to the customers in her store. This gentleman
was mature, tall and rather broad and wore expensive,
well-made clothes. Beneath his elegant black hat, strands
of chocolate-colored hair were visible. He was handsome
enough, she supposed, in a dark, brooding sort of way,
but she had never favored that look. Paulette usually
found herself drawn to golden, fair-haired heroes. At
least she did in all the books that she read.
Using her best shopkeeper’s voice, she asked, “How
may I help you this afternoon?”
“My little daughter here would like a new book,” he
explained, indicating the child hiding with shyness
The rich, melodic timbre of his words, laced with the
notes of a vaguely familiar accent, filled the air around
her. Unable to resist the magnetic attraction of his voice,
Paulette suddenly eyed him with keener interest as he
looked toward the little girl.
The man possessed an aquiline nose, a strong jaw, and
a lean face with dark eyebrows. He was clean-shaven, but
she could easily imagine a thin black mustache upon
him, giving him the look of a wicked pirate. He seemed
tense, almost as if he held his feelings tightly in check,
but the slightest disturbance could set him loose in a
fury. His full mouth was set in a grim line. In fact, he had
a look about his face that conveyed the distinct impression
that he had not smiled in a long, long while.
Something about the man unsettled her and the dark
intensity about him brought to mind the words “sinister”
A little shiver raced through her.
Feeling slightly nervous in his presence and somewhat
relieved knowing that her assistant was close at
hand in the back room, Paulette silently reprimanded
herself for being so foolish as to think of herself in any
kind of danger. She had never felt this way about a customer
before. Why on earth would she think that this
man would cause her any harm? Perhaps she had read
one too many gothic romance novels lately!
Her attention was drawn to the little girl, who still attempted
to hide behind the man’s dark trousers. The
child could not have been more than four years old,
with a sweet, chubby face framed by golden curls mostly
covered under a wide-brimmed bonnet.
Paulette knew exactly what the little girl wanted.
Hamilton’s carried the best children’s books in the city
and because of that she had dealt with all manner of children
in the shop before, from the most well-behaved to
the most spoiled, so she was no stranger to bashful children
either. This shy-looking girl would be easy to please.
“Well, you are quite a lucky young lady for your father
to give you such a special treat,” Paulette began, favoring
the girl with a warm grin. “We have some lovely fairy-tale
books with the most beautiful pictures in them. Would
you like me to show them to you?”
Peeking out from behind her father’s leg, the little
girl nodded in agreement. She did not make a sound,
but her cherubic face lit with excitement.
“Thank you,” the gentleman said, seeming a bit relieved
by Paulette’s suggestion.
“Why don’t you both come with me to the children’s
section of the shop?” she suggested brightly.
They followed her to the rear of the store, where she
and Colette had designed an inviting space for their
smallest customers. They’d had shelves built at a lower
height and miniature-sized tables and chairs to better
fit little bodies. A brightly colored area rug covered the
wooden floor, lending warmth to the section of books
on display. Paulette immediately located their most
popular-selling book, a gorgeously illustrated volume
of fairy tales. She placed the book on the table and
motioned for the child to join her while she sat herself
on one of the tiny chairs as well.
“I think you might like this one.”
The little girl glanced up hesitantly at her father, seeking
his permission. He patted her head in encouragement.
“It’s all right, darlin’.”
She moved slowly forward, taking hesitant steps to the
table where Paulette waited for her. When she reached
the small table, the girl stopped and stared at Paulette in
“Do you have a favorite story?” Paulette questioned.
The little girl shook her head, her expression extraordinarily
serious for one so young.
“Do you like the story of Sleeping Beauty?”
The child gave the slightest nod of assent.
“That story has always been a favorite of mine.” Opening
the thick volume, Paulette turned to the page that
had an elaborate and richly drawn illustration of a grand
castle tower covered with an overgrown tangle of thorn-
laden vines and a profusion of red roses. The little girl’s
eyes widened and a small gasp of awe escaped her.
Paulette asked, “Isn’t this picture beautiful?”
Again, the girl merely nodded. She had not uttered
one word since entering the shop.
“I’m Miss Hamilton,” Paulette said, hoping to coax a
response from her. “What is your name?”
The child blinked at her and shrugged her tiny shoulders.
“What is your name?” she repeated.
The little girl still did not respond. Paulette had never
seen such a withdrawn child. Did she not speak at all?
Paulette was usually able to cajole bashful children into
an easy conversation by this point. But not this girl. From
what she sensed, it was not merely shyness that kept the
girl from speaking. Was there something the matter with
her? Perhaps she was she a mute? Paulette’s natural curiosity
piqued and she wished to ask the gentleman
about it, but it was certainly not her place to ask such
intimate questions of a stranger.