A Country Dilemma by Sasha Morgan was published by Aria Fiction on 20 February 2020.
Today I have an extract from the book to share.
After another year of relentlessly hoping to start a family, Christie noticed another change in Stephen. He wasn’t going out on drunken nights anymore, but was putting in prolonged working days, which was a first considering how much he’d hated his job. Then the odd weekend involving a conference, or training course would crop up, which he simply couldn’t miss.
Once, she found an earring under the car seat, which most definitely wasn’t hers. When she challenged Stephen, he declared no knowledge of it. But he never was a good liar, blushing pink and scraping his hand through his hair. Christie knew. Then it suddenly stopped. It was as if the old Stephen – the one she’d first met – had reappeared. The man she’d fallen in love with a few years ago had come back. He seemed more relaxed, happy to be with her, and together they built bridges again. Deciding they’d saved enough money now for a decent deposit for their hotel, the search was on.
It hadn’t taken long to spot The Templar in the glorious Cotswolds. After making the trip to see it for themselves and being shown around the quaint country inn, they didn’t hesitate to put in an offer. When it was accepted, they were overjoyed. Anxious to make the move and get started with their new, exciting life, Christie and Stephen pushed for a speedy sale. Luckily the landlord was very accommodating and the transaction was soon completed.
Then Stephen dropped a bombshell. It was their last night in Chester. Christie had booked a table at Benedict’s to celebrate. Stephen was joining her there straight from work. As it was his last day at Abbott and Reedley’s, she was expecting him to be in extra high spirits. Instead she took in his grim expression, the dark bags under his eyes, his pale skin, slow walk, and a sense of foreboding filled her. He hardly looked at the menu before ordering a large whiskey. Christie frowned. This was unlike him, who usually enjoyed a glass of wine with his meal.
She looked him in the eye. ‘What’s the matter?’
Stephen knocked back his whiskey, gulped, then spoke. ‘I can’t do it, Christie.’ There was a pregnant pause before he continued, ‘I’m going to be a dad.’ The statement rang in her ears. As though being punched in the stomach, Christie doubled over in pain. ‘I’m sorry, Christie… I’m so sorry.’
‘Who is it?’ she demanded. Anger started to replace shock. She glared at him. He dipped his gaze, unable to make eye contact.
‘Sophie from the office.’
‘Sophie? The one you introduced me to at the Christmas party?’ She pictured a young girl with long, blonde hair and an enormous chest. Typical. How cliché, thought Christie with venom. Stephen dully nodded his head. ‘So it was her earring then?’ she spat. ‘Obviously been going on for months.’
‘I ended it, honestly. But now… she told me she’s pregnant…’
‘And obviously it’s yours?’ Christie threw out sarcastically. ‘But of course, that’s what you want to believe, isn’t it?’ Her voice rose hysterically, causing the other diners to glance over. ‘So, not seedless after all?’
‘Christie, please,’ Stephen hissed.
Christie knew when she was beaten. Sophie was clearly able to give him the very thing she couldn’t: a child. The injustice of it all made her want to vomit.
‘Listen, Christie, this doesn’t change things for you,’ Stephen urged.
Her eyes widened in disbelief. ‘How can you say that?’ she whispered faintly.
‘Go for it. I mean it. The Templar, your hotel, take it. I don’t care about the money.’ He spoke firmly.
Christie looked at him and realised he intended to give her everything to alleviate his guilt. Well, let him. She looked him firmly in the eye. ‘I’d like that in writing.’
‘Of course, yes I’ll… get a contract drawn up.’ He seemed desperate to appease her. Yes, she would go and follow her dream and if he was prepared to say goodbye to her and his share, then so be it.
About the book
For Christie Newbury, moving to the Cotswolds as the new owner of The Templar, a quaint countryside inn, was supposed to be a dream come true. But then her husband drops a bombshell that turns her life upside down.
Architect Daniel James has just one month to find the perfect home. When his search takes him to the village of Treweham, his instant attraction to the Templar’s beautiful – and newly single – owner is a distraction he can’t afford.
Christie needs an expert’s eye. Daniel needs a place to stay. It’s only a business deal – but it has never been more tempting to mix business with pleasure…
Welcome back to Treweham, a village of scandal and secrets.