By Barbara Clark
A young widow, dedicated to her husband's memory and afraid to love again,finds herself attracted to a cynical man who considers love a cruel deception.
Since her husband's death four years earlier, SHARON SMITH has cocooned her heart against love, and remembers only the happy times with him. So when she's drawn to BRAND TEMPLETON, to his powerful maleness, she's frightened by the attraction. After losing her parents and her young husband, Sharon won't risk loving again.
Thirty-four year old Brand Templeton fought his way out of poverty and founded a major corporation. He has no illusions about love and commitment. The avaricious men and women who flock around him have convinced him money can buy anything or anyone.
Brand is surprised to inherit Hawk Haven, the mansion where Cyrus Murdock raped and impregnated Brand's mother. He wants to acquire and destroy Green Fire Resort, established by the deceased tycoon in the mountains above Walkersville. One key block stands between him and his revenge.
Sharon holds the last shares to the property. She'll never part with them. They hold memories of the camping trips with her parents, the honeymoon with her husband, Tom. They're what she argued about with her husband just before he stomped out of the house and died in a fiery crash.
She's made a new life in Walkersville with her mail-order dried flower business, a housecleaning service, and her friends in the small town. When she arrives at the Murdock mansion to clean, she meets the new owner, Templeton, and is disturbed by her attraction to him.
Brand is intrigued. She's warm and appealing, so honest compared to the brittle, grasping women he's known. Aroused by her fresh beauty, he extends her hours each day at Hawk Haven. Sharon, who needs the extra income, agrees.
Sharon invites him to a community dinner. He sees her friendly and considerate manner with other people, qualities rare in his world.
Sensual awareness grows between them. When he finds her changing bedding in his room, he embraces her. Torn between her guilty attraction to Brand and the memory of Tom, she pushes away, and distraught, drives home.
Winter snowfall builds on Hawk Haven Mountain. An avalanche blocks Sharon from going home. As one storm after another sweeps across the mountains, they overcome hazards posed by a failing generator, dwindling heating fuel, and damage to the mansion. The blizzard raging outside is no more powerful than the sexual tension building between them. Brand is determined to have her in his life, in his bed. As she grows closer to Brand, she finally admits to herself she's fallen in love with him. They make love in front of the library fireplace, and in the erotic luxury of the Arabian Nights suite.
When Sharon returns home to find her greenhouse and house damaged, she faces financial disaster. Brand seizes the opportunity to propose a marriage of convenience. At first Sharon resists the idea, but Brand applies pressure. She agrees to the marriage, determined to show him what real love can be like. She's sure she can convince him to let what he feels for her develop into the kind of love they both need and deserve.
After the wedding, they go to Brand's elegant apartment in New York. He buys her clothes and jewelry, and proudly escorts her to parties, but he won't admit he's lost his heart. Sharon has to cope with a lifestyle far different from hers in Walkersville. Wealthy Alexis, Brand's former lover, works to drive a wedge between Sharon and Brand, and a tabloid journalist stalks her.
On the day Sharon learns she's pregnant, she signs her shares over to Brand as a gift to the new father, and rushes to his office to tell him the news. But she overhears his conversation and thinks he only wanted her shares. Betrayed, she flings them onto his desk and leaves his office, his apartment, his life.
When Brand arrives at the penthouse, he finds a note saying she's left him and is going home to her house in Walkersville. He's angry because the one woman who's pierced his invulnerability has accused him of using her. Reluctantly, he must face the fact that she's wormed her way into his heart and he needs her.
In five minutes, he's in the car headed for a private airport. In forty minutes, he's in his Gulfstream, heading toward Sharon.
The return to Walkersville is a bittersweet time for Sharon. While she'd moved beyond the past memories of Tom, she still loves Brand. And this time she'll go ahead, make a good life for their unborn child.
Brand arrives at her home and demands admittance. She refuses, then, suffering the pangs of morning sickness, makes a dash for the bathroom.
He hears the distress in her voice. Afraid she's ill, he breaks into the house to rush to her aid.
When he learns she's pregnant, he's thrilled. But she's erected an invisible barrier between them. After the longest night in his life when he'd realized he wanted her in his life permanently, he now sees his chance at happiness slipping away.
He offers some papers for her to read. She ignores them, saying "There's nothing of yours I want."
Finally, he persuades her to read the handwritten sheets. He's given her full ownership of the resort, the surrounding acres, and a fund set up to finance the restoration of the area.
This time Sharon really looks at Brand. She's startled by what she'd missed -- his unshaven jaws, rumpled clothes, the wariness in his eyes. Maybe there's a second chance for them.
She takes his hand and, for the first time, confesses she loves him.
He says when he found the note and thought he'd lost her forever, that's when he realized he loved her. He tells her he wants to raise their child with her, to have other children. He wants to pour the riches of the world at her feet.
Embracing him, Sharon says, "Of all the things you gave me, all I wanted was you."
He kisses her tenderly, then wraps her in a double wedding ring quilt, murmuring, "Time to go home, sweetheart."
"Yes," she draws his face down for another kiss. "Home with you forever, my love, to Hawk Haven."