Off the cliffs of Brittany, danger awaits. To Bella DiCaprio, the windswept island offers hope. The story that cost her a prestigious reporting job has brought her here, where a mysterious recluse holds the key to a horrific bombing....
For Sheik Tariq Al Arif, the grief is still fresh. That tragedy took not only his career as a lifesaving surgeon but also his fiancée. Only here, walking the windswept cliffs by the haunted abbey, does he begin to feel alive again. And when the American beauty shows up on the storm-ravaged island off the coast of France, he knows their passion is dangerous.
To desire is to dare: can either take the risk to love again?
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The late February mist rolled in thick, tattered swaths off the Atlantic as Bella DiCaprio rode her bike along the exposed cliff tops of Ileen-Mer, one of the tiny, storm-ravaged islands off the French coast of Brittany. Water poured from the brim of a red rain hat pulled low over her brow, snaking down the matching slicker Madame Dubois had loaned her for the duration of her employment as housekeeper. The old-fashioned bicycle was on loan, too, tires slipping in black mud as she negotiated a narrow trail through the heath.
Bella had been on the island two weeks now. She was using the name Amelie Chenard and she'd taken a job in the home of Estelle Dubois, a wealthy and eccentric widow who'd once worked in theater and been married to a Parisian banker.
The fact Bella was not in possession of a work visa did not faze the colorful Madame in the slightest--she was happy to pay in cash, under the table. More than a housekeeper, Estelle Dubois seemed to want someone to amuse her two pampered Papillons, particularly the youngest, a seven-month-old pup named Kiki. Part of Bella's job was to walk Kiki once a day, and play with her. The male dog was old and arthritic and preferred to spend his days sleeping in his basket by the fire.
The arrangement suited her fine. Now that she'd settled into a routine, Bella had plenty of free time for her real mission--to investigate the mysterious stranger who lived in an imposing stone abbey that loomed over cliffs on the bleak windward side of the island, accepting the brunt of the Atlantic storms.
Island lore claimed the foreboding structure--built in the high medieval period and renovated over the centuries--was haunted by the ghost of an abbess who'd been killed during a Breton revolt in the twelfth century. The abbess's headless body was said to have been walled behind rock in the dungeons, her head staked outside on the monastery gates as a warning to others who might shelter rebels.
Some said in a certain slant of moonlight the abbess's ghost could be seen floating through the arches. Others claimed they heard her screams when winter storms blew and fog swirled thick over the surrounding heath.
Whatever anyone wanted to make of it, the legend gave Bella an excuse to poke around. And, if she was right about who was living in that monastery now, she'd nail a journalistic scoop that would salvage her career, rock U.S. politics and put her name squarely back on the political news map.
If the story didn't kill her first.
Already, she'd been attacked by three men back home in Washington, D.C. If it hadn't been for the intervention of two cooks from a nearby Chinese restaurant, she was certain she'd be dead. She'd also been followed, her apartment ransacked and her hard drive hacked. Fearing for her life, Bella had fled the States and come in secret to this island. Fear was one of the reasons she was hiding under an assumed identity now, as she continued to track down her story.
Bella had gone looking for the Mont Noir Abbey during her first days on the island when the weather had been slightly more gracious. She'd found the black stone structure to be a startling mix of architectural periods, but predominantly gothic with spires and turrets reaching into the mist. Parts of it were still in ruin. The monastery had been constructed right at the cliff edge overlooking the Atlantic, a sharp plunge down to where waves pounded rocks far below. The extensive grounds were enclosed by an eight-foot-high stone wall topped with iron spikes. A sign in French warned trespassers to steer clear of the wrought-iron gates.
Bella had rung the bell at the gate, but no one...
Surgeon Sheik's Rescue
By: Loreth Anne White