When his new student turns out to be a handsome property developer with a complicated past, teaching is the last thing on Jake’s mind.
When recently single Jake heads off to rural Somerset for a job interview as a reading teacher, he’s expecting his pupil to be a child, but it’s the handsome and charismatic property dealer Nathan Foley who needs his help. Their relationship quickly becomes sexual, and Jake worries he is rushing into another relationship too fast. And, as the heat between them intensifies, Jake begins to question Nathan’s motives.
Adding to the confusion is Nathan’s bitter older sister, Alice, who seems to have taken an instant dislike to Jake, as well as a strange man who Jake spots wandering around the grounds of the house.
What is Alice’s problem? Who is the handsome stranger? And are Nathan Foley’s feelings entirely genuine? Perhaps Jake is the one who is about to learn a hard lesson.
General Release Date: 1st October 2019
During the taxi ride from the train station to the interview location, Jake began to wonder if his decision to escape London—and his ex, Matt—had been such a good idea. He wanted a change of scene, some time away from familiar places that held painful memories of himself and Matt together, but maybe he’d gone too far. He’d been in the cab for twenty minutes and, apart from one collection of cottages and a general store, he’d seen nothing but fields. He tried to relax and enjoy the scenery. If the job didn’t feel right or the location was just too remote, he didn’t have to take it. It might not even be offered to him.
On paper, it looked perfect—a two-month, live-in position at a large house in Somerset, teaching basic reading to a student. Jake assumed the pupil was a young child, maybe about to start school, whose parents wanted to give them a head start. The agency hadn’t given much away, which would normally have annoyed Jake, but the trip to Somerset had been paid for, including overnight accommodation if he wanted it. Any time away from the flat that he still shared with Matt until he was able to raise the deposit for his own place, was welcome.
Breaking up with Matt wasn’t the only challenge he’d had to face this year, and it was only March. He’d also lost his job as a copywriter at a small advertising agency. It had been his first job since university and he’d loved it, but the company had been forced to make cutbacks and he was the most junior person there and the last one employed. It was a case of last one in, first one out, and there was no redundancy as he’d not been there long enough to qualify. Three days after he’d received that bombshell, Matt had delivered the news that he was in love with someone else and felt their relationship had run its course.
So, here he was heading to an address in the middle of nowhere, hoping for two months of escapism while he worked out what to do next with his life.
“Nearly there,” said the driver, making Jake jump.
“Oh, great,” he replied.
“He’s a nice bloke, Mr. Foley,” said the driver, eyeing Jake in his rearview mirror. He was a gruff older guy, who had barely spoken since meeting Jake at the station. Five minutes later, he steered the car off the road onto a dirt track, which ended at two tall iron gates. The driver opened a window and leaned out, pushing an intercom button set in one of the brick gateposts.
“Hello,” said a female voice.
“Got a visitor for Mr. Foley.”
There followed an electronic buzz and the gates swung inward. This was all much grander than Jake had been expecting. The mud track turned into a driveway, bordered on either side by trees and dense shrubbery. The drive wound around to the right on a steep uphill gradient and, as the taxi reached the top of the slope, Jake saw the house. It wasn’t quite a stately home, but it was impressive. The central section looked old. Jake was no expert on architecture, but judging by the red brickwork, arched windows and intricate decorative details around the main porch. He guessed it dated back at least one hundred and fifty years. Neo-Gothic, he thought it was called. In contrast, on either side of the original house, two modern wings had been built—three floors of glass and metal with huge arched windows dominating the top floors of both. It was a bold statement, risky even, but Jake liked it. He was looking forward to meeting the Foleys, whom he assumed had helped devise the design concept.
“Here you are,” said the driver, pulling the car up a few feet from the stone steps that led to the front door. “The fare is all paid for on Mr. Foley’s account.”
Jake momentarily struggled with the dilemma of whether to offer the driver a tip. Deciding that the driver was earning far more than him right now, he made a hasty exit from the vehicle. He didn’t look to see if the driver was showing his disapproval at the lack of a gratuity but hastened up the steps, pausing at the towering front door.
He half expected to see a bell rope, like out of some old horror film, but instead, set in the wall to the right-hand side of the door, was another intercom. Jake took a deep breath, wondering why he felt so nervous over an interview for a temporary job, and pressed the buzzer.
He waited a few seconds, but no voice responded. Should I press again? While he was deciding, the door was flung open and a woman, wearing a fitted woolen dress and adorned with chunky but expensive-looking jewelry, stood smiling at him.
“Jake?” she asked, pushing some of her thick blonde hair away from her face, perhaps to get a better look at him or maybe to offer a better view of herself. Jake guessed she was around thirty-five—or possibly older but ageing well.
“Mrs. Foley?” he asked, stretching out his hand.
“Miss Foley,” she replied, gripping his hand in both of hers and pulling him into the hallway. “I’m Nathan Foley’s sister. But please call me Alice.”
“It’s good to meet you,” said Jake, taking in the expansive space.
The hallway retained numerous original features, including a stone floor and a dark-wood staircase set against a bare brick wall to the left. A huge chandelier hung from the center of the ceiling, like something from The Phantom of the Opera.
“Don’t judge,” said Alice, following Jake’s gaze. “It came with the house and we didn’t have the heart to get rid of it. It’s also worth a fortune.”
“Oh no,” said Jake hastily, “I like it.”
“I prefer the modern parts of the house,” said Alice, gesturing him to follow her across the hallway and up the stairs. “Nathan’s in his office. He said to bring you straight up.”
Nathan’s office was on the first floor in the modern west wing of the house. The door was made from a light wood set with several frosted-glass panels down the center. Alice gave three sharp knocks and a deep voice called, “Come in.”
Alice pushed the door open.
“Don’t let him bully you,” she whispered. “He’s very sweet really.”
How to totally unsettle someone, thought Jake, but he offered Alice a smile and stepped into the room.
Nathan Foley sat on a two-seater couch, not behind a desk as Jake had expected. He was in his early thirties, Jake guessed, dressed in jeans and a white shirt, sleeves rolled neatly up to reveal muscular lower arms. As Jake approached, Nathan remained sitting, legs wide apart, one arm draped across the back of the sofa, as if cozying up to an invisible date.
“Hi,” said Jake, holding out a hand. “I’m Jake Holden.”
Nathan finally leaned forward and grasped Jake’s hand, before gesturing to a chair opposite the couch. He smelled of expensive cologne and his handshake was firm.