Those were the thoughts going through my head when I wrote A Class Apart, a modern day historical if you like, featuring a titled lady who's fallen on hard times and a guy from the back streets of London who's made a name for himself in the financial world through his intelligence and sheer hard work. Octavia dislikes Jake and all he stands for but needs his backing if she's to save her ancestral home.
Here's how Jake reacts when he meets Octavia for the first time.
A sound of screeching tires caused both men to stand and look out of the window in time to observe a Harley Davidson with a garish paint job skid to a halt, sending gravel showering everywhere. A long, shapely leg, leading to a slender, leather-clad rear, swung over the saddle.
“Good God!” Jake said, surprise taking precedence over good manners.
“Ah, at last.” The marquis turned away from the window, an amused smile playing about his lips. “You’re about to endure the dubious pleasure of meeting my granddaughter, Mr. Bentley,” he said. “I do hope you have a strong constitution.”
Jake strolled into the far corner of the room, somewhat taken aback by the change in the marquis’s expression, which had gone from formally polite to indulgently affectionate. He wondered when the prodigal granddaughter had returned to the fold. And more to the point, why? He wondered a bit about that cute backside and those endless legs, too.
Octavia burst into the room like a tornado. She pulled off her full-face helmet and shook out a shiny curtain of brunette hair. Watching her from the depths of the room, Jake metaphorically whistled his appreciation. She was something else.
“Sorry, Gramps, there was an accident on the bridge, and I couldn’t even get past it on the bike. Still, at least Bentley-the-Beast isn’t here yet. He must be stuck, too.”
Lord Radleigh failed to suppress a smile. “Octavia,” he said, “this is Mr. Bentley. Mr. Bentley, this is my very bad-mannered granddaughter, Octavia.”
Seemingly not the slightest bit put out by her faux pas, she turned to face him. She had obviously been about to say something, but, assessing him with her eyes, all that passed her lips was a strangled gasp. Jake waited her out in silence.
“Mr. Bentley, I didn’t see you lurking there.”
Her voice, when she finally found it, was accusatory, making it sound as though her rudeness had been his fault. She offered her hand but no apology. As Jake made contact with it he felt a sharp jolt of awareness rock his entire body. She felt it, too. He could tell that much from her stunned expression and guessed she wasn’t any happier about it than he was. He released her hand and strove to regain control of the situation.
“Glad to meet you. Sorry about the traffic. It must have been beastly for you.”
“Touché,” she said, but her expression didn’t contain an ounce of penitence.
Jake eyed her dispassionately. Obviously the fact that she’d been deliberately impolite to someone of such social inconsequence didn’t even register on her radar. His expression hardened. If she thought to drive the price of Radleigh up by trying her upper-class antics with him, she had a lot to learn about business. The day when an arrogant socialite could get the better of him had yet to dawn.
More coffee was poured, and at last the matter of Radleigh was raised.
She outlined her plans to Jake in a cut-glass accent laced with an unmistakable thread of condescension. Her attitude irritated him, and he was in no mood to listen to her impractical, half-cocked scheme to belatedly save her home. She must have known about her grandfather’s financial problems, and if she really cared about Radleigh, she should have done something about it long before now.
Jake humored her by hearing her out, his mind only half on what she was saying. Even so, he admitted to an element of surprise. He found it hard to believe she’d managed to come up with this scheme, accompanied by graphics, floor plans, and basic estimates in a little more than the week she said it had taken her. Grudgingly he afforded her some respect for her ingenuity.
He should turn the proposal down flat, of course. It would be madness to do anything else. She intimated she had other backers interested, but Jake wasn’t buying that. And he’d been able to ascertain from the brief look he’d taken at her figures that she was grossly underestimating the costs involved. Her plan was quite simply a nonstarter. He’d turn her down and purchase Radleigh outright. It would be heartless to raise her grandfather’s hopes by doing anything else.
So why was he still hesitating? Perhaps because of the glimmer of hope he could see in the marquis’s eye. Or there again, perhaps it was because the man so clearly adored this wild, opinionated, selfish hoyden. She had instilled life into him since Jake’s last visit, that was for sure. The man looked ten years younger. The scheme was bound to fail anyway, and he’d get Radleigh in the end with a clear conscience. He was still working all the hours God sent and wouldn’t be able to spend much time here for the next year or two, anyway. But still? Was he losing his mind even considering such a risky scheme?
Jake never allowed sentiment to intrude upon his business dealings and was at a loss to explain why he was even contemplating doing so on this occasion. He had no intention of being railroaded by this condescending female. The fact that her physical attributes excited instincts that had nothing to do with business was neither here nor there. He’d already dated enough attractive women to last him a lifetime, and there was nothing out of the ordinary about this one.
“I can’t give you answer now, Lady Octavia. I need to study your plans much more carefully first.”
“But you’re not saying no?” Her professional stance evaporated, leaving her looking both astounded and touchingly vulnerable.
“I’m on my way to London, but I’ll be passing back this way on Friday evening.”
“Perhaps Mr. Bentley would care to dine with us, Octavia?”
A Class Apart by Wendy Soliman now available from SirenBookStrand, Amazon.com and all good ebook stores.
To win a copy of A Class Apart just leave a comment on this blog saying what type of vehicle Octavia was in charge of when Jake first saw her.
Good luck and thanks for stopping by, Wendy
The next author on this tour is the talented Rachel Haimowitz at