Sneak Peeks

This dyed-in-the-wool country girl will do anything to protect the home she loves… read a sneak peek from The Promise of Home by Nicola Marsh


This dyed-in-the-wool country girl will do anything to protect the home she loves… read a sneak peek from The Promise of Home by Nicola Marsh

This dyed-in-the-wool country girl will do anything to protect the home she loves… A fast-paced, heartwarming rural romance from a USA Today bestselling Australian author.

Entrusted with running her grandfather’s real estate business, Karlana Vogel’s determined to make it thrive. Pop raised her in small-town Acacia Haven after her parents died, so the family legacy is her pride and joy. When the competition, a cocky city mogul, breezes into town with a deal to take over, she’s incensed.

Hudson Grenville came from less than nothing and has worked nonstop to turn it all around. But he’s only a hard-nosed salesman on the outside – acquiring the Vogels’ agency is the linchpin he needs to make his housing project for homeless kids work. Unless he’s willing to let down all those counting on him, he has no choice but to stick around town and try to persuade Karly to sell.

Despite being on opposite sides of the boardroom, the deal is complicated by the chemistry that keeps bringing them back to the table. Both parties will have to assess what they want out of life. And what they’re willing to give up…

Usually being in a roomful of hot guys in suits would be Karly’s dream, but spending three days feeling inferior and out of her depth at a real estate conference had her ripping off her lanyard and stuffing it into her handbag as she escaped.

She needed a drink, pronto.

She didn’t stop to admire the soft blue lighting and floor-to-ceiling glass sculptures of the conference hotel’s foyer. Instead, as the sliding doors opened, she stepped out into a crisp Melbourne day, inhaling a lungful of smog, ground coffee beans and sizzling onions: city aromas that usually appealed but today left her craving the briny tang of Acacia Haven.

Annoyed by the momentary pang of homesickness, she strode up Collins Street and slipped into the first bar she could find, a small, trendy rectangular café that served alcohol along with tapas. The place was packed despite midday being earlier than most office workers took a lunch break, and she slid onto one of two empty stools at the shiny chrome bar, ordered a glass of cab sav and did what most Melburnians did in the bustling city: people-watch.

While she loved the close-knit community she’d grown up in, nothing beat the vibe of cosmopolitan Melbourne. People in the city strode rather than walked, driven by a sense of purpose and a hunger to get places. She wished she had that same hunger but lately she’d been floundering. Helping her grandfather run Acacia Haven’s sole real estate agency had always given her job satisfaction, but with Pop dropping hints about retirement and his unwillingness to try new marketing, her stress levels had been rising.

That’s what attending this conference was about: getting the lowdown on the latest real estate innovations. She had so many ideas to make the agency thrive but in a town as small as Acacia Haven would any improvements make a difference?

Despite the growing interest in intentional living communities, many still thought of them as ‘hippy communes’, so the bulk of her business centred on holiday rentals and the occasional sea-changer. And with the usual rumours of larger real estate chains in Inverloch and Bairnsdale being keen on gobbling up smaller agencies, she had a feeling her days as an agent in Acacia Haven were numbered.

She’d never told Pop about her secret dream to work in Melbourne. How could she, when he’d given up his life in the city to raise her and hadn’t stopped singing the praises of small-town life ever since?

She owed him, big time, and that meant shelving her dreams to fulfil his. Not that he’d come out and said he expected her to run the agency after he retired but that place was his legacy and it was her duty to ensure it continued to grow long after he left.

As the waitress placed a satisfyingly large wine glass in front of her, she watched a guy in a suit pause in the doorway and frown as he registered the full bar a moment before his formidable glare landed on the bar stool next to her, where she’d placed her handbag. She’d done it out of habit, something that didn’t matter in a town that often had empty tables when she ate out, but here, with seating at a premium, she felt bad. Until one of his eyebrows arched and he shook his head, as if disappointed in her rudeness.

She was tempted to leave her bag where it was, but she’d already had a crap morning and the last thing she needed was an altercation with a brooding stranger.

With an exaggerated huff so he could see how much of an effort it was, she plucked her bag off the stool, placed it on the grotty floor at her feet and picked up her wine glass, raising it in a silent toast as the guy made a beeline for the stool.

She hadn’t been able to see him clearly while framed in the doorway with the sun at his back, but as he got closer, she was glad she’d moved her bag. The guy was gorgeous—dark brown hair skimming his collar in tousled waves, caramel eyes, and stubble that gave him an ‘I don’t give a damn’ edge. Like every other guy in the place he wore a suit, but his looked like he’d been sewn into it, with an open-necked ivory shirt revealing a tanned V she found infinitely fascinating.

‘What are you drinking?’ His voice matched the rest of him: enigmatic, rich, tempting.

‘The house cab sav.’

‘I’ll have the same please,’ he said to the bartender, before pinning her with a stare that did strange things to her insides. ‘You sure your bag will be okay on the floor or should I order a special chair for it? I’m sure they have extra out the back for such a delicate suede.’

‘If I’d known you were a smartarse, I wouldn’t have moved it.’

Her retort came out harsher than intended but she’d had a rough morning and the last thing she needed was yet another slick suit thinking he was better than her.

‘Whoa.’ He held up his hands. ‘Bad day?’

‘Bad year,’ she muttered, taking a sip of wine to ease the sudden tightness in her throat. She’d never been prone to mood swings but lately the smallest thing set her off and made her want to bawl.

It didn’t make sense, because she had a great life: weekly catchups with her besties Summer and Nevaeh, her own house, a quaint mud-brick cottage she’d coveted from the moment it came on the market, her gorgeous grandpa who was almost seventy going on seventeen and a job that kept her stimulated. She dated when she wanted to and savoured being single the rest of the time, so she had no idea where this funk had come from; she didn’t like it.

‘Want to know what I do when I’ve had a rough morning?’

‘Not really.’ She shrugged, not giving a flying fig about his advice, no matter how appealing the gold flecks in his eyes and how their glow gave her a little welcome buzz.

‘I offload to a stranger. It helps. Trust me.’ He raised his wine glass, smiling in amusement. ‘Go on. Open up. You know you want to.’

She wanted to tell this cocky stranger where he could stick his advice but there was something about him—his warm smile, the genuine interest in his steady gaze—that made her want to confide in him. Go figure.

‘I’m here for a conference. It’s not going well.’

His eyebrows rose. ‘Why?’

‘Because I’m a little fish in a shark-infested lagoon.’

He barked out a laugh. ‘Well, Miss Fish, if the way you labelled me a smartarse is any indication, you’re more than capable of holding your own among the big sharks.’

‘I can more than hold my own. I’ll have those sharks carved up and served as flake in no time.’

‘See? You’re calling me out again.’ He snapped his fingers. ‘Do more of that at your conference and you’ll be fine.’

An odd thing happened as she locked eyes with the stranger: an unexpected calm infused her and she found herself smiling at him. ‘You’re good at this listening stuff.’

‘So I’ve been told.’ His bashful grin made him more endearing.

‘Let me guess. You make it a habit of sidling up to single women in bars and getting them to unburden their souls.’

‘You’re single?’

She laughed. ‘And loving it, so don’t go getting any ideas.’

‘I wouldn’t dare. Shame, though.’ He tapped his chest. ‘Because I’m here for a conference too, and I’m single, so we could’ve commiserated together later this evening.’

She snorted. ‘If I make it through this afternoon’s keynote speaker and don’t ditch right now, I’ll be heading home this evening.’

She expected him to ask where home was. Instead, an odd expression crossed his face before he smiled again.

‘Well, good luck with the rest of your conference.’

‘Thanks.’ She downed the rest of her wine and left a ten-dollar note on the bar. ‘But I’ll hazard a guess your conference will be ten times more interesting than me having to sit through some hotshot real estate agent expounding the “secrets” of his success when he’s probably a slick trust-fund guy who’s been given everything rather than having to work hard for it.’

Picking her bag up off the floor, she lifted her other hand in a wave. ‘Thanks for listening.’

She’d reached the door when she heard him call out, ‘What’s your name?’

Hesitating, she almost turned back. But what was the point? She wasn’t in the mood to hook up with some guy later tonight, no matter how gorgeous.

She needed to get through this last session, then put the conference behind her and head home.

Find it here

Must reads