Read What Happens at the Beach... Online
Authors: T A Williams
For the perfect summer romance...
It's finally time for Natalie Dryden to decide what she
wants! After ditching her sparkling engagement ring, and her ghastly fiancÃ©, she jets off for the sun-kissed shores of Southern France â the only place that has ever truly felt like home. For the first time ever, Natalie is determined to forget all about men and follow her dreams!
â¦head to the French coast!
Only, avoiding the male population isn't quite so easy, especially when she meets smooth-talking Philippe and gorgeous fisherman, Remy! But then Natalie, quite literally, bumps into brooding millionaire Mark whilst swimming in the glittering azure-blue bay â and her life is turned upside-down.
Love might be off the cards for Natalie, yet suddenly she finds herself in her dream job and working with her dream man! But is it all too good to be true...?
A deliciously sunny, uplifting romance to curl up with on your holiday â or any day!
When Alice Met Danny
What Happens in Tuscanyâ¦
What Happens in Cornwallâ¦
What Happens at Christmasâ¦
What Happens in the Alpsâ¦
The Room on the Second Floor
What Happens at the Beachâ¦
T. A. Williams
lives in Devon with his Italian wife. He lived and worked in Switzerland, France and Italy, before returning to run one of the best-known language schools in the UK. He has taught people from all over the world, among them Arab princes, Brazilian beauty queens and Italian billionaires. He speaks a number of languages and has travelled extensively. He has eaten snake, live fish and alligator. A Spanish dog, a Russian bug and a Korean parasite have done their best to eat him in return. He has written historical novels, humorous books and thrillers. His hobby is long-distance cycling, but his passion is writing. You can follow him on Twitter,
, find him on Facebook:
or visit his website:
With warmest thanks, as ever, to my wonderful editor, Charlotte MursellÂ
To Mariangela and Christina with loveÂ
The beach was just the same as she remembered. Protected from the Tramontane wind by the rocky headlands that dropped near vertically into the sea either side of the little bay, the narrow triangle of light golden sand, squashed between the water and the wooded hillside, was still undeveloped and unspoilt. As she made her way down the steep slope beneath the umbrella pines, the narrow path woven with protruding tree roots, her sandals slipped and crunched on the carpet of dry pine needles that covered the ground. The unmistakable scent of resin filled her nostrils, while the light wind barely stirred the branches above her head. Even at this time of the morning it was already very warm down here and, by lunchtime, she knew it would be baking hot.
As the trees thinned, she got her first good view of the water. The bright blue mirrored the cloudless sky, the surface of the sea barely disturbed by the breeze, the tiny wavelets reflecting the morning sun in myriad sparkles. The shallow water by the beach was a pale aquamarine, gradually deepening to a darker blue the further out she looked. From up here, she could see clearly all the way down to the white sand on the seabed. The waves that washed the beach were so gentle today that they produced little more than a gentle sigh, barely caressing the sand.
As she emerged from the trees and crossed the narrow, rough road that snaked along the coastline, she could see nobody on the beach. She looked around, breathing in the atmosphere that brought back so many childhood memories. The only difference she could see was that the little cafÃ© over to the north side, just beside the tiny jetty, had been enlarged and now boasted a sign announcing its reincarnation as a CafÃ© Restaurant. Half a dozen tables now stood on the terrace outside the single-storey stone building, none of them yet occupied at seven o'clock in the morning. Three umbrellas advertised French beer, while the others invited people to opt for a mineral water.
Natalie set down her towel on a rocky outcrop on the sunny side of the bay and slipped out of her shoes and shorts. She walked down to the water's edge, enjoying the feel of the sand between her toes. As ever, she found herself scanning the waterline for shells, and her eyes alighted upon a beautiful little light-blue butterfly shell. She bent down and picked it up, marvelling at its symmetry and perfection. Its colour, she knew, was virtually the same as her eyes. Somewhere up at the house was a bracelet of these shells that her grandfather had made for her when she was very small. She wondered where it was now. She dropped it back onto the sand and waded out until the water was deep enough for her to slip forward and start swimming.
Although the initial impact was cold, she soon acclimatised and began a slow breaststroke, out parallel to the rocky shore towards the mouth of the bay, luxuriating in the refreshing feel of the water on her body after a hot, sticky, disturbed night. When she was almost at the open sea, she reached the last of a line of orange mooring buoys. Stretching out her hand she grabbed hold, glad to rest for a minute, letting the gentle current slowly turn her back towards the land.
From here, she could see clear up the hillside to her grandmother's house. Higher up, near the top of the hill, the old chateau was still as beautiful as ever with its slate roof and circular pointed turrets, sitting in its walled park, ringed by cypress trees. The terrace outside her grandmother's house was empty, the vines that her granddad had planted and trained across the trellis casting a rare patch of shade on that sunburnt slope. In the far distance she could just see the hazy outline of the high Pyrenees; to the left of them lay Spain, and to the right France. It was a spectacular, magical view.
The sea rocked her gently from side to side, her shoulder resting against the cool plastic of the buoy, the sun already hot on her head and neck. She felt comfortable and refreshed, pleased to revisit her favourite childhood haunt. But this brief moment of happiness didn't last long, as her thoughts turned once more to the here and now. Of course, she was no longer a child, and those carefree days were long gone. Here she was, alone in the sea and virtually alone in the world. In spite of the sunshine, in spite of the idyllic surroundings, she had to struggle hard to stop the tears from falling as she thought back over the events of the last two days.
David's parents' house was one of the most opulent in what was a very opulent part of south-west London. Today the gravel drive in front of the house was choked with smart, expensive cars and the Union Jack hung proudly, if limply, from the flagpole. The trees in the extensive garden to the rear were festooned with bunting, and a string quartet was playing softly from beneath the rose arbour. The French windows were wide open, and smartly dressed guests, all of whom had observed the instruction on the printed invitations to wear
clothes, stood around on the terrace and chatted. Those without high heels had ventured onto the meticulously mown lawn and were making appreciative noises about the fine collection of flowering shrubs all round. The gardeners had been under strict orders to make it an impeccable display and, luckily for them, they had succeeded.
Natalie was at the far corner of the lawn, ostensibly studying the rock garden, but in reality just taking time out from the small talk. She really didn't feel in the least bit like turning on the charm for these people with whom she had nothing in common, although she knew they meant so much to David and his family. She had been dreading this day for weeks now and the fact that her presence had not so much been requested as demanded had done little to improve her attitude. Now, although surrounded by so many people, she felt more alone than she had done for months. She let her eyes roam over an exceptionally prickly cactus and reflected that it looked the way she felt.
So far, David's mother's birthday party had proved to be as ghastly as she had feared. Officially billed as Marjorie's sixtieth birthday, Natalie knew for a fact that this milestone had been passed several years earlier, but had refrained from commenting. As expected, the other guests were a collection of the great and, if not the good, then certainly the well-heeled of London society. David's father, Wilberforce, had until very recently been the senior partner in a large and long-established law firm. Given his career choice, it was little surprise that his only son had followed him into that profession. And, as Natalie knew only too well, David was expected by everybody to achieve a position of pre-eminence in the London law scene in his turn. Increasingly over the past few months, Natalie had been trying to make up her mind as to whether in fact she wanted to be at his side when he did so. She and David had been arguing more and more often and she sensed that their relationship was reaching a tipping point. She drained her third glass of champagne and went back into the house in search of another.
As she went in through the French windows, she found herself confronted by a sea of suits and cocktail dresses. Over in the far corner of the room, she spotted Marjorie, deep in conversation with a man she recognised as David's boss, Mr Lightfoot. Natalie had no hesitation in heading off in the opposite direction. She went along the corridor to the kitchen, helping herself to a fresh glass of champagne from a tray carried by one of the catering staff as she did so. The kitchen had been taken over by the caterers and, as she walked in, she spotted Winston the cat, her only friend and ally here, as he slipped through the door into the old pantry, no doubt looking for a place of refuge. Natalie decided to follow his example. She grabbed a couple of sausage rolls from a silver platter and followed the cat into the larder, pulling the door half-closed behind her. It was cool in there. The only window had been covered with wire mesh to keep the flies out and the narrow room was perpetually in twilight as a result.
Recognising her voice, Winston turned and came over to her with a plaintive meow, tail standing stiffly in the air. Natalie sat down on a packet of toilet rolls, set her glass on the floor beside her and stroked the old cat while he rubbed himself against her legs. She stuffed one of the sausage rolls into her mouth and offered him the other one. He sniffed it fastidiously before taking it delicately from her fingers and settling down to eat, purring to himself as he did so. Natalie took a mouthful of champagne and sat back, glad to get out of the babble of chatter for a brief while.
She looked round the larder, her mood still gloomy, as it had been for months now. Things had started out so well with David four years earlier. She had met him when she was at her lowest ebb, shortly after the accident that had taken both her parents. At the time she had convinced herself it was love, and had embarked upon an affair with him that had led quite naturally to their moving in together and then to their engagement. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, she found herself coming to the realisation that it probably hadn't been so much true love as a deep need for support and company at what had been a desperately lonely time. Their life together had been very good at first, but doubts, serious doubts, had started to set in as the months and years went by. She saw now that he had changed since those early days and she was analytical enough to see that she, too, had changed. He had been right behind her when she had made the decision to give up teaching and go back to university to get her doctorate. Now, her studies no longer appeared to interest him. The fact that she had been increasingly busy with her thesis had impacted on their home life together, and his encouragement had dried up as a result. It had become increasingly clear to her that he would really prefer a wife who would look after him in the kitchen and the bedroom, rather than an intellectual equal.