Cast into a world of black, Declan Carstairs is a man in torment. Consumed by guilt, he sees no way out of the darkness his world has become. Only one thing drives him – finding the woman who caused his brother’s death, and the accident that took his sight. Housekeeper Chloe Daniels refuses to pity her devastatingly gorgeous boss, but treating him as the strong, capable man he is soon proves dangerous. As Chloe falls deeper under Declan’s spell, awakened by his touch, she forgets all about the secret she keeps that may destroy them both…Read an Excerpt Behind the Book
“…West’s twist on the Beauty and the Beast is an emotionally compelling read.” ~ 4 stars from Sabrina Madan at RT BookReviews
“ROMANCE WITH A LOT OF SPICE!!! UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH is a hot and spicy read! Declan Carstairs is a very, very rich man, but he lives his life with guilt over his brother’s death. But he knows that a woman who broke his brothers heart is out there and he wants revenge… UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH is a page turner and a great read!!!!!!” ~ reviewed by Joanne Bozik of Fresh Fiction. Full review here
“The pace never wavers … Another classic romance from the talented pen of Annie West.” ~ 5 stars from Donna Zapf at CataRomance
“Shimmering with breathtaking romance, spectacular emotional punch, a believable conflict and vivid atmospheric details UNDONE BY HIS TOUCH is sure to thrill readers and is another fantastically sensual romance from the fabulous pen of Annie West.” ~ Nas, Romance Book Paradise
“…a wonderful story that proves not everything is as it seems and sometimes you have to go with your instincts rather than rely on cold hard ‘facts’.” ~ 4.5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies
“This is a classic tale of boss and employee, yet there is a twist in this story.” Australian Romance Readers’ Association
Halfway back to the house the sound of shattering glass made her spin towards the pergola.
Declan Carstairs stood, frozen in tableau, one arm stretched towards the table. On the ground before him lay the splintered remnants of a glass.
Curiously it was his stillness that snared her gaze rather than the broken glass so dangerously close to the pool. Too late she caught herself staring at those broad, straight shoulders a little too avidly.
‘It’s all right, Mr Carstairs, don’t you bother with it. I’ll fetch a brush and pan.’ Chloe hurried back to the laundry, dumped the towels and scooped up her equipment.
Strangely, on her return he hadn’t moved, as if he waited to make sure she did the job properly.
She’d worked for wealthy people before, some demanding and others so relaxed they barely noticed what went on around them. None would have questioned her ability to do such a simple task. Yet his stillness and the furrow of concentration on his brow told her he had other ideas.
Chloe crouched before him, brushing up the shards.
‘I’ll just be a moment.’ Yet her usually brisk movements seemed slow, her limbs heavy as his silent presence loomed close. Deliberately she turned from the sight of those strong sinewed feet planted wide on the flagstones.
Ridiculous that even the man’s naked feet looked sexy. He disapproved of her, was checking on her. She didn’t want to feel anything for him.
‘Thank you, Ms Daniels.’
Chloe bit down on a bubble of laughter. Such formality when her mind buzzed with unsettling memories of his bare body. Just as well he couldn’t read her thoughts.
If only he’d move and leave her to get on with this.
Thinning her lips, she concentrated on locating shards that had spread further than the rest. ‘I think that’s almost-No! Watch out!’
Too late she saw his heel come down on a splinter as he turned.
A single, low oath blasted from his lips as bright scarlet bloomed and spread across the flagstones.
‘Wait, there’s another one.’
Chloe scuttled across to pick up the shard. ‘There, that’s all. You can move to the chair now.’
Above her he stood still as a bronze god, though in the silence she heard the hiss of his indrawn breath. Blood streamed from the gash at his heel.
Finally he spoke. ‘Perhaps you’d help me, Ms Daniels.’
Frowning, she got to her feet, put the brush and pan aside and moved closer. What did he want her to do? Surely he had the strength to hop the short distance to the chair?
‘You want me to support you?’
Something like anger flashed across his face and his nostrils flared. ‘Nothing so dramatic.’ He spoke through gritted teeth. ‘Just give me your hand.’
Bewildered, Chloe complied, slipping her hand into his. Absorbing the heat and sensation of hard strength surrounding her work-roughened fingers. Registering the ridges of scar tissue across his palm. A shiver of sensation skated up her arm and shoulder, raising the fine hairs on her nape.
She ignored it and looked into his face. This close she read the tiny lines bracketing his mouth as if he spent more time compressing his lips than smiling.
His features were stiff and the scar stood lividly on his taut cheek. Fierce energy hummed through him and into her, like a power source without a safety valve, inexorably rising. Tension twisted as she waited for him to speak.
Her eyes were at the level of his mouth and she watched, fascinated, as his sensuously sculpted lips thinned into a pained line.
‘You need to sit down so I can get the glass out. It won’t hurt so much then.’
His bark of laughter, rough and raw, echoed across the flagstones, jerking her gaze up to those impenetrable dark glasses.
‘The pain doesn’t bother me.’
Chloe frowned. If he wasn’t in pain, then what…?
He exhaled slowly through his nostrils, his fingers tightening around hers. When he spoke there was resignation as well as an undercurrent of anger in his words. ‘Just lead me to a chair, will you?’
‘Yes, damn it. Haven’t you realised you’re talking to a blind man?’
Check out the photos below and you’ll see that quite a few things inspired this story. Above all is a love of the glorious Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. I’m fond of the mixture of quaint mountain villages (with a some gorgeous old homes originally built as retreats for the Sydney elite), exquisite gardens and rugged, captivating mountains. It’s the sort of place you can while away a day in coffee and book shops or venture out rock climbing, canyoning or bushwalking. It’s ridiculously spectacular and sadly, the scene of quite a few outdoor tragedies as the mountains and the weather aren’t quite as benign as they often appear. It’s one of those tragedies that sets the story rolling in ‘Undone By His Touch’.
What better place to house a reclusive Sydney businessman as he recuperates from the death of his brother and the accident that maimed him? Carinya, the place he calls home, is drawn from an amalgam of a couple of gracious old homes I’ve seen in the vicinity and my own imagination. One of them, like Carinya, did in fact have a grand ballroom, though it was built as a family holiday retreat. The spectacular view out over the valley from the old home is one I fell in love with as a child and still adore returning to.
This book features a wounded hero, grappling to come to terms with the changes in his life. As a man used to succeeding at everything he sets his mind to, coping with limits of rehabilitation is a new experience. Doubt is a new phenomenon to Declan, especially in his relationships with women. Now for the first time he finds himself unsure of his way, as he begins to fall for the feisty but caring woman at his beck and call.
Then too, there’s a touch of Sydney’s glitzy social scene as well. I love the views of the harbour and Declan does too. Why else would his roof garden have such a terrific aspect, looking out across Circular Quay?
This is definitely a Beauty and the Beast story, my first in fact! I hope you enjoy Declan and Chloe’s romance as much as I did, and that you also enjoy a taste of some of my favourite places.