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Authors: Cheryl Ann Smith

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Historical, #General

A Convenient Bride (45 page)

BOOK: A Convenient Bride
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Hell, if the chit had not been so eager to see him gone, he’d have asked her to come with him to London and left her in the care of his mother. However, the girl was stubbornly refusing his assistance, even as she clearly teetered on the edge of desperation. Now he’d all but proposed to her on impulse, and honor would not let him take it back.

“We are betrothed?” Her face went white. He reached to take her arm, fearful she’d faint at his feet, but she brushed him away and whispered, “I cannot believe Albert would marry me off to a barbarian.” She turned and wobbled toward the nearest chair, dropping down onto the frayed surface.

Taken aback by her insult, Gabe stepped into the cottage. The top of his head brushed the doorframe of the low door.

“A barbarian?” He looked down. His buckskin was dirty,
streaked with salt and dust and who-knew-what from his trip from America. He’d intended to change to suitable clothing after he boarded the London-bound ship from New York, but his trunk had disappeared somewhere between the wharf and the
Lady Hope
. By the time he noticed it missing, they had left port.

This left him in buckskin, a second shirt from his pack, and the kindness of his fellow traveler Mrs. Johnson, and her lye washing soap to keep him from smelling most foul.

No wonder Sarah thought him barbaric. He did look rather fierce.

Chuckling softly, he examined her from her faded gray dress up to her stricken face. She was not unpleasant to look at—somewhat pretty really, albeit too thin for his consideration and dressed in the severe manner of a spinster, though she was not old enough yet to wear that title. Still, he could do worse in a wife. And since it was too late to withdraw the lie and the damage was done, he silently vowed to make her a respectable husband. Sarah, and Albert, deserved nothing less.

“I assure you, Miss Palmer, I do not usually look so barbaric.” His attempt to reassure her did not stop her lower lip from trembling. “I do own a razor. Or I used to. I will shave as soon as we reach London.”

The effort to calm her worries failed. Sarah lifted her sad eyes to his. There was hopelessness in the violet depths. She’d lost the flicker of spirit he’d first glimpsed when she’d tried to run him off.

Truthfully, he couldn’t fault her dismay, or her tears. She’d been born and gently raised to a quiet life in this small village. And according to Albert, she had never traveled far outside its boundaries once she’d been secreted away here as a girl, thus limiting her experiences with strangers. He knew he must appear to her like the savage he’d been for the last three years he’d spent in the American West.

“Come, Miss Palmer. With a shave and some decent clothing, some women find me quiet pleasing to look at.”

The attempt to lighten the moment gained him no quarter. Her shoulders slumped forward. He tried again. “Would it help if I told you that my father is an earl and my family is
well respected throughout England?” She remained as she was. “That we have more money than the Prince Regent?”

That last seemed to rouse her a bit. She rubbed her eyes with her palms then lifted her gaze to peer around the dismal room. He could almost see the very last of her spirit flee.

Even the poorest citizen would find the sparse accommodations somewhat lacking. He was certain she’d sold off whatever she could to survive, leaving only that which had no monetary worth behind.

“I suppose I can do no worse,” she said after a long pause. She pushed from the chair. Then, without acknowledging him, she walked with a stiff gait from the room.

BOOK: A Convenient Bride
6.11Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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