Mail Order Rose (Mail Order Brides #1)

BOOK: Mail Order Rose (Mail Order Brides #1)
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Mail Order Rose

(Mail Order Brides #1)

 

by

 

Cara Cabot

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Cara Cabot.

All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication can be reproduced or transmitted by any means without the consent of the author.

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

 

 

***

 

The last thing she wanted was to fall in love with her husband...

Heartbroken Rose Greenlee's world was crashing down around her. Betrayed not only by her betrothed, but by her own family, Rose felt as though she were living in a nightmare from which there was no end. Her only chance to escape was to run away to become a mail order bride, though she vowed that after suffering the pain of heartbreak she'd never fall in love again.

But David Thompson, her handsome new husband, stirs feelings in her that she wasn't expecting,  and the walls around her heart begin to crumble. Just when she thinks she may have found happiness at last, her past comes back to haunt her and she has to choose where her heart truly belongs.

 

 

***

Rose Greenlee paced in front of her bedroom window, clutching a letter in her hands. Tears rolled silently down her cheeks. She stopped pacing for a moment to sit down at her walnut dressing table to read the letter again for a fifth time as she held it in her shaking hands. How could life have brought her to this place? She felt as if God had deserted her. The sadness burned throughout her whole chest. Now why understood why it was called it a broken heart.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock on her door.

“Rose? May I come in, dear?” It was her mother's voice. She didn't give an answer, but her mother didn't wait for one before slowly opening the door.

“How are you doing, love?”

Rose didn't turn around to face her mother. She quickly stuffed the letter into a drawer and sat firmly planted on her seat, staring at the weeping willow just outside her window. The window was open a crack, the breeze catching her lace curtains before grazing her face. Of all of the times she'd stared out at that tree, only now did it seem to her that the tree was actually weeping, bent over in a cascade of sadness. It seemed to her that the tree was weeping just for her.

“Rose?” Her mother called her name again after Rose still didn't answer.

Finally, Rose turned in her chair to meet her mother's sad eyes. “How am I doing? How would you be doing if this happened to you? I feel like I'm living in a nightmare, waiting desperately for someone to shake me awake.”

“You need to stay strong, Rose, and hold your head up high.”

“How, mother? How can I hold my head up high after suffering humiliation like this. How can I
ever
hold my head high, let alone show my face in this town again?”

Her mother put a soothing hand on her shoulder, pushing aside a ringlet of Rose's dark hair.

“Oh, Rose, if only I could take your pain away.”

“Don't make me go downstairs! Please, mother, it's more than I can bear.”

“But you must, my love. You must be gracious and stoic and each time after that, it will get easier. After all, they are family and always will be. You must always act with dignity as befitting a lady.”

Rose's eyes filled with tears again. They seemed to have an endless supply of them as she'd been crying without end since this ordeal started and the tears seemed never ending. To think of her beloved Grant as part of her family, but not the way she had planned was more than she could bear. Grant had been her first love, and, she had hoped, her only love. He had been tender and kind and was dashingly handsome with dark hair and green eyes. They started out as friends, and as they spent more time together, a love blossomed. They laughed together and planned their future together and he was supposed to ask for her father's hand at the fourth of July picnic. Their courtship brought more joy to her life than she could have imagined. And then it brought her more pain than she'd ever known in her life.

Their happy plans turned out to be wishes that never came true.  The future they'd planned was not to be. Grant was to marry her older sister, Isabel, who was now with child.
His
child. The child that should have been hers and Grant's.

The shock of the whole situation was overwhelming. Isabel always had hated Rose, but Rose never understood the depth of that hatred until now. How that deep-ceded hatred came about, Rose could only speculate but it had been there since before she could even remember. Isabel was actually her half-sister, a daughter of her father's first marriage. On Isabel's second birthday, her mother died. Her father,  The Honorable Henry Greenlee, who was a well-respected judge, hired on Rose's mother, Ellen, to be a nanny for Isabel and the two of them soon fell in love. By the time Isabel was three and a half, she had a new mother and a new baby sister who was christened Rose Katherine Greenlee. Then, after losing two babies over the next few years, Henry and Ellen finally welcomed a healthy baby girl, Louisa Eleanore, born to them six years later and thus completing the family.

Though Ellen had always been kind and loving to Isabel, even more so than her own daughters, for she didn't want Isabel to ever feel slighted for having lost her own mother, Isabel never seemed to appreciate the love of her new mother or sisters. It was as if she felt that since she couldn't have her own mother back, she wished to only have her father to herself and not have to share him. Growing up she was cold and unkind to Rose, continually stealing and breaking her favorite toys or hairbows, whatever it was that was of value to Rose as she was growing up. Rose soon learned to hide anything important to her to keep it from Isabel's claws.

Isabel would do anything she could to get Rose into trouble, once even throwing herself down the stairs, breaking her arm and then telling everyone that Rose had pushed her. Henry and Ellen seemed to dote on her, almost out of fear, always trying to pacify her. She seemed to get an enjoyment out of hurting people and her favorite person to hurt was Rose. Whatever Rose had, Isabel felt a need to take it away.

But of all the things she had ever done, never would Rose have imagined that Isabel would do this. To steal what she'd loved most and destroy all of the dreams she held for the future. Grant.

Rose would never forget when Isabel announced her pregnancy to the family. Most young ladies would be mortified and ashamed at their indiscretion and the shame brought on her family because of it. But Isabel was nothing like most young ladies, she relished in the announcement knowing the pain it would cause Rose. She acted proud and flaunted the pregnancy. Grant, trying to be the gentleman he was raised to be-though getting his sweetheart's sister pregnant is about as ungentlemanly as you can get-proposed to Isabel right away, so as not to leave her with the shame of a baby born out of wedlock.

He had no idea of what was unleashed after he succumbed to Isabel's temptations. He was being used as a pawn in her deranged game of trying to destroy Rose's life. She did not love Grant. She only wanted him because he belonged to Rose.

Now they would be arriving shortly for an engagement party that was sure to be awkward for everyone involved. Though Rose knew her mother loved her dearly, the way her parents catered to Isabel and her wishes irked her. Rose's mother had told her that she felt so bad that Isabel had lost her mother, she wished that the girl would want for nothing. “We need to make Isabel feel loved so she is never lonely or sad,” her mother had often told her. Only with Isabel, if you give an inch, she will demand a mile and then some and not be happy til she got it-and even then wouldn't be happy. And if Isabel wasn't happy, no one could be happy.

“What am I supposed to do now? My life was to be spent with Grant, running a home and raising children with him. Am I to go to a convent? Teach school? Become an old maid like Aunt Gertie?”

“Rose, you are young. I know the pain must be so raw now, but there will be other suitors. You are young and beautiful and will find someone new. You
will
get over him.”

Rose shook her head, her lip quivering. “No, I won't. You're wrong, mother. I will
never
get over him. How can I when he's married to my sister? I'll be slapped in the face with the pain again and again.  One thing I do know, though, is that I will
never
let my heart be broken like this again. I'd rather die alone than go through this wretched heartache. It's unbearable, mother.”

She covered her face as she broke out in sobs, her mother trying to soother her as best she can. Then, she heard the opening of the front door downstairs, and their voices of them as they entered the  parlor. Well, actually she just heard the distinct shrill cackle of Isabel, she could only assume that Grant was with her, at her side. An image that made her feel ill.

Her mother turned her head toward the door. “It sounds like they've arrived. I'm going down to meet them. I'm hoping you'll join us, but I will leave that decision up to you. But, just remember, you have to face them sometime, Rose. You can't hide forever.”

Rose didn't respond, she just turned to stare once again at the weeping willow as she listened to her mother's footsteps walking away down the hall.
You can't hide forever
... Her mother's words were a searing pain on the already raw wounds. Why should she be the one to hide? She'd done nothing wrong. Isabel should be the one in hiding, feeling ashamed and embarrassed, not attending a party thrown in her honor. There was so much wrong with this whole situation, it was almost laughable. She felt as if it were all a bizarre dream. Her stomach was in knots at the thought of facing everybody.

She glanced back at the drawer that held her letter and the thought of its contents gave her courage. She would go downstairs, knowing that all of this would soon be behind her; Isabel and Grant could do as they please but they could not force her to stick around to be an audience to their charade of an engagement and watch them raise their child conceived out of betrayal.

Rose took a deep breath, held her head high and proud, or at least a proud as could be expected, and left the sanctuary of her room for the party.

Walking down the stairs, she had a view into the open parlor doors. Rose's heart dropped to her stomach at the sight of the engaged couple as they stood near the parlor piano. Isabel had a strong grip around Grant's arm as she laughed and chatted with guests who were hidden from Rose's view. Grant stood tall and stoic, there because of duty as a fiance. She knew that he did not love Isabel, but because of his actions, she knew that he couldn't have truly loved her, either. Someone who
truly
loved her would not have betrayed her, especially not with her own sister.

He must have sensed movement coming from the stairs and glanced her way. Their eyes locked and for a moment, the world seemed to stop. Though not a word was uttered, none was needed, their eyes spoke for them. How many times had her breath been taken away just by a look from those deep green eyes, how that look was meant for only her. She wondered if he looked at Isabel the same way. Now, Grant's eyes were filled with remorse and pain as they stared into hers. Rose met his gaze with one that she hoped would convey cold detachment, but though she tried to mask it, her eyes belied her heartbreak as well.

The moment didn't last long, however, as Isabel looked up at Grant and then followed his stare to see what he was looking at. When she saw Rose descending the stairs, she broke out into an exaggerated, sugary-sweet smile. She also clutched onto Grant's arm just a little bit tighter.

“Well there you are, we've been waiting for you, Rosie darling,” Isabel cooed as Rose made her way down the last steps and entered into the parlor. Isabel was the only one who'd ever called her Rosie, but she said it in a way that made it seem more like an insult than an endearing nickname.

Before Rose had a chance to answer her, Isabel was already running her mouth again. “Why have you been upstairs hiding when there's a party going on?” She looked from Rose to the other guests, laughing and shaking her head. As if there was something wrong with Rose's behavior, as if
she
was the silly one.
You're not fooling anyone, Isabel.

Isabel was tall and willowy with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes the same color as Rose's-their father's eyes. She was a beautiful girl on the outside, but on the inside she was anything but.

Rose smiled politely and went to find a seat as far away as she could and yet still be in the same room. She took a spot on a green velvet sofa next to Louisa, who seemed fidgety and uncomfortable, holding a small crystal glass filled with punch.

Besides her parents, her sisters and Grant, her next door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, were there, too, as well as her Uncle Henry and Aunt Mary and their four children, her great-aunt Gertie, and Isabel's closest-and probably only-friend, Sally. With the exception of Sally, the rest of the group had been all together at another family celebration dinner, last Christmas, where they had welcomed Grant into the family for the first time-as Rose's beau. Now they were here again, celebrating Grant's new role as Isabel's betrothed.

The stuffy air in the parlor was suffocating to Rose. Her cheeks felt like they were on fire and she felt as if she would faint into a heap right there on the floor.  Louisa smiled sympathetically at her but no one else dared to make eye contact with her. They went about their conversations while she sat in silence. Shame burned through her. But then, Rose actually felt bad for the guests, it must have been incredibly awkward for them, too. She didn't know how in the world her parents thought hosting a party for them was a good idea. But that would never happen, Rose would never have behaved in such a way to bring disgrace on herself or her family. She could never wish upon anyone the pain that had been inflicted on her. Though she and Grant had kissed each other, they were not intimate, in the married way. That was to happen on her wedding night, the way it should be. Or should have been. Thinking of the intimacy that he shared with Isabel made her stomach churn.

“Rose, would you like some punch, dear?” Her mother's voice interrupted her thoughts.

“No, thank you,” Rose replied. She didn't want to be down here longer than she had to be and the thought of punch, or any food or drink for that matter, she was sure would make her ill. Uncle Henry began a conversation with Grant about horses or something and Sally cooed to Isabel about how she was glowing and how beautiful her new blue dress was. Rose was sure that Sally had been invited by Isabel to this gathering for the sole purpose of flattering her and stroking her ego.

BOOK: Mail Order Rose (Mail Order Brides #1)
10.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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