Authors: Tammy Andresen
SEEDS OF LOVE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Seeds of Love Copyright © 2016 Tammy Andresen
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the express written permission of the publisher.
Published by Tammy Andresen
Cover art by Tammy Andresen
SEEDS OF LOVE
New York, 1827
Regina Lafayette stood
near the bustling docks of New York City trying not to tap her foot. Her father and her fiancé, Obediah Stillwell, had insisted she come. Not one to make waves, Regina had complied.
Obediah’s second cousin, once removed, was traveling from South Carolina to New York to meet her. Apparently this cousin had also made Obediah her sole heir, having no children of her own.
Therefore, it was important that Regina make a good impression. Her father had built a fortune on his mother’s inheritance, and he wanted Obediah to do the same. He had handpicked her husband because he was the most promising business mind her father had ever seen. Or so he told Regina often. Unfortunately, that promising mind came at great expense to his personality.
At least in Regina’s opinion. Her father didn’t see it that way. He said she would grow to love him over time and he would keep her well cared for. Her father wanted her to marry a man like himself. Thomas Lafayette was a self-made man who had become one of the most powerful people in the country. He felt Obediah had the potential to do the same. In her heart, Regina didn’t believe it. Obediah would never command the respect that came so easily to the patriarch of her family.
There was no arguing with her father and so Regina had begrudgingly gone along with the engagement. But last week, Obediah had placed his thin, sniveling lips on hers and she knew in that moment that she would never grow to love him.
While she had a small inheritance of her own, set aside by her mother, to defy her father would surely mean that he would cut her loose. She would be left to fend for herself. And Regina had no idea how to do that.
And so she found herself standing next to tall, awkwardly thin Obediah as he wiped his sniffling nose and waited for his cousin.
A ship had docked to their left and Regina watched with amusement as sailors began to unload their goods. They called to each other and they bent and lifted and stretched. They did the physical labor with ease and she found herself transfixed. Regina opened her fan and began to flick it back and forth across her now heated skin.
A man stepped onto the deck, tall and straight. His chocolate brown hair glistening in the sun. His broad shoulders flexed as he crossed his arms over his chest and, even from this distance, she could see the flash of white teeth as he smiled. Regina fanned faster.
“Regina, would you stop with that infernal fan.” Obediah’s exasperated voice snapped her out of her reverie.
She sent a glare his way. He was perpetually cold, even as the warm spring sun burned the last of winter away.
“Don’t look at me so. You’re much prettier when you smile and look demure as a lady should.” Obediah was clearly on edge. He did not normally talk to her like this in front of her father. Their private conversations were a different story.
Regina stole a quick glance at the patriarch of her family and saw him assessing Obediah silently.
Without a word of response, Regina turned back to watch the sailors. She did not care one wit if he found her pretty. Then, she began fanning herself again. This small act of defiance was unusual for Regina, but Obediah was driving her to distraction.
“Look,” Obediah called. “My cousin’s ship unloads. She will have ridden first class and so should emerge shortly.”
Regina rolled her eyes. Obediah was constantly pointing out these types of things.
She will have ridden first class
. It didn’t need to be said. She turned her attention toward the boat as a group of sailors walked by them.
Several stared at her as they passed and Regina felt her cheeks pinken. She should be used to it by now. Men often looked at her so, but it still unnerved her.
She attempted to ignore it as Obediah grabbed her arm and pointed down the dock. A short, round woman was approaching them, walking while carrying no less than four dogs. She couldn’t have looked any more opposite from Obediah and Regina felt her eyebrows raise near to her hair. This could not be her fiancé’s cousin.
But it was. The woman approached them giving Obediah a large smile. “My dearest, you look robust as ever,” she proclaimed, wrapping the thin man in a beefy hug, dogs and all.
Regina tried to keep her eyebrows down. It wouldn’t do to be rude. She pasted a polite smile on her face as she turned toward Cousin Margaret Stillwell. “How do you do?”
“This little wisp of a thing is your fiancé?” Margaret’s eyebrows drew together as she looked at her. “Can she even bear you children?”
Regina’s eyes bulged in her head. Margaret was a spinster herself and had never had children so her comment might have been comical if it wasn’t so offensive. She wondered briefly if Obediah would end the engagement if Margaret didn’t approve. The thought brought about a genuine smile as she looked at the other woman.
“I can assure you, Mrs. Stillwell, I am the same size as my mother and she successfully delivered three children.” She would have liked to add that since the other woman had never married or had children, she might not understand what actually made for good childbearing. But Regina would never be so rude, so she kept these thoughts to herself.
“All girls, I hear.” The other woman frowned and turned back to her cousin. One of the dogs yanked out of Margaret’s hands as she moved her large frame and ran straight under Regina’s skirt.
Regina tried to move out of the way, but that only frightened the dog who yelped and jumped deeper into her petticoats. Regina spun around to see where the animal was, but it only became more entangled in her skirts. As she leaned over and free the animal, it crashed into her legs, knocking her off balance. Flailing her arms, she tried to regain her posture but she could feel herself falling.
In a sickening slow motion, she was going backward. Her arms reached out to thin air when suddenly her back met a solid form. She wasn’t even close to the ground and her mind frantically searched for the reason she was still partially upright, then she registered two strong arms wrapped around her. They were firm, muscular, and tan. Slowly she tilted her head back where she met the warm brown eyes of the man she had seen minutes before on the deck of the other ship. His full lips were curled into a half smile that only accentuated his strong jaw, stubbled with a day’s growth. Regina had the most curious urge to run her hand along it.
Her back was pressed against his chest. She had never felt more secure in her life. Giving out a chuckle, their eyes met. His low rumbling voice washed over her, “Are you all right, miss?”
Regina felt her cheeks flame with color. She had just been leaning there staring at him. How much time had passed? “Of, of c-course. Thank you, I am so terribly sorry.” She began desperately trying to straighten but he gave her a tiny squeeze.
“Allow me.” He tilted her fully upright and slowly released her from his arms. Then he bent down and shook out her skirt. His face was deliciously close to her stomach and she had the urge to place her hands on his broad shoulders. Maybe even press close to him.
He removed the dog from her tangle of petticoats and then handed it back to Cousin Margaret who gave a humph in response.
Her father stepped next to her and held out his hand. “Thomas Lafayette. Pleased to make your acquaintance. Thank you for aiding my daughter.”
“James Carter. Happy to be of assistance. Miss Lafayette, I presume?” His eyes met hers again.
She curtseyed and gave him a blushing smile. The memory of his strong arms had heat spreading through her body again. “Thank you again, Mr. Carter.”
“That is a fine ship you have, Mr. Carter. May I ask where you purchased it?”
“You may, sir. I built it myself. I’ve started my own company. This ship is my own but four more like it have been purchased recently. I am escorting them to their new owner.”
James’ face glowed with pride and her father looked intently at the other man. He purchased ships often; it was part of the shipping business where he’d made his fortune, but he must really like the look of this vessel. Regina could feel her father’s intensity.
“Mr. Carter you must join us this evening as a token of our appreciation.”
James’ eyes flicked to her briefly. Then he nodded and shook hands with her father again. “I would be delighted.”
Her father gave him their address as Obediah stepped up next to her. His hand came possessively to her waist. He bent down and whispered in her ear, “That was a terribly clumsy thing to do. You must watch yourself, Regina.”
She did not respond but she saw both her father’s and James’ eyes flick towards them.
“Until tonight,” her father said. He reached for her elbow and turned them both toward their carriage. Obediah and his cousin fell in line behind them.
Regina was glad for the momentary respite from Obediah’s company as she tucked her hand in her father’s elbow. “I think spring is my favorite season, Papa. It is always full of such hope.”
“I agree, Regina. In spring the possibilities are endless.”
James Carter watched Regina Lafayette walk away. Dear Lord, he was in trouble. Never in his life had he been so instantly attracted to a woman. She was utter perfection. She had a mass of honey blonde hair that was artfully pinned up. But a strand had tickled his nose as he caught her and its soft caress made him long to unpin it and tangle his hands in those tresses. Large blue eyes danced with every emotion that crossed her beautiful face. They were the color of the sea during a storm and tilted ever so slightly at the corners making them stunningly beautiful. Finally, her soft, full pink lips had smiled so deliciously. Everything about her face, turned up to his, had set him on fire.