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Authors: Lynn A. Coleman

The Shepherd's Betrothal

BOOK: The Shepherd's Betrothal
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“I'm sorry.

There isn't an easy way to put this other than I didn't want to marry you.” There, she'd said it. It wasn't very pretty but she'd admitted the truth.

Ian's eyes widened. “Yer letter stated as such. I came to America to begin me new life. I am the third son, and as such I shall not inherit much land. In America I am able to have the land me sheep will need. Ye are not the only reason a man would…”

Hope gazed into his incredible blue eyes. They sparkled like sapphires. Hope swallowed. “I know I'm not doing this well but you have to understand, in America we pick our own spouses. And well, I don't…didn't… I guess I still don't like being told what to do. But I'm working on that.” She paused for a moment, collected her thoughts and continued. “I hope you will forgive me for sending you the letter.”

“Are ye wanting me to marry ye now?”

Lynn A. Coleman
is an award-winning and bestselling author and the founder of American Christian Fiction Writers. She writes fiction full-time and loves visiting St. Augustine and other historical locations. She makes her home in Florida with her husband of forty years. Together they are blessed with three children (one in glory) and eight grandchildren.

Books by Lynn A. Coleman

Love Inspired Heartsong Presents

Courting Holly

Winning the Captain's Heart

The Innkeeper's Wife

The Shepherd's Betrothal

LYNN A. COLEMAN

The
Shepherd's
Betrothal

Who can find a virtuous woman?

For her price is far above rubies.

—
Proverbs
31:10

To Leanna

You're growing into a fine woman, and I'm proud of you. My prayer is that you continue to grow into the woman God has designed you to become. You are a kind, generous and strong young lady, and I love you.

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Epilogue

Chapter 1

St. Augustine, Florida, 1871

I
an finished his breakfast at the Seaside Inn and pushed his plate away. He had a full day ahead of him, looking for land to raise his sheep on.

He had come to St. Augustine to break a betrothal arranged when he was five years old to fulfill an obligation his parents owed the girl's parents. He shook his head. All the worrying and praying he'd done had been for naught. His betrothed had sent him a letter breaking things off. It had arrived the day before he left for America. It made it easier not to have to explain his own reasons for wanting to break off the marriage, but it still left a bitter taste in his mouth. Would he still have left Ireland and come to America if he hadn't made all the arrangements before the letter arrived?

The innkeeper's wife came over to clear the table. “Ye made a fine breakfast again, Mrs. Arman, thank ye.”

“You're welcome, Mr. McGrae,” she replied with a smile, and headed off to the kitchen.

Ian had been staying at the Seaside Inn since his arrival in St. Augustine, three days now. He looked around in hopes of seeing the beautiful redhead who worked there. He'd noticed her when he'd checked in but hadn't seen her since. He wondered who she was.

He stood, deep in thought, turned toward the front door and slammed into the very woman who had so recently occupied his thoughts. “Forgive me, miss!”

She reeled back on her heels. Ian reached out and caught the poor woman. “I'm so sorry. I must have hit ye harder than I thought.” Still holding the young lady up to keep her steady on her feet, he called, “Mrs. Arman?”

“What's the matter, Mr.— Hope, are you all right?”

“Hope?” Ian froze. Their gazes met, the shock in her eyes matching his own. “Hope Lang?”

Ian couldn't believe his ears or his eyes. Teetering in his embrace was the woman he'd been pledged to.

Her legs buckled. He scooped her in his arms and carried her to a chair. “I walked into her,” he explained apologetically. “I must have hit her hard.” He steadied her in the chair, concerned about her dazed look.

“You can let go of me now, Mr. McGrae.”

Ian quickly removed his hands and stepped away from the two ladies. “Excuse me.”

He bolted out of the inn. He didn't need to be around Hope Lang. He didn't need to be reminded of how this woman had been the thorn in his flesh for years. This was not how he had intended to meet the woman he'd been told since he was five years old he was going to marry; the woman who had sent a letter relieving him from his obligation. And yet there she was, a chambermaid, working at the very inn where he was staying.

Not to mention, she was beautiful.

He shook his head, confused by his own emotions. It wasn't like he hadn't wanted to be free from this burden his parents had put on him. He didn't want to be told who to marry, but he had saved enough to break the arrangement and pay off the debt. When she had written to break off their betrothal he had been relieved. But now… he wasn't sure what he was feeling.

Frustrated with himself, Ian stomped to the barn and retrieved his border collies. “Come,” he snapped. Tara came, tail between her legs. She was the older of the two, her markings black and white with a patch over her left eye. Conall, two years younger, skulked warily behind her. His markings were brown and white with a patch over his right eye.

He bent down on one knee. “I'm sorry.” The dogs nuzzled into his chest as he petted and reassured them. They were his only connection to home, to the life he'd left behind.

Except, in a strange way, for Hope. How could he be attracted to the woman he was no longer betrothed to? And how could they have met this way?

“Mr. McGrae,” Richard Arman called out, cutting into Ian's thoughts. “Forgive me for intruding.”

“Not at all,” Ian responded, putting a polite smile on his face for the innkeeper. It would do little good to share his frustration. “What can I do for ye?”

“I'm uncertain as to what happened inside. Did you and Miss Lang have a disagreement?”

“Indeed no. Forgive me, I was simply startled by meeting Miss Lang in such a manner.” Ian sighed. He stood up and scanned Richard Arman's face, then decided to change the subject. There was no need to inform others about his personal affairs. If Miss Lang wanted to tell her side of the story she was free to do so, but he would keep his own counsel. “The bank should have me funds today. I'll be settling me account.”

“You are welcome to stay as long as you wish.” Richard extended his hand.

Ian grasped the man's hand, amazed again that a man who worked behind a desk would have such strong and rugged hands. “Thank ye, I appreciate it. I am looking at another piece of land today.”

“God's blessings on you.” Richard walked back toward the inn.

“Conall, Tara, come.”

The collies obediently kept pace as Ian walked down the street and headed toward the heart of St. Augustine. It was an interesting little city with its odd shops and Spanish architecture. By the time he reached the bank, the stroll had calmed him down. After his business at the bank was done, he headed out to see a piece of land for sale that might meet his needs.

While this one had more acreage, he wasn't as thrilled with the land as he had been with William Sanders's property, which he'd seen the day before. Sanders's lot seemed a much better fit for his needs—it had a river that ran along a third of the southern border, and it was only five miles from the city limits.

But did he even want to stay in the area? Would seeing Hope Lang ignite the anger he still felt about the betrothal? Anger he himself didn't entirely understand?

He headed toward the Sanders homestead, stopping only long enough to feed Conall and Tara. He knocked on the front door.

Mrs. Sanders greeted him. “Mr. McGrae, come on in.”

“Thank ye.” He turned to the dogs. “Stay,” he instructed.

“Are these your sheepdogs?” Mrs. Sanders asked. She was a round woman with short-cropped white hair and a twinkle in her eye that said she enjoyed life.

“Yes. Conall is two, Tara is four.”

“They're handsome critters. Are they house-trained?”

“Yes, ma'am.”

“Then come on in, Conall and Tara.” The dogs sat in place. Mrs. Sanders gave Ian a questioning look.

“They only respond to me command.”

“Oh, my gracious.”

Ian gave a flick of his wrist and the dogs pranced into the house, not departing from his side.

“I was fixing myself some iced tea. May I fetch you some?” Mrs. Sanders led him to the rear of the house, into the kitchen.

“That'd be most kind of ye, thank ye. Is Mr. Sanders home?”

“Ring that triangle and he'll be here shortly.”

A steel triangle and rod hung from a string outside the back door. Ian did as instructed.

He turned and found Mrs. Sanders chipping some ice off a block. “Where do ye get ice down here? I thought temperatures in Florida never hit freezing.”

“Well, that's not exactly true. From time to time it gets cold enough to freeze. But ice is shipped down here from the north and stored.”

Ian nodded. “One of the many things I will need to learn if I settle in Florida.”

“That you will, son. Have a seat and make yourself comfortable.”

“Thank ye.”

She poured some water in a bowl and set it on the floor for the dogs. Ian gestured and both dogs drank.

“Mable, what's the trouble?” William Sanders came hurrying in with a hint of panic in his voice.

“No trouble at all, dear. Mr. McGrae has come to pay us another visit.”

William Sanders smiled as relief washed over his face. Mr. Sanders had told Ian about her health concerns, and Ian thought that was why the old man wanted to sell his land.

Ian's mind drifted back to the frantic face of Hope Lang, and the way she had felt when he had picked her up in his arms. Instinctively he had wanted to protect her. But he had to stop thinking about Miss Lang. They were no longer betrothed.

“What can I do for you, Mr. McGrae?”

“I was wondering if Conall, Tara and I could walk the property. The dogs will give me a sense of the type of critters that I'll find.”

“Of course. But I can tell you. We have the occasional wolf, bobcat, panther, coyote and sometimes even a Florida brown bear.”

Ian sat back, surprised. “We don't have many predators in Ireland.”

“Most of the land is fenced off with split rail and barbed wire. But as you saw, there are a few sections where you'd need to do some repair work.”

BOOK: The Shepherd's Betrothal
8.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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