Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride

Lassoing a Mail-Order Bride

A woman would have to be loco to become a mail-order bride…wouldn’t she? Leaving everything behind and starting fresh in the untamed west is the answer to a prayer for these ladies! A beautiful socialite needs a husband fast —but her husband wants a bride for life. A pregnant young lady becomes desperate —almost as desperate as her soon-to-be husband, who just inherited his sister’s kids. A man is in love with a woman he can’t have —or can he? A woman’s reputation is tarnished and professional career compromised —she runs, but she can’t hide. Will they all find love with strangers they’ve never met who are set on LASSOING A MAIL-ORDER BRIDE?

“These Rough Dreams” by Cheryl Pierson
A pregnant mail order bride. A groom with three orphaned children. Some dreams get a rough start

“Her Hurry-Up Husband” by Tanya Hanson
A beautiful socialite needs a husband fast —for just one month —but the rancher wants a wife for life!

“A Permanent Woman” by Kaye Spencer
He needs a wife to get custody of his grandchildren. She needs a fresh start and a new reputation. Desperate men —and women —sometimes take desperate measures…but can she be a permanent woman?

“The Big Uneasy” by Kathleen Rice Adams
A man in love with a woman he can’t have. A woman engaged to a man she doesn’t love. A secret in common could destroy them all.

 

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Excerpt

A man in love with a woman he can’t have. A woman engaged to a man she doesn’t love. A secret in common could destroy them all.

“The Big Uneasy”

June 1860, the Texas Crescent

Josephine LaPierre nearly tumbled from the seat when the buggy’s wheel struck yet another hole in the muddy road. She gripped the padded armrest with one hand and steadied the tiny dog in her lap with the other. Vibration beneath her gloved fingers warned of an impending explosion of temper.

“Hush, Napoleon.” She scratched behind his bat-like ears until he quieted. “All is well, mon petit.”

Napoleon sneezed. After turning three circles in her lap, he nestled into Jo’s skirt. She bestowed a fond smile upon her fearsome bodyguard, running a hand across the top of his head and down his smooth back. Her tiny knight in soft, fawn-colored armor.

The man beside her took the horse in hand with a flick of his wrist, passing an amused glance over Jo and the dog. “Feisty little critter, ain’t he?”

The suppressed laughter in startling blue eyes sent a flicker of heat dancing across Jo’s cheekbones. She looked away. “He can be. I warn you, his bark is not worse than his bite.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Chuckling, the driver scratched the top of the little dog’s head.

Jo tensed, prepared to intervene, but Napoleon stretched toward his admirer and licked the man’s glove.

The driver withdrew his hand to run a finger between his stand-up collar and his neck. Then he swatted at his dark broadcloth trousers and frockcoat as if they inconvenienced him, as well. “I imagine this trip’s been a mite rough on you and that little fella.”

Not in the least disposed to admit her posterior might never be the same, Jo pulled on the most gracious smile she could find. “Monsieur—”

“Amon.” Though gentle, the correction was much firmer than she was accustomed to hearing from servants. “No monsieur about it. Just Amon.” The French word rolled from his lips with practiced ease. How odd.

“Amon. How much farther must we travel?”

“Won’t be long now. House is just up the road a piece.”

Her gaze followed his nod. How could anyone judge distance in such a place? Texas was nothing at all like New Orleans. Although the land here lay as flat as at home, Texas remained wild and unpopulated. Even on the docks where she disembarked hours ago, no laughing patois chatter brightened her ears, nor did young women of color in vivid tignons compete for attention with azaleas and bougainvillea. No aroma of magnolia and honeysuckle, of strong coffee and fresh beignets, greeted her arrival.

The afternoon sun, brighter here somehow, chased the last of the morning’s rain from the landscape. The scent of wet earth rose with the steam, intertwining with damp wood and a vague fishiness from the nearby bayou. Strange cattle with wicked, curling horns as long as their bodies dotted miles and miles of green, overgrown in patches with thorny brush and vines. Here and there, brief flashes of yellow peeked from tall, waving grass.

What did Texans eat and drink and admire in this odd, monochromatic country? What did they do for entertainment? With no other humans around to practice the art of conversation, did they forget how to speak?

Jo flicked open the blades of sandalwood dangling from her wrist and fanned herself and Napoleon in an unsuccessful attempt to dissipate the suffocating heat. “Have you worked for Monsieur Collier long?”

Rubbing knuckles along the line of a strong jaw, Amon stared over the bay horse’s ears. “All my life.”

His voice, quiet yet strong, soothed some of her unease. The man spoke at least a little French. Perhaps a modicum of civilization existed in the wilderness. “Tell me about him, s’il vous plaît.”

“Not much to tell.” The gaze he swung from one horizon to the other caressed each tree, each blade of grass in its path. “Edson Collier owns everything we’ve driven through. All you can see, smell, taste, or touch. Every living thing on this property wears a Collier brand.”

“And the man I am to marry?”

“Bennett?” Amon shook his head on a wry huff. “Bennett Collier is educated to within an inch of his life. Smart, wealthy, ambitious. He’ll run this state in a few years.”

A man of such stature would take pride in protecting his wife, his children. Maman and Céline would have approved.

Maman and Céline. Of all the things Jo would miss about New Orleans, she would miss her mother and sister the most—and the tidy cottage in The Marigny.

But not the man inside. Lucien Bouchard. The Devil with an angel’s face…and enough money and influence to buy anything and anyone he wanted. She pressed fingertips to her lips to settle a familiar surge of bile.

Mademoiselle? Are you ill?”

Jo glanced up. From beneath the brim of a slouch hat that ill matched his suit, Amon’s steady gaze bathed her with concern. “Not at all. I’m just a bit unsettled from the trip, I suppose. When my bridegroom did not meet the boat as I expected—”

“Bennett’s responsibilities sometimes get in the way.” Amon re-centered his gaze between the horse’s ears, releasing a long, tense breath as though wresting control from some unseen adversary. “Said he’d return as soon as possible. Two days, maybe three.”

Napoleon’s tiny paws dug through six layers of petticoats and into Jo’s legs when the buggy turned onto a long, tree-lined lane. Oaks. In vain, she searched their canopies for beards of moss.

The tiny dog stretched and yawned, shook himself, and then shoved his nose under her hand, begging for attention. She picked him up and cradled him against her cheek.

When he licked her nose, she could not suppress a girlish giggle. “I love you, too, mon petit,” she whispered.

“There she is.” The reverence in Amon’s tone accompanied a nod to the end of the lane. “Dumont.”

Jo peered around Napoleon. A silent gasp darted into her lungs and refused to leave.

Dumont. Whitewashed from the bottom of the sweeping veranda to the gables beneath a broad roof supported by six—no, eight—ionic columns, the three-story palace presented the most conspicuous display of wealth she’d ever seen. Her bridegroom, a man she knew only from the contents of a single, vague letter and Madame Espallier’s recommendation, enjoyed privilege beyond anything she had expected.

A bittersweet smile tipped her lips. Madame Espallier had indeed arranged an auspicious match. Maman and Céline would have been impressed…but they would never know.

And for everyone’s sake, she must ensure Monsieur Bennett Collier never came to know about Maman and Céline, either.