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In a spellbinding, passionate adventure, New York Times bestselling author Bobbi Smith brings together a dashing Easterner and a proud, unconventional woman. . .
For a man of Chance Broderick's charm and wealth, Boston offers plenty of tempting distractions. But when he receives word that his brother is in danger in Arizona Territory, Chance dutifully travels west. There he finds a wild, lawless land full of surprises. The biggest shock is discovering that the tracker he's hired...
In a spellbinding, passionate adventure, New York Times bestselling author Bobbi Smith brings together a dashing Easterner and a proud, unconventional woman. . .
For a man of Chance Broderick's charm and wealth, Boston offers plenty of tempting distractions. But when he receives word that his brother is in danger in Arizona Territory, Chance dutifully travels west. There he finds a wild, lawless land full of surprises. The biggest shock is discovering that the tracker he's hired is not the brash boy he assumed, but a beautiful, thoroughly independent young woman.
Raised by her grandfather after the death of her white father and Pima mother, Rori has learned to fend for herself. Nothing would satisfy her more than showing the arrogant Broderick a thing or two. Nothing—except the searing pleasure of his touch. For Rori can't help craving Chance as fiercely as he desires her, despite the worlds of difference that threaten to divide them. . .
Chance Broderick stood at the window in the parlor of his family's Boston home, his stance relaxed, his back to his mother as she related her tale of woe. Agatha Broderick, who was seated on the love seat behind him in the sumptuous sitting room, paused in what she was saying and glowered at her oldest offspring in annoyance. Society matron that she was, she was not accustomed to being ignored in such a manner, not even by Chance, who, since his father's death ten years prior, had been head of the family. True, he was twenty-eight and had been his own man for some time now, but that did not excuse his behavior.
"Chancellor Broderick!" Her tone was full of censure.
Recognizing that imperious command from his childhood, Chance faced his mother. Leaning negligently against the window frame, he crossed his arms across the broad width of his chest and met her brown-eyed gaze across the room. A small smile played about his firm, chiseled lips, but he knew better than to give in to the urge to grin. It would never do when dealing with his mother.
As Agatha studied her dark-haired son, she wasn't sure whether to laugh or rage. For all that Chance was presenting the appearance of complete obedience to her order, she knew better. Chance was just like his indomitable father in more than just his good looks—his classically handsome features and beautiful dark eyes—Chance was subservient to no one. Still, she took advantage of the fact that she'd finally managed to capture his undivided attention. Agatha turned the full force of her disapproving glare upon him as she began again.
"I will not allow you to dismiss this so lightly!" she dictated. "I assure you this is serious! It might even be a matter of life and death—your brother's!"
"I hardly think that Doug's in any real danger, Mother. You know how he is," Chance answered easily. Some things would never change, he realized with dry humor. Ever since he could remember, his brother, Douglas, made it a practice to get into trouble, and it was always up to Chance to get him out of it. Even now that Doug was twenty-three, the pattern seemed not to have altered one bit. But, Chance, you've been away for months. You haven't even read his last letter," his mother insisted, distressed by his continued disregard of what she'd told him. Her tone was less demanding and more beseeching. It was difficult for her to plead for anything, but her concern for her youngest child was very real.
"And just what was in Doug's last letter that's upset you so?" Chance asked as he let his gaze drift out the window to the view of the city and harbor beyond. He loved the sea. In fact, he had just returned that morning from an eight-month voyage captaining one of Broderick Shipping's best clippers, but there was something about being home this time that felt right to him. When he'd ridden up to the house an hour earlier, Chance had been convinced that he never wanted to ship out again.
"I'll get it for you. It's on the desk in the study ..." Agatha was just getting to her feet to retrieve the all-important letter when the sound of voices in the front hall interrupted them.
"Bailey! I just heard that Chance is back! Is he here?"
"Yes, Mr. Chancellor has only just arrived and is in the parlor with his mother, Miss Sutcliffe, but I ..." Bailey, the elderly, gray-haired servant who'd been with the Brodericks for better than forty years, had been about to detain her until he could make the proper announcement of her unexpected visit, but the bold, young Bethany Sutcliffe was not about to be denied.
"I know the way. Thank you, Bailey." The blond-haired beauty brushed right past the astonished butler and into the parlor. She had been on her way to go shopping when she caught sight of Chance's ship in the harbor. Excitement had coursed through her. He was back! At last! She'd immediately ordered her driver to bring her directly to the Broderick estate. She had wanted Chance and his money for as long as she could remember, and she was determined one way or the other to get him to the altar now that he had finally returned from his trip.
Chance and Agatha both looked up in irritation as Bethany swept into the room unannounced, and Chance stifled a groan of exasperation. Leave it to Bethany to be the first one to find out he was home.
"Chance, darling." Bethany's blue-eyed gaze was hungry upon him as she crossed the room. "It's so wonderful to see you. I'm so glad you're home!"
As he watched her coming toward him Chance had the feeling that she was a hungry predator on the prowl and that he was her prey. Not that he minded altogether, for Bethany was a gorgeous woman with her lush, shapely figure, golden hair, and perfect features. There had been several times in the past when they'd enjoyed each other to the fullest. It was just that he knew her for what she was, and he was not in the mood to play games with her at the moment.
"Bethany, it's good to see you, too," Chance greeted her warmly.
"Hello, Mrs. Broderick." Bethany spoke to the other woman, but did not take her eyes off Chance. She'd missed him while he was gone, and she wanted him now with a burning passion. She had been with other men during the months he'd been away, but they all faded into obscurity now that he was back. All Bethany wanted to do was to drag Chance off to her bed and make wild love to him. Instead, because of Agatha's presence, she had to restrain herself.
"It's nice of you to drop by," Agatha responded politely, although she was slightly annoyed by the interruption. She had to tell Chance about Douglas!
"I'm sorry for arriving so unexpectedly." Bethany kept her expression suitably contrite as she faked her apology for her brazen behavior. "But once I knew that Chance was back, I just had to come by and say hello."
"You're always welcome here, my dear," Agatha assured her graciously. "You know that." The Sutcliffe family was well established in town, and she had no objection to a match between Chance and Bethany, should things turn out that way.
"Has your mother told you about the ball tonight?" Bethany asked, eager that he should attend the party at the Richardsons'. She already had an escort for the evening, but she knew it would be a simple matter to get rid of him and attach herself to Chance.
"I'm afraid I haven't had the opportunity yet," Agatha answered, aggravated. Though she had been planning to attend the fashionable soirée before Chance had arrived, now all she cared about was convincing him to go to Douglas's aid.
"You are going, aren't you?" Bethany cornered her.
"I had planned on it," she confessed, "but ..."
"Then everything's perfect! I'm sure everyone will be thrilled when they find out Chance is back," she gushed with pseudo-sweetness. Excited that things were working out so well. Mentally, she rubbed her hands together as she imagined what a success the night would be. The new gown she'd had made just for the ball made her look her absolute best.
Chance stifled a sigh. The last thing he felt like doing was going out on the social circuit.
"I'll save you a dance," Bethany promised aggressively, wondering why he wasn't responding to her as openly as she'd hoped he would and then realizing that it was probably because his mother was there with them. Tonight, she vowed to herself ... tonight ...
Her blue eyes met his dark ones, telling him without words all she wanted him to know. Feeling cramped by Agatha, she made her excuses. "I really do have to rush off, but I'll look forward to being with you tonight ..." Her double entendre was clear to Chance, but luckily Agatha missed it.
"It was nice of you to come by, Bethany." Agatha was glad that the young woman was finally leaving so that she and Chance could resume their discussion.
Chance gallantly escorted Bethany to the door, rather pleased that she was leaving so soon. But before he could open it for her, she brazenly linked her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a hot kiss. Never one to deny himself a pleasurable endeavor, he kissed her back. It had, after all, been a long time since he'd been with a woman. The cloud of her heavy perfume surrounded him and with it came the memory of the heated nights they'd spent together. A spark of physical response flared within him, and the evening ahead suddenly seemed somehow less tedious to him.
"I'll be counting the hours," Bethany responded breathlessly, and then gracefully exited with one last look of open longing cast his way.
Having just closed the door, Chance was walking slowly back toward the parlor, musing on the promise of the night to come, when Agatha stepped out into the hall.
"Good?" Her answer surprised him, and he arched one dark brow in question.
"Yes, good. She's a wonderful girl, and I'd certainly have no objections should you decide to marry her at some time in the future, but right now there's no time for you to involve yourself with a woman. You have to see about Douglas."
Chance groaned inwardly. For a moment, he'd forgotten all about his errant brother. "Ah, yes, Douglas."
"Yes, Douglas." Agatha gave him a strained look as she moved past him and disappeared into the study, leaving him to follow.
"Once you read his letter, you'll understand why I'm so concerned about him," she was saying as he entered the room. "Here, read it for yourself." She picked up the single sheet of paper and held it out to him. "It came almost two months ago, and I haven't heard from him since ..."
Chance took the letter from his mother. He had not expected to find anything really upsetting in the short note, but as he read through it, a troubled frown furrowed his brow.
I am in a dangerous situation here in the territory. I've struck a rich vein of gold in my mine, but there are people out here who would kill to get their hands on it. I am desperate for help from someone I know I can trust implicitly. Has Chance returned from his voyage yet? Send him to me as soon as he returns. I'm enclosing a map that shows the location of the mine. Tell him to guard it with his life. When Chance gets to Phoenix, have him look up an old tracker named Burr. He knows the mountains where the mine is located and can bring him to me. Tell Chance to talk to no one but Burr in town as my life depends upon it.
Your loving son, Douglas
When Chance looked up again, his dark eyes were clouded with worry.
"Now do you understand why I've been so upset?" she pressed, glad to see that he was finally beginning to grasp the seriousness of the situation.
"Where's the map?"
"I've kept it locked in the drawer ..." Agatha unlocked the center desk drawer and withdrew the vitally important sketch of the mountainous region east of Phoenix. "God only knows what's happened to him since he sent it." She handed him the map and then asked anxiously, "You are going to go, aren't you?"
Chance's expression grew decidedly grim as he read the letter a second time. "Yes, I'm going and, from the sound of things, the sooner the better."
Relief flooded through Agatha at his announcement. "Thank heaven. How soon can you be ready?"
"I've got to see to the ship and finalize those business affairs before I leave," he said thoughtfully, trying to calculate just how much time it would take to get everything in order. "If the negotiations go smoothly ... two days."
"Good. It's been so long, and I've been so frightened for Douglas."
Chance gave his mother a quick smile, wanting to reassure her and cover his own doubts. "I wouldn't worry too much. You should know by now that Doug has always had a way of making things sound more exciting than they really are. I'm sure when I get to Phoenix, I'll find out he's just fine. You'll see."
"I hope so, Chancellor, I hope so," Agatha said softly. She wanted to believe his assurances with all her heart, but she felt perhaps this time her youngest son had gotten himself into something far more complicated and far more dangerous than any of them could imagine.
Chance's concern for his brother was foremost in his thoughts. The ominous tone of Doug's letter troubled him, and though he tried to pretend that he was in the best of spirits for his mother's sake, he was preoccupied and worried. Bethany was the farthest thing from his mind as they arrived at the Richardsons'.
They were late, and the music and dancing had already started when they entered the stately three-story mansion. After escorting Agatha to join her lady friends, Chance got a bourbon from the bar in the study and then returned to the ballroom. The welcome he received from his many friends was warm and cordial, and he slowly circled the room, renewing old acquaintances.
"Chance, how are you? It's good to have you back." Rodney Allenton, a longtime friend, was pleased to see that he'd returned. Though he was the same age as Chance, Rod's thinning blond hair, slim build, and glasses gave him a studious appearance and made him seem several years older.
"It's good to be back, Rod," he told him as they shook hands. "I missed Boston and everyone ..."
Chance let his gaze drift around the room as they talked and caught sight of Bethany and another young woman across the room. The deep rose-colored gown she wore set off her striking blond beauty. His mother's earlier comment about a possible marriage to Bethany drifted through his thoughts, and Chance acknowledged vaguely to himself that a man could do far worse.
Still, despite the fact that his mother had been prodding him for some time now to marry and start a family, Chance had no real interest in marriage. He had loved many women, but he had never been in love with any of them. His relationships with females had always been ones of mutual benefit and enjoyment with no commitment, and he'd liked it that way.
Rod noticed his distraction and, following the direction of his gaze, remarked knowingly, "Ah, the lovely Bethany ... She's been seeing Peter Stanhope regularly for several months now, you know."
"Are they engaged yet?" Chance inquired easily, wondering if she'd come to him earlier that day while being promised to another man. Knowing Bethany, he certainly wouldn't have put it past her.
"Not yet, but I understand Stanhope's quite serious about her ... just like every other man in the room," Rod drawled, knowing that many had tried to win Bethany, but none had succeeded. As he was watching Bethany, he saw her glance their way, say something to her friend, and start across the dance floor in their direction.
"Chance, darling, I'm so glad you finally got here," Bethany said as she sought him out. "I do believe this dance was ours?"
Chance fought to keep from smiling as he handed Rod his glass. "If you'll excuse me, Rod?"
Rod watched with ill-concealed astonishment as Chance guided Bethany out onto the dance floor, and he wondered why Chance always seemed to end up with the most beautiful women. It couldn't be because of his good looks and fantastic fortune, Rod thought cynically, but with a smile.
Bethany was ecstatic as Chance waltzed her around the crowded room. She felt as if all eyes were upon them, and she gloried in it. She knew they made the ideal couple, and now all she had to do was to convince Chance of it. She couldn't believe that everything was going so perfectly! The night, her dress, the music, Chance ... she could hardly wait to get him outside in the garden so she could show him just how much she had missed him.
Chance was glad that he'd found Bethany at a moment when she hadn't been surrounded by a dozen or so ardent suitors, for he'd wanted to have his dance with her and be done with it. He was in no mood for romance tonight. He just wanted to make his appearance with his mother and then get back home to take care of business. Though he recognized that Bethany moved in perfect rhythm with his expert lead, he didn't care, and when the music ended, he was all too glad to escort her from the floor.
"Would you like to rejoin Regina?" Chance asked, nodding to where Bethany's friend still stood by the refreshment table.
After the heaven of being in his arms, the last thing Bethany wanted to do was to go back to her girlfriend.
"Actually, I'm a little warm, and I wondered if you'd come outside with me for a while?" Bethany gazed up at him. She didn't care if Peter Stanhope was waiting for her. She didn't care about anything but being alone with Chance. Clinging to his arm, she made certain to press the side of her bosom against him as he escorted her through the French doors and out into the black velvet night.
Excerpted from ARIZONA CARESS by Bobbi Smith Copyright © 1989 by Bobbi Smith. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 31, 2011
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