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Forever Yours (Taggart/Falcon Series #1)
     

Forever Yours (Taggart/Falcon Series #1)

4.1 45
by Francis Ray
 

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Why would a happily divorced, independent businesswoman like Victoria Chandler agree to get married again? It's called desperation. To keep her lingerie boutiques from going bankrupt, Victoria's got to find a husband—and fast. But what kind of man would accept a marriage proposal that sounds more like a business proposition? Enter Kane Taggart…

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Overview

Why would a happily divorced, independent businesswoman like Victoria Chandler agree to get married again? It's called desperation. To keep her lingerie boutiques from going bankrupt, Victoria's got to find a husband—and fast. But what kind of man would accept a marriage proposal that sounds more like a business proposition? Enter Kane Taggart…

Big, handsome, smart, rich—Kane is one fine catch who could have any woman he wants. But there's something about Victoria that leaves this silver-tongued rancher speechless with desire. He's tempted by her offer: one year of marriage, no strings attached. But when they seal the deal with a soul-searing kiss, Kane makes a deliciously indecent proposal of his own…

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A warm, sensual romance and likeable characters who will touch your heart.” —Jayne Ann Krentz
Library Journal
More leisurely paced than its colauncher (below) in Pinnacle's new Arabesque line featuring African American characters, this romance by veteran novelist Kitt brings past lovers Alexandra Morrow and Parker Harrison together at a wedding, to the shock of them both, and then proceeds to have them fall in love all over again. The musical focus of the book is appealing (most of the major characters are musicians), and emotional aspects of performance are well handled, but there are aspects of the lovers' history that don't ring true; also the narrative lacks the forward drive readers have come to expect from the shorter contemporaries. (Note: The hero is a smoker, unusual in current romances.) [Kitt lives in New York City.]

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312365080
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
03/30/2010
Series:
Taggart/Falcon Series , #1
Edition description:
Revised and Expanded Second
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

Forever Yours


By Francis Ray

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1994 Francis Ray
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3501-2


CHAPTER 1

"Have you chosen which one of your young gentlemen you're going to marry, Victoria?"

Stunned, Victoria Chandler stared over the silver tea service at her grandmother. Heart pounding in her chest, Victoria carefully set the clinking cup and saucer on the antique clawfoot cocktail table in front of her. From out of nowhere came the childhood chant "liar, liar, pants on fire". "I ... er ... no. I'm still trying to decide."

Clair Chandler Benson's nut-brown face creased into an indulgent smile. "You told me you were having trouble choosing from your four young men. It's a dilemma not many women are faced with. But you've been blessed with the same striking looks as your great-grandmother. Like you, she had long black hair, hazel eyes, and honey-colored skin, a vision. However, I have complete faith your heart will guide you in the twenty-one days you have left."

Feeling as if the floor shifted beneath her feet, Victoria fought the panic that threatened to overwhelm her. "Grandmother, why don't I wait and decide at the end of summer, when things aren't so hectic at the stores?"

Clair shook her blue-gray head of hair. "That won't do at all. It will be beyond the cutoff date and you'll lose Lavender and Lace."

Victoria's tenuous hold on her emotions slipped. Fear widened her eyes and left her momentarily speechless. "You-you're serious, aren't you?"

"I've never been more serious about anything in my entire life," Clair answered. "I know we haven't discussed it in some time, but I thought I had made myself quite clear. I remember our agreement well. We were sitting in this very room and I gave you six months to get married or I would call in the loans for your three stores. Victoria, you did mark your calendar, didn't you?"

Slowly Victoria rose to her feet. Her eccentric grandmother wasn't playing. She meant every word. Fool that Victoria was, she thought she could evade the issue by telling her grandmother that she couldn't choose between four men. The trouble was, there were no men in her life — and that was the way Victoria wanted to keep it.

"Grandmother, marriage is a serious matter."

"Of course it is. You're talking to someone who celebrated her thirty-fifth wedding anniversary last month." Clair smiled, showing natural white teeth. "I completely understand your apprehension. After my first husband died I never dreamed I'd find anyone like him. Then I met Henry at a charity dinner. I'm sure you'll be as fortunate as I was in finding a wonderful second husband."

"Men have changed since then. They aren't all honest and forthright like grandfather," Victoria said with a tinge of anger.

"I know that, dear, but you've picked the best Fort Worth has to offer; a doctor, a lawyer, a cattleman, and a banker." Clair looked at her only grandchild with unabashed pride. "Although, I must admit I rather favor the cattleman, since you mentioned his ranch is in the area. It would be nice to have a horseman in the family again. Your great-great-grandfather, Hosea Chandler, was a buffalo soldier with the Ninth Cavalry unit."

Victoria groaned inwardly. Those nursery rhymes again. Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. At the time, she knew even her unconventional grandmother wouldn't have believed Victoria was dating an Indian chief. Out of nowhere a "butcher" and a "baker" had popped into her head. Before she knew it they became a cattleman and a banker.

"What if I can't make up my mind?"

"Oh, dear." Distressed, Clair paused in adding a dollop of cream to her specially blended tea. "Then you might have a problem."

"What do you mean?" Victoria's stomach muscles clenched.

"You know how much your grandfather and I love you, and I was afraid I'd lose my nerve and call off the whole thing. On the other hand, you know how much pride I take in a person keeping their word. So, I turned everything over to my lawyer."

Victoria slumped into the nearest chair. "Grandmother, how could you have done this to me?"

"Because I love you. You're thirty years old and still dragging your feet about remarrying and carrying on the Chandler name. I simply decided to help you."

Sheer panic propelled Victoria once again to her feet. She felt trapped as she glanced around the sitting room full of overstuffed furniture, antiques, and heirlooms that had been handed down through five generations of Chandlers. The Chandlers had been a prominent and well-respected family in Texas since reconstruction and each generation coined the name with pride.

She wondered if the hardships her ancestors endured were any greater than hers had been when she was married to a selfish, greedy man who demeaned her and took from her until nothing was left ... not even her self-respect. The thought of marriage tied her stomach in knots.

Unconsciously, Victoria shook her head. "I need more time."

"You have twenty-one days." Clair picked up her tea and took a sip, then assessed her granddaughter critically. "Perhaps if you bring your young men over, on separate visits of course, your grandfather and I can help you choose one. You're so compassionate, you're probably worried about the three losers, but it can't be helped."

Victoria looked at the seventy-two-year-old woman who sat before her, lovable and cuddly in chiffon and pearls, and wanted to shake her. But experience had taught Victoria that when her grandmother was in one of her stubborn moods, she developed tunnel vision. It was easier trying to reason with a two-year-old child. Still, for Victoria's own sanity, she had to try. "I'm not marrying anyone in twenty-one days."

"You will if you want to keep Lavender and Lace," Clair reminded her, then leaned back on the blue silk couch. "I told you, it's in my lawyer's hands now. I can't change it. And it isn't as if you don't have any prospects. At least you can choose your own man. In the past, women seldom had that luxury."

True fear began to creep up Victoria's spine. "Grandmother, don't do this. You know how much my shops mean to me. If you love me, you'll stop this now."

"It's because I love you that I won't stop. Besides, I have complete confidence that you'll decide within the time left." Clair looked at her granddaughter with steadfast brown eyes. "When your precious father and mother were killed in that tragic boating accident eighteen years ago, you became the daughter I never had. Each night I say a prayer for that man who pulled you to shore safely. Victoria, your father would have wanted me to guide you in this matter. I've only got a few good years left and I want to see you happily settled before I go."

"I am happy," Victoria cried.

"You can lie to yourself, but not to me. I see the wistful look in your face when you see a baby or a small child." Clair set the delicate china on the table. "You are a sensitive, caring woman. You want and deserve children of your own."

Her grandmother's perceptiveness caught Victoria off guard. She had tried to forget her dream of children just as she had tried to forget her failure as a wife. Apparently, she was successful at neither. Her shoulders straightened, causing her emerald green wrap dress to tighten across her hips and rise above her knees.

"Many women want children. My wanting them doesn't prove anything," Victoria said, taking a seat beside her grandmother.

A gentle hand caressed Victoria's shoulder-length hair. "It might not, if you didn't also crave what's required in order to have children."

Blushing, Victoria stood and walked to the open French doors on the other side of the room. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, you do." Shrewd eyes swept Victoria's rigid posture. "You stayed with Stephen out of a sense of duty, not love. You've yet to find the man who can kiss you senseless."

"Grandmother!" Victoria whirled, her mouth open in shock.

"Oh, my darling Victoria," her grandmother said, her eyes twinkling mischievously. "Sometimes you're such an innocent. It's going to be a pleasure to watch you fall in love and blossom."

"Where is grandfather?" Victoria asked as she stepped onto the terrace and looked out over the immaculate lawn to the flower gardens beyond. "Perhaps he can talk some sense into you."

"Henry is in the rose garden and he and I are in perfect agreement." Clair folded her hands in her lap. "We both decided the best way to get you to the altar was through Lavender and Lace. You wouldn't raise an eyebrow if we threatened to cut you out of our will."

Anger replaced irritation and fear. Victoria stalked back to her grandmother. "I earn my own way, just like I earned Lavender and Lace. I slept in the back office to cut expenses, did without, and worked fourteen hours a day to make the first store successful."

Clair was undisturbed. "Against my advice and wishes, but you proved me wrong. I've never been prouder of you."

"Then give me the time to pick my husband," Victoria said, unable to keep the pleading note out of her voice. She'd spent the last eight years regaining her self-respect and her independence; she wasn't about to let a man destroy her again. "Let me choose in my own time."

Her grandmother shook her coiffured head. "You have twenty-one days or the lawyer will call in the loan. I'm thinking about letting DeShannon manage the stores for me. They'll give Henry's niece a reason to get up before noon." Clair took a sip of tea. "Although I don't know what she'll do once she gets to your office. She's as flighty as a hummingbird," she said almost to herself.

Clair picked up a wafer-thin cookie and critically eyed the cherry center. "Hard to believe your grandfather is related to that family," she continued. "Oh well, that's their side of the family. What I intend to do is preserve mine. The Chandler bloodline will continue in you."

Discarding the cookie, Clair picked up her cup of tea and drew in a long, deep breath. "Smell those roses. Your grandfather is working hard to keep them pretty in hopes you'll change your mind about a civil ceremony and get married in the garden. I hate that you won't be a June bride, but you can't have everything. April is a beautiful month to get married."

Clair glanced sideways at the silent Victoria. "Do you think you could manage to get pregnant right away?" The older woman looked wistful. "I don't want to rush you, but we're all getting older. A boy would be nice, but we could name a girl Chandler to carry on the name, or you could hyphenate Chandler with your married name. Which idea do you like best?"

"Why ask me when you obviously have everything planned?" Victoria said tightly. "You probably have my obstetrician all picked out."

Clair looked thoughtful. "I haven't. Perhaps I should begin looking into the matter. The best ones are difficult to get."

Her head pounding, Victoria plopped into an ornate straight-back chair near the terrace window. How could you love someone and want to throttle them at the same time?


Two days later, the anger and frustration Victoria felt about her grandmother's unimaginable proposition hadn't diminished. She sat in one of downtown Fort Worth's most elegant restaurants and couldn't have cared less. Her salad fork pinged against her plate as she speared an olive. "Grandmother, how could you do this to me?" she said absently.

Seated across the restaurant table from Victoria, Bonnie Taylor lifted a perfectly arched brow and slowly smiled. "So that's why you've been so preoccupied during lunch. I thought there was a problem with one of your stores."

"If grandmother has her way, they won't be my stores in nineteen days."

"So, she was serious about her ultimatum?"

"Yes," Victoria said. "My sweet, loving grandmother deliberately badgered me into borrowing money from her to open another store, planning all along to use the loan as leverage to force me to remarry. I could kick myself for thinking she was just being fanciful and that she'd forget all about her plan in a couple of months."

"I take it the old girl proved you wrong."

"In spades. Unwittingly, I helped her scheme by insisting I put up the other two stores as collateral in case something happened to me. If I default on the loan, I'll lose everything."

Bonnie's light brown eyes sparkled as she looked around the posh dining room, with its high crystal chandeliers, breathtaking murals of angelic cherubs in a blue sky, and hovering waiters in white dinner jackets. "Well, you picked the right place to find a husband." She waved a slender hand toward the floor-to-ceiling draped window twenty feet away from them. "The hotel across the street spans three city blocks. There has to be at least two hundred eligible men registered there and probably half that many are prowling the halls in the attached convention center. Minutes from here is the historic stockyards district, where I bet you'll find another hundred men."

Bonnie ignored Victoria's warning look and continued. "If you don't feel like going to all that trouble, there's a man sitting about four tables behind you near the balcony who hasn't taken his eyes off you since you came in. I'll bet —"

"I'll bet he either has one of those smoldering looks guaranteed to make a woman's knees weak or he's showing a toothy smile that helped an orthodontist put a hefty down payment on a Porsche," Victoria said without looking behind her.

Bonnie smothered a laugh. "I think he was trying to pull off a combination of the two."

"Men! Most of them think all they have to do is show some muscle, be reasonably good looking and a woman will swoon at their feet."

The teasing look vanished from Bonnie's face. "I haven't seen you this steamed in a long time."

"Can you blame me?" Victoria asked, leaning back in her seat. "I've boxed myself in. If I don't find someone to marry, I'll lose Lavender and Lace."

Bonnie frowned. "I know you're scared and angry, and you have a right to be, but marriage isn't that bad. I love being married."

"Of course you do. You're married to a man who worships the ground you walk on. My ex-husband only worshiped my bank account," Victoria said bitterly.

"I know Stephen betrayed you, but not all husbands are monsters. Dan is the best thing that ever happened to me." Bonnie's voice softened. "I can't imagine my life without him."

Victoria nodded. "Maybe because he's an architect, he wants to create, not destroy. The best decision you ever made was getting bids on renovating that old building for your art gallery. I vividly remember your jaw coming unhinged when Dan came by to give an estimate. He was just as taken with you. I think he loves you now more than he did when you were married five years ago. Stephen's so-called love for me didn't last past the honeymoon cruise." She crunched on a piece of lettuce. "I've been attracting the rejects ever since."

"Part of that is your fault, Victoria," Bonnie replied gently as she picked up her wine glass.

Jerking upright in her tapestry upholstered chair, Victoria stared at Bonnie. Despite being complete opposites in background and temperament, they had been best friends since they were in the sixth grade. They met when Victoria, painfully shy and lonely, had enrolled in Eastwood Academy after the death of her parents. The outspoken Bonnie had looked at the scrawny kid clutching her books, her eyes wide and frightened, and taken her under her wing. "My fault?"

Setting the long-stemmed glass aside, Bonnie explained. "You're beautiful, independent, and successful. That's intimidating enough to a lot of men. And since your divorce from Stephen, a trifle hard on a man's ego. Only a fool, a schemer, or a man in love is going to let you tramp all over him."

Victoria's delicate features hardened. "After the fiasco with my ex-husband, can you blame me?"

"No, I can't, but Stephen has been history for a long time. That is," she paused. "Until last week."

"I can't believe he had the nerve to call me," Victoria snorted. "I hope the sound of the receiver crashing down gave him an earache for a week." She played with her salad. "Yesterday I learned the reason for his sudden interest. He lost another job."

"He certainly made a mess of his life. On the other hand, you've got to get on with yours. I think your grandmother realized your hesitancy and decided to give you a little push."

Victoria's fingertips drummed out an angry beat on the white tablecloth. "But why did it have to be over a cliff?"

Bonnie laughed. "I'm glad to see you haven't lost your sense of humor. Does it also mean you've decided to quit fighting and get married?"

For once Victoria didn't have a quick answer. No matter how she tried to find a way out of the trap her grandmother had set for her, she came up empty. Clair Benson had Victoria's signature on a legal document. The only way she could find a way out was to sign another legal document. A marriage license. Her stomach clenched. Never again had she wanted to give a man any control of her body or of her life.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Forever Yours by Francis Ray. Copyright © 1994 Francis Ray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Francis Ray is the New York Times bestselling author of the Grayson novels, the Falcon books, the Taggart Brothers, and Twice the Tempation, among many other romances. Her novel Incognito was made into a movie aired on BET. A native Texan, she is a graduate of Texas Woman's University and has a degree in nursing. Besides a writer, she is a school nurse practitioner with the Dallas Independent School District. She lives in Dallas.

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Forever Yours (Taggart/Falcon Series #1) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
MamiTee More than 1 year ago
I love this book it kept you wanting more from Kane and Tory. He has loved this woman for over 12 years and waited for her to love him. It was a very good book. I really enjoy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy Francis Ray's stories. Overall, this story was good. It was a little slow getting into the nitty gritty for romance, but it definitely picked up "steam" later. It's a great read. It's also a story to read again!!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, warm, and exciting. Ms. Ray is quite an imagitive writer. This was the second book by her I have been privileged to read. Looking forward to another, possibly involving another Taggart's romantic experiences. LA-TXN
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Story was very sweet. loved it. not the typical plot that you read everyday. must read!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book yrs ago and im so glad i found it again.i always thought this story was soooo delicious. TORY one classy yet sexy lady &KANE is just plain lickable. This is real romance, while the sexual tension is off the charts, this isnt one of those novel full of sex and a little romance its the other way around but when they get together they burn the sheets!
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