Happily Ever Afterby Tanya Anne Crosby
A Girlhood Dream
Sophia Vanderwahl had always dreamed a knight in shining armor would sweep her off her feet, but she knew this only happened in fairy tales. And when she discovers the truth about her philandering fiance, she decides to track the scoundrel down and confront him in person. So she hires adventurer Jack MacAuley to help her find her neglectful… See more details below
A Girlhood Dream
Sophia Vanderwahl had always dreamed a knight in shining armor would sweep her off her feet, but she knew this only happened in fairy tales. And when she discovers the truth about her philandering fiance, she decides to track the scoundrel down and confront him in person. So she hires adventurer Jack MacAuley to help her find her neglectful husbandto-be. But with every glimpse into Jack's seductive eyes, every tremor she feels at the sound of his voice, she finds her memory of her fiance fading away ...
A Woman's Love
When the headstrong heiress offers him a king's ransom to find her long-absent intended, rugged Jack MacAuley figures it will be easy money. But nothing is easy when it comes to this willful beauty with the golden eyes and kissable lips, and soon he can't help but think of delicious ways to make her forget her promises to anyone else ... and to believe that happily-ever-afters really can come true.
A GIRLHOOD DREAM
Sophia Vanderwahl had aways dreamed a knight in shining armor would sweep her off her feet, but she knew this only happened in fairy tales. And when she discovers the truth about her philandering fiance, she decides to track the scoundrel down and confront him in person. So she hires adventurer Jack MacAuley to help her find her neglectful husband-to-be. But with every glimpse into Jack's seductive eyes, every tremor she feels at the sound of his voice, she finds her memory of her fiance fading away
A WOMAN'S LOVE
When the headstrong heiress offers him a king's ransom to find her long-absent intended, rugged Jack MacAuley figures it will be easy money. But nothing is easy when it comes to this willful beauty with the golden eyes and kissable lips, and soon he can't help but think of delicious ways to make her forget her promises to anyone elseand to believe that happily-ever-afters really can come true.
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Chapter OneBoston, 1899
The evidence seemed undeniable.
It was her fiance's penmanship, but just to be certain Sophie withdrew her most recent letter from Harlan from her private desk, meticulously comparing the handwriting. She studied them both side by side, trying to find some difference in the styles.
Behind her, Jonathon Preston opened the drapes a bit wider, letting in every last ray of afternoon sun, giving her ample light to see by. "I would never have brought it, my dear," he said, somewhat eagerly now that she had begun to take the matter seriously. He came to stand at her side, peering over her shoulder, and his razor-sharp scrutiny of her while she read the letter made her cheeks bum with both anger and humiliation.
She swallowed uncomfortably.
No matter how much she wished to find the letter a forgery, the penmanship was the same; identical long-tailed y's looping purposely about to cross simple t's ... precisely dotted i's and j's. Harlan rarely capitalized the names of his acquaintances ... nor did he ever capitalize hers, though his invariably was-something that plagued her acutely.
"Though Harlan has always been a friend to me, it seemed somehow unconscionable," Jonathon continued, "that you should be treated with so little regard."
Sophie doubted Jonathon's intentions were at all benevolent. He might have sold his soul for her father's favor. Still, she was not the sort who preferred not to know. If her fiance was making her out to be a fool, then she certainly did wish to know about it-no matter Jonathon's motives for telling her.
And it seemed Harlan was making her out to be a fool!
Herentire future seemed suddenly to crumple before her like an old castle in some forgotten fairy tale, all of her carefully laid plans reduced to rubble and her dreams blown away like so much dust.
What a fool she had been.
She peered up at Jonathon to find him staring at her, as though he expected her to burst into heart-wrenching sobs at any instant. Sophie frowned. No doubt he would enjoy that. Well, she wasn't about to! She shuddered to think of Jonathon comforting her.
Strange how before this day she had not thought him quite so nefarious. The boy she remembered from her youth was gone, and in his place stood a gleaming-eyed, calculating man. No, she had no doubt of Jonathon's intentions, and less of his motivations. Her father was a powerful and beneficent manwitnessed by the generosity and support he had bestowed on Harlan. From the day Harlan had departed Boston, his best friend had set out to woo not her, but her father.
Drat men and their love of money!
Her eyes stung as she scanned the letter Jonathon had brought her, this time allowing herself full comprehension of the words scribbled so neatly before her.
God help her, she refused to weep-and certainly not before Jonathon Preston and his feigned concern.
She examined the envelope. It was postmarked April 20, 1899. Two months ago ... how ironic that he should have written this letter on the third anniversary of their engagement. She wondered if he even realized.
My good friend, the letter began. Sophie glanced up at Jonathon, wondering implausibly how he could betray his best friend so easily. Her emotions were in tumult. She didn't know whether to be grateful or angry at the man standing at her side. How could she, even now, look to championing Harlan?
Why should she care that Jonathon had played his Judas?
She read the letter.
You really must join me here directly! Give no more objections, jon...
It is a wondrous world, indeed, that not merely allows us the opportunity to experience life's most bountiful pleasures, but in fact grants us to do so! Every man should have such an understanding fiancee, eh? And a father-in-law willing to plunk down good money in support of his cause. I count myself fortunate, indeedyes, indeed-to have won the heart of sophia vanderwahl, but do not think me unappreciative if I do not rush home to the encumbrances of matrimony.
His choice of words stung. Encumbrance. So that's what he thought of her? She took a deep breath and continued.
At any rate, my dear friend, I hardly think you can say sophia is wasting away. She is young enough still that she might bear my children were I to delay our nuptials five, even six more years. And neither are her spirits low, her letters are buoyant and full with interest in my studies. She's a peach to affect such an interest in matters that would only bore her to the grave. Women have not the patience or capacity for such ruminations, jon. But do not concern yourself with sophia, my good friend. She is most loyal, to be sure, and will await me with the grace she was raised to show, Indeed, I could not have chosen better.
Sophie grit her teeth. Hen grip tightened on the. letter.
Loyal, was she?
A peach, was she?Anger surged through her.
Her interest had hardly been feigned! Her questions had been legitimately interestedand how dare he assume she would wait five, even six more years until he deigned to return to her! And yet it was hardly that particular narrative that incensed her most. Her eyes skimmed the pages until she came to the paragraph in which he began to tempt Jon ...
... and the women here are the most lovely any man has ever beheld ... skin so velvet brown and eyes so deep a black a man may sigh to see his own reflection in her eyes. And hair ... Christ, I have never had the joy of touching hair so rich it flows through your hands like the mane of a fine riding horse. (And they love to be ridden, jon ... I know this firsthand.)
Sophie was not such an oblivious child that she did not understand his meaning. She felt ill at the thought. Her cheeks burned with both anger and mortification.
"Forgive me, Sophia, I did not wish to mask even the worst of it," Jonathon interjected, interpreting correctly the flush on her cheeks. "You had a right to know."
Sophie nodded, too shaken for words, even after reading the letter for the third time.
She forced herself to continue...
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