His Substitute Bride (Harlequin Historical Series #939) [NOOK Book]


Dashing but cynical Quint Seavers lives for danger. A past betrayal has made him wary of love, and he has no idea that independent, practical Annie Gustavson holds a secret longtime passion for him. Nor does he realize that the only reason Annie has traveled to San Francisco is to win his love—or walk away forever.

When disaster strikes ...
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His Substitute Bride (Harlequin Historical Series #939)

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Dashing but cynical Quint Seavers lives for danger. A past betrayal has made him wary of love, and he has no idea that independent, practical Annie Gustavson holds a secret longtime passion for him. Nor does he realize that the only reason Annie has traveled to San Francisco is to win his love—or walk away forever.

When disaster strikes the city, Annie's courage and determination match his own—and suddenly Quint knows that she is exactly what has been missing from his life all along….

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426831447
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: Harlequin Historical Series, #939
  • Sold by: HARLEQUIN
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 355,572
  • File size: 224 KB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Lane has lived and travelled in many parts of the world, including Europe, Latin America and the Far East, but her heart remains in the American West, where she was born and raised. Her idea of heaven is hiking a mountain trail on a clear autumn day. She also enjoys music, animals and dancing. You can learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her website at www.elizabethlaneauthor.com

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Read an Excerpt

San Francisco, April 13, 1906

By the time Quint found the woman, she was dying. She lay faceup on the checkered linoleum, a dollar-size crimson stain oozing through the fabric of her plain white shirtwaist. It appeared she'd been stabbed.

"Virginia!" Quint crouched beside her, clasping her hand. "Can you hear me? It's Quint Seavers!"

The blood-frothed lips moved slightly, but no sound emerged. She was a slight creature, about thirty, he judged, her plain features made plainer by the thick spectacles that lay askew on her nose. Quint was meeting her in person for the first time. But he already knew Virginia Poole to be honest and brave. The man responsible for this was damned well going to pay.

"The letter, Virginia!" His fingers tightened around hers. "Where is it? Can you tell me?"

But she was already gone, slipping away without a sound.

Releasing her hand, Quint cast his eyes around the shabby one-room apartment. The place had been ransacked. Furniture had been toppled, clothes thrown helter-skelter. Kitchen cupboards had been emptied, their contents strewn on the floor. The Murphy bed, which took up one wall, had been lowered, the mattress, quilt and pillow ripped to pieces.

Feathers eddied in the gaslit room, blown by a chilly draft from the open window. Whoever was here hadn't been gone long. They'd probably climbed over the sill when they'd heard Quint pounding on the door. Judging from the mess and the hasty departure, he'd bet good money they hadn't found what they were looking for.

And neither would he.

Quint cursed in frustration. The handwritten letter, linking Supervisor Josiah Rutledge to a crooked scheme involving funds for the city's watersystem, would provide enough evidence to bring Rutledge down. Even more important, it would alert the public that this critical work wasn't being done.

Quint had written more than a dozen articles for the San Francisco Chronicle, stressing the urgent need to repair the city's crumbling network of pipes, aqueducts and cisterns and build a line to pump water out of the bay. Just last week he'd interviewed Dennis Sullivan, the city's longtime fire chief, who'd stated that, given the faulty water system, a major fire could destroy much of the city, with loss of life in the hundreds, if not the thousands.

"This town," Sullivan had declared, "is on an earthquake belt. One of these fine mornings we'll get a shake that will put this little water system out, and then we'll have a fire. What will we do then?"

For a balanced perspective, he'd also interviewed Mayor Eugene Schmitz and Supervisor Rutledge. Both had insisted that repairs were being made in good order.

And pigs could fly, Quint had groused as he left City Hall. Schmitz was almost as crooked as Rutledge. The whole mess stank like rotten fish. But he couldn't just start making accusations. He needed solid proof.

The key to that proof had come yesterday, in the form of a phone call to his desk at the Chronicle. Virginia Poole, a clerk on Rutledge's staff, had, by sheer accident, come across the damning letter in a stack of papers she'd been given to file. Knowing what she had, and being a woman of conscience, she'd called Quint and offered to give the letter to him.

He'd arranged to meet her the next evening in a bookshop off Portsmouth Square. When she'd failed to show up, Quint, who'd had the foresight to ask for her home address, had sensed that something was wrong.

Sadly, his instincts had been right.

Sick with dismay, he rose to his feet. At some point, Rutledge must have missed the letter and realized it had been scooped up with the other paperwork. Grilled by her boss, Virginia would have denied seeing it. But she'd probably been too nervous to convince him. One call and the hounds in Rutledge's pay would have been on her trail, with orders to silence her and get the letter back.

It seemed indecent not to cover the poor woman with a sheet, or at least close her eyes. But Quint knew the police would soon be here, alerted by the very thugs who'd committed the crime. If they discovered his presence, he'd be hauled into jail as a murder suspect; and with so many cops in Rut-ledge's pocket, odds were he wouldn't live long enough to see the inside of a courtroom.

Leaving by the back stairs, Quint slipped into the alley and cut a meandering course down Telegraph Hill to Montgomery Street. The mist-shrouded night was damp and chilly, the lighthouse a great blinking eye in the darkness behind him. Foghorns echoed mournfully across the bay.

Thrusting his hands into his pockets, Quint lengthened his stride. Tomorrow at work he would call in some favors, find out whether Virginia's murder was being investigated or merely hushed up. He would also make inquiries about her daily routine, talk to her friends, her family if she had any. With luck, maybe he could—

Oh, bloody hell!

Quint halted as if he'd slammed into a brick wall.

Tomorrow morning Clara and Annie would be arriving by train, all the way from Dutchman's Creek, Colorado. Quint had arranged to take the entire week off. He had cleared his calendar of appointments, freeing his time to show them the city.

For weeks he'd looked forward to the visit. Six-year-old Clara was the most important person in Quint's life. Every minute with the little girl was a gift. And Annie Gustavson, her maternal aunt, was always pleasant company. Neither of them had ever been to California. They were eager to experience the marvels of San Francisco.

Now this mess had dropped into Quint's hands, and he had no choice except to deal with it.

It was too late to postpone the visit. Their train would be arriving at the Oakland terminal at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. After such a long trip, he could hardly put them back onboard and send themhome. Nor could he walk away from a story so rife with urgency.

What the devil was he going to do?

Quint hailed a cab to take him back to his Jackson Street apartment. Somehow, for the coming week, he would have to be in two places at once. If it meant working early mornings and late nights, or leaving Clara and Annie on their own once in a while, that couldn't be helped. Virginia Poole had given her life to expose Rutledge. Whatever it took, Quint vowed, he would make sure she hadn't died in vain.

"Where's the ocean, Aunt Annie? I want to see it!" Clara bounced with excitement. Her nose smudged the window of the first-class railway car.

"All in good time, Miss Clara Seavers." Annie resettled her weary buttocks against the vibrating seat cushion. She adored her sister Hannah's child, but three days and nights on a rattling train with an active six-year-old had frayed her nerves. She looked forward to a quiet lunch, a lovely hot bath…and Quint. Especially Quint.

Damn his charming, impossible hide!

Maybe after this week, she would finally be over him.

Frank Robinson, who owned the hotel in Dutchman's Creek, had asked Annie to marry him three times. He was decent, kind and passably handsome, with enough money to keep her in comfort for the rest of her days.

Her sister Hannah thought she was crazy for turning Frank down. "You're twenty-three years old, Annie!" she'd fussed. "What are you waiting for, a knight on a white horse?"

The question was wasted breath, and both sisters knew it. Quint Seavers was no shining knight. But Annie had worshipped him since her teens. That was why she'd turned down Frank Robinson and every other man who'd come courting. To say yes would be to turn her back on Quint—who, in all the years she'd loved him, had barely given her the time of day.

Annie had jumped at his invitation to bring Clara to San Francisco. She'd yearned to experience that great, pulsing city known as the Paris of the West. She was eager, as well, to see the new fashions and copy them for her clients back home. As for Quint…

Annie sighed. She had no illusions about why he'd sent her the ticket. He needed someone to accompany Clara and act as a nanny during the visit. Well, fine. She was determined to have a good time anyway. And she would do her best to see Quint through clear eyes. If she could convince herself the man wasn't worth pining over, maybe she'd be ready to go back home and accept Frank's proposal.

"Will Uncle Quint be there when we get off the train?" Clara asked.

"He said he would."

"Did he promise?"

"In a way, I suppose he did."

"Then he will." Clara nodded happily. "Uncle Quint always keeps his promises! How much longer is it?"

"Not much longer. We should be there in time for lunch." Annie slipped an arm around the little girl. "What do you suppose your mama and papa are doing without you?"

"I'll bet Papa's taking care of the ranch. And Mama's resting. The doctor says she needs to rest a lot so the new baby won't come before it's s'posed to."

Clara had always been a perceptive child. But Annie was surprised that she understood about Hannah's difficult pregnancy. After a near miscarriage, her doctor had ordered bed rest for the next two months. Her husband, Judd, Quint's older brother, was rightly concerned about her.

"And what about Daniel?" Annie asked, changing the subject. "What do you think he's doing?"

"Being a pest. He's always being a pest," Clara said, dismissing her three-year-old brother. "I hope the new baby pesters him just like he pesters me. It'll serve him right."

"Clara, Clara!" Annie hauled the child onto her lap. "Here, look out the window. We're coming into Oakland now. Soon you'll be able to see San Francisco Bay. It's almost like the ocean!"

"Will we ride on a boat?"

"Yes. We'll be taking the ferry boat across the bay to San Francisco."

"The fairy boat?" Clara's eyes danced. "Will it have fairies on it?"

Annie laughed and hugged her niece. "No, silly, just people."

Thirty minutes later the train pulled into the station. Plastered against the window, Clara scanned the platform. "There he is! There's Uncle Quint! Look, he can see us! He's waving!"

They gathered their things and filed down the aisle to the exit door. Quint was there to greet them, looking tired but unforgivably handsome in a light woolen topcoat and black derby. He helped Annie down the steps, then swept Clara off her feet, waltzing her around until she squealed with laughter.

Watching them, Annie felt the familiar ache. What a breathtaking pair they were, the man and the child. They had the same brown eyes and thick, dark chestnut curls, the same dimpled cheeks and dazzling smiles.

No one with eyes in their head could fail to guess the truth.

Clara was Quint's daughter.

Rounding up a porter to load their bags, Quint ushered his charges toward the ferry terminal. Clara skipped along beside him, keeping up a stream of chatter. Annie, Quint noticed, had scarcely said a word.

He stole sidelong glances at her as they moved along the crowded platform. She'd always been an attractive girl, smaller and more delicately sculpted than her sister Hannah, her hair a deeper, tawnier shade of blond; her eyes darker and more intense, closer to gray than blue.

How old would she be now? Well past twenty, Quint was startled to realize. Why hadn't she married? She was by far the cleverest of the Gustavson girls and almost as pretty as Hannah. She earned a good living, too, with the hats and clothes she fashioned for the ladies of Dutchman's Creek. One would think she'd have men falling at her feet.

Today she wore a smart gabardine traveling suit in a soft russet that brought out the rose in her cheeks. Quint found the dainty hat that perched atop her upswept hair far more flattering than the monstrous creations women were wearing these days. Annie had probably sewn the entire outfit, as well as Clara's navy blue sailor dress, which made her look like a demure little doll.

Clara was growing up too fast, Quint mused as he helped them onto the ferry. And he was missing out on far too much of her life. But that price was his to pay for leaving Hannah with child seven years ago.

They'd been longtime sweethearts, he and Hannah Gustavson. It went without saying that they would marry. But Quint had wanted to see something of the world first. He'd set off for the Klondike gold fields, not knowing that a single fumbling encounter had left Hannah pregnant. When Quint couldn't be reached, his brother Judd had married her to give the baby the Seavers name. Quint had returned eleven months later to find that Hannah and Judd had fallen in love and become husband and wife in every way.

The first time Quint held his baby daughter, his heart had turned over. But even then he'd known what he needed to do. He had walked away, leaving his little girl to be raised in a happy home by the only father she'd ever known.

Much as it stung, Quint knew he'd done the right thing. The ranch was an ideal place to grow up. Judd and Hannah were devoted to their children and to each other. They allowed him to be involved in Clara's life as her beloved, indulgent "uncle."

It was all he could ask—and more than he likely deserved.

Annie's eyes traced the outline of Quint's broad shoulders as he lifted Clara onto a bench next to the rail. His unruly dark hair curled below the brim of his hat, brushing his collar in a way that made her want to reach out and stroke it with her fingertips. Nothing had changed. Quint was as compelling as ever. And she was just as fluttery and tongue-tied as she'd been at fifteen, on the day she'd discovered she loved him.

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