The Irish Rogueby Judith French
Annie Davis is in trouble. To save her reputation and avoid the wrath of her father, she needs to catch a husband as soon as possibleand she's willing to pay. When she lands in the arms of a handsome stranger who agrees to exchange his name for the promise of an heiress's wealth, Annie makes an impulsive decision. She gains a husband her body desires, her
Annie Davis is in trouble. To save her reputation and avoid the wrath of her father, she needs to catch a husband as soon as possibleand she's willing to pay. When she lands in the arms of a handsome stranger who agrees to exchange his name for the promise of an heiress's wealth, Annie makes an impulsive decision. She gains a husband her body desires, her mind doesn't trust, and her soul longs to love.
Michael O'Ryan came to America to escape the war in Ireland. Now he finds himself wanted by the law and facing a criminal's future. A marriage of convenience to the daughter of a prosperous plantation owner seems like a serendipitous chance to change his luck. Until his spirited bride unwittingly tempts the danger from his mysterious pastand awakens the long-forgotten passion in his heart . . .
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 4.22(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.98(d)
Read an Excerpt
Fortune aids the brave.
St. John's Churchyard
The earth seemed to crumble beneath Anne's feet. She staggered back, unconsciously protecting with a gloved hand the new life inside her. She stared at her betrothed in disbelief, as stunned as if he'd struck her with a clenched fist.
"You said you loved me," she stammered as the solid chill of a marble tombstone halted her retreat.
"You promised to marry me...."
His cool tone smothered her remaining hopes. "You are such an innocent. You should thank me, you know. Not many women have the benefit of expertise such as mine in their first alliance."
Rain dripped from the overhanging trees, soaking Anne's cloak and hair. The night was raw and damp. Puddles of water seeped up through her kidskin boots, but her mouth felt almost too dry to answer.
"You call yourself a gentleman," she whispered. "I believed you. I brought my things because you told me that we were going to New Jersey to be wed." Her throat constricted with emotion. "I'm carrying your child, Stephen. Doesn't that mean anything? What am I supposed to do?"
In the dark, Stephen was little more than a shadowy outline of a broad-brimmed hat and greatcoat against the deeper blackness of the wooded churchyard. His mocking voice seemed to come from a distance to echo off the mossy stones and swirl around her. "Are you certain that it's mine?"
"You can ask me that? After I defied my father to come here? After all your vows of love and"
"Spare me your pitiful whining. You were willing enough to be bedded. Mayhap you found someone else to keep you warm after I left Maryland."
Anger replaced terror and Anne stiffened. "We've made a child between us. Can you turn your back on that?"
He shrugged. "That's your problem. Get rid of it, or have your father buy you a red-cheeked farmer boy too stupid to realize that his fields have already been plowed and planted."
"If I were a man, I would call you out on a field of honor and"
Stephen chuckled. "If you were a man, you'd not be in this unfortunate condition, and I'd never have been attracted to your charms."
"My father will come for you."
"If you're stupid enough to let that happen. He might try. But I'm an excellent shot. I killed a man in Bristol in a duel over a woman. That's why my family sent me to America. Naturally, his wife's reputation was ruined. So send Papa after me with hounds in full cry, but he could end up in a grave. As for you, Anne, let us agree that a gentleman can be forgiven many slips, a lady none."
Anne had never hated anyone before, never wanted to hit and keep hitting until she drew bloodnot until this moment. "Why? Why me?"
"Don't be a fool. I thought you gullible but never stupid."
"My father's money?"
"Of course. I have needs that require somewhat more than my family allowance provides for."
A vile taste flooded Anne's mouth. "You admit that you're nothing but a fortune hunter?"
He laughed. "Don't take it so to heart. You've a pretty figure and a talent for pleasing a man. I would have married you if I hadn't met a better prospect. But it would have been a mistake for both of us. I'm really not cut out to be a Maryland farmer. Philadelphia is more my style. My plump Quaker heiress is too well bred to object to my personal life, and her father is much wealthier than yours."
"Burn in hell, Stephen Preston!" Sickened, ashamed, Anne turned and fled down the crumbling brick walkway out of the walled cemetery to a waiting carriage.
A wavering circle of lantern light illuminated her sister Mary's pale face. "Anne! Is that you? Hurry. Get in, out of the weather."
Bells on the leather harness jingled, and the horse moved restlessly between the shafts. Mist enveloped the high-wheeled chaise as Anne climbed onto the damp seat beside Mary. Icy droplets ran down Anne's face, and she clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering.
"What's wrong?" Mary clutched at Anne's arm. "I thought I heard voices. Where's Mr. Preston? Isn't he coming for your trunk?"
Anne shook her head, so overcome by loathing for Stephen that she found it hard to speak. "I've been such a fool."
"You're not calling off the elopement?" Mary's tone took on an edge of hysteria. "You can't go home to Papa without a husband. You've got to"
"It's over. Finished." Anne's eyelids prickled. She wouldn't cry for the likes of Stephen Preston. Not now. Not ever. "Papa was right. Stephen is a lying, despicable swine."
"Oh, oh dear." Mary covered her mouth with her hand. "What will you do? What will we do? If anyone finds out, the family will be ruined."
"Stop blubbering and give me the reins." Anne took the lines and slapped them over the horse's back.
"We're going back to your house. It's late. We don't want George to find us gone." Mary's husband was a self-righteous man who had strong opinions about proper behavior for ladies. Anne had never liked him, and she knew the feeling was mutual.
"Oh, goodness," Mary fretted. "George will be livid. He'll blame me, Anne. The last time I disappointed him, he cut off my allowance for weeks. And Papa ... Papa will disown us."
Anne wiped the rain off her face and leaned forward trying to see where the horse was going. "He can't disown you, Mary. You already have your inheritance settlement."
"You don't. You know how Papa can be. He'll cut you off without a dime. Nancy Swift's family struck her name from the Bible when she ..."
"Had a baby. Surely you can say the word. You've given birth twice yourself."
Mary bit her lower lip. "But my girls were legitimate," she whispered. "If you ... If you don't marry Mr. Preston at once, I shudder to think what people will say about us. Lucy and Margaret may never find husbands in Philadelphia."
"Or Baltimore." Rage seethed in Anne's breast. She wanted to scream, to kick something. But tantrums were Mary's domain. Anne had spent nearly a quarter of a century being the practical sister, the reasonable one. And it was too late to change. She could only vent her anger by poking fun at Mary's irrational fancies.
"Sarcasm doesn't become you, Anne. George would hardly condone a prospective bridegroom from Baltimore. His family has been an important one in Penn's town since"
"Since Noah built the ark." The gelding's iron-shod hooves thudded against the wet cobblestones.
"And the girls are what? Two and four? Surely George will be seeking good matches for them by Christmas."
Meet the Author
Judith E. French lives with her husband in a restored eighteenth-century farmhouse in rural Delaware. Her oldest daughter, Colleen Faulkner, is also a bestselling romance author, continuing the strong tradition of storytelling that has been shared by her family for many generations.
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