Today's Embrace

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Overview

She gambled with her husband’s trust. At stake is–everything.

Evy Varley's marriage to Rogan Chantry is all she had hoped it would be–until she finds out that she is pregnant with a honeymoon baby. Fearing that Rogan won’t allow her to travel while she is expecting, Evy plots to keep her pregnancy secret in order to accompany him to South Africa. Her thoughts are not only for her husband, but Evy is determined to travel to Bulawayo, the new mission station of Dr. Jakob van ...

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Today's Embrace

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Overview

She gambled with her husband’s trust. At stake is–everything.

Evy Varley's marriage to Rogan Chantry is all she had hoped it would be–until she finds out that she is pregnant with a honeymoon baby. Fearing that Rogan won’t allow her to travel while she is expecting, Evy plots to keep her pregnancy secret in order to accompany him to South Africa. Her thoughts are not only for her husband, but Evy is determined to travel to Bulawayo, the new mission station of Dr. Jakob van Buren–the one man who can help Evy to finally clear her mother’s name.

After she and Rogan set out to sea, however, Evy discovers that she has gone too far in her deceit, and the damage to her marriage may be irreversible. Matters only worsen in Africa, where malaria, murder, and an African uprising all take their toll–and where Rogan and Evy must fight not only for their love, but also for their very lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Linda Chaikin's previous novels:

Praise for Yesterday’s Promise,
Book Two in the East of the Sun Series
“Prepare for adventure, romance, and intrigue in nineteenth-century South Africa. Linda Lee Chaikin has done her homework, exploring the world of diamonds and goldmines in the land that would become Victorian Rhodesia. A page-turner of a story told by a veteran novelist.”
–Liz Curtis Higgs, best-selling author of Thorn in My Heart

“Linda Lee Chaikin never fails to deliver a dynamite story! In Yesterday’s Promise she weaves the complications of love and history into a storyline that is a sheer joy to read. I can’t wait for book three of the East of the Sun series!”
–Diane Noble, award-winning author of Phoebe

“I love, love, love this series by Linda Lee Chaikin! It has everything I’m looking for right now in a good read–memorable characters, intrigue, believable romance, fascinating history. If the third in the series was out, I wouldn’t be writing this...I’d be squirreled away, reading!”
–Lisa Tawn Bergren, best-selling author of Christmas Every Morning

Praise for Tomorrow’s Treasure,
Book One in the East of the Sun Series
“Tomorrow’s Treasure invites the reader to look closely at God’s fatherly care for his orphans and widows, particularly those whose families were martyred on the mission field.  An engaging historical novel!”
—C. Hope Flinchbaugh, author of Daughter of China

“Absorbing human drama, intriguing mystery, heart-pounding love interests, a dramatic setting–this novel has it all, including a good message expertly woven into the greater story. I can’t wait for Book Two!”
–Lisa Tawn Bergren, bestselling author of The Captain’s Bride

“Adventure. Intrigue. Romance. Settle back for an enjoyable read. Tomorrow’s Treasure is as old world as the setting, yet as contemporary as the human heart.”
–Kathy Herman, bestselling author of The Baxter Series

"Linda Chaikin has created a wonderful page-turner with this engaging historical novel. Her sense of time and place is exquisite, her characters so real they seem ready to step right off the page. This is a story rich with conflict, triumph over adversity, and wondrous testimony to God’s grace. Your heart will sing as you read.”
–Diane Noble, award-winning author of Heart of Glass

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781578565153
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/15/2005
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,069,368
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Lee Chaikin has written numerous best-selling and award-winning books and series, including the Silk series (Heart of India Trilogy), A Day to Remember series, The Empire Builders, Royal Pavilion Trilogy, Arabian Winds Trilogy, The Buccaneers Trilogy, and For Whom the Stars Shine, a finalist for the Christy Award. She and her husband make their home in Northern California.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
London
Marriage Dinner Ball at Brewster House
June 1900

Evy thought she would not be surprised by the tide of dissension that came rushing toward her after her whirlwind marriage to Rogan Chantry, heir of Rookswood Estate and future squire. Though the brewing storm was not of Rogan’s making, inevitably it came, like large swells responding to outside forces.
Rogan had always been a controversial young man who attracted attention and made things happen–sometimes, whether he wished it so or not. Women seemed drawn to his arresting personality, as Evy had noticed from an early age. Evy saw it as both a gift and a distraction. While he was maturing as a young man, surface relationships had sought him out relentlessly enough to press him into his protective armor. Now she was finding that his solitary independence often shut her out, his own wife, causing her no end of frustration.
The storm began blowing into their lives at Lord and Lady Brewster’s opulent mansion in London where a dinner ball was under way in celebration of the unexpected marriage. Her biological father, Lord Anthony Brewster, had arranged it in order to introduce his daughter to his grandfather, Lord Brewster.
Many from the aristocracy were there, some because of Rogan himself. Perhaps it was natural that he would end up “shocking” them by marrying the “rectory girl” from Grimston Way in place of Lord Bancroft’s daughter, Lady Patricia–and “so suddenly, too.” Those words should have warned Evy of what was to come. But being impressionable, and overflowing with happiness, she’d been unprepared for the cruel chatter instigated by Patricia against their recent union.
Evy had married Rogan Chantry at Rookswood Estate in Grimston Way a week earlier and was thrilled with the sights and sounds of the London she had never experienced. There were theaters, balls and dinners, shopping–oh, the wonderfully exciting shopping excursions Rogan brought her on, buying her everything fashionable and beautiful. And this was only the start of their honeymoon before going on to Paris!
Large chandeliers glimmered on the high-domed ceiling, dispersing light onto the wine-colored velvet draperies. Golden bowls and Italian vases were filled with fresh-blooming roses. An intricately woven rug with thick golden tassels was flaunted in the center of the room. Surrounding it sat an assortment of velvet chairs, divans, and ottomans. At the far end of the salon was a large window overlooking a sloping front lawn.
Rogan gathered with the gentlemen in the salon, where it was customary for the men to drink a glass of port and share cigars after dinner before the ball. Evy, unaccustomed to such male traditions, remained in the salon, standing apart near the window. She looked up and wondered at the outright scowl of the departing Lady Willowby, but she attributed her expression to indigestion. The dinner had been exceedingly rich.
Evy looked into the florid faces of the well-fed members of Parliament. Lord Brewster, Anthony’s grandfather, stood alongside him and Rogan. Her great-grandfather was a pompous old man with a narrow forehead and wide, sagging jowls. He was in his eighties, but his small gray eyes were still clear and sharp. They beheld her with emotional distance as Anthony introduced her to him as his daughter by Katie van Buren.
As the evening wore on, Evy continued to feel embarrassed and out of place. She didn’t know what she had expected upon coming here. Rogan had warned her at the Chantry Townhouse not to expect warm, family relations to suddenly sprout after all these years. In fact, he had actually wanted to decline the invitation altogether, but Evy had protested for Anthony’s sake, since he had wanted to introduce her to his side of the family.
“I want you to enjoy yourself in London before we sail for Paris. Old Brewster, and those of his ilk, are pompous and overinflated. Remember, he and Lady Brewster, when she was alive, came between Anthony and Katie. They backed Uncle Julien’s plans to have him marry Camilla. I’m afraid you’re dreaming about butterflies and candy cane lanes, Evy darling, if you think you’re going to be welcomed with open arms.”
She hadn’t forgotten how Lord Brewster had treated her mother, but she hoped that time had improved matters. Now she began to realize that unless God’s Spirit was free to work in their hearts, real change was not likely. Rogan had dryly commented that time had mistakenly preserved old Lord Brewster in vinegar instead of sugar.
As it turned out, Rogan’s observation proved to be correct. Although great-grandfather Brewster was polite and precise in their first meeting, his eyes did not soften a speck. Evy understood the reason for his indifference. He had always known that she had been raised as the niece of Vicar Edmund and Grace Havering, and that Anthony’s family had held no interest in her. Evy was simply viewed as Anthony’s offspring from a young and foolish lust-ridden tryst he’d had in Capetown. And Katie van Buren was the reckless girl who had allowed the unfortunate incident to happen. She doubtless, in their view, had been a shameless flirt who’d used her wiles to take advantage of Anthony.
Nor did Evy’s marriage to Rogan Chantry, or the news that she was now a diamond heiress, do much to influence Anthony’s grandfather. Perhaps it was just as well. If she was accepted on the basis of these sudden changes to her life, it would be a shallow acceptance at best. At any rate, time had apparently confirmed and hardened old ways. Her marriage to Rogan raised brows and created questions for already suspicious minds who refused to believe love could triumph over staunch class distinctions.
Evy’s thoughts were brought back to a heated discussion going on among the gentlemen gathered.
“War,” a heavy, barrel-chested man boomed to the others, “that’s what it’ll be. Those blasted Boers will be taught a firm lesson this time.”
Rogan, in handsome black evening clothes and white linen shirt, was perhaps the one person in the salon who appeared undisturbed by either the cool social atmosphere or the heated rhetoric of war. He stood with Anthony and Lord Brewster as the debate grew between a few members of Parliament–some of whom represented the foreign secretary’s firebrands for war–and certain gentlemen who were for peace with President Paul Kruger and his Dutch Boers, even if it meant calling home Cecil Rhodes from the Cape and forcing him to answer to Parliament for the incursion of the Rhodesian “rebels” into the Transvaal. The incursion had been led by Rhodes’s official representative, Dr. Leander Starr Jameson.
Evy cared little for the fighting of Dr. Jameson’s men. She felt that war of any magnitude might hinder her from accompanying Rogan on his return voyage to South Africa. He was already frowning each time she mentioned traveling with him to Fort Salisbury. She had learned early that Rogan had very independent ideas about his adventures. Adventures that made him hesitant to involve his “delicate” new bride. He wanted her securely entrenched at Rookswood while he pursued his uncle’s murderer, the man responsible for her injury–Cousin Heyden van Buren. Evy had her own ideas about that, and staying behind at Rookswood was certainly not one of them.
“It’s time we dealt with these clod farmers. Our cause in Africa is just, and at risk. It’s far more important for England to succeed there than for Kruger to remain at the head of his volk, forever causing trouble.”
“Just so, just so.”
“Nonsense, gentleman,” came a disdainful voice. “We all know the benefit of saying these things to the newspapers to galvanize the British people behind the randlords’ war. But we can speak the facts between ourselves. It’s control of the gold fields in Johannesburg that the BSA wants, and the goldbugs in Capetown are hand in hand with Rhodes. Isn’t that so, Rogan?” The gentleman, Sir Gilcrist, swung toward Rogan and faced him. “You’re a South African man with a gold mine. You should know.”
“The Chantry mine is located in the northern Zambezi region, Sir Gilcrist,” Rogan stated, keeping an equal amount of scorn from his voice. “I’ve no interest in the Transvaal. We’ve enough trouble with the Shona. We don’t need to take on the Boers, too.”
“The trouble in Johannesburg is that the Uitlanders are not permitted to vote in Boer elections,” Anthony Brewster put in. “Uitlanders are what the Boers call our British miners working in the gold fields. The Boers fear they’ll be voted out of office and have the British workers take over. There’s graft too in the Boer police and some beatings of African workers.”
The man scorned a smile, and Anthony flushed and raised his glass to his lips.
“Most of that is bosh. Oh, I don’t deny there isn’t a ruddy policeman now and then going into the African workers’ area and causing a bit of ruckus, but they’re looking for criminals. It’s a good line to spread here at home to get the social workers up in arms to fight the Boers. Admit it, Rogan. You’re an honest young man. There’s wealth and power in the Transvaal, and that’s the reason the BSA is whipping up all this war fever.”
Evy glanced from the boisterous Lord George to Rogan. She already knew what Rogan thought because he’d been reading the papers each morning and commenting on South Africa news.
“I’ve little doubt the gold rands would like to end the Boer problem once for all,” Rogan said. “Fact is, not all the Uitlanders are British. Plenty are from Australia, Ireland, and America. But why deny it, gentlemen? The Uitlanders are beginning to outnumber the Boers in Johannesburg. They’ve come as foreigners disturbing the quiet farming and religious ways of the Boer. So I don’t doubt Kruger would like to keep them from having the vote.”
The conversation switched to Sir Julien Bley, whom they all knew. Julien held a high position among the men who formed a powerful political entity. Except for the minority peace party, they all supported London’s war and Sir Julien’s diamond monopoly. They’d also received shares in the mines in exchange for political favors. “The London lobby,” Rogan had told her, “has organized one of the most rigid and vigorous parliamentary power blocks England has ever known. And many of them wish for war with Kruger.”
What all this might mean for Evy and Rogan, she did not know. She looked at Rogan. He had told her all about the BSA and their plans to plant the British flag in the Transvaal. “They have their plans to push Kruger into war and to final defeat,” Rogan had mentioned just this morning at breakfast when the London paper arrived.
“Deliberately provoke war?” She had been shocked.
“You’re still a babe in the woods, sweet. Human nature remains the same in every generation. Where there is gold to be discovered, and diamonds in mines, there will be plenty of excuses for men to march to war.”
Evy was well aware of the politics of diamonds and gold. Worry about this wealth going by default to the Transvaal was growing daily for shrewd politicians like Sir Julien Bley and his cronies. Talk of diamonds lit a spark, and the conversation turned. At the mention of the famous Kimberly Black Diamond, Evy tensed. She glanced at Rogan, then her father. Rogan showed nothing, but Anthony’s features had stiffened.
“Wasn’t it some little tart who stole it from Sir Julien Bley?” Lord George asked.
Evy thought she would drop through the floor, but tensely, she stepped forward. “No, m’lord, it was not. And my mother was a lady, not a tart.”
Evy heard a gasp, then felt every head turn her way.
“My dear child!” It was Great-grandfather Brewster gaping at her in florid shock. Then Anthony stepped forward. “Evy, I don’t think–”
But what he didn’t think was not to be known, because Rogan came up beside her as her suddenly fearful eyes met his, expecting the worst. Amazingly, he chuckled and slipped an arm around her, proposing a toast. She stood stunned.
“Evy, darling, you just broke every rule in the book. I now celebrate not only your courage but also your delightfully refreshing spirit. To my dear bride!” He then turned to Anthony. “And to her esteemed father, Anthony Brewster.” Rogan nodded to him in respect. “And to Katie van Buren, much misunderstood, and much maligned. May her departed soul rest in peace.”
Silence held the room in its awkward grip for a moment. Then Lord George broke into a hearty laugh. “By Jove, I beg your pardon indeed, my dear Mrs. Chantry. I had no idea who I was speaking of when I mentioned the theft of that scandalous diamond.”
Evy’s throat was dry. She wondered what her great-grandfather was thinking, and Anthony. She looked at him. He stood rigid.
“No need to apologize, Lord George,” Rogan was saying. “That old tale has been around for a generation. But I’ve new information to add to it. I’ve discovered the real thief of the Kimberly Black Diamond–and he, not ‘she,’ also murdered my Uncle Henry for it at Rookswood–”
As Rogan went on to tell the story, holding the men in spellbound interest, he quickly squelched any further discussion of Katie.
Evy was never so relieved over his charming ability to capture an audience.
Few noticed as Lord Brewster turned and left the room, his face rigid. Anthony looked after his grandfather with a tense face but did not follow. Evy came up to her father. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
His eyes softened, and he reached a trembling hand to pat her arm. He shook his head slightly. “You did nothing wrong. I should have been the one to speak out as you did.”
The group was breaking up as the orchestra began playing in the ballroom and they wandered out two and three together discussing the possibility of war, diamonds, and Scotland Yard’s search for her cousin Heyden van Buren.
A few minutes later the three of them were alone. Rogan leaned against the back of a chair, allowing her and Anthony a moment together.
“I’ll be leaving next week for Capetown, Evy.”
“So soon?” She was truthfully disappointed. “Then I won’t see you for some time. Rogan and I will be going to Paris next week.”
“Camilla and I will be anxious to have you and Rogan at Cape House. She’s taken ill, so I’m leaving sooner than expected. I received a wire this morning from her physician. Her heart is weak.”
Evy was worried. She knew a moment of frustration over being foiled in her desires. “Then I must come soon,” Evy said, and turned her head to look over at Rogan, but he said not a word, maddening her. She narrowed her lashes. He raised a brow and set his glass down. Their disagreement remained. He was still set against her returning with him to South Africa, though she talked of it incessantly. He walked to the door and looked out across the hall into the ballroom. Evy noticed his expression change. He apparently recognized someone he hadn’t expected and was disturbed. He left them in the salon, and Evy looked after him.
Anthony smiled. “Don’t mind his determination. He worries about you. And there is good reason to think twice before leaving England for the Cape. I’m afraid the gentlemen gathered here tonight were quite right about the prospects of war. I happen to know the high commissioner in Capetown, and although he tries to conceal the fact, as does the foreign secretary, they hope to provoke Kruger into a hasty act that will seem to leave England with little choice but war. So, my dear, coming to Capetown is one thing. I doubt this war will ever reach there, but trekking with Rogan nearly a thousand miles inland to Fort Salisbury will be difficult, indeed, though I understand your reasons for wishing to do so. Katie’s cousin, Dr. Jakob van Buren, is a man worth knowing. You’d appreciate his missionary work among the Shona and Ndebele.”
“That is why I must go, Father. And I want to learn about her from someone who knew her in her own family. You’ve told me some things, but, well, you would see Katie differently than Dr. Jakob.”
He nodded and said no more. Only rarely had he discussed Katie. Evy was reluctant to ask him to talk about her, since it was unfair to Camilla for him to awaken memories of another woman he may have loved. The sins of her parents had no bearing on Camilla, and yet Lady Camilla had undoubtedly paid a price because of those sins, just as Evy had paid a price. Yet she’d forgiven her parents. Her one aching fear was that Katie might not have believed in Christ, and she was equally concerned for Anthony. While he sometimes attended the Anglican Church, was his motive merely that of maintaining traditional forms? If so, she felt that had kindled no spark in his spirit. But she did not yet feel secure enough in their relationship to seek more evidence. Camilla must know… Camilla, though a frail woman, an apparently timid woman in many ways, had eagerly attended Uncle Edmund’s preaching services during her visit to Rookswood when Evy was a young girl.
“I want to come to Cape House soon,” she repeated to her father. “There’s so much I need to say to Camilla.”
“I’m pleased you feel that way, Evy. She arranged before your wedding to send you a gift you’ll appreciate, but it did not arrive in time for the wedding.”
He reached inside his jacket pocket and handed her a small silver box. He did not smile.
“This belonged to Katie. It was among her things at Cape House. I’m afraid practically everything she left was given away to the poor. But Camilla found this and kept it until now.”
Evy opened the box. Inside was a gold heart pendant. On the back was the inscription: Katie.
Evy smiled as she touched it gently with her finger. Her mother must have worn it often. Evy wondered if the embedded diamond cross had kept her from wearing the pendant the night she left Cape House with Henry Chantry in hope of finding Evy in the mission station at Rorke’s Drift.
“Who told Camilla about my mother?”
“Heyden’s mother. I think she was a nurse companion of some sort.”
“Inga?” she asked quietly.
He nodded. “Yes, the name sounds familiar.”
“She’s still alive, then?”
He appeared reluctant, then nodded. “I believe she’s somewhere in the Transvaal, or was it Mafeking? It escapes me. Camilla will know. She can tell you.”
Then Heyden had at least told her the truth about his mother, Inga, working at Cape House.
“Inga may have taken a few of Katie’s things with her when she left soon after Katie’s death.”
Evy’s emotions churned. There were so many things she needed and wanted to do in South Africa. There must be something she could do to convince Rogan that the war should not stand in her way.
“I’ll see you again at Capetown,” his word came huskily. Her father bent down, kissed her cheek, gave a reassuring squeeze to her arm, and walked from the salon to join his guests, leaving her alone with her prize and her emotions.
Evy continued holding the heart pendant in her palm until coming aware some time later of women’s voices. She looked up and toward Rogan, rather surprised that she’d forgotten him. He wasn’t in the salon. She remembered having seen him standing in the doorway just before Anthony gave her the pendant. He had seen someone who hadn’t pleased him.
She hung the pendant around her throat and managed to hook the tiny clasp. Then she placed the box inside her fashionable gilded wrist-purse, containing handkerchief, lip color, and a small powder puff. She smiled and started for the door to locate Rogan and show him her mother’s pendant when the women’s voices stopped her abruptly.
“Poor Rogan,” came one lady’s wearied tone. “I’m sure he’s heartbroken over it, but what could he do?”
“Serves the scamp right if you ask me. There was Diana, too. You recall her?”
“Whoever could forget? Margaret took her on a grand tour. They always said–”
“Whatever might he have been thinking, marrying this girl?”
“My dear, you heard what Patricia said. He simply had to marry her.”
“Then she’s…?”
“But of course.”
“Extraordinary. She is quite pretty.”
“How else could she have gotten him to visit the likes of her but to invite him to the hayloft?”
“My dear!”
“I know her kind. Lord Brewster was upset with Anthony for even bringing her here. She’s like her mother.”
“That dreadful Boer girl Anthony knew in South Africa?”
“Mother and daughter…cut from the same piece of cloth. Except Anthony wouldn’t marry her when she showed up…well, you know.”
“But Rogan did marry Evy.”
“She’s a diamond heiress, isn’t she? Patricia says Evy will bring him another great fortune. Oh, she was after Rogan all along. Even when a girl, she threw herself at his feet.”
“Well, she got him.”
“The one way she could. What could he do? It’s as Patricia said; she took advantage of him.”
“And she has the audacity to come here to the Brewsters’.”
“Well, my dear, you can’t tell yet, can you? It won’t show for another month or two.”
“Poor Patricia. I saw her with Rogan earlier…in the garden…”
Their voices faded as they wandered off.
The sickening feeling in the pit of Evy’s stomach made her knees weak. She held to the back of the chair and lowered herself to the velvet settee. Her cold fingers sought contact with the pendant heart around her throat.
Pregnant. They think I’m expecting Rogan’s baby…that he had to marry me.
The gossip stunned Evy. Never would she have thought that Patricia would stoop so low. Had she come to the ball to sow her bitter seeds?
Footsteps sounded, too solid and bold for the women. She looked up, unable to mask her feelings. Rogan stood there. He looked at her long and hard, and his jawline tensed. He came to her looking down, a frown forming. Then his warm, brown eyes noticed the gold heart with a center cross of diamonds.
“Anthony told me yesterday about Katie’s pendant.”
“You knew?” Her voice was tremulous, still dismayed by Lady Patricia’s cruel gossip.
“It was the deciding factor in bringing you here tonight.” There was a measure of distaste in his voice that was a reflection of invited guests from Brewster House. His inky lashes narrowed. “I should never have let you come here.”
His low voice, hardened because of some anger, surprised her. “What did Patricia tell you in the garden?” she asked quietly. His gaze shot to hers. Had he not wanted her to know he’d spoken with Patricia alone in the garden? A sinking feeling spread over her. Rogan wouldn’t, no, he couldn’t want Patricia still–?
His mouth went down at one corner. “Nothing worth repeating.”
Her gaze lowered. “That’s not what I heard just a moment ago…”
“I thought it might be something like that the moment I saw your face. Patricia is gone, thoroughly castigated by yours truly. Who told you?”
She looked up quickly. Did he know about the lie?
“I don’t know who they were…just two ladies. I didn’t recognize their voices. They were talking outside the door. They didn’t know I was here.”
“Obviously. The way of all gossipmongers.”
“Oh, Rogan, they think–Patricia has spread the shameful story that you had to marry me because…because–” Her eyes implored his.
“You’re pregnant, I believe is the correct word,” he said dryly.
She intertwined her fingers and brought them to her mouth, head lowered. “They believed it. They must all believe it. I feel so ashamed.”
“Rubbish. Because of someone else’s lies? Get up, darling.” He reached down and, grasping her arm, pulled her to her feet. He tilted her chin. “Courage.”
“Rogan, I want to leave now.”
He appraised her, then his hand dropped and he folded his arms in a bored stance. “I’m disappointed in you.”
“Disappointed!”
“You’re willing to risk war and a spitting cobra or two in South Africa, but when the moment comes to demonstrate courage for being the daughter of Katie van Buren, you shrink away like a timid rabbit. I thought my bride was not merely the most beautiful woman here tonight but also the most courageous. I see you prefer to slink away, giving credence to the malicious talk, no doubt by the back door, through the dark and silent garden. Ah, well…” He appeared ready to go for her wrap.
Evy searched his taunting gaze. No doubt he was saying all this to put iron in her backbone. She lifted her chin.
“You really want me to stay and put on an act for them?”
“Not an act. I want you to show them who you really are–the Evy I’ve known as a courageous beauty since I was twelve.”
She felt a smile tug at her lips. He had a way of pulling some determination out of her spirits, even when they were sagging miserably.
“Bravo, Mrs. Chantry. I see the fire beginning to brighten the green in your amber eyes–always a good sign. Now, sweet, listen to your husband. There are two things you’re going to do for our honorable guests before we bid them adieu and abandon Brewster House to the old cats. First, we dance.”
“Dance!” Was she hearing him right?
“Dance.” He flashed a menacing smile, not at her, but evidently at something or someone who was on his mind. “Of course, we dance, my sweet. We are at our wedding ball. The dear ‘lords and ladies’ must see how charming my delectable bride really is!”
She couldn’t help her smile. “Are you out of your wits? Should we walk in there now with all this talk circulating? Every eye will be on us.”
“Exactly. Give me your arm, ‘Lady’ Chantry. You’re the most fascinating woman here tonight and, by far, the most honorable. They must see it so. I won’t take no for an answer,” he said when she started to say something. “You know how persistent I can be when I want something,” he said, giving her a slanted look, “so gracefully float forward, my love. Hark–how the waltz in our honor is about to being.”
He looped her arm firmly on his and leaned over to lift her fingers to his warm lips, then waggled his brows.
She laughed, but her dismay had somehow been lifted from her shoulders as he ushered her out of the salon and across the wide corridor into the ballroom.
Evy’s eyes were on Rogan’s handsome face as he led her in with a devastatingly charming smile. She cast him her most demure smile in return.
The floor emptied as the guests moved back toward the walls, giving them the whole ballroom. Evy saw a familiar auburn-haired woman among the guests. So Patricia was still here. Had she come to spoil their dinner ball with a scandal?
Rogan was giving Evy a light bow, then raised her hand once more to his lips and kissed her wedding ring as all eyes fixed upon them. It was so dreadfully romantic that she knew her eyes must be shining. She felt a princess with her crown prince. They smiled, totally absorbed in each other as he led her to the middle of the floor.
“Let the music begin!” a voice from the orchestra boomed.
His eyes held hers as they began to move to the music. She was sure that in Rogan’s arms she could dance as nimbly as any mystical garden fairy. Not even the special shoe she needed for spinal alignment could intervene when Rogan looked at her as he was doing now, consumed with her and oblivious to all else.
They must have made a stunning picture, for when the waltz ended someone applauded. Her brief glance caught Anthony with a proud look on his face.
“Now,” Rogan said, taking her arm and escorting her toward the orchestra. “There is something you and I must do.”
She wondered as he left her side and stepped onto the platform, then spoke to the conductor. The man looked at Evy, showed approval, and nodded briskly. He rapped his wand for the attention of his musicians, leaned over, and said something.
Rogan came down from the steps and escorted her to the grand piano.
“Rogan, no, I can’t–it’s been months since I’ve practiced–”
“I heard you just last night at the townhouse. If I can play, you can.”
“What? You–?”
Sure enough, to her amazement, one of the musicians came forward and bowed, presenting his violin to Rogan. Rogan accepted the instrument and bowed in return.
Evy, whose heart was thudding hard enough to make her breathless, sat down at the awesome piano, taking a moment to feel the keyboard. Her eye caught the glitter of her wedding ring. The diamonds were one with Katie’s pendant winking at her breast. Both seemed to urge her onward.
Rogan leaned over and said in a low tone, “Better play Paganini. That’s what I last practiced.”
The ballroom had fallen into stunned silence.
Lord Jesus, this is dedicated to You, Evy prayed.
She looked at Rogan. The confidence he displayed in her before all those present, her critics, along with his delight in her as his bride, gave her all she needed. She smiled at him, then glanced at the conductor, whose eye was upon her. She nodded briefly that she was ready.
Her eyes lowered to the keys. Her fingers started moving faultlessly, as though prompted by her years of practice. The stirring passion flamed, burning in her heart. All else faded as her soul and spirit arose to the demands of the exquisite concerto reverberating through the ballroom. Her heart took flight on soaring wings of gilded doves, higher, higher into splendor.
Then her fingers slowed and eased. She played softly as Rogan’s strings lifted the masterpiece along with chords that turned the duet into a work of passionate love.
They reached the last note; their hands fell still. Evy lowered her head.
Silence–then thunderous applause!
Evy stood, bowing in all directions, but saw two faces in the crowd that brought her delight. Her father, Anthony, and another very old face, Great-grandfather Brewster. He had risen to his tottering feet with the aid of his cane, and with his free hand was wiping his eyes with a large white handkerchief. Anthony was looking at him with a smile, as though to say, “See? Do you now really see my daughter?”
Rogan returned the violin to its master, inclined his head to acknowledge the applause, then, turning to Evy, took her arm and led her from the ballroom. The applause continued as they departed.
As they entered the hall he said, “Now, darling, I’ll take you home as requested.”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Amazing

    Must read

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