Read an Excerpt
Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York June 1892
Rory Hughsonâ€™s temper seethed. â€œI know these artistic typesâ€”rakes, rogues and seducers of women, all. Tell her, Ace. Tell her she cannot go through with this nonsensical scheme.â€
Virginia had never seen him like this. Then again, she hadnâ€™t seen him in a dozen years or so. Oh, yes, he was still quite handsome with his full head of dark blond hair that she wanted to plunge her fingers into and smooth down his neck, but at the moment, she wouldnâ€™t get within armâ€™s distance of that six-foot-tall broiling oven. â€œBeatrice, please tell your brother-in-law he is not my mother.â€
â€œOf course Iâ€™m not your mother,â€ he snapped before Beatrice could speak. â€œBut since sheâ€™s three thousand miles away in Tombstone, someone has to rein in the wild filly.â€
Now he was starting to get personal, and that wouldnâ€™t do at all. â€œWild filly?â€ Virginia spun to face the guardian of her youth. â€œHave I not been the very picture of respectability since I came to live with you and Luke?â€
Before either Beatrice or â€˜Aceâ€™, as Rory called his older brother Luke, could answer, Rory voiced his opinion. â€œMiss Clark, you are still going to need a suitable companion.â€
Oh, if I could just reach him, Iâ€™d choke him like a chicken. â€œFor your information, Mr Hughson, pastry chefs do not go about their kitchens with chaperones!â€
Rory folded his arms over his chest in a blatant display of annoyance. â€œAce, perhaps you should have Beatrice accompany her. It would behove you both to keep this young miss out of trouble.â€
A breath of air hit the back of Ginnyâ€™s throat like a bubble beaten from a lump of dough. Her thoughts skittered about. She was beyond shocked that Rory would even suggest that she would attract any sort of conflictâ€¦her, a woman whoâ€™d just achieved something few other females of her meagre means had ever dreamed ofâ€” â€œOut of trouble? Why, I neverâ€”â€
The twit, Rory, had the audacity to interrupt her with a condescending chuckle. â€œNever? I seem to recall a certain carriage ride from Tombstone to Tucsonâ€”â€
â€œRory.â€ Thankfully, Luke spoke up. â€œI think youâ€™ve shown your hand.â€
Beatrice Hughson glanced up at her husband from the elegant green silk brocade settee. â€œMay Ginny and I have a moment, darling?â€ At his nod Beatrice rose, and with an air of grace she floated into the next room. Virginia, too irritated to follow Beatriceâ€™s lady-like example, stomped past the brothers Hughson and slammed the door behind her.
â€œPlease sit, Ginny.â€
Virginia plopped down onto the nearest chaise. Beatrice was the only person whom she allowed to call her by her childhood nickname.
Beatrice sat on the matching wing-back chair opposite her and arranged her skirts about her as if they were about to have a tea party, not discuss Virginiaâ€™s controversial summer plans.
â€œI didnâ€™t get to tell you how lovely you looked at your commencement ceremony today,â€ Beatrice said, still not making eye contact with her. â€œYour mother would have been proud, had she the means to journey across the country.â€
â€œThank you,â€ she said with sincerity. Virginia had kept in contact with her mother via the post, but Mrs Clark seemed content to remain out west. â€œIt was very kind of you to travel up from Virginia. I canâ€™t tell you how happy I was to see you among the assembled.â€ She loved Beatrice. If it hadnâ€™t been for her, she wouldnâ€™t have had the advantage of such a thorough education. Sheâ€™d probably still be stuck in that hole-in-the-desert, sharing a classroom with a few minersâ€™ children of various ages. Virginia was overjoyed sheâ€™d spent her more formative years with the Hughsons. The sun hadnâ€™t set on a single day since sheâ€™d arrived when Virginia didnâ€™t thank the stars above that Beatrice and Luke had looked the other way after sheâ€™d stowed away, unchaperoned with Rory to Tucson. Well, mostly looked the other way. She understood now that a tiny indiscretion like that could ruin oneâ€™s chance ofâ€¦well, anything.
Beatrice folded her hands in her lap. â€œNow, you must admit, spending an entire summer in France with total strangers is rather an odd thing to do for a womanâ€”a woman with legitimate social and familial connections here in the States.â€