For better or for worse
Tired of being wooed for her dowry, Lady Madeleine Castleigh has given up on finding true love. But on her way to elope with a boring but honorable philanthropist, her carriage is seized by a nobleman on the run. Maddie is alarmed, especially when she catches sight of Jack Martingale, Marquess of Blackthorne, exactly the sort of wickedly attractive man she's sworn to avoid.
Chased by a powerful duke with revenge on his mind and a private army in tow, Jack has no choice but to confiscate Madeleine's carriage. He promises to take his leave once they arrive at the wedding in Gretna Green, but he doesn't count on his growing desire for the blue-eyed beauty. When the unexpected appearance of Maddie's father and the mistakes of a drunken priest alter everyone's plans, Maddie is furious—until she discovers that Blackthorne's kisses arouse a passion in her she'd long ago stopped praying for.
About the Author
Shana Galen is a former public school teacher in Houston, Texas. Newly married, Shana lives with her husband and two cats. She writes almost full time, which requires daily trips to the mall because shopping is the only activity that really allows her to think. (That's her story, and she's sticking to it!)
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By Shana Galen
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Shana Galen
All right reserved.
Lady Madeleine was going to make the best of this night, even if it killed her.
And it probably would kill her.
Maddie shook her head. That was no way to think. If one expected the worst, one received the worst.
But there simply wasn't anything good about dressing in boys' clothing and running around London in the dead of night. Unless one wanted to be kidnapped.
You're doing it again! Maddie chided herself. She had to start thinking positively.
Very well, then . . . She might not like wearing boys' clothing, but at least it was comfortable.
She didn't like to sneak out at night, but at least she didn't have to carry a parasol in the dark.
And she didn't like to climb into darkened windows, risk the wrath of her horrid uncle, or tempt the cutthroats hiding down every London alleyway, but . . .
Oh, Lord! She was going to be murdered, and there was just nothing good about that!
Maddie tightened her grip on her cousin Catie's arm and hurried to catch her two adventuresome cousins, Ashley and Josie.
Above her, the moon was but a sliver in the dark, starless sky. The tall, terraced houses of Mayfair—white and bedecked with flowersspilling from boxes in the daylight—now loomed menacingly over her. They stared at her from sightless eyes.
Maddie tried to keep her gaze on Ashley's blond hair. The London fog obscured everything except what was right in front of one's face, but Ashley's wheat-blond tresses shimmered silver in the meager light. Ashley turned a corner, and Maddie clutched Catie tighter.
"Hurry," Maddie whispered, not wanting to lose sight of Ashley. But then the fog closed in, thick and heavy, and Maddie had to reach out and feel her way past the building on her right. She lurched to the side and stepped on something furry.
With a squeak—hers or its—she ran on.
Catie and she rounded the corner, and Maddie saw Ashley's bright hair. She was waiting for them. Thank heaven for her luminous cousin. The fog hadn't infiltrated this street as thickly yet, and Maddie was able to see the welcoming houses and the small tree-lined park that made up Berkeley Square.
Home. Almost home.
She wasn't going to die.
"Are you well?" Catie asked, pausing for a moment.
"Perfectly fine," Maddie replied, wishing she weren't shaking so badly. "Why do you ask?"
"You're holding my arm so tightly that I'm going to have a bruise."
Maddie loosened her hold. "Sorry."
"It's all right," Catie said.
Jiminy! If anyone should be consoled, Maddie thought, it was Catie. Her horrible father had locked her in a closet for two days. She herself was only out on the dark, unsafe streets because, though she was scared half out of her mind, she couldn't leave Catie in there.
Up ahead, rising out of the fog like a ghostly galleon from a storybook, floated her father's town house.
Home. Safety. For all of them.
The girls climbed up the bed sheets they had left hanging down the side of the house under Maddie's bedroom window. Maddie collapsed gratefully on the floor when her feet were again on solid ground.
When her stomach had ceased fluttering and her limbs were no longer shaking like saplings in a storm, she rose and fetched nightgowns, cool water, and fresh linens for the others. While the girls washed and changed, Maddie opened her desk drawer and pulled out a stash of almond biscuits she'd been saving for just such an occasion. She passed them out as her cousins gathered on the bed.
"Thank you, Mother," Ashley said as she took her biscuit. Maddie stuck out her tongue. She was used to the other girls teasing her for fussing over them, but she knew they appreciated it.
She wasn't the eldest or the bravest or the most beautiful. Respectively, Catie, Josie, and Ashley fit those roles. Maddie had always been the most privileged. Her father was the Earl of Castleigh—rich and powerful.
But privilege was not something one chose, nor something Maddie enjoyed. She would have much rather been courageous or beautiful or wise. Instead, she was frequently described as kind and tenderhearted. Boring descriptors, especially for a girl of eight, but she figured it was the best she could expect.
She scooted onto her bed next to her cousins, and Ashley elbowed her. "Well, that was fun, wasn't it?"
Maddie wanted to groan. Fun? Her insides still jittered from the so-called adventure, and her hands shook as they tried to hold the almond biscuit.
"You know . . . " Catie said quietly. Maddie thought she looked almost dead from fatigue. "Once we grow up and marry, we won't be able to have adventures like this anymore. Our husbands won't let us."
Now, this was a new idea, and one Maddie rather liked. No more climbing out windows. No more scratchy— er, rather comfortable —boys' clothing or dark city streets.
Josie sat forward. "When I become a pirate, I won't need a husband. I'll have loads of treasure all for myself."
"And I'm going to have lots of adventures," Ashley said. "I won't have time for a husband, especially a mean one."
Everyone knew she was talking about Catie's horrible father. He was even worse at being a husband than a parent.
"But how will you have money for adventures without a husband?" Josie asked. Maddie wondered the same.
"Well, I don't care how poor I am," Catie said confidently. "I'm not going to marry at all. Ever."
Maddie blinked. It was a shocking statement, one she couldn't imagine making herself. Not marry? Her father said it was a woman's job to marry.
Of course, her mother laughed at her father when he said that because her father always assigned women roles they didn't particularly want. Just the other day, when Maddie had tried to give a shilling to a little beggar boy on the street, her father scolded her because little ladies were not to consort with street urchins.
Excerpted from Blackthorne's Bride by Shana Galen Copyright © 2007 by Shana Galen. Excerpted by permission.
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