Even while Randall was speaking, it was Pietro I saw, the tenderness in his dark eyes looking at me, the caress in his soft voice. In Randall's voice there was not a shred of emotion; nor was there any in his expression. How should I respond? What should I say? I knew this was the hardest decision I would ever have to make. Either choice would demand a different price. Was I prepared to pay it? Was love enough in the one to bridge all the other differences of nationality, religion, and heritage? Was family loyalty, future security enough to decide for the other? What was my destiny? The heroine of Destiny's Bride is Druscilla Montrose, who first meets Randall Bondurant when she is a bridesmaid at his wedding to her cousin Alair Chance. Eight years later, after Alair's mysterious death, they meet again in a chance encounter. This leads to a strange series of events in which Druscilla debates, then accepts the position offered her by Alair's widower. Against all advice, Dru becomes governess to her two motherless little cousins, a difficult decision because of the suspicions and accusations of family and friends that Randall might have been responsible for his wife's death. She travels with the family to Italy. Here against the romantic background of nineteenth-century Europe, Druscilla receives two unexpected offers: One is a love that will mean giving up her heritage; the other requires a decision more important than any she has ever had to make before. Dru's choices bring her into conflicts of loyalty, challenges of faith and duty, and threatened danger, as well as romance.
About the Author
Jane Peart was a best-selling novelist in both the secular and Christian markets. Her beloved Brides of Montclair Series is one of the longest continuous series on the market. She also published the American Quilts Series, and the Orphan Train Trilogy.
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By Jane Peart
ZondervanCopyright © 1991 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Dru! Druscilla!" My mother's voice startled me awake. She was bending over me, her expression so distressed that I felt a pang of alarm.
I raised myself on my elbows, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. "What is it, Mama?"
"Oh, my dear, we have just had the most dreadful news. Alair is dead!" Her wide dark eyes grew suddenly bright with tears.
Fully awake now, I sat up. "Dead! Alair? But how?" My cousin was only twenty-six, just six years older than I, and in the prime of radiant young womanhood.
"We don't know all the details. We just got word. Some kind of accident." She began turning back the bedcovers. "You must get up at once. There really is no time to lose, Dru. We must leave for Mayfield as soon as possible. Garnet will send a carriage to meet us at the station."
Mama's hands shook as she handed me a cup of coffee to drink while I tried to absorb this shattering news.
"I must arrange for Auntie Nell's care while we are gone. Poor soul, she's quite distraught, but at her age the train trip and funeral would be too much. Now, hurry, dear! I've sent Bessie to the train station to see when the next train is leaving, and we must be on it!"
My mother left the room, and I got shakily to my feet. I couldn't seem to gather my wits. All that had registered was the stunning announcement that my cousin was dead!
I glanced at my open trunk, half-packed, standing in the corner. I was to leave for my new teaching post at Thornycroft School in Massachusetts at the end of the week. Dazedly I moved toward it. Had I packed anything that would be suitable for a funeral?
Funeral! Alair's funeral. The unreality of it rolled over me in a fresh wave of grief, and I was wrenched back eight years to a happier day. I could hear Alair's voice.
"But of course, Druscilla's going to be in my wedding! She will wear the loveliest dress of pink ruffled lawn with a pink satin sash, and carry pink roses. It will be perfect with her dark hair and beautiful eyes. Oh, Aunt Dove, you can't say no!"
If there had been any doubt in Mama's mind that I should be one of Alair's bridal attendants, it vanished in that moment. No one had ever been able to deny Alair anything she was set on having. I never quite understood why.
Even at age twelve I knew that Alair's engagement to Randall Bondurant had caused a flurry of controversy throughout our plantation community. There had been strong feelings as to whether or not any of our family should even attend the wedding, much less participate in it.
I remember the buzz of speculation among the older family members when the announcement came.
"Not suitable at all!"
"Well, he is from an old Charleston family-"
"But disowned, I'm told."
"Something about a duel?"
"No, but he was expelled from the Citadel-"
"Some boyish prank, I suppose?"
"Gambling, my dear!"
Shocked gasps all around.
"Besides, he's ten years older-"
"And as rich as Croesus." The last was uttered with a certain respect.
"What do Harmony and Clinton say?"
"What can they say? They've always spoiled the girl outrageously."
"Yes, she is willful and headstrong."
"But what can a young lady do in these times, these circumstances?"
Again a round of heavy sighing.
"The truth and pity of it is that so many of our gallant young men perished in the war."
"The war!" There was a consensus of nods. Then someone had said, "Well, at least, she will live at Montclair."
"Bon-Chance," corrected another.
"Good Luck, indeed!" was the final cryptic comment.
I knew that the reason for all the debate was an old family scandal, one that was spoken of in whispers although it was an open secret in Mayfield.
Randall Bondurant now lived on the estate that had been Montrose property for generations, ever since it was built on an original King's Grant in the 1700s, until it was lost to Bondurant in a card game by my Uncle Malcolm.
I had grown up at Montclair with my cousins-Alair Chance and Jonathan Montrose-and our mothers, who decided to move in together for the sake of safety and joint strength while our fathers were off fighting in the war. So, of course, I was pleased when Bondurant restored the house and gardens to their antebellum splendor and was thrilled to learn that the wedding would be held there.
Certainly, Alair was beside herself with excitement, and even the name change didn't concern her in the least.
"I think it's absolutely the most romantic thing a man ever did!" she trilled as we were being fitted for our dresses. "To combine my last name and his for our new home! Oh, we shall be so happy. I know it! What's more-" She dimpled and winked in a conspiratorial manner-"I think I deserve some credit for getting the place back into the family ... no matter what it's called!" And she tossed her beautiful head in the careless way she had.
At that point I didn't care what our relatives said, either. I thought Randall Bondurant was dashing and handsome, and Alair the luckiest girl in the world.
I adored Alair-always had-ever since those days at Montclair when she had so often declared herself the leader of our trio, teasing Jonathan and me if we lagged behind in any of her reckless games-climbing trees, wading in the creek, playing in the woods. If she were our self-appointed "queen," the two of us were her willing subjects. And on the few occasions when we dared to question her leadership, she said she should lead because she was the oldest. Actually, it was because she knew how to charm and manipulate to get her way even then, and we gladly agreed just for the privilege of playing with her.
Lost in my memories of those carefree days, I was still standing in my nightgown, my cup of untasted coffee in my hand, when Mama came back into the bedroom.
"Not dressed yet? Darling, do hurry. Our train leaves at one. Shall I help?"
"No, thank you, Mama, I'll manage. It's just that somehow I can't believe it yet-that Alair is really dead."
"I know, darling." Mama took the cup from me and set it down, then hugged me. "I understand just how you feel."
Excerpted from Destiny's Bride by Jane Peart Copyright © 1991 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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