Jackson Gallway’s reputation as a rogue has far surpassed his success as a lawyer. In the wake of yet another scandal, he decides to head west. But before he can escape Misty Lake, Jax makes a promise to find an elusive killer. When he encounters a lovely young artist with an unusual talent that could help him in his search, what he finds is something neither of them can escape . . .
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The Lady Who Drew Me In
A Sole Survivor Novel
By Thomasine Rappold
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Thomasine Rappold
All rights reserved.
Misty Lake, New York, 1885
The man was controlling her from six feet under. Daisy Lansing stared up at the portrait of her late husband, so angered by his betrayal she could scream. Monthly allowance, my foot.
With a sigh, she slumped into the high-back chair behind the large desk, fighting back tears. All his promises, all these years ... He'd lied, and then he'd died, taking the independence she'd thought would finally be hers along with him. Not to mention her dream of opening a day home for working-class children. The crushing reality weighed on her shoulders, tightening her neck muscles into knots.
She glanced to the large bay window, watching her latest financial prospect scurry to his carriage, then speed away in a cloud of dust. Failed attempts to secure an investor for her plans for the home were mounting as high as the stacks of neglected paperwork on the desk in front of her. Completing her latest painting had taken its toll. And she'd yet to be paid for the blasted thing.
She checked the hour on the gold watch around her neck. Her appointment with William Markelson was at three o'clock, so she had only minutes to brace herself for more bad news. Rubbing her temples, she soothed the budding throb of a headache. At the sound of a woman's laughter outside, Daisy glanced to the window. Felice Pettington.
Daisy shot to her feet. "It's about time," she mumbled, scooting around the desk for a closer view. Misty Lake's most celebrated summer guest strolled up the walkway, blond spit curls bobbing beneath her stylish bonnet as she slathered her charms on the tall man at her side.
And who do we have here?
Daisy craned her neck toward the window. The pretty heiress nestled against her handsome escort, her gloved hands like twin boa constrictors coiled around his arm. Curious as to whom the woman had snared to join her on the impromptu visit, Daisy hurried out to the porch.
Felice's sweeping yellow skirts brushed the blooming shrubs flanking the stone walk, stirring petals and the scent of rhododendrons through the air. Her mousy maid followed in the flurry.
"Yoo-hoo!" Felice unfurled her grip on the man just enough to wave her gloved fingers. "This is Mr. Gallway." She leaned toward the man's impressive shoulder, batting her lashes as they stepped up to the porch. "Mr. Gallway is from Troy."
Daisy's heart lurched, as it always did, at the mention of Troy. Even after all this time, the painful memories of her past in the city hadn't faded a whit.
Felice smiled smugly. "He's an attorney."
Daisy took a deep breath. Of all the lawyers Felice might have cajoled to browbeat Daisy on her behalf, the woman had enlisted a relative of Daisy's closest friend. Tessa Gallway had gushed that her rakish brother-in-law was handsome, but the simple description hardly did him justice.
Daisy gave a slow nod, her aversion to lawyers suffering a brief lapse as she studied him closer. Layers of wavy black hair matched his thick brows and the sideburns that led to his jaw. His sapphire eyes sparkled in the sunlight.
And his mouth. Good Heavens, his mouth. Daisy swallowed hard, awed by her response to the man. He was nothing like she'd imagined, yet everything portrayed in the gossip. A notorious rogue intent on skirting marriage and sowing a silo's worth of oats in the process.
His smile widened, as though he'd heard Daisy's unspoken assessment and expected no less. More likely he was simply too arrogant to care.
"You can wait for me here, Myrtle." Felice waved her maid toward one of the rocking chairs on the porch.
Daisy ushered them inside, and then led them down the hall to the library. After all this time, the scent of Lawry's final cigar still clung to the paneled walls. The familiar smell she'd relished so fondly after his death affected her differently now. How could he do this to her?
Blinking back tears, she returned her focus to her guests. Felice batted her lashes, then proceeded with a formal introduction. Extending an arm toward Daisy, she said, "Mr. Jackson Gallway, I present the Widow Lansing."
Jackson Gallway stepped forward, his eyes wide. "You're the Widow Lansing?"
Daisy frowned. "I am Daisy Lansing, yes."
He gave her a thorough once-over. "You're much younger than I expected."
The blunt confession surprised her. Not that she blamed him for his presumption she was a wrinkled old prune. She'd married a man thirty years her senior and was used to the reactions she'd garnered during introductions. Surprise, suspicion, disgust — she'd seen them all. Since Lawry's death ten months ago, she'd become known as the Widow Lansing and, like it or not, the title carried an image.
"It's good to finally meet you," she replied honestly. At the inquisitive arch of his brow, she explained, "Your brother's wife is my dearest friend."
"Ah," he said with a nod. "Any friend of Tessa's ..."
Reaching for her hand, he smiled, the effect of which she couldn't ignore. His confident grip said he'd done this before — charmed women senseless with barely a word. And still she felt flattered. Clasping her fingers, he stared down at her, and she marveled at the unique shade of his eyes.
Had she imagined the flash of desire that sparkled inside them? After all, it had been ages since a man had touched her. Although she hadn't particularly missed marital relations, abstinence, it seemed suddenly, had made her body grow fonder.
"It's a pleasure, Mrs. Lansing." The sound of his voice was as smooth as the skin on his freshly shaven face. The perfect form of his lips steered her mind down a path it hadn't wandered in years. Her pulse quickened.
"Daisy," she uttered, sounding more like a smitten school girl than a twenty-four-year-old widow.
Several long moments passed, and every nerve in her body tingled beneath the heat in his eyes. Her mouth went bone dry.
"Ahem." Felice took an imposing step forward. "I came to settle this business of the portrait."
Daisy took a deep breath. "And you needed a lawyer to assist?"
"I am not her attorney, Mrs. Lansing. I am merely her escort."
Daisy eyed him warily. Escort, my foot. She knew all about Felice's string of admirers from the city. The woman's visit to the Misty Lake Hotel across the lake was the talk of the town. As were her suitors — men who tripped over themselves to alleviate her boredom.
Jackson Gallway seemed a potent cure for the doldrums. The thought made Daisy flush. From what she'd heard of him, he'd had plenty of practice entertaining women. Tessa's husband was pressing him to settle down, though. Who better for the wayward lawyer to settle down on than a beautiful heiress?
Daisy shook off her irritating envy. When had her focus turned from Felice to the wretched woman's escort?
"Please sit." Daisy motioned toward the Grecian sofa in the center of the room.
Gallway waited until both women were seated before joining Felice on the sofa. Felice adjusted her ample skirts, inching casually toward him. Daisy settled into the chair across from the pair, rolling her eyes at the woman's blatant flirtations.
"As I made clear in my notes to you, Felice, your portrait is ready, and payment is now due."
"That's precisely why I came to see you. I've changed my mind about the painting."
"But the work is complete."
"Let me remind you," Daisy said. "I had no wish to paint you until you insisted your payment would be well worth my trouble."
Felice tossed her head, unaffected. "I no longer wish to purchase another portrait of myself."
Daisy clenched her teeth. The heat of anger rushed to her cheeks. "I don't give a fig what you do or do not wish. I spent nine days painting this piece. From memory, I might add, since you couldn't be bothered to pose for longer than half an hour."
"Half an hour?" Gallway cocked a brow, pointing with a nod of his chin toward the portrait on the easel by the window. "You painted that portrait from a pose you sketched in less than an hour?"
Daisy straightened, puffing her chest. "I have an exceptional memory."
"Exceptional, indeed," he uttered.
Felice huffed. "Be that as it may, these things happen. I hope my visit today puts an end to your incessant demands for payment."
Daisy took a deep breath, glancing to the man at Felice's side. He sat silently, an expectant look on his handsome face. He awaited Daisy's response, her inevitable defeat, as though his mere presence ensured it. Blasted lawyers.
Daisy turned to Felice. "You are absolutely certain that you do not want the piece?"
"Quite certain," she snapped. She primped at her curls. "It hardly flatters me."
Daisy took a deep breath. "Very well then." She mustered her most diplomatic tone. "Since you refuse to pay me for my work, I am forced to find someone who will."
Felice narrowed her eyes. "What do you mean?"
"I shall seek another buyer," Daisy said.
The woman's perfectly groomed brows shot up in surprise. "Another buyer?"
"But who —"
"I've heard of a businessman in Texas who is currently shopping for just such a piece." Daisy stretched her arm toward the easel, presenting the work in a show of admiration. "He's enamored with the idea of displaying a portrait of a genuine heiress above the bar in his saloon."
Felice gasped. "His saloon? My portrait?"
"My portrait," Daisy reminded her. "I will be compensated for my services one way or another."
Felice's eyes bulged.
Daisy's heart pounded a battle sound in her ears. She fired a glance at the lawyer. He sat, riveted in silence, his fine mouth pursed tight. The surprising possibility he would remain that way fueled her confidence.
"Of course, I'll have to alter the painting," Daisy continued. "Lower the neckline of the gown, enhance the décolletage."
"You can't do that!" Felice spun her head from Daisy to Gallway and back so fast her bonnet slid askew. She adjusted the cockeyed thing quickly, chest heaving.
"It's my painting, and I can do with it whatever I please. Anyone with a brain will tell you that." Daisy turned to Gallway. He disputed nothing, proving her point. From the smile quirking his lips, it seemed he was enjoying Felice's comeuppance almost as much as Daisy.
"This is an outrage." Felice ground out each word. Her eyes were blue ice. Even her curls froze stiff. "I will not be bullied by the likes of you, Daisy Lansing. I'll see to it you never open that day home for those guttersnipes."
"They are not guttersnipes, Felice. They are children. Good children. But I will speak no further on a topic that is well beyond your emotional capabilities as a human being."
"Hmph!" Felice turned toward the lawyer. "Do something," she demanded. "Tell this — this — person, that I will report her to the authorities. That —"
"The price for the painting has doubled," Daisy announced.
"What?" Felice shot to her feet.
Daisy straightened her spine. "Ante up, Felice, or your likeness is on the next train bound for the Yellow Rose Saloon and Gaming Parlor."
The woman gaped.
"Criminal!" Felice screeched.
The woman's undoing filled Daisy with a satisfaction so strong she had to bite her lip against smiling. She shrugged. "I've done nothing illegal. Have I, Mr. Gallway?"
He shook his head, coughing some more. "Mrs. Lansing is well within her rights," he sputtered, composing himself. "Possession and all."
"The law is the law." His solemn words contradicted the gleam of amusement in his eyes.
"You don't know everything, Jackson Gallway. This matter is far from settled."
"Pursue it, if you must." He stood, his voice rising in the volume and formality so common among lawyers. "But consider the publicity. Settle your debt with Mrs. Lansing, and enjoy your new portrait." He glanced to Daisy. "Remarkable work."
His admiration seemed genuine, and she gobbled it up like a woman starved. If he noticed her pathetic reaction, he didn't show it. He merely took a deep breath and turned to Felice.
"If you will pardon us, I have some important business of my own to discuss with Mrs. Lansing."
This news surprised Daisy as much as it insulted Felice. The woman adjusted her bonnet, then gave a stiff fluff of her skirts, composing herself as she swished toward the door. She tossed a flippant wave behind her. "Have the thing wrapped. My coachman will stop for it tomorrow. He'll deliver your payment as well," she called over her shoulder as though she were the victor of the dispute. She disappeared from the room.
"Well done." Jackson turned to Daisy. "Very well done." He laughed, shaking his dark head.
"She deserved it," Daisy said, enjoying the sound of his laughter. The man was a charmer, she'd give him that. How had she not met him before now? She'd spent enough time with Tessa at the Gallway mansion to know the servants by name, and yet her path had never crossed his. Until now.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Gallway?" she asked, gesturing him back to his seat.
He stretched his long legs and settled into the sofa, which suddenly seemed too small to contain his broad frame. She let her gaze drop to his shoulders, his waist, and his powerful thighs.
"William Markelson sent me."
"Yes," she said, springing back to attention. "I've been awaiting word from him on the matter of my late husband's will."
"I've come to inform you that Markelson refused your request to review the document."
Her heart sank. "He will not even look at it, then?"
"No. Your husband was a revered attorney, and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone in his profession to challenge his will."
As she had heard from every other lawyer she'd approached on the matter.
"Your husband was quite vocal in his concerns you might be inclined to overindulge in your charitable works."
Daisy lowered her gaze. "Yes, well. Lawry never was one for overindulgence," she muttered. A blush of shame warmed her face.
"Your monthly allowance cannot be exceeded."
Daisy sighed. While she would somehow make do with the paltry sum, it would take years for her paintings to earn what she needed for the day home. She glanced toward the portrait in the stream of sunlight by the window and frowned at Felice Pettington's smug face. "I should have tripled the price."
* * *
Jackson watched the young widow, her solemn blue eyes, the desperation in the slump of her shoulders. Perhaps she was more than the greedy schemer his associates had labeled her. She was challenging the old man's will to gain funds for her charity work, and her drive and generosity touched on his rusty conscience.
He straightened in his seat and returned to business. He sympathized with her dilemma, but after shattering her hopes for her charitable endeavors, he had a problem of his own to solve. The wheels in his mind spun with the best way to broach his forthcoming request.
"Well, thank you for delivering the message, Mr. Gallway." She stood, lifting her chin. "Unless there's anything else ..."
He stood, then stepped toward her. The sweet scent of her was subdued and not fancy. As refreshing as a brisk walk in the park. "As a matter of fact, there is."
She tilted her head as they returned to their seats. Shades of gold shimmered in her hair. Christ, she was pretty....
She wet her lips, and the glimpse of her pink tongue left him speechless. He shook his head, flustered.
"I need your help," he said quickly.
She blinked in surprise, and he found himself pleased by his role in replacing the sadness in her eyes. "Your artistic talent is evident," he said with a nod toward the painting of Felice Pettington. "But what I've heard about your other talent impresses me more."
She frowned, her face flaring with anger.
"The ability to transfer people's thoughts onto paper seems unbelievable to me," he said, "but witnesses swear your ability is real."
"It is all too real, I assure you," she snapped. "And it's an ability I no longer utilize."
"Perhaps you'd consider making an exception?"
She narrowed her eyes.
"I need to procure a sketch from a witness. Others have failed in soliciting any details from this witness —"
"No." She shook her head. "As I've stated quite clearly, I don't draw in that manner anymore."
Excerpted from The Lady Who Drew Me In by Thomasine Rappold. Copyright © 2016 Thomasine Rappold. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Enjoyed this book.
The Lady Who Drew Me In by Thomasine Rappold is the third book in The Sole Survivor Series. Daisy Lansing is a widow living in Misty Lake, New York in 1885. Daisy has the unique ability to transfer images from people’s thoughts onto paper. Daisy used to use her skill to entertain her guardian’s friends at parties until one night a married woman’s thought got her in deep trouble with her husband. It caused a big scandal. Daisy’s guardians, The Palmers married Daisy off to Lawry Lansing (a man thirty years older) in exchange for a house in Newport and the promise of their daughter, Grace being well received in society. Lawry was strict and insisted that Daisy not draw or paint (she rarely left the house). Lawry has now passed away and left Daisy with a small monthly allowance (much to her dismay). Jackson “Jax” Gallway is an attorney from Troy. He is the brother-in-law to Daisy’s best friend, Tessa Gallway. Jax needs Daisy’s assistance on his latest case (his future depends upon this task. He needs Daisy to use her ability to get information from a young witness. Jax’s client, Randal Morgan has been wrongly accused of murder. The only witness is a young boy, Andy Wendell who has not talked since he saw his father murdered. Daisy assists Jax, but she ends up with her reputation in shatters. With help from Jax’s brother, Dannion the two are quickly wed. But, can Jax, a notorious rogue, be content as a married man or living in the country town of Misty Lake? Jax is also alienating the towns people with his pursuit of justice for Randal Morgan. Will there be a happily ever after for Jax and Daisy? Will Jax be able to prove Randal Morgan’s innocence? The Lady Who Drew Me In is a sweet yet steamy novel. I liked the characters and the setting. The book is well-written and, for the most part, kept my attention. The mystery was interesting and the author provided good clues. Ms. Rappold also did a very good job at capturing the time period of the late 1800s in New York as well as the personalities of society people. I give The Lady Who Drew Me In 3.5 out of 5 stars. I just wish there had been more of the paranormal element in the novel. The romance or attraction between Daisy and Jax dominated the story with the Jax’ case taking second place. The paranormal element was very much in the background (like an extra in a movie). There are highly stimulating scenes between Jax and Daisy after they are married (cold water would rise like steam if it was doused on them). In addition, the story has the usual miscommunication between the couple that leads to a distance between the couple. The ending is expected (there has to be a happy ending). If you like to read historical romance novels, then you will enjoy reading The Lady Who Drew In.