Fresh out of Mrs. Pettigrew’s School for Young Ladies, Amelia Westcott and her two best friends are ready for adventure. Suddenly a life filled with social obligations and meaningless gossip seems unappealing. On a whim the girls investigate the phenomena of young women heading west to marry, and Amelia is captivated by the freedom such a decision offers.
Hugh Jordon needs a wife. The severe shortage of women in the Pacific Northwest makes advertising for a bride seems reasonable. As long as he finds a wife who is the exact opposite of his tempestuous mother, he’ll be well satisfied. Studying the applicants, he chooses one that seems to best fit his needs, and delegates his head clerk with the critical task of sending polite rejections to the others. Unfortunately, most of them never get the letter Hugh anticipated and soon the brides descend, all expecting to marry the same man!
Amelia is horrified, and realizes that the adage “marry in haste, repent at leisure” has never been more true. How could he do that to her? What sort of man was he, to propose to so many women? She simply must have their wedding annulled and return to Massachusetts at once.
Hugh has other ideas. In his opinion, the perfect place for his bride to learn about faith, loyalty and commitment is in his home and over his knee!
“It’s nothing really,” she replied softly with an embarrassing blush. “It was a long trip and I’ve left my family and my closest friends behind. I guess I was lonely and a bit scared.”
“And are you a woman given to tears? I’ve always found them hard to abide except under certain circumstances.”
“No, Mr. Jordon, absolutely not. Usually I’m quite eager to experience new things. As I said, I don’t know what came over me.”
Hugh sighed and easily lifted her to her feet before he rose, towering over her.
“Well, now that you’ve somewhat recovered, I suggest we make our way to our hotel where you can uh…freshen up or whatever it is women do after a long journey and rest until it’s time for dinner.” Taking her hand he tucked it securely in the curve of his arm.
“I am quite rested, Mr. Jordon,” Amelia insisted, gripping his arm tightly as he wove their way through the throng of passengers. “In fact, I would love to see some of the city as soon as I’ve gotten settled in my room.”
“All right, if that is your preference,” he agreed.
“Thank you, Mr. Jordon,” she said, looking up at him with a small smile.
“I think you’d better call me Hugh.”
“Oh, I couldn’t,” she gasped. “Not yet. After all, I hardly know you.”
“Amelia,” he began, his lips twisting in an ironic smile. “You jumped into my arms, cried all over my shirt, sat on my lap and blew you nose into my handkerchief. I believe we’ve moved beyond the formalities,” he teased, patting her hand.
“Yes, Hugh,” she whispered back. “I’m sorry if I caused you any embarrassment by my actions and I’ll understand if you want to withdraw your proposal.”
Hugh stopped and turned to her. Her dry eyes were now a beautiful clear gray as she slowly lifted her chin. There was a spattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose he hadn’t noticed. She’d said she was small of stature, but that would be true standing next to a normal size man. Beside him, the top of her head didn’t reach his shoulder, but she was perfectly lovely. Her pink lips formed a sweet bow and her curls spilled over her shoulder, having escaped from her cock-eyed hat. The faint scent of lilacs drifted past his nose, as he lowered his head to speak quietly in her ear.
“Not only do I not wish to withdraw my proposal, but I fear even if you should like to change your mind, I could not allow it. While you’re not quite what I expected, I am not at all disappointed. I will hold you to your promise, Amelia,” he said firmly. “When we board the ship for home, you will be my wife.”
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