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!
Excerpt # 1
Her feet barely skimmed the gently sloping, verdant lawn as she hurried to a destination she had been to thousands of times. Reaching the iron gate, she sat the basket down momentarily as she took a small key from her pocket. It only took a moment to unlock the barrier the fathers had insisted on. Seconds later she was through and could see the bright sunlight past the thick hedge.
“I’m here,” she called out gaily, nearly skidding to a stop. “Oh,” she sighed dramatically as she dropped to the ground, the brim of her hat flopping up and down.
“What took you so long?” Grace demanded. “I’m starving and I almost had to go to the dressmaker with mother.”
Effie turned up her nose and gave a delicate shiver. “How horrible,” she drawled as she took the quilt from Amelia and spread it neatly on the ground.
“Don’t make light of it, Effie,” Amelia said with a laugh. “When mother died, father asked Mrs. Wentworth to take me along to the dressmakers with Grace. I’ve never been poked so much in my entire life.”
“Sorry,” Effie offered, sitting on the quilt and watching Grace unpack the basket.
“It’s all right,” Grace replied, picking up a pickle and taking a big bite. “You just have no concept of how exacting my mother can be,” she continued, chewing as she spoke.
“Wouldn’t Mrs. Pettigrew have a fit if she could see us now?” Amelia asked as she sat cross legged, her bare legs showing as she reached for her own pickle.
Effie straightened and placed her hand on her hips. Looking down her nose she began a perfect imitation of the woman they’d all grown to hate.
“Young ladies, young ladies,” she spat out crisply as she clapped her hands. “It is not proper to show your lower extremities,” she scolded, eyeing Grace who was sitting on her heels. “When a lady sits, she does so gracefully, gently sweeping her skirt to the side. She does not cross her legs, nor does she allow anything more than a glimpse of her ankles,” she continued, hiking up her pink dress and pointing her toes inward, giving her backside an inflated appearance.
Grace and Amelia howled with laughter.
“Ladies, a well-bred young woman does not bellow with mirth,” Effie informed them, wagging her finger. “She quietly titters behind her fan or a lace handkerchief. Observe,” she continued, plucking a small lace square from her pocket and holding it to her mouth as she giggled and rolled her eyes.
Grace and Amelia began clapping, yelling, “Bravo!”
"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."
"I'm sorry," she said with a somewhat indignant sniff, her shoulders stiff. "I didn't realize how serious you were."
"Yes, I can see that," Hugh sighed. At first he was only going to scold her, but her tone struck a chord that was strangely reminiscent of one he'd heard his mother take with his father a thousand times. While not exactly argumentative, it did have a bite of sarcasm. Clearly she was affronted and it bordered on disrespectful. It was a recipe for a marriage full of constant bickering and was not on his agenda, now or ever. He would not put up with having his authority constantly challenged. Releasing one arm he picked up her hairbrush and hefted it in his hand.
"I'm sorry you did not understand how serious I am about your well-being. I'm about to remedy that right now," he told her as he pulled her to the bed.
Amelia didn't resist. It wasn't until he sat down and pulled her over his knees with ridiculous ease that it dawned on her what his intentions were.
"You can't be serious, Mr. Jordon," she squeaked out, too stunned to struggle.
"Hugh," he reminded her as he gathered both of her wrists at the back of her waist. "Because we are not yet wed, I'm going to emphasize my feelings over your skirt. Once you become my wife, should this be necessary in the future, rest assured it will be on your bare bottom."
Amelia couldn't help it, she began to laugh.
The hand that held the hairbrush stopped in mid-air as soon as he heard it.
"Are you laughing?" he demanded incredulously.
"No, oh no," she replied before more snickers escaped.
Hugh's arm dropped to her back, still holding the brush.
"Would you mind telling me what's so all fired funny about this?" he asked, stunned.
Amelia laughed harder and turned to look at him over her shoulder.
"Mr. Jordon, I mean Hugh," she began, her eyes twinkling. "I am a young woman on my own for the first time. I've traveled thousands of miles, slipped away from my family and some very dear friends, all in my quest for adventure and independence. I clearly stated in my letter that I believed in the emancipation of women. I've known you approximately two hours, and in that time, I've made of fool of myself in front of hordes of strangers, made my prospective husband think I'm incapable of following the simplest instructions and am about to get spanked for the first time in my life. I find the absurdity of the situation remarkably amusing."
"Well let me see if I can take some of the amusement out of the situation for you," he growled, raising the brush and bringing it down smartly on her backside.
“What are you going to do about getting your bride back?” Duncan asked, draining his glass.
“I plan to wait a few days and let the dust settle while I get to the bottom of this. Then I will present her with the evidence of my innocence. Hopefully, she will realize it’s all been a horrible mistake and come home with her loving husband,” he said, placing his hand on his chest and giving a small bow. Picking up his glass he drained it and slammed it down on the mantle.
“When we get home, I will teach her a very valuable lesson regarding marriage, commitment and trusting one’s husband.”
“And if she refuses?”
“Oh she can refuse at the top of her lungs; she’ll come home under her own steam or over my shoulder getting her ass swatted every step of the way. If it comes to that, I plan to take the long way home, right through the center of town.”
Duncan scoffed. “You’ll never get her out of the house that way. Not unless you plan to do battle with you mother.”
“I was hoping you would take care of that part,” Hugh said. “It’s time you stood up to her father, and you know in your heart I’m right. She’s taunted you for years; it’s almost like watching someone poking a sleeping bear. She flits here and there doing lord knows what. Now she’s tossed you out of your own damn home. Where does it end? Divorce?”
“Never,” Duncan roared. “I’ll no give her a divorce under any circumstances!”
“Then do something about her,” Sam sighed. “She’s out of control, has been for years. If you won’t do it for yourself, do it for us, for any grandchildren we may give you. Hell, do it because you love her and it’s for her own good. She’s not getting any younger you know and neither are you. What are you waiting for? Isn’t nearly thirty years of her tantrums and spending frenzies enough? Think of the example she’s setting for Amelia, and if I ever get married, I certainly don’t want my wife behaving like that. How will I argue against it when my own father tolerates it?”
“Ach, it’s a sad day when a man has to take his hand to his wife,” Duncan sighed, his shoulders slumping. “I’ll think on it.”
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