Lena DuBois never knew her father until he suddenly reappeared in her life to tell her he’s arranged for her to marry one of his business partners. Lena flees, deciding to become a mail-order bride, where at least she’s the one doing the choosing. Her future husband, John Thorpe, has requested a woman of good moral character which Lena considers herself to be. The problem is her mother is the most celebrated madam in all New Orleans. What will happen if he discovers her secret?
“Helena, as I said my name is Robert Drummond and what I’m about to tell you will come as a shock. But your mother and I have talked and decided that it’s time that you know.”
He paused and took a deep breath.
“I’m your father.”
Father. All this time she’d longed for a father. Had missed out on things like the father-daughter dances that the other girls at her school had attended. If she’d been standing, Lena might have collapsed. As it was she simply tightened her hand on the padded chair arm and hoped the man couldn’t see her shake within the chair. “That can’t be. My mother would have told me if my father was alive.”
“I can understand your reluctance to believe me, but it is the truth. I should have let Mellisande accompany me. She wanted to, you know, but I wanted to tell you myself, vain person that I am.”
He turned his hat over and over on his lap.
“I thought sure you’d be happy about the news. Look, I’m a well-known business-man and couldn’t have my relationship with your mother known within certain circles. When you were two, we decided I should remarry and when you were six we sent you away to school to shield you from your mother’s business. One of your classmates, Eric Rappaport, is my stepson. Do you remember him?”
Lena’s breath caught in her throat at that news. She sat straighter, glad she was sitting on the chair. “That’s true,” she nodded. “I do remember Eric. He was totally obnoxious and mean to me the whole time we were at school together. Does he know about this, too? That you’re supposed to be my father.”
Robert sat forward on his chair. “I’m afraid he does. He overheard me telling my wife, his mother, of your existence. I wanted to take care of you and did the best I could. Now, though, you’re of an age that you must marry and have children of your own. I’ve found a suitable man back in New York. One of my business partners actually. Your mother’s association to you will never be known.”
Anger gave Lena strength and she stood, back straight. She would not show any softness toward him, no matter how much she wanted to have a father. He could be a complete liar. But he wouldn’t have known those things about me if he wasn’t who he said he is. “You propose to tell me that you’re my father and I must marry someone you have chosen for me, all in few minutes. Are you out of your mind?”
“No. You are an adult now and need to take on adult responsibilities.”
She couldn’t believe his arrogance and she didn’t need a stranger’s help in securing a husband. She would remain calm, just like she did when the children she taught were getting rambunctious.
“I’ll pick my own husband.”
“Listen to me Helena—”
“My name is Lena and I refuse to be dictated to by a stranger. Please leave.” She pulled the cord for Thaddeus.
The library door opened and Thaddeus entered. He was not just a butler, but also her mother’s bodyguard. Lena had no fear when he was near. “You rang, Miss Lena?”
“Yes, Thaddeus. Please show out this gentleman.”
“I’ll leave now, Helena,” Robert donned his hat. “But I’ll be back in two weeks and I expect you to be ready to come with me to New York.
“Please leave, Mr. Drummond, before I have Thaddeus hail a police officer.”
“As you wish.” Drummond was not a happy man, but he stood and left through the door that Thaddeus held open. “I can find my own way out.”
Lena shook all over. Never would she marry some man her mother, or her newly discovered father, had chosen for her. Her mother had tried before to get her to marry. Lena was shamed by Mellisande’s business and might hate herself sometimes because of that shame, but she hadn’t fallen so far that she would allow her mother to choose a husband for her. She hadn’t before when Mellisande wanted her to why would her mother think that she would now? How could they tell her all of this at once and expect her to acquiesce to their demand? First she had a father, and second, she was supposed to marry some strange man, not of her choosing. That had been the problem last time. She hadn’t chosen the man. Her mother had. This was no different and she would not stand for it.
She dropped into one of the large overstuffed chairs in front of the empty fireplace, making sure it was not the one her father had sat in. Grabbing the paper from the coffee table she flipped through the pages looking for a special advertisement. One she’d heard whispered about by her teacher friends at school when they wanted to marry.
Finally she found it and read to remind herself of the details.
Women wanted. Matchmaker & Co in Golden, Colorado is recruiting women with the object of marriage to one of their thoroughly screened bachelors. These men are farmers, ranchers, miners and of other occupations, that are desirous of marriage and family. Contact Mrs. Maggie Black, with your photograph and the type of man you are looking for.
This was perfect. She could choose a husband far away from both New York and New Orleans. Her parents would never find her and she’d finally lead her own life as she saw fit.
Cynthia Woolf is the author of twenty historical western romance books with more books on the way–as Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first book, Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. More information is at her website.