Thursday, 9 December 2010

Excerpt Day - Charlotte's Brides: Danielle © Sable Grey

Excerpt

 

Chapter One

Danielle sat pensively in a cushioned chair waiting in the home office of the Driscol House, a two-story brick building in the center of Boston’s well-to-do district. Charlotte Oberman had informed her that the man who’d sent for her, Alistir Driscol, was a successful attorney, widowed for six years, father to three. The house, though dreary and in need of a thorough cleaning, was impressive. The woman who’d shown her to the office was not.

 

As the door behind her opened, Danielle stood, quickly smoothing down the pressed skirts of her dress, and turned. The man who entered was not the widower she’d pictured in her mind. He was tall, lean but fit, his dark hair long but pulled back neatly with a thong. He was the image of upper-class society, complete with tailored suit and shined leather shoes.

 

“You are Miss Whitmore?”

 

She held out her hand and met him halfway across the room. “Danielle Whitmore. I was sent by Charlotte Oberman.”

 

His dark gaze swept over her in quick scrutiny before he took her hand, his long fingers folding briefly over hers. “I want to start by telling you that I’ve no need for a wife.”

 

Danielle frowned as he released her hand and headed around his desk. “Then I admit I am confused as to why you would contact the Oberman Bride Placement business.”

 

“It is my children. They need a mother.” He indicated the chair across from his desk and waited for her to sit before easing into his own chair. “I am seeking a marriage that will provide my children with a woman to look after and raise them as if they were her own.”

 

Danielle had spent enough time on the streets before Charlotte had taken her in to know how to read people quickly. This one was all business. She released a little breath. That made things much easier for her.

 

“I shall require, aside from my living expenses and the household allowance, an additional monthly allowance for which I would like to set up an account. In return I am willing to take care of the affairs of your household and raise your children. The woman who showed me in is your maid?”

 

His eyes narrowed but he inclined his head.

 

“And you have a cook, a driver, and someone to look after your horses?” She watched him incline his head again. “I shall need to know their salaries and a list of their duties, some of which I will most likely want to take on myself.”

 

“And the additional allowance?”

 

“I refuse to remain here a year or so with a strange man, one of whom I do not know what damage he might be capable, and be forced to leave with nothing to start over with,” she stated plainly.

 

“I see.”

 

“I can and am willing to be, if I am needed, useful in other areas as well. During the years I’ve been with Charlotte Oberman, I’ve found that I am very good with numbers and have had some experience with accounting and bookkeeping. I was even paid a small salary by Ms. Oberman for my work for her business and do not come to you empty handed or of weak mind.”

 

She knew she’d taken the right approach by the way he was staring at her. At first his gaze had looked her over like she was but a woman, perhaps plain and not thin enough; now he was looking at her as if she were a potential business partner.

 

“Anything else?”

 

She withdrew the document that Charlotte had sent her off with from her bag. “You only need to hand me a written and signed agreement about the monthly allowance and then sign these papers that state I am your wife. I will mail it to Ms. Oberman, and she will file it as a binding marriage contract.” She set the document on his desk.

 

“You are not what I expected, Miss Whitmore.” He finally leaned back in his chair and regarded her evenly.

 

“I’m practical and value a stable home. If this is unsatisfactory or does not please you, you may consider sending for a different woman.” She held her breath and waited, hoping she’d not pushed the business attitude too far.

 

“I am satisfied with your proposal. How much do you wish for your monthly salary?” He pulled out a piece of paper and dipped his quill; then his brown gaze lifted as he waited for her response.

 

“Whatever you feel is decent and fair shall suffice.” She decided to offer a bit of submissiveness to ease any worries that she might try to bully or cheat him. He lowered his gaze, and she watched his hand move across the page as he wrote out the agreement and signed it. Then he signed the documents but did not hand them back to her, only her allowance agreement.

 

“I will file this myself and send Ms. Oberman a letter stating I have done so,” he told her, and she almost smiled. It was a businessman’s trick to let the other businessman know he wasn’t completely in charge of their arrangement.

 

“As you wish.” She stood and reached for her solitary piece of luggage. “Will I be sharing your room or be given one of my own?”

 

“Your own. It has already been prepared for you.”

 

“You are most generous. Thank you.” She turned and left the office without looking back. The graying maid stood outside the door, her eyes narrowed as Danielle stepped from the office.

 

“I suppose you believe you accomplished something just now,” the woman drawled.

 

“What am I to call you?”

 

“Claire Burns.”

 

“Ms. Burns, please show me to my room, and then I shall wish to meet the children.” Danielle ignored the woman’s accusing eyes and after a moment followed her upstairs and to her bedroom.

 

Alistir sat at his desk listening to them ascend the stairs. He wasn’t certain about the woman he’d been sent, but over the next week, she proved she could meet the needs he’d spoken to Oberman about.

 

Danielle was competent, rational, and logical. She put the house in order, and his home had never been so clean. She established and kept a disciplined routine, one that kept her busy and proved effective with his children.

 

Each morning she met with the household staff, at which time she delivered the day’s menu and a shopping list along with the exact amount needed to make any necessary purchases. The driver would be told if and when he might be needed by her during the day, the boy who cared for the horses given instructions on when to have the horses ready. Then she and Claire would collect the laundry for Claire to wash.

 

Midmorning to midday, she dedicated herself to the children, who took to her rather quickly. She gave them lessons, fed them their meal, and then put them down for their naps. An hour later, she would wake them and take them for an outing. When they returned, she allowed them time to play in the garden while she checked in with the cook to make certain that everything for the evening meal was in order. After the evening meal, she read to the children and then retired them for the evening. She would then dismiss the staff and take time to prepare for the following day.

 

He had to admit, it was a productive schedule. The only break in her calm, businesslike attitude was when she was with the children. He’d seen a different woman then, warm and patient, more than willing to answer any of their endless questions and quick to laugh at their jests.

 

She was perfect.

 

Well not quite perfect, he amended for the hundredth time since she’d arrived as he poured himself a drink in the late hours of the evening. Perfect would have been the woman he’d loved. But the arrangement was adequate.

 

“Mr. Driscol?” As if summoned by his thoughts, he turned and found Danielle in the doorway of his office. She had readied to retire, her long dark hair hung loose around her shoulders, quite a contrast from the tight knot she fashioned it in every day. His gaze dropped momentarily to the plain white cotton gown she wore.

 

“What is it, Danielle?” He lifted his drink to his lips as she stepped into the room.

 

“I wished to speak with you about the children before I retired, if you have a few minutes?”

 

“Of course.” He waited, watching her pull the door closed behind her before facing him.

 

“They are all three very bright, and I fear I do not make use of their eagerness to learn. I haven’t the education to offer the knowledge they crave. I spend most of my nights in your library looking up information to give them the next day, but when they have questions, I sometimes do not know the answers. I fear I am failing them in this.” She frowned slightly, her large green eyes thoughtful. “I wish to ask permission to hire a tutor.”

 

“They are quite young for a tutor, aren’t they? Gabriel is only six and the twins but eight.” He watched her cross her arms as she walked towards him.

 

“Yes, but they learn so quickly and have so many questions, it would seem a waste to deprive them of the learning they obviously want.” She halted in front of him. “I only ask that you consider it. Of course I shall respect whatever decision you make on the matter.”

 

“I will consider it as you suggest,” he agreed.

 

“Thank you, sir.” She started to turn but hesitated.

 

“Is there anything else?” For the first time since she’d arrived, she suddenly looked a little nervous. Had she done something she needed to confess?

 

“Yes.” She finally faced him fully again, taking a deep breath. “It’s a difficult subject.”

 

“Speak plainly and to the point.” He set his drink aside.

 

“It is our arrangement.”

 

He didn’t mean to groan. “You want more money.”

 

The quick grin that flitted across her lips was rare. “No, sir. I’ve more than I need.” Her eyes glittered, laughing at him. “You needn’t worry of me emptying your pockets in such a way.”

 

“What then? Anything else could not be so difficult.” He folded his arms over his chest as she allowed hers to drop so she could clasp her hands together in front of her.

 

“It had not occurred to me to before, but I feel I shall not be doing my duty if I did not breach the subject. While you’ve established you’ve no need for a wife, it does not dismiss the fact that you work long hours each day and that you may indeed have need of some kind of…release.” Pink crept into her cheeks, another rarity of femininity.

 

He stared at her as she glanced around, seeming to be searching for anywhere to look but at him. It was delicately put, but the surprise of the subject caught him off guard. When he said nothing, her hand drifted up to the collar of her gown to finger the small band of white lace.

 

Alistir could not deny he was amused with her reaction to speaking of sex. Anything else and she was as intimidating as any business acquaintance he had met. Suddenly she’d been reduced to blushing and trembling.

 

He’d be lying if he said he’d not considered rapping on her door in the middle of the night…on more than one occasion that week. He did long for a woman’s body at times, and she was just one door away—and his wife, after all.

 

“I am not opposed to an arrangement between us,” she offered when he didn’t speak. “I do understand that you would not offer anything more than physical satisfaction.”

 

As if she’d read his thoughts. That was the very thing that had kept him from coming to her already. He had no desire for an emotional attachment. But he’d underestimated her logical approach to a situation. She thought as a man did, worked through problems and found solutions.

 

He turned and moved to refill his glass, taking several long swallows after he did. It was a tempting deal. They could keep it separate, away from everything else. That made it easier to keep emotions out of the way.

 

“I realize I am not the kind of woman you desire. Claire has already informed me that I am too plain and not thin enough for your liking, that you prefer blonde hair over brunette.” She spoke quickly. “I should understand if you do not want any kind of arrangement with me but thought it my duty to suggest…”

 

“Plain?” He faced her. She was anything but plain. Milky white skin, contrasting dark hair, and those luminous green eyes fringed in long dark lashes were intoxicating. When he moved toward her, she didn’t back away.

 

“What would Claire know of what I look for in a woman?” He snorted and saw the faint trace of a small smile in the corners of her mouth. “I, like most men, enjoy any woman who can satisfy me.”

 

“I understand.” She nodded and then brushed back her hair when it fell forward.

 

He tipped his glass and took several swallows, watching her over the rim. Hell, it was already done. She’d offered him an arrangement that suited him.

 

“I assume you are no virgin.” He watched her turn her gaze lower, and she shook her head. “How much experience do you have?”

 

Her eyes glittered slightly when she looked at him. “Very little, but it is enough that I do understand the gist of what takes place.”

 

“You laugh at me, but I have particular tastes and am attempting to determine if you would be opposed to them.”

 

“Tastes?” She shook her head. “Forgive me, but I don’t…”

 

“A woman bent over the back of that chair, skirts lifted and the feel of my palm against flesh.” He watched the pink creep back into her cheeks as her gaze darted to the chair he’d indicated.

 

“I’ve heard of men with such tastes.” Her attention dragged back to him. “When I was at the Oberman building, one of the other women told me of it. She said that sometimes a man would use his hands, and sometimes other things…like paddles or rulers.”

 

Alistir watched her lick her lips. “That kind of talk will get you into trouble,” he warned, smiling when her eyes widened. “Don’t look so terrified. I am not going to leap over there and beat you senseless.”

 

She blinked and laughed abruptly. “Of course not. I did not mean to suggest that you would do such a thing.”

 

“And I’ve not frightened you?”

 

“You’ll find that very little frightens me, Mr. Driscol.”

 

He admired her for that. “Take some time to consider what you would like. While I do like to dominate, force is not my nature.” He drank from his glass. “I am, however, greedy and insatiable, and if you come to me once, I shall use you as I wish.”

 

“Use me?” She bristled.

 

“Over and over.” He shrugged. “Eventually I would come to feel that you belonged to me to do with as I wished. Each time I dropped money into your account, I would think of it as payment for your submission.”

 

“I see.” She crossed her arms. “You would have me become your prostitute. I suppose that is the nature of our marriage already, isn’t it, though I’d not quite thought of it that way until this moment.”

 

Alistir stared at her as she turned and walked to the door. He hadn’t meant to imply that he would make her his whore. He winced. Or perhaps that was exactly what he’d meant.

 

“Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Driscol. Goodnight.” Then she slipped from the room.

 

© Sable Grey

 

 Danielle

Charlotte's Brides

Author: Sable Grey

Publisher: Cobblestone Press

Genre: Historical, Erotic Romance

Buy Link

When Danielle Whitmore enters a mail-order bride arrangement with a wealthy widower, it’s all business until his family unexpectedly shows up and they must feign being in love.

Their façade reveals Alistir Driscol’s particular sexual tastes – tastes that surprisingly appeal to Danielle as well. Their pretense leads to a passion that could end when she discovers Alistir’s best friend is actually a man from her past.

To make matters worse, someone is trying to blackmail Alistir. When Danielle must ask for help from her ex-lover to clear her husband’s name, it could ruin her new found happiness.

 

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