A Bride's Choice in Central City
A Bride's Choice in Central City
"These heartwarming romances will pull you in and leave you with a book hangover long after you’ve read the final words.” Julie Grant
She’s not who she thought she was
And he can’t keep a promise
Will they only disappoint each other?
Annabelle Singleton, a Southern socialite on her way to spinsterhood has her world broken when she discovers her life is a lie. While Annabelle searches for her place in society Thaddeus offers her a glimpse of what things could become. His young daughter grows attached to Annabelle, but is she ready to be a mother when she isn’t sure who hers was?
Despite his intentions, investor Thaddeus Kincaid continues to break promises to his young daughter and late wife. The only way to keep his word is to spend less time managing his company or find a wife. Neither option is viable. Until he meets Annabelle. But she has a secret, and until he finds out what it is, he can’t consider a future with her.
In the end, does the truth make you who you are?
Annabelle will have to decide.
You will root for Annabelle in A Bride’s Choice because everyone understands making a decision for love.
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Read the first chapter!
1872 St. Louis
Breakfast was the same as every day—bacon, eggs, and fruit, with a serving of silence directed at Annabelle Singleton from her aunt. Except for today. Aunt Viola wore a sparkling bracelet that she kept moving around her wrist and sighing over.
“Look how it catches the light.” Aunt Viola held her wrist in the ray of sunshine that graced the table. “I’m so glad the jeweler showed it to me before anyone else. I need something delightful in my life.”
Annabelle let herself believe for a minute that it might be a birthday gift for her.
“It’s lovely, Aunt Viola.”
“Yes, it is. And you should be done with breakfast by now. Eating too much bacon will only continue to increase your size.”
Annabelle refused to let her aunt’s meanness sour her birthday. Not this year.
Aunt Viola’s pride and joy, Pippins, a gray Skye terrier, whined and gave a small yap. “Pippins desires a walk.”
“I’ll walk him if you like.” Annabelle knew her offer would be refused. Aunt didn’t allow Anabelle to walk about free for fear something dreadful would happen to her. According to her aunt, danger waited to prey on unmarried women everywhere.
Her aunt sighed and placed her napkin on the table. “I think you should take him out. It would do you some good to move around a little more than you do.”
She didn’t care for her aunt’s insinuation that she was heavier than she should be. She nodded, wishing to disagree about her size. Instead, she chose to rejoice at the seldom offered freedom. Maybe this was her birthday gift, as it was most certainly not the bracelet. “I’ll take him.”
“You may keep him out for an hour. He needs the fresh air.”
Annabelle rose from her seat. “Yes, Aunt Viola.”
She wasted no time in getting the dog leashed and the two of them out the door. An entire hour to do as she wished, as long as she and Pippins were tethered together. Would Aunt Viola consider letting her do this every morning? Oh, the bliss of being out with people.
Pippins yanked against the leash, pulling Annabelle off balance. As she tried to pull back on the leather, the leash broke. The dog ran into the street. “Pippins!”
As she stepped onto the street to give chase, someone clenched her shoulder. She covered her mouth to keep from screaming.
“Stay back. I’ll get the dog.” The man looked her in the eyes and for a moment she forgot all about Pippins.
“Pippins!” The man ran after her. A carriage raced past, then another. She lost sight of them.
Should she stay as told? If she left and the man returned, he wouldn’t know how to find her. Going back to Aunt Viola’s without her beloved Pippins would be a disaster. Then she caught sight of the man and her breath caught. He was as handsome as every prince she’d read about, and he’d rescued her.
“I got him! I’ll bring him to you.” The man called from the other side of the street. Pippins wiggled in his arms, terrified of the large wagons thundering past.
“Please don’t spook, Pippins. Stay in the man’s arms.” She must appear foolish yelling to the dog as if he understood.
There was a break in the early morning traffic. The man rushed across the street. “Here you go.”
As he transferred Pippins to her, his arms slid over hers, causing them to tingle. She stifled a gasp of delight. She’d been sixteen the last time she’d experienced a moment like this. That was the first time William touched her hand when he gave her a glass of punch. “Thank you.” She couldn’t help but notice the clean scent he wore, or was that the way he always smelled?
“I’ll get the leash back on this runaway pup.”
“But it’s broken.” Pippins licked Annabelle’s face. Aunt Viola would have a fit if she saw that or how close this man stood to her niece.
“The leather is thin. I think I can tie it tight enough for you to return home. You’ll need to get another one before you walk your dog again.”
“Pippins belongs to my aunt. I’ll let her know. And thank you for rescuing us. I am certain my aunt will want to reward you. Please tell me where to send it. Or you could return with me and—”
“No need.” He tugged the leather strip tight. “There, that should hold. I need to get back to my family.”
“Thank you for helping.” Family. She finally met a man who appealed to her, and he was married. And family implied children. Aunt Viola was right. Annabelle would forever be alone. She was past the marrying age, just like her aunt.
Thaddeus Kincaid quickened his step. Chasing the dog had made him late for his appointment. He glanced at his jacket. A small dust print marred the pocket. He brushed it away.
“Get your Globe-Democrat here! Mann and Libby opens new dry goods store!” A skinny boy on the corner hawked. His stack of newspapers still stood tall for this late in the morning.
“I’ll take one.” Thaddeus dug in his pocket for a nickel. He didn’t need another. His had been delivered before he left home, but the boy’s rewarding grin made his deed worth the cost.
He nodded and then shoved the newspaper under his arm. The morning hadn’t gone as planned. First a dog and now a paper. It wasn’t like him to run in front of traffic for a dog, but the angst in the woman’s voice sent him charging without thought. And that was before he saw her eyes. Those soft green eyes had reached his heart despite having firmly closed it years ago.
Tying that leash onto the dog’s collar while she held Pippins unbridled a torrent of memories of his late wife. He welcomed them. He let them wash over him, cementing his reasons for staying away from women with captivating eyes.
No other woman could replace Catherine.
Afraid the leather would refuse to stay tied and she would lose the dog again, Annabelle carried Pippins all the way back to her aunt’s house. If Pippins escaped once more, she doubted there would be another handsome stranger to rescue him. She set the dog on the entryway floor. The knot was too tight to untie, so she unbuckled the collar. Pippin’s claws scratched against the wood floor as he scampered to the kitchen where cook would have filled his bowl.
When Annabelle stood, she caught the reflection of her hatless head in the mirror. She’d rushed off without one, afraid that Aunt Viola would change her mind about letting her go out alone. She pushed back her hair and searched her forehead and the bridge of her nose for freckling. She never failed to check. Her mother’s warnings to be vigilant about wearing a hat echoed in her heart. She missed her mother. If she could go back in time, she would never have argued with her. As it was, her mother had managed to leave her instructions written into Annabelle’s very being before passing away when Annabelle was ten.
The mirror revealed nothing else except fair skin and a few more red curls that needed a quick tuck back into place. Once more for safety, she scrutinized her pale complexion. Seeing no offending marks, she headed upstairs, thankful there wouldn’t be a need to apply lemon juice to fade freckles on her nose.
“You can’t be serious, Mr. Stockton. My brother didn’t know Annabelle wouldn’t have married by now. The girl won’t know what to do.”
At Aunt Viola’s mention of her name, Annabelle stopped mid-step, grabbed the handrail, and squeezed. It wasn’t that Aunt Viola said her name; it was the venomous tone used. One her aunt used when she didn’t get her way. Which wasn’t often.
Do about what? Why was Aunt Viola in the parlor talking about her to her father’s lawyer? The meeting with him had been arranged for later this morning. Had the time changed and Aunt Viola not told her? Possibly. Sending Annabelle with Pippins was no more than a subterfuge for removing her from the house. It would have worked if Pippins hadn’t escaped, causing their early return.
“Well, I don’t care. I will figure out how to take control of this—this situation. She’s much too young to trust with that enormous sum.” Viola’s voice grew stronger.
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