Augusta Springer has made a life for herself at school in Boston, far away from her domineering father back in Montana. But when her brother dies unexpectedly, she is summoned back to Montana to the ranch and an arranged marriage. She’d dead set against it, but the groom, Joshua Bradley, thinks he can change her mind:
“I drink I might be ever so slightly…thunk,” Augusta confided, laboring to pronounce every word correctly, and then giggled when she realized her mistake. She struggled to regain a serious mien. Miss Levon denounced giggling as unladylike.
Joshua reached to pull her wineglass away from her. “You’ve had enough,” he said, his gaze warm. “We have a long ride back in the dark, so you’d better keep your head. Of course, you’re welcome to spend the night here, if you like.” He made the outrageous offer calmly, as if it were quite unexceptionable.
Augusta, well aware of the impropriety of his offer, fixed him with a stare. “I am an adult, and not totally inex-, inexper-…I have drunk spirits before,” she corrected herself finally, with careful enunciation. She reached to pull her glass back, and her hand brushed against his on the stem. His palm, warm and roughened, sent a thrill of awareness up her arm—for a businessman, he still spent a good deal of time outdoors. His hand bore the marks of sun, wind, and leather.
“A regular tippler, are you?” he asked with a smile, his eyes lingering for a moment on the daring décolletage of her gown, and she felt a surge of warmth through her body that had nothing to do with alcohol. She tried to pull the glass toward her, but somehow found that her hand caught in his.
“Miss Levon believes that young girls should experience all of the social graces,” she said faintly, awed by the gleam of his dark eyes. He wanted her. She could not doubt it. Shockingly, she wanted him very much in return.
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Historical western novella