FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN
Avon Books | April 2011 re-issue
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-177206-1 ISBN-10:0-380-78718-0
There’s bedlam–and bliss–when a stubborn bride confronts her errant husband.
A bride scorned
Highborn country heiress Mallory Edwards was dutifully fulfilling family obligations when she exchanged marriage vows with a dashing gentleman she barely knew. But the charming beast, John Barron, abandoned her on their wedding night. Now years later-evicted from her home and facing prison because of her husband’s debts she has finally found the blackguard again. And she’s not leaving his side until the faithless rogue grants her a divorce!
A groom enchanted
Who is this extraordinary hellion who burst in on John’s wild London soiree? Could it be the forgotten rural miss whom his father once forced him to wed? Now that Mallory has reentered his life, John desperately wants her to stay-and not simply because he needs her help to trap the embezzler who is ruining them both. The lady has bewitched John Barron with her sensuality and her fire. But to win her hardened heart, he will have to change more than his mind-and become a caring and thoughtful true husband worthy of her passion and unparalleled love.
Falling In Love Again excerpt
by Cathy Maxwell
Here is health unto the man, said be, The man they call the groom; Here’s health unto the man, said be, Who may enjoy his bride.
“The Green Wedding”
East Anglia, England
He didn’t want to marry me,” Mallory Edwards Barron said in a low, troubled voice. “I could tell.”
Sitting on the bench in front of the vanity table, she took a steadying breath and met her mother’s gaze in the mirror, daring–no, hoping–Lady Craige would contradict her.
For the space of a heartbeat, Mallory saw her fears reflected in her mother’s eyes before they were quickly blinked away. Lady Craige lowered the brush from Mallory’s hair in mid-stroke and gave her daughter’s shoulders a reassuring hug. “Of course John Barron wanted to marry you.”
They spoke in whispers, conscious of the two maids cleaning up after Mallory’s bath. The door leading to the hallway opening and closing behind them let in the hum of conversation, punctuated by laughter, from the wedding guests in the dining room.
“I overheard him arguing with his father last night in the library, Mother. It sounded as if John didn’t even know he was going to be married until he arrived here. Can that be possible? Would a man not tell his son he’d contracted a marriage for him until the night before the wedding?”
“Mallory, you are allowing your imagination to run away with your common sense! What does it matter when John discovered he was to be married? What is important is our home, Craige Castle, and that this marriage will make you its future mistress. But first you must consummate your union with John Barron.”
Mallory’s stomachtightened at the thought. “He barely said two words to me this evening during the wedding feast. . . .”
Her mother’s gentle squeeze on her shoulder, reminded Mallory that they were not alone. Sally, a young village girl who’d been hired to serve as Mallory’s maid for the evening, had returned and was busily turning down the sheets on the ornately carved Elizabethan tester bed that dominated the room.
Mallory’s own parents had consummated their marriage on this bed, and their parents before them, and the generation before that. And now she was expected to lie with a man she barely knew and fulfill the tradition, the tradition that would give her the right to be known as the Lady of Craige Castle.
Since the days of William the Conqueror, when William had given this castle to Mallard, his most trusted friend and confidant, each Craige bride had spent her wedding night in this room. Tomorrow morning, the parish priest, Mallory’s mother, and her new father-in-law, Sir Richard Barron, who had inherited her father’s title, Viscount Craige, would come to this room and inspect the sheets for the bride’s blood, proof that Mallory Craige had been a virgin. From that moment on, she and her husband, John Barron, would be truly married in the sight of God and man.
The sheet would then be hung from the window of this chamber and a day of feasting for the parish surrounding the castle would begin.
Mallory’s hand shook as she reached for the crystal wine glass on the vanity table. She avoided her image in the mirror. The virginal white of her graceful nightdress drained all color from her face, emphasizing the dark circles under her eyes. One month had passed since her father’s death following a long illness–a month that had turned her life inside out. “My nightdress should be black,” she whispered.
“Sally, leave us,” Lady Craige told the maid. “I’ll see to my daughter from here.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the maid murmured before curtseying and moving toward the door. She paused a moment. “If I may be so bold, Miss Mallory, my mother and I wish you happiness in this marriage and want you to know that everyone in the village is resting easier knowing that you will be the lady of the castle.”
Mallory forced a wan smile. “Thank you, Sally.”
Sally turned the handle on the door. “We’re also glad you’re marrying such a hale and handsome man, Miss Mallory.” Her cheeks turning pink, the maid slipped through the door.
“It seems the wedding party is a great success,” Mallory said quietly. The wedding had been kept small out of respect for the family’s mourning, but judging from the sounds coming from the dining hall, the guests were having a good time.
Lady Craige didn’t answer. Instead, she sat beside Mallory on the bench and took the wine glass from her. She set it on the vanity before rubbing her palm over the top of Mallory’s hands. “Your fingers are so cold.” Lady Craige pressed her hands around her daughter’s. “You must believe me when I promise that you have nothing to be afraid of.”
“I wish it were over. I wish I hadn’t married him. Not now. It’s too soon after Father’s death.”
Lady Craige’s expression softened. She lightly pushed back a curling tendril of hair from Mallory’s face and tucked it behind her ear. “All brides are nervous. Marriage is a big step. Believe it or not, I was afraid of my first night with your father.”
“Why couldn’t I have inherited Craige Castle? It’s unfair that in order to keep my birthright I must marry the son of this distant cousin who has inherited it from my father.” Mallory pulled her hand away from her mother and stood. Her gaze fell on the bed, its rose-scented sheets turned down expectantly. Suddenly the room felt hot, close, and she purposely walked over to the window and pushed it open to let in the spring air with its promise of rain.
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Copyright by Cathy Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.