Forced to the Altar [Secure eReader]
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eBook by Susan Crosby
eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: "You're not my prisoner." Unfortunately, that's exactly how she felt, trapped in Zach Keller's remote castle. The handsome millionaire was supposed to be her protector, but under his watchful gaze she felt more exposed than ever. It didn't help that he evaded all personal questions--and insisted that for her safety, they must marry. She had to find a way off Zach's property, or at least a reason to deny his proposal. Because she was on the verge of saying yes to whatever Zach demanded--especially if it meant a wedding night neither of them would ever forget.
eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Silhouette Desire
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2006
18 Reader Ratings:
"This was not part of the plan," Julianne Johnson muttered, the words swallowed by the drone of a speedboat as it raced toward Promontory, one of the San Juan Islands off the Washington coast. According to the Internet, the islands were tourist havens dotted with fishing villages, artist colonies and bicycle paths. But not Promontory—or the Prom, as the boat pilot called it—which was accessible only by private boat or helicopter, not a public ferry.
She studied the approaching island. How could it be so isolated and have tourists? Although she'd been sent here to lay low during her brother's trial, she would earn her keep by working for the owner of the Spirit Inn, Zach Keller. If there was an inn, there must be visitors, right?
Maybe it wouldn't be as lonely as she pictured.
"Where's the town?" she shouted to the pilot, Mr. Moody, a sixtyish man with gunmetal gray hair and a muscular physique.
He pointed ahead. She saw nothing but trees, crags and a steep, rugged rock—a promontory—projecting into the Pacific Ocean.
Purgatory seemed like a more appropriate description to the twenty-three-year-old, Southern California, land-of-sunshine-and-malls girl about to be imprisoned by water, and without decent shopping.
And she was stuck there.
The boat slowed abruptly then eased into a slip alongside others, evidence that other human beings inhabited the island.
Mr. Moody secured the craft then offered her a hand up to the floating dock, which swayed and pitched as she moved toward the landing. A Jeep was parked nearby; otherwise, she saw no signs of life.
"Where is the town?" Julianne asked again.
"Yonder," he said cocking his head, a suitcase of hers in each hand.
"General store. A gas pump."
"Don't need more'n that."
They drove up a narrow, paved road. Within a couple of minutes, a structure appeared in the distance. She watched in increasing awe as the details came into focus. "It's a castle," she murmured, delighted.
"Brought stone by stone from Scotland then reassembled."
"By Mr. Keller?" She created a picture of her new boss, wearing plaid, his red hair wind-tossed by the ocean breezes.
"Nope. Someone long ago, Angus McMahon." Mr. Moody pulled up beside the building.
They climbed out of the vehicle and approached a stone archway sheltering a solid wood door. The late November gloom kept partner with them as they stepped into the castle. Gray stone walls and floors echoed their footsteps as Julianne followed him from a utility room into a space with a large open hearth, but otherwise a modern kitchen, with stainless steel fixtures and granite countertops.
A tall, sturdy woman with bright red hair stood at the sink washing lettuce. She didn't quite smile.
"My wife, Iris," Mr. Moody said.
"Welcome, Miss Johnson."
"Julianne, please," she said, testing her new name, her in-hiding name.
She hoped the couple would extend her the same courtesy, but neither of them asked her to call them by their first names. She wondered whether she should've chosen a different place to hide out, someplace a little more casual. Not that she'd been given a choice, since her supposed-friend James Paladin, Jamey, had arranged it without presenting any options.
"I'll show you to your room," Mrs. Moody said, wiping her hands on her apron and taking one suitcase from her husband.
Julianne reached for the other and followed. They climbed two flights, up narrow stairwells that felt as if they should have been full of spiderwebs but, in truth, were spotless. The illusion gave her the creeps. At the top was a narrow landing and a door, and that was all. One door. No hallway leading to anywhere else.
"This is one of two tower rooms," Mrs. Moody said. She set Julianne's suitcase on a wooden chest at the foot of a massive four-poster bed topped with a fluffy burgundy comforter and mounded with pillows. "The clothes you sent last week have been put away in the wardrobe and the dresser."
Julianne winced at the thought of a stranger handling her clothes.
"The castle was renovated a few years back. You'll find all the comforts of home. Extra blankets are under the window seat. After you're settled, come to the kitchen. Mr. Zach will not be joining you for dinner. He's sleeping."
Sleeping? He must be very old to be napping at six o'clock in the evening, Julianne figured. "Thank you, Mrs. Moody."
The woman closed the door behind herself as Julianne turned in a slow circle. Large tapestries hung on two walls. A tall, narrow window drew her. She knelt on the window seat, but night had settled, and she couldn't see much except the silhouettes of trees and rocks.
She'd only lived in cities, although always near the ocean. She welcomed the sharp, salty scent of the air, and the breezes, sometimes violent, sometimes gentle, but the air rarely stagnant. She did not, however, enjoy isolation. She could only hope that her brother's case would go to trial soon and be done with quickly. That day of emancipation would be a welcome one. She had plans—finish college, live life in her own way, not as someone told her she must. Independence. She couldn't wait.
Until then, she should be grateful Jamey had found her a safe place to wait out the storm…
So, why then, didn't she feel very safe?
* * *
Julianne approached a massive, wood dining table that easily seated twelve in the high-back, richly upholstered chairs, reminiscent of another century. The single place setting at one end meant she didn't have to guess where to sit.
Copyright © 2006 by Susan Bova Crosby.