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Betrayed and Betrothed [Secure eReader]
eBook by Anne Ashley

eBook Category: Romance/Historical Fiction
eBook Description: Regency.... Poor Miss Abbie Graham had never felt so betrayed! Betrothed to her grandfather's godson, Mr. Bartholomew Cavanagh, she had found him in a rather compromising position in the garden with another woman! Refusing to marry Bart has resulted in years of quarrel. And now Abbie's been packed off to Bath. Can things get any worse for the girl? They can, and they do, when Bart joins their party. He's now six years older and a rather dashing gentleman to boot--it looks as if Abbie's grandfather is playing matchmaker again! Only this time it may just work, as mysterious goings-on push Abbie and Bart closer together. And soon they realize they cannot survive apart...

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2007


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Chapter One

1816

Only the steady ticking of the mantel-clock disturbed the silence now pervading the parlour at Foxhunter Grange. Miss Abigail Graham, resolutely staring through the window, her eyes carefully avoiding that area of garden beyond the shrubbery where she no longer ventured, was finally coming to terms with the fact that she simply could not, would not, continue with her present lifestyle.

'Well, child? Have you nothing to say?' the master of what was generally held to be a very fine country residence at last demanded, his voice noticeably harsher than it had been a short time before, when he had calmly revealed the arrangements made for her immediate future. 'Can you not find it within yourself to offer a mere word of thanks for the trouble I've taken to ensure you will be suitably entertained during my absence? Am I not to receive the smallest token of gratitude?'

'Gratitude?' Abbie echoed, finally abandoning her silent contemplation of the late spring blooms in the largest of the flower-beds, and turning to look at him.

No one could have failed to perceive the strong resemblance between them. Although thankfully having been spared the strong, hawklike nose that characterised most male and several unfortunate female members of the family down the generations, Abbie had inherited the striking Graham colouring of violet-blue eyes and silky black hair. At a glance no one could fail to appreciate too that Mother Nature had seen fit to bless her still further with an elegant carriage, and a slim, shapely figure that even the plainness of her grey gown, more suitable for a governess, could not disguise. Nor could her hair, swept severely back and arranged in a simple chignon, detract from the loveliness and perfect symmetry of features set in a flawless complexion.

'If I thought for a moment the arrangements you have undertaken to ensure that I do not remain here at the Grange during your absence stemmed from a wish to offer me the opportunity to enjoy the company of the godmother I haven't seen for almost sixteen years, I would be exceedingly grateful.' Only the pulsating vein at her temple, clearly visible beneath the fairness of her skin, betrayed the fact that Abbie was perilously close to losing her admirable self-control for the very first time, and giving way to years of pent-up frustrations in an explosion of wrath. 'But I know you too well. The only reason you desire to see me safely packed off to Bath is merely an attempt on your part to prevent a closer friendship developing between me and our new practitioner.'

Only briefly did Colonel Augustus Graham betray a flicker of unease, as he studied the surprisingly hard set to his granddaughter's features.

'You are talking nonsense, child!' he announced, as he reached for the glass of fine brandy at his elbow with a hand that for once was not perfectly steady. 'You are clearly ailing for something. Perhaps it would be wise to delay your departure for a few days, until you are more yourself.'

'Oh, no, Grandfather,' she countered. 'Ailing or no, I shall leave early tomorrow, as arranged. If the female my godmother is kindly sending to bear me company does indeed arrive as planned later today, she should feel sufficiently restored to commence the return journey first thing in the morning.'

The note of determination clearly came as a further surprise to the gentleman whose granddaughter had always been wont to show him the utmost respect. He rose at once to his feet to rest an arm along the mantel-shelf, before once again regarding her from beneath bushy, grey brows. 'Evidently you are piqued because I chose not to disclose until today the arrangements I had made with Lady Penrose for your sojourn in Bath.'

'I should like to have been consulted, certainly,' Abbie admitted, still somehow managing to maintain her admirable self-control. 'And although I'm positive it wasn't your intention, in point of fact you've served me a good turn, sir. Living with my godmother during the next few weeks will grant me ample opportunity to take stock and decide where and, more importantly, by what means I shall support myself until I attain the age of five and twenty, and inherit the money left to me by my mother.'

'What on earth are you talking about, child?' the Colonel demanded, making no attempt whatsoever to conceal his increasing displeasure. 'Quite naturally, you will return here. The inheritance your mother left you is a mere pittance when compared to what you'll receive from me. You'll be a wealthy woman once I'm gone, with money enough to live comfortably throughout your life…providing, of course, you give me no reason to alter my will.'

It needed only that totally unnecessary and unsubtle threat to sever the rein she had maintained on her temper. 'Change it and be damned to you, sir!'

Abbie was well aware that few men, let alone a woman, would dare to speak to her grandfather in such a fashion, but she was beyond caring now. The fact that his own eyes were glinting ominously and his mouth was set in a grim straight line, evidence of his own ill humour, could not deter her from at last revealing her strong sense of ill usage, and the unhappiness she had suffered at being treated with cool indifference by the gentleman who, throughout her childhood, couldn't have been more loving or considerate towards her.

'You are not the same man who brought me here fifteen years ago, Grandfather. You couldn't have been kinder to me then, more gentle or understanding.' She thought she detected a muscle contracting along the line of his jaw before he turned briefly to glance at the portrait of his late wife, taking pride of place above the grate. 'But all that changed, did it not, the moment I dared to go against your wishes by refusing to marry that precious godson of yours?'

Copyright © 2005 by Anne Ashley.


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