It’s teaser time! We are so happy to share with you a sneak peek at our upcoming historical romance Runaway by Renee Donne, available July 29.
Marianne leaned against the wall and tilted her feet so her weight balanced on the outer edges of her soles. Her legs, from the knee down, were killing her. Dancing always did that to her. She watched the other guests circulating about the room, which was bright for such a late hour. Was she the only one there who found the whole thing tedious? She’d rather have been curled up in an armchair, reading. But her stepfather insisted she come to Maxwell Halsted’s Constitution Day ball.
As if conjured by her thoughts, Halsted came up behind her and put an arm around her slender shoulders. The contact made her uncomfortable. Something about the way he touched her reminded her of a cat toying with a mouse. She tried to pull away, but his hand tightened on her shoulder, his fingers digging in almost painfully. She dared a glance up at him. He was tall and slender with wavy, silver hair and piercing blue eyes. But something cold lurked in those eyes, something that made her wish to never be in a room alone with the man.
“Come, my dear, dance with me.” He guided Marianne toward the center of the dance floor. It was more a command than a request, but he was very wealthy and probably quite used to people acquiescing to his every want, however unreasonable. He was an accomplished dancer, and Marianne almost enjoyed the waltz. Until his hand started a slow roam in the direction a gentleman’s hands should not go. “I must admit, I had considered offering to make you my mistress, but when Jacob approached me with the proposition to bail him out of debt in exchange for your hand, I could not refuse. You will make me a happy man as my wife.”
Halsted’s words hit home just as the dance ended. Taking advantage of the swell of people leaving the dance floor, Marianne pulled out of Halsted’s arms and insinuated herself into the crowd, out of reach. Then, she set out to find Jacob. This could not be true; Halstead was at least sixty years old, and a letch to boot!
She found her stepfather standing on the terrace, staring out at the landscape below. The lines of his face looked harsher than usual, the circles under his cloudy, brown eyes darker. The tense hand he lifted to stroke through his greying, blond hair was thin and bony, gaunt.
At the moment she reached him, the confrontation began. “Is what Halsted just told me true? How could you?”
“Surely you know what a beautiful girl you are, Marianne?” It was more a question than a comment. She nodded, and he continued, “Over the last few years, many men have expressed interest, asked permission to court you.”
That was news to her. Not once had Jacob ever mentioned any suitors. Men had spoken to Jacob about courting her? Why was he just now telling her this?
He cleared his throat and looked so much like he was mustering courage. “You must have noticed the changes lately. I’ve lost quite a bit of money, and it has become increasingly difficult to maintain the lifestyle we are accustomed to.” That explained why he’d released the entire staff save for the housekeeper.
Jacob continued, “I devised a plan that would enable us both to continue living in the comfortable style we have always enjoyed. I put the word out that I was looking for a suitable match for you, but this was not to be the typical arrangement. Rather than me providing a dowry for you, your hand would be given to the one who offered the highest sum of money. Maxwell agreed to settle all my debts, and then some.”
Marianne’s world tilted on its axis. “No, I won’t do it. We can sell some things, move to a smaller home, but I will not be sold!”
Jacob was calm. “The matter is settled. I provided for you for these last fifteen years after marrying your mother, but she’s dead now. I have continued to care for you as though you were my own child, giving you a life filled with luxury. Now it is your turn to repay the favor.”
If you’d like to participate in the Runaway blog tour between July 16 – August 12, complete the form here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xsZdeM-goTzUazkP8WwThcZfQybhaZ_8IFPDt-YQECI/viewform