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Seattle hasn’t been the same ever since dozens of women responded to a letter for a mail-order bride. In the fourth book of the popular Marriage Market series, the mail-order mayhem continues. Suzanna and Charlotte, two southern belles who couldn't be more different, both answered the same ad seeking a husband.
Raised in a world of wealth and privilege, Suzanna feels entitled and will do anything to get what she wants. Charlotte, sweet and generous, falls in love with the man Suzanna has tricked into marriage. Nothing goes as planned for either of these women, yet somehow they both get what they deserve. It's complicated.
DISCLAIMER: This book contains the spanking of adult women and explicit sexual scenes. If any of these offend you, please do not purchase this book.
Effie Lane Jordon whirled around the make-shift dance floor in the arms of her new husband, Samuel, as the orchestra played. To the casual onlooker it might appear as though she was just scanning the large crowd of wedding guests; in reality, she was keeping her eye on her nemesis, Miss Suzanna Jefferies. The southern belle might have the rest of them fooled with her engagement to the town marshal, Cole Hadley, but Effie wasn’t buying that particular piece of merchandise.
Effie had witnessed the girl’s determination to find a rich husband and Cole simply did not fit the bill. While he was a respected member of the community and had a decent job, she didn’t for one moment believe that wedding would ever take place. Suzanna thought far too highly of herself to ever settle for a man of limited means. Even now she noticed the fair haired woman scanning the crowd of distinguished and wealthy men from San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, all the while resting her delicate hand on Cole’s arm and smiling sweetly as she was introduced to the wedding guests.
Cole seemed oblivious to his fiancée’s behavior. He was an honorable man and a promise was a promise. It was unfortunate that the silly actions of one night might tie him forever to a woman with little to no scruples. Clara would have made him a fine wife, or Ellie, she was nice too. Even one of the younger girls would have been better than Suzanna.
But it was Suzanna who caused the scene at Molly and Angus McGuire’s wedding on the very night Sam and Effie were planning to announce their engagement. It was Suzanna who threw herself at Samuel so blatantly when she failed to snag Sam’s older brother, Hugh. Suzanna had turned into a screaming shrew when Sam repulsed her advances. Poor Cole was a victim of circumstances. If only he hadn’t been the one to cart the shrieking young woman away over his hip that night. He was supposed to take her back to Hugh and Amelia’s home where the brides were staying. Instead, he stopped to enjoy the plate of food Hugh gave him, ended up sharing his meal with Suzanna and somehow they’d fallen asleep under the stars.
The next morning, they were discovered by a hastily assembled search party, and the rest would soon be history. Marshal Cole Hadley, a confirmed bachelor, would be forced to marry the spoiled Georgia peach and Effie suspected she was rotten to the core.
Sighing, Effie dragged her gaze away from the beautiful Suzanna holding court while flirting outrageously with any man within twenty yards and took some time to appreciate her moment. The handsome man holding her much too close was as far from her girlish dreams of a husband as a man could get. Sam was exceedingly bossy, hard-headed, forceful and practically shameless in his desires. He was also handsome, almost too handsome for her, for in her opinion she was bright, fairly attractive and forthright. It was still a mystery to her why he’d pursued her with such determination and an even bigger surprise that she’d succumbed to his advances with nary a struggle.
Of course, his kisses made her heart beat like a base drum, and his touch, well, a few months ago she would have thought they were the epitome of sinful. Now she would happily go to hell in a hand basket as long as she was with Sam.
Tempest, her new mother-in-law, had outdone herself with the wedding and reception. It was hard to believe they were in a huge barn at all. No expense had been spared to turn the wooden structure into a room that rivaled the most high-toned ballroom in San Francisco. The walls were covered with ivory silk fabric, gathered and swirled to look like intricate draperies. Each table was dressed with the finest linen, crystal and china available and uniformed waiters carried trays of canapés and champagne, weaving in and out of the guests.
Fresh flowers in huge urns adorned the wide entranceway and every available nook and cranny. Every table had its own bouquet, giving the night a heavenly fragrance. The plank floor had been sanded and varnished no less than five times. In the rafters, hundreds of lanterns glowed creating a warm and sparkling atmosphere. Tempest floated among the guests in a beautiful blue gown that brought out her eyes and Effie knew for a fact it came directly from Paris. The perfect hostess, Tempest saw to every tiny detail, her face glowing with pride and happiness.
Suzanna and Clarence Henderson glided by them, enjoying a waltz. Effie spared a smile for Suzanna and promptly frowned at the back of Clarence’s head. Again she sighed.
“That’s the second time you’ve sighed in less than two minutes,” Sam remarked, spinning her in a circle. “One would think you weren’t happy to be dancing with your wicked new husband,” he teased.
“They would be wrong on both counts. I’m very happy you’re my husband, and I’m especially happy you’re wicked,” she replied with a laugh as she tipped her head back and looked at him.
Lowering his dark head, Sam took her lips in a searing kiss.
“That’s good because I plan to be exceptionally attentive tonight,” he promised with a gleam in his eyes. “It wouldn’t disappoint me if you were somewhat naughty yourself, my love. I think I’d enjoy giving you your first spanking as my wife.”
“You may get your wish,” Effie snorted indelicately. “If Clarence and Suzanna dance close enough, I may trip them.”
“What do you have against Clarence?” Sam asked curiously.
“Sam, if it wasn’t for him, none of this would have happened,” Effie exclaimed exasperated. “Had he done what Hugh asked him to do and sent kind letters of rejection to those brides, we would be living in our own home alone after tonight.”
“Wrong. If Clarence hadn’t passed out those letters, Amelia would never have written you that her new husband was a scoundrel and engaged to a multitude of women. Hence, you and Grace would not have made the trip west to ‘rescue’ her and we would not be dancing right now. Besides, we have an entire week alone before Grace and Jonah, and Amelia and Hugh come to stay and I intend to take advantage of every minute of it,” he growled in her ear. “Why is Clarence dancing with Suzanna anyway?” he asked, turning his head and following the direction of her gaze.
“She asked him; I watched her,” Effie whispered as they drew near to the other couple.
“What on earth for?” Sam demanded. “He has a wife and she has a fiancé.”
Effie rolled her brown eyes and replied as though he were slightly obtuse.
“So she can lead,” Effie informed him derisively. “Clarence is not the kind of man to scuffle over something like that. See, Suzanna is waltzing him over to that distinguished man from Portland. I’m sure she’s going to stumble or feign faintness once she’s within reach of him.”
“Or both,” Sam laughed, nodding in the awkward couple’s direction.
Sure enough Suzanna somehow tripped on her skirts. The man’s hand shot out to grasp her arm, preventing her from falling. Within seconds her fan snapped open and she was fanning herself as she looked up at him adoringly. Clarence gave a slight bow and left them to return to his wife, red-faced.
“Well I’ll be.” Sam snickered in amusement. “What kind of school back east teaches girls these tactics?”
“None that I know of.” Effie sniffed, slightly insulted. “A woman is either deceptive by nature or she’s not,” she snapped. “Miss Pettigrew would be appalled by such behavior.”
“Well, it seems to have worked,” Sam observed nodding toward Suzanna who was being escorted to the punch bowl. “Tell me, why him?”
“Are you blind? The man positively reeks of wealth and position. Look at the way he’s dressed, the gold pocket watch, the diamond stick pin. He has a rather ostentatious ring on his pinkie. Who is he by the way? I’m sure we were introduced but I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten his name.”
“His name is Ferguson. He’s our chief competitor.”
“Then why invite him if he and your father are rivals?” Effie asked with a confused expression.
“Why to show him how well we’re doing, of course,” Sam replied with a cocky grin. “Believe me, Suzanna’s school girl machinations will never hold a candle to my mother’s.”
Suddenly Amelia and Hugh appeared at their side.
“Come along, you two,” Hugh said. “Mother sent me to get you. It’s time to cut the cake.”
“Did you bring a long saw?” Sam asked with a laugh as they began to make their way from the dance floor.
“It is quite a monstrosity isn’t it?” Hugh admitted looking at the eight-layer cake and the specially decorated table holding it.
“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a wedding cake made with chocolate icing,” Amelia observed.
“Chocolate is my favorite and has a special place in my heart,” Sam informed them, winking at Effie as she blushed.
“Yes, it does evoke memories,” Effie agreed, licking her lips.
“Good Lord,” Sam groaned.” We’d better get this over with before I take you on this table,” he warned, whispering in her ear.
“Behave enfants,” Tempest advised with a knowing smile, handing them the knife.” Only a few more hours and you will be able to retire.”
“Where’s Grace?” Effie asked, peering through the gathering guests.
“She’s gone to get your Ma Ma and Pa Pa. Ah, here they are now. Grace did you find the photographer?”
“Yes, I did, but he’s um… he seems to have imbibed quite a bit of champagne.”
“Mon Dieu and he came so highly recommended,” Tempest said thoughtfully, tipping her head to one side. “It seems he was not the same after taking the pictures Effie requested this afternoon. Are you sure everything went as planned?”
“Oui, Ma Ma,” all three girls responded in unison while avoiding eye contact with each other.
Tempest eyed them suspiciously for a moment, but let it go.
“All right, cut the cake. Then you must take Amelia up to the house to rest for a bit, Hugh. In her condition, it would be wise.”
“But, Ma Ma,” Amelia began.
“Hush, ma petit,” Tempest soothed.” I will make sure you do not miss anything important.”
Gripping the knife, Sam and Effie cut the first piece of cake and each took a bite. She breathed a premature sigh of relief, gratified that he had not embarrassed her. Then his lips swept in, licking the chocolate from hers as the crowd roared in delight. Raising his head, he smiled in satisfaction, the intense look in his eyes stealing her breath and making her knees quake. Falling into his arms with a laugh she just caught the venomous look on Suzanna’s face over his shoulder before she turned and blended into the crowd. Reaching down, Effie patted the comforting form of her derringer tucked into her garter.
Later, the three best friends managed to find a few moments alone in the house.
“Effie, what are we going to do when those photographs arrive?” Grace asked, nervously tucking a stray strand of red hair back into place.
“Why frame and hang them, of course. I can hardly wait to see the look on Sam’s face,” she said grinning.
“Aren’t you a little worried about his reaction?” Amelia asked as she adjusted her bodice. “Goodness, these things are getting huge,” she continued, looking down at her breasts.
“Are you?” Effie countered.
“I’m not right now,” Amelia laughed. “Hugh is too enthralled with my new bosoms and he’d never spank me while I was carrying his child. I may have to answer for it later though, depending on if he’s amused or not.”
“I don’t think Jonah will be amused,” Grace admitted blushing, “but he doesn’t spank very hard and I figure it will be worth it.”
“Let’s hope so,” Effie said, brushing a bit of dust off her hem. “Can you believe that little witch, Suzanna, flirting with every man in attendance? Where’s Cole? Why isn’t he putting a stop to it?” she demanded.
“Marshal Hadley was called away,” Amelia replied. “Effie, I do wish you would let this animosity for Suzanna go. We’re all safely married now. Don’t you think you could find it in your heart to let bygones be bygones?”
“No, no and no,” Effie replied firmly. “I hope you don’t imagine that a little thing like a wedding band would stop someone like Suzanna. If she thought she could better her finances by becoming some wealthy man’s mistress, I have no doubt she’d jump at the chance. The both of you are fools if you let her anywhere near Jonah and Hugh!”
“I mean it. She’s not to be trusted. I don’t care if she spins a tale of woe so sad all of Seattle is in tears, I won’t buy it.”
“I’m sure Cole will take her in hand once they’re wed,” Grace offered. “He seems like the sort of man who could straighten her out.”
“That’s if they are married,” Effie snorted. “From what I saw tonight I doubt it will ever happen. Didn’t you see her hanging all over that Ferguson fellow? I swear, if she thought it would do her any good, she’d have bared her breasts right over the punch bowl,” she insisted with a toss of her blonde hair.
Both girls burst into laughter and quickly covered their mouths.
“Stop it,” Amelia cried. “Now I have that image set in my mind and I imagine it will be a while before it fades. All right, I guess you’re entitled to your opinion. It’s different for me. It was Hugh’s advertisement that brought her here, so I feel somewhat responsible. I’d like to see her settled into a good marriage or pay her passage back to Georgia, but I can’t turn my back on her completely. I just can’t. She came out here expecting to marry my husband.”
“And she will if she can get rid of you in some way,” Effie insisted. “Fine, you give her the benefit of the doubt if you want to. I won’t try to dissuade you anymore, but as far as Sam, I saw the way she threw herself at him even after Ma Ma told her he was going to marry me. Not to mention she called me ‘a skinny little northern tramp’ after she insulted you.”
“I know, Effie, I know,” Amelia replied, rubbing her temple. “Suzanna is volatile. I wish you could forgive her, give her another chance, but I’ll understand if you can’t.”
“That would, at the very least, require an apology from her, which I have not received. You and Grace are my best friends and always will be, but unless something happens to change my opinion of that conceited vixen, I would appreciate it if you would exclude me from any doings that include Suzanna Jefferies.” Sailing out of the room, Effie went down the stairs to search out her new husband. The wedding night couldn’t come soon enough for her.