Left alone on the family estate, headstrong Brien Weston has learned to manage for herself.But when she becomes too independent for her noble father's tastes, he orders an arranged marriage "for her own good." Taking matters into her own hands, Brien discovers that what makes a woman truly ineligible for marriage is marriage itself.So how does a woman acquire a husband . . . who won't really be a husband Having rejected his own father's title and fortune, shipbuilder Aaron Durham vows to find a way to finance his dreams.
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August 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Not Quite Married by Betina Krahn
The South of England, 1787
E's at it again, my lady." The groom jerked his head toward the stable as he steadied Brien Weston's stirrup and helped her dismount.
Shouts and wails burst from the stable door as she rushed toward it. Inside, down the brick-paved alley, she found a shirtless boy cringing against a mound of straw in an empty stall, begging for mercy from Seaton, the estate's raw-fisted stablemaster.
She froze for a moment at the sight of a dozen bloody streaks across the boy's naked chest and arms. Another blow fell, and the child cried out as the jagged shards of metal on the broken bridle bit into his flesh. Suddenly the bloody stripes on the boy's pale skin were all she could see.
There was a hitch in the stablemaster's movement. After a glance at her from the corner of his eye, he brushed aside the command and drew back for another stroke. She lunged for his arm and managed to stay it.
"Cease this! Now!" Anger poured strength into her limbs and made a biting rasp of her voice. "Or as God is my witness, Mr. Seaton, I'll see you receive ten blows for every one you deal this boy."
"Outta th' way, lady. Th' wretch needs a taste of th' lash to teach 'im to 'eel to 'is master."
Seaton tried to shake her off, but she threw the force of her weight against his arm and succeeded in immobilizing it. Their glares met as they stood locked in a shockingly physical contest of wills. It apparently took a moment for him to realize that to continue dispensing this punishment, he would have to remove his wealthy employer's daughter from his arm by force. Was he angry enough or brazen enough to set hands to a lady? He lowered his arm and wrenched it free with a growl, then jolted back a step.
"Your cruelty may know no limits, Mr. Seaton, but my sufferance of it does." She rubbed her hands down her skirts as if contact with him had contaminated them. "Your abuse of this boy has been your last act on Weston land. Pack your belongings, draw your wages, and be gone by sunset. Never set foot on Weston land again."
"I'll just wait an' see what 'is lordship 'as to say about that." His mouth twisted into a defiant sneer.
"No, you won't." Deep inside, a fierce calm settled through her, solidifying her resolve. "My father will not return for some time. And if you are found on these lands after sunset, any who find you will have free rein to mete out whatever punishment they see fit." She edged closer, eyes narrowing, her fury focusing, driving home her point. "Your manner has so endeared you to the people who live and work on these lands that you will do well to see the dawn."
A searing moment passed as the stablemaster searched the lady's resolve, sounding the depths of her determination. Abruptly he hurled the blood-flecked bridle against the stall, shoved past the grooms who stood gaping in the alley, and stormed out the doors. The sound of his furious oaths and the pounding of his boots on the packed earth of the stable yard wafted back through the stunned silence.
Brien slowly expelled the breath she had been holding and felt the surge of strength that had flooded her beginning to drain from her limbs. A moan from the nearby stall brought her attention back to the injured boy. She knelt in the straw and gathered his thin form against her, cradling his head, rocking him as she inspected his wounds and made soothing, shushing sounds. The small, thin shoulders quaked with sobs against her. Moments later she looked up and ordered the grooms who now stood at the opening of the stall to carry him into the house.