When Alex Saxton wins virgin Giana Van Cleve in the infamous Roman Flower Auction, he never expects to lose his heart.
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May 08, 2001
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Excerpt from Evening Star by Catherine Coulter
"Giana, I must fix that bow in your hair, it's hanging over your ear. And do hold still. We don't want to be late. Charles will be here soon and we cannot keep my future husband waiting for his dinner."
Giana stood quiet, eyeing herself in the long Derber mirror as Derry patted the blue velvet bow at the back of her head and tugged at the cluster of black curls over her ears.
Derry stood back, admiring her handiwork from several angles. "You're lovely, Giana," she said. But Giana was staring blankly at her in the mirror, paying no attention to her matching blue velvet gown.
"Derry," Giana said, "you have told me often enough how dashing Charles is, and that he loves you. But does he truly love you more than anything? Will he love you forever?"
Derry Fairmount regarded her seventeen-year-old friend Georgiana Van Cleve with the indulgent air of a girl who was a year older and engaged to be wed.
"Of course he loves me, you silly girl. And besides all that, he's everything I could wish for in a husband -- he is ever so handsome and distinguished, and he is quite wealthy. It's true he lives in New York, though," she added with a thoughtful frown. "My father is a dreadful snob, as only a Bostonian can be. But you've heard me tell you that often enough. Well, he saw last summer that dear Charles finds me quite to his liking, and has been busy, I can tell you, with all the marriage contracts and agreements. Boring stuff, but I suppose everything must be worked out before I return home."
"He won't ever leave you, Derry? He will stay with you always, and you'll never have to worry, about anything?"
Derry's happy smile stayed firmly in place, but she quickly hugged her friend. She knew Giana would miss her. And she knew that Giana, raised by nannies and governesses, looked to marriage for a sense of security, and of belonging, that she had never felt. Derry had visited Giana and her mother in London two years before, and although Mrs. Van Cleve was charming and beautiful, Derry had seen that her young friend was like a guest in her mother's house, feted, but somehow separate and apart from her. "No, love," she said. "Married to Charles, I'll never have to be alone, nor will I ever worry. Someday, soon, Giana, you will have a husband and family of your own."
"I cannot imagine that," Giana said. She wished more than anything that Derry were younger, and not about to leave her. She cocked her head to one side, watching Derry buff her nails, and said, "But, Derry, isn't your Charles terribly old?"
Derry laughed a full-bodied laugh abounding with life, a laugh that Madame Orlie and her minions had failed to contain.
"Old? Well, he is thirty-something-or-other, which is not at all old for a husband, especially one as rich as dear Charles. Did I tell you that his only child by his first wife, a daughter, Jennifer, is only two years younger than I? Of course I did. I'm rattling on like a chirper. Think of the fun she and I will have, just as you and I do."
"But what if she doesn't like you, Derry?"