An heiress from England comes to San Francisco to ruin the man she thinks destroyed her father-only to wind up in his care and in his bed.
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December 31, 1985
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Excerpt from Midnight Star by Catherine Coulter
Bedford Square, London, 1852
Chauncey stared at her bedroom door, her eyes narrowing in anger. The knob slowly turned until the lock held it tight. She thought she heard a muffled curse, then footsteps walking away down the corridor.
She jumped to her feet, shaking her fist toward the door. That wretched Owen! How could that toad believe that she found him anything but utterly repellent
She sighed, turned back to the bay window, and pressed her cheek to the cold glass. It was a dreary, foggy day, and she could barely make out the figures moving in the road below. God, how she hated London! How she hated living with her aunt and uncle! Her Aunt Augusta had even sold her mare, Ginger, along with everything else, and had refused to allow her to ride any of the horses in their stable.
"You are in mourning, Elizabeth," Chauncey could hear her saying in that sharp voice of hers. "You will behave like a lady."
Lady, ha! During the five months she had lived with her aunt and uncle she was more like a drudge, the obvious poor relation, running and fetching for her aunt, bearing with the noise and demands of the three young daughters of the house, and trying to avoid Owen.
"Really, Lizzie," she could hear fourteen-year-old Janine's whining voice chiding her in the second-floor schoolroom, "all this nonsense about history. What does a girl have to know about Gibraltar, for goodness' sake You're just a silly old spinster!"
And Owen, mocking softly from the open doorway, "Now, little sister, dear Elizabeth must concern herself about something, hmm After all, she doesn't have your advantages now, does she "
"No," plump, strident eleven-year-old Alice shrilled, "she's just a silly old spinster!"
What will happen to me when I turn twenty-one
It was a question that repeated itself unrelentingly once the shock and grief of her father's death had faded. Chauncey chewed on her lower lip. She was well-educated, at least when it came to England and her empire, but the thought of being a governess left her numb with dread. It was a role she detested. Were all girls like her young cousins Completely uninterested in anything except the cloying verses to love songs And what if she did become a governess Would not her position in a household leave her open to slights To unwanted advances from the men Like Owen. Owen, twenty-three, slender as his father was plump, his chin sharp and his pale blue eyes devious and assessing like his mother's. She had been utterly stunned when he stopped her on the stairs the week before.
"How very sweet it is to have you here, dear Cousin Elizabeth," he had said, his hand reaching out to lightly touch her cheek.
Chauncey had known no fear. She jerked her face away and watched him drop his hand. "Really, Owen," she said sharply, "sweetness has little to do with it. I am here, and there is naught any of us can do about it, I least of all."