Their wedded bliss had been short-lived, but Eliza Fortune never forgot those breathless nights of passion with Reese Parker. When a shattering betrayal detonated the union, the heartbroken heiress hid her secret marriage to spare her family further scandal. But all bets were off now that Reese was back. This tuxedo-clad tycoon was nothing like the down-to-earth wildcatter she once knew. Despite his barely-contained anger, the fire in Reese's eyes suggested he had every intention of tangling between the sheets with Eliza again. Once all their sordid secrets were exposed, would Reese finally exact his revenge...or repent by reclaiming his bride?
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March 13, 2007
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Excerpt from Fortune's Vengeful Groom by Charlene Sands
"It's a stroke of brilliance, Eliza. The place looks great. whispered into Eliza's ear.
From up on stage, Eliza Fortune smiled with satis-faction as her gaze traveled around the large ballroom filled with invited guests, the men dressed in authentic three-piece suits and the women in elegant gowns of the Old West. She'd designed and decorated the ballroom for the event. "Thanks, Nic. It was a labor of love."
"Well, you've outdone yourself this time. Everyone is having a wonderful time and your Basket DinnerAuction idea is going over well. You're raising thousands of dollars for the reparations to the Old West Museum."
The auctioneer announced another dinner basket to be auctioned off. Chloe McMurphy stepped up to the podium and lifted the flap on her basket, retrieving a pledge card to give to the auctioneer. "This lovely young lady will provide dinner for two, three or four. Her specialty is fried chicken and the best dumplings in Minnehaha County. And an added bonus of home-baked apple pie. Now that's what I call a real fine South Dakota meal."
Eliza tensed suddenly and glanced at her friend with apprehension. Only she and Nicole remained up on stage. All the other dinners had been auctioned off. "I hope someone bids on my basket."
"You've got to be kidding. Who wouldn't want to have a dinner cooked expressly by Eliza Fortune? At the Fortune estate, no less. I bet your dinner pledge goes for the highest bid of all."
Eliza scoffed. "Only if my father or brother decide to take pity on me. My family's out there somewhere and they know I'm not the best cook."
"Won't matter," Nicole said adamantly. "You're gonna raise a lot of money tonight--and not from Nash or Creed Fortune. Everyone knows how dedicated you are. They saved the best for last. And that's you."
She mouthed a silent thank-you to her friend, then took note of Mr. Phillips at the podium crooking his finger at Nicole. "Oh, look. It's your turn to go up to the podium, Nic. Good luck."
And as her friend approached the auctioneer car-rying a white wicker basket adorned with a large red taffeta bow, Eliza settled back on the wooden bench seat to wait her turn.
Being a benefactor, as well as Sioux Falls Historical Society chairwoman, she'd had no trouble convincing Siouxland's Old West Museum's president to donate some of their Western gear to help her transform a chandelier-ensconced ballroom into a springtime scene straight out of the Old West. Lariats, silver saddles and wagon wheels filled the perimeter, while bound sheaves of grain and husks of corn draped the walls. The din-ner tables, though set with elegant china, rested on blue gingham tablecloths with tall, lumbering sunflowers as vibrant centerpieces. A sunrise backdrop and a large buckboard wagon filled with straw sat upon the stage just behind Eliza.
When all was said and done, Nicole's bid ranked up there with the highest so far. Her dinner pledge of roast lamb and potatoes with carrot souffle and crame brulee for dessert garnered over three thousand dollars. Eliza joined the group in applauding the generous bidder.
"And now, ladies and gentlemen, you have the distinct honor of bidding on Miss Eliza Fortune's dinner basket. As you all know, Miss Fortune has worked tirelessly to put on this fund-raiser and it looks like she's made it a tre-mendous success." Mr. Phillips reached for Eliza's hand and guided her to the podium. Eliza handed him her pledge card from her gold-trimmed basket and stood as he read her offering. "Ah, I see the winner will have a great treat in store for them. Eliza has pledged to cook any meal of your choosing, beginning with hors d'oeuvres and ending with a decadent dessert with as many courses as you desire. So let's begin the bidding at five hundred dollars."
Eliza stood smiling at her guests, while inside a only once the first bid was announced for five hundred dollars--not by her father or brother--did she finally relax.