HE INSTILLED FEAR IN FRIENDS AND FOES.But there was one woman who could see beyond Marcus Carrera's notorious reputation and imposing stature to the gruffly tender man inside. And their destinies collided when Delia Mason was unexpectedly swept up in the kind of trouble only a man of mystery like Carrera could resolve--if he chose to step out of his dangerous social circle. Would he leave it all behind to make Delia his bride?
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Carrera's Bride by Diana Palmer
The girl, sitting on a rickety chair in the potting shed watching the young man lovingly tend a delicate plant he had been nurturing, wore a pair of breeches tucked into riding boots, a cream-coloured shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a sackcloth apron. Her hair was tucked up beneath a scarf. The clothes were old and a little shabby, but that did not disguise the fact that they were well cut and had once, many years before, been the height of male fashion.
'I wish I could go plant collecting,' she said wistfully, watching his deft fingers. They were blunt and dirty, but she had become so used to that she didn't even notice, any more than she was aware of her incongruous garb and the fact that her own fingernails were far from pristine.
'So you can. The heath is covered in plants, if you look carefully.'
'No, I meant exploring in foreign countries, climbing the Himalayas or trekking through China or riding a donkey in Mexico.'Her interest in botany had been fired when, as a small girl, she had watched Joshua Pershore, their gardener, working in their garden. 'Plants are like people,' he had told her. 'Look after them and they will reward you with years of pleasure.'
She had asked him if she could have a patch of garden all to herself and he had shown her how to prepare the soil and sow seed and divide plants to make more. She had watched her garden grow, excitedly noting the first snowdrop, the delicate petals of roses and the way the bulbs died down each year and sprang up anew the next spring. And when she discovered that Toby also shared her passion, it forged a bond between them that sometimes carried them into the realms of fantasy.
She dreamed of emulating the great plant hunters like Sir Joseph Banks, who had travelled with Captain Cook and transformed the Royal gardens at Kew from a pleasure ground to a great botanic garden with specimens from all over the world. And there were others whose exploits and discoveries had fired her interest, men like Francis Masson, and David Nelson, who had been both with Captain Cook when he was murdered by hostile natives and later on the ill-fated voyage with Captain Bligh when he had been cast adrift with him in an open boat when the crew mutinied. That feat had made sure the captain's name went down in history, though David Nelson lost all his specimens.
'You'll have to marry a rich husband and then perhaps he will take you.'
'I'd rather go with you.'
'Then you will have a long wait. It takes a great deal of blunt and that's something I haven't got. I need a rich sponsor who will pay for everything, and where I am going to find one of those I do not know.'
'Then why talk about it?'
'I can dream, can't I?'
'Yes, and so can I.'
He looked closely at her. She was unaware how beautiful she was with hair the colour of a glossy ripe chestnut and brown eyes set in a classically oval face. She had a small straight nose and a determined chin and he loved her. Not that he could ever tell her that; she was far and away above him and he, the son of the estate steward, did not aspire to such dizzy heights, for all the freedom his father was allowed in running the Harley domain. 'Is that all you dream of? Don't you think of things like come-outs and balls and being courted by all the young eligibles in town?'
'Mama is always talking about giving me a Season,'she said. 'I have contrived to delay it until now, but Livvy turned seventeen last month and she says she will bring us both out together and I suppose I will have to agree for Livvy's sake. According to Mama, it is not the thing for the younger sister to marry before the elder, everyone will think there is something wrong with me.'
'So there is if you are averse to balls and tea parties and being sought after by all the beaux of the ton.'
'I want to do something practical, something I'll be famous for. The woman who discovered a new plant, hitherto unknown to man.'
'Pigs might fly!'
'That's what you dream of and I know you mean to try and make it come true.'
'I'm a man.'
There was no answer to that and she stood up and brushed crumbs of soil from her breeches. 'I must go. My uncle James is coming on a visit and I have to change.'
'The Duke of Belfont,' he murmured. 'I should think he'd have a fit if he could see you now.'
She laughed and hurried out of the building and along the path that led back to the house.