family money has brought her everything she desires,
but she is about to risk it all...
Sophie Broadmoor adores fancy balls, beautiful gowns, and expensive jewelry. Indeed, she enjoys everything the Broadmoor wealth provides and has earned a reputation as the wildest of the Broadmoor cousins.
During a trip to England, she falls head over heels for Wesley Hedrick, a wealthy widower who promises her the world. But Wesley's promises never seem to come true, and soon Sophie finds herself in a very compromising situation.
Why does it have to be Paul Medford, the young minister working with her father, who shows up during her worst moment? Paul is full of promises, too--and it's clear that he has feelings for Sophie. But after all she's been through, dare she trust him?
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Baker Publishing Group
September 29, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from An Unexpected Love by Judith Miller
Friday, October 15, 1897
Rochester, New York
Eighteen-year-old Sophie Broadmoor speared her uncle Jonas with an angry glare. He cocked a brow, clearly surprised by her reaction. Nevertheless, he continued to drum his fingers on the walnut side table as though his impatient behavior would somehow cause his brother Quincy, who was also Sophie's father, to arrive at Broadmoor Mansion's front door. Sophie considered her uncle's conduct annoying in the extreme. He appeared to be holding her accountable for her father's tardy arrival. Well, she had more than enough faults of her own for which she must bear responsibility. She certainly didn't intend to take the blame for her father's breach of etiquette. Uncle Jonas might intimidate his own family, especially his daughter, Amanda, but he didn't frighten her a bit.
Ignoring her uncle's reprimanding stare, Sophie nonchalantly fluffed the lace on her sleeve and turned toward her aunt Victoria. "If you're tired of waiting for Father, I suggest we begin without him. He won't care in the least. You know how he loses all sense of time when he's helping some wayward soul at the Home for the Friendless."
Her aunt cast a quizzical look at her husband. "What do you think, Jonas? Shall we proceed without Quincy? The food will undoubtedly be cold if we wait much longer, and I know how you abhor a ruined meal."
The drumming cadence ceased, and using the chair arms, her uncle pushed himself upright and looked around the room. "Well? Let's proceed to the dining room."
Sophie grasped her cousin Fanny by the arm. "He must believe we're able to read his thoughts," she whispered.
Fanny giggled and offered her agreement. "Sometimes I wish we could. With Uncle Jonas, there's no telling what he's up to from one minute to the next. The ability to read his mind would prove useful, don't you think?"
"Oh yes! And it would drive him quite mad--not that I don't already succeed in that regard."
Amanda tugged on Sophie's sleeve. "Your behavior is decidedly unbecoming. What are you two whispering about?"
The glow of the chandelier cast golden highlights in Sophie's chocolate brown hair. "If it's so unbecoming, why do you want to know, Cousin?" she teased, looping arms with Amanda. "We're talking about reading your dear father's thoughts. Wouldn't that be a treat?"
"I don't know if I'd want to know everything that passes through Father's mind, but it certainly would prove beneficial on some occasions."
The three of them entered the dining room, with Amanda and Fanny flanking Sophie. As usual, both of Amanda's single brothers, George and Jefferson, had managed to avoid the Friday evening dinner. Sophie wished she knew their secret. None of their married siblings living there in Rochester were required to attend these tiresome Friday evening suppers, but Uncle Jonas expected--rather demanded--that his unmarried children, his nieces and nephews, and his brother Quincy, now a widower, all attend. Unless, of course, Uncle Jonas had other plans for himself that might interfere. Sophie always hoped for an interfering event on Friday nights, but she was disappointed more often than not.
As far as Sophie was concerned, her uncle had devised the plan in order to keep his eye on the single women in the family, lest one of them stray and find a suitor he considered undesirable. However, his Friday evening suppers hadn't deterred Fanny. Much to Uncle Jonas's chagrin, she'd fallen in love with Michael Atwell, their former boatswain at Broadmoor Island. But with Michael off in search of gold somewhere in the Yukon and Grandfather's death last year, poor Fanny had been relegated to living under Uncle Jonas's roof until she attained her age of majority. Sophie didn't envy either of her cousins living under this roof. Living in her father's modest home was less than pleasing, but at least she could come and go as she desired. Her father was never around long enough to inquire into her whereabouts.
Sophie feigned a pout and peered down the dining table. "Where are Jefferson and George this evening, Aunt Victoria? I do miss their company."
Her uncle snorted. "You miss their company? Or you wish you, too, could be absent?"
"Jonas! Sophie was making a polite inquiry about her cousins. There's no need to transfer your irritation upon those who are present and on time."
Her uncle grunted but didn't apologize. Not that Sophie expected such an unlikely occurrence. Uncle Jonas seldom apologized and certainly never asked forgiveness for a breach of etiquette within his own family. Of late, however, Aunt Victoria had begun to take a more assertive stance with her husband--a fact that pleased Sophie very much.
Jonas snapped his napkin and tucked it beneath his rather large paunch. "Where is supper, Victoria?"
Though he likely hadn't intended to shout, the question was loud enough to bring the servants bustling from the kitchen. They'd obviously been waiting in the wings for Aunt Victoria's signal. One of the servants placed a large serving dish, bearing two perfectly braised ducks garnished with pieces of turnip and carrot, in front of Uncle Jonas.
Her uncle made great fanfare of slicing the duck and then sat down as though he'd accomplished a feat of great importance. He tugged on his vest and motioned for the servants to pass the side dishes. After offering a brief prayer of thanks, he sipped his water and cleared his throat. "I have an announcement to make regarding your voyage to England, ladies."
Sophie audibly sighed. "Please don't tell us you're planning to extend our trip abroad. We've all agreed that England will be the limit of our travels."
Aunt Victoria closed her eyes and shook her head. "Please don't interrupt your uncle. I'd like to hear his announcement." She beamed at her husband. "Do go on, Jonas. What surprise have you planned for us?"
He jabbed a piece of turnip and appeared to be contemplating whether he should speak or eat. Keeping his attention on his food, he said, "I'm afraid it will be impossible for me to escort you ladies to England."
The girls squealed with delight, but Sophie didn't fail to note her aunt's look of dismay. "No need to look so distraught, Aunt Victoria. We'll have a wonderful time here in Rochester. None of us wanted to go to England anyway--not even you."
Her uncle clanked his fork on his plate. "I did not say the voyage was canceled, Sophie. I said that I would be unable to travel with you. Your passage has been booked, and I've arranged for an escort to take my place. You'll be pleased to--"
"But, Jonas, you promised," Victoria interrupted. "The only reason I agreed to the trip was because you promised to make the journey with us. How could you go back on your word?"
"Now, Victoria, there's no need for histrionics over a small change in plans. A business matter of great importance requires my attention, and it will be impossible for me to be away from Rochester on your departure date. Without my attention to the business, there wouldn't be sufficient funds for this family to live in the style to which they've become accustomed." His smile failed to reach his eyes. "Isn't that correct?"
"Correct or not, I'm disappointed that you have broken your promise to me. I've already explained that I don't believe it's wise for me to travel alone with all three of the girls."
"Once my business is concluded here in Rochester, I'll join you in England. As I attempted to tell you a few moments ago, I have arranged for an escort to take my place," Jonas said.
Sophie could barely contain herself. Whom had Uncle Jonas convinced to make the journey? She waited for Aunt Victoria to inquire, but her aunt remained silent, her lips pressed together in a tight seam. And Uncle Jonas suddenly appeared more concerned with chasing a piece of duck around his plate than divulging the information.
When she could bear the suspense no longer, Sophie blurted, "Well, who is it you've convinced to escort us?"
"Yes, who?" Amanda asked.
Instead of speaking out with his usual pomp and ceremony, Jonas stared at his plate. "Daniel."
Fanny clutched her bodice. "Daniel? Daniel Irwin?" She tipped her head to the side until her hair nearly touched her dinner plate. Obviously Fanny was intent upon making eye contact with Uncle Jonas.
Uncle Jonas raised his head and glanced around the table. He appeared to have regained his air of authority. "Do you ladies know any other Daniel?"
Sophie extended her index finger. "I do, but I doubt he's the one."
Her uncle's jaw tightened. "Not if he's one of those men you meet at Brown Square."
Sophie giggled, pleased she'd been able to annoy her uncle yet somewhat surprised by this change in circumstances. Had she been forced to speculate upon whom her uncle had chosen as their escort, Daniel wouldn't have made the list of possibilities. And from all appearances he wouldn't have made Aunt Victoria's list, either. Poor Fanny looked as though she'd suffered a striking blow to the midsection. Only Amanda remained poised and unruffled by the announcement.
"Why in the world would you ask Daniel Irwin?" Fanny croaked the question and immediately took a sip of water. "He's not a member of the family. In fact, he's rather a nuisance, isn't he, Amanda?"
Amanda glanced at Fanny and then her father. Sophie poked her in the ribs, hoping that Amanda would find the courage to take a stand. " 'Tis true he's wearisome, Father. I do think you could have made a better choice."
"Since when do you think you're the one making family decisions, young woman?" He glared down the table, and Amanda visibly shrunk before Sophie's eyes.
"She's merely speaking her opinion, Uncle, and all of us concur. We are permitted an opinion in this family, are we not?"
Jonas shook his head. "Your manners leave much to be improved upon, Sophie. I did not seek any opinions on this decision. Daniel's passage is booked, and I have every confidence he will prove to be a perfect escort."
Sophie planned to argue the point, but before she could wage battle, one of the servants escorted her father into the room, with Paul Medford following close on his heels.
"My apologies, Victoria. I truly lost all track of time." He gestured toward the table. "Please, go on with your supper. Paul and I can wait in the library."
Clearly annoyed, Jonas pointed to one of the empty chairs. "Oh, do sit down, Quincy. You were invited for supper and supper you'll eat." When Paul remained in the doorway, Jonas waved him forward. "You, too, Paul. Sit down and eat."
All concern over Daniel Irwin fled Sophie's mind. Why had her father appeared with Paul Medford in tow? It seemed her father couldn't make an appearance at any family function without his favorite seminary graduate tagging along like a stray mongrel.
Her father offered his profuse apologies until Aunt Victoria finally begged him to cease. "All is forgiven, Quincy. As you can see, we didn't wait for your arrival. Sophie suggested we begin without you."
Her father cast a fleeting smile in Sophie's direction. "I fear she knows me well."
The servants returned with the serving bowls and platters and silently waited while the two men filled their plates. Quincy took several bites of the vegetables and duck. He nodded his approval. "Excellent as usual, Victoria." He downed a gulp of water from his goblet. "I need a favor, Jonas."
Jonas peered over the rim of his coffee cup.
"Paul received word today that his grandmother is quite ill--not expected to live much longer. He believes he should accompany his mother back to England," Quincy said. "I told him it might be possible for you to book passage for the two of them to travel with you and Victoria and the girls. I explained they would be departing on the twenty-third."
Jonas grunted. "Exactly right. I had originally planned the departure for the eighteenth of the month, but Victoria was quick to remind me that most of the luxury liners sail on Saturdays. My wife tends to suffer from motion sickness when she travels on the smaller ships." He patted his wife's hand. "Is that date acceptable for you and your mother, Paul?"
Paul leaned forward on his chair. "Yes, most acceptable. It would help Mother keep her mind off Grandmother's illness if she had someone to visit with other than me. I fear my presence on the ship will serve as a constant reminder of the reason we're crossing the ocean. Your wife and the young ladies could provide a diversion."
Jonas nodded his agreement. "I'll take care of it first thing in the morning." He beamed at his wife. "You see, my dear, this has worked out quite well after all. You'll have someone to keep you company throughout the voyage."
Confusion clouded her father's eyes, and Sophie hastened to relay the news that Uncle Jonas would not accompany them on the voyage.
"What business is it that ties you to Rochester, Jonas? If it's something I could help with, I'd be pleased to lend my assistance. You could then continue with your plan to accompany Victoria."
Jonas vigorously shook his head. "No, nothing you'd be able to assist with, but I do appreciate the offer, Quincy. However, having Paul and his mother along will prove most beneficial, don't you ladies agree?"
Aunt Victoria didn't appear persuaded, and nothing her father or Uncle Jonas said or did would convince Sophie, either. Paul Medford's presence on board the ship would spoil all of her fun!
The three girls escaped the confines of the house the moment they were excused from the dinner table. With a promise to remain on the grounds, they donned their cloaks and strolled to the terrace garden, where privacy awaited them. Even as young girls, they'd enjoyed sitting in the loggia with its towering Greek columns that permitted a view of anyone approaching yet afforded a feeling of privacy--thanks in large part to the grapevines that provided an overhead blanket of leaves and luscious treats when in season.
"I don't know which of our fathers has become the more devious, Amanda." Sophie stood on one of the ornate benches and yanked a withered leaf from one of the sagging vines. "I cannot believe I'll be forced to endure Paul Medford throughout the voyage. You can be certain he'll attempt to quash all our fun. And I can only imagine his mother--a stern and prudish old woman with a constant frown." Sophie shuddered.
The breeze tugged at the corner of Amanda's cape, and she pulled it close to her body. "I believe Paul's circumstances are purely coincidental. Besides, I've never known you to permit anyone to ruin your good time. I predict you'll find some way to avoid him."
"And let's don't forget that Paul's mother will provide company for Aunt Victoria," Fanny added. "However, I do think Daniel Irwin's presence can be attributed to Uncle Jonas and his devious scheming." Fanny squeezed Amanda's arm. "I'm sorry if you find my words harsh, Amanda."
"No need for apologies, Fanny. I've heard much worse. I doubt there's any member of the family who hasn't criticized Father at some point--including me. And, unfortunately, I believe you're correct about Daniel. He is an odd choice. Father barely knows him, and he's not so much older than the three of us. If he merely wanted a young male escort, he could have easily ordered Jefferson or George to come along."
Sophie clapped her hands. "Oh, I do wish he would have done that! The boys are such fun!"
Amanda grinned. "They may still act like boys, but I don't think they'd appreciate your referring to them as such."
"And their youthful behavior is exactly why your father wouldn't choose for them to accompany us." Fanny brushed an auburn curl from her forehead. "We all three know why he chose Daniel Irwin. Uncle Jonas continues to hold out hope that I'll forget Michael and fall madly in love with Daniel. He hasn't fooled me in the least, but his plan will fail. My love for Michael is steadfast. Daniel will never be the recipient of my affections."
Amanda gently tapped her index finger across her pursed lips. "But what if this is Daniel's plan rather than my father's? Have you considered that Daniel may have approached my father and avowed his affection for you?"
"And being Fanny's ever-adoring guardian who wants only the very best for his niece, Uncle Jonas suggested Daniel accompany us on this voyage," Sophie quipped. "Do you truly believe he merely wants to give Fanny an opportunity to discover her one true love?"
"I know you're correct, Sophie, but I thought we should at least give him the benefit of the doubt. He is my father, after all, and I'd not want to misjudge him."
Sophie's rippling laughter echoed through their stone hideaway. "Believe me, dear cousin, you need not worry on that account." A light breeze rippled through the grapevines, and Sophie huddled closer to her cousins. "However, I have decided that we shall have a grand time in spite of the two troublesome fellows who have been foisted upon us." She joined hands with her cousins. "Let's make a pact."
Saturday, October 23, 1897
On board the SS City of New York
The driver maneuvered their carriage onto the pier at breakneck speed and then brought the horses to an abrupt halt that sent members of the Broadmoor family careening inside the conveyance. The driver would likely receive an upbraiding from Uncle Jonas, but Sophie thought the experience quite exciting. An exhilarating beginning to their journey. Granted, Aunt Victoria's hat no longer sat at the same jaunty angle, but the driver had managed to deliver them without any genuine mishap, no small feat for even the most adept of drivers on sailing days in New York City.
Like the Broadmoors, other passengers had arrived more than an hour prior to sailing time, and many were already directing the destination of their trunks and bags while others were ascending the gangway. Livery carriages and private turnouts continued to arrive, dropping off additional travelers on the crowded pier.
Once they'd stepped out of the carriage, Uncle Jonas instructed them to keep a watch for Daniel while he spoke to the driver. Sophie grinned at her cousins. "Perhaps we should hide behind the baggage so Daniel won't see us."
"I doubt that will work. Uncle Jonas would likely discover some method to delay the ship's sailing until Daniel arrives. Unless I can depend upon you two to help me keep Daniel at bay, I fear I'm doomed to spend the entire voyage in his company," Fanny lamented.
"You know I will do my very best," Sophie promised. "The three of us will develop some delicious plans that will bewilder poor Daniel. All we must do is reenact a few of the pranks we've previously used on Jefferson and George."
Amanda didn't appear totally convinced. "We'll do our best to keep him at arm's length whenever possible. But no outrageous pranks."
"That was certainly halfhearted," Sophie whispered. "You could be more supportive."
Aunt Victoria walked toward them just then, waving her handkerchief high in the air. "Wave, girls! There's Daniel, and he doesn't appear to see us." The three of them turned their backs and fumbled in their reticules. Finally Victoria tapped Amanda on the shoulder. "What are you girls doing? I asked you to wave to Daniel."
Amanda nudged Sophie. "We're looking for our handkerchiefs, so he'll more easily see us. However, it appears I've forgotten mine. They must all be packed in my trunk." Sophie batted her lashes and held open her handbag for her aunt's inspection.
Victoria pointed to the piece of lace protruding from the pocket of Sophie's fur-trimmed traveling cloak. "Could that possibly be what you've been searching for?"
Sophie could feel the heat rise up her neck and into her cheeks. "Why, I do believe it is. Thank you, Aunt Victoria." She pulled the lace-edged hankie from her pocket and barely raised her arm. The white square drooped from her hand like a flag at half-mast without a breeze in the offing.
Pushing Sophie's arm upward, Aunt Victoria instructed Amanda and Fanny to make haste. "You girls are not deceiving me in the least. Now, find those handkerchiefs and wave them overhead." She jutted her chin forward in a manner that implied she would not be denied. Had the white linen squares not been produced forthwith, Sophie believed her aunt would have dived right into each of their reticules and retrieved them. The other two girls lifted their handkerchiefs and waved them overhead with little enthusiasm. Unfortunately, their waving provided enough activity to attract Daniel's attention.
"He's seen us," Fanny muttered. "And look! There's Paul." She grasped Sophie's hand. "That must be his mother."
Sophie frowned and shook her head. "No. That woman looks much different than Paul's mother."
"You've never met Paul's mother," Fanny said.
"True," Sophie said. "But I've pictured her in my mind, and that woman looks nothing like her."
"Oh, forevermore, Sophie. You're not making any sense," Amanda said. "She's the only person with him. The woman most certainly must be his mother--she's lovely, don't you think?"
Daniel raced toward them and immediately hastened to Fanny's side while Sophie contemplated the older woman grasping Paul's arm. Very stylish, with an air of dignity and an inviting smile--in truth, quite a lovely woman. Not at all like her son. For in spite of what others said, Sophie thought Paul rather plain. When they'd drawn closer, Sophie noted the similar chestnut brown eyes. Otherwise, there was little resemblance between mother and son.
Mrs. Medford appeared perfectly comfortable, but Paul fumbled over the introductions and was seemingly mortified when he forgot Amanda's name. For some reason, Sophie felt sorry for him and came to his rescue. Perhaps it was a remembrance of times when she'd been thrust into uncomfortable social situations and no one had saved her. Nowadays, she worried little about such things. In fact, she willingly made a spectacle of herself if it provided a modicum of merriment to an otherwise dull gathering.
Mrs. Medford's brown-eyed gaze rested upon Sophie for several moments. "I can see that you have learned to enjoy life, Miss Broadmoor. If laughter is truly good medicine, I would venture to say that you will live a very long life." She tapped Paul's arm with her fan. "You could take a few lessons from this young lady. You are far too serious."
Paul looked heavenward, obviously embarrassed by his mother's assessment. "Now that introductions have been made, I believe we should board the ship, Mother."
"You see? Even though the pier is crowded with other passengers and we have nearly fifty minutes until sailing time, Paul is worried the ship will sail without us." Mrs. Medford patted her son's hand. "We will wait and board with the Broadmoors." Mrs. Medford glanced toward the carriage where Sophie's aunt and uncle were deep in conversation.
Aunt Victoria looked none too happy, but that was to be expected. Although Uncle Jonas continued to promise her that he would meet them in London, Aunt Victoria appeared unconvinced. His refusal to arrive in New York City several days early had not won him favor, either. The Broadmoor women had hoped for at least two days of shopping and an evening at the theater prior to their voyage, but Uncle Jonas had protested, once again citing the burgeoning work that required his attention.
Uncle Jonas grasped his wife's elbow and escorted her toward them as several fancy wagons bearing the names of fashionable New York florists arrived on the pier. Deliverymen hastened to the gangway with ornate floral offerings.
Sophie tipped her head close to Amanda. "Let's hope your father purchased one of those huge bouquets for your mother."
"At this point, I think it would take more than flowers to appease Mother. It appears he is attempting to leave without escorting us on board. If he makes his escape, she'll be incensed. Perhaps I should intervene." Amanda glanced about the group. "If you'll excuse me for a few moments?"
Although Paul tried to engage Sophie in conversation, she maintained a close vigil on Amanda and her parents. Her cousin's assumptions had obviously been correct. The frown on Aunt Victoria's face was enough to wilt an entire bouquet of flowers. When the threesome finished their private conversation and drew near, Uncle Jonas suggested they board the ship.
"Will you be joining us on board, Uncle?" Sophie inquired.
"Yes, of course." Jonas immediately circled the group to greet Daniel. "Glad to see you've safely arrived, my boy."
Her uncle's enthusiastic response surprised Sophie, but she wondered if it had more to do with Daniel than with Aunt Victoria's obvious displeasure. They wended their way through the throngs gathered on the pier. Strains of band music blended with the din of the crowd, while beautifully attired and perfectly coiffed passengers strolled the decks and waved to anyone who turned in their direction. Her uncle continued to fawn over Daniel while he waved the rest of their party forward. His behavior toward the young man was uncharacteristic, even for her uncle, who seemed to change moods as frequently as a chameleon changed its color.
She thought to mention that to Fanny, but Uncle Jonas blocked her way when Sophie prepared to board.
"Fanny, take Daniel's arm. I don't want you to trip on the gangway," he commanded.
Though he carefully paired Fanny and Daniel, he appeared utterly unconcerned whether Sophie or his own daughter might need assistance boarding. Sophie grasped Amanda's arm and exclaimed, "Do permit me to help you aboard, Amanda. I wouldn't want you to trip on the gangway." The remark garnered a hasty look of reproof from her uncle, but Sophie merely tossed her curls and proceeded ahead, with Aunt Victoria and Uncle Jonas following behind.
"I do believe this ship is the finest we've ever sailed on, Jonas. If we must journey without you, we will, at least, have fine accommodations."
Sophie glanced over her shoulder in time to see her uncle bask in the praise. "Let's go into the main salon first. Fanny will want to see the flowers."
Amanda giggled. "And escape from Daniel," she whispered. "An excellent plan, Sophie."
Jonas wagged his index finger at the girls. "There will be no visit to the salon until you ladies have been to your cabin. I want to be certain it meets with your expectations before I return to the pier. You may even discover a surprise."
The remnants of Aunt Victoria's frown evaporated. "Oh, Jonas! We don't need surprises. We'll likely have enough of those on our voyage." She squeezed his hand. "But since you've gone to such an effort, we will do as you wish."
Paul and his mother followed along for only a short distance. Although Uncle Jonas had managed to obtain first-class tickets for Paul and his mother on the City of New York, their accommodations were located in the opposite direction, a fact that pleased Sophie.
The Broadmoor traveling bags had been placed outside their cabin, while trunks containing the clothing they would require in England had been secured belowdecks. Once the women completed their tour of the cabin, Veda and Minnie, the two personal maids who had accompanied them from home, would unpack their baggage.
Not one of them could find fault with the cabin. It was a large suite with a sitting room and two large bedrooms--one on either side of the sitting room--along with servants' quarters for the two maids. Flowers had been delivered to their cabin with a note to Aunt Victoria reaffirming that Uncle Jonas would join them in England. It was, however, the silver filigree dresser set that pleased her even more than the flowers. Uncle Jonas had obviously spared no expense on the gift or on their suite.
The opulence of the rooms was far more than Sophie had expected. The walls were paneled in cherrywood, the beds were draped in velvet, and the furniture was upholstered in plush shades of plum and forest green. Aunt Victoria stood in the doorway of one of the bedrooms. "Would you like to share this room with me, Amanda? That way, you girls won't be so crowded."
"Oh, please permit her to stay in the room with Fanny and me, Aunt Victoria. We can make do quite nicely. The rooms are very large, and it won't be nearly so much fun if we're separated from one another."
Amanda stepped to her mother's side. "Do say you don't mind, Mother. You know I enjoy your company, but . . ."
"I understand. I was once young, too, you know." She enveloped her daughter in a fleeting hug.
* * *
Jonas waited until the others had disappeared from sight before grasping Daniel by the arm and nodding toward one of the small salons. He must make Daniel understand the depth of his assignment. Fanny had inherited her father's portion of the Broadmoor fortune--a fact that continued to irritate Jonas to no end. His brother Langley had done nothing to add to the family coffers, and it seemed outrageous that his daughter should be given his share.
"He shouldn't even have a share--not after taking his own life," Jonas muttered.
Nevertheless, the situation was quite serious now. If Jonas was to succeed in his plan to gain control of Fanny's inheritance, Daniel must prove reliable and completely in agreement with Jonas's desires. And the journey to England would provide little time for all that Jonas and Daniel must accomplish.
Looking at Daniel now, Jonas began to have second thoughts. The young man was to play an important role in the success of Jonas's plan, a somewhat distressing concept. Though not particularly intelligent, Daniel seemed to be compliant and eager to please. Jonas could only hope those traits would prove sufficient for the task at hand. Had the boy been intellectual rather than greedy, he would have refused the offer at the outset or made more demands for himself. Neither would have worked to Jonas's advantage.
Once they'd located a private spot, Jonas requested two glasses of port. "We must go over the details of my expectations."
When Daniel bobbed his head, several strands of light brown hair fell across his forehead. He pushed the hair back into place and sat down. Only a small round table divided them, and Jonas leaned forward to close the short distance. He didn't want anyone overhearing their conversation.
"I want to be certain you understand what I require of you on this voyage, Daniel. When I arrive in England, I want to hear that Fanny has agreed to marry you. I demand nothing more and nothing less. Is that clear?"
"But what if she rebuffs my advances, Mr. Broadmoor? She attempts to avoid me at every opportunity. You saw that much for yourself a short time ago."
Jonas nodded. "You will be rewarded handsomely if you succeed, Daniel. You must simply remember what is at stake, and you will be able to handle any difficulties that arise."
"I would have more confidence if you were along and I could rely upon you to make certain Fanny didn't evade my attentions." Daniel massaged his forehead with his fingertips. "She does that, you know--keeps a distance between us whenever possible."
The young man's apprehension was of increasing concern. If Jonas couldn't boost Daniel's confidence, he would fail to win Fanny's heart. "Befriend my wife and make her your ally. Convince her of your love for Fanny and your desire to provide a life of comfort with a man of her equal social standing. You need not disparage Michael Atwell. My wife understands the need to marry within the proper social class." Jonas clapped the younger man on the shoulder. "If you win my wife's confidence, she will provide discreet assistance."
After exhaling an audible sigh, Daniel agreed. "I will do my utmost to win Fanny's heart and your wife's respect."
"You must not even consider failure. If all other measures fall short, you must seduce her." Jonas saw the look of surprise in the young man's eyes, but he knew this was his last opportunity to drive home the necessity of Daniel's success. "I hope such behavior will not be necessary, but I want you to understand that I am willing for you to go to whatever lengths are necessary to gain Fanny's agreement to wed. Even if indiscretion is the only means to accomplish that goal. In fact, nothing would please me more than to discover you and Fanny are engaged when I arrive in England."
Jonas withdrew a thick envelope from his jacket and pushed it into Daniel's hand. "I am sending sufficient funds with you to purchase an impressive engagement ring for my niece. I hope to see a ring on her finger rather than money in this envelope. Please don't disappoint me."
Daniel shoved the envelope into his pocket and inhaled deeply. "You can rely upon me, sir." He grasped Jonas by the hand and forced his arm up and down with the enthusiasm of a thirsty man priming a pump.
"We should return to the deck before the ladies wonder at our disappearance," Jonas said. "You'll be pleased to know that your cabin is directly next to theirs. I've done my best to secure you every advantage."
"And I am most appreciative, Mr. Broadmoor."
The men retraced their steps, and even to the most discriminating eye, it appeared neither Jonas nor Daniel had moved away from the railing during the ladies' absence. From his wife's arresting smile upon returning, Jonas knew his gift had pleased her and they would part on good terms.
Victoria softly touched his cheek and thanked him. "The gift is lovely, but I don't believe I've completely forgiven you just yet. If you arrive in England on schedule, then I will consider the slate wiped clean."
The harsh blast of the steamer's whistle preceded the clanging bell alerting visitors to return ashore. "I suppose I must take my leave," Jonas said. He kissed his wife and hoped his ardent display of affection would help to warm her heart. After bidding his nieces farewell, he brushed a kiss on Amanda's cheek. "I expect the three of you to behave in a proper fashion. I don't want to hear any reports that you've caused your mother undue distress during your journey."
Amanda agreed, though Jonas realized it would be Sophie-- not his daughter--who would be devising inappropriate plans for the threesome. And asking for Sophie's agreement to behave would be of little consequence.
The final bell clanged, and Jonas turned to Fanny. "I told Daniel you would take a turn on the deck with him once the ship is underway."
Fanny shook her head. "But I don't--"
"No time for argument, Fanny. I've given Daniel my word, and I must go ashore before the gangway is withdrawn. I don't believe I'd have an easy time utilizing the accommodation ladder for my return to the pier." With a final wave, he hurried down the gangway and was soon lost in the crowd of well-wishers.
After a final and prolonged blast of the whistle sounded, the giant propellers churned the dark water, and the steamship slowly moved from her berth. The steward's band struck the chords of "America" while the crowd below hurried to the far end of the pier to shout their final farewells. The passengers remained near the railing, waving until they could no longer distinguish their friends and family.
* * *
Careful to keep Fanny in her sights, Sophie attempted to shift her position along the railing, hoping to distance herself from Mrs. Medford and Paul. Mother and son had arrived on the promenade deck after her uncle Jonas had departed, and Paul had managed to squeeze between Amanda and Sophie. Now Mrs. Medford stood beside Aunt Victoria offering profuse apologies. She had seemingly wanted to thank Uncle Jonas for booking their passage. Sophie had not made much progress in getting away from Paul when Daniel insisted Fanny accompany him on a walk about the deck.
"That sounds like a wonderful idea. Amanda and I will come along, too. That way, we'll all become acquainted with the ship." Sophie noted Fanny's look of relief as well as Daniel's glare. "Come along, Amanda," she said, grasping her cousin's arm and taking charge. "We'll lead the way."
"I trust you won't mind if I join you, also," Paul said.
Sophie's heart plummeted. For a moment she considered denying his request, but before she could speak, Amanda agreed he should join them. Sophie had planned to use their stroll to advantage; she viewed it as an opportunity to meet any interesting men who might be on board. Undoubtedly having Paul along would thwart her efforts. At least dear Fanny wouldn't be required to spend the time alone with Daniel.
Sophie raised her parasol and held it to one side, partly to deflect the sun but also to keep Paul at arm's length. She didn't want others to assume he was her escort--let them believe he was keeping company with Amanda. After all, she was the one who had agreed he could join them.
They'd traversed one side of the deck when Sophie spied several young fellows who appeared to be traveling together. One in particular caught her fancy, and nearing his side, she coyly dropped her handkerchief. When the fellow rushed to retrieve it, she batted her lashes, smiled demurely, and thanked him profusely.
"You are most welcome. May I be so bold as to introduce myself?"
"Claymore Fuller of New York City. And you are?"
"Sophie Broadmoor. Miss Sophie Broadmoor. I do hope we'll have an opportunity to become further acquainted, Mr. Fuller." Tucking the handkerchief into her pocket, Sophie glanced over her shoulder. Where in the world was Fanny? She silently chastised herself for not keeping a closer watch. Daniel would bear watching. He was obviously more cunning than Sophie had imagined. After a hasty farewell to Mr. Fuller, Sophie hurried to Amanda's side. "We must turn around! Daniel and Fanny are nowhere in sight."
"There's no need for panic. I'm certain they are fine." Paul patted Sophie's arm as though consoling a small child. She jerked away, and he arched his brows. "They have likely stopped in one of the salons for refreshments, Sophie. I truly don't believe there's any need for alarm."
Sophie ignored his remarks and directed a stern look at Amanda. She hoped the look would propel her cousin into action. Fortunately, Amanda didn't hesitate. While the two of them hurriedly retraced their steps, Paul followed behind. "Let's check the main salon; then we'll go to the upper deck," Amanda suggested.
Sophie glanced over her shoulder. "Why don't you go inspect the upper decks, Paul, while we look in the main salon? We'll accomplish more in less time, don't you agree?"
He hesitated, obviously displeased with the plan, but finally turned toward the steps leading to the upper decks.
Sophie sighed. "At least we've managed to free ourselves of him for a while. Now let's locate Fanny. I can't believe Daniel has already lured her away from us."
"Had you not been preoccupied with Mr. Fuller, you likely would have noticed."
Sophie heard the ring of condemnation in Amanda's words. "If that be the case, then why didn't you notice Fanny's absence? Perhaps because you were distracted by Paul Medford's attentions?"
Amanda's lips tightened into a thin seam, and her eyes shone with anger. "Paul is nothing more than a social acquaintance. You very well know I have no interest in him, but we have no time to argue that. We must find Fanny."
"I agree, but you're the one who made the first accusation, Amanda. Let's put aside our differences and--" She grasped Amanda's hand. "There they are in the salon, and it appears Daniel has literally cornered her. She couldn't escape if her life depended upon it."
Amanda peered around Sophie's shoulder. "Dear me! We must rescue her. We should approach from the far side. That way Fanny will see us coming, and Daniel will be none the wiser."
"Excellent plan." Both of them realized Fanny was in no mortal danger. She was, after all, in a large room surrounded by dozens of other passengers. However, Daniel had chosen a small corner table that had been pushed against the wall and blocked Fanny on one side while his chair blocked the other. The arrangement was perfect--for Daniel. Sophie didn't doubt for a minute that he'd been attempting to woo Fanny. Why wouldn't Paul and Daniel content themselves with some other unattached female passengers and permit the Broadmoor women time to enjoy themselves?
Sophie pointed Amanda to the left, and she stepped to the right. They would flank Daniel and, if necessary, push him out of the way. "Fanny! Where have you been? Do move aside, Daniel. Fanny must join us in our cabin immediately. A matter of great importance must be settled." When he didn't move quickly enough, Sophie poked him with her parasol. "Did you not hear me? Move your chair!"
The sharp command caused Daniel to jump to his feet. The chair toppled backwards, and he tripped in his attempt to grab it before it hit the floor. While he struggled to set the chair aright, Sophie waved for Fanny to escape from her position along the wall. The three young women scurried toward the exit, but not quickly enough to elude Daniel. At the sound of his footfalls, Sophie stopped short and turned. Had she been several inches taller, the two of them would have been nose to nose.
"Paul went to the upper decks looking for you and Fanny. Go tell him that all is well and we've gone to our cabin." She spoke with such authority he neither objected nor questioned her instructions.
Sophie waited long enough to be certain Daniel was heading for the upper deck. "Do tell us what happened. One minute you were behind us but the next you had disappeared from sight. Why didn't you call to us?"
The girls hurried to the stairway leading to their cabin. "Daniel intentionally stopped to permit a family with small children to pass in front of us as we neared the main salon. Even if I had called out, you wouldn't have heard me. You were far ahead of us by then, and the music and noise of the passengers would have drowned out my voice. He said we would cross through the salon and meet you on the other side of the ship, but once we were inside, he insisted he didn't feel well and needed to rest."
"Ha! I don't believe that for one minute," Sophie said.
"And you are correct," Fanny said as she opened the cabin door.
After making certain they were alone, Sophie plopped down on the divan. "What happened next?" She could barely wait to hear the rest of Fanny's tale.
"He said he is in love with me and is determined to have me as his wife."
Amanda clasped a hand to her bodice. "Truly? I can't even imagine such a thing. What did you say?"
"I told him that I am betrothed to Michael and he is the man I love." Fanny opened her fan and flicked it back and forth. "I told him he should refrain from making any further advances, but he said my declaration would not deter him. He believes that by journey's end I will return his feelings."
Amanda wagged her head. "He is certainly bold."
"And much too self-assured for my liking," Fanny replied. "He said I am not yet married and he plans to convince me that he is a better match for me."
Sophie leaned back against the cushioned seat and considered Daniel's remark. "He is far too full of himself. I believe he needs a good comeuppance." She giggled. "And no one can do that any better than the three of us. It is, after all, our duty to teach Daniel there are consequences for improper social behavior."