All Genevieve Summerville wants is a good life for herself in the wild Klondike. She agrees to take handsome Canadian Mountie Luke Hunter as a stand-in groom while her fiance satisfies his gold-fever. But the best-laid plans go awry--and Genevieve and Luke find themselves legally bound together!
Living in close quarters, Genevieve is surprised by Luke's gentleness. And as his kisses awaken her most secret desires, Genevieve must choose between the life she wanted and the longings of her heart....
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August 31, 2007
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Excerpt from Klondike Wedding by Kate Bridges
"I now pronounce you man and wife." The old judge coughed. "Sort of."
Genevieve Summerville felt like a fraud. She didn't normally dress in such rich clothing. She clutched at her much-too-expensive bouquet of fresh-cut pink roses, white chrysanthemums and stag's-horn moss. Ribbons of organza streamed below the stems, lily of the valley perfumed the air and she could barely breathe in a corset laced too tight for this heat. She glanced up from the banks of the rushing river to the judge. His black robes flicked in the breeze. Dots of sweat gave sheen to his forehead and caused his spectacles to slip down his nose. Behind him sprawled the tents and new plank buildings of Dawson City, center of the Klondike gold rush, at the juncture of the Yukon and Klondike Rivers.
She couldn't bring herself to look at the tall, intimidating man standing to her right, a position normally reserved for the groom. Dressed in the handsome red uniform of the North-West Mounted Police, he wasn't hers.
She'd only been in town for three days, but she'd already heard the rumors about him.
A light breeze lifted her loose black hair and swirled around her bodice, around the see-through lace overlay, the twenty-four tiny buttons that plunged down her spine, the low-cut neckline she'd picked out because she'd thought she'd be wearing it for another man. Beneath the silk and chiffon and her lengthy tulle veil, she wore homemade bloomers and drab stockings she'd mended many times over.
Thank goodness, some things remained private. "You may now...um--" Judge Donahue strained to be heard above squawking ducks "--shake hands."
Genevieve turned to the Mountie inspector.
Luke Buxton Hunter didn't smile when he took her hand, gloved in white satin. His grip was a bit too firm, like the man himself. The officer wore no hat and his shiny black hair sparkled in the sun. She bet his underclothes matched the state of his fine-looking uniform.
She bet he was what he appeared to be. "Congratulations," said the stand-in groom. "I hope you two will be very happy."
"Whenever he makes it back to town."
"Hopefully Joshua will return...before the end of the month."
Sunshine caught the jagged scar beneath the officer's left eye. She wondered how he'd got it. Is that why he never smiled? "Unless he strikes gold first."
The statement cheered her. It was the whole point of Joshua's absence, and why he hadn't been here to meet her three days ago when she'd arrived. Most of the lucrative gold claims in Dawson City had already been staked. Joshua was trying his hand panning farther up river, working hard to support her and any future children.
"Yes...well...well, thank you for filling in for Joshua."
"Least I can do for an old friend. I must admit, this is my first proxy wedding."
"Mine, too. Well, save for my parents' back home, but I didn't attend their wedding." Anxious, she chattered on.
"I wasn't born for another two years."
When she stared into his dark and serious eyes, that pang of loneliness hit her again. What this man had done for his friend, Joshua McFadden, reminded her of the dear friendships she'd left behind in Montana.
But she should count her blessings. She was getting a whole new start in a beautiful new country, with an upstanding man she'd briefly known in her childhood. He came highly recommended by her aunt and uncle here in Dawson.
In his letter to her, Joshua had written that he was supportive of her new profession. She didn't recall exactly what he looked like, but she remembered his kindness when once taking her to the country fair, and how ambitious he'd seemed telling her of his big dreams to see the world and make a fortune.
His ambitions were what had attracted her as an adolescent. That's why she understood his absence today.
Her puppy yelped at her boots, biting at the buttons, breaking her spell. Genevieve smiled. She bent forward in the intricate gown she'd hauled over the Chilkoot Pass, careful to hide the scuffed boots that didn't match her gown, and scooped up the frisky white pup.
"Nugget, can't you sit still for ten minutes?"
The inspector leaned over and, with two broad fingers, stroked Nugget's head. The gesture seemed too intimate, seeing how the puppy was pressed so close to her bosom. Genevieve flushed, but then recalled that the inspector was a veterinary surgeon. A doctor of animals. He looked after the horses and livestock at the Mountie outpost. Hence his interest in puppies was genuine.
"How'd you get her here?" he asked.