Alex Reynolds's soul is shaped by his father's cruelty and tortured by a mountain of regrets. A man with a heart as unreachable as his deserves to live out the rest of his days alone on his Texas ranch. Then a damsel in distress interrupts his isolation with a chance at redemption.
Patience Gorham should be walking up the aisle. Instead she's pleading with a handsome stranger to save her from marrying a brute! But the last thing Patience expects is for her rescuer to have three conditions. To honor and obey...but never to love....
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Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
May 01, 2012
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Excerpt from A Texan's Honor by Kate Welsh
New York City
"Mister Reynolds," his cousin's butler said as he entered the study. Alexander looked up from the map he'd been studying as the tall gray-haired man continued, "A young woman claiming to be a friend of the countess has arrived. She seems a bit ..nervous, sir. I thought perhaps you would be kind enough to explain that the earl and countess have sailed for Ireland."
"It is rather late."
Alex took a sip of his cognac, cautious as always to assume the careless persona he showed the world. Soon he would be free to let go of that facade. Soon that character and everything that had created him would be in the past and he could figure out who the hell he really was.
"Not looking forward to disappointing the lady, Winston?" he pretended to tease. "You never have that problem when I ask you to send a persistent mamma on her way."
Winston stiffened to his tallest, most formal self. "This is different. Disappointing teary-eyed, exhausted females is not my forte, sir."
"You think it's mine?" Alex asked carefully. Was it?
"Not at all. But as I mentioned, she seems to be worried. And fretful. I suppose I could awaken Heddie--"
"No. No," Alex said on a sigh. Mrs. Winston worked hard every day and was doing more than usual closing up Jamie's house and with little help. He on the other hand had been doing nothing but marking time until what he thought of as his real life began.
Dammit. Why couldn't this woman have waited another day to show up on his cousin's doorstep? "I suppose I should earn my keep around here."
Winston's left eyebrow rose imperiously. "I believe you did that into perpetuity in San Francisco. You saved the lives of the earl and countess, their child and the lives of the entire household staff."
And all he'd had to do to accomplish that was to kill his own father. Alex knocked back the rest of his snifter of Jamie's best cognac.
The guilt from that night and from the years of hesitation and half measures that had preceded it threatened to crush him. He would have done it years earlier had he known it would come to that. He hoped so at least. It would have saved others endless heartache, his own years of regret and several lives.
"I'd best be off to handle this dirty work for you," Alex joked, forcing his thoughts into the present. "Where did you leave the young lady? Not on the doorstep, I hope."
"Sir! Of course not. I showed her to the front parlor."
Alex forced a grin. Sometimes it was exceedingly tiring to pretend a lightheartedness he didn't feel. "I never thought otherwise. Take a breath, Winston." He stood to go in search of.. "The young lady in question, Winston, what is her name?"
"Mrs. Patience Wexler Gorham."
Alex rose. "I should hurry, I suppose. It has been my experience that women named Patience have little of the virtue to call their own."
Winston nodded smartly, then withdrew. Alex strode down the stairs and along the hall of the New York town house. The house spoke of his cousin Jamie's success. But, even more, of his determination to get out from under Alex's father's shadow.
Alex had always pretended to be the carefree one but somehow Jamie had managed to blossom into all that was sunshine and light. He smiled. Seeing Jamie so happy made everything he'd done since he'd turned twelve worthwhile.
Meanwhile Alex had spent years as a phantom and now he couldn't quite find his way out of the darkness. It was his turn to crawl from behind the shadow that had been Oswald Reynolds, just as Jamie had done. The next step on that journey was leaving New York to begin his new life on the Rocking R, the Texas Hill Country ranch he'd bought. He was counting on the completely foreign, totally sunny atmosphere to free him of some of the weight on his shoulders. Of the darkness in his soul.
Because he couldn't seem to do it for himself. He stepped into the doorway of the parlor, a lovely, light-infused room with Louis Quinze furnishings, gleaming white woodwork and golden brocade-inset wall panels. Three exquisite crystal chandeliers kept it bright even at night.
But the beauty of the decorating paled in the presence of the lovely creature standing near the fireplace. He stared for a long moment at her reflection in a mirror on a side wall. Her profile was delicate, her green eyes heavily fringed with dark lashes and her hair a rich auburn.
Alex's heart bumped in his chest when he cleared his throat and she spun to face him. Disappointment flooded those crystalline eyes. Winston, you rotter.
He cleared his tight throat. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Gorham," he said. "I come the bearer of unfortunate news. My cousin, Jamie, and his wife sailed this morning for his estate in Ireland."
"No," she cried. Her creamy complexion went instantly pale. "Oh, no! What am I to do now?" She looked suddenly as if all the starch had gone out of her. Wobbling a bit, she made a grab for the mantel.
Alex knew an overwrought woman when he saw one. The hand gripping the solid surface would hold her upright only so long. He reached her just in time to catch her before she could pitch forward on her face. He scooped her up then laid her on the settee. But she didn't awaken. Not even when he went from patting her hand to stroking the lovely creature's smooth cheek. He looked down upon her and found himself, just for a moment, tumbling headlong into love.
Then he got his head round straight. Lust. This was only lust. And look what pain that had wrought in his life so far! He'd lost all right to the child born of what he'd thought was love, but now knew to have been that baser emotion.
"Oh, dear. I was correct, then. The young thing is more than a bit upset," Winston said from the hall, pulling Alex out of haunting memories.
"I'd say that is the greatest of understatements. Call your wife, would you, Winston? I think the lady may need a woman when she wakes."
"But, sir, what are we to do about her after that?"
Alex sighed. This was a complication, to be sure, but what else could he do? "It is quite late and we can hardly send her out alone into the dark of night. I don't think the earl would mind if we gave her a room till morning if she is in need of lodging."
"I believe Lady Meara's room could be readied in a thrice, sir. Heddie made it up and put the dust covers in place this afternoon."
"I'm as sorry as I can be about having to awaken your wife but I think proprieties should be followed as much as possible."
Winston nodded. "I'll wake the wife and send her along then I'll go and uncover everything. You can bring the young lady up while my wife dresses."
Alex sighed in relief. "Thank you, Winston. I confess I'm completely at sea as to what to do for her. Or to say to her."