Rachel Sommerville was soon to marry a scoundrel. Innocent and untouched, Rachel would never guess at her future husband Daniel's past exploits. But Ronald Connor knew everything about Rachel's betrothed. Daniel had seduced Roland's closest friend, his sister, and spurred the events that led to her untimely demise. Roland planned to turn all of his blame and anger against Rachel and her marriage. He would turn feelings of pure hatred to acts of love, employing his every skill to charm Rachel into a sexual tool--one he could use to humiliate Daniel in his honeymoon bed. But he didn't know that once this true lady began to let down her hair, Roland would be the captor of her seductive charms?
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August 04, 2008
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Excerpt from Let down Your Hair by Linda Winstead Jones
Singing was the only real pleasure Rachel Sommerville knew. It made her heart soar, her troubles fade. She could close her eyes and lose herself in the music, for a while, and that's exactly what she did as she sang the haunting love ballad, "Lorena."
Aunt Edwina had been arranging these musical evenings for hotel guests for the past three years, since shortly after Rachel had turned seventeen. Rachel did not think herself a great singer, not by any means, but she had a pleasant voice, and people did seem to enjoy hearing her. Once she finished, there was usually someone else in the crowd who could be persuaded to sing or play the fiddle or strike a tune on the piano. These musical evenings were Rachel's greatest joy. Her only joy, to be honest.
But tonight her mind wouldn't be still as she sang. It twisted and twirled and robbed her of peace. In the back of her mind, a niggling certainty ate at her: Once she married Daniel there would be few, if any, evenings such as this. The man spent most of his days at his vineyard, and that was several hours north of San Francisco! He was often out of town on business, as he was at the present moment, sometimes gone for weeks at a time. What would she do with herself then, all alone in that big house so far from everything and everyone she knew?
Rachel had lived in this small hotel, the exclusive Sommerville Towers, for as long as she could remember. Aunt Edwina had purchased and taken over the management of the place years ago, when Rachel had been less than five years old. Since then, the spinster Edwina Sommerville, Rachel's late father's sister, had devoted herself to two things: raising her niece and running the hotel.
When Edwina had moved to San Francisco and bought the place it had been called The Golden Manor, a name that did not suit the ramshackle frame building. The walls sagged, there were bullet holes in the main lobby desk, and the furnishings were rough-hewn. But Edwina had seen potential here, and a piece at a time she'd rebuilt and reshaped the establishment. Rather than being made entirely of weathered wood, the hotel was now fashioned from an enchanting combination of stone and well-kept white frame that brought to mind a small, peaceful castle. The furnishings were fine, the carpets thick, the paintings on the walls in gilt frames.
The public rooms were located on the first floor: The gold salon and the silver parlor, the dining hall, a billiards room, and the lobby. The second floor was for guests, permanent and temporary, and the third floor was where Rachel and Edwina had their rooms, along with quarters for the few employees who lived in-house. There were also two rooms that could be rented if the need arose.
Rachel had offered, many times, to take a more active role in the running of Sommerville Towers, but Aunt Edwina always refused, insisting that Rachel's only job was to be pretty and to marry well.
She would soon do that, taking the man her aunt had chosen as her husband. Rachel was about to be the bride of a man fifteen years her senior, a man who openly worshipped her, was socially acceptable and who was extraordinarily wealthy. And Daniel's winery was only one of his business ventures. He had made a small fortune in real estate and had an interest in the railroads that had also become profitable. He was charming and handsome and looked at her like the sun rose and set in her eyes.
Why wasn't she happy?
With a mental shake, she brushed off her useless musings and tried to concentrate on the present. The gold salon was her favorite public room in the hotel. Furnished elegantly in gold and white, it served quite well for small gatherings such as this one.
As she sang, Rachel stared over the heads of the small audience. Less than twenty were in attendance tonight, but they all listened raptly. The widow Mrs. Weatherly sat in the front row, roosting on her gold padded chair with her hands clasped in her lap. Her hat, a monstrosity in pink and lavender, fairly quivered atop her gray head. Dr. Moore sat in the last row, leaning back with a smile on his weathered face and his eyes closed. He sometimes fell asleep during these gatherings, and she had promised him that if he began to snore, she would awaken him before he embarrassed himself. He was a little sweet on Mrs. Weatherly, who refused to give him the time of day.
Horace, who had been in charge of hotel security since the day Edwina bought the place, was present as always. Six-and-a-half-feet tall and completely bald, dressed somberly and built wider in the shoulders than was normal for a man of his years, he stood out among the regular residents and new guests. Many of the guests, most of them to be honest, were apprehensive around Horace. They did not know, as Rachel did, that beneath his intimidating exterior beat a heart of gold. In fact, the man could be quite sentimental. She was almost sure there were tears in his eyes at this moment. This particular song always made him maudlin.
Rachel studied the rest of the crowd, her gaze lingering fondly on the smiling group all dressed in their finest. Oh, she did hope someone in attendance could be persuaded to perform once she finished. If not, the evening would come to an end much too soon, and she'd have no choice but to retire early. She did grow tired of long, lonely evenings in her third-story room.
At the doorway to the gold salon, a movement caught her eye. The man who stepped in was a stranger. She would have remembered, were he a guest. He was young, and handsome, and ... different. Very, very different. His narrowed eyes met hers, he leaned against the doorjamb much too casually, and after a long moment he smiled insolently. At her.