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Authors: Carolyn Thornton

Male Order Bride

BOOK: Male Order Bride
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Male Order Bride
By
Carolyn Thornton

 

Contents

 

    She Took Her Time.

    Her eyes moving from one man to the next, wondering which
    one could be Rafe. She rejected one after another. Then their eyes met
    across the room. He had been watching her the entire time. He was the
    one with the magnetic eyes that said, "It's about time you got here."

    A host of emotions assailed her. Exaltation, curiosity,
    delight, a pricking of anger that he had made her wait until this
    moment to find out who he was, and an overwhelming sense of relief that
    she was finally about to meet him.

CAROLYN THORNTON, a Southern native, now lives in
Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Her widespread travels throughout the South
and her deep-rooted interest in Southern traditions and heritage are
reflected in her novels and magazine articles.

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for the many letters I have received
from you praising our Silhouette Special Edition series. Your comments
and views have proved to be very informative and have been a great help
to us in establishing Special Edition as a firm favourite amongst
romance readers.

Special Editions have all the elements you enjoy in
Silhouette Romances and more. These stories concentrate on romance in a
longer, more realistic and sophisticated way, and they feature greater
sensual detail.

I hope you enjoy this book and all the wonderful romances
from Silhouette.

Please continue sending your suggestions and comments by
writing to me at this address:

Jane Nicholls

Silhouette Books

PO Box 177

Dunton Green

Sevenoaks

Kent

TN13 2YE

Copyright© 1984 by Carolyn Stromeyer

Map by Ray
Lundgren

First printing 1984

ISBN 0 340 36562 5

Other Silhouette Books by Carolyn Thornton

Silhouette Romance

The Heart Never
Forgets

For Eric's Sake

Silhouette Special Edition

Love Is
Surrender

Pride's Reckoning

Looking Glass Love

Smile and Say Yes

By the
Book

Chapter One

Lacey Adams watched the orange ball of the sun just off
the shore of the Mississippi Gulf Coast as she drove home along Highway
90. What a restful sight, she thought, so much in contrast to the
hectic day she had spent in the boutique this Monday. She wanted
nothing more taxing than a bubble bath and a bottle of wine as an end
to the day.

Everyone who had come into Lacey's Designs today had
needed attention—nips and tucks on a pair of jeans to fit a
size-seven girl into size-eleven pants, then ripping a seam on a
one-size-fits-all playsuit to make it fit that one size girl it didn't.
Two people in a row had come in with magazine clippings they wanted
Lacey to copy, except for a pleated skirt here, no padded shoulders
there and blues where the reds were, but otherwise
just
exactly
like the clippings. Lacey had made notes and turned
it over to one of her free-lance seam-stresses. More people had come
into the shop today than normally came on Saturday, the busiest day.
Lacey had spent the majority of her time in high-heeled spikes. That
alone had worn her out.

She had hoped to enjoy the day perched on the stool before
her drawing board, daydreaming out the narrow window that overlooked
the Biloxi Back Bay. Of course, it only overlooked a sliver of the bay,
and only when she leaned her body over and hung from her toes from the
windowsill, then craned her head due north. Still, the slant-ceilinged
attic room was Lacey's favorite hideaway in the small Victorian house
where she had recently moved her business. She supposed all of today's
business was still a result of the publicity she had received locally
on the feature pages of the newspaper. The business was nice, but Lacey
had looked forward to beginning some whimsical new dress designs.

Maybe tomorrow
. She sighed as she put
her directional signal on and turned into the drive to the cottage
where she lived. Her eyes immediately caught sight of a bouquet of
flowers sitting next to her side door.

"The florist must have made the wrong delivery," she
muttered, turning off the motor and gathering up her notebook of
sketches, her purse and the briefcase of paperwork she would complete
in the morning before returning to the boutique. She was in that
"no-man's-land" of "no man", between relationships and liking it, and
it wasn't her birthday or any celebration she could remember. "Must be
for one of the neighbors," she said, juggling her possessions as she
bent to look at the card.

"Ms. Lacey Adams."

"Humm." Lacey smiled.
Don't get your hopes up
,
she thought.
It could still be a mistake
.

She turned her key in the lock and pushed open the door
with her hip. The house felt hot and musty, just like her mood. Getting
someone else's flowers wouldn't help if she had to spend the next hour
on the phone trying to track down the rightful owner.

Once inside her house, she deposited her armful of papers
and packages on the kitchen counter and stepped back outside to pick up
the bouquet and investigate the card.

"Lacey Adams," she read again. "My name, but it couldn't
be for me. I never get flowers even when I
am
expecting them."

The bouquet was mixed—pink and lavender
snapdragons, white daisies, tiny purple flowers whose name she didn't
know, and a mass of ferns. The envelope with her name on it was big and
brown without a florist's logo. That confirmed her suspicions that the
flowers were a mistake. Whoever had gone to the trouble of personally
delivering them had picked the wrong name and address from the phone
book.

She opened the envelope and pulled out a card shaped in
the form of a cowboy boot, then opened the boot to read: "Howdy."

Lacey laughed. Whoever this cowpuncher was, he had an
original greeting. She read further: "We haven't met, but my name is
Rafe Chancellor. I'm an associate of George Bridges."

Lacey's eyebrows went up. The flowers must be for her. She
knew George, but Rafe Chancellor? What was he selling?

She continued to read his note: "My trusted scout tells me
you're a lady who likes to dance."

Lacey frowned. When had she mentioned that to George?
When, in fact, had she last talked to George? What in heaven's name was
George doing giving her name to this… this… Rafe
Chancellor?

"You're in luck," the card read. "I like to dance too.
Some of my other hobbies include working with horses, restoring a 1933
Chevy, listening to music and cutting the grass."

She was convinced this man was weird if he not only
enjoyed cutting grass but also admitted it. She sighed. Just when he
was beginning to sound interesting, too.

She continued reading: "There's more, but you'll have to
find that out for yourself. For now, I'd like to have the privilege of
calling you on the telephone to invite you for a very exciting date. If
you would honor my simple request, all you will have to do during Phase
One is to return the enclosed specially marked card."

Lacey picked up the envelope and looked inside. A
self-addressed, stamped postcard fluttered out.

She smiled and continued reading: "If you decide to return
the card, all you will have to do is write in your own handwriting,
'Give me a call sometime.' This will put Phase Two into action. At that
point all you will have to do is to answer the phone if you are home
when I call, and be prepared, at Phase Four, to say 'yes' or 'no.'"

"Phase Four?" Lacey muttered, turning the card over and
rereading the first part. "Whatever happened to Phase Three? What is
this question I'm supposed to answer yes or no to?"

"You will also note," the card continued, "that there is a
special code which has been assigned only to you, located on the
upper-left-hand corner of the card."

"XOXOXO." Lacey laughed. Hugs and kisses. She liked his
style.

"I'll be waiting by my mailbox for your reply, and I hope
it doesn't rain. Your new, hopeful friend, Rafe."

Lacey laughed, looked again at the bouquet meant for her
and reread the card. Now she vaguely recalled running into George in
the grocery store over the weekend and his mentioning something about a
new man in town. Rafe Chancellor. She'd have to call George about this
before she returned any cards.

Lacey ignored the svelte picture of the spaghetti-thin
model lounging on a St. Thomas beach that was stuck on the door of her
refrigerator as a reminder that she needed to lose a few pounds.
Instead, she opened the door, browsing among the shelves. A salad would
be the logical thing to eat after this stressful day, something light
and non-fattening. But she didn't think she could face another carrot.
Maybe a steak and potato with lots of butter and sour cream. The potato
would give her an excuse to use that last bunch of chives before it
wilted.

She opened the cover of one of the unmarked containers of
generic casseroles—she had cooked them sometime between last
week and last year— and poked her finger into some of the
concoctions to remember what they were supposed to be.

"Yuk." She wrinkled her nose at the yogurt-and-something
dip she recalled making for the last party she had given. "No wonder
nobody ate this stuff." She snapped the lid back on the container and
shoved it to the back of the shelf. "I need to dump that, when I get
time, one day."

The third casserole dish had much more promise, she
decided, thinking that it was a funny container she had put it in
before she remembered why it tasted so good. That was one of the
casseroles her mother had baked for her. "This'll do for supper," she
decided, pulling it out of the refrigerator and nibbling on the cold
contents. "On second thought," she mumbled a few minutes later when
there was hardly enough left to reheat, "better consider that a snack
and dig around for something else."

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