For Her Honor
Adam Gentry, heir to the celebrated Paradise Stables in Virginia, is haunted by the visions of his lost love. Feeling cursed by fate, he slips deeper into grief, shrouded in a cloud of liquor and depression, and neglects his duties and responsibilities. But when Adam is forced to accept that there's nothing he can do to change his past, he knows he must move on.
And he accepts his own destiny: that he will never love again.
Emmaline Somerset finds herself in the worst possible position any unmarried woman can be in. She will have to abandon all of her plans, hopes, and dreams for an independence using her own talents. The only viable solution is to move to a distant relative's home and reinvent herself as a widow with an infant. No one will ever be the wiser.
Adam, now determined to secure the Gentry legacy, plans to save longtime family friend Emmaline from her embarrassment with an offer of marriage. But what Adam didn't plan on was how his unexpected attraction to her would stir something inside of him, something he's kept locked deep within.
Can love find its way between two troubled souls, one driven by duty, the other by honor, both determined to find their way home?
The Gentrys of Paradise
Book #1 Prequel Novella Into the Evermore
Book #2 For the Brave
Book #3 For This Moment
Book #4 For Her Honor
Release date: January 8, 2019
Publisher: Holly Bush Books
Print pages: 214
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Listen to a sample
For Her Honor
He missed the taste of food. He missed the texture of rare roast beef, and the tang of a béarnaise sauce smothering it. He missed the smoothness of mashed turnips and the snap of a fresh bean from the garden. He missed the anticipation of a meal and a wine to complement it. Adam Gentry cut a bite of the pheasant breast on his plate, put it in his mouth, and looked up at the cook eagerly awaiting his approval.
“It’s delicious and prepared perfectly,” he said and forced a smile. “Thank you.”
“I’m so glad you like it, Mr. Adam,” Mabel, the Gentry cook for the last twenty years, said and hurried to the door that led to the kitchens.
He ignored the silence in the formal dining room of his family home at Paradise Stables, as there was nothing to say, was there? He sliced small pieces of meat and the candied beets on his plate and chewed until he could swallow. He didn’t believe he would know if Mabel had changed out the pheasant for a book binding or a piece of pine bark. But it had been months, over six now, since his life had changed, and he was certain it would not suddenly or magically change back to happier days.
“Adam?” his mother, Eleanor Gentry, said, drawing his attention from his plate.
“Yes?” he replied, looking up at her, the matriarch of the Gentry family with his father gone now more than four years.
“Olivia has been asking you some questions,” she said and smiled warmly at him. “You were concentrating on this delicious meal and didn’t hear her, no doubt.”
Adam turned his eyes to his sister sitting on his right beside her husband. Even though their one-year wedding anniversary had just passed, Olivia and Jim Somerset still gazed at each other as if it were the very first time they’d ever seen each other and recognized their love. Especially his brother-in-law. He’d known him since Jim’s father, the local farrier, had begun servicing the Paradise horses when they were young boys. Jim had taken over those duties years ago when his father passed. Adam glanced at him now and he was staring at Olivia with a look that was nearly worshipful. Perhaps it was.
“When will we have the first foals?” Olivia asked.
Adam thought about last year’s foaling and what a happy time it had been. Josephine had come from Washington and stayed for nearly ten days. He could look back and identify those days as the ones when he realized he’d fallen in love with her. “George thinks the first will drop in two weeks.”
“How many, Adam?” his younger brother, Matt, asked from where he sat beside his wife, Annie.
“York has done his duty and more it seems!” his mother said with a laugh. Everyone at the table chuckled except Matt, who shouted, “Yee haw!”
It was all he could do to keep himself in his chair as he had a nearly overwhelming desire to punch his brother in the face until all of his teeth were gone. He filled his crystal tumbler from the whiskey decanter in front of him, drank it down in one swift swallow, and smacked his glass on the gleaming walnut table forcefully enough to shake the pewter candlesticks on either side of the flower centerpiece. Olivia reached out and steadied them. When he looked up, everyone was busy cutting their food and generally looking elsewhere, other than Matt.
“Leave a little of that for Jim and me.” He nodded at the decanter.
Adam continued to pick at his food and refilled his tumbler again. When dessert was served, he stood abruptly and picked up his glass with one hand and the decanter with the other. “I’ll be in the office, Mother.”
He pulled a random book from the shelves that lined two sides, floor to ceiling, of the large room he used to do the Paradise Stables business. It was originally designed to be a library, but his father had loved the room and put a large cherrywood desk between the two tall windows to keep track of the accounting and correspondence, although his mother participated in that as well when his father was alive. Now, it was his desk.
He put his glass down on the felt pad and rifled through the mail stacked on one corner. The bills he handled efficiently still, but he’d put off reading the letters about the family’s investments and offers for other business opportunities. He knew he needed to open them and determine what was to be done, whether to increase or begin an investment, or withdraw funds, or even to research a new prospect, often with Matt’s, Livie’s, or his mother’s help. But he hadn’t even opened many of the letters, and the ones he had lay in another stack as they had been for several months.
Adam seated himself in an overstuffed chair in front of the fire and looked at the title of the book he’d pulled. Agriculture Practices for Growing Rice. He opened to the first page and thought this book might be just the thing to bore him to death, so much easier than a bullet to the brain. He’d contemplated that scene in his head for a brief but vivid minute after it had finally become real to him that Josephine Wright would never talk to him again or make love to him another time.
The days after receiving her brother’s telegram of her illness and traveling anxiously to her bedside he’d been in a stunned shock. It couldn’t be happening. She’d had some stomach discomfort over the weeks before but nothing serious, at least that’s what she’d told him. When the pain had become so severe that she’d fainted in the foyer of her Washington townhouse, her brother Darien, Adam’s friend from Franklin College, had taken her directly to Columbia Hospital for Women.
Josephine had been quickly diagnosed with appendicitis. A surgeon with experience in the procedure had been scheduled to arrive the following day as he was out of town visiting relatives. His hurry to his hometown had been for naught. Josephine’s temperature had spiked, and the doctors believed her appendix had ruptured. She’d died three hours later with Adam and her brother each holding one of her hands.
She’d told him, though, she’d told him before she drifted off to a fever-induced comatose state. She’d kissed his hand and told him she loved him. That he was the love of her life. He’d fought tears and smiled at her and told her, as he’d been saying for months, that he loved her. He couldn’t believe at the time that she would actually die even as she weakened, visibly shrinking before his eyes. He was certain, absolutely sure, that some miracle would occur, that she would rally, that the doctor would arrive, that there was some other explanation for her pain. But at two in the morning her heart just stopped beating.
As had his.
It was unfortunate he didn’t die.
Tears rolled down his cheeks as he filled his glass from the decanter again, his hands shaking, his lip trembling with the remembrance. He laid his head back against the chair and closed his eyes.
* * *
Olivia touched her brother Adam’s shoulder as she took the empty crystal glass from where it was wedged between the side of the chair and his leg, but he didn’t stir. She cupped his cheek in her hand, smelling the liquor odor from his clothes and breath.
“Can you get him upstairs, Jim?” she asked her husband.
“Go on up, Livie,” he said.
“I can help you.”
Jim shook his head. “Go to bed. I’ll get him settled.”
He waited until he heard his wife make her way up the steps. He pulled his brother-in-law to his feet and put Adam’s arm around his neck. Jim slipped his arm around his waist hoping to propel him forward, but Adam’s legs refused to cooperate. He began a slow slide down Jim’s side. Jim pulled him up again, bent forward, and put him over his shoulder. Adam was a big man, but he was half a head shorter than Jim and fifty pounds lighter. It was no hardship to carry him.
Jim went up the steps and walked silently down the hallway toward Adam’s suite of rooms. His mother-in-law’s bedroom door opened.
“Do you need help?” Eleanor Gentry asked as she knotted the tie on her robe.
“No ma’am. I’ll see to him.”
* * *
Adam woke the next morning, his mouth feeling as if someone had stuffed it with straw, and his head pounding. It hurt to move even the slightest bit. He lay very still, waiting for his stomach to stop rolling, finally sitting up on the side of the bed, his elbows on his knees and his face in his hands. He didn’t hear the door open, didn’t even realize there was someone in his rooms with him until he looked through his fingers and saw a pair of boots. They were massive, heavy leather, and under a pair of dark thick work pants. They were attached to his brother-in-law, Jim Somerset.
“Morning,” Jim said.
Adam smelled coffee. A rich aroma that would either cause his stomach to revolt or settle in short order. He opened his eyes and watched the steam rising from the cup. He sat up straight, took a deep breath, and reached for the coffee with a none-too-steady hand. He took a slow, tentative sip of the hot liquid and let it burn its way down his throat. His stomach seemed to be once again under his control. He looked up at his brother-in-law and burped.
“Must have been so engrossed in what I was doing last night, I didn’t realize I’d had a bit too much to drink. Thanks for the coffee,” he said and took another tentative sip.
Jim Somerset dropped down on his haunches, putting him at eye level with Adam. He shook his head.
“Most nights you manage to stumble up the steps, but last night I carried you up here over my shoulder as I have done four times over the last two weeks.”
“Should have just let me sleep wherever I was.”
Jim shook his head again. “Mrs. Gentry and my wife don’t care for that much. They think you should be in your bed.”
Adam looked at the clock on the table. Nearly noontime. “They should just let me alone,” he said with a shrug.
“I do my best to keep them away from you. I chased Livie from the library last night before I hauled your ass up the steps. Unfortunately, your mother heard me coming down the hallway and opened her door. She offered to see to you. I told her I’d take care of things, thinking you’d not want your mother yanking off your pants at your age.”
Jim didn’t talk much. That trait had nearly kept him from marrying Livie, his being too hardheaded and taciturn for a decade to tell her that he was mad about her. When he did string together a sentence or three it was of some importance.
Adam looked up from his lap to Jim’s face. There was no pity there, thank God above. He didn’t think he could take pity. But there was some impatience, which was odd to see on Jim’s face, especially as Jim was the same age as Matt, more than five years younger than Adam. And Adam was the head of the family now, had been since his father’s death.
Adam went with bravado as it seemed he had no other recourse. “Don’t put yourself out on my account, Somerset. You’re not my keeper.”
Jim stood, stretching out to his full six feet and four inches. “I don’t do it for you, Adam, although I have a sincere sympathy for you. If anything happened to Livie, I’m not sure how I would live through it. I do it for your mother and your sister and your sister-in-law and your brother. I do it for Mabel, too. They love you. It’s tearing them apart watching you drown yourself and all of your brilliance and potential in a whiskey bottle night after night. Livie is haunted by it.”
Adam looked up and, to his mortification, felt tears in his eyes. “I don’t know what to do, Jim. I just don’t know what to do,” he whispered. “The whiskey helps me forget and makes me remember, too. I’m caught tight in a trap of my own making.”
“My mother grieved deeply when Father died. I asked her one day how she was doing. She told me she was putting one foot in front of the other with a conscious effort and that she hoped one day she would not have to be so deliberate about everyday living but that for now, it was the only thing keeping her sane. Just the everyday living.”
“Deliberate,” Adam said and looked up. “I must be deliberate in order to not put a gun in my mouth.”
Jim nodded and turned to the door. “George has been talking to me and Matt a lot about the foaling. I think he’s feeling as if he were on his own as stable master this season.”
Adam watched his brother-in-law leave his rooms, pulling the door shut softly as he went. He licked his lips and felt the tears rolling down his face. He let himself have a good long cry, heaving and shaking and blubbering, calling out her name, Josephine, his love, struggling for an even breath, and finally pushing the panic down to a manageable level. He took three long, deep breaths and knew that he must continue on living, as he was alive, and find a way to do regular things, find routines without the help of a bottle of whiskey. He went to his bathing room, filled his tub with hot water, and peeled off his underclothes, smelling the liquor on his skin. It very nearly made him vomit.
The Somerset home, Winchester, Virginia
“Are you sick again?”
Emmaline Somerset looked up at her sister Betsy, who was looking at her with sympathy and concern from the vanity in the large bedroom they shared on the second floor of the Somerset household. Emmaline was on her side in their bed, facing the wall and taking deep, slow breaths. She looked over her shoulder and forced a smile.
“I’m fine. Something just didn’t agree with me at last night’s dinner,” she said. “Go on down. Tell mother I’ll be there in a minute.”
But the door to the bedroom opened a crack and her mother peeked in. “Emmaline? Are you ill?”
She shook her head and shrugged. “Those pickles just didn’t agree with me last night and I ate so many of them.”
“Are you sure, dear?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “Don’t fuss. I’ll be down in a minute.”
Her mother closed the door and Emmaline rolled over quickly to vomit in the thankfully empty chamber pot that was still in their bedroom, even though they’d had inside plumbing for as long as she could remember. She was taking slow breaths and shivering when Betsy handed her a wet rag to wipe her mouth.
“You didn’t eat any pickles last night, Emmaline. I was seated beside you. You’ve been sick for nearly three weeks. I think you should tell mother and go to see Doctor Carter.”
She looked up at her sister and shook her head. “No. I’m not going to the doctor’s.”
Betsy went to the door of their room and stopped. “I’m worried about you, Emmaline. Very worried.”
Emmaline watched her sister leave and pull the door closed behind her. She sat up on her bed, her hand on her stomach. She’d never really had troubles before this. Oh, her mother nagged her because she was twenty-two and had no interest in marriage. Had never met a man she thought she could tolerate for more than a few hours at a time. And now that Betsy was stepping out with Edwin Crawper, Emmaline was officially left behind as a younger sister headed in the direction of the matrimonial altar. But those were small matters as long as she kept her sense of humor. This was not a small matter.
How did she get herself into this mess? But she knew how. She knew. And she knew that she was going to have to tell her mother very soon. As much as her mother could be silly sometimes and occasionally scatterbrained, Emmaline loved her dearly and knew she was loved in return. Imagining the disappointment on her mother’s face when she told her was more than she could bear. She stood, swaying on her feet, holding onto the bedpost as she pulled on her petticoats, willing her mother’s face from her mind’s eye.
* * *
Emmaline waited until everyone had left the dining room table after their luncheon had been served and cleared. She’d moved small amounts of food around on her plate making it appear as though she’d eaten. She had not. Her mother hadn’t noticed as she was too interested in Edwin Crawper showing up at their door in his Sunday suit, twirling his hat, and asking if he could speak to Betsy alone. She couldn’t ruin this day for her sister with an announcement that would cast a shadow on the whole family. It would be best if she waited until after Betsy was married. But that wasn’t realistic. She was already four months along.
Emmaline was panicking as she sat and listened to her mother talk about dresses and dates and invitations. She was taking short breaths through her mouth and staring straight ahead.
“Emmaline! Are you listening to me?” her mother said, breaking her from her thoughts.
“What? Oh. Oh, yes.”
“Emmaline, dear, you are white as a ghost! What is the matter? Are you still feeling sickly?”
“Why don’t you lie down for a while. I’ll tell Jane to help Helen in the kitchen.”
Emmaline opened and closed her mouth. She wasn’t sure she could form words even if she was certain she could speak. How would she tell her? How would she tell her sisters and brothers and sister-in-law and brother-in-law? She remembered when Marabelle Winston’s cousin delivered a son six months after her wedding date. It was talked about for weeks at every sewing circle and church meeting as if she hadn’t married a perfectly respectable man and delivered a child that looked so much like his father there could be no denial that even though she’d anticipated her vows, it had been with her future husband. Emmaline clearly remembered the lecture from her mother to her and Betsy and Jane.
“Do you girls understand what has happened?” Louise Somerset had asked them,
They’d all nodded, although looking back it was clear she hadn’t quite understood.
“Marabelle’s cousin Eliza had relations with a man before she was married. That is a sin before God most of all, but it is also a blight on that poor young lady’s name that will never be removed.”
“Why is Eliza only to blame? The man was there, or it wouldn’t have happened,” Emmaline had asked.
“Because it is a woman’s duty to guard herself. Guard her . . . body and her chasteness. Women’s innocence is expected.”
“They are married now, though,” Jane had said. “It all worked out for the best.”
“But that is my point, girls,” Louise had replied. “It does not always, or mostly, work out for the best for the woman involved.”
“That’s not fair,” Emmaline had said.
Louise had turned to her and spoken sharply. “Of course, it isn’t fair. Many things are not. But unmarried women who deliver a child are almost always looked at as less than respectable and unmarriageable. It is uncomfortable for the girl’s family as well. Even Marabelle’s mother, Eliza’s aunt, was being asked questions at the Ladies Meeting last week.”
“What could Mrs. Winston be guilty of?” Emmaline asked. “She is an aunt only, and Eliza’s family lives in Middletown.”
“Mother’s point is that the actions of one family member can cast a shadow on other family members who are perfectly innocent, even obviously innocent, yet it is the way of things,” Jane had said softly.
Emmaline looked up sharply from her memories as her mother shook her shoulder gently and leaned close to her face.
“Emmaline, darling. What is wrong? You are crying.”
“Mother. I have to tell you something,” Emmaline said and felt light-headed as she did. She clung to the edge of the table, twisting the lace cloth. “I . . . I’m . . .”
The door to the dining room flew open and Betsy came in, hand in hand with a blushing Edwin Crawper. “Mother! Edwin has asked me to marry him and I have agreed!” She began to cry as Louise gathered her in her arms.
“I am so happy for you!” Louise said and pulled Edwin close and kissed his cheek. “A new member of our family! How wonderful!”
Jane and their longtime cook, Helen, came from the kitchen and both hugged Betsy. The youngest Somerset, Phillip, wanted to know what all the commotion was and shook Edwin’s hand. Louise dispatched Phillip to tell his sister Nettie to bring her husband, John, and the children on Saturday night for a celebration and told him to hurry back as he’d have to go to Paradise to invite his brother, Jim, and Olivia, as they lived with Olivia’s family while their new home was being built.
Emmaline smiled, as she was really very happy for her sister and thought the tall, shy Edwin perfect for her. But she was dangerously close to bursting into tears, something that would alert her family that there was something wrong with her other than some bad pickles as Emmaline never, ever cried. She’d cried when her father died, though, as she’d sat alone in the woods behind the house, leaning against an oak tree. No one had seen her, and she’d wiped her face thoroughly before going back into the house.
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