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Contract to Wed
by Holly Bush
1891 . . . Jolene Crawford Crenshaw, heiress and Boston socialite, went from her family home directly to Landonmore upon her marriage, the mansion she shared with her handsome and charismatic husband. She’d never in her life worried in the slightest over anything as crass as the dollars required to maintain that home or the lifestyle she’d been born to. Her extensive yearly wardrobe, the stables and the prime horseflesh within it, even the solid silver forks and knifes that graced her table, were expected and required to maintain the social standing that she’d cultivated over the years. But suddenly she was a widow with little money and just her pride and her secrets to keep her upright.
Max Shelby made his fortune in oil wells and cattle, but lost the love of his life the day his wife died. Now, his happy, carefree daughter needs instruction and guidance as she grows into a young lady and his dream of becoming a Senator from his adopted state of Texas seems out of reach with few political or social connections. The right wife would solve both problems. As it happens, his sister knows of a woman, a recent widow, charming, beautiful and socially astute, but in reduced circumstances, who may want to begin again. Max signed the wedding contract sight unseen.
Will Jolene be able to shed her sorrows, anger and fears to begin anew away from the censure and hidden tragedy that marred her life? Is her new husband, confident, strong and capable Max Shelby, the man, the only man, to see past her masks to find the woman beneath?
“Thank you for coming to see me this morning, Jolene,” Calvin Billings said as he assisted her into the red leather chair across from his desk.
“The reading of the will, I understand, is not until Wednesday morning,” Jolene replied and straightened the folds of her black silk skirt. “I’m curious to hear what prompted this meeting.”
“I’m not sure I should have asked you here to tell you what I’m going to tell you,” Calvin said as he shook his head. “Turner’s will was very specific.”
Jolene shrugged. “Don’t put yourself out for me, Calvin.”
The attorney was silent a long moment and then leaned forward. “I wanted to talk to you about some of the details of Turner’s will before Wednesday’s meeting so that you can process it privately, rather than in a room full of people.”
Billings sorted through papers laid out before him on his massive gleaming desktop. He settled on one and looked at Jolene over the tops of his glasses. “The bulk of Turner’s estate will be settled on one, Jillian Crawford Shelling currently residing with your sister in South Dakota.”
“I don’t understand,” Jolene said.
“A little over fifty million dollars will be set aside in an estate for Miss Shelling, overseen by myself and her step-father, Jake Shelling, as executers. Various charities will receive an amount totaling nearly one million dollars. Family members, including Turner’s mother, brother, nephews, and your sister Jennifer, have been gifted annual annuities. In addition, his mother’s home expenses will be taken care of for as long as she lives. A few servants and his secretary have been given lump sums ranging from fifty to one hundred thousand dollars.”
Jolene stared at her gloved hands lying in her lap. She picked at a stray thread in the crocheting and thought she’d have to correct Alice for handing these particular gloves to her to wear. But perhaps she’d best let Alice alone on this error. Perhaps she’d best contemplate what Calvin had just said. She looked up at him.
“He has gifted our fortune, my fortune as well, to Jillian? Did he not understand that he would have still been a clerk in my father’s bank had he not married me? Did he forget what I did for him? He would have been nothing without me. I made him!”
Holly Bush writes historical romance set on the American Prairie, in Victorian England, and recently released her first Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Connect with Holly at www.hollybushbooks.com and on Twitter @hollybushbooks and on Facebook at Holly Bush.
Twitter – @hollybushbooks
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