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About The Book

Weaving a bright passion with the dark currents of past secrets, bestselling author Linda Lael Miller tells the tale of star-crossed lover bound by Desire and Destiny.

Devastated by the loss of her father, lovely Brynne McFarren returned to the Washington coastal town of her youth. Brynne was surprised to discover that her family name had a dark notoriety...and alarmed to be caught in a triangle of sudden desire.

Drew Tanner—a wealthy, devil-may-care wastrel—was captivated by her beauty. But his brother Joshua, the intense and powerful head of the Tanner shipping empire, was also drawn to Brynne. Now she must unravel the terrible secret that tarnished her father’s life—a secret that tortures Joshua Tanner’s heart, one that could make her the target of his vengeance rather than his love…


Desire and Destiny Chapter One
Port Propensity, Washington Territory
July 4, 1885

DREW TANNER PAUSED IN THE GAPING DOORWAY OF THE study, his eyes fixed on his half-brother’s wide, impervious back, his throat scalding with contempt. Sweat beaded beneath his collarbone and in the space between his shoulder blades.

Lord, how he hated being summoned to this room, like an errant schoolboy, whenever Joshua deigned to come home from his travels.

Drew hooked his thumbs in the pockets of his gray silk vest and glowered at Joshua, who was working at the massive oak desk, his dark head bent in concentration. The man had no respect for propriety—the collar of his white linen shirt was open, his sleeves were rolled up, and he’d tossed his suitcoat and black string tie aside.

Drew would have sighed if he hadn’t known the sound would betray him—he wasn’t ready to give an accounting for any of his actions yet, though he’d had over a week to assemble a convincing story or two.

Irritated, the young man tossed a scathing look in the direction of Caleb Tanner’s portrait, which hung, huge and dark and imposing, over the fieldstone fireplace at the far end of the room. Damn you, old man, he thought, hoping that his father would hear him, even from the deepest reaches of hell, and writhe. Damn you for ever siring that half-breed bastard in the first place.

The windows facing Joshua’s desk were open, in concession to the heat, and the slightest breeze billowed the white lace curtains. Even the elements, it seemed, catered to the Half-Breed.

Drew watched as his half-brother lifted his eyes from the account journals spread out before him and tilted his head back.

“Are you coming in or not?” he demanded, in a surly undertone, without even looking in Drew’s direction.

Drew started slightly; it was unnerving, the way Joshua could sense someone else’s presence no matter how hard one tried not to attract his attention. “You’re busy,” he said, hating himself for the obsequious tremor in his voice and the chill in the pit of his stomach.

Joshua’s wooden chair creaked loudly as he swiveled to glare at Drew. His sun-browned jawline was hard and edged with white, and his fierce violet eyes narrowed slightly. “Sit down,” he said, biting off the words.

“Damn it,” Drew snapped, finally withdrawing his thumbs from his vest pockets and allowing his finely tailored, dove-gray suitcoat to fall back into place. “Don’t order me around! I’m nineteen years old, for God’s sake, and I’ll sit down when and if the mood strikes me!”

Joshua sat back in his chair and kicked his expensively booted feet up onto the surface of his desk in a fluid, ominous motion. He interlaced his fingers and studied Drew thoughtfully before replying, “The mood had better strike you before I do.”

To his eternal chagrin, Drew colored. Then, scowling, he made his way to the dreaded leather chair facing his half-brother’s desk and sat down.

Joshua smiled, took a cheroot from the pocket of his shirt and a wooden match from a crystal box on his desk. The light of the match flared crimson, hardening his chiseled, arrogant features as he lit the thin cigar.

All the while, Drew stared at his half-brother in stubborn silence, hating him, hating himself because he didn’t dare express the terrible rage he felt. Joshua was a bastard and a savage and a host of other unsavory things, but he was also thirteen years older than Drew, a good eight inches taller and at least fifty pounds heavier.

Finally, Joshua broke the silence with a sigh. “Shall we start with the outraged husbands, Drew? Or would you feel more comfortable explaining why you forged my name on that bank draft?”

Drew swallowed hard and lifted his eyes to the high ceiling. God, the air was so hot and heavy—why didn’t it rain? “The Tanner money is as much mine as yours,” he said, after a long interval of preparation.

There was another silence, and when Drew dared to look at his brother again, he was drawing on the cheroot and the smoke was wreathing his head like a blue-gray mist. “I don’t think we need to go over the terms of our dear father’s will again, do we?”

“I needed the money, Joshua.”

Joshua raised one dark eyebrow, and the ebony hair on his muscle-corded forearms glistened as he gestured. “Your allowance is already four times what the average working man makes in a week, Drew—or, at least, it was.”

A kind of reckless bravado swept through Drew, and he leaned forward slightly, gripping the chair arms and glaring. “What the hell do you mean by that?”

“I mean you’re covering the bank draft. My guess is it will take you about three months.”

Drew spat out an ugly word and jumped to his feet in outrage, but Joshua maintained his relaxed position in the desk chair. “Three months!” Drew shouted, in a fury-strangled voice, “Goddamn it, Josh, you can’t do this to me! Christ, it’s summer and—”

“And your lady friends are expensive, aren’t they? Which leads us to the other subject.”

His color high, Drew sank despondently back into his chair. Three months without money, and the goddamned Independence Day picnic was today. He shot another look of sheer hatred at the portrait of Caleb Tanner and swallowed again. “It’s all a lie—about the women, I mean.”

Joshua sighed, drew several letters from his inside vest pocket, and tossed them onto the desk as damning evidence. “These caught up with me in Tacoma,” he said evenly, but his dark orchid eyes were fierce upon his brother’s face. “There are plenty of whores in this town, Drew. Why in hell do you insist on taking your pleasures with married women?”

Drew clenched the smooth, cool arms of his chair so hard that his knuckles whitened and the muscles in his neck and shoulders ached. It was a question he’d asked himself, many times, and he didn’t have an answer. Still, he was going to have to throw out something, or Joshua would be on his back until the crack of doom.

Nervously, he ran one hand through his straight, sandy hair and tried to summon a repentant look to his face. “I was in love,” he offered guilelessly.

Joshua’s answer was a hoot of disdainful amusement. “Four times in six weeks? You’re going to have to do one hell of a lot better than that, Drew.”

At a loss, Drew shrugged miserably. “What can I tell you? The opportunity presented itself and I took advantage. Can’t we just forget it?”

Idly, Joshua took up the letters in one powerful, sun-browned hand. His brow furrowed as he read the handwritten addresses. “I would like nothing better than to ‘forget it,’” he said. “However, Harry Randall and Pete Arlington—to name just two people—are ready to rearrange your vital organs.” The hard, handsome face tightened. “Damn it all, Drew, I don’t blame them. A man’s wife is sacred!”

Drew wanted to laugh aloud. “Sacred” was hardly a word he would use to describe Flossie Randall or Maude Arlington. Alas, wives were a touchy subject with Joshua, a subject it was always wise to avoid. “I’m sorry,” he lied.

Joshua’s wide shoulders moved in a stiff shrug. “You will be, by the time the summer is over. And I assure you, you’ll have a profound respect for the working man.”

Drew grimaced. He didn’t like the turn this conversation was taking, he didn’t like it at all. “What are you getting at?”

The surly giant brought his feet to the floor with a soul-numbing crash and rose to his full, frightening height of six feet, four inches. “I think you know,” he answered, in tones as rough as oyster shells. “But just in case you don’t, I’ll leave no doubt in your mind. Be at the shipyard first thing Monday morning. For once in your life, you’re going to work for your money.”

Drew was dumbfounded, and all he could manage was a stricken, “But—”

“But nothing,” Joshua snapped. “You’ll get the same wages as everyone else, and if you do one of your famous vanishing acts, just remember that you won’t be half as attractive to the ladies with nothing but lint in your pockets!”

A raw lump twisted in Drew’s throat and, for the life of him, he couldn’t get a word past it.

Joshua sat down at his desk again, dismissed his brother with a curt wave of one hand, and began reading the ledger open before him. It was as though Drew didn’t exist anymore.

The scent of Joshua’s cheroot stinging his nostrils, Drew Tanner turned and stormed out of the large room, with its brass lamp fittings, redwood paneling, and richly woven oriental rugs.

Slamming the heavy front door assuaged some of his frustration and outrage, but he hurried down the stone steps to the lawn, all the same, on the off-chance that Joshua might take issue with his behavior and come after him.

Drew glanced only briefly at the splendid vista fronting the house—the canal, the mountains and the town itself were all too familiar for him to take note of their singular beauty. He mumbled a curse and strode around the western corner of the massive, gray stone house, his spirit smarting as if it had been wrenched out of him and soundly slapped.

In the sideyard, his sister, Miranda, sat reading in a wicker chair, dressed in gingham for the picnic ahead, her dark hair dancing around her face in the slight breeze coming up from the canal. Drew knew by the almost imperceptible tensing of her elegant shoulders that she was aware of his presence but, since she didn’t speak to him, he didn’t speak to her.

Pushing back the sides of his coat to cram his fists into the pockets of his trousers, Drew kept walking until he reached the lawn behind the house. There, carefully pulling dresses and camisoles and lace-edged drawers from the clothesline, was How Ling, Miranda’s Chinese maid. The girl was about seventeen, he guessed, and sweetly, exotically nubile.

Drew smiled at the fear in her slanted eyes and held out one hand.

How Ling swallowed visibly and shook her head. Her glossy black hair shimmered like polished ebony in the sunshine, reaching well past her waist to the seat of her odd, blue cotton trousers, which matched the shapeless shirt she wore.

“No,” she protested.

“Yes,” countered Drew Tanner briskly, as he took her arm and propelled her toward the small, stone springhouse near his late mother’s cherry tree. At the door, he looked back at the colorful trail of laundry she’d dropped on the lush green grass and grinned.

“No,” pleaded How Ling, once again.

Drew opened the springhouse door and thrust the girl inside.

* * *

Brynne had forgotten what a pretty town Port Propensity was, for all its bustle and clamor. It faced the Hood Canal and the towering Olympic mountains, for one thing, and if one didn’t look too far afield, one wouldn’t even see the squalor of Little Canton, the Chinese community.

The town proper was set apart from that awful place by a crooked, rutted road and a sparkling freshwater pond spanned by an arching wooden bridge.

As Evan’s wagon and team rattled over the planking of the bridge, Brynne stared at everything, refreshing her memory. Straight ahead was the Orion Hotel, an imposing brick structure owned, these past ten years, by her aunt and uncle. Adjoining it was a saloon patronized only by those who expected no fleshly pleasures in addition to their “blue ruin” whiskey.

There were a number of shops lining the planked streets, along with a bank and a two-story business building. Further to the right, under trees with wild ivy growing up their trunks and whispering willows, rolled the velvety green grass of the town’s pride—the public park.

Already, though it was still quite early in the day, celebrants were gathering there in preparation for the Independence Day festivities. Ladies in brightly colored dresses strolled along the banks of the glimmering pond, turning ruffled parasols over their heads. Some wore bonnets, while others boasted magnificent, sweeping feathered hats secured with broad ribbons. Children played chase and rolled hoops and their laughter rang in Brynne’s ears like music, easing her dread.

She looked again at the richly dressed ladies and then down at her own gritty, oft mended poplin dress. How she wished she had something fine to wear, but her pink and white gingham, neatly folded in the satchel, would have to do. She would, however, present herself at the Jennings’ and boldly prevail upon Aunt Eloise to let her take a bath.

Evan agreed to the plan with gruff reluctance and made Brynne promise to meet him at the wagon before wandering off to mingle with the picnickers. From the porch of the gingerbread trimmed white house facing the water, she waved at him in reassurance.

It appeared, after Brynne knocked at the sturdy door and was greeted by Kwon Su, her aunt and uncle’s Chinese cook, that fortune was with her. Aunt Eloise wasn’t even at home, and Kwon Su, a small, squat woman with a toothy smile, happily provided the hot water, soap and towels for a bath.

Not wanting to take the time to dry it fully, Brynne did not wash her hair. Instead, once her bath was finished, she brushed the golden-brown mane until it glistened and wound it into a loose chignon at the back of her head. Peering into the one mirror the tiny dressing room boasted, she saw that her slate-gray eyes were dancing in anticipation of the day ahead, and that one would have to look very close indeed to see the grief trembling there, too.

She drew a deep breath and smoothed the skirts of her pink and white gingham dress with graceful, work-reddened hands. The dress was very simple, but it had full sleeves, a suggestion of a bustle, and lace trim edging the modest neckline.

Brynne sighed philosophically. She wouldn’t hold a candle to those elegantly dressed women she’d seen in the park, but she guessed she looked pretty enough.

Humming, Brynne helped Kwon Su remove the bathtub and empty it, and then she said a hasty thank-you and hurried off toward the picnic grounds.

If she had but one good day before the realities of her life set in, she meant to make the most of it.

* * *

How Ling lay still on the cool, moss-scented floor of the springhouse for a long time after Drew Tanner was gone. She would not let him hear her cry.

After a while, though, the time for crying came, and How Ling shed bitter tears and wailed softly in her shame. She was bad. Evil. It was all her fault that this dishonorable thing had happened.

She raised herself to her sandaled feet, dried her eyes and drew a deep breath. Then, calmly, How Ling went outside and gathered up Missy Tanner’s beautiful garments from the grass.

* * *

Evan’s wagon was parked near the pond, and he was already setting up all his mysterious gear when Brynne reached him. A burly lumberjack, his severe-looking wife, and four children were waiting anxiously to be immortalized on magic paper.

Evan’s hands kept right on working, but his eyes moved to Brynne and smiled independently of his mouth. “Aren’t you a sight, Miss Brynne McFarren! The gents will be falling face first into their potato salad after a look at you.”

Brynne blushed, all too aware of the lumberjack’s silly grin and his wife’s glare. “Evan,” she scolded.

He laughed and slid a developing plate into his enormous box camera. But then, in only an instant, his face sobered. “If it isn’t your own dear aunt,” he said sourly, draping a black cloth over both his head and the camera.

There was a loud pop, a puff of sulphurous smoke, and a flash as he recorded the images of the lumberjack’s family for posterity.

Eloise Jennings appeared at Brynne’s side simultaneously with the flash, and, for a moment, it seemed as though this grim, glaring woman had been conjured from the bowels of hell. Her plain face was rigid as she surveyed her niece, and her black sateen dress crackled as she drew herself up in outraged disapproval. “Brynne,” she said bitterly, in greeting.

Brynne squared her shoulders, thinking that Aunt Eloise might have been a very pretty woman, with her wispy blonde hair and wide blue eyes, had it not been for her sullen and querulous nature. “Hello, Aunt Eloise,” she replied.

The hateful azure eyes swept over Brynne’s gingham dress. “My brother is dead a month and you’re not in mourning?”

Brynne lifted her chin. “Papa didn’t believe in wearing mourning clothes,” she said evenly. “He said that grief itself was bad enough, without black garments to make it more dismal.”

Eloise’s jawline hardened. “I’ve arranged a position for you,” she informed her brother’s daughter. “You’ll start Monday, since Letitia insists that you spend one night in our home. The work pays two dollars a week and includes your bed and board.”

Brynne was smiling, not because of the position, but because of the mention of her cousin’s name. She loved Letitia, and hadn’t even dared hope that the girl, two years her junior and impossibly loyal, had returned from her Eastern finishing school. “Letitia is home?”

It was a stupid question, and Brynne didn’t need the expression on her aunt’s face to tell her so.

“No doubt she’ll find you soon,” Aunt Eloise replied stiffly, her eyes again assessing Brynne’s dress with horror. “I’ll be wanting to introduce you to your employer sometime today, so kindly don’t venture away before I get the opportunity.”

Brynne drew a deep breath and drummed up a polite smile. “I’m very grateful that you’ve made arrangements for me to work. . . .”

A smirk played in Aunt Eloise’s features, and she tossed her head in brusque dismissal. Then, without another word, she turned and walked away, her somber mourning dress rustling as she moved.

Brynne sighed and searched the growing crowd for Letitia’s sweet face and cylindrical figure. There was no sign of her, but that was all right for the moment—she had something important to do before she sought out her cousin anyway.

Not daring to glance at Evan, who would no doubt be steaming over her reception from Aunt Eloise, she began wending her way through the mobs of laughing celebrants. There was a path leading up a small, tree-dense hillside, and Brynne followed it, silently preparing herself.

The graveyard sprawled atop a green knoll, and its many stones and statues and markers were bordered by a neatly painted white picket fence. The sun was bright and warm, and it danced on the blue waters below in blinding flashes of silver.

Brynne let herself in through one of four gates and walked purposefully, head held high, toward a small, simple marker in a far corner. The words on the stone slab were hidden by the dazzling glare of the sun, but that didn’t matter—Maggie McFarren’s daughter knew them by heart. MARGARET BRYNNE MCFARREN, CRUELLY TAKEN FROM US ON THE 14TH DAY OF JUNE, 1883.

Brynne’s throat ached, and she knelt beside the grave and folded trembling hands in her lap. “Hello, Mama,” she said softly, in an unsteady voice.

There was no answer, certainly, but the passing of a summer-scented breeze, whispering in the leaves of the adolescent elm trees planted on the inland side of the cemetery served much the same purpose. Brynne did not feel alone.

“I hope Papa is with you now,” she went on, brushing tender fingers over the bright yellow, spiky faces of the dandelions growing where her mother rested. “I—I know you’ll plead his cause with God, Mama. He didn’t mean to take his own life—I know he didn’t mean to.”

Behind Brynne, and beyond the wooded hillside, the boisterous noise of the Independence Day picnic rose on the warm summer air, blending peacefully with the buzzing of bees and the lapping of the nearby waters.

Brynne swallowed hard as despair swelled in her heart and closed off her throat. Please, God, she pleaded. You mustn’t send my papa to hell. He was a good man. But after Mama died and there was that strange trouble here and then we lost the sheep, his mind just wasn’t right.

No voice spoke in response to Brynne’s prayer, but there was an answer, all the same. A certain warmth folded itself over her heart, like a sheltering garment, and she knew that God had forgiven John McFarren and received him.

She stood slowly and turned away from her mother’s grave, lifting her face to the blue, blue sky. “Thank you,” she said, and then she started back toward the gate, ready to enjoy the picnic.

At the edge of the woods, she encountered the giant.

He was an enormous man, with muscular arms and legs, and he wore dark, lightweight trousers, a white linen shirt open to reveal a hint of shimmering ebony down, and a black vest. His hair was as dark as a moonless night, and his eyes were the most incredible shade of lavender Brynne had ever seen. His proud, arrogantly handsome face was grim, but, as he looked at her, it broke into a stunning white smile.

Brynne was oddly taken aback. Is this him, she wondered wildly, knowing she was gaping at the stranger in a shameful fashion and that there was no way she could stop herself.

Her mother had told her many times that she would feel a gentle tug in her heart when she met the man chosen for her, but this was no tug. It was a jarring wrench that weakened her knees and made the pit of her stomach spin, unanchored, within her.

“Hello,” he said cordially.

Brynne’s lips moved, but no sound would pass them.

He laughed, but it wasn’t a joyous sound, not really. It was edged with a peculiar, fathomless grief as deep as Brynne’s own, perhaps deeper. “I startled you,” he said, “I’m sorry.”

Brynne felt breathless, as though she’d gone swimming in the pond at home and stayed under the water too long. “No. I just wasn’t expecting . . .”

He lifted powerful, sun-browned hands to his hips and tilted his magnificent head to one side, studying Brynne with no evidence of the wild confusion she was feeling. “You’re new in Port Propensity, aren’t you?” he asked, in tones that changed the meter of her heartbeat.

“I lived here two years ago,” Brynne said, wanting this harmless conversation to go on forever.

But his face changed the instant she’d spoken—his fine features hardened visibly, and he lifted the orchid eyes to the treetops. After a moment, without so much as a word of dismissal, he strode around Brynne as though she were no more than a stump blocking his way.

Feeling injured, Brynne lifted both her chin and her gingham skirts and made her way through the lush woods and onto the picnic grounds.

Her thoughts remained on the stranger in the cemetery only briefly—there were so many things to do and see and taste and touch. And once she found Letitia, she would feel truly welcome.

Dazzled by the circuslike spectacles taking place all around her, Brynne undid one of her shoes and dumped the five-dollar gold piece she’d received at Christmas out into her palm. A delicious sense of unbridled extravagance swept over her as she tried to decide whether to buy refreshments first or have her fortune told by the gypsies.

She was still deliberating—not because she tended to be indecisive but because it was such a pleasurable dilemma—when a well-dressed young man carrying two plates heaping with fried chicken and potato salad hurried by. He glanced briefly at Brynne, who was still holding her shoe in one hand and her gold piece in the other, and then stopped and looked back again.

He had hair the color of butterscotch taffy, and his eyes danced with hazel mischief. One corner of his humorous mouth tilted upward in a fetching grin. “Hello, there,” he drawled.

Brynne thought him quite forward, but she laughed all the same. “Hello.”

Still balancing the dinner plates, he appeared to give the objects in Brynne’s hands ponderous consideration. “The money is the best choice,” he observed, after a moment. “I really don’t think any of these merchants will want the shoe.”

Brynne laughed again and bent to pull her shoe back on and lace it. When she straightened, she knew by the color in the young man’s cheekbones that she had revealed rather too much bosom. Responding pink rose in her own face.

“Let’s get married,” said the young man.

Brynne pretended outrage and failed miserably. “I don’t even know your name,” she reminded him, choking on a giggle.

“Drew,” he answered, with a slight shrug and a speculative frown. “Now can we get married?”

“You’re insufferable.”

Drew smiled and tilted his head to one side. “Yes, but charming. What, future wife, is your name?”

She hesitated only for a moment. “Brynne. Brynne McFarren.”

Something moved in his face, displacing some of the humor and mischief. “McFarren?” he breathed, nearly dropping the plates of fragrant food. “You’re a McFarren?”

Suddenly nettled and wildly hungry, Brynne nodded. “Is there something wrong with that?”

He beamed. “Certainly not. Tell me, Brynne McFarren, will you help me eat this food?”

Brynne sighed. “You were planning to share it with someone else, obviously,” she said.

His right shoulder lifted in an affable shrug. “Only my sister. She knows I’m hopelessly irresponsible.”

“Are you?”

“Oh, yes. But I have every intention of being a stalwart and admirable citizen from this day forward. I want our children to respect me.”

Thinking him delightfully brazen, Brynne could only shake her head. Five minutes later, she and her new friend were comfortably seated in the lush grass beneath the flagpole. As they ate, they talked and watched a group of grown men try to catch a greased pig.

After that, when their empty plates had been consigned to one of the enormous tin tubs set out on a rough-hewn table, Drew turned to face Brynne and grinned. “What now?”

Brynne cast an eye in the direction of the gypsy wagon. It was even more garishly decorated than Evan’s, with its bright blue wheels, red and gold sides and dark scrollwork.

“I believe I’ll have my fortune told,” she said.

Drew laughed. “I’ve already told your fortune, my love, and for free. You’re going to be my wife.”

“I’d like another opinion, if you don’t mind,” Brynne retorted. And then she lifted her skirts and marched, with haughty resolution and a thrill of mystery, toward the outlandish wagon.

Drew followed, grumbling.

The inside of Madame Fortuna’s wagon smelled of candlewax, sweat, rancid oil and several pungent spices. Once she had collected Brynne’s gold piece and returned change, this last following one swift and discerning glance at Drew, the flamboyantly turbaned woman bid her client to sit.

Awed by the woman’s jewels and colorful clothing—she wore bright purple skirts of some shiny, rustling fabric and a shawl with metallic threads glistening in its folds—Brynne sat. There was a table between herself and Madame Fortuna, draped in worn black velvet and graced with a slightly scuffed crystal ball.

Madame Fortuna began to make an eerie, crooning sound, her head lolling on her bare brown shoulders, her gold loop earrings nearly catching in the dingy white ruffles of her strapless blouse.

Drew sighed impatiently.

Suddenly, the gypsy woman started violently, as though someone had prodded her with a sharp stick, and stared into the crystal ball with wide, glazed eyes.

“You have suffered a great tragedy,” droned the gypsy, in a voice that made Brynne’s spine tingle deliciously. “But there will be a great and all-consuming love in your life very soon.” Madame Fortuna’s shrewd dark eyes lifted to Drew’s face, sparkling with hostility. “This is not the man I see in your future. The man I see is swarthy and very tall. Beware your heart, little one, for he is driven by a black passion that tortures him without ceasing.”

Brynne remembered the startlingly handsome man she’d encountered near the cemetery and trembled, despite the warmth of that July Fourth. “Is there anything else?” she asked, in a small voice.

“You will have many enemies here, but you will have friends, too. Good friends. You are new in this community, no?”

“I came with the photographer,” answered Brynne, still bedazzled by the mystery of this woman and her words and her strange wagon.

“Beware the one who lives between two worlds,” finished Madame Fortuna, a note of dismissal ringing in her voice. “Once he has taken your heart, no power in heaven or on earth can cause him to return it.” She looked again at Drew. “Your fortune, sir?”

Drew’s jaw tightened, but, after a moment, he brought a coin from his trouser pocket and laid it on the velvet-covered table with an angry motion.

When Brynne had stood up and moved aside, he sat down in her place. “Well?” he challenged.

Madame Fortuna reached for his hand, ignoring the crystal ball this time, and searched the palm. “You will one day be an important man,” she imparted, almost petulantly.

“How discerning of you,” remarked Drew, in tones of sweet acid.

Madame glared, her eyes flashing like polished onyx beads in the gloom of the wagon. “As I said, one day you will be very important. That day, however, is far off.”

Drew looked up at Brynne and grinned before facing the gypsy again. “Tell me, madame—who will I marry?”

She peered into his palm, tracing the smooth, uncalloused flesh with a practiced thumb as though she might be following a map. “One who deserves far better than you, as this young lady does,” Madame answered, glancing up at Brynne. “You will not find love in her—before the stars were flung into the heavens, she was chosen for someone else.”

Drew muttered something and bolted from his chair, and, when he lifted Brynne over the wagon’s three steps and into the sunshine, there was an odd strain in his face.

About The Author

Photo Credit: Sigrid Estrada

The daughter of a town marshal, Linda Lael Miller is a #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than one hundred historical and contemporary novels, most of which reflect her love of the West. Raised in Northport, Washington, Linda pursued her wanderlust, living in London and Arizona and traveling the world before returning to the state of her birth to settle down on a horse property outside Spokane. Published since 1983, Linda was awarded the prestigious Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 by the Romance Writers of America. She was recently inducted into the Wild West Heritage Foundation's Walk of Fame for her dedication to preserving the heritage of the Wild West. When not writing, Linda loves to focus her creativity on a wide variety of art projects. Visit her online at and

Product Details

  • Publisher: Pocket Books (August 7, 2012)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476710716

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