Title: Heiress Bride
Author: Cynthia Woolf
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Heiress Ella Davenport survived a carriage accident that killed her father. Her life saved in exchange for savage scars marring her beautiful face. Her friends, socialites, showed their true colors, casting Ella aside like damaged goods and leaving her a social pariah. Even her wealth can’t buy her the kind of marriage she wants. Desperate to find a husband who can accept her despite her scars and, without knowing about her money, she seeks to become a mail order bride. Matchmaker & Co. is her one chance to start over and leave the pain and betrayal far behind her.
Nathan Ravenclaw was run out of town by the father of the girl he was courting once he discovered Nathan’s Arapaho heritage. It didn’t matter that Nathan was a successful rancher, businessman, and a positive member of society. The white community suddenly saw only a half-breed. Even his money couldn’t buy him a wife. That was ten years ago. He moved and rebuilt everything that cold rancher once took from him. He has it all...except a wife. Matchmaker & Company promises to send him a woman willing to start a new life with him. But Nathan's battered heart lacks the ability to trust. He longs for children, not romance. His new bride, scarred and cast aside like himself, promises to be perfect for him. Until he meets his mail order bride. Fierce desire and an even more dangerous hope roar back to life within him. Two things he swore never to indulge in again.
And love? For these two battered souls, that's the biggest risk of all
March 14, 1871
Dear Mrs. Selby,
It is my understanding from your last correspondence that you have found a bride for me. Enclosed with this letter is a draft in the amount of one hundred dollars to cover both your fee and the train ticket for a certain Miss Ella Davenport. One way from New York City to Denver, in the Colorado Territory.
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Margaret Selby placed the letter into Nathan Ravenclaw’s file. His file was thicker than most. She sighed. He’d been more difficult to help than she’d originally thought he would be. He was a successful rancher, it was true, but because of his half Arapaho Indian heritage, he was outcast from both the white and the Arapaho communities. Especially when it came to marriage prospects. They might begrudgingly accept him in business, but not to marry their sisters or daughters.
She wasn’t certain she was going to be successful until young Ella Davenport came into her office. Ella was a beautiful young woman with chocolate brown eyes and dark brown hair. In a cruel twist of fate she’d been horribly disfigured in a carriage accident and was now a recluse from her society because of those scars.
Margaret thought these two young people could, perhaps, help each other to heal. She felt this one deep in her bones. This was the right match for both of them.
She placed the draft in her reticule and then readied herself for the short walk to the bank. Her black coat was made of fine wool to withstand the harsh winter wind that whistled between the buildings. She pulled the bright blue scarf over her fiery red hair. Her glorious hair that held not a trace of gray in it, despite having reached the age of thirty-five. The scarf was the only splash of color in her entire outfit, even her gloves were black. She blew out the lamp on her desk and closed the door behind her.
Her philandering husband had been kind enough to bequeath her this beautiful building before he died in the bed of his mistress. He hadn’t managed to give her children, which he never forgot to tell her was her fault, but he left her with a place to run her business and to live. She supposed she should be grateful for that.
Her apartment was on the second floor of the three story building. The third floor she rented to a young couple for two dollars and fifty cents per month. One quarter of the market rent of ten dollars a month. As part of their rent, the young man did upkeep on the building. It was a beneficial arrangement for all concerned.
She hurried the two blocks to the bank. A storm was fast approaching and she wanted to be safely tucked in her apartment before it enveloped the city.
Miss Davenport was due in the office tomorrow afternoon to pick up her tickets for the trip to Denver. In the morning, if weather permitted, Margaret would go to the train depot and buy the tickets Miss Davenport would need to get her to Denver, in the Colorado Territory.
She entered the bank at close to closing time. It was quiet. The local businesses had not ended their workday and she timed it specifically for that reason. She went to the first open teller, deposited the draft and withdrew the money for the train ticket.
Shoving the money into her reticule, she braced for the cold walk back home.
The storm passed in the night leaving a dusting of snow and clear blue skies. Ella Davenport dressed with care for her final meeting with Mrs. Selby. Her black wool skirt and matching jacket were fitted perfectly. She eschewed the bustle that was popular, preferring instead a simple A-line skirt. She had her blouses made with a high, straight collar to hide her scars. Her blouses were all plain white. Nothing to attract attention to her face. Even here at home, she was conscious of her facial scars. Today she would go out wearing a heavy veil. It was easier to wear the thick lace than to see the look on people’s faces when they saw her disfigurement. At first horror, and then pity. She hated it.
Today she would get her train tickets for the trip west to the Colorado Territory and Mr. Nathan Ravenclaw.
She went down to the breakfast room. It was one of her favorite rooms. The soft blue walls above the chair rail with the dark blue flowered wallpaper below appealed to her need for calm. She knew that Cook prepared her favorites for her. Eggs, sausage and mushroom toast.
Joshua was already there, dressed in one of his suits. This one brown, the same caramel color as his eyes. Her brother was a handsome man in a quiet way.
“Good morning, Brother.”
“Good morning. You look particularly fetching this morning.”
“It’s my final meeting with Mrs. Selby. I get my tickets today.”
Joshua put down his paper and stared at her. “Are you certain this is the right course of action for you? There are dozens of men who would be happy to marry you.”
“You mean they would be happy to marry my money. Or, worse yet, to marry me out of pity. I don’t want a marriage based on either one of those things. Mr. Ravenclaw knows about my scars, but Mrs. Selby said he carries scars of his own because of his heritage. Being half Arapaho Indian has outcast him from both the whites and the Indians. Though they might not be visible, he still has them.”
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Cynthia Woolf is the award-winning and best-selling author of fifty-five historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way. She has also published six scifi, space opera romances, which she calls westerns in space. Along with these books she has also published four boxed sets of her books.
Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner.
She was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.
Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends and critique partners she's made at Colorado Romance Writers for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.
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