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About the author:
I've always been an avid reader and love a wide variety of genre depending on my mood for the day. My favorites include romance, spanking romance, erotic romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, and historical fiction.
One of my favorite things to do is spending time with my family as I think of new stories to write. Hope you enjoy the books.
Follow me on twitter at @Bethanyhauck11
or send me an e-mail at [email protected] and I'll gladly answer any questions you may have, and e-mail you about new releases in 'The McCabe' or 'The Johnson' series.
For updates on new releases, you can look at my blog on my Goodreads page at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17003489.Bethany_Hauck
I now have a facebook page. If you'd like updates on the McCabe or Johnson books or have questions, comments or concerns, you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/bethanyhauck11/
Here is a short sample from the book:
Chapter 1. The Wedding
William Spencer put the letter he was reading for at least the tenth time down on his desk and sighed. He was trying to figure out the easiest way to tell his nineteen-year-old son, Jeremy, about the deal he’d made after Barnabus Jones saved his life so many years before. It was a conversation he wasn’t looking forward to having.
If only the boy’s mother were still alive, she’d always known how to calm him much better than William. But then, he knew better, and she wouldn’t have been happy with him for what he’d done either, although she would have stood behind her husband and encouraged Jeremy to honor William’s agreement.
“Forgive me, Penelope,” he whispered as he looked up towards the heavens, “but we both know he’s going to have to go through with it.”
He waited to see if his wife would send a sign of her feelings to him, but when nothing happened, he sighed once more and got up from behind his desk. He might as well get the conversation over with now while Jeremy was home and there was time.
He hoped the close relationship they’d always shared would help make Jeremy agree with the arrangements he’d made without too much of a disagreement. Deep down he knew that was just wishful thinking, and if need be, he was ready to use Jeremy’s inheritance to get him to agree.
“Good morning, Father,” Jeremy said as William joined him at the table for breakfast. “Did you sleep well?”
“Good morning, Jeremy,” William replied, ignoring the question about sleeping. He didn’t want to admit he’d been awake half the night dreading this conversation. He pulled out his chair and sat. “What are your plans for today?”
“I’m meeting Johnathon Bingham down at the club this afternoon,” Jeremy answered, “we’re going to start planning our trip across the continent. You did say you’d let me go.”
“I remember now,” William said. “I do need to speak to you about something important; now if you’ve got time.”
“Of course, Father, I can always make time for you,” Jeremy answered. “Johnathon will wait.”
“Do you remember back when you were a boy, and I had extra security watching you all the time?” William asked.
“I do remember,” Jeremy answered. “There was a man that was sending you threatening letters, or something like that.”
“Yes,” William told him. “It was a very frightening time. Your mother had just passed away, and you were all I had left. The same man also threatened to get to you, if he couldn’t get me.”
“I remember you telling me that, Father,” Jeremy said. “I’m glad the man was caught and arrested by the constable that night.”
“I didn’t tell you the whole story at the time, Jeremy,” William admitted, “but you do need to hear it now.”
“I’m listening, Father,” Jeremy told him, his curiosity taking hold.
“That all happened almost ten years ago. I had multiple threats delivered here. Most were against me, but like I just said, some threatened you too. I hired three different investigators and had the constable looking into it. After a month of not hearing anything more, I thought the man might have gotten scared and gone away. I found out soon enough how wrong I was to think that.”
“Why?” Jeremy asked. He’d never heard the story told this way before. “What happened?”
“I went to the theater one night, and on the way home I instructed my driver to stop at a club I liked. It was when I was walking in that the man who’d sent the letters went to stab me,” William told him.
“I didn’t know that, Father,” Jeremy said, obviously shaken up by what he was hearing. “How did you get away?”
“I didn’t,” William told him. “I’d be dead now if not for a man named Barnabus Jones.”
“I believe I’ve heard you mention him a time or two,” Jeremy said, “but I don’t ever remember meeting the man.”
“He isn’t from London,” William explained. “He’s a merchant in Wales, and a very successful one. He saw what was about to happen and used his cane. He hit my attacker's arm so hard with it that everyone near heard the bone snap.”
“Barnabus Jones sounds like a good man,” Jeremy said, “you were lucky he was there.”
“He is, and I was,” William agreed. “But I also felt like I owed him a debt.”
“I hope you paid him well, Father,” Jeremy said, “the man deserved it.”
“Barnabus and I sat and drank in that club together for hours, and we still write back and forth to this day,” William said. The conversation was going better than he’d hoped. Now for the hardest part.
“I hope I get the chance to meet the man someday,” Jeremy said.
“You will,” William told him, then pulled on his collar, preparing to tell Jeremy the rest.
“Is that what you wanted to talk with me about?” Jeremy asked. “Just tell me when he’s coming, and I’ll make sure I’m available to meet him. Unless I’ll already be away on my tour across the continent.”
“No, Jeremy,” William said, “and I want you to listen to the rest and not interrupt.”
“Alright,” Jeremy said and put down his fork. “I’m listening.”
“Barnabus and I stayed at the club and talked for a long time that night. He was also recently widowed at the time and raising a three-year-old daughter. Of course, he employed nurses and nannies, but the rest of his family, and his wife’s, all died from a plague that swept through their village,” William began to explain. “He was very concerned about the girl’s future, especially if something were to happen to him.”
Jeremy went to talk, “what…,” but William cut him off.
“I said no interruptions,” Jeremy nodded and stayed quiet. “I’m not sure at what point in the night I made the offer, but I told Barnabus that if anything were to happen to him, I would take care of Anne. I signed a paper that Barnabus and I drew up together, that betrothed Anne to you.”
“You did what?” Jeremy asked, not sure if he was shocked, angry, or both.
“We betrothed his daughter and you,” William repeated, then held up his hand to stop Jeremy from interrupting again. “Barnabus and I have been corresponding about his current situation for the last month. He is dying, and wanted to know if I intended to honor the betrothal agreement I signed.”
“You sent a reply telling him no I hope,” Jeremy said.
“I can’t do that,” William said, “I signed the note, the betrothal stands.”
“Why is this the first I’m hearing of this?” Jeremy asked.
“Barnabus never intended on making Anne go through with the betrothal. He always hoped she’d grow up, fall in love, and marry. Now there isn’t time for that. He’ll be lucky to make it another couple of months, and needs to know Anne will be taken care of.”
“How old is this girl?” Jeremy asked.
“She’s thirteen,” William answered.
“A child,” Jeremy asked. “And when do you expect this wedding to take place?”
“Next week,” William told him. Jeremy went to talk, but William put up a hand to stop him before he continued. “I just sent my reply. Barnabus would like to see Anne married and settled before he dies, which as I already said, won’t be much longer. He also doesn’t want her there to see him at the end.”
“You expect me to take a child bride?” Jeremy asked.
“Calm down,” William said. “I wrote Barnabus that the wedding will take place, but the marriage will not be consummated. We’ll send the girl off to boarding school. There are some good ones here near London, and I heard of an excellent one over near Bath. She can go, continue her education, and it will give her time to grow up.”
“I won’t do it,” Jeremy said. “I will not marry a little girl.”
“You will,” William said. “You’ll marry her and then go away on your trip. The girl will finish growing up, and when you return in a year or two, you can begin visiting her, and the two of you can start to get to know one another. That will give you both time to see if something can be made of the marriage. Barnabus is a fairly wealthy man, and he’s leaving all his money to Anne. I’ll be in charge of her funds until her nineteenth birthday, then they’ll be turned over to her.”
Jeremy snickered, “so she can spend it all on gowns, jewels, and other frivolous things.”
“It won’t matter what she spends it on, there’s more than enough to last her the rest of her lifetime,” William said. “But you will marry the girl next week. The man saved my life, it’s the least I can do for him.”
“I won’t do it,” Jeremy said again. He was outraged, “I won’t marry a child.”
“You’ll be at the church next week,” William said, throwing his napkin down on the table and standing. “Or I will not make you my heir, or finance your trip across the continent.” With those last words, he walked out of the room. William never looked back to see the look of disbelief on Jeremy’s face.
“Tell me where we’re going again?” Johnathon Bingham asked his best friend Jeremy. “I don’t think I heard you right the first time.”
“To my wedding,” Jeremy answered. “I’ve been ordered by my father to take a child bride. I have no choice. I’ll do my duty to my father, and then tomorrow we leave as planned.”
“Does your father know that?” Johnathon asked.
“He’s aware that we’ll be leaving soon, just not tomorrow,” Jeremy answered. “I haven’t spoken to him since breakfast last week. He can take the girl wherever he wants after the ceremony is over. I don’t intend to come back to England until he agrees to annul the marriage.”
“Slow down man, and tell me how this all came about,” Johnathon said. Which Jeremy did, retelling the conversation he’d had with his father over breakfast a week earlier.
“That poor girl,” Johnathon said once he finished.
“What do you mean?” Jeremy asked.
“To know that she’s going to be left all alone soon,” Johnathon said, “and to be married off and sent away from her home. She must be terrified.”
“She may be,” Jeremy said, feeling a bit like a heel. He hadn’t even considered the girl's feelings until now. Then he remembered the way his father had blackmailed him into showing up, and his anger returned. “It’s the way my father demanded I be here. I’m so angry with him, and I have a mind to never come back from the continent.”
“What about taking over as Earl of Shrewsbury?” Johnathon asked.
“I can’t do that until my father dies,” Jeremy said, “and the man is healthy, so I don’t need to be in London for now. As long as I stay married to the girl, I’m the heir, and he’ll fund my travels.”
“It seems cruel to do to the girl,” Johnathon said. “Does she at least have a name?”
“Her name is Anne, and she’s only thirteen-years-old, Johnathon,” Jeremy protested. “What do you want me to do? Stay and court her?” He laughed and snorted as he finished.
“At least explain to her that you’ll be back,” Johnathon said.
“I have no intention of speaking to her, and I won’t be back until Father agrees to the annulment, not before,” Jeremy insisted.
They carriage they were riding in pulled up in front of the church. His father and another man who leaned heavily on a cane were standing out front. Jeremy approached them, the good manners that were taught to him wouldn’t let him be rude.
“This is my son, Jeremy,” William said, “and Jeremy, this is Barnabus Jones, your future father-in-law.”
“It’s nice to meet you, sir,” Jeremy said, trying to keep the anger out of his voice. “I hear you saved my father’s life some years ago.”
“I did,” Barnabus answered, but his voice was strained, and Jeremy could see the day was taking its toll on the man’s already fragile health. “And I’ve never regretted it, especially now that I know my sweet Anne will be taken care of,” Jeremy said nothing and fought to keep from frowning.
“We’ll make sure she’s cared for, Barnabus,” William assured him. “Should we go take our places?”
Barnabus agreed, ready to sit down. He missed the look that William gave Jeremy. Warning him with his eyes not to do anything he’d regret later.
“And where is the bride?” Jeremy asked.
“She’s preparing in a room in the church,” Barnabus said. “I did explain the situation to her. She knows I’m not well, and that after the wedding she’ll be leaving with you and going to a new school. She doesn’t need to know more than that.”
“Does she know you’re not going to get better?” William asked.
“I haven’t come right out and said anything,” Barnabus explained, “but I’m sure she’s got an idea of what’s happening. The girl is young, but she’s not stupid. In fact, she’s bright. If she were a boy, I’d have no worries.”
“Are we ready to begin?” the priest asked as he approached them.
“I believe so,” William answered, then gave Jeremy another look as he raised one eyebrow.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Jeremy muttered as he took his place at the front of the church. He really did not want to go through with what he considered a farce of a marriage, but if William insisted, he would.
The organ in the church began to play, and Jeremy turned to see his bride for the first time. It was worse than he’d thought. The girl, and that’s exactly what she was, stared back at him, looking no happier than he was about what was happening. He couldn’t help but notice how stiff her steps were as she walked down the aisle.
Jeremy studied her face as she came towards him. Her hair was a mix of blond and light brown, and her skin was smooth. In another ten years, she might become a decent looking woman. He let his eyes drift down to her chest, where the beginnings of what would become breasts were just starting to form. He took a deep breath to keep from grimacing. The look of her did nothing to stir him, and he was confident it never would.
Anne reached Jeremy’s side but didn’t turn to look at him. She’d tried until the very end to talk her Papa out of this marriage. She didn’t want to marry anyone, ever. She knew her Papa was sick, and argued that he needed her at home to take care of him. She’d argued to the point this morning that he’d actually pushed her down over a table in their rented room and laid twenty lashes with his belt across her bottom and thighs. By the time he finished he was having trouble catching his breath, and that scared Anne. Then he pulled her into his arms and held her as he told her how much he loved her, and how much he’d miss her, but it was his duty as her father to make sure she was cared for.
Anne looked back at her Papa one more time before reciting her vows. He nodded and smiled at her, trying to give her the strength to do what he wanted. She took a deep breath and said what she needed to say, still not looking up at the man standing next to her.
Jeremy looked down and tried to catch Anne’s attention more than once during the ceremony. He could barely hear her as she repeated the words the priest told her to. He didn’t do much better and mumbled through his own.
“You may kiss your bride,” the priest finally finished.
Jeremy reached down and pulled back the veil that covered half of Anne’s face. He got a quick look at the bluest eyes he’d ever seen before he quickly pressed his lips to hers. It was done. He turned and nodded to both his father and father-in-law, before turning and leaving the church.
Anne stood and watched him go, not caring at all that he hadn’t said a word to her. She knew he was going away, her father had explained to her about the marriage and her new school. She hoped he’d never come back, even though he was the most handsome man she’d ever seen.