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Cheryl Reavis

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Praise for Cheryl Reavis’ previous historical romances

The Bartered Bride

“Several hankies and a comfortable corner are a must.”


Rendezvous

1992 RITA Award Winner

The Prisoner

“A Civil War novel that manages to fill the reader with warmth and hope.”


Romantic Times

“A thrilling page-turner…”


Rendezvous

“Are you…married, Thomas?” Abby asked abruptly.

“What?” he said, because the question caught him completely off guard.

“Guire wrote us you were engaged. Did you marry her?”

“No, I didn’t marry her,” he said, surprised that the letter he had written to Guire advising him of his matrimonial intent had actually reached him.

“Good,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to die…coveting someone else’s husband.”

He frowned, thinking that he had misunderstood, and she suddenly smiled. “Poor Thomas. I’ve scandalized you…haven’t I? I know you always thought…I was a child. Do you…mind very much?”

“Mind?”

“That I…love you?”

“Abby—”

“Don’t look so worried, Thomas. Nothing…is required of you. I’m only confessing because I’m dying…”

“You’re not dying—so you’d better watch what you say.”

She smiled slightly and whispered, “I don’t mind…dying so much…now…”

Dear Reader,

This holiday season, we’ve selected books that are sure to warm your heart—all with heroes who redefine the phrase “the gift of giving.” We are absolutely thrilled about
Harrigan’s Bride,
the new Civil War romance from the immensely talented Cheryl Reavis. Cheryl has received the prestigious RITA Award, not once but
three
times, twice for her contemporary romances for Silhouette and once for her Harlequin Historical novel
The Prisoner.
In her latest, Thomas Harrigan returns from war and chivalrously marries the bedridden, abandoned daughter of his late godmother. Don’t miss this heart-wrenching story!

Be sure to look for
A Warrior’s Passion,
book nine of Margaret Moore’s medieval WARRIOR SERIES. Here, a young woman is forced into an unwanted betrothal before the man she truly loves—and whose child she carries—can claim her as his wife.
Territorial Bride
by Linda Castle is the long-awaited sequel to
Fearless Hearts
in which a cowgirl and an Eastern rogue prove that opposites attract. Their love is tested when Missy is seriously injured…

Rounding out the month is
The Shielded Heart
by rising star Sharon Schulze. Set in eighteenth-century Europe, this is a gripping tale about a warrior who learns to accept his special psychic gift as he teaches an enamel artisan about life and love.

Whatever your tastes in reading, you’ll be sure to find a romantic journey back to the past between the covers of a Harlequin Historical® novel.

Sincerely,

Tracy Farrell, Senior Editor

Please address questions and book requests to:

Harlequin Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269

Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Harrigan’s Bride
Cheryl Reavis

Books by Cheryl Reavis

Harlequin Historical

The Prisoner
#126

The Bartered Bride
#319

Harrigan’s Bride
#439

Sihouette Special Edition

A Crime of the Heart
#487

Patrick Gallagher’s Widow
#627

*
One of Our Own
#901

*
Meggie’s Baby
#1039

*
Mother To Be
#1102

*
Tenderly
#1147

Little Darlin’
#1177

Silhouctte Books

To Mother With Love
1991

“So This Is Love”

*
Family Blessings

CHERYL REAVIS,

award-winning short story author and romance novelist who also writes under the name of Cinda Richards, describes herself as a “late bloomer” who played in her first piano recital at the tender age of thirty. “We had to line up by height—I was the third smallest kid,” she says. “After that, there was no stopping me. I immediately gave myself permission to attempt my
other
heart’s desire—to write.” Her Silhouette Special Edition novel
A Crime of the Heart
reached millions of readers in
Good Housekeeping
magazine. Both
A Crime of the Heart
and
Patrick Gallagher’s Widow
won the Romance Writers of America’s coveted RITA Award for Best Contemporary Series Romance the year they were published.
One of Our Own
received the Career Achievement Award for Best Innovative Series Romance from
Romantic Times Magazine.
A former public health nurse, Cheryl makes her home in North Carolina with her husband.

To Kelly Jamison, Juliette Leigh and Cait London. Thank you, ladies. What would I do without you?

Chapter One

December 17, 1862

T
he front door stood ajar, and the wind blew dead leaves directly into the wide hallway. Apart from the open door, the Calder place looked very much as it always had. The bloody struggle for the town of Fredericksburg, and General Burnside’s ass-over-teakettle retreat back across the Rappahannock hadn’t disturbed anything here—on the surface at least. There was some comfort in that, but the fact remained that no one who had a choice would leave a door wide-open on a bitterly cold day like today.

Thomas Harrigan urged his mount slowly forward, still alert, advancing until he could walk the horse along the length of the front porch. He couldn’t hear anything or see anyone inside the house. There was no smoke coming from the chimneys.

Perhaps the Calder women had gone to a safer place, he thought, then immediately dismissed the notion.
He knew Guire Calder’s mother and sister well. As Guire’s classmate and friend, Thomas had been a guest here many times before the fall of Fort Sumter. He knew that neither Miss Emma nor Abiah would ever willingly leave this house, not as long as it was still standing. They loved the place, as he himself did. He had once been welcome here, regardless of his miscreant parent and regardless of his “Yankee” ways.

Now he had returned, this time uninvited and in the wrong uniform, and he doubted that Miss Emma and Abiah would be happy to see him, in spite of the fact that he had managed to get here at great risk. For all intents and purposes, if he was caught here, it would be assumed that he had willfully and wholeheartedly deserted his post. He supposed that it might be a mitigating circumstance that he had chosen to leave the ranks
after
the battle instead of during it.

Not that it mattered. Nothing much mattered to him anymore—except perhaps knowing how the Calders fared. His mind resolutely refused to consider anything else. Not the thousands of good soldiers who still lay dead and frozen on the field at Fredericksburg. Not the consequences of his blatant disregard for military discipline. Not even his grandfather’s reaction to it.

Thomas realized suddenly that here was the only place he had ever considered his home. He had intended to bring Elizabeth Channing to this quiet valley to live after they were married. Beautiful Elizabeth, who had insisted that she wanted to be his wife and who had been so eager to give him
almost
everything before they even set a date for the ceremony. What a
surprise then, when she had suddenly, inexplicably, broken their engagement. He had read her letter of polite dismissal over and over after it came, as if there was some part of it he might have misunderstood. He had gone to battle with it in his breast pocket, and very interesting reading it would have made for the scavengers, if he’d been killed.

He abruptly dismounted, stepping up onto the porch as he must have done scores of times. In his experience, the Calder house had always been filled with laughter—something he had never known growing up in Boston with his sad, gentle mother and a father who was never there. Even as a boy, Thomas had understood the humiliation his mother must have felt at having to beg his grandfather—her father—to let her come back home to Maryland after her husband had abandoned her. But Grandfather Winthrop was a charitable and forgiving man—and he never let Thomas or his mother forget it.

Except that Thomas had forgotten, here in the bosom of the Calder family. The memories, suddenly unleashed, swept into his mind. The summer evenings he’d spent sitting right here, holding his own in a gathering of arrogant and supposedly intellectual young men like himself, drinking brandy and smoking cigars, convinced that there was such a thing as a “just” war. He remembered the fireflies all across the meadow and Miss Emma playing the pianoforte in the parlor. He remembered a solitary moonlit walk and the smell of honeysuckle, and all the while he could hear Abiah
somewhere in the house, singing a plaintive ballad in her sweet lilting voice…

He gave a sharp sigh and drew his revolver. The sudden longing he felt was akin to physical pain. How had he lost all of that and come to be here now with a gun in his hand?

He stepped inside the open doorway, but he didn’t call out. He walked quietly down the hallway, pushing open the parlor door with his boot and peering inside.

Empty.

He moved across the hall to the dining room, leaving tracks in the frost that had accumulated on the bare wood floor. No one else could have walked here for a while.

He opened the next door, and he saw her immediately in the shaft of sunlight that came in through the window.

“Oh, Jesus,” he whispered.

Emma Calder was lying on the great four-poster bed. Someone had wrapped her tightly in a quilt with only her face showing, someone who was perhaps still in the house. He edged closer, trying to keep an eye on the door because there was no other way out of the room.

She was dead—long dead. The layer of frost was on everything in here as well. And whoever had wrapped her like this had intended a burial. He looked down at the sweet face of the woman who had been more of a mother to him than his own, and he had to struggle hard for control.

Miss Emma.

He turned abruptly at a small sound, revolver leveled.

“Abiah!” he called loudly, no longer caring who else might be here. “Abby—!”

“It’s me, Cap,” someone said from the hallway. Sergeant La Broie stepped abruptly into the doorway.

“I could have shot you, man! What the hell are you doing here?”

“Well, sir, I’m thinking maybe that’s something neither one of us ought to go inquiring into.”

Thomas looked at him. La Broie was regular army, a man of undeniable military expertise, who had been dragged back—kicking and screaming most likely—from one of the cavalry outposts on the western frontier. He had then been plunked down horseless in a company of infantry in one of Burnside’s Grand Divisions, thereby adding at least one person who knew what the hell he was doing—usually.

“I asked you a question, Sergeant,” Thomas said.

“I am trying to make it look like you ain’t deserted, sir,” the man said patiently. “The major got to wondering where you was. I said the colonel sent you someplace, so he sent me to fetch you. You might say
I’m
the one here officially.”

“How did you find me?”

“Weren’t hard, Cap. You been asking the refugees out of Fredericksburg if they knew anything about the Calder family ever since we crossed the river. And then this very fine Reb cavalry mount surrendered itself to me—a prisoner of war, you might say—and
somebody pointed me in this direction to get to the Calder farm. She dead?” the man asked, jerking his head in the direction of the bed.

“Yes,” Thomas said.

“Then we got a grave to dig, I reckon. I’ll see what I can find to do it with—unless you want help checking the house.”

“No,” Thomas said. “There’s a door to the cellar at the end of the hall. There should be a shovel down there.”

“Ground’s froze hard, Cap. Going to take more than a shovel.”

La Broie walked away, and Thomas gave Miss Emma one last look before he followed him down the hall.

“Mind how you go, son,” La Broie said as Thomas started up the stairs. Under less-pressing circumstances, they might have had yet another one of their discussions about familiarity and La Broie’s penchant for always having the last word, but there was no time for that now. Thomas could say with certainty that La Broie was no hypocrite. He thought his duly elected captain was about as useful as a teat on a bull, and he took no pains to hide it.

Thomas made the search of the second floor quickly, room by room, trying to convince himself as he went that Abiah wasn’t here, that she must have gone with the other women and children and the elderly who had had to flee the army’s advance into the town by taking refuge in the surrounding woods. But he found her in the last room he looked. She was lying
facedown on the floor, half in a patch of sunlight. She, too, was wrapped in a quilt.

“Abiah?” he said, kneeling down by her and expecting the worst. “Abby?” He gently turned her over.

Incredibly, she opened her eyes. They were bright with fever.

“Abby, it’s me,” he said, when she closed them again. “It’s me—Thomas. Look at me. It’s Thomas—”

“Thomas?” she said weakly, trying to lift her head. “Thomas, I…couldn’t get…the fire to…burn…”

“I’ll take care of it,” he said, moving to grab another quilt off the bed and covering her.

She closed her eyes, and he moved her slightly so that she was in the warmth of sunlight again.

“Everybody’s…gone, Thomas. Mother is…is…”

“I know, honey,” he said.

“I got sick…first. Mother was…looking after…me. But then…” Tears ran out of the corners of her eyes and down her face.

“Don’t talk. It’s going to be all right.”

He moved away from her to try to get a fire going in the fireplace. There were still some embers burning beneath the ashes, and it took him only a moment to coax them into flames. “Let’s get you back to bed,” he said.

“No, just leave me here. I hurt so…”

“Come on now,” he said, rolling her to him so he could lift her. She made a small sound when he stood up.

“I’m sorry about Miss Emma,” he said as he carried her to the bed. Abiah was so pale and thin. He had always thought her a pretty little thing, but now he hardly recognized her. And it wasn’t just the illness. It had been nearly two years to the day since he’d seen her last. During that time she seemed to have made a remarkable transformation from a gangly girl to a young woman.

“You shouldn’t be here, Thomas,” she said as he laid her on the high feather bed, but she clutched the front of his coat when he tried to straighten up again. “You’re…in the wrong army.”

“Well, that’s a matter of opinion,” he said.

She tried to smile. “You’ll have to…forgive me…if I don’t care to discuss that right now.”

He gently removed her hand from his coat front and covered it with the quilt.

“I could…hear the guns,” she whispered. “It was a…terrible battle, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said.

“Guire’s dead,” she said. “Did you…know that?”

“No. No, I didn’t know. When—?” He stopped because he didn’t trust his voice.

“It was at Malvern Hill. He…” She began to shiver. “I’m so…cold…”

He waited, but she didn’t say anything else.

“Abby?” he said after a moment. He needed to get more wood. He needed to see if he could find something in the house to feed her. And then he needed to decide what he was going to do with her. He couldn’t
leave her here. She’d die here alone in the cold if he did.

“Are you…married, Thomas?” she asked abruptly.

“What?” he said, because the question caught him completely off guard.

“Guire wrote us you were engaged. Did you marry her?”

“No, I didn’t marry her,” he said, surprised that the letter he had written to Guire advising him of his matrimonial intent must have actually reached him.

“Good,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to die…coveting someone else’s husband.”

He frowned, thinking that he had misunderstood, and she suddenly smiled. “Poor Thomas. I’ve scandalized you…haven’t I? I know you always thought…I was a child. Do you…mind very much?”

“Mind?”

“That I love you.”

“Abby—”

“Don’t look so worried, Thomas. Nothing…is required of you. I’m only confessing because I’m dying…”

“You’re not dying, so you’d better watch what you say.”

She smiled slightly. “I used to hide and listen to you and Guire discuss…philosophy. ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Isn’t that the way it goes? Whoever said it is right, you know…” She said something else he didn’t understand.

“What?” he said again. He sat down on the edge
of the bed, with no thought as to the propriety of such a gesture. She turned her head to look at him.

“I said, God is…good.”

“I don’t understand,” he said, because he was sure now that she was delirious.

“I don’t mind…dying so much…now.”

“Abby—”

“It’s a…gift, you see? It gives me such…joy…to see you one last…time. I—” She broke off and gave a sharp sigh. “I’m going to cry…and I don’t want to. I don’t want you to…think I’m sad.” Her dark eyes searched his. “I wanted to marry you, Thomas, did you…know that? I told Guire. He said you were…too…wild for…me.”

Wild?
Thomas thought. If he remembered correctly, that word was synonymous with the name Guire.

“He told me about…those places…the two of you went to…in New Orleans. Those ‘houses’ with the red velvet…draperies and the crystal…chandeliers and those strangely colored birds in golden…cages all along the verandas. He said all the fancy women there…adored you.”

“Now, why in God’s name would he tell you something like that?” Thomas asked, more than a little annoyed at the direction this conversation had taken.

She smiled. “Did he…lie?’

Thomas didn’t answer her.

“That’s what I…thought,” she said.

“Sometimes the truth is not required, Abiah.”

“And sometimes it is. He said if I had my…heart set on you…then…I should know these, things. I
should know the real…man is not the same as a schoolgirl’s…idea of him. But I didn’t…care about the fancy women. Or about the trouble with your father and grandfather…or anything else. I only cared about you. I was going to trap you the next time you came here to visit…so you’d have to marry me. I was going to wait until everyone had gone to sleep…and I was going to…come into your bed—”

“Abiah!” he said, because he was indeed shocked now.

“You needed me, Thomas…even if you didn’t know it. You were so…serious. I could have helped you with that,” she said, completely undeterred. “So now you know. I was prepared to be shameless where you’re concerned. Aren’t you lucky the war came along to save you—”

“Cap,” La Broie said from the doorway, and Thomas had no idea how long he’d been standing there. He held up his hand to keep La Broie from advancing. He didn’t want Abiah any more distressed than she already was, and he didn’t want La Broie to hear her confessions—if he hadn’t already.

BOOK: Cheryl Reavis
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