Authors: Samanthya Wyatt
Table of Contents
THE ONLY ONE
One and Only Series - Book Three
SOUL MATE PUBLISHING
THE ONLY ONE
Cover Design by Anna Lena-Spies
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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My deepest gratitude goes to everyone who has helped me along the way to getting my books published, which includes the writing process.
Beginning with my husband, who has been my main support.
I’d like to thank everyone at Soul Mate Publishing. My editors, my publisher and her team, those who helped in marketing my books. A special thank you to the art designers, for my covers are lovely and express the theme in my books.
Thanks to my friends’ encouragement, my critique partners, and every person who bought my books. Thanks for the emails, messages, four star and five star reviews, words of praise, and likes on facebook.
All were a great source of inspiration.
Keep the Spirit!
New Orleans 1825
It was a day to try a man’s soul.
Giles Heathcliff Montague Litscomb, Duke of Nethersall, wondered for the hundredth time why he’d volunteered for this venture. He had visited the Americas before, so he’d been accepting of the unexpected trip, if not excited. Perhaps boredom prodded the root of his disquiet.
His life had grown considerably dull since his spying days; years of dangerous assignments, which brought him more than satisfaction. Hell, he’d lived for the thrill and risk without a care for his own safety. He’d learned a set of critical skills, managing to deliver his comrades through hell and come out alive.
Although, days of adventure were not necessarily in his past. Remembering his latest endeavor brought a smile to tug at the corner of his mouth. The familiar leap of exhilaration pumped through his veins from the mere thought of a precarious situation. The mission involved danger and mystery in the rescue of his best friend’s bride.
Giles’ brow furrowed in thought. His friend had a spitfire on his hands, but the two were well suited. The couple deserved an extended bride month—which led to his agreement in taking care of the groom’s New Orleans business.
Only by chance had he found out about Hudson’s auction. The young clerk from the shipping office informed him of an event where owners came from all over, displaying horseflesh. He also hinted there would be a certain gentleman in attendance with an animal of special interest.
Giles found himself amazed at the number of patrons attending the auction. By the size of the crowd, either a great number of horses were to be sold, or this event marked the highlight of the New Orleans Season. With an abundance of steeds, perhaps the day would turn out not to be a waste, after all.
The shipping clerk, Joe, suggested they ride horseback, and now Giles understood why. Carriages filled the meadow. Men waited in line for stable hands to help with their mounts. Numerous horses had been tethered helter-skelter to trees scattered over the field. Giles waited while Joe took care of their steeds.
Giles turned to Joe standing behind him. “Yes, I see what you mean. Quite a crowd.”
“Anybody who is anybody, and then some.”
A mass of men, seemingly from all cultures, attended the auction. Some were dressed in proper suits. Some of the dandy peacocks Joe had mentioned strutted about. Even some of the lesser class who looked as if they couldn’t afford their next meal, let alone a mare or stallion.
“You mentioned some of the best horseflesh. After seeing this crowd, I hope you weren’t exaggerating.”
“Naw. You won’t be disappointed. Come on.” Joe led him around a building and over to a fenced-in meadow. Several hastily made structures—a stables of sorts—sheltered stock.
A stallion captured his gaze. His coat shiny, like black silk, now
was a handsome creature. A lad stood beside the beast, his hand brushing the horse’s mane. Farther down, two more steeds caught his notice. A big grey and an Arabian. He needed a closer look.
“This way,” Joe said.
Giles jotted a mental note of the horses’ location, then followed Joe in the opposite direction.
With only a few clouds in the sky, the sun blazed hot, making him glad he wore a wide brimmed hat. A slight breeze helped keep the day pleasant, even with the smell of horse and dung swimming in the air.
“Who is that gentleman?” Giles gestured to a large man in the center of a group. Important gent, if the others vying for his attention were anything to go by.
“That’s Mr. Carmichael. Owns a spread two days’ ride from here. Over a thousand acres just for his horses. Some say his plantation covers ten times that. Plenty of money. Has a family. Wife, three sons, and a daughter who’s a hoyden.”
“A thousand acres just for his horses? Does he have a breeding farm?”
“Has a sugarcane plantation, and breeding besides. He employs some of the best trainers, too. One imperative fella has his own way of training. Some new-fangled idea he conjured up himself.”
Giles gave a low whistle through his teeth.
Wonder if the chap would want to share his ideas. Or better yet, if he’d be interested in a job—on the other side of the ocean.
“Is he someone I should meet?”
“Yes, sir. The very one. You might be especially interested in his private stock.”
“One in particular, if you like the white Mr. Morgan got.”
It would appear many knew the story of how his friend gained a magnificent white stallion while on one of his business ventures to the colonies. Seeing an owner beating his horse, Morgan had trounced the man, then gallantly relieved the cur of his animal, paying him good money, of course.
Giles’ jaw tightened. “Don’t tell me he’s the previous owner of Pegasus.”
“Nope. Morgan scared that man out of the county. Mr. Carmichael would have loved to get his hands on Pegasus. Come on, I’ll introduce ya.”
Filing the information away to mull over later, Giles followed Joe over to the crowd of impressively dressed men. Giles towered most men, but the largest man in the group was just about his height and broader in width.
Joe called to him. “Are you buying or selling this day?”
The large man turned around. Bushy dark brows shot with a hint of silver, kind brown eyes. When his gaze landed on Joe, he gave a blinding smile.
“Joseph, you old son-of-a-gun. How are you?”
“Just fine, Mr. Carmichael.” Joe shook the man’s hand. “Just fine. And I hope your family is well.”
One brow rose in reproach. “There’s no ‘mister.’ My name is James as you well know it.”
“Yes, sir.” Joe flashed a set of white, even teeth.
“My family is fine as well. Around here somewhere.” James glanced over the crowd, searching, then gave a slight wave of his hand.
“James, I’d like you to meet Giles Litscomb, the Duke of Nethersall.”
“Mr. Carmichael, I’d rather no one knew of my title.” Giles frowned briefly at Joe as a gentle reminder. “Which, by the by, means little in this land.”
“I am James.” He thrust out his hand. “What shall I call you? Nethersall? Litscomb?”
“Giles will do,” he said as he grasped James’ hand.
“So familiar? An aristocrat of noble birth?” James shrugged. “So you prefer an image of mundane circumstance. But, one of wealth?”
“Enough to buy some blue-blood.” Giles offered a crooked smile while assessing the man.
“Very well.” James slapped him on the back. “Welcome to Hudson’s horse auction. The best of the best. You’ll find your blue-bloods here.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“Giles, here, is a friend of Morgan.” Joe spoke as though the information were important.
“So you’re a friend of the man who owns Pegasus.”
Another person obviously impressed with the story
. “You know Morgan Langston?”
“Everyone has heard the tale concerning the man who saved the white stallion. Called him the
. But a man who does not allow another to mistreat a horse is more than all right in my book.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Well now, Giles. Since this is your first visit, allow me to be your guide. I’ve even brought a few of my mares for the auction.”
First impressions usually rang true, and Giles prided himself as a good judge of character. There were times when his life had depended on sizing up his opponent rather quickly. His assessment of Carmichael described him profitable, educated, with a fondness for horses, a cared-for family, and by his group of associates, he possessed moral fiber.
He followed the man with an air of indifference, a single question burning uppermost in his mind—why Joe seemed to think he would be interested in
one in particular
of James Carmichael’s private stock.
Alexandria brushed her hand over the horse’s mane. He was a beauty. Nothing caught an admirer’s eye quicker than a shiny black coat of silk. She glanced down.
And white stockings
. Her lips turned up in a smile. Only a year old and the most stunning horse she’d ever seen.
She didn’t like his name.
. How unoriginal. And with four white feet? The owner could not have appreciated this fine animal, saddling him with such a name. She’d change that at once. The black tossed his head as if he agreed. She stroked her fingers down his nose, determined he would be hers. Now she just needed to find her father.
Alex hurried around the building, searching the crowd. With so many heads towering above her, she darted this way and that, seeking a broad back larger than most.
Her father, tall with wide shoulders, had dressed in dark blue today. As she scoured the lot looking for a blue coat, she encountered her father’s good friend.
“Why hello, Alex. Fancy seeing you here today.” His smile conveyed affection and a hint of teasing.
“You know me. I couldn’t stay away.”
“Never seen a girl love horses as much as you. Has something caught your fancy?” His eyes twinkled.
“Sure has.” She couldn’t hide her excitement. She wanted that black. “I’m looking for my father. Have you seen him?”
Mr. Barnum gave a nod over his shoulder. “Last I saw, he was over by the presenter stage. No doubt getting a look at the first lot.”
“Thanks.” She turned to go.
She pivoted on her boot and gazed up at him.
“Be sure and ride over next week to show me your new mount.”
“Yes, sir.” Anticipation bubbled in her chest. Her father was here to buy horses, wasn’t he? She’d just add Blackie to his list. She cringed at the thought of naming such a glorious mount anything that boring. Instantly she pondered a list of new names. Midnight, Night Fire, Black Velvet, Night Dancer—of course she would need to see him run first. If he ran as fast as she hoped, maybe Lightning.
With names for the black occupying her thoughts, she nearly slammed into the back of a rather large body. She quickly sidestepped and jerked her head up. A man scowled, then suddenly his eyes widened. The apology died on her lips. Obviously, he’d thought her a boy and just realized the blundering muttonhead who bumped into him was a girl. Her lips tightened and her face flamed.
Probably never seen a girl in trousers before.
With a toss of her braid, she stepped around him.
Eagerness overcame her embarrassment when she remembered her mission. Then she glimpsed her father just ahead. A tall man stood beside him. Black hair, the same shiny hue as the horse she wanted to buy. He turned just a bit . . .
Alex stared in shock as the breath left her lungs. She stood immobile, her feet frozen to the ground.
The sun silhouetted him in profile.
The duke. He was back.