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Authors: Elizabeth Bevarly

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The Ring on Her Finger

BOOK: The Ring on Her Finger
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Table of Contents

The Ring on Her Finger

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Epilogue

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The Ring on Her Finger

 

Elizabeth Bevarly

 

© Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Bevarly

 

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced in any format whatsoever without express permission of the author. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to persons, places, or events is entirely coincidental and in no way intentional on the part of the author.

Chapter 1

 

 

When four police cars roared up to the Wemberley estate, their lights tumbling and sirens wailing, Lucinda Hollander was gazing out the window, wishing something exciting would happen at Babs and Barclay’s annual Endsummer Night’s Dream masque. Mission accomplished. Even better, lots police officers armed with lots of guns began to pour out of those cars, giving her something to focus on besides the conversation around her—a hundred and fifty adults dressed as enchanted woodland creatures had nothing on real police officers wielding real guns.

She turned away from the massive Palladian window in the massive Wemberley ballroom to remark upon the new development to her mother and older sister, only to find that they were, as always, already affixed to her sides. It was a common practice for Francesca and Antoinetta Hollander to stay close. They always feared Lucinda would say or do something at a function like this to defame, dishonor, and/or disgrace the Hollander name throughout Newport, Rhode Island. Not that Lucinda had ever done any of those things. But Francesca and Antoinetta—and Lucinda’s father and older brother, for that matter—always wanted to make sure, just in case. Sure enough, there stood Richard and Emory Hollander not a half dozen steps away.

Lucinda hesitated before speaking, since her mother and sister were currently chatting up Mimi Van Meter, the wife of one of her father’s executive VPs, and she didn’t want to be rude. Until she realized her mother and sister were talking about their favorite topic: Why Lucinda Hollander Is an Underachiever. They always had to be sure everyone in Newport understood that they were aware of the fact that Lucinda Is an Underachiever, but they also wanted to make sure everyone knew that the Hollanders were Not to Blame.

“It’s because she has a different learning pattern,” her mother was telling Mrs. Van Meter. “Her teachers never bothered to make allowances for that, and Lucinda was too lazy to apply herself or take any sort of initiative. She never made good grades at school, but it wasn’t because she was stupid. Hollanders simply are not stupid.”

“Hollanders aren’t lazy, either,” Antoinetta was quick to point out. “At least, the rest of us aren’t. Lucinda must have gotten some rogue gene that Emory and I thankfully escaped.”

She’d also gotten the best costume of the three of them this evening, too, Lucinda couldn’t help adding to herself smugly—mostly because there were few family matters where she could feel smug. Emory was the academic star, with his Ph.D. in microbiology and his research grant from Johns Hopkins. Antoinetta was the social standout, with her golden good looks and endless supply of suitors and invitations. But Lucinda was dressed most appropriately for the party’s theme of “Centaurs and Satyrs and Elves, Oh My,” having opted for a wood nymph, complete with wispy, white diaphanous gown, flowers woven into her waist-length blond braid, and silvery shadow adorning her blue eyes. All modesty aside, it put to shame Emory’s clunky gargoyle suit and Antoinetta’s much-too-revealing fairy costume. At least, it would have been revealing, had Antoinetta had anything to reveal.

So there.

“Don’t be silly, Antoinetta,” Lucinda’s mother said. “There are no rogue genes in the Hollander DNA. The Hollander DNA is very well established. Lucinda has a different learning pattern, that’s all. She never applies herself or takes the initiative.”

Antoinetta nodded. “Right. Different learning pattern,” she repeated dutifully. “Though, honestly, Mrs. Van Meter, try convincing some people of that. Do you know we once had a teacher tell us Lucinda might be dyslexic?” She emitted a sound that was part gasp, part chuckle. “Dyslexic! A Hollander! Can you imagine?”

Francesca squeezed her eyes shut tight and shuddered. “I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what Mr. Hollander had to say about
that,
” she told the other woman. “Hollanders simply are not dyslexic. No one else in the family has ever been dyslexic. Lucinda just has a different learning pattern. She never takes the initiative.” With an eloquent roll of her eyes, she concluded—lest Mrs. Van Meter missed it the first, or fourth, time—“Lucinda couldn’t be dyslexic. She’s a Hollander.”

Lucinda sighed to herself and tuned out the complaints. They were comments she had heard all her life, so they were easy to ignore. Well, kind of easy to ignore. Anyway, she knew she wasn’t dyslexic. She was a Hollander. But she wasn’t lazy, either. If she’d had trouble at school, it was only because...because...

Well, because she hadn’t found it interesting, that was all. School had bored her. She would rather have been painting or sketching instead of being cooped up in a classroom having to learn things that didn’t appeal to her, and learn them in a way that might work for other students, but didn’t for her. Lucinda enjoyed the observable aspects of the world. She liked pictures and images. She was a whiz at absorbing knowledge with visual aids and loved creating her own artwork. She was a picture person, not a word person—that was all.

Since her mother and sister were too busy hammering home excuses to a stranger to learn about police officers and guns, Lucinda decided to search for her escort for the evening instead. Archie Conlon would be interested in the goings-on outside. He enjoyed visuals as much as Lucinda did. And he wasn’t dyslexic.

So there.

She was particularly proud of Archie, because he was a real suitor—one Lucinda had found all by herself, not one arranged by her father with one of the obsequious sons of one of his obsequious VPs at his firm. In fact, Archie had been Lucinda’s bona fide beau for almost six months
in a row
, ever since she ran into him—literally, because they’d both ended up spattered with hummus in the buffet line at a fundraiser. And even if they hadn’t quite generated an incendiary bonfire of passion together—or even a little Cub Scout stick fire of zest—she had high hopes the two of them would ignite a spark of, um...something substantial together. Soon.

Unfortunately, Archie was nowhere to be seen. Which was more remarkable than the police officers and guns outside, because where Lucinda had dressed appropriately for the party’s theme—as she had told Archie she would be—he had for some reason opted for a perfectly recreated Bozo the Clown, right down to the mammoth red shoes and colossal orange hair that, honestly, could put a person’s eye out if he wasn’t careful.

She still wasn’t sure how he had come to associate Bozo with mythical woodland creatures. It was probably better not to ask. There really was such a thing as too much information. But that wasn’t something anyone in Newport would ever accuse Lucinda of having, was it? No, people in Newport had two opinions where she was concerned. Some thought her an idle, conceited, standoffish (and not particularly bright) heiress, while others considered her to be an idle, timid, unobtrusive (and not particularly bright) heiress. All because she had a different learning pattern.

Some people were just too judgmental.

When she couldn’t find Archie, and when her mother and sister showed no indication of stopping for breath, Lucinda turned her attention back to the disturbance outside, which now seemed to be moving inside. Good heavens, what had Barclay Wemberley done now? She thought he’d gotten that insider trading business straightened out ages ago.

“Lucinda, thank God I finally found you.”

She swung her gaze away from the window to find Bozo—or, rather, Archie—striding toward her, the crystalline light of the overhead chandeliers bouncing garishly off of his white rubber pate, his enormous shoes splonking on the glossy hardwood floor.

“Darling,” he said as he came to a stop before her and dropped onto one knee—a gesture that couldn’t have been easy, since the length of his shoe nearly surpassed that of his lower leg. From somewhere amid the drape of his big, blue Bozo suit, he whipped out a small black box. “Marry me,” he said without preamble, opening the box to reveal...

Well, there was no getting around it. The ring inside was hideous, despite the gargantuan diamond at its center. In fact, it was the gargantuan diamond that was most offensive, cloudy and yellowish, cut into a shape that most closely resembled... Hmmm... The state of Montana came to mind. The gem was surrounded by dozens of lesser stones of indeterminate origin, though they may have come from Pluto, as they seemed to have been burned to a crisp as they entered the Earth’s orbit.

“Oh,” she said upon seeing the ring. “Oh, my. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness gracious. It’s, ah... It’s, um... It’s remarkable,” she finally concluded, congratulating herself for her honesty.

“It’s perfect for you,” Archie said, tugging the ring from its velvet housing. “Because you, my darling, are remarkable, as well.”

Lucinda was wondering if she should take his comment as a compliment—oh, surely, she should—when he seized her left hand and, with no small effort, shoved the ring over her fourth finger. The action brought tears to her eyes. Not because she was touched by his proposal, but because the ring was too small and hurt like hell as it scraped over her knuckle.

“Ouch!” she cried as Archie completed the gesture. She snatched back her hand and immediately tried to remove the ring, but it wouldn’t budge. She could twist it from side to side—barely—but was unable to raise it over her knuckle. “Archie, what do you think you’re doing?”

She glanced at her mother and sister and saw that they were as startled by his proposal as she was. But at least it had shut them up.

Archie was still on bent knee but was gazing at her now, dumbfounded. At least, Lucinda thought he was dumbfounded. It was hard to tell with the big, red, perpetually happy Bozo smile and the skinny black, perpetually surprised Bozo eyebrows.

“What am I doing?” he echoed incredulously. “I’m proposing. I want you to be my wife, Lucinda. This can’t come as a surprise to you.”

“Well, no, not really.” Actually, it was more of a shock than anything else. “But, Archie, I just... I don’t know what to say. We’ve never discussed marriage before. We’ve never even—”

She stopped herself before she blurted out that business about the Cub Scout stick fire of zest, not wanting to offend him. She tried to take Archie’s proposal seriously. Truly, she did. But it was a little difficult with all the flaming orange hair encircling his white rubber head. Maybe if she asked him to get rid of the squeaky nose...

“Archie,” she said, more softly this time, striving for gravity. She ceased grappling with the ring, assuring herself she’d remove it later, when she was alone. Alone with a big can of Crisco. “I… I don’t know what to say. This is so sudden, and—”

“Please, Lucinda,” he pleaded. “Promise you’ll marry me. Promise you won’t take off the ring.”

“But, Archie—”

“Promise,” he repeated more urgently.

As if I could take the beastly thing off
, Lucinda thought, giving the ring another unproductive tug. In spite of the stuck ring, however, she couldn’t quite bring herself to make such a promise. She didn’t want to think about why she was so hesitant, especially since she had moments ago been trying to convince herself she and Archie would someday be substantial to each other. She just wasn’t ready for something like that. Not with him. Not yet.

Before anyone in the group could utter another word, the
thumpthumpthump
of rapid footfalls announced a quartet of uniformed police officers racing into the ballroom. Although everyone was surprised by their arrival, it was Archie who reacted the most strangely—by hurtling to his feet and running—
splonk, splonk, splonk
—for the nearest window, throwing himself toward it as if he were Steven Segal. Or, more accurately, as if he were Steven Seagal’s stunt double. Or, most accurately of all, as if he were Steven Seagal’s stunt double dressed as Bozo the Clown.

In any case, it was extraordinary seeing Bozo crash through a Palladian window that way. When Lucinda ran to the shattered window, she looked down and saw him jump up from where he had landed in the rhododendrons and go scampering off into the darkness with a different set of police officers—and a handful of German shepherds—hot on his trail.

BOOK: The Ring on Her Finger
2.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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