New York Times bestselling author Julie Garwood returns to her roots in One Red Rose, the conclusion to her racy historical fiction series the Clayborne Brides. First introduced in her beloved New York Times bestseller For the Roses, the Clayborne brothers of Blue Belle, Montana, have been embraced by millions worldwide.
In this finale, thoughtful loner Adam learns a powerful secret from the irrepressible Genevieve Delacroix—that true freedom only comes when you trust your heart.
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From Chapter Two
It really was a hell of a mess, and he had no one but Mama Rose to blame for meddling in his private affairs. He would deal with her later, but now he needed to
First things first. He needed to move away from her. He was standing entirely too close. Odd, but he couldn't seem to make himself step back. Her scent, so light and feminine, made him think she'd bathed in lilacs. He liked it more than he thought he should. He liked just about everything about her. He even noticed, and approved of, what she was wearing, and he had never been interested in such superficial things before. Still, the starched, high-collared white blouse and white skirt were a nice contrast to her flawless coloring. She looked as prim and proper as a banker's wife, and was as sexy as hell.
He shook himself out of his reflection. "Why don't we go down to the library."
"The library? Yes, we should go to the library."
"Good idea," he drawled out.
She inwardly groaned. She was doing it again, repeating his words. He was going to start calling her a parrot if she didn't get hold of herself and stop thinking about foolish things, such as how deep and rich the sound of his voice was and how clean and masculine his scent was. He seemed to carry the outdoors around with him.
He really had the most devastating effect on her. She let out a little sigh. "I've been dreading this."
"Our private talk," she said. "Shall we go and get it over with?"
She sounded as though she were on her way to a firing squad. He agreed with a nod and walked by her side down the stairs. When they reached the end of the back hall, he moved forward to open the door, then stepped back so she could enter the library first.
The room was musty and smelled of old books. She found it very pleasing and looked around in fascination and approval. There were hundreds of volumes lined up on cherry wood shelves from the ceiling to the floor, and more books were piled in stacks on the hardwood floor near the windows.
The library had taken on the character of the man who occupied it, she decided. She knew from Adam's letters to his mother how much he loved to read, and she would have wagered every cent she possessed that he had already read every book there. He might even have read them more than once.
He motioned for her to take a seat. She chose one of the two overstuffed leather chairs facing the desk, sat down on the very edge of the seat, with her knees and her ankles pressed together and her back as straight as a ruler, and folded her hands in her lap.
She couldn't sit still long. While he was getting comfortable in his chair behind the desk, she nervously began to tap her heels against the floor. She stared down at her lap so she could concentrate, and rehearsed what she would say to him.
She thought it would be better if she let him speak first, and after he was finished, she would then gently -- yes, gently -- explain that her circumstances had changed and she couldn't marry him. She would be as diplomatic as a statesman so that she wouldn't injure his feelings or damage his pride.
Adam sat back in his chair and stared at her, patiently waiting for her to tell him what was on her mind. After several minutes passed in silence, he decided it was up to him to begin. He knew exactly what he wanted to say to her, for he'd been thinking about it all week long. Why then was it so difficult for him to get started?
He cleared his throat. The tapping got faster and louder.
"Genevieve, I'm not certain what your understanding with Mama Rose was, but I --"
She jumped to her feet. "Oh, Adam, I can't do it. I just can't."
"You can't what?"
"I can't marry you. I wish I could, but I can't. I wanted to explain right away, but you've been avoiding me all week long, which makes me think you don't really want to marry me anyway, and this personal matter wasn't something I wanted to talk about in front of your relatives. It's all so awkward, isn't it? Your mother put both of us in such a peculiar position. Are we engaged or aren't we? No, of course we aren't. Will it surprise you to know that I do want to marry you, or at least I used to want to marry you? For heaven's sake, don't look so surprised. I'm telling you the truth. Everything's changed though, and I can't possibly marry you now. No, it's out of the question, and even if you did want to marry me, well, eventually you'd find out about the trouble I'm in, and then you'd be horrified you ever entertained the notion. Do you see? I'm saving you from making a terrible mistake. I'm so sorry to disappoint you. Truly I am. You're just going to have to get over me. Broken hearts do mend. There, I've had my say. We can't get married, no matter how much you want to, and I apologize for deliberately misleading you. It was insensitive and cruel of me."
She finally paused long enough to take a breath. She knew she'd made a mess out of her explanation, and even while she had been rambling on and on, she'd kept telling herself to stop, but she couldn't seem to make herself do it. He probably thought she was crazy. His expression didn't give her a hint of what he was thinking, and she could only conclude that he was too stunned to react at all. Some of the words she'd blurted out kept repeating inside her head. Dear God, she'd started out telling him she didn't believe he wanted to marry her, and by the time she'd finished, she was insisting that his broken heart would mend. Oh, yes, he had to think she was demented. Mortified, she turned her attention to the wall behind him, pretending great interest in the framed map hanging there.
Copyright© 1997 by Julie Garwood