My Steadfast Heart by Jo Goodman - Fiction
Colin Thorne finds his way out of a London workhouse but at the cost of losing his two younger brothers. With an uncertain future ahead of him, Colin makes seafaring his life until the inexorable pull of revenge draws him back to London. The debt owed to him by the Earl of Weybourne will be paid.
Weybourne Park has been Mercedes Leydon's home her entire life. Now serving as the estate's manager and caretaker of her uncle's two children, Mercedes knows the earl's frequent absences are what make Weybourne Park a home.
But the earl's gaming has taken its toll and she and her young cousins are faced with losing everything to a devil-of-a-stranger calling in a debt that can't be paid.
Casting caution aside, Mercedes will make a new bargain with this devil. If it's her soul he wants—or her body—she will give it to him and stake her own claim on his steadfast heart.
USA Today bestselling Author
"Difficult to put down. Ms. Goodman gets better and better." ~Old Book Barn Gazette
THE THORNE BROTHERS TRILOGY, in series order:
My Steadfast Heart
My Reckless Heart
With All My Heart
They came for the baby first. Colin remembered because he was eight—old enough to grasp the loss, too young to prevent it. He had expected it would happen but expectation alone did not prepare him. He had not been able to prepare his brothers.
Not that Greydon could have understood. He was the baby they came for. With his round face and engaging smile it was natural that he would be chosen. Grey had no real knowledge of his circumstances or surroundings, Colin thought. At five months he did not know he already had a family, albeit a smaller one than he had had three months earlier. Young Greydon was all gurgling laughter and chubby, flailing limbs. He charmed without effort and without conscience, as naturally as breathing and eating and crying.
So when Grey sighed contentedly as he was lifted into the woman's arms, Colin tried to remember that it didn't make his baby brother a traitor.
Beside the doorway, just inside the headmaster's office, Colin stood holding his younger brother's hand. Decker was only four but he was willing to stand at Colin's side, his small body at attention while the couple from America made their decision about the baby.
The next minutes were an agony as the headmaster indicated the two boys and asked the question of the couple with careless indifference: "Will you have one or both of the others?" The man turned away from his wife and seemed to notice the boys for the first time. The woman did not glance in their direction.
"They're brothers," the headmaster said. "Colin. Decker. Come here and stand. You will make the acquaintance of Greydon's new parents."
Colin's last hope that the couple would not choose Grey vanished at the headmaster's words. Dutifully he stepped forward, Decker in tow. "How do you do, sir," he said gravely, extending his free hand to the man.
There was a surprised pause, then a low, appreciative chuckle from the man as he returned the handshake and greeting. Colin's narrow hand was swallowed in the man's larger one. In later years, try as he might, Colin could not put features to the man's face. It was the dry, firm handshake he remembered, the deep, lilting chuckle, and the momentary surge of hope he felt.
The man looked at his wife who was coaxing another smile from the baby in her arms. It was easy to see she was already in love with the child. There would be no difficulty passing the baby off as their own. No one among their family or friends would have to know it was an adoption.
"I'm afraid not," he said, letting go of Colin's hand. "My wife and I only wanted a baby." Because he was uncomfortable with two pairs of eyes looking up at him he added to the headmaster, "You shouldn't have brought them here. I told you from the first we were only interested in an infant."
The headmaster did not flinch under the rebuke. Instead he deflected it, turning his head sharply toward the boys and ordering them out of the room. His stiff, accusing tone made it seem that their presence in the office had never been his idea at all, but theirs.
Colin released Decker's hand. "It's all right," he said quietly. "You go."
Decker's wide blue eyes darted uncertainly between Colin and the headmaster. It was at Colin's urging, rather than the headmaster's stony glare, that Decker hurried from the room.
"I would like to say farewell to my brother," Colin said. He had a youthful voice, but the dark eyes were old well beyond his years and he stood his ground as though planted there.
The headmaster was prepared to come around his desk and bodily remove Colin. He looked to his guests for some indication of their wishes in the matter.
The man raised his hand briefly in a motion that kept the headmaster at bay. "Of...