He was the wrong man for the job in every way but one . . .
Grayson Rhodes, the illegitimate son of a duke, heads to America to prove his worth and earn his fortune. But post-Civil War Texas seems more like hell than a land of opportunity, especially when he finds himself working the cotton fields of no-nonsense Abbie Westland. Abbie, with her fiery determination, is wildly different from the fragile beauties Grayson knew at home . . . but there is a tender yearning he can see just below her tough exterior.
Abbie works her fingers to the bone day-in and day-out, and she needs the help of a few good farmhands. Though skeptical of the polished Englishman when he arrives, she soon discovers a man with a resolve to succeed that matches her own. As the long, hot days turn to heated, passionate nights, they dare to dream of a future together.
Grayson Rhodes' father had always warned him that he would bum in hell, but he had never expected to arrive at the damnable place while he was still alive.
Sitting in the rear of the wagon, Grayson suffered through the sweltering heat that clung to his body. Flies and gnats joyfully buzzed around his ears as the vehicle bounced over the rough road. He would have thought the seven men crowded into the abominable mode of transportation would have kept the damn thing on an even keel. How the man to his leftâChristian Montgomeryâcould sleep through the incessant jostling was beyond Grayson's comprehension, but he had to admire Kit's ability to do so.
Unlike his traveling companions, Grayson had long ago given up any pretense at being a gentleman. He'd tossed his cravat aside, removed his jacket, loosened the top buttons on his white linen shirt, and rolled his starched cuffs past his elbows. But none of his efforts diminished the suffocating heat.
With his sleeve, he wiped the sweat from his brow. He could do nothing to prevent the beads trickling down his back.
He sliced his narrowed gaze to Benjamin P. Winslow, who sat on the bench seat beside the driver. The rotund man had convinced the fathers of every man in the wagon into paying him five hundred pounds to bring their wayward sons to Texas and make men of them.
Grayson shifted his weight, wincing as a splinter jabbed his backside. If he ever had occasion to travel by coach again, he would not take its comforts for granted.
And although he was beginning to have doubts that fortune truly awaited him here, after this excursion into hell, he knew he now had a chance to gain with hard work what his father could not bequeath himrespect.
"What do you make of that?" a deep voice grumbled.
Grayson cut a quick glance to Harrison Bainbridge, second son of the Earl of Lambourne, before gazing in the distance. Heat rose from the earth, creating walls of shimmering white flames. Beyond them, shadows of two or three buildings hovered.
"Satan's throne, perhaps?" Grayson suggested drolly.
Harry flashed the easy grin for which he was famous. "I'll wager five pounds that it's an inn, and we'll finally have beds in which to sleep."
"I would take you up on it, but you've already managed to swindle me out of the two shillings I had jingling within my pockets."
"I'll be glad to mark you down for it. I know you're good for itâor you will be, once we've reached our destination."
"How can you be so certain?" Kit asked.
Grayson snapped his attention to the man sitting beside him. "I thought you were asleep."
Kit gave him a laconic smile, his pale blue eyes effectively shielding the windows to his soul. More than one woman had referred to them as eyes of the devil after she'd succumbed to his infamous charms. "'I've merely been pondering our situation and trying to remember what possessed us to climb into this wagon once we'd docked at Galveston."
"Winslow's promise of fortune had us eagerly clambering aboard," Grayson reminded him. "The notion of becoming men of means in our own right and rubbing our fathers' noses into it appealed to us."
"An appeal that lessens as each day progresses. Perhaps we should consider jumping ship, as it were, and heading back to Galveston. I'm certain we could find a gaming hall or two." He smiled in anticipation. "Along with some feminine entertainment."
"And abandon fortune?" Grayson asked. "I think not."
The driver guided the wagon onto a narrower, rougher dirt road than the one upon which they'd been traveling. On one side of the road, dark green cotton stalks reached toward the sun. Grayson had seen the crops growing in a few fields along the route. The abundance of growth in...