Chapter 1, Scene 1
Boston, May 1874
"Smile, darlin'," Creel Weston sneered in his wife’s ear as he waltzed her around the floor. "This farce is everything you wanted."
She paled and stumbled. He smiled, tightened his arm at her waist and kept them moving. Two hundred guests had gathered in the ballroom to celebrate their marriage and watch them dance for the first time as man and wife. Not one of them suspected he wished he was back home at Wooded Acres instead of the Somerfield's opulent mansion partaking in this sham of a wedding.
"I-I don't understand." Racine lifted her gaze. "Isn't the party to your liking?"
“The party’s fine,” he said, glancing around the room. “But you are an entirely different matter.” He applied more pressure to the small of her back and felt her shiver. "Bat those pretty eyes in another man's direction and you'll regret this day ever happened."
"Pardon?" She swallowed hard.
"You're the devil's daughter, Racine. And now you're my problem."
She stared at him, eyes wide and lips trembling.
"It's time to get the rest of this nightmare over," he gritted as the music ended. Tucking her hand inside his elbow, he led her to a round table covered with a velvet cloth. A five tier cake iced in white and trimmed with peach roses awaited them. He went through the motions of cutting the delicacy and sharing the first piece with her then made a quick escape to the bar.
"Give me a double shot of whiskey," he said to the bartender. "The best you've got."
The man behind the counter nodded and poured the drink. Creel took the glass, turned and leaned his back against the bar. He spotted his bride across the room talking with her papa and his gaze narrowed dangerously.
They were two of a kind, Racine and the 'good' Dr. Somerfield. Both felt no remorse in secretly plotting a man's demise and then delivering the devastating blow with a sugary-sweet smile. Sometimes he wished he'd bowed out of the fancy supper the Doctor had held for his interns last fall. If he had, he'd never have been smitten and then hogtied by the elegant and seemingly innocent Miss Somerfield.
But he'd gone, and in less than an hour, his future had been altered.
"Creel, my boy." Donald Somerfield wrapped his arm around Creel's shoulder. "I'd like you to meet my daughter, Racine."
Creel allowed his mentor to lead him across the parlor's thick carpet to where two women stood by an upholstered chair, their gazes lowered as if they examined the fabric.
Creel recognized the taller of the two women as Dr. Somerfield's wife. Dressed in a fine gown of blue silk, her auburn hair perfectly coiffed atop her head, Creel had seen Mrs. Somerfield at some of the social gatherings at Massachusetts General Hospital.
The younger woman, dressed in a gown of emerald green, he didn't know. She had the same thick auburn hair and long eye lashes, which, lowered as they were, cast shadows across her delicate cheekbones. When he came within two feet of her, she looked up and he felt the air swoosh out of his lungs. A kick from one of the mustangs back home wouldn't have been this overpowering.
Stunning. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Words didn't do her justice. A heart shaped face, the palest blue eyes and a shapely figure… If she didn't favor him with some of her dances, he just might walk straight into Boston's harbor and let the salty water swallow him whole.
"Creel." Dr. Somerfield's voice gained his attention. "This is my daughter. Racine, this is Creel Weston, the best intern with whom I've had the pleasure of working."
"Mr. Weston." She greeted him with a shy smile.
"Miss Somerfield." Creel found his voice, took her hand and kissed the backs of her knuckles. Soft skin, a smile to brighten the bleakest winter day, his heart took a plummet. His pulse came to a standstill and the room spun. Damn, if she didn't agree to marry him, he would walk straight into that harbor.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Creel murmured as the memory faded. He'd come to Boston seven years ago to get his medical degree, not a wife. Now he had both. He knew what to do with the degree. But his wife...
He'd been dumbstruck and stupid in love that night, and still was. He'd thought she'd felt the same, but anymore, he didn't know what to think. With the way she'd stood at the altar, tears in her eyes as she'd spoken her vows, part of him felt she did love him. But then, she'd betrayed him, cut him to the bone, and the other part of him felt he meant nothing more to her than the latest bauble Papa had purchased for her enjoyment.
He growled in frustration, raised his glass slightly and toasted her. "To you, Racine. Let the marriage begin."
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