My third story, Paradise Pines Series: Forever After was released October 1, 2013.
Abandoned by her sisters, her father in jail, Marinda Benjamin takes on the care of her ailing mother the best way possible — working for an unscrupulous man with the power to crush her. Forced to spy on a decent man, Marinda’s honesty saves her virtue and revenge restores her self-respect.
When Ethan Braddock discovers his brother’s poker pot cleaning his private office, he jumps to the right conclusion — she’s there to spy for his nemesis. Ethan can’t help but find her irresistible. In spite of what his heart tells him, his brain reserves judgment on her character. Until he unravels the mystery of her connection to Danforth, trust is the one thing he can’t allow himself. For that, she’ll have to prove herself.
Marinda Benjamin won’t marry until she finds the forever after kind of love. Has the man she’s dreamed of loving been beside her all along?
Fulton County, Illinois, August 1850
“I’ll bet this little lady against whatever you’ve got in your hand.”
A sudden hush stifled all the noise in the Hidey Hole Saloon. Master against novice. Who would win? Then quiet snickers began to echo off the wood walls. The regulars of the saloon moved in for a closer look.
Marinda Benjamin stared around at all the patrons who just witnessed her humiliation by Danforth’s claim. She latched onto the back of her employer’s chair to steady her crumbling nerves. Jonas Danforth had bet her, body and soul, in a card game.
Fancy women dressed in garish attire crowded around the poker table. Some stared at her with pity while a few sneered in obvious enjoyment of seeing another Benjamin sister fall from grace.
She wracked her brain for a way of preventing the ridiculous bet, but she knew Danforth held all the cards. Yet she had to stop this travesty. “Enough!” She stepped up beside his chair. “You can’t do–”
The menace in Danforth’s glare as he looked at her stopped her from saying more.
A malicious sneer marred his face. “As long as I hold the loan on your house, you’ll do as I say. Is that clear?”
She wanted to run, but her feet refused to move. She wanted to speak her piece, as she always did, but now was not the time. So instead, she held her head high. She refused to allow Jonas Danforth to see her frustration. He had broken her father’s spirit. He would not break hers.
The town’s mischief-maker sat across from Danforth. Patrick Braddock glanced her way. “She looks like she might be worth five twenty-dollar gold eagles and I could use a servant. I call your bet. Let’s see what ya got.”
The knot in her stomach tightened.