Read A Home for Her Heart Online

Authors: Janet Lee Barton

A Home for Her Heart

Love on Assignment

Magazine writer Elizabeth Anderson has sparred with newspaper reporter John Talbot for years. Though they cover similar stories, John thinks Elizabeth’s writing is trivial, and she finds him too boastful. So when they must work together to investigate New York City’s worst tenement houses, they’re surprised by the great team they make.

Boardinghouse Betrothals: Hearts taking shelter—and forging new beginnings

“I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about how lonely I was.”

John reached out and gently touched Elizabeth’s cheek. Their eyes met, and the realization of how much she liked him scared Elizabeth into jumping up from the park bench.

“Elizabeth. I didn’t mean to upset you. I—”

“You didn’t. But—” She couldn’t let him say he was sorry for the tender moment. She didn’t want to hear that. “It’s just getting late, and we should get back.”

He stood from the bench, and she slipped her hand through his arm before they began their walk back.

“Thank you for listening, John.”

“Anytime. I mean that, Elizabeth. I’ve opened up to you in ways I never have with anyone else.”

His words warmed Elizabeth’s heart. This man whom she’d sparred with for over a year had suddenly become the person she shared all her deepest hurts and fears with. He was truly her best friend. But now she wanted for more.

Books by Janet Lee Barton

Love Inspired Historical

*
Somewhere to Call Home
*
A Place of Refuge
*
A Home for Her Heart

*Boardinghouse Betrothals

JANET LEE BARTON

was born in New Mexico and has lived all over the South, in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas. She loves researching and writing heartwarming stories about faith, family, friends and love. Janet loves being able to share her faith and love of the Lord through her writing. She’s very happy that the kind of romances the Lord has called her to write can be read and shared with women of all ages.

Janet and her husband now live in Oklahoma and are part of what they laughingly call their “Generational Living Experiment” with their daughter and her husband, two wonderful granddaughters and a shih tzu called Bella. The experiment has turned into quite an adventure, and so far, they think it’s working out just fine. When Janet isn’t writing or reading, she loves to travel, cook, work in the garden and sew.

You can visit Janet at
www.janetleebarton.com
.

A HOME FOR HER HEART

Janet Lee Barton

Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another.

— Proverbs
25:9

To Dan for encouraging me every step of the way,
To Tina James for seeing the possibilities for this series,
To Giselle Regus for helping to make this story better,
To Tamela Hancock Murray for being such a great agent,
& always to my Lord and Savior for showing me the way.

Chapter One

New York
City
June 1896

J
ohn Talbot had barely reached the top step leading to Heaton House before Elizabeth Anderson rushed out the door and slammed into his chest. He reached out to steady her.

“Whoa there! Are you all right, Elizabeth?”

Her hazel eyes appeared a little dazed as she looked up at him and she seemed to be trying to catch the breath he was certain had been knocked out of her. He was nearly a foot taller than her and she was a trim woman. She had to be shaken by the collision. He felt a little breathless himself, looking down at her.

“Elizabeth, are you all right?” he repeated, keeping a firm grip on her slender arms.

She gave a short nod and took several deep breaths before finally finding her voice. “I’m fine. I think.”

She looked fine—better than fine actually. He’d never been quite this close to her, near enough to notice how thick and long her eyelashes were or how much green shot through her hazel eyes. “Are you sure?”

She gave a little nod.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect you to come flying out the door that way.”

“I know. It’s not your fault.”

“Where are you off to in such a rush?”

“I just received a call from my aunt letting me know my father is in town and insisting I come to dinner. I’m in a hurry.”

“Would you like me to accompany you?” Mrs. Heaton had a hard-and-fast rule that none of the women boarders were to be out alone after dark and that if necessary, one of the male boarders would accompany them.

She shook her head. “No, thank you. It’s still light out and I’ll be fine.”

She still looked a little bemused and he felt responsible. “Do you need me to come get you later?”

Elizabeth pulled away from his grasp. “No. I’ll be staying the night with her.”

Obviously she didn’t want his help. He nodded and took a step back. “Have a good evening.”

“Thank you. You have a good evening, too.” Elizabeth hurried down the steps and headed toward the trolley stop.

John watched until she boarded the trolley that pulled up just as she arrived at the corner, trying to figure out if there was a way to follow her and find out once and for all where this aunt of hers lived.

All he knew was that the trolley she took would take her to Fifth Avenue where some of the luxury apartment buildings were. And that opened up more questions than it gave answers to. Elizabeth lived at Heaton House and was employed at a women’s magazine called the
Delineator,
but why would she need to work if she had relatives who could afford to live in that kind of luxury? If her aunt did live on Fifth Avenue, why wasn’t Elizabeth living with her? And this was the first time he’d ever heard her mention her father. Why didn’t she live at home?

A sudden clap on his shoulder brought him out of his thoughts and he turned to find Benjamin Roth, another of Mrs. Heaton’s boarders, grinning at him. “What are you standing here woolgathering about, my friend?”

John gave a small shake of his head and shrugged. “This and that.”

“Hmm. Woman problems?”

“Now why would you say that? There’s no woman in my life to be a problem and that’s the way I want it. I’ve been down that road before and I have no intention of putting myself in that position again.” After the debacle that’d cost him his job, John had decided his instincts where women were concerned were pretty much nonexistent and he’d never trust one with his heart again.

“I see. That was Elizabeth I saw hurrying away, wasn’t it? Didn’t make her mad, did you? You always seem to be trying to get a rise out of her.”

“No, Ben. I didn’t make her mad. She’s going to see that aunt of hers again.”

“Ahh, I see,” Ben said.

“No, you don’t.”

Ben threw back his head and laughed. “Whatever you say, John. But I think you protest too much. You care about that woman. It’s plain as the nose on your face.”

“Of course I care about her. Just like I do everyone at Heaton House. But you have to admit, she keeps part of her life separate.”

“We all have lives outside of Heaton House, John.”

“I suppose.” Others did, he knew that. But John’s life seemed to revolve around his work and living at Heaton House. His mother had passed away when he was only five and his father had died when John was around seventeen. He’d been on his own since then.

“However, I will concede that I’ve wondered about where Elizabeth’s aunt lives, too,” Ben said. “Michael probably knows, but I’ve never asked him. He’d think I was being nosy or that I was interested in Elizabeth in a more than friendly way, and I’m not.”

“I know. That’s why I haven’t asked, either. He’d probably say it was none of my business or tell me to ask her myself and I can just picture how that would go over.”

“Yes, but you—”

“No buts, Ben.” He slapped his friend on the back. “We seem to have come to a dead end with this conversation. Let’s go see what’s for dinner.”

* * *

Elizabeth stepped on the trolley, paid her money and took a seat that’d just been vacated near the driver, all the while trying to calm her pounding heart. She’d never been quite so close to John before and her response to his touch frustrated her almost as much as the telephone call from her aunt had.

She and John clashed more often than not. He worked for the
Tribune
and she worked for the
Delineator,
and over the years they’d often sparred about the similar stories they sometimes found themselves covering. It was always clear to her that he thought her writing was inferior to his—the
Delineator
was a woman’s magazine, after all—and he’d even referred to her writing as
fluff
in the past.

Somehow he thought his articles on the same social scene she wrote about were much more worthwhile. And now that his editor had asked him to do more serious pieces, following his article about the Ladies’ Aide Society and the child-care homes they were starting, he’d be even harder to be around. Everyone knew that John Talbot wouldn’t rest until he broke a story that would put his byline on the front page and promote him to a lead reporter for the
Tribune.
It seemed to be all he cared about.

Elizabeth let out a deep breath and tried to put John to the back of her mind as had become her custom. She was already upset that her father had demanded she visit her aunt’s on such short notice. Thinking about John’s attitude toward her work wasn’t going to calm her any.

Leaning her head back against the seat, she looked out the window at the passing scenery. The quietness of Gramercy Park gave way to more and more traffic noise as they reached Fifth Avenue and turned amid all manner of vehicles—hacks, omnibuses, landaus and carriages of all sizes going in all different directions. It was especially busy this time of day.

She tried to tell herself to calm down. She wasn’t upset at her aunt, loved spending time with her, in fact. But to be summoned to her home because her father, Charles Edward Reynolds, had come into the city and wanted her there for dinner on such short notice was just...irritating.

There was so much going on at Heaton House right now, she hated to miss out on anything. But she’d promised to be available whenever her father came to town—it was the price she paid to have her independence. She shouldn’t really be upset at him, either. But she was. All he seemed to be interested in was getting her married off—but only to a man of his choosing.

Well, catching his first choice in a very compromising position with another woman—at their engagement party, no less—had ended with a broken engagement, her heart shattered and had soured Elizabeth on men in general. She had no intention of letting her father choose a mate for her again, not even if she wanted one—which she didn’t. She released a huge sigh loud enough to capture the driver’s ear.

“You have a bad day, miss?”

She really hadn’t had a bad day until she’d found out she’d been ordered to have dinner with her aunt and her father. Her father wanted to see her. Was that really so bad? She did love him. And besides, it was just for the evening, not the whole weekend. “Not so much a bad day... Perhaps it’s my own attitude making me so—”

“Downcast?”

She should be ashamed for giving that impression to anyone. There were much worse things in life than having to change her plans to spend time with family. “Maybe a little, but not anymore.”

When she got off the trolley at its stop just a block from her aunt’s apartment, she turned to the driver and smiled. “Thanks for making me realize I have absolutely nothing to be downcast about.”

His face fairly beamed. “You’re welcome, miss. I’m glad you’re feeling better.”

“Thank you. So am I.”

By the time she knocked on her aunt’s door, she was looking forward to telling her all about the happenings at Heaton House.

The door opened and her aunt’s maid, Amanda, smiled. “Miss Elizabeth, it’s wonderful to see you. Mrs. Watson and your father are waiting for you in her study.”

Her heart sank. She’d hoped for some time alone with her aunt. “Thank you, Amanda. It’s good to see you, too. Will you let them know I’ll join them as soon as I freshen up?”

“Certainly.”

Elizabeth hurried down the hall and let herself into a room her aunt had decorated just for her. It was beautiful and she loved the view of the avenue below and even a bit of Central Park. But she didn’t have time to enjoy that view right now. She hurried to choose a gown for dinner. There was a new yellow silk dinner gown hanging in her wardrobe. She quickly selected it. She never had to worry about packing for an overnight stay. Her aunt kept her wardrobe filled with the latest styles—so much so that Elizabeth had been able to give clothes away to those less fortunate.

She was blessed in so many ways and she had no right to feel put out by a visit from her father. She sent up a prayer, asking for forgiveness for being upset by his unexpected visit. She also prayed that she wouldn’t show her frustration to her aunt and father.

She made quick work of freshening up and hurried to the study. Her aunt, Beatrice Watson, must have heard her footsteps as she met her at the door.

“Elizabeth, it is good to see you as always.” She enveloped her in a hug and whispered, “Thank you for coming on such short notice, dear,”

“You’re welcome, Aunt Bea,” Elizabeth whispered back.

Her aunt was an elegant middle-aged woman with sparkling blue eyes and blond hair always done up in the latest style, and she’d always been ahead of her time. Like Elizabeth’s mother, she’d been raised to think for herself and make her own decisions—but would have, even had she not been encouraged to. Elizabeth knew this because she took after them both and her father had never encouraged her to be an independent woman. It wasn’t a trait he admired.

She looked past her to her father, who’d crossed the room and quickly gathered her in his arms to give her a quick hug. His hair had more silver in it than it had the last time she’d seen him.

“Elizabeth, my dear, the older you get, the more you look like your mother. I’ve missed you.”

“Thank you, Papa. That is quite a compliment. It’s good to see you, too.” And it was. She did miss him. But he traveled so much and she’d missed him back home, too. And now she loved her life in New York City and had no intention of going back to Boston to live.

“Dinner is ready, ma’am,” Amanda announced.

Elizabeth’s father offered both women an arm and escorted them into the dining room. After seating her aunt first and then her, her father took a seat across from her and adjacent to her aunt, who was at the head of the table.

“Charles, will you please say the blessing before Amanda serves us?” The maid stood just inside the door between the kitchen and the dining room and bowed her head.

“Of course. Our Father in Heaven, we come to thank You for our many blessings and we thank You for the food we’re about to eat. Amen.”

Short and to the point, as usual.
But he did love the Lord, Elizabeth was sure of it. And he loved her—even though he rarely said it or knew how best to show it.

Amanda began to serve them and Elizabeth turned to her father. “Papa, what kind of business did you come to New York on?”

“Investment business, my dear. Nothing to bother your pretty head about at this point in your life.”

Elizabeth exchanged a glance with her aunt. Would he always think women were to be seen and not heard in the matter of business?

“And hopefully you’ll have a husband to worry about it before the time comes that you might need to.”

There it was. The real reason he’d come to the city. He thought she should have been married several years ago and that was the reason he’d sent her to her aunt in the first place—well, that and the fact that he was upset with her for breaking her engagement to the man he’d handpicked, no matter that the man was only after
his
money.

“I want you to come home, Elizabeth. There’s a young man I want you to meet.”

“Papa, I’m sorry, but I’m not looking for a husband to take care of me. I like my life just as it is right now and I have no intention of moving back to Boston.”

She watched as her father and her aunt exchanged glances and thought she saw her aunt give a little shake of her head as if telling him not to push. At least that was what Elizabeth hoped she was trying to tell him. Dear Aunt Bea, she’d come to her defense on more than one occasion.

Her father’s face flushed and he took a sip of water before speaking again. “Elizabeth, I didn’t ask you to move back. But I would like for you to come home for a visit soon.”

“It is hard to get away from work, Papa.”

“Surely you could come there for a weekend, same as I’ve come here.”

“Maybe one of these days, Papa.” Elizabeth was afraid to go back to Boston for a visit—afraid he wouldn’t let her return. And yet, she was a grown woman, he couldn’t keep her under lock and key forever.

“Perhaps we could go together, Elizabeth,” her aunt offered.

Elizabeth flashed her a look of gratitude. If her aunt went with her, she’d make sure they both came back to the city. She nodded. “Perhaps we can plan something.”

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