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Authors: Julianne MacLean

Adam's Promise

BOOK: Adam's Promise
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Madeline Oxley could not comletely fault
Adam Coates. Her father had hoodwinked them
both…but now that she stood at last before him,
how could she ever walk away?

“Your father sent me
the wrong bride!”

Madeline gritted her teeth. “Sir, you are not the only one who has been
inconvenienced
by this. I just spent forty-six days on a damp, creaky ship, and now you tell me in front of everyone that I'm not the one you ordered, and I shouldn't have bothered. I believe I've had quite enough insults for one day. My father assured me you had asked for my hand. I had no reason to question the truth of it.”

Adam's chest heaved with a sigh. “No reason to question it? Do you not have a mind of your own?”

Oh, this was too much. “To tell you the truth, Mr. Coates, I do have a mind of my own—a mind to poke my father with a knitting needle, and if I may say so, you could use a poke yourself!”

Adam's Promise
Harlequin Historical #653—April 2003

Acclaim for Julianne MacLean's work

Prairie Bride

“A promising debut!”

—Affaire de Coeur

“Vivid and perceptive, Julianne MacLean is a powerful storyteller. I felt like I was right there!”

—Bestselling author Pamela Morsi

“…a tender triumph…”

—Halifax Chronicle Herald

“…an exceptional uplifting romance guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of any reader!”

—Old Book Barn Gazette

J
ULIANNE
M
AC
L
EAN
Adam's Promise

Available from Harlequin Historicals and
JULIANNE M
AC
LEAN

Prairie Bride
#526

The Marshal and Mrs. O'Malley
#564

Adam's Promise
#653

Dedication:

For you, Stephen.

Acknowledgments:

To the town of Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, in particular the Tantramar Heritage Trust, for hosting Yorkshire 2000—an event to celebrate the Yorkshire settlers who immigrated from England to Nova Scotia between 1772 and 1775—and to all the volunteers and organizers who inititated and contributed to the extraordinary event. To the Mount Allison University Canadian Studies Program for sponsoring the academic conference during the festival, which started me on the research path to writing this book. And to the Mount Allison University Library, the Cumberland County Museum and the Nova Scotia Public Archives, for being so dedicated in maintaining their collections. Any historical inaccuracies are entirely my own.

Also, to my agent, Paige Wheeler, editors Melissa Endlich and Tracy Farrell, and my friends and helpful readers Deborah Hale, Tory Leblanc, Ruth MacLean, Georgie Phillips and Tammy Sisk. Thank you also Mom and Dad, for being such amazing grandparents.

Finally, to my cousin Michelle, for your unwavering love and friendship.

Author's Note:

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of taking a walk on a damp day on the Tantramar Marsh will forgive me for the artistic license I took with the mosquitoes. I wouldn't have been able to tell much of the story the way I did if I had given them their due.

Prologue

Yorkshire, England, 1775

M
adeline Oxley gathered her cloak about her and picked her way over the damp, foggy moor toward home. She peered through the mist shrouding her little stone house, nestled in the valley alongside the stone piggery and the other buildings, then came to a halt.

Oh, she wished she did not see what she thought she saw. She blinked slowly and looked again. Yes, it was still there. Her father's carriage. He had returned.

A nervous little breath puffed out of her lungs. She did not like surprises. The past few days, with her father gone, she'd tasted freedom. Not freedom to come and go, mind you—she was always free to do that as she pleased—but freedom in a more mindful sense. She didn't have to look upon that expression of disappointment and disapproval, the look that never failed to sit like a wet stone in her belly at every meal.

With a resigned sigh, she walked down the hill and across the cobbled yard, past the chicken coop and stable and around the empty carriage to the front door. She unhooked the clasp on her cloak and stepped inside. Warmth from a strong fire crackling in the parlor touched her chilly, red cheeks.

The door clicked shut behind her. She removed her cloak and carried it into the room where her father sat in a chair in front of the flames. “Hello, Papa. How was Thirsk?”

He folded a letter, slipped it into the breast pocket of his waistcoat and gazed up at her over the rims of his gold spectacles. “Thirsk was most pleasant, indeed. More gainful than I expected.”

Madeline tried to keep her tone light and cheerful. “Oh? How?”

“It seems a burden has lifted. I received a most generous offer from a man I haven't seen in a number of years.”

Madeline swallowed uneasily. “What kind of offer?”

Her father raised his chin as if contemplating how best to phrase whatever he was going to tell her. “Sit down, Madeline. We must have a word.”

A word?
She had a constricting feeling around her ribs—the feeling she always got whenever her father wanted to have “a word” with her.

Still holding her cloak over her arms, Madeline sat down in the chair opposite him.

“It's good news for both of us.” He leaned back and crossed his legs. “It seems you'll be married after all.”

Madeline's body went stiff. She wet her lips and tried to speak in a steady voice. “May I ask—to whom?”

Her father cleared his throat and shifted in his chair. “Well, he's a bit older and you probably won't remember him. It's been a number of years since he's been here.”

“I've met him?”

“Yes.”

“It's not Mr. Siddall, is it?” she asked, unable to conceal a fiery panic she hated to hear in her own voice. But how could she help it? Mr. Siddall was three times her age, and the last time she'd seen him, his teeth were black and rotting and it was all she could do now to hope that, for the love of God, they'd fallen out…..

“No, it's not Mr. Siddall,” her father replied. “Mr. Siddall is a local gentleman. He would never offer for you—not after what happened at Stanley Hall, and how you behaved so impertinently afterward.”

The words struck Madeline like a slap, for her father had not defended her in the scandal that had ruined any chance she'd had at marriage with a decent man. Her father had even made it worse, by turning against her and blaming her publicly.

Determined not to let her father see that her wounds still burned, she raised her chin to speak with as much dignity as she could muster. “Who, then? If I'm not good enough for Mr. Siddall, what manner of man have you agreed to ship me off to?”

He sighed deeply, as if he could not understand why he'd been cursed with such an impertinent dis
grace of a daughter. “As I said, you probably won't remember him. It's been almost fifteen years since he's been here. You couldn't have been more than an infant.”

“Fifteen years ago, I was seven, Father.”

He waved a hand at her. “Yes, yes, whatever.”

Madeline felt the familiar sting of her father's antipathy toward her, and squeezed her hands together on her lap to harden herself against it.

Her father tugged at his linen cuffs. “It seems he's not aware of your scandal, which is a miracle in itself, wouldn't you say?”

Madeline simply gazed indifferently upon her father, who continued his account.

“The gentleman I'm speaking of left Yorkshire four years ago for Nova Scotia. According to his description of things, there are very few women there. He would like to be married again, and it appears that he remembers you fondly. Though why, I cannot imagine. You never sat still long enough for any man to get a look at you.” He turned his gaze toward the fireplace. “Regardless of that, he's asked for your hand.”

Madeline steeled herself. “And you said yes?”

“Of course. I already sent my reply. You'll be leaving on the next ship out of Scarborough in five days. I've arranged for you to travel with a family from Helmsley.”

Nausea welled up inside Madeline.
Five days?
She would be leaving Yorkshire forever and crossing an ocean in
five days?

She tried to focus on the shock of that and only
that, rather than the fact that her father could be so cavalier about never seeing her again.

She swallowed hard and sat up straighter. “You still haven't told me his name.”

“His name?” Her father cleared his throat as if he were nervous about revealing it. She wished he would just spit it out and end this debilitating dread. “His name is Adam Coates.”

Adam Coates?

Madeline's heart stumbled and took a high-flying leap.

“But as I said,” her father continued, “you probably don't remember him. It's been a long time.”

Remember him? How could she not? She'd been overwhelmed by the sight of him the first moment he rode into their yard fifteen years ago on his big black horse, to call on her older sister, Diana. Diana had been eighteen and devastatingly beautiful, while Madeline had been a rather willful child of seven who refused to go to her room when her sister's suitor came calling.

It had been the first time Madeline had ever seen a man so handsome he'd sent the clouds dashing right out of the sky. He'd hopped down from his horse, made a great sweeping bow in front of her and said, “Who is this beautiful young lass? A princess, surely!”

Years later, when she began to think about men in a romantic way, her dream suitor always seemed to have Adam Coates's handsome features. For he had been the prince charming of her dreams, the gallant
hero who had come to rescue a little princess locked in a tower.

All the sounds in the room retreated into some kind of garbled bubble while Madeline sat there in disbelief, staring blankly at her mumbling father.

She interrupted him. “But what about Diana? Why didn't Mr. Coates ask for
her
hand? He loved her once, and she's a widow now.” Good God, her voice was shaking.

Her father removed his spectacles and set them on his lap. “He didn't mention Diana. I suspect he doesn't know she's been widowed. Besides, Diana is better off here with me.”

You mean her inheritance is better off here with you.

Madeline's foot began to tap beneath her skirts as if it had a will of its own.
Adam Coates?

“I thought he was married,” she said as casually as possible. “He had four children, if I recall.”

“Ah, so you do remember him.”

Vividly,
she thought.

“Vaguely,” she replied.

Her father put his spectacles back on. “Well, yes, he did marry someone, quite soon after Diana married Sir Edward. Too soon, I think. A young woman from York, who already had a son. I don't believe she gave him an easy time, but that's all in the past now. She passed away before Mr. Coates left for Nova Scotia.”

“I'm sorry to hear that,” Madeline said softly.

Her father stood and gestured for her to stand also. “I know, my dear, that after what happened at Stanley Hall, you'd resigned yourself to spinsterhood, but you
can not afford to pass up on this offer. The man has made a success of himself. He's as wealthy now as any aristocrat and he knows nothing about the scandal. With any luck, he won't find out until after he's wed you. Lord knows you'd never get such an offer from anyone here, so mind what I say and go without kicking up a fuss and try to make the best of it, will you? From what I hear, it's a different world over there. Perhaps you can make a fresh start and live a respectable life.”

She nodded politely. “Yes, Father.”

He took a step back. “
Yes, Father?
That's all you're going to say? Heavens above, I expected a full-blown battle over this. I don't think you've ever said
yes, Father
to me about anything in your entire life!”

She lowered her gaze, careful not to give away any of what she truly felt. “If I'm to leave here in five days, I would very much like our time together to be agreeable.”

His shoulders slumped visibly. “Well, that's long overdue. Now off you go, and think carefully about what you want to take with you. I can only spare two trunks.” He sat down again, waving her off. “And Mr. Coates requested that you bring a bushel of wheat for seed—yellow Kent and Hampshire brown—and that you lay it under your head like a pillow during the crossing, to prevent it from getting wet.”

That last request sailed over her head, pushed aside by all the other thoughts and dreams that were circling around her like a hurricane. Adam Coates. It hardly seemed possible.

 

After Madeline left the room, her father rested his head against the high back of the chair and drummed his fingers upon the armrest. What should he do with the letter still in his waistcoat pocket? he wondered.

Promptly he decided to lock it away in the secret compartment in his desk drawer. Knowing Madeline's inquisitive nature, she might wish to see it, and that was out of the question. She would never agree to leave Yorkshire if she knew the truth—that the woman Coates was expecting to wed was her sister, Diana.

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