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Authors: Fayrene Preston

The Promise

BOOK: The Promise
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The Promise
SwanSea Place [3]
Fayrene Preston
Loveswept (1990)
THE RUTHLESS SON OF A
POWERFUL DYNASTY… — Conall Deverell was stunned by Sharon Graham's
demand: that he honor a promise made by his grandfather to her
great-aunt -- and that the favor she wanted was that he make her
pregnant! Ten years before, he'd broken her heart by saying the child
she carried couldn't be his, that she must... more » have been
unfaithful -- and he'd abandoned the girl who'd been his first love to
run the family corporation. Now she vowed that this time he'd know the
baby was his…but she wanted nothing else from the formidable man once
she'd proved her case. Conall found Sharon almost impossible to resist,
but the master gamesman insisted she beguile him into taking her
challenge, that she make him want her, make his blood boil; Sharon
craved Conall's intimate embraces with a wildness that made her panic.
But unless she fled Conall's domain, she feared he'd never free her
heart. Would Swansea's legacy be that true love once lost could be
redeemed?

Preface

Cambridge, Massachusetts

1922

The gray light of dawn seeped around the edges of the drapes and into Clarisse Haviland’s bedroom. Standing by the bed, belting her rose velvet dressing gown, she frowned at the intruding light. She was not ready for the night to end. She had so few nights left with him. . . .

Jake Deverell stirred beneath the covers. She turned toward the sound and him.

“What are you doing up so early?” he asked huskily, rubbing the sleep from his cobalt-blue eyes.

"I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep.”

“Why didn’t you wake me?"

“Your last exam is today. I felt you needed your rest. ”

He groaned good-naturedly. “You sound like my mother.”

She swung away, but not fast enough to keep him from seeing that he had hurt her. In a flash he was standing behind her, his big hands cupping her upper arms and drawing her back against him. “I’m sorry, Clarisse. I didn’t mean that the way It sounded.”

“I know.”

He swept her long brown hair free of one shoulder and pressed his lips to the side of her neck.

A sweet warmth flooded through her. But then, he could always evoke a response from her with just the lightest of touches. She lay her head back against him and reached behind her to clasp his hips; muscles flexed beneath her hands, thrilling her.

“I’ve told you time and again, to me you are ageless," he whispered in her ear.

“To you,” she said softly, “because you’re gallant. But the truth is I’m thirty-four and you're twenty-two.”

He turned her to face him. “Why are you bringing this up now, Clarisse? We’ve been together almost from the first day I arrived here to attend Harvard. ”

She smiled softly. “I remember. I glanced up and saw you staring in the window of my shop at the display of my latest hat designs. You looked so serious.” And handsome, she added to herself. And tough. That day, something had moved inside her. Something that had felt like excitement and heat combined. Something that had never before moved in her, even when her husband had been alive.

“I was trying to decide which hat to buy for my mother. Then it occurred to me, I could buy them all.”

Her smile widened. “Yes, and you did. ”

“And in doing so, I met you. I had just been through the biggest upheaval of my life, learning that Edward Deverell was my real father, then deciding whether or not to allow the bastard to adopt me—”

“Which you did, but only on your terms. You should be proud of yourself, Jake. You bested him.”

He grinned affectionately. “Yes, and you have bested me by somehow managing to get me off the subject. Now answer me. Why are you bringing up the difference in our ages?”

“Because within a few days you will be graduating. SwanSea will become your home, and you will take your rightful place in society and begin your new life in earnest.”

“Oh, I definitely intend to begin a new life. Unfortunately for Edward Deverell, it won’t be the new life he’s envisioning. He’s given me the two things in the world he most cherishes: his name and his beloved SwanSea—not because of any love he has for me or my mother, but because he hopes I will make his dreams come true.” His expression turned cruel. “In the coming years he will be dealt more disappointments than he will be able to bear.”

“And what about SwanSea?” she whispered, taken aback by his vehemence.

“SwanSea will never be my home. I view it only as a tool with which to hurt Edward Deverell.” 

“But they say it’s majestic, beautiful.”

He glanced down at her, saw her lovely face and her soft blue eyes that held such wisdom, and felt the tension drain from his body. She could always make him feel better. He hugged her, then with a smile set her away from him again. “It’s nothing more than an oversized plaything, Clarisse. You and I can play there together.”

She shook her head, her expression full of love and regret. “No, Jake. My life is here in Cambridge with my hat shop, and my home is this apartment above the shop. I may be lonely after you leave, but I'll be content."

“You won’t be lonely,” he said decisively. “If you won’t come to see me, I will come to see you. SwanSea is only in the next state, and I imagine I’ll be in Boston frequently.”

“You say you will come, but—”

He let out an impatient sound and turned away from her. “I can’t believe this rotten mood you’re in.” With the nonchalant grace and power of youth, he strode to the window and jerked back the drapes. The dawn’s pale light poured over him, following the long lines of his bronze body, delineating the strong, supple muscles and the taut, corded sinews. Suddenly he snapped his fingers. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll
give
you something. Anything. Name it. What do you want?” 

She laughed. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” “But you’ve given me so much! I couldn’t have made it through these last four years without you, and I insist on giving you a present. I know! I’ll choose the present myself. Something wonderful, something—”

“I won’t accept, Jake. I’m serious.”

He stared at her, perplexed. “But why not?” "Because no gift could be as wonderful as the time I’ve spent with you. You think I’ve given you so much? It’s not half what you have given me. The memory of you will stay with me the rest of my life.”

“You’re being foolish, Clarisse.” He made an abrupt gesture that was uniquely his and that conveyed the life and energy in him that was ready to explode. “Never mind. I know what I will do.”

He strode to her desk, sat down, and drew pen and paper from a drawer. Magnificent in his nakedness, he began to write in sweeping, broad strokes.

She watched him. Perhaps it was the light, she thought. Perhaps it was the moment. But it seemed to her she could see through to his inner self with absolute clarity—the good in him, the faults, the tremendous potential.

He was so very sure of himself. He thought he’d learned everything there was to learn, but he hadn’t. He thought he had the world tamed and that all the rough times were behind him, but there would be more. He thought he was everything he could be now, but it was nothing compared to what he would become.

A thought occurred to her. Jake would have extraordinary children, and she envied the woman who would bear them.

He finished with a flourish, stood, and handed her the paper.

She bent her head and read.

I, Jacob Conall Deverell, hereby promise to grant a favor, unconditionally, to the bearer of this letter. In the event something prevents me from granting this favor, be it life or be it death, this promise is hereby binding on my heirs.

So stated in this the year of nineteen hundred and twenty-two.

                                                             Jacob Conall Deverell

One

Deverell Building, 
Boston, Massachusetts

Present day

Conall Jacob Deverell finished reading the note, lifted his head, and pinned the young woman sitting in front of his desk with a hard gaze. “Are you trying to tell me that my grandfather wrote this note to your great-aunt, Clarisse Haviland, and as a result I owe you a favor?"

Sharon Clarisse Graham inclined her head. “That’s right.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

She glanced down at her clasped hands. “Your grandfather, in effect, wrote my great-aunt a promissory note.”

“If 
Jake wrote this—”

“I assure you he did, but we can have an expert analyze the handwriting If you wish.”

His expression turned flinty at her Interruption. “—and
if
it was his wish to grant your great-aunt a favor, then it was to your great-aunt that the favor should have gone. The note says nothing about her heirs.”

“What the note says is that the promise is binding on
his
heirs and that the favor is to be granted to the
bearer
of the note.”

That was what it said all right, Conall agreed silently, knowing under any other circumstances he would have been amused at the grandiose gesture his grandfather had made as a young man. Jake, at twenty-two, must have been really something, and Clarisse, quite a woman.

Nylon whispered against nylon. Clarisse’s great-niece crossed her legs, breaking into his thoughts to remind him that she was a woman to be reckoned with as well, though in quite another way. But he was an accomplished gamesplayer in the world of business. He could handle her, though first he had to know what game they were playing and why they were playing it.

He had last seen her ten years before. She had never once in the intervening years tried to see him until today. She wanted money, of course.

“Your reputation in business is one of integrity,” she was saying. “It is that integrity I’m counting on when it comes to the honoring of your grandfather's note.”

“You’re counting on a great deal.”

“Oh, I’m well aware of that.”

The mockery he saw in her greenish-blue eyes pricked at him. Slowly he closed his hand around the note, crushing it.

“It's a copy,” she said softly.

“I don’t care if it’s an ancient piece of parchment found in the same cave with the Dead Sea Scrolls. There will be no favor granted to you.” 

She gave a patient sigh and settled more comfortably into the large wing chair. “All right, so much for honor. But what about your family’s name?”

He took her quietly posed question as a threat. With his uncle, Senator Seldon Deverell, in the race for the presidency of the United States, he had to proceed carefully until he knew what she was up to. Reporters were nipping like hungry dogs for juicy tidbits on the Deverell family.

He dropped the crumpled note onto the desk and sat back in his chair to study her. When he'd known her, she’d been eighteen, her hair wildly curly, and a free, natural spirit. Now her light brown hair was straight, pulled away from her face, and held at her nape by a plain gold barrette. Light, deftly applied makeup enhanced her smooth ivory complexion. Clear fingernail polish covered her short, manicured nails. She wore a severely tailored navy blue pinstripe suit and a plain white blouse. The hem of the straight skirt covered her knee, even with her sitting.

All in all, her appearance was very proper, he thought. Very professional. Very appropriate for making her way in what she no doubt saw as a man’s world.

But her look also had another consequence. It was sexy as hell, understated to the point that it worked on a man’s mind, making him wonder what she was hiding beneath the very plain exterior. He was sure she had carefully calculated the whole effect.

He was also sure she had figured to the penny the exorbitant sum of money she planned to try to extort from him.

He watched her hand idly rub the leather handle of her briefcase, an arrogant gesture that conveyed his scrutiny wasn’t bothering her and that she was content to wait until he was through. Very, very cool.

The card she had presented him at their meeting had stated she was a certified public accountant for what he knew to be a prestigious accounting firm. Perhaps she wanted the money to start up her own business, or even to buy a partnership in an existing company. The thing was, he didn’t care if she said she wanted it for an operation for her poor sainted mother. She wasn’t going to get it.

“Since you feel the promise is binding on Jake’s heirs, why didn’t you go to one of his other heirs—my father, for instance, or my cousin, Caitlin, or even my uncle, Senator Deverell. You could have caused quite a commotion in my uncle’s camp.”

“It’s not my intention to cause a commotion, and I chose you because you’re the most appropriate person for what I want.”

She wanted to cause a commotion all right, he reflected cynically, and he knew why she had chosen him. Among other things, with his father retired, Caitlin interested in other things, and Seldon in politics, the Deverell business empire was totally and completely under his control. She must want an enormous sum. “Did you know about the relationship between your great-aunt and my grandfather when we were seeing each other?”

BOOK: The Promise
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