A passion denied, p.1
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       A Passion Denied, p.1

           Julie Lessman
 
A Passion Denied


  A PASSION

  DENIED

  Other books by Julie Lessman

  The Daughters of Boston series

  A Passion Most Pure

  A Passion Redeemed

  THE DAUGHTERS of BOSTON • 3

  A PASSION

  DENIED

  JULIE LESSMAN

  © 2009 by Julie Lessman

  Published by Revell

  a division of Baker Publishing Group

  P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

  www.revellbooks.com

  Printed in the United States of America

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Lessman, Julie, 1950–

  A passion denied / Julie Lessman.

  p. cm. — (The daughters of Boston ; bk. 3)

  ISBN 978-0-8007-3213-4 (pbk.)

  1. Irish American families—Fiction. 2. Sisters—Fiction. E. Boston (Mass.)— Fiction. 4. United States—History—1913–1921—Fiction. I. Title.

  PS3612.E8189P36 2009

  813'.6—dc22 2009000246

  Scripture is taken from the following versions:

  The King James Version of the Bible.

  The Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  To the love of my life, Keith Lessman—

  the true definition of God doing

  “exceedingly abundantly” more than I think,

  hope, or pray—

  every day with you is better than the last.

  O LORD my God, how great you are!

  You are robed with honor and with majesty . . .

  You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind.

  The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants.

  Psalm 104:1–4 NLT

  Contents

  1

  2

  3

  4

  5

  6

  7

  8

  9

  10

  11

  12

  13

  14

  15

  16

  17

  18

  19

  20

  21

  Acknowledgments

  1

  BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, SPRING 1922

  Oh, to be a calculating woman! Elizabeth O’Connor sighed. She dodged her way down the bustling sidewalk of Boston’s thriving business district, wishing she were more like her sister, Charity. She chewed on her lip. Regrettably, she wasn’t—a definite character flaw at the moment. And one that would have to change.

  She sidestepped a rickety wood wagon heaped high with the Boston Herald, hot off the presses. The freckle-faced boy hauling it muttered an apology before disappearing into a sea of pin-striped suits, short skirts, and bobbed hair. On his heels, a young mother ambled along, cooing to a wide-eyed baby in a stroller. The baby’s soft chuckle floated by, and the sound buoyed Elizabeth’s spirits. Spring in the city! Despite the whiff of gasoline and tobacco drifting in the unseasonably warm breeze, she sensed that the promise of love was in the air. Her heart fluttered. And maybe, just maybe, a little spring fever would do the trick!

  She pressed her nose to the window of McGuire & Brady Printing Company and peered inside. John Morrison Brady was bent over a press with a screwdriver in his hand, his lean, muscled body poised for battle. Her chin hardened, and her smile faded. That man suffered from a terminal illness that would be the death of their relationship: friendship. Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. And the worst kind of friendship at that—the big-brother kind.

  She touched a hand to the wavy shingle haircut her friend Millie had talked her into. “It’s all the rage, Lizzzzzie Lou,” Millie had insisted, the sound of Lizzie’s name buzzing on her tongue in Millie’s typical busy-bee manner. A self-proclaimed modern woman, Millie had convinced Elizabeth “Beth” O’Connor to change her name to Lizzie over a year ago—to add excitement to her life, she’d said. And now, in the throes of radical 1920s fashion, Lizzie’s best friend had also convinced her that the chestnut tresses trailing her back simply had to go. The result was a short, fashionable bob, newly shorn just yesterday. Softly waved, it fell to just below her ear, showing off her heart-shaped face and slender neck to good advantage. Or so Millie had said. She squinted at her reflection in the window. She did look older, more sophisticated, she supposed. And it certainly seemed as if she had turned a few more heads at the bookstore where she worked. She took a deep breath and opened the door, spurred on by the tinkling bell overhead. Now to turn the right one . . .

  Her brother-in-law, Collin, looked up from his desk where he tallied invoices for printing jobs just completed. A slow grin spread across his handsome face before he let out a low whistle, causing a pleasant wash of heat to seep into her cheeks. “Sweet saints above, Lizzie, is that really you? What are you trying to do? Break a few hearts?”

  Her gaze flicked to the back room where Brady lay on a flat wooden dolly beneath their Bullock web-fed press. She studied his long legs sprawled and splattered with ink, then looked back at Collin with a shaky smile. “Nope, only one. But I suspect it’s forged in steel.”

  Collin chuckled and glanced over his shoulder, stretching muscular arms overhead. “Yep, I’d say so, but I admire your tenacity. You might say you’re the little sister he never had. But I suspect that pretty new hairdo and stylish outfit could go a long way in changing his mind.”

  She grinned and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Thanks, Collin. One can only hope.” She tugged on her lavender, low-waisted dress, then smoothed out its scalloped layers with sweaty palms. “And pray, I suppose, since it is Brady we’re dealing with here.”

  Collin stood and draped an arm around her shoulders. He lowered his voice and gave her a squeeze. “He’ll wake up one of these days, Lizzie. I just hope it’s not too late. You’re too pretty to be waiting around. And he’s a slow one, you know.”

  She sighed and leaned against him, staring at Brady with longing in her eyes. “Now there’s a news flash for you.”

  Collin laughed and gave her a gentle prod toward the back room. “Show him no mercy, Lizzie.”

  She nodded and made her way to the rear of the shop, her pulse tripping faster than the tap-tap-tapping of Brady’s trusty screwdriver. She stopped at the foot of the press and sucked in a deep swallow of air. “I have a notion, John Brady, that whenever you want to get away from the world, you disappear under that silly machine.”

  A deep-throated chuckle floated up between the rotors of the press. He rolled out, flat on his back. The smile froze on his face. “Beth? What’d ya do to your hair?”

  Heat flooded her cheeks. “I had it bobbed. Do you like it?”

  He sat up and rubbed his jaw with the side of his hand, screwdriver angled as if he were playing a violin. “Yeah . . . it’s pretty, I guess. In a newfangled sort of way.”

  She twirled around to give him the full effect, her smile brimming with hope. “Well, I am a modern woman, in case you haven’t noticed.”

  He lumbered to his feet. His tall frame unfolded to eliminate everything else in her view.
He squinted and scrunched his nose, causing smudges of ink to wrinkle across his tanned cheek. “Mmmm . . . makes you look old.”

  “I am old, Brady, a fact you refuse to acknowledge. Almost eighteen, remember?”

  He chuckled. “Seventeen, Beth, and I’ll give you the half.”

  He turned and ambled to the sink to wash his hands. His husky laugh lingered in the air. She stared at the work shirt spanning his back and barely noticed the ink stains for the broad shoulders and hard muscles cording his arms.

  He dried his hands on a towel and turned to lean against the counter. The corners of his mouth flickered as if a grin wanted to break free. “You’ll always be a little girl to me, little buddy, especially with your wide eyes and those roses in your cheeks. I suspect I’ll feel that way when you’re long gone and married, with a houseful of little girls all your own. That’s just the way it is with big brothers.”

  She notched her powdered chin in the air. “You’re not my brother, John Brady, and no amount of touting will make it so.” She propped hands to her waist and gave him a ruby red pout. “And I’m not a little girl. I’m a woman . . . with feelings—”

  “Beth, we’ve been over this before.” He slacked a hip and ran a calloused hand over his face. His brown eyes softened with compassion. “I see you as my little sister, nothing more. These ‘feelings’ you think you have for me—”

  “Know I have for you! I know it, even if you don’t.” Her chest rose and fell with indignation.

  He groaned. “All right, these feelings you know you have for me . . . I’ve known you since you were thirteen, Elizabeth, and I’ve been a mentor in your faith since fourteen. It’s natural for you to think you have feelings—”

  She stomped her foot. “Know, Brady, I know! And if you weren’t so socially inept and totally blind—”

  He rose to his full six-foot-three height, making her five foot seven seem almost petite. The chiseled line of his jaw hardened with the motion. “Come on, Beth, totally blind?” His gaze flicked into the next room as if he were worried Collin was listening.

  Tears threatened and she wanted to bolt, but she fought it off. This was too important. Fueled by frustration long dormant, she slapped her leather clutch onto the table and strode forward. She jabbed a finger into his hard-muscled chest. “Yes, blind, you baboon! And don’t be looking to see what Collin thinks, because he knows it too. Honestly, Brady, as far as the Bible, you’re head and shoulders above anyone I know. But when it comes to seeing what God may have for you right in front of your ink-stained nose, you don’t have a clue.” She dropped a trembling hand to her quivering stomach. Oh my, where had that come from?

  He stood, mouth gaping. A spray of red mottled his neck. “Beth, what’s gotten into you?”

  She faltered back, shocked at the thoughts and feelings whirling in her brain. With a rush of adrenaline, she crossed her arms and stared him down, energized by her newfound anger. “You’ve gotten into me, John Brady, and I want to know straight out why you refuse to acknowledge me as a woman? Am I not pretty enough? Smart enough? Mature enough?”

  The ruddiness in his neck traveled to his ears. He took a commanding stride toward her and latched a hand on her arm. With a firm grip, he pushed her into a chair at the table and squatted beside her. “Beth, stop this! I’m close to thirty, which is way too old for you. You’re young and beautiful and smart, and more mature than most girls . . . women . . . I’ve met. You’re going to make some lucky man a wonderful wife.”

  She stared at his handsome face, the contrast of gentle eyes and hard-sculpted features making her heart bleed. Wisps of cinnamon-colored hair curled up at the back of his neck, softening the hard line of his jaw, which was already shadowed by afternoon growth. She swallowed hard, the taste of dread pasty in her throat. “Just not you,” she whispered.

  A muscle flinched in his cheek. He smothered her hands between his large, calloused ones. “I love you, you know that—”

  She looked away, unable to bear the empathy in his eyes. “But you’re not attracted to me—”

  As soft as a child’s kiss, he lifted her chin with his finger, urging her eyes to his. “Of course I’m attracted to you—your gentle spirit, your thirst for God, your innocence—it draws me to want to protect you and care for you—as a friend and a brother.”

  Brother. The sound of that hateful word stiffened her spine. She jerked her hand free and angled her chin. “But not as a woman, is that it? Someone you can take in your arms and kiss and make love to?”

  Blood gorged his cheeks as he stood up. A rare hint of anger sparked in his eyes, and satisfaction flooded her soul. So he wasn’t pure stone. Good! At least she could arouse his temper, if nothing else.

  “So help me, if you spent a fraction of the time reading the Bible as you do those silly romance novels, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”

  She jumped up with tears stinging her eyes. “And if you took your nose out of your Bible long enough to see that God has a plan for your life other than smearing yourself with ink, you might see that you are the problem.” With a gasping sob, she snatched her purse from the table and rammed it hard against his chest, pushing him out of the way. She turned toward the door.

  He stumbled back, then grabbed her arm. “Beth, wait! We need to pray about this . . .”

  She flung his hand away. Humiliation and anger broiled her cheeks. “No, you pray about it. It seems to be the only thing you know how to do. And while you’re at it, pray that he heals that stupid streak inside of you . . . and in me, too, for loving you like I do.” She bolted for the door, ignoring Collin’s gaping stare.

  “Beth—” Pain echoed in Brady’s voice.

  She whirled around, hand fisted on the knob. “And one more prayer, Brady, if you don’t mind. Pray that I hate you, will you? Shouldn’t be too hard, I don’t think. You make it so easy.”

  The door slammed closed, rattling the glass.

  Brady blinked at Collin. “What just happened?”

  Collin let out a low whistle and arched a brow. “Don’t look now, ol’buddy, but I think you’re back in the Great War. What’d ya say to set her off like that? I’ve never seen Lizzie lose her temper before.”

  Brady exhaled and dropped into his desk chair. He mauled his face with his hand. “Beth. Her name is Beth, Collin, and I didn’t say anything I haven’t said before.”

  “She’s been Lizzie for over a year. It’s what her friends call her and her family most of the time. You’re the only holdout— in more ways than one.”

  Brady glanced up, his eyes burning with fatigue. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

  “It means she’s not thirteen anymore, she’s a grown woman. You’re the only one who still treats her like a kid.”

  “Don’t start with this, please,” Brady groaned. “I’m way too tired.”

  Collin sighed and shuffled to the rack over the door to snatch his keys. “So is Lizzie. Tired of being in love with someone who treats her like a little sister. She wants more. How long are you going to ignore it?”

  Brady dropped his head in his hand to shield his eyes. “I haven’t ignored it. I’ve been praying it would go away.”

  “Burying your head in the sand—or in your prayers—won’t work, ol’ buddy. You taught me that.”

  The truth congealed in Brady’s stomach along with the cold oatmeal he’d eaten for lunch. “I know,” he whispered.

  Collin stared for a moment, then wandered over to Brady’s desk. He sat down on an old proof sheet and crossed his arms. “Look, I’ve tried not to butt in where Lizzie is concerned, but it’s kind of hard right now. And to be honest with you, I’m worried.”

  “You don’t need to worry about Beth.”

  Collin sighed and rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s not Beth I’m talking about.”

  “Well, don’t worry about me, either, because first thing Monday, I’m going to sit her down and explain once and for all why we can’t be more than friends.”
r />   Collin’s gaze narrowed. “And why is that, exactly? Because you’re not attracted to her?”

  Heat blistered Brady’s cheeks.

  Collin stared, then broke into a grin. “You are, aren’t you?”

  “Knock it off, Collin.”

  Collin chuckled. “No, Brady, I won’t ‘knock it off.’ Everybody in this family knows how Lizzie feels about you, but nobody really knows how you feel about her. Until now.”

  Brady jumped up and headed to the back room, heat stinging his neck. “I’m going home.”

  “You’re in love with my sister-in-law, aren’t you?” Collin hopped up and followed. “Why don’t you just admit it?”

  Brady spun around. “I love Beth, but not in that way.”

  Collin hesitated and his smile faded. He cocked his head. “I know you won’t lie, so I’m asking you one more time. Are you attracted to Lizzie?”

  “I don’t have to answer that.”

  “No, but I’m asking as a friend—to both you and Lizzie. Are you?”

  Brady stared, his heart pounding in his chest like the rotors of the Bullock pounding behind them. His voice was barely a whisper. “Yes.”

  “I knew it! That’s great news. So, what’s the problem?”

  “Because I can’t love her that way.”

  Collin frowned. “Why not? I don’t understand. You’re a man and she’s a woman—”

  “No!” Brady shocked himself with the vehemence in his tone. “She’s like a sister to me. I could never—would never— think of Beth that way.”

  Collin blinked. “Calm down, ol’ buddy. Lizzie is not your sister no matter how much you see it that way. I can’t help but think there’s more to this, John, something you’re not telling me. What is it? Why are you holding back?”

  Nausea curdled in Brady’s stomach. He fought back a shudder. “Nothing, Collin. Nothing I care to go into.”

  Collin stared long and hard. He finally sighed and jingled the keys in his pocket. “Okay, I’ll leave it be. For now. But I can’t leave Lizzie be. She’s in love with you, my friend, and if you don’t intend to return that love, then you better do something about it. Now.”

 
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