Mail Order Bride: Westward Winds (Montana Mail Order Brides: Book 1)Linda Bridey / History & Fiction / Romance & Love / Western
Mail Order Bride: Westward Winds
Montana Mail Order Brides: Book 1
Copyright © 2015 by Linda Bridey
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Maureen O’Connor watched her eldest daughter once again turn down a request to dance. She sighed resignedly. This was yet another night wasted on her headstrong girl. Theresa O’Connor was beautiful, witty, intelligent, and completely bored with their society. None of the would-be suitors were up to her high standards because they were, in her estimation, also boring.
She turned back to the conversation between her husband, Geoffrey, and his long-time friend, Alex Winters. They were discussing some matter of business that really didn’t interest her. Maureen knew her husband better than anyone and could tell Geoffrey had also noticed their daughter’s dismissal of the elegant young man. His handsome visage tightened imperceptibly and his deep brown eyes reflected his disapproval.
She laid a hand on his arm and smiled slightly.
He arched a brow at her and said, “Do you find this amusing?”
“I find it aggravating and amusing, dear. It’s aggravating because these events thrown in her honor seem not to be doing any good. It’s amusing because she reminds me so much of you. Always wants things her way,” Maureen responded.
Geoff tried to keep the smile from his face but it was a lost cause. He knew Maureen was right. Geoff was caught between pride that his oldest offspring was so much like him and annoyance because he couldn’t make her behave for the very same reason. “I’m glad you’re enjoying this so much.”
Maureen’s smile grew. “Oh, no, Geoff. Not I. I think it’s awful.” She broke off into laughter, not able to continue as Geoff’s expression darkened.
Alex turned and watched their daughter sit with two of her friends and talk animatedly. “Tessa shot down another one, eh?”
Geoff grunted. “Yes. How does she ever expect to marry a good man if she doesn’t give anyone a chance?”
His best friend turned back to him. “She knows what she wants and none of the men you keep thrusting upon her are what she’s after, I’m afraid.”
Maureen cleared her throat. “Maybe she’s a little more like me in that respect. I, too, wanted something different and I got it,” she said, with a gentle squeeze of Geoff’s arm.
“As did I,” her husband responded.
Alex grinned as he remembered their courtship. “And what a splendid time it was, watching the two of you duke it out. At times, it was hard to tell who the hunter was or who the prey was.”
“Some of both, as I recall,” Maureen said.
“Agreed,” Geoff said. “Well, wife, I suppose we should mingle and dazzle the masses with our charm and wit. Too bad dear Tessa hasn’t learned any of that from us.”
“Oh, I think she has it in spades. After all, she charms her way out of punishment well enough,” Maureen said and followed her husband.
“Oh, and did you know that Melinda Wainwright was caught sneaking around with Scotty Monroe? He’s supposed to be courting Rachel Linden,” Roxanne Carter told the other two young women with whom she sat.
Johanna Dillinger sat forward, “No! Who told you that?”
“I’m not going to reveal my sources, Jo,” Roxanne said. “But, they are quite close to both of them. It’s going to be quite interesting when it comes out, don’t you think, Tessa?”
“Surely,” Tessa said with no enthusiasm.
Her blue eyes, so like her mother’s, scanned the ballroom of their family home for any sign of anything that might interest her. She’d had no luck so far.
“And wild monkeys flew down from the heavens and landed on unicorns that took them to the desert, where they were eaten by naked old witches,” Roxanne said.
“Too bad I’m not one of them,” Tessa said.
Jo laughed behind a hand. “Which?”
“Either. It’s not every wild monkey who gets to fly and ride on unicorns and it’s not every witch who gets to sit around naked and eat monkeys,” Tessa answered, smiling brightly at Roxanne. “You thought I wasn’t listening. Fooled you.”
Roxanne frowned. “Don’t you want to know what’s happening in the world? You have to keep on top of things so you can make good decisions.”
Tessa gave a short laugh. “So knowing who’s fooling around with whom is helping you to make good decisions?”
“Yes, actually, it is. It’s helping me figure out which gentlemen are trustworthy and which aren’t. That way, I can make a smart decision about who I will marry and who will become the father of my children,” Roxanne said reasonably
Tessa grew irritated. “That’s all well and good for you, but I don’t want to have that kind of future. None of this matters to me; the balls, the society rules, the endless parade of stuffy men. No, it’s not for me and yet, I have no way out. I’m such a disappointment to my parents.”
Jo laid a hand on Tessa’s in consolation. “Is our life really so bad? I mean, we could be starving and penniless.”
Tessa smiled, not wanting to distress her friends. “No, it’s not bad, just tedious. I know that you and Roxie are quite happy to gossip and fret over the people in our circles, but I want something more exciting.” Her eyes found her parents as they talked to another couple. Her father was proud and charismatic and her mother was almost delicately beautiful. They were a very popular pair. She’d heard whisperings of their tumultuous courtship and smiled now as she remembered the stories.
There were times when she wished she could be more like her mother. She was respectable and always a lady. She had always been a wonderful mother and wife. However, Tessa knew she didn’t have her mother’s patience when it came to dealing with society. She had trouble being dutiful and attending parties and brunches while appearing to enjoy them.
No, high society wasn’t the place she wanted to be, but there was nothing for it. Her father looked her way, so she smiled at him, hoping he would think she was having a good time. She loved her father and didn’t want to disappoint him, but also wondered how she could be true to herself at the same time.
Her father could always see through her smokescreens and although he smiled back, it wasn’t a smile of real pleasure. It was so no one would guess he was displeased with her.
Tessa’s eyes dropped and she began teasing Roxie about all the horrible matches she could make to cover her feelings of inadequacy.
The following morning, Tessa sat at the dining room table with her mother and younger sisters. She read the daily paper, just as she always did. Geoffrey had already gone to his office for the day. He was an early riser and it was only on Sundays that he had breakfast with the family. However, he was always present for dinner unless something urgent took place.
“Tessa, tell us about the party,” asked her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire. Her light brown eyes were filled with excitement and her pretty smile eager.
Tessa’s eyes never left the paper as she answered Claire. “Tedious. Simply tedious.”
“Tessa!” her mother objected. “Do you know how much money we spend to throw these parties?”
“Mama, I have repeatedly asked you to stop throwing them because I’m not going to change my mind about them or suddenly start believing I’ll find my true love at one. I won’t,” Tessa said, putting down the paper and looking her mother in the eye. “I love you and Papa for all you’ve tried to do and your concern, but I’m fine as I am. Truly. You should be concentrating on Maddie’s coming out party.”
Maureen sighed and fixed her poached egg. “I don’t understand what it is you’re looking for.”
Maddie said, “Mama, if she doesn’t want the parties, I think she’s right. Throw them for me and for Claire when she comes of age.”
Maddie was a carbon copy of their mother. Her blonde waves cascaded over her shoulders and her lovely blue eyes had an entrancing quality, as many of the boys her age had found. Unbeknownst to their parents, Maddie was quite the little flirt.
Tessa knew but wasn’t about to tell on her sibling. She found it amusing as long as flirting was all that happened. She had been present during Maddie’s sweet-sixteen party and had kept close tabs on her sister without anyone realizing she was doing it. Now, at eighteen, Maddie was developing a very womanly figure and would bear close watching. Her coming out party was only two months away.
Maureen said, “I will take this up with your father.” Her tone was resigned and frustrated. “I think you are right and I think you are old enough to know your own mind, even if it is against what we want for you and what you should want for yourself.”
Tessa’s temper flared. “I fail to see that it’s right for anyone to say what I should and shouldn’t want for my life! Just because I don’t want what society says I should want, why does that make me wrong? These people don’t know me; they don’t know what I think, or what I feel. They don’t care and, quite frankly, I don’t care what they think of me, either.”
Claire interjected, “But, Tessa, Mama and Papa have to associate with these people. Think of Papa’s business. It’s crucial that we don’t embarrass them because it’s Papa’s business that keeps us living in the style we do.”
Though young, Claire was highly intelligent and most likely a genius. She had a strong interest in Geoff’s shipping business and his other ventures, and understood much of the operations, even at her age. Geoff often took her to his office on Saturdays and unlike many men of that time, he was very proud that his youngest daughter was interested in the family business and had an aptitude for it.
Tessa sat back in her chair and considered what Claire had said. Sometimes, Tessa felt as if Claire had more sense than anyone she knew outside of her parents. She saw the wisdom in her little sister’s remark. “I think you’re right, Claire. I need to consider their feelings, too. It’s only respectful to do so.” She turned to Maureen. “Mama, I apologize for my quick words. If you insist upon throwing parties for me, I’ll do my duty, but no more. I should be grateful for you and Papa taking care of me so well and I certainly do not wish to cause you any shame.”
Maureen smiled. “Although I thank you for that, I truly don’t think these parties are doing any good. I think continuing them is futile. However, we will require you to go to a certain number of parties to which you are invited. Especially Roxanne and Johanna’s parties. Oh, and you must continue to attend the dinner parties for your father’s business associates. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Yes!” Tessa’s smile was luminous. “I think those are very reasonable terms. Do you think Papa will agree?”
Maureen smiled sweetly. “Oh, I think I’ll be able to convince him.”
“Excellent!” Tessa said and went back to her paper.
Geoff kissed his wife and rolled over. His breathing was slightly ragged and he was perfectly content to lie still for a few moments. Maureen was in a similar state. Their lovemaking was always active, passionate, and extremely satisfying. She rolled over and snuggled against her handsome husband. She ran a hand over his muscular chest and pressed a kiss against it.
Geoff put an arm around her and held her close. “Well, you were particularly frisky tonight,” he said.
Maureen chuckled against his side. “You just bring out that side of me, husband. It’s not as if you weren’t frisky yourself.”
Geoff laughed. “Touché.”
Maureen turned serious. “We need to discuss Tessa.”
“Oh, no. What’s she done now?”
“It’s not what she’s done, it’s what she isn’t going to do. These parties are not doing anything but making her more dissatisfied. I don’t think we should bother with them. Maddie is the one who wants them and she is so excited about her coming out. We should focus on that and give Tessa some breathing room. However, she should attend a certain number of parties to which she’s invited and also continue with our business dinners,” Maureen said in a rush.
Geoff’s response was to laugh and roll Maureen back over. “You are a conniver, Maureen O’Connor. Did she agree to that?”
Maureen arched a delicate brow at him. “A conniver I may be, but only for a good cause. Yes, she did. I thought they were decent terms. You’ve always said that in any good agreement, there’s give and take.”
“So I have.” Geoff weighed the subject and saw that the deal was a good one. “Very well. I agree with you.”
Maureen laughed and hugged Geoff. “You are the best husband and father!” She wiggled under Geoff.
He grinned and kissed her neck. “Really? So how about we seal the deal?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Maureen said.
Their lovemaking was slow and tender this time and Maureen did indeed show Geoff what a wonderful husband he was to her.
Geoff called Tessa into his office in the morning. Tessa knew this was not her father’s usual schedule and was nervous as she perched on one of the chairs in front of his large, mahogany desk. She watched her father close the door and settle in his office chair. He was a large man, standing around six-foot three and close to two hundred pounds, and the chair creaked a little under his weight. Geoff looked at her for a few moments without saying anything.
Tessa knew he was sizing her up, much the way he did a business opponent. He was looking for any weakness. She lifted her chin and looked him in the eye.
“What’s on your mind, Papa?” she asked.
Geoff smiled inwardly at her bravado. She was tough as nails and it made him feel good. Whoever she did eventually marry wouldn’t be able to run roughshod over her. He wanted his daughters to be appreciated and loved, not ruled over. At least with Tessa, he knew that wouldn’t happen.
“Your mother has informed me that the two of you have come up with a proposal on which you agree. She brought this to me last evening and wanted to know if I approve,” he stated.
Tessa fought the urge to fidget, knowing it would be a signal of her nervousness.
“Yes. That’s true. Both of us thought it reasonable and beneficial to both parties,” she said.
Geoff barely contained his smile at her use of business lingo. Apparently she was paying attention somewhat during their dinners with his colleagues. “If I agree to the terms set forth, what do you intend to do with the extra time you will have on your hands?”
Tessa was stunned. She hadn’t given any thought to that. Her father was waiting for an answer and her mind spun as she tried to come up with something acceptable. She decided on honesty because Geoff would be able to see through any lies she invented.
“I haven’t considered that, simply because I didn’t think you would agree to this.”
He nodded. “That’s understandable. However, if I agree to this, I expect you to come up with a worthy way to fill your time. I’ll not have you simply lying around eating bonbons and such.”
Tessa grinned. “When have you ever known me to lie around eating bonbons?”
“True. You’ve always been active. It was annoying as hell when you were a little girl,” he confessed. He didn’t often swear in front of his girls, but Tessa was not as sensitive as their other two daughters.
“Is it my fault that I take after you, Papa?” she said sweetly.
He frowned. “You know, it’s rather irritating that everyone keeps reminding me of that.”
“You’re full of it. You love it and you know it,” Tessa teased.
“Back to our subject. I’m serious about you spending your time on something worthy. I don’t care if it’s a charity or some type of education. You have a fortnight to decide. I expect an answer within that time frame. As of this moment, there will be no more parties, but if you do not uphold your end of the bargain, the agreement is null and void and the parties will resume,” he told Tessa.
She could see her father was dead serious and even though she was thrilled with his answer, Tessa kept her happiness in check for the moment. “We are agreed.”
Only then did he smile again. “You are incorrigible. Now, come give me a kiss goodbye. I must get to the office.”
Tessa jumped up and went around the desk and hugged her father. She planted a huge kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, Papa! Have a wonderful day. I love you.”
“I love you, too. Now, off with you,” Geoff said gruffly.
Tessa wanted to run from the room, but walked out in a lady-like fashion. She mounted the stairs and kept her composure until she reached her room. Once there, Tessa ran to her bed, buried her face in her pillow, and shouted her joy. Then she got up and twirled around the room, performing some moves that would have made anyone watching think she’d gone mad.
A weight had been lifted and now Tessa could start to live life somewhat as she wanted. She lay back on her bed and began thinking about what she would do with her extra time. There would be extra time because she didn’t have to spend hours preparing for and attending the dreaded parties. During the season, it wasn’t unheard of to have an event almost every night.
If she became involved in a charity, it would mean more functions and because that was what she was trying to avoid, she decided against it. What could she do educationally? Society had little use for truly educated women, although her father was very forward thinking in that respect and had made a large donation to Chatham College for Women in Shadyside, an affluent area of Pittsburgh.
She decided to contact them to make an appointment to visit. The idea of taking a few classes was appealing to her. It would certainly be something different and she would meet new people, too. Tessa ran downstairs to tell Maureen the news.