What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.While the War Between the States grips America, Franklin Garrett fights his own battle. A wolf shifter, he successfully manages Rutledge Estates, but he's a failure at romance. When an old family foes resurfaces and threatens his idyllic life, he sends his cousin Grey and his wife Lyndal away for their safety. Unfortunately, a different sort of peril lands right on his doorstep, stirring his protectiveness and sense of duty.
Caroline Harrison's brother is detained in Camp Morton, a Union war prison in Indianapolis. Led by intuition, she arrives at Rutledge Estates, where she's promptly kissed by an inebriated Franklin. Her personal desires collide with her devotion to her family and her personal promises, yet Southern charm will see her through. Though she's had enough of arrogant men, she needs his help to spring her brother.
When the man who decimated the Rutledge wolf pack shows up, both Franklin and Caroline must figure out what's more important in life—family or love?
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~Excerpt~October 20, 1863
"Unfortunately, my dear Mr. Garrett, our courtship is at an end. We just don’t suit after all."
The matter-of-fact announcement from Miss Hattie Terrance caused Franklin’s gut to clench. He lost his appetite to finish the remainder of his supper. "I beg your pardon?" He dabbed at lips with a snowy linen napkin and then laid it over his lap. All around him, the dining room of the Carlisle Hotel buzzed with genteel activity. From the low ebb of conversation to the flicker of candlelight on the tables to the faint ring of silverware against bone china, the scene gave off a romantic air, one that apparently was lost on Hattie. He slid his wire-rimmed spectacles up the bridge his nose to better regard his female dining companion. "We don’t suit?"
"Not in the least." Her easy smile, the one that used to put him at ease, now displaced his enjoyment of the evening with a heavy sense of foreboding.
"Perhaps you should explain. When did you come to this decision?"
She efficiently cut into her chicken breast, balanced the knife on the edge of her china plate, and then transferred the fork to her left hand. "Precisely at the moment you kissed me when you collected me for dinner this evening. It was the last straw, after all."
"The last straw?" Yet when he’d done so, she’d simpered and returned his kiss without a word. Troubling indeed. "Why would my kiss tonight be any different than the other embraces I’ve given you?" He took a sip from his water goblet and set it aside with a frown. He and Hattie had been more or less courting for the better part of two months, having become friends during his cousin Grey’s ill-fated house party, and they had been in each other’s company since. He’d assumed they’d been compatible. She’d never complained before.
But then, women were fickle creatures.
Hattie tucked a stray tendril of blonde hair into the bun it had escaped from. "That is exactly the problem." She slipped the bite of chicken into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed before continuing. "Your embraces are uninspired, Franklin. Your kisses lack zest or heat. In short, you’ve become predictable, and that is a disappointing turn of events."
"My dear, this is hardly a conversation to have over dinner, let alone surrounded by the general populace." A slow burn of indignation crept up the back of his neck. "And even if it were, why didn’t you bring the problem to my attention earlier?" Despite the high impropriety of the conversation, his curiosity wouldn’t be denied.
"I believe I did. You simply refused to listen."
"I would have remembered such an announcement." For the first time in his life, he had no idea what to do with his hands or where to look while in her company. How did a man behave when presented with such a dismal assessment of his romantic prowess?
With a sigh, she gently laid her fork on her near-empty plate. "For the past week, I’ve tried to direct your amorous attention to the various places on my person I like to be touched, but you have a backward notion in your head that women aspire to gentleness and respect while kissing or performing other tasks. At times, this isn’t so."
"I’m afraid I don’t understand."
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