Enchanting the Heiress
Hearts on the Heath
Miss Harriet Hancock enjoys playing the role of eccentric heiress, using her wealth and influence to cleverly and anonymously better the lives of those in Newmarket. Though she keeps people at a distance to protect a years-old secret, when her friend pleads for help on a personal project, Harriet can't resist.
Stable hand Jonas Fitzroy would do anything for his twin sister, even if it means seeking out the woman whose meddling ways have made him wary and suspicious. The last thing he expects is for Miss Hancock to request his help in writing a book. Intent on revealing her underlying plan, Jonas agrees.
As they work together, an unexpected friendship forms. But when things for once don't go according to Harriet's plan, she's left wondering if good intentions might not be enough. Is there a way to mend the broken pieces of her life? And will Jonas give her another chance at his heart?
Read an Excerpt
Jonas hadn’t participated in anything resembling school for many years, but he was certain that his sister’s definition of the word simple hadn’t come from the same dictionary the rest of the English-speaking world consulted.
He flicked a glance in her direction to acknowledge that he’d heard her speak, then turned his attention back to the horse he was grooming.
Sophia sighed and set her fists on her hips. “You’re being ridiculous.”
“I’m being ridiculous?” Jonas tilted his head, his expression conveying his disbelief plain enough that sisterly intuition would not be required to discern it.
Although perhaps he couldn’t trust Sophia’s ability to determine the unspoken. After six years of traveling the country, scraping out a living from amongst those who would just as soon take advantage of them as leave them to rot in a ditch, she shouldn’t have trouble seeing potential manipulation and deceit.
Yet here she was, happily suggesting that he deliberately deepen his connection to a woman who nearly wrecked—or at least seriously delayed—Sophia’s chance to marry the love of her life. Jonas tried to be a forgiving man, but Sophia had been married for three months now, and Miss Hancock was still sticking her nose into his sister’s life. The clothing recommendations, societal guidance, and client referrals wouldn’t be a problem on their own, but when they all hailed from the same source and were wrapped in subtlety, they became a picture of controlled manipulation.
And there was nothing Jonas could do about it.
His sister was married and building a life of her own, had a husband to watch over her and a group of friends she loved dearly. Since she needed and craved all those connections, he was glad she now had them. If only the good didn’t bring a little bad along with it.
Jonas shook his head and ran a hand down the horse’s leg so he could lift the hoof and clean it. “This is not a simple favor you’re asking. You know that. Nothing involving that woman is simple.”
“Don’t say that woman in such a tone. Harriet is my friend.” Sophia crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her nose in the air, a sure sign that she knew her request had been far too large and much too understated.
Whether Harriet Hancock truly was a friend was debatable, but Sophia was right that he shouldn’t disparage the woman. At least not out loud. He was aware of plenty of people who lived as they shouldn’t, and he had no trouble keeping their names out of his mouth. He likely wouldn’t have an issue with Miss Hancock either if she nosed into any life other than Sophia’s.
This happy world his sister had found was so new and fragile, though. Jonas didn’t want to see her crushed beneath the rubble if it fell down.
Since he couldn’t say something nice, he said nothing at all.
His sister changed tactics. “Are you truly attempting to convince me you’re happy here?”
He placed the hoof back on the ground and straightened to squint at her. “I am happy.”
At least he wasn’t unhappy. His life was no longer filled with the stress of day-to-day survival, and the injury he’d sustained many months ago had healed enough that he barely noticed it unless he spent a long day in the saddle. Now he had a home with filling food and a real bed and enough money to purchase a sketchbook to draw in during his recently attained free time. All of that while staying in close proximity to his newly married sister.
What was there to be unhappy about?
She wrapped her arms around her middle and shifted her weight before pleading, “But couldn’t you be happier?”
Could he? Probably. Life always held room for improvement, didn’t it? He enjoyed working with the horses even if he didn’t have Sophia’s passion for it. Nothing else created a burning dream within him, so why walk away from a good thing?
He examined Sophia. She was happy, wasn’t she? When she’d given up the dream she’d claimed for years in order to grab for a different future, she hadn’t seemed to see it as a sacrifice. It had been a few months now, though. They’d lived in Newmarket longer than they’d lived anywhere since their parents died. Had his current contentment made him miss a change of heart in her?
“Could you be happier?”
“With my life? No.” She sagged against the wall of the horse’s stall, a dreamy smile flitting across her lips. “I’m married to the most wonderful man in the world.” She coughed and glanced his way. “Aside from you, of course.”
Jonas rolled his eyes and moved to the next hoof. It didn’t bother him that his place in Sophia’s life had shifted. A woman should love her husband more than her brother. What did bother him was Sophia’s growing obtrusiveness. This morning’s suggestion might have been the craziest, but it wasn’t the first.