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Texas Bride by Joan Johnston - Romance>Westerns/Cowboys
HE MAY BE HER ONLY HOPE.
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"It's a disaster," Hannah said. "Plain and simple. We're DOOMED."
"You're the only thing standing between us and Miss Birch," Hannah's twin, Henrietta, confirmed. "Once you're gone, we're dead ducks." Hetty drew a dramatic finger across her throat, dropped her head sideways, stuck out her tongue, and crossed her eyes. Miranda Wentworth choked back a sob. "Surely not doomed," she said with a wobbly smile, as she met the gazes of the two seventeen-year-olds sitting to the left of her on the hard dining room bench. But things were going to be bad. The headmistress at the Chicago Institute for
Orphaned Children, Miss Iris
Birch, had promised as much.
Miranda and her five siblings had snuck into the dining room after lights out to sit on plank benches at a plank table set on a frigid brick floor. The whale oil lantern in the center of the table created sinister shadows that turned their features into gargoyle faces. Miranda could see the two younger boys shivering on the bench across from her, huddled under the thin, gray wool blankets they'd taken from their beds.
"The subject of this meeting is Miranda's imminent departure from the Institute," sixteen-year-old Josephine announced from her seat beside Nicholas, the elder of the two boys.
Miranda shivered, and not just from the cold. The thought of leaving her sisters and brothers behind when she was forced to leave the orphanage on her eighteenth birthday was terrifying.
The six Wentworth children had been orphaned three years ago in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which had burned for three days, destroying most of the business district, including their father's bank.
It had also burned down their three-story mansion and killed their father and mother. Their wealth had gone up in flames, along with their home. Destitute and homeless, their uncle, Stephen Wentworth, had decided the best place for them was an orphanage.
Miranda had begged Uncle Stephen to let them live with him, but his home had also burned down. There was no "home" where they could all be together. So the Wentworth children had ended up at the Institute. Uncle Stephen had promised they would all be together again as soon as he could rebuild.
But that day had never come.
Repeated pleas for rescue from the cruelty of Miss Birch had gone unanswered. Letters to Uncle Stephen's last known address had come back unopened. There was no way of knowing what had happened to him.
Then, a year ago, Josie had read an article in the business section of the Daily Herald announcing that Mr. Stephen Wentworth was opening a new bank. It appeared Uncle Stephen was not only alive and well, but that he was rich enough to open a bank!
Miranda had immediately written to their uncle at the bank's address, asking why he hadn't come to get them as he'd promised. That letter had resulted in a visit from Uncle Stephen.
Miranda flushed every time she remembered that meeting. Uncle Stephen had told her he felt ill equipped to be a surrogate parent. They would have to stay where they were. Furthermore, she was not to con tact him again. It wasn't his fault they were orphans. He wasn't the one who'd wanted a large family, his brother had. And it wasn't his fault their father hadn't kept his funds somewhere...
Texas BrideBy: Joan Johnston