Marrying for Moneybyharemgirl©
Finally, he had made it home to find that his plantation was still intact, though it was in shambles from years of neglect. His parents had died from typhoid fever mere weeks before his return, and he could only wonder about the fate of his brother Steven, though Trevor prayed that he had survived. The former slaves were scattered to the winds. Only the buildings remained standing, in bad need of repair, and all the possessions had been stolen or destroyed by raiding union troops and scavengers. His home was a deserted, empty shell, and Trevor had felt hopeless and completely defeated.
The only thing that kept him going was the hope that Eliza was still waiting for him, and he wasted no time in seeking her out. Her family's plantation had fared no better than his, but he had been thrilled to learn that she and her family had survived the war. While she was glad to see him, her manner was somewhat reserved. He attributed her lack of enthusiasm to their long separation, and set out on a vigorous campaign to rekindle their romance, urging her to set a wedding date as soon as possible.
He had his hands full trying to court her and rebuild his plantation at the same time. He had worked day and night finding ex-slaves who were willing to work his land for him in return for a share of the crops. There were a surprising number of them who remained loyal due to his family's kind treatment of them over the years, and he had managed to gather enough laborers to cultivate a good crop his first season. The invading Yankees had not known that his father kept a small stash of gold underneath the floorboards of the kitchen, and with the money, Trevor had been able to pay the exorbitant taxes on his land and buy seed and tools for the coming year. All things considered, he had fared better than most, although he was barely scraping by.
Eliza had completely surprised him the night she showed up on his doorstep, three weeks after his return from the war, looking absolutely delectable in a new gown. He hadn't thought to question where she had gotten the money for such a luxurious purchase, simply assuming that her family had somehow managed. She had given him a smile that was at once both shy and direct.
"Trevor, I don't want to wait any longer. I love you and I want you. I want to be with you tonight."
Trevor's pulse leaped in anticipation as he looked at her with surprise and longing. "You've decided on a wedding date then?"
She reached up to touch his cheek, surprising him with a sultry smile while molding her body against the length of his. "We can talk about that later. Tonight is just for us."
Stretching up, she had kissed him on the lips and twined her arms around his neck. Having missed her for so long, he wasn't capable of refusing her offer. Their lovemaking had been tender but passionate, with him taking great care to be gentle with her as he introduced her to the joys of intimacy. Trevor had undressed her with reverence, unveiling her perfect body like the most precious of gifts. He had tasted every inch of her delectable flesh, stroking her virgin body into frenzied passion. When he buried his cock inside her pussy he felt truly home, and when he pumped his seed deep into her womb, he felt truly happy for the first time in years. Despite her inexperience, Eliza had proven to be an enthusiastic lover, and they had made love repeatedly until dawn. When Trevor took her home, she gave him a lingering farewell kiss, and slipped into her house before anyone woke up.
Two days later, Trevor had been working on one of the outbuildings, when Eliza's older brother Tom rode up to speak with him. Trevor could tell immediately that something was wrong from the way Tom shifted uncomfortably in the saddle and refused to meet his eye. They had grown up together as boys, and Trevor felt almost as if Tom were his own brother.
"What's wrong, Tom. I can tell you didn't simply drop by for a social visit."
Tom cleared his throat and finally managed to look him in the eye while speaking very softly. "I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but Eliza has eloped with a Yankee officer."
Trevor's face registered his shock, as he sat down quickly on a nearby stump. "What are you talking about? Eliza would never do such a thing!"
Tom looked down at his hands as they fiddled with the reins. "I assure you she did. She left a note saying that they were traveling to New Orleans for their honeymoon, and then she'll be moving north with her husband. It seems the man she married is quite well off. He is from Boston, stationed down here for the last few months." He looked at Trevor grimly. "You know, the war changed Eliza. She is not the sweet young girl you remember. Seeing her family and friends stripped of their wealth and their entire way of life hardened her. Now, she is obsessed with becoming wealthy again, and she has stooped to wedding a damn Yankee to attain that goal."
Trevor felt as if the wind had been knocked from him, and he sat for a long time, merely staring off into the distance. He couldn't believe she had come to him and given her body to him knowing all the while that she would be leaving the next day to marry another man. He thought back on the previous few weeks and remembered all the times he had pressed her to set a date for their wedding, and she had avoided the issue. She must have known all along that she was going to marry her Yankee suitor. Trevor had spent so many years envisioning Eliza as his wife and the mother of his children that he didn't know how he would ever live without her. She was the only anchor he had known in his turbulent life, and now he felt like he was merely drifting with no purpose or goal.
Finally, he looked at Tom and smiled grimly. "Thank you for telling me, Tom."
Tom's eyes were full of sympathy. "If there is anything me or my family can do for you, you know you can call on us. Of course Ma and Pa have always considered you to be part of the family, and they are absolutely prostrate with grief over Eliza's actions."
If there was one thing Trevor didn't want, it was sympathy. He took a deep breath and rose from the stump to face Tom. "There's no need to worry about me, I'll be fine." He waved his hand in farewell and turned to walk away, making a conscious effort to keep his shoulders straight and proud.
Trevor had thrown himself tirelessly into his work, and he managed to plant almost all of the fertile land that had lain dormant during the war, driving himself to exhaustion in the process. Two months after he learned of Eliza's betrayal, his younger brother, Steven, came straggling home. They ran to meet each other and Trevor hugged him fiercely against his chest, tears of joy burning his eyes. "I had almost given you up for dead!"
Steven was crying, and he self-consciously wiped at the tears. "I very nearly was dead. They finally released me from prison, and I almost starved trying to make it back here."
Within a short time, the two brothers were working side by side to cultivate their lands, and they managed to raise a record-breaking crop that first year. Despite their success, Trevor had been restless, needing to get away from his painful memories. With the money from the harvest, he had purchased a ship and had turned over the management of their plantation to Steven. While Steven had managed the estate, Trevor had started a shipping business, plying cargo all along the eastern seaboard. He came home periodically to check on his holdings and to monitor the progress his brother was making. However, for the most part, Trevor stayed away, not wishing to hear any news of Eliza or her new husband.
Trevor's wealth had steadily increased, and he had purchased three more ships within a year. He soon expanded his trade, bringing goods from Europe and the Caribbean, and he had spent a small fortune restoring their plantation to its former grandeur. He admitted only to himself that he was driven to make Eliza regret the day she had rejected him in favor of another, richer man. He was determined to gain more wealth than her husband even dreamed of, and that goal influenced all of Trevor's actions.
Five years had passed, and Trevor had achieved his financial goal. Their plantation was the most profitable in the entire region. Trevor often wondered bitterly whether Eliza ever regretted her decision. If she had just been patient, he would have given her everything she desired. Though he tried to avoid hearing any news of her, he inevitably did learn that she had moved to Boston with her husband, and they had a small daughter. Whenever he thought about her, Trevor's heart would wrench with pain, and he wondered if he would ever get over her. He had many mistresses during those years, but he never stayed very long with any of them, and he refused to even look for a suitable wife from the many young ladies who flirted with him. He couldn't avoid comparing them to his former fiancée.
However, now he was coming to an age where he felt a strong desire to marry and start his own family. He was tired of sailing from port to port, and he wanted to settle down on his plantation with his brother. He had received word that Steven had taken a wife, and Trevor couldn't deny that he was envious of his brother's happiness. He wanted that for himself, but he despaired of ever finding a woman he would find acceptable. He didn't expect to ever find love again, but he was looking for a woman who would not bore him too much after the first few months. She had to be someone who could match his strong will, but he would never make the mistake of giving his heart to her. He would never give another woman the chance to hurt him the way Eliza had.
Trevor was jerked back to the present by the sound of someone clearing her throat nearby, and he turned to see a young woman standing behind him, clutching the hood of her cloak protectively over her face.
"Excuse me, sir. Are you Mr. Trevor Grayson?" she asked.
Letting his eyes quickly scan her trim frame he nodded slowly. Her face was hidden in the shadows of her hood, and he could only see the glitter of her eyes as she stared at him. "Yes, I am. And who might you be?"
The woman darted a glance to either side and looked up at him once more. Her heavy hood denied him any hint of her facial features, but her voice was as smooth as warm honey.
"I would be happy to tell you, if you would please speak with me for a few moments, in private."
He raised his eyebrows in surprise. It was evident from her modulated speech and the quality of her cloak that she wasn't a commoner, and he couldn't imagine why a well-bred lady would request a scandalous private meeting with a sea captain. However, his curiosity was thoroughly aroused, and he turned aside motioning for her to precede him to the companionway that led below deck.
Trevor caught the eye of his first mate and signaled to him that he was leaving him in charge. Seeing the young woman pause, Trevor gestured again and said politely, "After you, ma'am."
He followed close behind the mysterious visitor, admiring the gentle sway of her hips as she descended the steps. He reached around her to open the door to his cabin and he caught a whiff of her delicate scent. She smelled of wildflowers, mixed with her own warm, womanly essence, and he was surprised to feel a sudden tightness in his trousers. Trevor wasn't usually so quickly or easily affected by women, and he could only attribute his eagerness to his long bouts of celibacy. He tamped down his own reactions and followed her inside before closing the door behind him.
It was early afternoon, but the sky was overcast with dark grey clouds that contributed to the thick gloom in the tiny cabin. Trevor took a moment to light a pair of candles which stood on his desk before turning back with a curious tilt to his brow.
"You have my undivided attention, ma'am. What was it you wished to discuss with me?"
The young woman reached to push her hood back, and his breath caught in his throat. She was exceptionally beautiful, with wide set eyes of sparkling green and a full, generous mouth. Her hair was fiery red, and wisps of it had escaped the neat chignon to curl winsomely around her flawlessly creamy neck and jaw. Her uncertainty was evident, but as he watched, she squared her shoulders and looked directly at him, raising her head to meet his eye.
"My name is Leanna Bradley, and I believe you met Jeremy last night."
Trevor couldn't keep the surprise from showing on his face as his mind raced with conjectures. Was this the wife of the man he had bested at cards the night before, and if so, what was her business in coming here? "Yes, I remember Jeremy," he replied carefully. "Are you his wife?"
Leanna blinked before answering quickly. "No, I'm his sister," she murmured.
Immensely relieved by her answer, Trevor indicated a chair on the opposite side of his desk, as his mind raced to process that tidbit. If she was Jeremy's sister and used the same last name, then she must not be married. He wasn't sure why that thought should please him, but it did. "Please, have a seat Miss Bradley. But first, let me take your cloak."
Leanna chewed her bottom lip, not wishing to relinquish the protection of her cloak but neither did she want to offend his hospitality. She reluctantly undid the fastening beneath her chin and let him remove her cloak before turning to the chair he indicated for her. She sank gracefully down on the seat, conscious of him assessing her figure. She couldn't resist looking over his muscular frame when he turned and walked toward the door. He was exceedingly tall, with wide shoulders and slender hips, and Leanna's breath caught in her throat at the sight of such a magnificent male. He had gleaming black hair and deep blue eyes that looked out from underneath long sooty lashes. His nose and cheekbones were finely chiseled, and he had full lips above a firm square chin. He wore snug fitting trousers that molded to his muscular thighs, and his long sleeved shirt looked impossibly white against his tanned skin. He was the most handsome man she had ever met, and she flushed as deliciously wicked thoughts flitted through her virginal mind. She didn't know exactly what she had been expecting when she came here, but she certainly hadn't expected to meet her fantasy man.
Trevor took a moment to hang her cloak from a nearby hook before taking the seat across from her. His heart was beating a bit faster as well after having seen that her figure was just as appealing as her face, and he was suffused with the excitement of the hunt. His eyes had lingered for a brief moment on the shadowed valley between her breasts, and his imagination went wild trying to picture her without her clothes. In her very fetching mint gown trimmed with white lace, she reminded him of a delectable bonbon, and he wondered if she would taste as sweet. He would definitely not mind getting to know her much, much better.
Reluctantly, Trevor forced his thoughts back to the business at hand, whatever that might be. "What is it that you wished to speak to me about, Miss Bradley?"
Leanna took a deep breath and began. "I was hoping that I might be able to persuade you to invest some money in a business venture with my brother. He is in need of fifteen thousand pounds to start his own manufacturing plant, and I know that you won at least that much at cards just last night."
Somewhat shocked by her boldness, Trevor eyed her thoughtfully, placing the tips of his fingers together in front of his chin. "Is that why he was at the club last night? He was trying to raise the money for a business venture?"
Leanna nodded but shifted uneasily. It was never easy for her to lie convincingly. "Yes, he was trying win enough to get started."
Trevor's eyes narrowed as he noticed her slight flush. He had developed keen instincts when it came to reading people's reactions over the years, and he sensed there was a lot that this woman was hiding from him. "Fifteen thousand pounds sounds like a lot of money to start a business, and playing poker isn't the most reliable way to raise that kind of money. Is there anything you are not telling me, Miss Bradley?"
Leanna's flush grew darker, and she looked down at her hands in her lap, making a conscious effort to keep from wringing them. "Well, he doesn't need the money just for his business." She hesitated, unsure how much to reveal but finally deciding that she had best be honest. "He needs ten thousand pounds of that money to pay off a debt my father incurred before his recent death."
For several moments, the silence in the room was broken only by the ticking of a nearby clock. "I'm sorry to hear of your father's death," Trevor murmured sincerely. "However, I still don't quite understand why you have come to me."
Leanna released a deep sigh, but she raised her gaze to meet his stare directly. "My father owed ten thousand pounds to his business partner, and after his death, the man demanded full payment. Unfortunately, father used our home as collateral for the loan, and we are now faced with the prospect of being evicted for failure to pay. We only have a few more days to raise the money. We've tried every other avenue short of stealing to raise the funds. Jeremy's attempt to win at cards last night was the only remaining chance we had, and now even that is gone." Leanna paused and looked down at her hands. "I'm embarrassed to say that you are my last hope."
Trevor held her gaze for a long moment before he looked down at his desk, deep in thought. He could certainly understand her predicament. Many southerners had lost their homes because of debt, and he knew it was a gut wrenching ordeal for anyone to endure.
"Surely the man would accept partial payment of the debt and let your brother work off the remainder," Trevor murmured.
Leanna shook her head sadly. "No, we tried that approach. He is insistent that we pay him the entire sum immediately. He's really a greedy little toad of a man." She chewed her bottom lip again as she blinked back tears, unaware of what a charming image of vulnerability she presented to Trevor. "There is something else you should know. My brother's wife is expecting their first child, and she's not in the best of health. Jeremy and I are both worried that her health will suffer tremendously if we have to move from our home at this point."
Trevor nodded his head slowly, as he considered her position. His thoughts returned to the path they had taken before her sudden appearance on his ship, and it was as if she had been deposited in his lap, almost like a gift of Fate. His eyes took on a calculating gleam as he considered her carefully, assessing her lovely features at length. He tried to picture her as his wife and the mother of his children. His blood grew warm at the thought of having this delectable young woman in his bed...
Realizing that he had been staring, and much more intently than was polite, Trevor cleared his throat and looked down at his desk once more, clamping down on the desire he felt. Yes, she would do quite nicely for his purposes, but he would have to proceed cautiously to avoid scaring her off.
When he was able to look at her again without leering, he replied. "I would like to be able to help you Miss Bradley, but if I were to loan your brother the funds he requires, what can you offer me in return?"
Excited by his apparent interest, Leanna's eyes lit up with hope, and she eagerly responded. "You would, of course receive an equal share in my brother's business. He could run the operation for both of you, but you would get half of the profits. Eventually, he could buy out your interest."
Trevor smiled charmingly. "My dear Miss Bradley, you know as well as I that it could take several years for the business to show any profit, if ever. I have no knowledge of your brother's business acumen, so I have no way to judge whether he will be successful or not."