Marrying Mr. English:The English Brothers #7

By: Katy Regnery
The English Brothers #7


Prologue




“Once upon a time . . .





Chapter 1




Vail, Colorado

December 1981



“C’mon, Ellie,” pleaded Eve Marie. “They’re, like, rich.”

“They’re all rich,” said Eleanora Watters, hustling into the kitchen of Auntie Rose’s Breakfast-All-Day Chalet with an armload of dirty plates.

Eve Marie followed her through the swinging door.

“But they seem ni-i-i-ice,” she whined.

“They all seem nice,” said Eleanora over her shoulder, nodding at Manny as he took the dirty dishes and winked at her.

“But these two really are.”

Eleanora turned to face her younger cousin, pushing a stray lock of blonde hair behind her ear and planting her fists on her hips. “Like the last ones? And the ones before them?”

Eve Marie had the decency to look embarrassed.

“When are you going to learn, Evie? They’re all rats. Rich, old, entitled, grabby rats. They come to Vail looking for a young waitress or hotel maid to warm up their bed for a week, and once they’ve had their fun, they leave. Do you know who they leave?”

“Us,” said Eve Marie dolefully.

“Us,” confirmed Eleanora. “And are we harlots to be thusly used?”

Eve Marie screwed up her face in confusion.

Eleanora rolled her eyes, rephrasing, “Are we hos, cuz?”

“No,” said Eve Marie, though there wasn’t much conviction in her voice.

“No, we are not,” said Eleanora crisply. “We deserve better than that, Evie.”

Images of home flashed through her mind at lightning speed before she could stop them: her father’s grubby double-wide, choked by a rusty chain-link fence . . . the hellhole of a bar where her tips hadn’t been worth the slow death of her dreams . . . and—she touched Evie’s cheek gently with her knuckles as a fierce burst of protectiveness flared within her—her step-uncle’s leering eyes and filthy, grabby hands.

Eleanora dropped her hand and lifted her chin with determination. “If we keep our legs closed and our options open, we just might find it.”

She turned to the warming lights and picked up two plates of pancakes and bacon for table two before bustling through the swinging door, back into Auntie Rose’s main dining room. Designed to resemble a rustic ski lodge, the restaurant was a favorite of skiers and snowboarders who wanted to fill up on a hearty breakfast before hitting the slopes.

“Will you at least, like, say hello?” persisted Eve Marie at her cousin’s shoulder, her voice almost drowned out by John Lennon’s “(Just Like) Starting Over” blasting through the ceiling speakers.

Eleanora ignored her cousin and plastered a smile on her face as she carefully delivered the plates to the table. “Stack of hot cakes, side of oink. Bon appétit.”

“Looks great,” said the man on the left side of the booth, reaching for her wrist. He handled her gently but firmly, looking up into her eyes. “Now how about making it delectable by giving me your number?”

Without fighting for her imprisoned hand, Eleanora flicked her eyes over him. He was wearing a cream-colored Irish wool sweater—the type that sold in the local boutiques for hundreds of dollars—and had sunglasses in his heavily gelled hair. Vuarnet? No. Versace, she noted, glancing at the stem close to his ear. His hair was salt-and-pepper, and his eyes were lazy but hopeful as he grinned at her with what he probably believed was charm.

“My number . . . hmm.” Eleanora sucked her bottom lip between her teeth, then released it with a provocative pop. “Sure. Okay.”

He looked surprised but delighted, tightening his grip on her wrist to pull her closer. “Oh, yeah?”

“But which number?” said Eleanora, tapping her chin in thought. “So many to choose from . . .”

“Oh, I meant your—”

“—my age? It’s twenty-two. To your what? Forty-five? Or the number of years between us? Roughly twenty-three. Or my birth date maybe? Nine, three, fifty-nine. And yours? Well, I’m guessing it ends in . . . hmm . . . thirty-six? How about those numbers? Probably not what you were looking for, though. Ooo! I know! Maybe you’re one of the good ones and you’ve fallen madly in love with me and you want my ring size? It’s a six. No. Come to think of it, you don’t look like the type to buy me a ring, so how about the serial number on my father’s shotgun? It’s four, three, six, oh, oh, seven—”

“Forget it,” said the man, his face bright red as he dropped her wrist.

“Sure thing.”

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