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ENJOY THIS EXCERPT from The School Mistress by Tess Thompson.
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How easily can an open heart unlock the door to happily-ever-after?
When Miss Quinn Cooper arrives in Emerson Pass, Colorado, her entire life is packed into one small suitcase. Her widowed mother and baby sister are depending upon her for their survival back home in Boston. And the self-appointed mayor of the rugged mountain community is counting on Miss Cooper to prove herself a fitful teacher for the young and old alike.
Lord Alexander Barnes is determined to bring a bit of English civility to the wild terrain of Emerson Pass. Using his own resources, the widower and father of five builds a schoolhouse and recruits a young teacher from the east to provide an education for both the adults and the children in his rapidly growing mining town. But when the lovely, and much younger than anticipated, Miss Cooper arrives in town, Lord Barnes finds himself providing more than just employment when the boarding house proves to be an unsafe accommodation for the school mistress.
As Miss Cooper takes a room in the Barnes’ home, the five Barnes children are delighted. They are sure Miss Cooper is the perfect woman for their lonely father. But when a friend of the Englishman turns up dead, the hope for progress in the untamed town seems immediately lost. Can Miss Cooper and Lord Barnes bring change to the closed-minded locals? And will their endeavor open their hearts to something more?
The first installment of USA Today bestselling author Tess Thompson’s historical romance series brings a touch of whimsy and an extra dash of mystery to Edwardian romance. Readers will fall in love with the courageous Miss Cooper and swoon for the magnanimous English Lord as they struggle to save their exciting new world at the turn of the 20th Century.
DARE YOU NOT TO SWOON FOR THESE TWO!
He lifted my chin and looked into my eyes. “Is it only the children you care for or is there room in your heart for me?”
My stomach was filled with sparrows, fluttering their wings. I plucked at the neck of my blouse; sure I was dreaming. “I feel a great many things. But you and I both know that’s all it can be between us.”
“Because you’re a lord and I’m a school mistress.”
“I don’t care anything about titles or circumstances. You’re beautiful and good and full of fire. How could I not fall in love with you?”
“It seems to me, Lord Barnes, that this wild country has made you wild.”
“The country hasn’t made me wild. I was born this way.” The corners of his mouth lifted into a brief smile. “This place is like me, wild and free. I listen to my own instincts, not those deemed by a society I don’t even believe in.”
He brushed his thumb across my jawline. I could hardly breathe. What would it feel like if that mouth pressed against mine?
“Do you know what my instincts are telling me to do right now?” he asked.
I shook my head as the muscles in my thighs tightened.
“They’re telling me to kiss you.”
My stomach did a full turn this time and my legs trembled. I couldn’t look away, drawn as I was to him as if an invisible force cleaved us together. I was an innocent when it came to men, but I knew the look of hunger when I saw it. This was not the appetite of an empty stomach but rather a craving only a man and woman could feel for each other. One in which there was only one single remedy. This was a tortuous beast of longing and desire.
“Have you ever been kissed, Miss Cooper?”
I nodded, dizzy. “Once.” And then he’d married my best friend and broken my heart.
“What happened to this fool who kissed you?”
“He married my friend the very next week.” Even after two years, my body remembered the shock when I’d heard the news. In an instant, I remembered the way a vast emptiness had crashed through me, leaving me in a tunnel of black in which there was no return.
“Why would he do such a thing?” Lord Barnes asked, his voice incredulous now.
“For the same reason you would,” I said. “He married someone with money. Someone from an important family.”
“I can marry whomever I please,” Lord Barnes eyes flashed with arrogance but also rebellion. “I have no one to answer to but God and my children. I’ll marry for love with no regard for anything else. What about you, Miss Cooper? Would you marry for love or money?”
“Love. Always love,” I said. “Even though I have only love to offer in return.”
“And what would make you love a man?” he asked. “If not money?”
“Kindness. Compassion. A curious mind.”
“What about a man with children?”
“I suppose it would depend on the children,” I said.
“This is a remote part of the country. Could you live here and be happy?”
“That would depend on the man.”
He smiled and ran the back of his finger over my cheek. “One worthy of your heart?”
“Would you allow me the chance to prove my worth?” he asked.
“How does one go about such a thing?” I asked.
“It starts with accepting that I care nothing about convention. I want you to be my wife.”
“Wife?” I gaped at him. Had I heard him correctly or had the lack of sleep rendered me delirious?
“Yes, Miss Cooper. I want you to be my wife and the mother to my children. If you’re willing, I’d like permission to court you. Will you deny me and break my heart?”
Tess Thompson is a USA Today bestselling author of small-town romance and historical fiction, with nearly 20 titles across multiple series that focus on heartwarming journeys of triumph and humanity for colorful characters you’d love to be friends with in real life.
Tess holds a degree in theater from the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), and can be found most days at her desk in suburban Seattle, where she also makes her home with the hero of her own love story and their blended family of two sons, two daughters, and five cats.
Tess loves music, dancing, books, bubble baths, cooking, wine, movies, snuggling, Seahawks football, and hearing from her readers. Drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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