Cara Colter.

Husband By Inheritance






Dont get any ideas about taming me, Shane said with a scowl.

About taming you? Abby echoed.

Im leaving. Soon. And I am not the perfect man.

She eyed him suspiciously. Had someone told him that one of the conditions of receiving her inheritance was that she marry?

I dont think youre in any danger of being mistaken for a perfect man.

Now he looked insulted.

Mostly, she added hastily, because in my experience, there is no such thing.

He snorted. Im going to start looking for another place to live.

Suit yourself.

I will, he muttered.

Though I must admit, Id feel very safe at night if you were to stay, she said, then realized her mistake.

For the heat in his eyes suggested she would be far from safe while under the same roof with Shane McCall.

THE WEDDING LEGACY

HUSBAND BY INHERITANCE (SR #1531)

THE HEIRESS TAKES A HUSBAND (SR #1538)

WED BY A WILL (SR #1544)

Dear Reader,

I hope the long hot summer puts you in the mood for romance Silhouette Romance, that is! Because weve got a month chock-full of exciting stories. And be sure to check out just how Silhouette can make you a star!

Elizabeth Harbison returns with her CINDERELLA BRIDES miniseries. In His Secret Heir, an English earl discovers the American student hed once known had left with more than his heart.And Teresa Southwicks Crazy for LovinYou begins a new series set in DESTINY, TEXAS. Filled with emotion, romance and a touch of intrigue, these stories are sure to captivate you!

Cara Colters THE WEDDING LEGACY begins with Husband by Inheritance. An heiress gains a new homecomplete with the perfect husband. Only, he doesnt know it yet! And Patricia Thayers THE TEXAS BROTHERHOOD comes to a triumphant conclusion when Travis Comes Home.

Lively, high-spirited Julianna Morris shows a womans determination to become a mother with Tick Tock Goes the Baby Clock and Roxann Delaney gives us A Saddle Made for Two.

Weve also got a special treat in store for you! Next month, look for Marie Ferrarellas The Inheritance, a spin-off from the MAITLAND MATERNITY series. This title is specially packaged with the introduction to the new Harlequin continuity series, TRUEBLOOD, TEXAS. But The Inheritance then leads back into Silhouette Romance, so be sure to catch the opening act.

Happy Reading!


Mary-Theresa Hussey

Senior Editor

Husband by Inheritance
Cara Colter


www.millsandboon.co.uk

Books by Cara Colter

Silhouette Romance

Dare To Dream #491

Baby in Blue #1161

Husband in Red #1243

The Cowboy, the Baby and the Bride-to-Be #1319

Truly Daddy #1363

A Bride Worth Waiting For #1388

Weddings Do Come True #1406

A Babe in the Woods #1424

A Royal Marriage #1440

First Time, Forever #1464

*Husband by Inheritance #1532

CARA COLTER

shares ten acres in the wild Kootenay region of British Columbia with the man of her dreams, three children, two horses, a cat with no tail and a golden retriever who answers best to bad dog. She loves reading, writing and the woods in winter (no bears).

She says lifes delights include an automatic garage door opener and the skylight over the bed that allows her to see the stars at night.

She also says, I have not lived a neat and tidy life, and used to envy those who did. Now I see my struggles as having given me a deep appreciation of life, and of love, that I hope I succeed in passing on through the stories that I tell.

Dear Reader,

I am not one of triplets, but I am one of three sisters. It wasnt until I was done writing the three books of THE WEDDING LEGACY that I realized how much I had borrowed in creating the characters. Abby is very much like my younger sister, Anna, in temperament: serene and strong and calm. Brittany has some similarities to my older sister, Avon: sexy, energetic and outgoing. (And she always wants to fix my hair!) I am the most like Corrine: creative and quiet, and always in jeans. I also can be a bit prickly to hide how sensitive I am!

My mom left my sisters and me a legacy, too. To her we owe an unfailing belief in the power of Love: to heal, to make whole, to make our world shine brighter.

Thats my moms legacy, and if the love I have for my sisters is able to reach out and embrace you, the reader, through these books, that would be the most wondrous of miracles.

This series is for all my sisters, everywhere.

Love,


Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue

Prologue

Im sure it wont be much longer, Miss Blakely.

Thank you, Abby murmured.

She looked around the lawyers office uncomfortably. The furnishings were so richthe coffee table in front of her dark walnut, the sofas soft, toffee-colored leather, the burgundy rugs deep and velvety, the lights muted.

Abby had never been in a lawyers office before, and if a plane ticket hadnt been sent to her, she doubted she would be in one now.

Who would give a gift to her?

But that was what the registered letter had said. That she had been named as the recipient of a substantial gift, the donor anonymous. Her phone call to the law firm had gotten her no more information, just an invitation to be in the office of Hamilton, Sweet and Hamilton, in Miracle Harbor, Oregon, today, on February 15, at 10:00 a.m. precisely.

Miss Blakely, are you sure you wont have coffee?

The receptionist smiled kindly at her, and Abby knew she was doing a terrible job of hiding her discomfort. She knew she did not look like the kind of woman who belonged in these rich surroundings. Her wardrobe these days ran to things that washed easily. Clothes that she could wear in the sandbox or the playground, clothes that stood up to small handprints and grass stains and drool. And so she was wearing a casual skirt of stain-disguising navy blue, a matching tunic and a sweater jacket. She had made the ensemble herself for less than fifty dollars.

She caught her reflection in the highly polished wood of the coffee table, and patted her short blond hair self-consciously. Even the cut was about low maintenance rather than style.

She had been away from her just-turned-two daughter for less than twenty-four hours, and she felt as if a hole inside her heart was opening and getting wider by the minute. It was now almost ten-thirty.

Is there a problem? Abby asked. She looked wistfully at the door, sorry shed been tempted to come here, sorry shed accepted this odd invitation, knowing somehow her life was about to take an unexpected turn. Why now, when what she wanted most was a life without unexpected turns? A life of stability for her baby, Belle.

But that is why she had come here, too. Yes she was skeptical, but some small part of her hoped the gift would be something that would enable her to give her daughter exactly the life she wanted for her. A little house of their own, instead of the apartment. A nicer neighborhood, closer to a park. A new sewing machine so Abby could take in more work.

Counting her chickens before they hatched, she reprimanded herself. Still, she had been sent a plane ticket worth several hundred dollars. She had been picked up in Portland by a limo and deposited at Miracle Harbors most luxurious hotel. And the letter had promised the gift was substantial.

Hope was what had made her cross the continent, from Illinois to this small hamlet in Oregon. Miracle Harbor. The town, built in a half moon on the hills surrounding a bay, was a place of postcard prettinessneat rows of beautiful old shingle-sided houses behind white picket fences, rhododendrons growing wild, the air delightfully warm and scented of the sea.

Is there a problem? she asked, again.

No, of course not. Were just waiting for the arrival of the other parties.

The other parties? Abby asked, baffled. This was the first she had heard of other parties.

The receptionist suddenly was the one who looked uncomfortable, as if she had revealed more than was professionally acceptable.

So when the door swung open, both she and Abby looked to it with relief.

A woman stepped into the office, in dark glasses and a short fur jacket. A long skirt, shimmering jade-colored silk, swirled around her slender legs as she moved with a breezy self-confidence into the room. Her hair was beautifully coiffed, and yet a hint of something wild remained in the way it swung, electric, around her shoulders.

There was something so familiar about her, Abby thought, frowning, and then realized the woman must be almost exactly her own size and height. Even her hair color was familiar, tones of wheat mixed with honey.

Hi. Im Brittany Patterson. I

As she caught sight of Abby out of the corner of her eye, her voice froze. She swung around and stared. Her mouth opened, then closed, then opened again. Slowly, she lifted the sunglasses off her eyes, and Abby felt the blood drain from her face, thought for an awful moment that she was going to faint.

Because the face she was looking at was the very same face she looked at in the mirror each day.

The makeup was bolder, the eyebrows more carefully shaped, this woman lovelier somehow, and yet identical to her in every way.

The door swung open again, and Abby turned to it in relief, needing a distraction from the intensity of emotion, the confusion welling up within her.

Another woman entered the office, breathless, as different from the woman in the fur jacket as night from day. She was in jeans and a jean jacket, both faded nearly white, her long hair swept back off her face in a careless ponytail.

Different from the other woman, except in one way.

Her face was identical. And so was her shade of hair. And the striking hazel of eyes nearly blue, except for a star of brown around the pupil.

As if in a dream, Abby got up from the deep sofa. Moved toward the other women, and then began to shake. She sat back down. Silently, the other women came and sat down, too, looking at each other with an astonishment deeper than words.

The receptionist was bringing them all coffee now. Abby might have laughed to see each of the other women get their coffee ready just as she dida tiny splash of cream, three sugars, and then a soft blow on the hot liquidexcept that it was too bizarre to be funny.

Well, said the one in the fur, finally breaking the stunned silence, unless were on Candid Camera, Id guess were related.

More like The Twilight Zone, the one in the jean jacket said, and then all three of them laughed. The two young womens voices, though they had different regional accents, were identical in tone and pitch. Abby recognized her own voice when they spoke.

And then they were all talking at once.

Did you have any idea? I knew I was adopted but Abbys voice was shaking.

I knew I was adopted, the one in the fur coat said, but I didnt know I had sisters.

I was never adopted, the jean-clad woman said, her voice hesitant. I lived with my Aunt Ella until I was ten. She said my parentsour parents?were killed in a car crash.

Its clear we are more than sisters. We must be triplets, the one in the fur coat announced, and they stared at each other, thrilled and shocked and astonished. Im Brittany.

Abigail. Abby. She could hear the catch of emotion in her voice.

Corrine. Corrie.

The receptionist interrupted. Mr. Hamilton will see you now.

They followed her down the hall into an office, glancing at each other with speculative delight, with wonder.

Mr. Hamilton was a dignified man, his manner and dress authoritative. Silver hair and deep wrinkles around his eyes made him look as if he should be retired. He looked genuinely amazed as the three identical young women entered his office and took seats across from him.

Im sorry, he said. Pardon me for staring. II didnt know. You all had different last names. I had no idea

He looked down at the papers in front of him, struggling for composure. When he looked up he studied them each in turn.

Triplets, he finally concluded. Had you ever met each other?

When they shook their heads, he looked very grave. Im sorry. I would have never popped this kind of surprise on you without warning you. I cant imagine what she was His voice faded, and then he cleared his throat. As you know from the letter you received, I have asked you here because my client wishes to bestow a gift on each of you.

Who is your client? Brittany asked, and Abby noted she seemed far more comfortable in the rich surroundings than either of her sisters.

Im not at liberty to say. I have been given a letter to read to you. He took a paper off his desk, held the letter way back and squinted at it.

Dear Abigail, Brittany and Corrine, he read in a rich baritone, Many years ago, I made a promise to your mother. She died within minutes of extracting that promise from me. To my shame, it was a promise I was unable to keep. I have reunited you with your sisters in the hope this gesture will begin to make the amends I owe your mother and each of you. I have also given you each a gift that I hope will turn out to be the very thing you most need in your lives. My attorney, Mr. Jordan Hamilton, will outline the nature of each gift, and the conditions I have attached to it. My wish is for your every happiness.

What was the promise she made to our mother? Abby asked, hungry to know any detail that would help her come to grips with this overwhelming set of circumstances.

Im afraid, aside from the gifts, and the attached conditions, I dont know any more than what is in the letter, Mr. Hamilton said.

Conditions? Brittany asked skeptically. You might as well get to that first.

All right. In order for you to receive your gifts, permanently, you must remain here in Miracle Harbor for a period of one year. He cleared his throat uncomfortably. And you must marry within that year.

Abby stared at him. So, it was a joke after all. It had to be. But he looked perfectly serious.

She shot a look at her sisters.

Brittany looked indignant, Corrine was looking out the window, her thoughts masked. Except for some reason, Abby knew exactly what she was feeling. Corrie was scared to death.

The gifts? Brittany said, narrowing her eyes at him, and folding her arms across her chest. And this had better be good.

He gave her a stern look, rattled his papers, then, beginning with Abby, he told them about the most astonishing gifts.

Chapter One

After all these years, he still slept as though there was a possibility of someone sneaking in the room and putting a gun to his ear.

Even in Miracle Harbor, Oregon, where such things were unheard of.

He lay awake, now, listening, every muscle tense, ready, wondering what small noise had startled him awake in the deepest part of the night. The green glow of his clock told him it was just after 3:00 a.m.

The foghorn, he decided, not the creak of his front gate, badly in need of oiling. He allowed himself to relax slightly, and then slightly more, closing his eyes and willing himself to go back to sleep. He hated this time of night the most because he was unable to exercise his customary discipline over his mind. For some reason this was when the memories wanted to visit.

The sound came again.

The quiet crunch of someones muffled footsteps moving up the walk. He listened for and heard the scrape of the loose board on the second step up to the porch.

It was when he heard the soft groan of his front door handle being tried that he moved, fast and quiet, out of the his bed and to the window.

An old car, hitched to a U-Haul trailer, was parked out on the street. Thieves? Planning to clean him right out?

Theyd be disappointed. He had no interest in stuff. His apartment was Spartan. No TV, no stereo, just his computer.

Had he once had an interest in stuff? He had trouble remembering small things like that. Though he had a flash now of his wife, Stacey, standing in front of something in a store, looking back at him, laughing at the outrageous price, but there had been something wistful in her eyes, too.

He flinched as if hed been struck when he remembered what they had been looking at that day.

A bassinet.

A blackness that did not bode well for his intruder, descended over him. Wearing only the boxers he slept in, he made his way down the steps and through the darkened house, the of movementstealthy, cautious, icily calmsecond nature to him.

He slid out the back door, not opening it enough to let it squeak, his plan already formed. Hed use the walkway alongside the house and follow it to the front. The prowler would be trapped on the narrow porch. Hed have to go through him to get away.

Fat chance of that.

This intruder had picked the wrong house.

Home of Shane McCall, agent, Drug Investigation Unit. Retired.

The mist was thick and swirling, the cement of the sidewalk ice-cold under his bare feet, the rhododendrons so thick along the side path that his bare skin was brushing the rough shingles of his house on one side, and getting soaked by the rubbery leaves on the other. These details barely registered, he was so intensely focused. He came around the side of the house, stopped in the shadow of the fog and dense overgrown shrubs, and watched.

He saw a shape bent over the door; the night too dark and the fog too thick for more than vague impressions. A baseball cap. A build too slight to be threatening to him.

A kid, he thought, and felt his anger wane as he watched the intruder jiggle the door handle again. Was he trying to pick the lock? Shane should have just called the police. Maybe Morgan was working tonight. When the business was done they could have exchanged war stories.

Vastly preferable to going back up those stairs to bed when hed finished here, to the memories that were waiting for him.

Knowing that calling the police was still an option, and knowing he wouldnt take it, he moved quietly out of the shadows to the bottom of his steps.

It occurred to him that maybe he should have taken his service revolver out of retirement, that someone without the physical size to handle a confrontation might attempt to even out his odds with a weapon. A knife, a handgun. That was probably especially true of the kind of kid who would break into a house at three in the morning.

His mind working with that rapid, detached lightning swiftness that came naturally to him, Shane decided on a course of actionkeep his distance, make it seem like he was packing a gun himself.

Hard to do, considering he was standing out here in his undershorts. But not impossible.

He went to the bottom of the stairs, and with the cold authority that came so easily to him, he said, Put your hands up where I can see them. Dont turn around.

The figure bolted upright and then froze.

You heard me. Hands up.

I cant. Fear had made the voice high and girlish.

You cant? he said, his voice cool and hard. Youd better.

I might drop the baby.

The voice was so scared that it was quivering. The baby?

Shane went up the steps two at a time, put his hand on intruders shoulder and spun him around.

Her.

Two hers, a full-grown her, and a baby her, both looking at him with the same saucer-huge blue eyes. Blue eyes tinged with a hint of brown.

He dropped his hand from her shoulder, ran it through the dampness of his hair, and swore.

When her foot connected with his shin, he was reminded, painfully that he had forgotten rule one: never let your guard down ever.

Fire, she screamed. Fire.

Without thinking he clamped his hand over her mouth before she managed to roust the whole neighborhood, something he was not exactly dressed for.

She was beautiful. Blond hair, very short and straight, poking out from under a Cubs ball cap and framing a face of utter lovelinessperfect skin, high cheekbones, a shapely nose. Her eyes were her dominating feature, though. Huge, the color partly a sea blue he had only seen once, a long time ago, off the coast of Kailua-Kona, in Hawaii, and partly brown. The combination was nothing short of astounding.

Those eyes were sparkling with unshed tears.

He swore again. She was shaking now, and the baby looked anxiously at her mother, screwed up her face and began to howl.

The noise seemed to reverberate in the fog, and he glanced uneasily at the neighbors houses again.

Promise you wont scream, he said. Or yell fire. Fire. All right. She was beautiful, but obviously deranged.

She nodded.

He moved his hand fractionally, and she backed away from him until she could back away no more, her shoulder blades right up against his front door, her eyes wide, her arms folded protectively around the baby. It wasnt a small baby. In fact, she was quite sturdy looking, possibly two.

Stay away from us, you pervert.

Pervert? he sputtered. Pervert?

Hiding in the bushes in your undershorts waiting for a defenseless woman to come home. Thats called a pervert.

Home? He stared at her. Her voice was shaking but her eyes were flashing. She probably weighed less than him by at least eighty pounds. And he knew she was going to take him on if he came one step closer.





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