All Dressed in White
The Brides of Belgravia Series
by Charis Michaels
Publisher – Avon Impulse
About the Book
From USA Today bestselling author Charis Michaels comes the next sweeping romance in her Brides of Belgravia series…
Self-made shipping magnate Joseph Chance never planned on falling in love. He simply needed financing for a new business venture and a marriage of convenience provides it. Then he meets Tessa St. Croix, his future bride, and is instantly smitten. But when the angelic beauty reveals a life-changing secret on their wedding night, Joseph thinks maybe some dreams shouldn’t come true. He leaves England, reconciling himself to a detached, convenient marriage after all.
Eleven months later, Tessa Chance has built a new life for herself in the heart of London. She’s learned her new husband’s business and is determined to support herself and her responsibilities. When Joseph returns to London unexpectedly, nothing is as he imagined. His estranged wife has become the one person who can help him secure his company’s future, and her allure can tempt him still. Determined and hopeful, Tessa jumps at the chance to prove herself and justify the secret that tore them apart.
Although bruised pride and broken hearts lie between them, Joseph and Tessa realize the love they once felt has never truly left. If they can learn to forgive each other, they’ll soon discover the truest love can heal all wounds.
“Tessa?” Joseph Chance said, Tessa looked up, and there he was.
Or rather, there was an (unbelievably) more rugged and handsome version of him. His skin was as tan as the pelt of a buck. His shoulders were broader—work-muscled shoulders—his waist leaner. His hair was streaked with shades of white-blond. He must not have shaved for a week.
The sight of him set off the cold tingle of shock, as if all the blood had been drained from her veins. She stopped breathing. She somehow managed to stop her beating heart.
Joseph is home.
Home, standing before her, tanned skin and dusty clothes and all the rest. After ten months.
She struggled to catch her breath. Blood and heat rushed quickly back in a rolling wave. She clung to her packages like buoys in the surf.
“You’ve returned,” she heard herself say. Her voice was an airy little gasp, winded, absolutely nothing like she had planned.
“Well, I’m endeavoring to return.” He raised his eyebrows. He waited. He sounded . . . sardonic? His voice was as flat and cool as the surface of a brick.
Tessa was confused. She’d prepared herself for him to return when she least expected it, and she’d prepared for his residual anger. But she did not expect him to stand in the road, raise his eyebrows, and speak to her as if he was throwing own a gauntlet.
A small wagon pulled between them, and she held her breath, waiting for it to pass. She tried to think of what reserved, measured thing she would say next. She took a step toward him.
“But have you all come?” she asked. “Cassin and Stoker, too? You’ve sailed the brig back to England?”
“Yes,” Joseph said, “back to England.” He frowned as the tail of the wagon rumbled past. He moved around it and stepped closer but not close. It was a cautious distance, an uncivil, suspicious distance. She stared at the four feet of gravel between them. It seemed as wide as the Atlantic.
“Look,” he said, crossing his arms, “you’ll have to forgive my directness, but what the bloody hell have you done to the slip I arranged at the West India Docks?”
She blinked. She had anticipated a great many things, but she had not prepared for him to accuse her. If she was being honest, she had not been prepared for him to fail to say hello.
He went on, “The mooring officer has turned me away, naming my wife as the reason. We’ve dropped anchor in the estuary, but we can hardly remain there. I hope you can tell me why have I sailed for five weeks across the bloody Atlantic, carrying a fortune in cargo, only to reach London and have nowhere to dock the brig?”
“But did the steam tug not give you my letter?” she said, trying to catch up.
He sucked in a breath and held it, an exaggerated gesture of irritation. “What. Letter? I would be a rich man if I had a shilling for each time I’ve been forced to repeat something about this day that makes no sense.”
I thought you were already a rich man, she thought, but she did not say it. The last thing she wished to appear was greedy. He would not cooperate with her plan for a house and modest income if she came off as greedy. And besides—she was not greedy. She did not want his money, she wanted only to survive.
Her second instinct was to laugh. He’d made a joke and it was marginally clever. But she had worked very hard to purge herself from laughing at the jokes of men. She was a serious woman of business now, not to mention someone’s mother. There was no place in this conversation for laughter.
Ultimately, a passing gentleman saved her from any reaction at all.
“I beg your pardon, miss,” said a tall, fashionably dressed man drawing up beside her. “May I offer my assistance with your parcels?”
Tessa smiled immediately (smiling at polite gentlemen was one habit she could not break), and she said, “How very kind you are, sir, but that won’t be necessary. I—”
Suddenly the distance between herself and Joseph was not so great. He was beside her, his hand on her lower back. Tessa blinked at the warm pressure of his palm.
Joseph told the man, “I’ve got them, thank you very much.”
“I’ve asked the young lady,” said the gentleman.
“Bugger off,” Joseph growled, jerking his chin in the direction of the street. He took Tessa by the elbow and began to hustle her along. “What letter?” he repeated.
“I can walk unassisted, thank you very much,” she said, jerking her arm free.
He grumbled an apology, but he was glaring at the other man over his shoulder.
Tessa stopped walking. Joseph tried to unburden her of the boxes but she clutched them to her. She took a deep breath. Even before the lists, she could not tolerate being rushed or bullied. When she explained what she’d done, she’d wanted the tone to be exactly, perfectly right. She’d wanted to be proficient and useful. She’d not planned to be defending herself.
She shuffled her parcels and said, “You’ve been misinformed, Joseph. And I’m sorry. There has been no effective way to communicate with you in Barbadoes, as you well know. I’ve written you several times and left word at both the West India dock office and Waterman’s Steam Packet Company, which, as you know, operates the steam tug. The the cancellations at the West India Docks could not be avoided. I’ve made new arrangements to salvage what I could of an efficient return to London.”
He blinked down at her, almost as if he was seeing her, really seeing her, for the first time.
Good, she thought, he is seeing me for the first time. And I am changed.
She cleared her throat and imbued her voice with a rehearsed businesslike clip. “But I refuse to hash it out in the street. You will have to accompany me home to discuss it.”
The old Tessa would have turned her nose in the air, spun on her heel, and marched away. The old Tessa would have expected him to rush after her. Now she simply waited.
Joseph hesitated, and for a moment she thought he might refuse.
“Right,” he finally said. His voice came out in a huff. “Home. To discuss it.”
Tour Wide Giveaway
To celebrate the release of ALL DRESSED IN WHITE by Charis Michaels, we’re giving away two Brides of Belgravia prize bundles, each including a paperback copy of All Dressed in White and an ebook copy of Any Groom Will Do!
GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS: Open to US shipping addresses only. Two winners will each receive a Brides of Belgravia prize bundle, each including a paperback copy of All Dressed in White and an ebook copy of Any Groom Will Do by Charis Michaels. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Avon Romance. Giveaway ends 9/4/2018 @ 11:59pm EST. Avon Romance will send the winning copies out to the winner directly. Limit one entry per reader and mailing address. Duplicates will be deleted.
About Charis Michaels
USA Today bestselling author CHARIS MICHAELS believes a romance novel is a very long, exciting answer to the question: “So, how did you two meet?” It’s a question she loves to answer again and again with different characters, each time she writes a book. Prior to writing romance, she studied Journalism at Texas A&M and managed PR for a trade association. She has also worked as a tour guide at Disney World, harvested peaches on her family’s farm, and entertained children as the “Story Godmother” at birthday parties. She has lived in Texas, Florida, and London, England. She now makes her home in the Washington, D.C.-metro area.