Anna: Bride of Alabama (American Mail-Order Bride 22)
canopy top had been left down and Franklin had hooked Cyrus to the front, the white horse making the carriage look even more stately.
    He helped Anna onto the platform so she could get in the carriage, then climbed in behind her. She slid over as far as she could, pulling her skirts out of the way. “I won’t bite.”
    She laughed. “I didn’t think you would.”
    He grabbed the reins and looked to the house. Julia, Ruth and Franklin were there. It seemed odd to be going out for the evening when his daughter was staying home. He glanced at Anna, gave the reins a flick and they were headed down the road away from the house.
    They made it to the pond before she ever spoke. “What should I expect at this party?”
    Gabriel smiled. “The richest people in the three counties will be there. The Grants like to show off their money and these parties are the perfect way to do it. Their home, Winter Place is testament to that. It wasn’t enough to have one house, they built two.”
    “Two? One beside the other?”
    “Yes, and nearly identical.”
    “That seems impractical.”
    “It is. One of the homes is to be Francesca’s when she marries.”
    She didn’t say anything and he looked over at her. She was staring straight ahead, her hands clasped in her lap. “Is something wrong?”
    “No. Why?”
    “You just got real quite, is all.”
    “Just thinking.”
    “About what?”
    She smiled and glanced his way. “A lady doesn’t have to spill all her secrets.”
    “You have secrets now? I’m intrigued.”
    “You should be.”
    He laughed. “Tell me one of yours and I’ll tell you one of mine.”
    * * * *
    Winter Place was situated on the corner of two intersecting streets which were currently lined with carriages in both directions. It took nearly twenty minutes before they were close enough that one of the men hired to park the carriages and tend the horses arrived to take over the reins.
    Gabriel jumped to the ground then reached for her but instead of taking her hand, he grabbed her around the waist and lifted her from the carriage, setting her feet on the road. “Are you ready for this?”
    “No.” He gave her his arm and she clasped it tight. “Is it too late to go home?”
    “Yes. I’m sure someone has seen us by now. If word made it back to Francesca that we left her party before seeing her, we’d have to endure a visit and a lengthy scolding from her and honestly, with this many people it will be easier to get away from her here than at home.”
    “Fine,” she said. “Lead the way.”
    Ruth had been right when she said the richest people the Grants knew would be here. Every lady Anna saw was draped in expensive jewelry and gowns in colors bright enough to draw the attention of anyone crossing their path. Her own did much the same.
    Gabriel knew the name of most every person they passed and as Ruth said, many an eye were turned her way. It made her uncomfortable and she clung to Gabriel more tightly.
    They made it to the house and waited as the other guest slowly made their way inside. It wasn’t until they made it to the door that Anna realized Francesca and her brother were just inside greeting everyone. The moment Francesca saw them, Anna knew the evening wouldn’t be unpleasant.
    “Gabriel, you made it.” Francesca reached for him, grabbing onto both his arms as she leaned in, kissing him on the cheek before pulling away. She glanced her way and pulled back, giving her a looked before grinning. “Why, you brought the hired help. How generous of you.”
    “I wouldn’t exactly call Anna hired help.”
    Francesca laughed. “She’s the governess. Of course she’s hired help.” She looked her over from head to toe and made a tis-king sound with her tongue. “That's some dress. I didn’t realize you paid so well, Gabriel. If I had know, I would have found you a proper English governess to teach your precious daughter every thing she needs to know.”
    “I wouldn’t

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