Anna: Bride of Alabama (American Mail-Order Bride 22)
dream of bothering you with such petty details.”
    “Nonsense. It would be my pleasure.”
    “I’ll remember that in case the need arises in the future.”
    They were finally able to get away and started into the parlor. “She’s the most condescending person I’ve ever met.”
    Gabriel laughed. “You think so?”
    “Yes. She’s quite horrid. Does anyone find her pleasant to be around?”
    He nodded toward the crowd gathered in the house. “Unfortunately, yes.”
    They found a corner to stand in that didn't interfere with the flow of traffic. Anna was able to observe everyone from there without feeling as if she were going to be stepped on. Gabriel spent long minutes pointing out people he knew and others stopped to actually speak. Most everyone talked about cotton and after the first ten minutes, Anna was bored.
    The crush of bodies caused the room to heat in a hurry. She touched her forehead, dabbing at a bit of perspiration when Gabriel asked if she’d like something to drink. “Yes, please.”
    “I’ll be right back. Will you be all right here alone?”
    “Yes, I’ll be fine.” Or so she thought. She waited nearly twenty minutes before she left her spot in the corner and went in search of him.
    It was no wonder he hadn’t returned. Every room Anna ventured into was crowded with people congregating in small groups. She stood in the middle of the hallway, turning in a small circle when an older woman caught her attention. She was staring at her.
    Anna took another turn but looked back as the woman approached.
    “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. I know everyone in town.”
    “I’ve only arrived a few weeks ago.”
    The woman’s eyes widened a bit. “Your accent. You’re from up north?”
    “Yes. Massachusetts.”
    She smiled. “I thought so. I was born there myself. Its nice to meet someone from home. I bet its changed so much I wouldn’t recognize it.”
    They were interrupted by Nathaniel, Francesca Grants brother. “Grandmother, Percy Walker is looking for you.”
    The old woman acknowledged him with a nod of her head before turning back to face her. “I wish to talk to you again soon. Who are you here with?”
    “Gabriel Montgomery.”
    She raised an eyebrow. “Really? I wasn’t aware he was courting anyone.”
    “Oh, he’s not. Well, not me, at least.”
    “I see.” She looked as if she were going to ask her something else but Nathaniel took her by the arm. “Come grandmother. You know Percy hates to wait.”
    She made a pft sound and shook her head. “He’s younger than I am. He’ll survive until I get there. It was very nice to meet you dear.”
    “You too.”
    She walked away without ever properly introducing herself. Anna listened to her bicker with Nathaniel until they were lost in the crowd. She resumed her search for Gabriel anew without much luck.
    She walked the house again and found the corner they’d stopped in when first arriving and decided to stay put, hoping he’d find her first. When she saw Francesca heading her way she groaned but smiled when she stopped in front of her.
    “Why are you hiding in the corner like some wallflower?”
    “I’m not hiding,” she said. “I’m waiting for Gabriel. He went to get us something to drink.”
    “Oh, well, I doubt you’ll see him again.” She laughed, the sound high pitched and annoying. “Walter Kevitt was looking for him. If he found him, he’s in the library smoking cigars and talking about share cropping and an assortment of other boring men stuff. You’ll be lucky to see him again before midnight. Come, let me introduce you to some of my friends.”
    By friends, Francesca meant men. Apparently she had no female friends at all, which was not surprising. Apparently Francesca enjoyed the company of individuals who did nothing but bestow her praise as each one they greeted did nothing but that.
    A stream of new faces, all smiling, some leering, seemed to blur together before she realized Francesca

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