Release Day is here at last for His Forbidden Bride (spicy version)/Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version)! And I know a lot of you have been looking forward to Honoria and Solomon’s story for a long, long time. Well, here it is! So who am I to stand in your way? Get started reading Chapter One right now….
Haskell, Wyoming – 1876
Honoria Bonneville was about to go mad. The clock on the mantel of Dr. Abernathy’s office ticked with such deep foreboding that it pulled every nerve in her body taut. She wrung her white handkerchief in her hands as she sat hunched in a spindly chair on the other side of the waiting room from the clock. Her lungs burned, but she fought the urge to cough—fought it and fought it and fought it until she couldn’t hold out anymore.
She burst into a spell of coughing that wracked her from head to toe and made the pale, middle-aged woman sitting across from her start. That woman quickly fell into coughing too, as if Honoria’s outburst were contagious. A third patient—an older man—frowned and hugged himself tightly, as if summoning the willpower to not be made sick by the women. Honoria squeezed her eyes shut, praying for her lungs to be still.
Heaven knew she had enough practice holding her breath and keeping the things that were inside of her from coming out. She’d been biting her tongue and swallowing all of the things she had wanted to say for the past twenty-five years of incessant bullying by her sisters, Vivian and Melinda. She’d even endured snide comments and a turned-up nose from her younger sister, Bebe.
Once upon a time, she’d tried to speak out, to fight back against the unfairness that was heaped on her. It had been easier when she was a small girl and her mother was still alive. Ariana Bonneville had been the one light of hope in young Honoria’s life. She had been the single stabilizing influence in Rex Bonneville’s life—though he’d never appreciated her for it. She’d been the center of Honoria’s world, and when she’d died in childbirth—along with Rex Bonneville’s only son—when Honoria was seven, the light had gone out of her world. And the sense had gone out of the Bonneville family.
Grief that had never healed spilled through Honoria, and she dissolved into another round of wracking coughs that brought tears to her eyes. It was the coughing that made her cry, she insisted to herself, not grief, not pity for her lot in life. As her mother lay dying, her final words to Honoria had been, “Always remember who you are, Honoria. Your honor is your shining light. Hold your head up high, face your trials bravely, and be honest in all things.” There had been words of love and sorrow too, but in every day that passed since then, Honoria had obeyed her mother, behaved with quiet honor, and born the brutality of her sisters and the neglect of her father with as much courage and strength as she could muster…for Mother’s sake.
Now that strength was failing her. She coughed again, in unison with the other woman waiting to see Dr. Abernathy. She’d been strong as long as she could, but for months now Honoria had felt the unmistakable sensation of the Universe holding its breath. Something was about to change.
The door to Dr. Abernathy’s examination room swung open, and Dr. Abernathy himself popped his head into the waiting room. He held a small stack of files that he looked at several times between staring at Honoria, the old man, and the other woman. He shuffled through the papers in the file, cleared his throat, then focused on Honoria.
“With a cough like that, I’d better see you first.”
An unexpected tremor of fear passed through Honoria as she stood and slipped across the waiting room to the examination room. Dr. Abernathy stood back so she could go before him. Once she was inside, hovering anxiously beside a short table, Dr. Abernathy shut the door.
“Let’s see now.” Dr. Abernathy shuffled through the files, mumbling to himself. He set one down on the table, then scowled as he thumbed through the other two. “What an utter nuisance.”
“I’m sorry?” Honoria asked in a small voice.
Dr. Abernathy made a disapproving noise. “Why does Dr. Meyers keep insisting on seeing patients when he is constantly being called out to that blasted Indian reservation?”
Honoria blinked, unsure if she was supposed to answer the question. “I saw Dr. Meyers about my cough this morning.” She opted to explain.
“Yes, and I’m sure your father will have something to say about that,” Dr. Abernathy grumbled. “I’ve been your family doctor for years.”
There was no point in explaining that that was the exact reason she’d seen someone else about her concerns. “Dr. Meyers had just finished examining me—listening to my lungs, testing my sputum with some chemicals he has—when the army officer came to take him to the Cheyenne camp. I…I understand it was an emergency.”
Dr. Abernathy continued to mutter, “Damned inconvenient, if you ask me. Causing me extra work. Those savages don’t deserve it.”
A sudden snap of dislike caught Honoria off-guard, sending her into another coughing fit.
At last, Dr. Abernathy set one of the two files he held aside and his expression lightened. “Ah! Here we are. Just as I suspected.” His countenance turned grave. He stared at her over the top of his glasses. Honoria began to shake, too afraid to ask what he suspected. She didn’t have to ask. “It’s obvious, really,” he went on. “Consumption.”
Honoria’s breath caught in her throat, and the room went dark for a moment. Her legs turned to jelly, and if she hadn’t reached out to grab the examination table, she was certain she would have fallen over. She’d known it. In her heart, she’d known all along. And she knew what consumption was.
It was a death sentence.
“Looks like it’s fairly advanced, going by Dr. Meyers’s notes,” Dr. Abernathy went on, as if describing how a garden wall was built. “The coughing will continue, as will instances of coughing up blood. Yes, yes.” He scanned the rest of the file. “I wouldn’t plan on lasting more than six months to a year.”
“That’s it?” Honoria squeaked, clutching her handkerchief to her chest.
Dr. Abernathy shrugged. “Could be less, could be more.” He cleared his throat and closed the file, tossing it on the table with the others. “If I were you, young woman, I would get my affairs in order.”
The tears that had stung Honoria’s eyes earlier burned hotter. That was it? Twenty-five years and her life was over? She shook her head, her shoulders sinking. Twenty-five years of life and what did she have to show for it? A battered spirit and an empty heart.
What a waste. What a terrible, terrible waste.
Dr. Abernathy cleared his throat. “I have other patients to see. More than usual, thanks to Dr. Meyers.”
Honoria blinked up at him through her shock and grief. That was all he had to say? Censure for Dr. Meyers? After giving her a death sentence? The urge to run filled her.
“Thank you for your time, sir.” She managed to push out the words with a hoarse breath.
Dr. Abernathy grunted, then pivoted to hold the door open for her. Clutching her handkerchief to her chest, Honoria hurried out the door. She tried to hold her head high—like she always did—as she made her way through the waiting room, but as soon as she was out in the hot, July sun of Haskell, she burst into bitter, wrenching tears.
Oh no! That doesn’t sound good at all! But is Honoria really dying? Find out by reading either His Forbidden Bride (spicy version) or Honoria: The Forbidden Bride (sweet version) now!
Honoria: The Forbidden Bride is available exclusively at Amazon and for Kindle Unlimited.