An Unlikely Alliance

By: Rachel van Dyken

Prologue





Evelyn De Jarlias sighed as the sun set over the horizon. Two more days until her twenty-first birthday and what did she have to show for it? Looking down at her hands only made the thought more depressing. Dirt caked around the insides of her nails. After a long, hard day working on the farm, all she needed was another reminder that there were no available gentlemen in the area, and even if there were—hers would not be the first door they would beat down.

She walked to the edge of the pond and let the pins out of her hair. The thick, cornflower-white tendrils hung down to the middle of her back—it was her crowning glory. Not that her face was ugly by any means. It was just extremely tanned, showing everyone within a safe distance she was middle class.

Growing up, she had always dreamed of a bigger future. A glamorous future with beautiful dresses and dancing. Lots and lots of dancing.

Her reality stared back at her through the reflection in the water. A working girl covered in dirt, no money in her pockets, no prospects, and certainly no future.

"Evelyn! Evelyn!" The sound of her father's voice shook the melancholy from her. Stuart De Jarlias was a hard-working man. Never once putting himself before anyone else. Always trying to make her life better than it was. For that she loved him and was grateful for his love, especially since it was just the two of them. Her mother had died while she was still quite young, leaving them with a giant hole in the family which would and could never be filled.

"Yes, Daddy?" The question hung in the air.

"Evelyn!" He yelled even louder. His head finally showed over the little hill he came from. "Evelyn!" His face was covered in a mixture of dirt and water, caking mud in the wrinkles around his eyes. Oh Lord, what had happened? Had the moonshine exploded? Was he okay? He stumbled towards her; were those tears in his eyes?

"Daddy!" She ran to him, tripping over her skirts as she finally reached him. Scrambling, she pulled his face into a closer view and panicked. "What's wrong, Daddy? Are you hurt?"

Then her father did the most ridiculous thing imaginable. He laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed until she thought he stopped breathing.

"Daddy!" She stomped her foot. "Stop that right now! What's wrong with you?"

"We're rich, Babydoll. We're saved!" Babydoll was her daddy's nickname for her. He also called her Sugar and Cupcake, but Babydoll was her favorite. It took her back to the time when her mama was alive. When things were simpler and happier. Frustrated, she closed her eyes and tried a new tactic.

"I don't understand, Daddy. Have you been drinking your own moonshine again?"

He shook his head, tears still streaming down his grimy black face. "No, Babydoll. No moonshine! We're rich! A British lord has offered to buy all of our acreage! And for fifty times what we purchased it for!"

That day Evelyn's life changed forever.





Chapter One





Royce McArthur swore as another glass of champagne went flying by his face. "What was that for?" he yelled, just as the glass shattered into a million tiny pieces next to his polished boot.

"Stop pretending that you don't know!" Sheila screamed, picking up another glass.

"I can explain!" He started looking for exits.

"Explain?" she wailed, closing her eyes. "Explain this!" A piece of cutlery nearly nicked him in the shin as it whizzed past him and stuck in the nearby wall.

This was not going well. It was impossible to know just what she was so upset about. One minute he had been having a nice drink of whiskey with his brothers, and then next thing he knew, glassware was flying dangerously close to his face at alarming speeds.

Women.

Can't live with them, and in his current state, he definitely wanted to live without them. What good were they anyway? It wasn't as if he was in dire need to marry anytime soon, which was why he took his pleasures wherever he could find them. Sheila was the last choice he had made in that department, albeit a poor one. Yes, if he had thought about his actions, he might have foreseen this happening. She was prone to jealousy more than his other mistresses had been. Hence the need for violence.

He racked his brain, trying to think of some way to calm her down. What could she possibly be so upset about?