The Bride (The Wedding Series) - By Christine Dorsey


Early Summer; 1884

Newport, Rhode Island

She would do.

John Edward Bonner leaned against one of the limestone columns on Oakgate’s broad loggia and appraised his bride to be. She stood beside her father shaded by a sprawling blue and white striped awning that spanned a portion of the perfectly manicured lawn. The cream of Newport society gathered for an afternoon picnic. And John’s soon-to-be bride was one of them.

An outsider, certainly not listed among the Mrs. Astor’s four hundred socially acceptable, John viewed the event with a jaundiced eye. But it suited his purpose to be here.

As it suited his purpose to wed Eleanor Fiske.

She wasn’t difficult to look at as he’d imagined she might be. But of course, until this moment, his only sight of her had been a fuzzy likeness in the New York Times. She’d been attending the annual New Year’s Eve Ball given by Mrs. Astor. Photographs seemed to adore some women and hate others. Apparently there was no love lost between Eleanor and the camera.

She was tall, nearly chin to chin with Oakgate’s owner, and slender waisted. Her cobalt blue gown with its red trim and matching straw hat overpowered her pale coloring and showed her to be less buxom than was the vogue. Or than he preferred.

But that didn’t really concern John.

Eleanor Hamilton Fiske might not be the most beautiful woman adorning the lawn of her parents’ sprawling Newport “cottage,” but she suited John perfectly.

She had something that mere money couldn’t buy. And John should know because thanks to hard work and a lucky break with a copper mine he had plenty of money. Acceptance was another matter. He didn’t have it.

But Eleanor Fiske did.

Her family was one of the oldest and most respected on the East Coast. Quality, his mother had always called those people who lived above the taunts and jeers of common folk. Folks like John.

A flash of memory from his childhood sprang blinding white to John’s mind and he tamped it back with practiced ease. He was a long way from the cribs of New Orleans. His dark eyes scanned the startling beauty of blue sky, green grass and jewel-like gowns. A long way.

Yes, acceptance by society would propel John beyond the memories of filth and sweat.

And though she didn’t realize it yet, Eleanor Fiske was going to share with him her family’s venerated place in society. He’d just committed a small fortune to assure it.

~ ~ ~

“There you are.” Franklin Fiske glanced up as John approached. “I’m glad you could join us today.”

“It is my honor, sir.” John responded affably, nodding his head to Franklin Fiske’s warm greeting. Of course the older man should be gracious... and damn grateful that John had agreed to bail him out of his latest economic blunder. But their last meeting, despite the promise of a considerable amount of cash, had been less friendly. It seemed at the time Mr. Fiske resented the price of John’s assistance.

John turned his attention toward Eleanor as he was presented by her father. John had to give Franklin credit. For all appearances he’d gotten over his indignation about selling his darling daughter to the highest bidder. But then, John had the feeling Fiske didn’t care all that much about his only offspring. It had seemed more to John at the time that Franklin was more concerned with how the approaching nuptials would affect him, than how his daughter would view them.

John bowed over Eleanor’s hand and gave his most charming smile—a smile that was lost on her when she didn’t even glance up. He could barely hear her murmured response to his greeting.

“Well, John, have you settled in at Newport?” Franklin’s voice sounded booming in contrast to his daughter’s.

“Yes, sir. I rented a house farther down Bellevue Avenue.” It was large with a socially correct address, though nothing like the reproduction of an Italian Renaissance castle that sprawled behind them.

“Good, good.” Franklin’s eyes darted toward his daughter, then returned to John. “I think you will enjoy your season in Newport. Don’t you agree, Eleanor?”

“Yes, Father.” Again her words were low and softly spoken. And she had yet to look up from fumbling with her parasol handle.

Though John seriously doubted he would enjoy anything about this summer, he accepted being in Newport for the necessity it was. It was time he had a wife who could hear his children. Though he knew scores of women willing to assume that responsibility, they lacked Eleanor Fiske’s qualifications. Or more precisely, her qualification.

“Mr. Bonner is