One Heart to Win Online - Johanna Lindsey

Chapter One

ROSE WARREN STOPPED CRYING before her daughter, Tiffany, opened the front door of their brownstone town house, but she couldn’t get out of her mind the words that had provoked the tears. Come with her, Rose. It’s been fifteen years, haven’t you tortured us long enough?

She usually let her daughter, who had turned eighteen last month, read the letters from Franklin Warren. Frank usually kept them impersonal so she could share them with their daughter. This time he didn’t, and she wadded the letter up in her fist and stuffed it in her pocket as soon as she heard Tiffany’s voice in the hall. The girl didn’t know the real reason her parents didn’t live together. Frank didn’t even know the real reason she’d had to leave him. After all these years, it was best it remain that way.

“Tiffany, join me in the parlor, please!” Rose called out before Tiffany could go upstairs to her room.

The afternoon light glinting in her shiny reddish-blond hair, Tiffany removed her bonnet as she entered the parlor, then the short, thin cape from her shoulders. The weather was too warm now for a coat, yet a lady in New York City still had to be respectably dressed when she left the house.

As Rose gazed at Tiffany, she was once again reminded that her little darling was not so little anymore. Ever since Tiffany had turned eighteen, Rose had said more than one prayer that her daughter would stop growing. She was already well above average height at five feet eight inches and often complained about it. Tiffany got that height from her father, Franklin, and got his emerald green eyes, too, she just didn’t know it. She got fine bones from Rose and delicate features that made her more than pretty, but she’d only partially gotten Rose’s red hair; Tiffany’s was more a coppery hue.

“I’ve had a letter from your father.”

No response.

Tiffany used to get so excited over one of Frank’s letters, but that had been so long ago—about the time she’d stopped asking when he would visit.

It broke Rose’s heart to see the indifferent attitude her daughter had adopted toward her father. She knew Tiffany had no memories of him. She’d been too young when she and Rose had left Nashart, Montana. Rose knew she should have let them meet over the years. Frank had been magnanimous in sending the boys to her, though she was sure he had done it to make her feel guilty for not reciprocating and allowing their daughter to visit him. She’d been too afraid Frank wouldn’t let Tiffany return home to her. It wasn’t a groundless fear, it was her worst nightmare. In his rage he’d threatened to keep their daughter. He’d threatened so many things to try to make his family whole again. And she couldn’t even blame him for that effort! But it wasn’t going to happen, it couldn’t. And now she was going to face her greatest fear: that once Tiffany got to Montana, Rose would never again see her.

She should have insisted that Tiffany’s fiancé come to New York to court her. But that would have been the last straw for Frank. He’d honored Rose’s wishes for fifteen years and stayed away, but this was the year she’d promised him Tiffany would live under his roof again. Rose couldn’t, in good conscience, keep them apart any longer.

Tiffany stopped in front of her and held out her hand for the letter. Rose directed her to the sofa instead. “Sit down.”

Tiffany raised her brow at being denied the letter, but took the seat across from Rose. The room was large. The town house was large. Rose’s parents had come from old-world wealth, all of which was hers now. When Rose had returned from Montana Territory with her three-year-old daughter, she’d found her mother recuperating from a series of illnesses that had left her an invalid during the five years Rose had been away. Rose’s mother had only lasted four more years, but at least Tiffany had gotten to know her grandmother.

That had been a painful time in Rose’s life. She’d had to give up her husband, give up her three sons, then she’d lost her only remaining parent. But at least she’d had Tiffany. She would probably have gone mad with grief if she’d had to give up Tiffany, too. But now the day for that had come as well. . . .

“Is it time for the Talk again?” Tiffany asked in a bored tone.