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From Goodreads: From Amazon Top 100 Regency Romance author, Michele Paige Holmes, comes LOVING HELEN, a regency romance from the Hearthfire Romance series. Revisit the characters from SAVING GRACE in this story of Grace’s shy, younger sister.
Eighteen-year-old Helen Thatcher grew up under the protection of her older siblings, Grace and Christopher. Living in their shadows and keeping to herself suited Helen just fine—until she met widower Samuel Preston. Watching Mr. Preston care for his young daughter and seeing his concern extend to her own family, Helen felt her reserve slipping away, as she learned first to trust him and then realized she had fallen in love with him. But instead of returning—or even noticing her affection—Mr. Preston developed his own tender, and unrequited feelings, for Grace.
In the midst of each silently nursing their broken hearts, Helen and Samuel are faced with a daunting task—reuniting Grace with her fiancé, Nicholas Sutherland. Now it is Helen who must look out for her sister and sacrifice her own fragile heart, as she and Samuel pretend to be engaged. Helen finds the role surprisingly easy to play, allowing herself to imagine that Samuel’s loving remarks are sincere. As the time for their charade to end draws near, Helen must summon her courage and tell Samuel the truth of her feelings, or risk losing him forever.
I was so thrilled that Brady was in my home that I didn’t notice he wasn’t acting like himself. I pulled him into our drawing room where the fireplace was lit and the twelve-foot high Christmas tree sparkled in the dimly illuminated room. Under the tree sat my wrapped present for Brady. I retrieved the present and sat in front of the fireplace on the floor. Brady sat next to me, and before I could say a word, he pulled me to him and kissed me like he never had before. It was like a man kissing a woman, not a boy kissing a girl. I could barely breathe when he was done. His breathing was ragged too.
"Well, Merry Christmas," I said. That was present enough for me.
He smiled that country boy smile I loved so much, but it was then I noticed it didn’t touch his eyes like his smile always had.
"What’s wrong, Brady?"
He pulled on my hair, like he always had. "Ellie …"
He took a deep breath and looked at me with his baby blues. "We can’t be together anymore," he quickly blurted out.
I just shook my head. Surely I had heard him wrong, but I knew I hadn’t.
I backed up, and he scooted closer. The tears welled up in my eyes and in his. "Please, Ellie, just listen to me."
"Ok … Ella. I’m so sorry, but being with you is tearing my family apart, and with my daddy so sick … I … I have to … I have to do this for my family. Can you please understand that?"
I was speechless. I loved him. I had broken my aunt’s rules and heart for him. And he, he was the one who pursued me and who had to shout it to the world that we were together. How could he just end it like that? I didn’t understand. The tears began to flow. He tried to wipe them away, but I wouldn’t let him. I didn’t want him to touch me.
He stood up, but before he left, he looked down at me. "I love you, Miss Ellie."
How could he? I just stared up at him blankly
"Don’t worry, Ellie, you don’t have to say it back. I love us enough for the both of us."