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A Match for Magnolia
SERIES: Seven Suitors for Seven Sisters, Book 1
GENRE: Clean/Wholesome/Sweet, Inspirational/Spiritual
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 20,000 to 34,999 (small novella)
HERO’S AGE: 30-39
HEROINE’S AGE: 25-29
HEAT LEVEL: Chaste (Hold my hand)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: None (as in zero, or no more than 1)
Womanizer. Adulterer. Divorced. That is Lord Davis Rathbone’s history. His future? He vows to never marry or fall in love again—repeating his past mistakes, not worth the risk. Then he meets Magnolia Blume, and filling his days penning poetry no longer seems an alternative to channel his pent-up feelings. With God’s help, surely he can keep this rare treasure and make it work this time?
Magnolia Blume’s life is perfect, except for one thing—Davis Rathbone is everything she’s not looking for in a man. He doesn’t strike her as one prone to the sentiments of family, or religion, but her judgments could be premature.
Magnolia must look beyond the gossip, Davis’s past, and their differences to find her perfect match, because, although flawed, Davis has one redeeming quality—he is a man after God’s own heart.
READ AN EXCERPT
Magnolia Blume extended her hand and admired the view. Never before had she seen a diamond so big, so pure, or with such flawless clarity. Perfect. As was her handiwork. This had to be her best design ever. Then again, the enigmatic Lord Rathbone, Baron of Levens Hall, was very specific in his requirements for this ring.
“Something different. Something unusual. Something way beyond extraordinary. Something you’d want as an engagement ring,” he’d said as he glanced down at her hand.
The nerve! To presume she was unmarried just because her finger was bare. She vowed then and there to give him something beyond description. And she had. Eventually. Even though he hadn’t acknowledged as much when she’d emailed him her sketches last month. The third set. The ones she’d designed after he’d told her to give him something from her heart, questioning whether everything he’d heard about her was true.
Really? What had he heard? And from whom? She’d ask him today when he collected the ring.
“That’s more like it. Now bring it to life,” his emailed response had read.
Magnolia took that as a yes to proceed with manufacturing.
The baron’s rough diamond had provided the first three Cs for this masterpiece: clarity, color, carat—2.5 for the center stone alone. She made sure the fourth—cut—happened to precision on every stone she faceted from the original rock.
By the time Magnolia gave her handiwork one last dip in the ultrasonic bath this morning, no doubt remained that she had truly crafted this ring from her heart—faith and family, her inspiration in this design.
She dabbed the corners of her eyes with the tip of her finger. The diamonds sparkled with the movement, and her heart missed a beat. What a nice sight that would be to see daily. Alone in her small workshop, she released a sigh.
Davis Rathbone would likely have an entirely different perspective on this ring. Not that she’d ever had an opportunity to discuss his feelings on the design, or her inspiration behind it, even though the piece begged to be examined, debated, and admired for the work of art that it was. He did not strike her as one prone to the sentiments of family, or religion. But, she’d barely met the man, so perhaps her judgments were premature. Hardly likely, though. Magnolia was never wrong about men. Perhaps that’s why she was staring down the barrel of a single thirtieth birthday come autumn. At least she wasn’t the oldest bachelorette in their family.
Did she really need a man in her life, though? She owned a relatively successful jewelry business, as well as a beautiful home in the most scenic part of England—the Lake District. The slate-roofed stone cottage, built on the lower slopes of Skiddaw, overlooked the quaint town of Keswick, her view ending with the still waters of Lake Derwentwater. On the northern side, closest to her house, lush pastures bordered the lake while undulations of mountains faded from green to blue on the other side. Still, it would be nice to have someone to talk to besides her wild hedgehogs when she got home. It wasn’t as if she could cuddle one of those prickly creatures. At least not for long.
Sentiments aside, Davis Rathbone’s fiancée was one lucky lady to have a ring like this. The woman’s fiancé, on the other hand, was a different story. Now there was a prickly creature if ever there was one. Even his dashing looks could not smooth away his bristly nature.
Standing, Magnolia reached behind her back and loosened the bow of her jeweler’s apron. She smiled at the words embroidered in white on the black calico as she draped the garment, last year’s Christmas gift from her shop assistant, Jayne, over her chair. First Class Jeweler. Someone must have thought so to have recommended her services to the baron. But who? Hopefully she’d find out soon enough. Davis Rathbone would be here within an hour.
Still admiring the ring on her finger, she moved toward the door leading from her workshop to the small showroom. She’d show Jayne the final product before cushioning the very expensive item between black velvet in a white ring box, monogrammed MB in silver cursive.
“Tada!” Magnolia followed her outstretched hand through the open door, making an exaggerated entrance into the showroom.
One too many sets of eyes fixed on her, and the sparkly piece she sported.
She dropped her arm to her side, her right hand swooping to her ring finger, as if removing the precious item would help now.
“L–Lord Rathbone, I—”
Had it not been for the look on Magnolia Blume’s face, Davis Rathbone might’ve been irked by her presumptuous behavior. In fact, his first instinct was to stride right across to her and remove the ring from her finger. But in the brief moment it took to reach her, all choler dissipated. She was more exquisite than he remembered. And he had tried to forget. Big blue eyes that seemed even larger at the shock of seeing him there earlier than expected. Full lips, the softest shade of pink, almost the same as the fragrant bloom she’d been named after. And that porcelain skin… Like a fragile flower.
He repressed the urge to run his fingers through the tresses cascading over her shoulders and down her back—shades of brown that tangled and twisted in girlish locks and mingled with warm honey highlights as if the sun itself had kissed her head.
Get a grip. What was he thinking? He should grab the ring and walk out the door. Find a quiet, lonely spot in the middle of a field, or beside a lake, and bleed his thoughts and feelings and emotions onto paper. Like he had the past three years. He’d filled books with poetry during this time.
Instead, he reached out and prevented the ring from leaving her finger. “Don’t.”
Creases formed on Magnolia’s forehead while a smile tugged the corners of Davis’s mouth. “I’d like to see how it looks on a woman’s finger.”
He slid the ring back into place. The action tugged at everything inside him. Lifting her hand, he brought it closer to his face. His thumb inched across hers, the distance barely noticeable. But for Davis, it seemed a mile. He breathed in deep. Her skin was even softer than he’d imagined.
“So it’s true?”
Her eyes widened further. “What’s true?” Her voice carried the slightest tremble, her eyes a hint of— Fear? Or was that a challenge in her fixed gaze?
Magnolia tipped her chin ever so slightly.
Definitely a challenge. He thought so. She didn’t seem the kind of woman to be plagued by fears of any kind. He liked that quality.
Davis gave her hand a light squeeze. “That you’re as good as I’ve been told.”
She lowered her gaze for a moment, and his world slowed in motion—every action heightened, lengthened, granting him the opportunity to experience each one far longer than the rush that normal life afforded.
“Thank you, Lord Rathbone. I will take that as a compliment.”
“Please, call me Davis.”
Her gaze questioning, she tilted her head. “Are you sure? It seems inappropriate.”
“Only if I hadn’t requested it, Miss Blume.” He allowed his smile free reign, something he hadn’t indulged himself the pleasure of in quite some time.
“Then you may call me Magnolia, if you like.” A smile touched her lips. “Or Maggie, as my friends and family do.”
A female friend. It had been a while.
“I would like that.” Very much.
Seemingly aware that he still held her hand, and that her colleague stood staring at them, Maggie freed herself from his hold. She turned and placed her hand on the counter behind her, glancing over her shoulder at him. “So, do you like what you see?”
Oh yes, I do. Far too much.
Davis stepped up to the glass counter. From below, items of jewelry cried for his attention, the piece that Maggie had fashioned screaming the loudest as it sparkled beneath the bright lights overhead. But only one thing held his gaze—the delicate French-manicured hand that wore his mother’s ring. Perfectly.
“You have truly surprised me, Miss— Maggie.” He motioned toward the ring with his eyes. “That has turned out far beyond my expectations.”
Her lips parted, exposing yet another flawless aspect of Magnolia Blume as a grin stretched across her cheeks. Thirty-two flawless aspects to be exact. Not that he could count them, but with teeth so perfect, the tooth fairy had no doubt long forgotten her address.
“What have you called this masterpiece?”
“Called? I— Um…”
“You haven’t given it a name? Surely something of importance was your muse when you crafted this, for it has turned out vastly different from your first designs. I can tell that you finally put your heart and soul into this ring.”
Maggie drew a breath and held it. “Garden of Love,” she spurted, averting her gaze.
“Garden of Love.” Davis trailed a finger over the diamonds. “A fitting name, epitomizing the reason I’d commissioned this piece. I imagine there’s quite a story behind the name.” A current love, perhaps. The thought churned his gut.
An awkward silence filled the room.
The doorbell tinkled. Thankfully. Both Davis and Maggie looked around as another patron entered, drawing the attention of the shop assistant who set about attending to the customer’s needs.
“Do you have plans this weekend?” The question tumbled from Davis’s mouth against his better judgment that told him to spend the rest of his days penning poetry. But he couldn’t let it end with him walking out of her store, never to see her again.
Maggie’s head snapped back in his direction. “No.” She eased the ring from her finger. “I’d better get this packaged for you.” She turned to go then stopped and pivoted. “Why?”
“We’re hosting our annual Spring Ball this Saturday. I’d be honored if you would be my guest.”
She clamped her bottom lip between her teeth. “Can I think about it, and let you know?”
Think about it? Most women would jump at such a social opportunity. Then again, Magnolia Blume was not like any other woman he’d ever known.
“Of course. As long as you let me know by tomorrow.” Perhaps the ring would entice her to accept his invitation. “The reason I commissioned that ring will also happen at the ball. Just saying…”
She smiled and walked to the other side of the counter they’d leaned on. “I will let you know. I have your number.” Stooping, Maggie opened a drawer, pulled out a white ring box, and placed it on the glass surface. “I’ll be back in a second. I need to fetch the certificate I issued this morning from my workshop.”
Davis watched her disappear behind the door she’d walked through only minutes before. Lord, is this from You? I’d vowed to devote my life to You, to reserve my feelings and emotions to paper. But I’m not sure I can walk away this time. It had to be providence that Jonathan met her sister in that London restaurant. Knowing of Davis’s plans for the stone he’d inherited from his father, his friend was quick to tell him of Magnolia Blume’s talent.
He turned his thoughts from Maggie to the one the ring had been designed for. He had no use for the diamond, and Mother would love what Maggie had done with the precious stone. This ring certainly should cheer her up. Anything to help her forget that awful day when Paxton chose to claim an early inheritance and leave. Nobody had heard a word from him since. One year today. His little brother certainly had gotten more than a bee in his bonnet Spring Day last year.
Maggie’s reappearance drew him back to the present. A far more preferable place.
Meet Marion Ueckermann
Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked when she moved to Ireland with her family. Her love of travel has influenced her contemporary inspirational romances set in novel places. Marion and her husband again live in South Africa, but with two gorgeous grandsons hanging their hats at the house next door, their empty nest’s no longer so empty.
Visit Marion at marionueckermann.net