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Sweetwater

Sweetwater

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She’ll do anything to save her small band of actors from the brilliant rogue who won her troupe in a poker match—even pretend to be the woman he loves.

For Portia Macintosh and her beloved company of Shakespearean performers, the summer was supposed to be a luxurious time spent staging the Bard’s famous plays by Georgia’s grand old Sweetwater Hotel. The famous resort is where well-to-do families sojourn to partake of the hotel’s famous springs.
Then her rascally father lost the troupe to businessman-gambler Daniel Logan.
Now it’s up to tomboy Portia to masquerade as the kind of femme fatale she thinks Logan wants—by impersonating her irresistible twin sister, Fiona. The stage is set for a grand deception . . . if only Logan doesn’t turn the tables on her.
She’ll do anything to save her small band of actors from the brilliant rogue who won her troupe in a poker match—even pretend to be the woman he loves.

For Portia Macintosh and her beloved company of Shakespearean performers, the summer was supposed to be a luxurious time spent staging the Bard’s famous plays by Georgia’s grand old Sweetwater Hotel. The famous resort is where well-to-do families sojourn to partake of the hotel’s famous springs.
Then her rascally father lost the troupe to businessman-gambler Daniel Logan.
Now it’s up to tomboy Portia to masquerade as the kind of femme fatale she thinks Logan wants—by impersonating her irresistible twin sister, Fiona. The stage is set for a grand deception . . . if only Logan doesn’t turn the tables on her.

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Published by: BelleBooks Publishing House on Sep 13, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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12/30/2013

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One
PORTIA MACINTOSH surveyed the empty railcar and swore. “Fiona! Wakeup! Where’s Papa?”Fiona sat up slowly, wiped the sleep from her china-blue eyes andglared at her twin sister. “How should I know? He said he was just going tostep outside for a smoke while the train stopped.”“Oh blast! Hell fire and little fishes! Why does he do this? I knew Ishouldn’t have gone back to the troupe car and left him here alone. Youshould have gone after him.”“Me? Go outside, alone, and look for Papa?” The train, creaking and lumbering along like a crotchety old man,began to pick up speed. Portia caught the back of one of the high-backedred serge seats for support. “For goodness sake, Fiona. This is 1890. Thelast stop was the Atlanta Terminal Station. There were peopleeverywhere.”“Well I don’t know anything about Atlanta, Georgia,Fiona saidcrossly. “And I certainly don’t know why we’re going to some churchtraining school to perform. We’re Shakespearean actors, not schoolchildren!”Portia buttoned the man’s jacket she was wearing, tucked herstrawberry blonde hair beneath the gentlemen’s driving cap shehabitually wore, and glanced down. Brown corduroy trousers hugged herslim boyish hips and legs, ending in scuffed knee-high leather boots.“It isn’t a Sunday School, Fiona. Papa says The Sweetwater Hotel issome kind of fine resort like Saratoga Springs. People go there to take themineral baths and drink the water.”“But, we aren’t going to the hotel, are we?” Fiona drew herself into alittle ball and covered her legs with a blanket. “Oh, Portia, I’m tired of living like a gypsy. I want a real house and a husband.”“I know, Fee, I know.” Portia’s patience was growing thin. She knewthey were all hungry and tired. Still she tried to reassure her sister. “TheChautauqua is the place where we perform. It’s a kind of school for adults. They teach language and art, and . . .” Portia moved to the front of thecar, opened the door and peered out. “. . . Oh, I don’t know, Fee. We’ll seewhen we get there. I’ve got to go look for Papa.”“What makes you think Papa is still on the train?”“You know Papa isn’t going to get left behind. He’s probably found oneof those dining cars and some wealthy matron to listen to his tall tales. I’llfind him.”“You aren’t going to look for him dressed like that, are you?” Fiona’svoice registered her distress.“Don’t I always travel like this? Oh, Fee, nobody would listen to me if Ididn’t dress like a man. You know I have to look after Papa and the rest of the troupe. With Papa slipping away to have a spot of something or otherevery time I turn my back and you afraid to get off the train in the dark,
 
who else is going to do it? Can’t you see me unloading scenery in a velvetgown? Or maybe I’ll throw out a heckler while I’m cinched up in a corsetand carrying a parasol. No thanks. Only a man has real power.”Portia glanced at her sister in irritation then changed her expressioninto a more gentle rebuke. Not only did Fiona have to tolerate a lifestyleshe abhorred, but she was constantly reminded of her sad plight bywatching her mirror image attired in men’s clothing and acting like sometough-talking Molly. Poor Fee. Being a twin was harder on her.“Portia, don’t you ever want to fall in love? Get married? Have afamily?”“Me? Of course not; that’s the last thing I would ever want to do—giveany man control over my life. I like things just the way they are. Besides, Ihave you and Papa.”“But how will I ever find a proper husband, a real gentleman with yousounding and looking like some tinker’s son, and Papa . . .”Sweet Fiona. She wasn’t born to live in such a family. She deserved afine young gentleman who’d treasure her quiet beauty and gentle nature.Indeed, neither of them deserved a father who was a ne’er-do-well,impoverished fake, but that’s what they had. Horatio Macintosh was acharming rogue, who left the running of the acting troupe to Portia,knowing that by hook or crook she’d figure how to solve their problems.Marry? Not she. She’d never understood Fiona’s desire to belong toanybody. Portia had her family and the troupe. They depended on her,and they were all she’d ever need. She’d seen enough of marriage toknow what happened to women who blindly gave themselves over to theirhusbands. They ceased to exist, becoming instead an appendage to theman.Mama used to shake her head and say that it was too bad that Portiadidn’t have some of Fiona’s sweet gentleness, while Fiona could haveused a little of Portia’s backbone. But there were two of them andsomehow everything got parceled out so that even though they lookedalike, they were very different. If there were times late at night whenPortia allowed herself to fantasize a bit about settling down in one place,the light of day always brought her back to reality.Other than Papa’s little lapses, Portia liked life just the way it was.Except that now Papa had disappeared.Portia knew that after her father’s last disastrous night on the townbefore they left Philadelphia, their survival was more likely to depend oncrook rather than hook. What money they had left would just coverhousing and food for the troupe. Horatio, that lovable rake who wasn’tabove picking a pocket or two along the way if need be. Secretly Portiahoped that for once he’d be successful and find a pocket filled withmoney. She was hungry, too.Opening the door at the end of the rail car, Portia stood on theswaying platform where one car was fastened to the next by a boltedtongue. She could see straight ahead into the car beyond. The train, nowrunning at full speed, was bumping and jerking along as if some giantchild were pulling it on a string.

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