Victoria by Maxine Douglas

Prologue

Wilmington, NC

Fall 1870

Looking out over the port where her father’s ships were once docked, the tide rose and ebbed along with Victoria Montgomery’s emotions. Swiping away a tear, she turned back to the desk where her father last sat before taking his own life.

“Damn Yankee carpetbaggers! Wasn’t enough they took everything that had meaning to my family, now they’ve taken the only thing Papa left me—his shipping business.” She would not allow the Republic Bank to take what was left of her dignity.

They’d already tried to do that when she met with the bank’s president, Mr. Brooks. All she’d asked for was ninety days to bring the accounts up to date. Three short months.

Still reeling from her father’s death, she’d set out to take back what was rightfully hers. After going through her father’s business ledgers, Victoria knew she could make up what he owed in a short amount of time. The men who had worked for her father respected and trusted her.

She’d grown up on the docks around most of them. With her father’s blessing, those rough looking sailors and dockhands had been like big brothers and mentors.

In the end, it was the fact she was a woman that had let her down. Mr. Brooks told her she needed to find a husband and become a proper lady. The business was better left to a man, not a young lady grieving the loss of her father.

She’d left the bank, head held high with not a tear in sight. Inside, she was screaming out in pain. She’d let her father’s loyal men down. She’d let her father down.

She’d let herself down.

But none of that mattered now. Soon she would be on a train that would begin her trip to a new life in a small mountain town in Montana Territory. And to a man her father had made her promise to agree to marry.

The match had been arranged by Father after her mother’s death and before Victoria had been able to protest the ridiculous idea. She did not care there were eligible men in the West who would marry a twenty-five-year-old spinster. She loved her life and had planned on stepping in for her father when he retired.

There was nothing left for her here in Wilmington any longer. With no place to live and no prospects to speak of, she had only tales of the sea the sailors had shared with her. She loved those stories as much as she loved the sea. Now, she had only her memories to guide her on troubled waters in a landlocked town.

At least until she found a way to reclaim what was rightfully hers.