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Authors: Temple's Prize

Linda Castle

“Connie, to me you are still a little girl in braids—and you always will be.”

Her cheeks flamed with inner heat. The only sound was the warbling of a meadowlark. Constance found her fingers curling around the carving secreted deep within her pocket. The unfamiliar knot began to grow in her abdomen again.

“Well, I am not a little girl any longer, Temple,” she said softly.

Temple chuckled and looked away. He took a bite of cornbread and chewed in silence, but Constance could see he was well pleased with himself.

The knot in her middle twisted and churned. She reached up and pulled the netting down over her face, grateful for the opportunity to avoid being seen, and made herself a promise.

Before this expedition came to an end, she was going to make Temple Parish acknowledge the fact that she was
not
a child…!

Dear Reader,

Linda’s Castle’s new book,
Temple’s Prize,
features a hotshot young paleontologist who discovers that his challenge to his former professor and current rival will be taken up by his daughter instead. A battle of hearts and wills ensues as the two fight their mutual attraction and struggle to keep their eyes on the prize rather than each other. Don’t miss this wonderful tale.

His Secret Duchess
is a heart-wrenching new Regency tale from Gayle Wilson about a nobleman presumed dead who returns home after seven years of war to discover his “secret wife” on trial for murder, and a son whom he must rescue from a vengeful merchant. And popular author Suzanne Barclay returns to her bestselling series, THE SOMMERVILLE BROTHERS, with her newest medieval novel,
Knight’s Rebellion,
the stirring tale of the leader of a band of outlaws who finds himself unable to resist the mysterious woman whom he has rescued.

And when a homeless schoolteacher is taken in by the wealthy uncle of one of her students, falling in love is the last thing on their minds, in Pat Tracy’s new Western,
Cade’s Justice,
the first book in her terrific series set in Denver, Colorado, called THE GUARDSMEN. Another great read from an author who always delivers a fast-paced and sexy story.

Whatever your tastes in reading, we hope you enjoy all four books this month.

Sincerely.

Tracy Farrell
Senior Editor

Please address questions and book requests to:
Harlequin Reader Service

U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269
Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3

Temple’s Prize
Linda Castle

Books by Linda Castle

Harlequin Historicals

Fearless Hearts
#261

Abbie’s Child
#321

The Return of Chase Cordell
#348

Temple’s Prize
#394

LINDA CASTLE

is the pseudonym of Linda L. Crockett, a third-generation native New Mexican. Linda started writing in March of 1992, and
Temple’s Prize
is her fourth book from Harlequin Historicals.

When not penning novels, Linda divides her time between being a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves speaking to aspiring writers and teaching them what she has learned. Her best advice—write from the heart.

Linda believes one of the greatest benefits she has received from writing historical novels is the mail from the readers. She encourages and welcomes comments to be sent to: Linda Castle, #18, Road 5795, Farmington, NM 87401. Please include a SASE for a reply/bookmark.

Dedication:

I thank God for the miracle of each day and the love of my family. Especially Bill, for all the times you have cheerfully taken us out to dinner because I forgot to cook. For all the mornings you let me sleep in while you go to the salt mines. For all the hours you act like you are truly interested in hearing about people who live only in my mind and on the printed page, you still have my heart. Your tender love and care are the essence and soul of my writing. I am proud to be your wife.

And Brandon, for all the times you have sat in my office, patiently waiting for me to write one more line—one more paragraph—for forgiving me when my eyes glaze over and I start plotting in the middle of a conversation, thank you. Each day you gracefully step closer to manhood. If you continue as you have begun, you will make a real hero.

To Logan, for all the times you have come to give me a hug and a kiss when I was mentally lost in some other time and place. You instinctively provide what I need, you forgive me when I have been too busy to go to the park or to the movies, and I am so very grateful. You are a unique treasure, my darling. It is a privilege to live with you and watch you grow.

I am thankful I am Mom to you both. What would life be like if I had boring, uninteresting children who never gave me plotlines or graying hair?

Without you three I could not do this—and I doubt I would even want to. I adore you all more than words can say.

A special nod to Partie Steele-Perkins. I hope you know what a large contribution you make to this whole crazy process. Thanks.

Chapter One

“C
onfound it, Constance Honoria, I will
not
allow that scoundrel to steal Montague’s endowment from this university!”

“Now, Papa.” Constance tried to placate her agitated father. “Remember what your doctor said.”

“Confound him, too. I refuse to stay home while that bounder goes in search of the prize. I have survived jungle rains, snakebite and insect infestation.” He flung the newspaper he had been brandishing like a weapon across the crowded office. It narrowly missed several native clay pots Constance had been meticulously illustrating while she cataloged them into the university archives.

Professor Charles Herbert Cadwallender rose unsteadily to his feet. Even with the aid of his cane, it was obvious the heavy plaster cast on his leg was cumbersome to manage. When he glanced away Constance picked up the newspaper and looked at the photograph on the front page. She could see why her father was in such a state. The caption below Temple Parish’s handsome visage declared him on the way to becoming the most noted scientist and explorer of 1889. That
alone would be enough to send her father into an apoplectic fit—without mention of Filbert Montague’s rich endowment.

“Papa, I’m sure Temple will earn—”

“Earn? Earn? Temple Parish has never earned anything in his life!” The aging professor leaned heavily on his cane beside a table strewed with odd rocks and bits of broken bones. His spare weather-hardened body vibrated with indignant fury. “Temple has charmed or cajoled or committed outright thievery to worm his way into the scientific community ever since I hired him as my assistant.”

Constance pushed the wire-rimmed spectacles up on the bridge of her nose, and as she did the past came into sharp focus. She remembered the day her father and Temple had parted company as if it were only yesterday. That was the day Temple Parish had pulled on her braids, winked at her, kissed her forehead and walked out of her life.

“Something must be done! Dandridge University is going to lose out on a one-hundred-thousand-dollar endowment unless I can find a way to go on that dig.”

“Papa, would it help if I went to see Temple—if I talked to him? Maybe we could reach some sort of understanding.”

“Constance Honoria Cadwallender, haven’t you been listening? I am talking about Temple Parish—the blackest-hearted pirate to walk God’s earth since Captain Kidd!”

Constance tilted her head and frowned at the idea. She had. thought of Temple in many different ways over the past ten years, but as hard as she tried to conjure up the image, she simply could not consider
Temple something as outmoded as an ancient, unscrupulous pirate.

It was just silly. And even though people whispered his name in the hallways of the university, and just because her father refused to discuss him at all, there was really no cause to think that he would be unreasonable about this little problem.

Constance pushed up her glasses. There had to be a civilized and sensible way around this dilemma and she intended to find it.

“Mr. Parish?” The fledgling reporter was clearly in awe.

“Please, Thaddeus, call me Temple.” Temple smiled, hoping to set the eager young man at ease. Noise surrounded them as the elegant dining room started to fill with refined, well-dressed women and their evening escorts. Temple glanced down at his dusty clothes and worn high-topped boots and realized he was sorely out of place in New York’s finer dining establishments. The clothing he wore would have been out of place no matter the time of day. He unconsciously rubbed his finger across the raised scar on his cheekbone.

“Mr. Parish—Temple, I mean?”

“What? Oh, I’m sorry, Thaddeus, go ahead with your interview.” Temple leaned back in the comfortably padded dining chair.

“Do you have any comment on the criticism that Professor Cadwallender has been giving you in the
Sentinel?
Would you like to rebut his recent comments?”

Temple’s scalp prickled but he kept a broad smile pasted on his face and forced himself to remain calm.
“I respect C.H. very much. I have nothing but respect and admiration for him. I only hope his advancing years do not prevent him from accepting this challenge. It would be a great boon to Dandridge University if he could at least make a good showing—for the sake of his reputation.”

While Thaddeus Ball scribbled in a small dog-eared pad, Temple allowed his gaze to skim over the women seated around him. Feminine whispers accompanied flushed cheeks. Several smiled and let their eyes linger a. moment longer than polite society dictated was proper. He smiled back, even though none of them caught his interest. The
Sentinel
had been running a series of articles about him and had managed to paint him to be a combination of Louis Lartet, the discoverer of Cro-Magnon man, and Casanova, the world’s greatest lover. In truth Temple was no more than a weary wanderer in desperate need of a bath, a bed and a woman who could understand multisyllable words—not necessarily in that order, of course. As he glanced around the room he realized he would be lucky to find even one of those three in his present environment.

“Well, Mr. Parish—I mean, Temple, is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?”

“Yes—tell them that C. H. Cadwallender was the best teacher a man could have, but I fully intend to be the first explorer to find and catalog a new species of extinct reptile and name it for Filbert Montague. I am confident my quest will be a short one. You can tell Mr. Montague to get that one-hundred-thousand dollars dusted off, because it will be going to Ashmont University, the institution of my choice, very soon.”

Constance read the newspaper article again. She found it hard to believe that Temple Parish could be bristling with so much confidence, but there it was in black and white. He had issued a blatant challenge to her father, and the prize at stake was the endowment promised by Mr. Montague. She sighed and set the paper aside.

“Papa will be beside himself,” she told the mynah bird eyeing her from its black iron perch.

“Awrk,” the bird said. “Beside, beside, beside.”

“Be quiet, Livingstone. This is serious. I have to find some way of helping Papa and the university.” Any chance of trying to reason with Temple was out of the question now. Even if he were inclined to make some private and amicable arrangement with her, the newspapers would hear of it and everyone involved would risk being discredited by Dandridge University and her father’s stuffy, narrow-minded colleagues.

She pushed her spectacles up on her nose and tried to think. Sunlight was streaking through the beveled glass transom in the hallway. The parquet wood floor was striped in shadow and light. Livingstone hopped down from his perch to the round oak table and started shuffling through the day’s mail. He picked up several envelopes and then dropped them to the floor. Then he found a letter more to his liking. While Constance was preoccupied he began to pierce the paper with his sharp pumpkin-colored beak.

“Give .me that—you nuisance.” Constance jerked the envelope from Livingstone’s bill. “You pesky little thief.”

She held up the perforated letter and looked at the damage with a critical eye. “Now look what you have done.”

Luckily it was addressed to her, C. H. Cadwallender. Papa was beginning to grow impatient with her pet. He was far too talkative and his habit of ruining anything he got his beak into had begun to wear on her father’s nerves.

She ripped open the tattered envelope, tossed it into a wicker wastebasket and began to read the letter. A frown creased her brow. Constance retrieved the discarded envelope and read the address again.

“C. H. Cadwallender,” she mused. She refolded the letter and replaced it in the envelope. A smile curved her lips. It was a natural mistake, since she and her father had identical initials.

“Perhaps Papa can go on that dig after all.” She urged Livingstone to step onto her hand and returned him to his cage before he destroyed anything else. While she picked up the scattered mail from the hall floor a plan had begun to form in her mind. By the time the uneven tap and click of her father’s cane announced his arrival home, Constance was ready.

She opened the door and greeted her father with a kiss to the cheek. “Good afternoon, Papa.”

C.H. hung his hat on the tall oak hall tree. “Honoria. You seem in particularly ebullient spirits—what has made you so buoyant?”

Constance straightened her collar, nudged her spectacles up on her nose and looked her father straight in the eye. The time had come to tell him her plan. “Come sit down, Papa, I have something to discuss with you.”

C.H. hobbled to his chair and flopped down awkwardly. Whenever Honoria got that glint in her eye he knew he was in for stormy weather. Constance placed the ottoman in front of him and gently put his foot in
the middle with a pillow beneath it. When he was as comfortable as she could possibly make him, she drew in a deep breath and told him of her plan.

Professor Cadwallender stared at his daughter in disbelief. She had come up with some bizarre schemes in her life, but this one was the most far-fetched yet.

“I can do it, Papa. I am a better digger than many men and I know how to map and grid by using the system you taught me. I can do it—I am sure I can be successful.” Constance heard a challenge ringing in her own voice.

“It’s ridiculous. It’s no place for a female on her own. To even consider it is preposterous.”

Constance felt her own pride surging forward. She wanted this chance to prove herself. “I have gone on many digs with you in the past.”

“That was entirely different, Honoria. Those were
my
digs. If you went to Montana you would be completely on your own.”

“Would you rather see Temple Parish win by default?”

She knew her words had hit their intended mark when her father’s lined face turned three shades of crimson.

“That bounder!” Professor Cadwallender struck his cane against the fat pillow elevating his cast. A spiral of dust wafted into the still air of the overcrowded study.

“I am capable of succeeding, Papa. And I would be able to make detailed sketches for Dandridge’s archives.” Constance reassured her fatheragain.

He’ looked up at her and tilted his head much as Livingstone did when studying a new toy. “Are you sure, Honoria?”

“You can depend on me, Papa—I promise you won’t be disappointed. You have my solemn oath, I will not allow Temple Parish to win.”

C.H. sighed in resignation. “All right, Honoria— go. Go and show that ungrateful Temple-Parish what we Cadwallenders are made of.”

Temple propped up his feet and stared out the window of the train car as mile after dusty mile of terrain rattled by the window. The fine film of grit that coated the glass added a soft sepia tone to his view of the world.

Other than an occasional antelope springing away with a flash of its white rump, and the sporadic long-eared jackrabbit bounding alongside the tracks, Temple seemed to be the only person in the train car who was not napping. Not a sound came from the other passengers. It was the kind of quiet that grated on Temple’s nerves—the kind of quiet before a godawful thunder-boomer raced across open country, or some terrible disaster swept into his life—or he was cursed to have a month’s worth of nightmares about his mother’s death. He rubbed the scar on his cheek and directed his thoughts to his recent departure, forcing the old pain below the surface of his consciousness.

He would reach the tiny town of Morgan Forks tomorrow morning. There, he was to meet with the local man Filbert Montague had hired to guide him to the ravine where a cache of bones was rumored to be. From that point on it would be a soft job.

All he had to do was dig out some unknown critter—and most everything being found was unknown—ship it back to New York and watch Filbert
Montague hand over the money to Ashmont University.

“After reasonable expenses,” Temple muttered to himself. The cash he had managed to save from his last dig was rapidly dwindling. He had hoped Ashmont would be grateful enough to offer to finance a new expedition, but they had not. Luckily Filbert Montague’s inflated ego and fat bank account had solved his problem. “For the moment,” Temple muttered aloud.

The job would be easy and quick, hardly so much as a challenge. He knew he should be happy about that, but he was still sorely disappointed that C. H. Cadwallender had been unable to make the trip. It had been a ten-year-old thorn in Temple’s side that old C.H. never gave him his due, just as he had never given him the benefit of the doubt.

Temple was good at what he did—perhaps he was even the best—and he was itching to prove it to C.H. and the rest of those stodgy old fools at Dandridge who had been so quick to pass judgment on him ten years ago.

He wondered why it should mean so much to him, after all these years and all these miles, but deep down inside he knew. All he had wanted since C.H. found him living in the streets and started teaching him the science of the past was to measure up in the old man’s eyes. He longed to show C.H. and his fellow academics that book learning was not the
only
way. And he needed to hear them admit that he was just as honorable, just as fair, as somebody who had not grown up in the gutters of New York. Temple had been forced to learn his methods through backbreaking work, but they would not acknowledge his skill or forget the
rumored scandal that still clung to his name like dust to his boots.

Temple leaned back in the seat and pulled his shapeless felt hat down over his eyes. It was a constant source of irritation to him that he could not simply let the past go. To the professors at Dandridge he was the street rat, a guttersnipe, and that was that. Temple knew he might as well take a nap and forget his tenyear-old frustration. Besides, when he returned to New York and accepted Filbert Montague’s endowment, those same snobby professors would finally be forced to admit he had done what one of their faculty had not been able to.

That would have to be enough, because that was likely all he could ever expect from C.H. and his kind, he told himself as he shifted in the seat and tried to find a comfortable spot.

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