Only the Heart Knows

The Brides

Book 4
Indigo Road Publishing
9
Free sample

When an advice columnist falls for a handsome rancher, she fears he'll never forgive her once he learns he's actually been sharing his secrets with a woman!

COLORADO 1880

Mandy MacKenna is secretly the voice behind Ask Mack, an advice column for men, addressing all matters ranching-related. And she's secretly in love with "Banks," one of her most devoted correspondents. But whenever she's around him, she can barely bring herself to make eye-contact with the man.

Adam Booker is a banker-turned-rancher, who's struggling to make his way after he inherits his uncle's place. If not for Ask Mack, he would have surely floundered by now. But the ranch is only one of his problems, because Mandy MacKenna - daughter of the region's wealthiest rancher - is far beyond his reach.

A lighthearted, sweet historical romance.

Only the Heart Knows
is a standalone novel in The Brides Series.

THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows

EXCERPT
 

A look of alarm crossed the postmistress's face. "Miss Amanda! Behind you!"

Mandy spun around, expecting to find a crate on the boardwalk behind her.

What she collided with instead was a wall of chest. A man. Strong arms fastened around her, preventing her from tumbling backward off the boardwalk into the street. He set her back a bit without releasing her.

"I'm so sorry..." she said. Her words stumbled to a stop as she found her bearings and met the man's eyes. A pair of piercing blue eyes that reminded her of the deepest blue sky.

Those eyes.

Adam Booker's eyes.

He stood before her, so close. His face oh-so familiar. Freshly shaven, it looked like. Handsome. Refined. And yet entirely masculine. The ends of his dark, richly brown hair curling to just above his collar. Broad shoulders. That brown Stetson. A bright blue chambray shirt. A pair of nicely worn denims. Polished boots.

A banker in rancher's duds.

Lordy.

All Mandy's breath hitched up in her chest, making her lightheaded.

"Miss MacKenna," he said. She wondered if he was aware that he was idly smoothing his hands down her sleeves in a most familiar fashion. As if checking her for damage. Leaving a trail of tingles wherever he touched.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

She shivered. Not from cold. For she wasn't cold. Not in the least.

"I'm fine, sir. I mean, Mr. Booker. Sir." Oh, why had she said that? She'd called him sir. Twice. She sounded a fool, all breathless and overwhelmed with his closeness.

Mandy felt Miss Judith's curious gaze resting on them from the post office doorway. Miss Judith, who knew Mandy's secret. That she was the real face behind Ask Mack. Mandy had never revealed that Adam was Banks, but Miss Judith may well have figured it out.

Mandy answered Adam privately these days. And they'd become friends through their letters. A treasure she didn't wish to share with all of Cross Creek.

And here she was, Mack, standing with Banks on the boardwalk.

With his hands clasping her shoulders. Which felt so...right.

Something shifted inside Mandy. The usual butterflies danced inside her stomach, as they always did whenever she saw him, but this time she also felt the tiniest of clicks. Like something broken coming together. And with it came a rush of awareness that just yesterday she'd felt something missing in her life.

Was it this? That she belonged with him, Banks? A rather romantic notion. Especially since they'd only shared a few lovely dances. Adam couldn't possibly know when she looked at him, she saw a dear friend. And she could hardly expect him to view her with the same deep regard. Adam Booker didn't see her as a dear friend. How could he? He was possibly no more interested in Miss Amanda MacKenna than he was in a grasshopper hopping down the middle of Main Street.

He certainly didn't know she was Mack.

Not that she wanted him to know. He'd feel betrayed. Duped.

By her.

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More by Lena Goldfinch

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COLORADO 1880
Jem Wheeler has always been a survivor. He just wants to make a fresh start in Colorado Springs after the loss of his wife. But then he happens upon a young mute woman being sold off to the highest bidder. He wasn't looking for a mail-order bride. He wasn't looking to rescue anyone either. But desperate circumstances can drive a good man to do things he hadn't planned on doing... 

When Jem steps into Annie's life, she's not expecting anyone to save her. Mute from birth, she's just using all her wits to survive. All she's ever really wanted is a family of her own. For someone to see her. To look at her long enough to hear the things she can't say.

Can Annie finally break through the silence to win Jem's heart?


Sweet Historical Western Romance
A Mail-Order Bride Novel

Each book in The Brides Series can be read as a stand-alone novel, but reading in order will provide a more complete reading experience.


THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows


Excerpt

Jem took the apple core from his daughter and passed her one of the remaining crackers with a piece of cheese on it. Mae munched that down and looked to him immediately for another, the last one.

He gave it to her, then showed her his empty hands.

She frowned. "More?"

"No more," Jem said, and showed her his empty hands again, making a bigger gesture out of it, as if the little girl was accusing him of hiding some.

If Annie weren't so intent on eating her share of cheese and crackers she might have smiled at the sight of them, one of the most dangerous men she'd ever seen sitting side by side with that tiny little girl. They made quite a mismatched pair.

Mae looked over at Annie, at the last cracker in her hand and the last bit of cheese.

Annie gulped down the mouthful she was chewing. She looked down at the last of her meal and back at the little girl. To her shame, she didn't want to give up her last cracker. She could barely remember the last meal she'd eaten.

"That's Annie's food," Jem admonished the little girl. "You've had yours."

Mae bit her lip. She glanced down at her lap, then back at Annie again.

I can share, Annie attempted to tell Mae with her eyes alone. She snapped her cracker in half--simply unable to bear parting with the whole thing--and passed it across to the little girl. Mae took it and popped the whole thing in her mouth, making Annie smile.

"Mae!" her father said.

She looked at him wide-eyed, her mouth full of cracker. "Whaf dafdda?" she said, muffled, spraying a few cracker crumbs onto his trousers.

He closed his eyes briefly and brushed them off. "You didn't have to give her any," he said to Annie, "but thanks."

Annie grunted, her way of saying she didn't mind that much. She looked down quickly and finished her last bit of food. The crackers had been crispy and the cheese silky and smooth. They'd tasted like heaven.

"You must be thirsty," he said. "Do you mind sharing?"

She shook her head and automatically lifted two fingers.

"Two's no?" he asked.

She nodded, pleased, and lifted one finger. She'd grown up sending signals through the floor of the Ruskins' house, one stomp for yes, two for no. It came natural as rain now.

"And one's yes," he said, catching on quick.

Annie drank deep when he passed her the flask of water, amazed he'd let her drink from it. She tried her best to pour it down her throat without touching her lips to the flask, so he wouldn't regret giving it to someone so dirty. She wished she could tell him thanks, but after Mae had her fill and he took his own swallow, he was back under his hat, likely going over the events of the day.

How he'd stuck himself with her.

How he probably regretted even stepping off the train at the last stop.

She couldn't say she blamed him.

She hadn't much wanted to marry a stranger herself.

***

 "With unexpectedly fresh characters and twists, the imagination is kept on its toes, even while feeling entirely comfortable with the familiarity of the mail-order bride storyline... A great curl-up-on-a-cold-night read, so go grab a copy for yourself!" (USA TODAY on The Unexpected Bride)


A delightful historical western romance from the author of The Unexpected Bride.


Rose answers a matrimonial advertisement never expecting to fall in love...


COLORADO 1880

Rose was once a barefoot dreamer, carving whimsical creatures from the driftwood she found on the beach. However, after the death of her father, Rose finds herself cut adrift. So she answers an advertisement to become the bride of a blacksmith in Sweet Briar, Colorado, bravely leaving behind the coast of Maine and her beloved sandy beaches.


Living in the shadow of the Rockies, Emmett Southerland is a bit of a hopeless romantic. He's been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the dark-haired beauty in the photograph he keeps over his heart. However, soon he and Rose find themselves snowed-in during the worst storm Colorado has seen in twenty-five years.


This sweet mail-order bride romance loosely reimagines the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, complete with a satisfying happily-ever-after. A short Christmas novel of approximately 42,000 words.


Historical Western Romance


Contains no graphic content or swearing.


EXCERPT

It was eerily quiet now in Emmett's kitchen alone, with just the snapping of the fire.


Rose strained to hear the sounds of Emmett and his burly dog, Boston, as they left to go downstairs and outside through the front entrance of Emmett's shop. She heard the creak of the door to the stairwell opening and closing again, and the sounds of them climbing down the stairs. And then nothing. She pictured Emmett lacing his boots and putting on his coat. She pictured Boston too, standing beside him, the long brown plume of his tail swaying, awaiting his own morning ritual.


It was impossible to sit still, simply waiting, a sense of foreboding gathering around her. If anything happened to them, she'd well and truly be alone.


And then she heard it, the crash of a thousand pounds falling. She didn't know what it was, but she leapt to her feet and scrambled down the stairs after them.


On the final step, she stopped. Emmett and Boston stood before the open door. Snow had spilled in around their feet. Thin swirls drifted across the floor and settled. More snow was piled high in the doorway, all the way to the top. Not only snow, a wall of ice.


"What happened?" She stood on the last stair, gripping the handrail.


Emmett turned his head toward her, as if startled by her voice. He brushed snow from his coat and quickly shut the door against the cold. His leather hat lay on the floor at his feet. It too was covered in snow.


"What happened?" she repeated, frightened by the look on his face. His expression was grim. Had he been hurt? She tucked her robe more tightly about her. It felt too thin, not nearly enough to keep her warm. Her teeth began to chatter.


"A sheet of ice. Up on the roof. It must have formed overnight. All that icy snow... I just opened the door and it broke free." He said it so matter-of-factly. Despite his grim expression, it didn't seem as if he was nearly as concerned as he should have been.


"And it fell in the doorway?" she pressed. At his calm nod, she blurted out, "You could have been crushed--you and Boston."


Did he not see that they could have been severely injured, that they could have died?


She swallowed and asked, "Are you hurt?"


"No, I'm not hurt. And thankfully, Boston didn't push out ahead of me like he usually does." For one brief instant, a sickly expression crossed Emmett's face. He did realize they could have been crushed. That Boston might've been killed if he'd rushed out the door first. Emmett reached down to ruffle the dog's neck fur. Boston simply sat there with his eyes on the door, perhaps waiting for his master to open it again, not understanding they were quite literally snowed in. 

***


"I love a good mail-order bride story, and this one delivered!" (HEIDI READS)


"Sleeping Beauty with a western twist." (CARISSA'S BOOKSHELF)


4.4
9 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Indigo Road Publishing
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Published on
Dec 14, 2016
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Pages
305
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ISBN
9781370879960
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Language
English
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Genres
Fiction / Christian / Historical
Fiction / Christian / Romance / General
Fiction / Christian / Romance / Historical
Fiction / Christian / Western
Fiction / Romance / Clean & Wholesome
Fiction / Romance / General
Fiction / Romance / Historical / American
Fiction / Romance / Historical / General
Fiction / Romance / Historical / Victorian
Fiction / Romance / Western
Fiction / Westerns
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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"A great curl-up-on-a-cold-night read, so go grab a copy for yourself!" (USA Today)

What’s a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

Rebecca Sullivan has been “Becky” all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a “perfect lady” for a wife—a real Southern belle, who’s now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a “perfect lady” for her future husband.

If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he’d have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca’s vulnerable eyes...and knows he’ll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

Sweet Historical Romance / Western Romance

A Mail-Order Bride Novel


THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows


Excerpt

The lean-to was chilly and not for the first time, Isaac considered boarding it up proper and calling it a barn. He sat on the stool and began milking the goat, all the while mentally preparing for the worship service they planned to go to later that morning. The Scriptures he'd read first thing that morning were fresh in his mind, and his prayers kept returning to the problem of Rebecca. One inner voice urged him to send her back home, but another voice spoke of commitment. He'd said vows before God to love and keep her till death do them part. Those weren't words he was willing to dismiss lightly.

"What's her name?" Her voice was suddenly in his ear, quite close.

Isaac jumped. The goat bleated at him.

"Sorry, girl." He patted her side and resumed milking her with slow, careful hands. He glanced over his shoulder toward the subject of his thoughts.

Rebecca stood watching him, leaning over the rail and peering in at them with curious eyes. He was surprised to see her out this early. She usually left him to his morning chores, and most times he'd get back inside the cabin and find her already up preparing breakfast.

"What's her name?" she repeated.

"Name? The goat?" He looked at the goat dumbly. It was a goat. He'd never gotten much further than that. She gave them a daily supply of milk, but other than that she was generally a nuisance. She liked to butt down the stall door. And whenever she got loose, she'd eat what few vegetables he was able to grow in the summer. She also liked to nip at his shirts and underthings when he hung them out on the line--if he was lucky. Most times she'd tug the whole line down and drag it through the mud.

"Yes, the goat," Rebecca said, a pleasant-sounding smile in her voice. "Don't tell me she hasn't got a name?"

There was something nice about hearing a woman's voice in the morning. It reminded him a little of when he was young, and his mother had chatted with him in soft tones while they ate breakfast. As if speaking too loud would jar them too quickly out of whatever dreams they'd had the night before.

Rebecca's soft voice put him much in mind of those times.

"All right. I won't." Isaac focused on his milking.

"She doesn't have a name?" Rebecca pressed. "How can you have an animal that doesn't have a name?"

"Never gave it much thought. She's good for milk, but other than that she's nothing but trouble, always munching on the laundry."

"Well, then I think your choice is clear. Either you call her Milky or you call her Trouble." Her teasing tone brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

"Well, then, if I have to choose, then I guess she's Trouble."

The real Trouble was standing behind him, her elbow propped against the top of the rail, her chin cupped in one dainty hand.

***

COLORADO 1880
Jem Wheeler has always been a survivor. He just wants to make a fresh start in Colorado Springs after the loss of his wife. But then he happens upon a young mute woman being sold off to the highest bidder. He wasn't looking for a mail-order bride. He wasn't looking to rescue anyone either. But desperate circumstances can drive a good man to do things he hadn't planned on doing... 

When Jem steps into Annie's life, she's not expecting anyone to save her. Mute from birth, she's just using all her wits to survive. All she's ever really wanted is a family of her own. For someone to see her. To look at her long enough to hear the things she can't say.

Can Annie finally break through the silence to win Jem's heart?


Sweet Historical Western Romance
A Mail-Order Bride Novel

Each book in The Brides Series can be read as a stand-alone novel, but reading in order will provide a more complete reading experience.


THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows


Excerpt

Jem took the apple core from his daughter and passed her one of the remaining crackers with a piece of cheese on it. Mae munched that down and looked to him immediately for another, the last one.

He gave it to her, then showed her his empty hands.

She frowned. "More?"

"No more," Jem said, and showed her his empty hands again, making a bigger gesture out of it, as if the little girl was accusing him of hiding some.

If Annie weren't so intent on eating her share of cheese and crackers she might have smiled at the sight of them, one of the most dangerous men she'd ever seen sitting side by side with that tiny little girl. They made quite a mismatched pair.

Mae looked over at Annie, at the last cracker in her hand and the last bit of cheese.

Annie gulped down the mouthful she was chewing. She looked down at the last of her meal and back at the little girl. To her shame, she didn't want to give up her last cracker. She could barely remember the last meal she'd eaten.

"That's Annie's food," Jem admonished the little girl. "You've had yours."

Mae bit her lip. She glanced down at her lap, then back at Annie again.

I can share, Annie attempted to tell Mae with her eyes alone. She snapped her cracker in half--simply unable to bear parting with the whole thing--and passed it across to the little girl. Mae took it and popped the whole thing in her mouth, making Annie smile.

"Mae!" her father said.

She looked at him wide-eyed, her mouth full of cracker. "Whaf dafdda?" she said, muffled, spraying a few cracker crumbs onto his trousers.

He closed his eyes briefly and brushed them off. "You didn't have to give her any," he said to Annie, "but thanks."

Annie grunted, her way of saying she didn't mind that much. She looked down quickly and finished her last bit of food. The crackers had been crispy and the cheese silky and smooth. They'd tasted like heaven.

"You must be thirsty," he said. "Do you mind sharing?"

She shook her head and automatically lifted two fingers.

"Two's no?" he asked.

She nodded, pleased, and lifted one finger. She'd grown up sending signals through the floor of the Ruskins' house, one stomp for yes, two for no. It came natural as rain now.

"And one's yes," he said, catching on quick.

Annie drank deep when he passed her the flask of water, amazed he'd let her drink from it. She tried her best to pour it down her throat without touching her lips to the flask, so he wouldn't regret giving it to someone so dirty. She wished she could tell him thanks, but after Mae had her fill and he took his own swallow, he was back under his hat, likely going over the events of the day.

How he'd stuck himself with her.

How he probably regretted even stepping off the train at the last stop.

She couldn't say she blamed him.

She hadn't much wanted to marry a stranger herself.

***

Heather’s Choice, Book Five, MacLarens of Boundary Mountain Historical Western Romance Series

What is a man to do when the woman he loves refuses to acknowledge his existence?

Caleb Stewart never forgot the girl he met on the wagon train west. When his family continued to Oregon, hers to California, he never expected to see her again. Years later, an unexpected invitation takes him south, to the Circle M ranch and right into the path of the girl he’d watched ride off in the back of a wagon years before.

Heather MacLaren loves nothing more than working on the family ranch. Men, emotions, and relationships hold little appeal, even when a young man from her past drifts back into her life, messing up her ordered existence and causing Heather to doubt everything she believes.

Caleb’s work on the Circle M ranch is better than he’d ever allowed himself to dream. As a valued ranch hand, he’s become the rare outsider the MacLarens have claimed as their own. His only disappointment is the young woman who’s made it clear she’ll never drop her defenses enough to share his feelings.

Facing a hard truth, Caleb is forced to make a tough decision.

First, he must help his adopted family eliminate a danger threatening to destroy not only Circle M but the entire MacLaren clan.

Heather has faced many challenges as the oldest female MacLaren cousin. But nothing prepares her for the savagery of the attacks against her family. Although they all stand together, there’s one person she knows will always remain by her side. He’s also the one man who has the ability to crush her spirit…and her heart.

Will fighting side-by-side to save the Circle M strengthen their bond? Or will it tear their tenuous relationship apart?

Heather’s Choice, book five in the MacLarens of Boundary Mountain Historical Western Romance Series, is a stand-alone, full-length novel with an HEA and no cliffhanger.

 

Book 1: Colin’s Quest

Book 2: Brodie’s Gamble

Book 3: Quinn’s Honor

Book 4: Sam’s Legacy

Book 5: Heather’s Choice

"A great curl-up-on-a-cold-night read, so go grab a copy for yourself!" (USA Today)

What’s a man to do when his father orders him a bride?

Rebecca Sullivan has been “Becky” all her life, a real hoyden. Her childhood sweetheart taught her to ride bareback and shoot a rifle, but then he chose a “perfect lady” for a wife—a real Southern belle, who’s now expecting a baby. Heartbroken, Becky signs up to be a mail-order bride to a Seattle man, sight unseen. She resolves to squelch her hoydenish ways and become a “perfect lady” for her future husband.

If logging-operation owner Isaac Jessup had wanted a bride, he’d have chosen a sturdy frontier woman, not some fragile lady from back East. Ready to explain the mistake, honorable Isaac takes one look into Rebecca’s vulnerable eyes...and knows he’ll marry her, even though this delicate waif is obviously unsuited for wild Seattle.

Could an unexpected marriage be a match made in heaven?

Sweet Historical Romance / Western Romance

A Mail-Order Bride Novel


THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows


Excerpt

The lean-to was chilly and not for the first time, Isaac considered boarding it up proper and calling it a barn. He sat on the stool and began milking the goat, all the while mentally preparing for the worship service they planned to go to later that morning. The Scriptures he'd read first thing that morning were fresh in his mind, and his prayers kept returning to the problem of Rebecca. One inner voice urged him to send her back home, but another voice spoke of commitment. He'd said vows before God to love and keep her till death do them part. Those weren't words he was willing to dismiss lightly.

"What's her name?" Her voice was suddenly in his ear, quite close.

Isaac jumped. The goat bleated at him.

"Sorry, girl." He patted her side and resumed milking her with slow, careful hands. He glanced over his shoulder toward the subject of his thoughts.

Rebecca stood watching him, leaning over the rail and peering in at them with curious eyes. He was surprised to see her out this early. She usually left him to his morning chores, and most times he'd get back inside the cabin and find her already up preparing breakfast.

"What's her name?" she repeated.

"Name? The goat?" He looked at the goat dumbly. It was a goat. He'd never gotten much further than that. She gave them a daily supply of milk, but other than that she was generally a nuisance. She liked to butt down the stall door. And whenever she got loose, she'd eat what few vegetables he was able to grow in the summer. She also liked to nip at his shirts and underthings when he hung them out on the line--if he was lucky. Most times she'd tug the whole line down and drag it through the mud.

"Yes, the goat," Rebecca said, a pleasant-sounding smile in her voice. "Don't tell me she hasn't got a name?"

There was something nice about hearing a woman's voice in the morning. It reminded him a little of when he was young, and his mother had chatted with him in soft tones while they ate breakfast. As if speaking too loud would jar them too quickly out of whatever dreams they'd had the night before.

Rebecca's soft voice put him much in mind of those times.

"All right. I won't." Isaac focused on his milking.

"She doesn't have a name?" Rebecca pressed. "How can you have an animal that doesn't have a name?"

"Never gave it much thought. She's good for milk, but other than that she's nothing but trouble, always munching on the laundry."

"Well, then I think your choice is clear. Either you call her Milky or you call her Trouble." Her teasing tone brought a reluctant smile to his lips.

"Well, then, if I have to choose, then I guess she's Trouble."

The real Trouble was standing behind him, her elbow propped against the top of the rail, her chin cupped in one dainty hand.

***

 "With unexpectedly fresh characters and twists, the imagination is kept on its toes, even while feeling entirely comfortable with the familiarity of the mail-order bride storyline... A great curl-up-on-a-cold-night read, so go grab a copy for yourself!" (USA TODAY on The Unexpected Bride)


A delightful historical western romance from the author of The Unexpected Bride.


Rose answers a matrimonial advertisement never expecting to fall in love...


COLORADO 1880

Rose was once a barefoot dreamer, carving whimsical creatures from the driftwood she found on the beach. However, after the death of her father, Rose finds herself cut adrift. So she answers an advertisement to become the bride of a blacksmith in Sweet Briar, Colorado, bravely leaving behind the coast of Maine and her beloved sandy beaches.


Living in the shadow of the Rockies, Emmett Southerland is a bit of a hopeless romantic. He's been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the dark-haired beauty in the photograph he keeps over his heart. However, soon he and Rose find themselves snowed-in during the worst storm Colorado has seen in twenty-five years.


This sweet mail-order bride romance loosely reimagines the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty, complete with a satisfying happily-ever-after. A short Christmas novel of approximately 42,000 words.


Historical Western Romance


Contains no graphic content or swearing.


EXCERPT

It was eerily quiet now in Emmett's kitchen alone, with just the snapping of the fire.


Rose strained to hear the sounds of Emmett and his burly dog, Boston, as they left to go downstairs and outside through the front entrance of Emmett's shop. She heard the creak of the door to the stairwell opening and closing again, and the sounds of them climbing down the stairs. And then nothing. She pictured Emmett lacing his boots and putting on his coat. She pictured Boston too, standing beside him, the long brown plume of his tail swaying, awaiting his own morning ritual.


It was impossible to sit still, simply waiting, a sense of foreboding gathering around her. If anything happened to them, she'd well and truly be alone.


And then she heard it, the crash of a thousand pounds falling. She didn't know what it was, but she leapt to her feet and scrambled down the stairs after them.


On the final step, she stopped. Emmett and Boston stood before the open door. Snow had spilled in around their feet. Thin swirls drifted across the floor and settled. More snow was piled high in the doorway, all the way to the top. Not only snow, a wall of ice.


"What happened?" She stood on the last stair, gripping the handrail.


Emmett turned his head toward her, as if startled by her voice. He brushed snow from his coat and quickly shut the door against the cold. His leather hat lay on the floor at his feet. It too was covered in snow.


"What happened?" she repeated, frightened by the look on his face. His expression was grim. Had he been hurt? She tucked her robe more tightly about her. It felt too thin, not nearly enough to keep her warm. Her teeth began to chatter.


"A sheet of ice. Up on the roof. It must have formed overnight. All that icy snow... I just opened the door and it broke free." He said it so matter-of-factly. Despite his grim expression, it didn't seem as if he was nearly as concerned as he should have been.


"And it fell in the doorway?" she pressed. At his calm nod, she blurted out, "You could have been crushed--you and Boston."


Did he not see that they could have been severely injured, that they could have died?


She swallowed and asked, "Are you hurt?"


"No, I'm not hurt. And thankfully, Boston didn't push out ahead of me like he usually does." For one brief instant, a sickly expression crossed Emmett's face. He did realize they could have been crushed. That Boston might've been killed if he'd rushed out the door first. Emmett reached down to ruffle the dog's neck fur. Boston simply sat there with his eyes on the door, perhaps waiting for his master to open it again, not understanding they were quite literally snowed in. 

***


"I love a good mail-order bride story, and this one delivered!" (HEIDI READS)


"Sleeping Beauty with a western twist." (CARISSA'S BOOKSHELF)


COLORADO 1880
Jem Wheeler has always been a survivor. He just wants to make a fresh start in Colorado Springs after the loss of his wife. But then he happens upon a young mute woman being sold off to the highest bidder. He wasn't looking for a mail-order bride. He wasn't looking to rescue anyone either. But desperate circumstances can drive a good man to do things he hadn't planned on doing... 

When Jem steps into Annie's life, she's not expecting anyone to save her. Mute from birth, she's just using all her wits to survive. All she's ever really wanted is a family of her own. For someone to see her. To look at her long enough to hear the things she can't say.

Can Annie finally break through the silence to win Jem's heart?


Sweet Historical Western Romance
A Mail-Order Bride Novel

Each book in The Brides Series can be read as a stand-alone novel, but reading in order will provide a more complete reading experience.


THE BRIDES SERIES

The Unexpected Bride
Sleigh Bells & Mistletoe
The Bartered Bride
Only the Heart Knows


Excerpt

Jem took the apple core from his daughter and passed her one of the remaining crackers with a piece of cheese on it. Mae munched that down and looked to him immediately for another, the last one.

He gave it to her, then showed her his empty hands.

She frowned. "More?"

"No more," Jem said, and showed her his empty hands again, making a bigger gesture out of it, as if the little girl was accusing him of hiding some.

If Annie weren't so intent on eating her share of cheese and crackers she might have smiled at the sight of them, one of the most dangerous men she'd ever seen sitting side by side with that tiny little girl. They made quite a mismatched pair.

Mae looked over at Annie, at the last cracker in her hand and the last bit of cheese.

Annie gulped down the mouthful she was chewing. She looked down at the last of her meal and back at the little girl. To her shame, she didn't want to give up her last cracker. She could barely remember the last meal she'd eaten.

"That's Annie's food," Jem admonished the little girl. "You've had yours."

Mae bit her lip. She glanced down at her lap, then back at Annie again.

I can share, Annie attempted to tell Mae with her eyes alone. She snapped her cracker in half--simply unable to bear parting with the whole thing--and passed it across to the little girl. Mae took it and popped the whole thing in her mouth, making Annie smile.

"Mae!" her father said.

She looked at him wide-eyed, her mouth full of cracker. "Whaf dafdda?" she said, muffled, spraying a few cracker crumbs onto his trousers.

He closed his eyes briefly and brushed them off. "You didn't have to give her any," he said to Annie, "but thanks."

Annie grunted, her way of saying she didn't mind that much. She looked down quickly and finished her last bit of food. The crackers had been crispy and the cheese silky and smooth. They'd tasted like heaven.

"You must be thirsty," he said. "Do you mind sharing?"

She shook her head and automatically lifted two fingers.

"Two's no?" he asked.

She nodded, pleased, and lifted one finger. She'd grown up sending signals through the floor of the Ruskins' house, one stomp for yes, two for no. It came natural as rain now.

"And one's yes," he said, catching on quick.

Annie drank deep when he passed her the flask of water, amazed he'd let her drink from it. She tried her best to pour it down her throat without touching her lips to the flask, so he wouldn't regret giving it to someone so dirty. She wished she could tell him thanks, but after Mae had her fill and he took his own swallow, he was back under his hat, likely going over the events of the day.

How he'd stuck himself with her.

How he probably regretted even stepping off the train at the last stop.

She couldn't say she blamed him.

She hadn't much wanted to marry a stranger herself.

***

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