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Mail Order Bride: My Montana Romance, #3

Mail Order Bride: My Montana Romance, #3

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Mail Order Bride: My Montana Romance, #3

Panjangnya:
198 pages
3 hours
Dirilis:
Nov 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386375562
Format:
Buku

Deskripsi

Upon the impassioned request of her dear friend, Annabel Coleman, scheduled to become a mail order bride, Gisela Craig had reluctantly switched identities on their trek west from South Carolina to Colorado.

            At the last minute (thankfully before final arrangements were made and a husband duped), the truth had come out.

            Although Gisela, who has rightfully reclaimed her name and character, had no plans to be married, she is drawn to the charming and devilishly handsome Jesse, second oldest of the Falcon sons, as he is to her. Within a short time, they celebrate their romance in a double wedding ceremony with Sam and Annabel and set up housekeeping on the Cottonwood Ranch.

All is going well. Gisela and Jesse are plainly in love; she is happily settling into the ranch routine and adapting to her change in circumstances; relations with all of her new in-laws can be seen as friendly and supportive.

All is going far too well.

Because, as always, there's another shoe to drop.

One rainy October day, the sheriff of Pasto Verde arrives at the Falcon homestead.

He has come with a single express purpose: to arrest newlywed Gisela Craig Falcon.

For murder.

Dirilis:
Nov 17, 2018
ISBN:
9781386375562
Format:
Buku

Tentang penulis

I was born in 1974 in the Eastern Ohio Valley town of Martins Ferry where I lived until I was five then we moved to a very rural town in the same area. I’m the youngest of four children of a mill worker and a housewife but have 15 years between me and my closest sibling. I grew up with a vivid imagination, which seems to have become active at age four.Having an imagination and a passion for reading, inventing little worlds and stories in my head seems natural. I began writing for fun mainly to survive reports I was making while being home schooled (illnesses kept me out so the school sent a teacher) and I wrote the most colorful but accurate history reports they’d seen. My passion for writing original pieces came at high school and I still have novels on paper to prove the start of this career.I’m a 1993 graduate of Buckeye Local High School and still live in the same house I grew up in with my family of my mother and brother, plus three spoiled cats and a semi-fierce Beagle who likes to think he’s a Pit-Bull.I still enjoy writing stories for fun that I can’t do anything with while I take a break from my original works. I mainly write action/adventure so my series of Celtic Evil, which is a paranormal romantic suspense series, is a slight break for me. I used to write poetry but can only do that in times of stress or deep emotional crisis.I enjoy writing for the sake of telling a story. I write for myself and for others who enjoy the act of reading a good story. I hope to be able to tell many of those.

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away.

Chapter 1

OH, GISELA, HONEY, you look absolutely beautiful! sniffed Miranda. With a sudden enthusiastic hug, she disrupted everything we had put together, then turned aside to search for her handkerchief.

You do, you know, Calla said, standing aside, away from the cheval mirror, to beam. You both do. I’m so happy that this day has finally come!

We were as close as sisters, Annabel and I, and we had talked about the details of our upcoming nuptials. If dear Reverend Miller was going to perform the ceremony for one marriage, then why not for two? We decided to just go ahead and arrange for a double wedding.

Once we had reached that decision, we discussed the possibility with our prospective grooms.

Neither would even consider offering an argument. In fact, given the sweet sappy look on the brothers’ faces, Annabel and I realized that they would take us any way they could get us, as long as it was soon.

At this point, I do believe we could have asked for the highest mountain or the deepest sea, and those besotted males would have done their best to secure any and all request. Perhaps we should have taken advantage of the situation. Except that we girls were equally besotted, and, between the four of us, not one brain seemed to be working as a whole. Pretty pathetic, right?

The small cabin being built for Jesse and me was nearly finished, and the one for Samuel and his bride barely begun, but that didn’t seem to matter, either. Because we girls already knew we would joyfully settle in with our determined grooms, wherever they gave us a home.

Bless their hearts.

Several days ago, Miranda had driven via surrey into town with Cody, planning to reserve several of the Grand Hotel’s best rooms for what we hoped would be a gala event. Also, determined to offer fair treatment for each of her new daughters-in-law, she had decreed that the Falcon family would host a celebration afterward, in the hotel’s dining room. To this end, she had prepared a carefully explicit list of the menu to be served and the decorations (mainly clean, fresh tablecloths and cutlery, with a few bouquets of late summer flowers) to be provided.

Since Delroy Nolan, fastidious owner / manager of said establishment, had already arranged the details for the first Falcon wedding, just a few months prior, he was not in the least bit fazed by Miranda’s demands. He was, in fact, quite ready to put on a bang-up show for the Falcons, he genially informed her, having seen the handwriting on the wall with the appearance of the two most recent arrivals. That being, of course, Annabel and me.

She had apparently gotten past the shock of her father’s suspicious death, back at the plantation, and was ready to move on with whatever else might be coming her way.

So, the wheels were set in motion.

And, now, here we were, on the Saturday of our combined wedding date, primping in the same room which had been first allocated to Calla for the same purpose. Remembering that day, and all the hoopla and hullabaloo involved, she had left her ever-faithful Bruno behind, in the care of a ranch hand named Ezekiel slavishly devoted to the little dog. They would keep each other company during Calla’s absence, and glory in being together.

Just a little while ago, she had sent a complacent glance around the familiar chamber, upon entering. Looks quite familiar, she told us with a smile. Then promptly took one of the chairs.

You’re starting to feel that baby, Miranda guessed sympathetically. More tired than usual?

Stretching both arms overhead, Calla yawned. I’ll say. This little one is certainly beginning to make his presence known, morning sickness and all.

I’m afraid this is only the start. From here on, most of your attention will be focused on what’s going on inside you. And after that, Miranda chuckled, outside. I remember Charlie feelin’ a tad jealous, once the boys commenced to coming along, one right after another.

Poor Cody. I guess he’ll just be playing second fiddle for a while, then, won’t he? Well, what I know about birthing and raising a child you could fit into a thimble. That means I’ll be hollering for help on a regular basis, Miranda.

Her mother-in-law patted Calla’s shoulder. And, don’t worry, I’ll be right there to answer. Now. With an air of assuming new responsibility, she turned, where the two of us were wandering aimlessly about in a state not quite as distressful as nerves—more anxiety than anything. Let’s see what kinda outfit you girls have to put on today.

Annabel, once corseted and laced and buttoned up to within an inch of her life, looked positively radiant in the stunning dress that had been supplied by her horrible father (with Mrs. Wheeler’s advice, no doubt). Created of daffodil-yellow fine crisp organdy, it boasted a sweet scooped neckline of lace and ribbon, a fitted bodice, and mutton sleeves. Shimmering folds of a semi-full skirt fell from the waistline whose belt held a myriad of tiny pongee roses.

She looked like any man’s dream come true, and I wished her all the happiness that she so well deserved.

Good friend that she was, she had given me free rein with her own wardrobe, and I had rifled and ransacked to my heart’s content. The result was, if I may say so, splendiferous: a hoop-skirted silk faille gown in a heavenly shade of soft peony pink, its décolleté neckline, cuffs, and draped peplum all trimmed in chenille fringe.

In front of the mirror, I turned from side to side, preening and primping like a plumaged bird, hardly able to believe that the image of some long-lost princess reflected back to me was Gisela Craig, the sharecropper’s daughter.

It was gorgeous. In it, I felt gorgeous. Giggling a little nervously, bouncing a little, I hoped that my handsome bridegroom saw me as gorgeous, too, when I walked through the church doors to meet him at the altar.

Oh, you two, murmured Miranda in frank admiration, looking from one bride to the other. I feel so blessed to have you joining our family. You and Calla help complete the circle we all live in.

We had had a rough start, with all the confusion we’d caused—that no one had even known about, praises be—upon our arrival. But maybe, just maybe, from here on both Annabel and I could marry our chosen mates, settle down at the ranch, each of us raise a family, and live happily ever after.

Blinking away tears, Miranda began bustling about the room, straightening this, putting aside that. The boys brought you flowers, she pointed out. Only wild ones—blue lupines, and pink Indian paintbrush, and some little white daisies—but they’re pretty.

I was touched. Jesse and I had spent enough time together to realize that legally joining was the logical next step, but not enough time to really know each other. That he was so considerate as to provide the traditional trappings of a wedding, just to ensure my happiness for the day, only made me more eager for our union.

Arranged marriages had existed since the earliest days, when someone first came up with the idea to protect daughters of the tribe; some were wildly successful, some mildly so, some a failure from the get-go. I was determined that wouldn’t be mine.

A partnership, a building together for the future—that’s what I wanted. And I thought he probably did, as well.

I had to admit that I still felt a trifle discombobulated by how quickly so many changes had taken place. What we had talked of, Annabel and I, during our long trek westward from South Carolina, had certainly not matched up with the end result. I had never dreamed of marrying shortly after our arrival, and I couldn’t help thinking that I was in over my head. Things were not entirely clear for me yet, on many details. I wondered if this was the dilemma Annabel had faced.

Yesterday, Miranda had accepted the role of mother for we who had been motherless too long, sequestered us in her own bedroom when no great hulking males were around, and given us The Talk. All about the differences between men and women, and what each hoped for, and what might be expected upon the physical meshing.

By the end of it, Annabel was looking pale and flustered, then flushed and uncomfortable; I was merely accepting. 

Still, it was good of our future mother-in-law to take on the task, and I was beginning to like her very much. In the world of relatives inherited by marriage, this lady must be a real gem.

They’re going to look like flowers themselves, commented Calla with a measuring smile, one in yellow and one in pink.

And the men can be our weeds, I couldn’t resist quipping. Thistle, do y’all think? Or dandelion?

Oh, you hush now, Gis, Annabel only half-heartedly reprimanded around her own smile. You know we’ve all got the pick of the crop.

This morning’s travel arrangements had taken some ordering and re-ordering, as situations were considered, abandoned, and adjusted. Finally, it was decided that, due to her condition and the buckboard’s unsuitability, Calla would ride in the surrey with Cody for the trip to town. Much easier to semi-relax on a padded leather seat than perch atop a wooden wagon bench. Which was where poor Miranda got stuck, along with Charlie as driver, and multiple packs and boxes for the upcoming ceremony. (Although she insisted she didn’t mind a bit; it’s what she was used to.) Dan, too, was riding singly, in its path. I felt a little sorry for him, being all alone.

Annabel had chosen to ride horseback beside Sam, as did I with Jesse. We could spread out along the road as we wanted, taking our time, chatting about either personal or impersonal, inconsequential things, without fear of being interrupted or overheard.

We had left the ranch early enough that the breaking sun had risen to slant through mist with a golden, ethereal light. I had looked about with delight, as I climbed onto the sweet-tempered mare Jesse had brought for me. Could such a wonderful beginning mean that the powers above were bestowing a blessing upon us, and our special day?

Eventually, as we rode along through autumn-tinged woodsy areas and open grassland, sometimes walking our horses, sometimes trotting, I was able to open a conversational gambit simply by asking what he liked most about the ranch.

Not surprisingly, I needed no more than that.

Jesse reached across the short distance between us to take my free hand in his, and gave me the generous, slightly crooked grin I had come to expect from him. His thick black hair curled out from under his sombrero, so that I wanted to sweep it back with my fingers, and his craggy tanned face had been shaven clean of whiskers.

There’s so many things, Gisela, it’s hard t’ pick just one.

Try. Just close y’all’s eyes and think about what y’all got goin’ for yourself here, and then tell me.

Obeying, he took his time to think about it before making a reply.

Somewhere ahead of us, I could hear a murmur of voices from Annabel and Sam; somewhere behind us, I could hear the smooth stream of wagon wheels turning endlessly on the dirt road; all around us, I could hear the warble of birds early to flight and the faint rustle of a cool breeze driving away the mist. Different from Riverbend, in so many ways, this new and fascinating place; yet so similar, too.

Well, then, Jesse’s mild, mellifluous voice interrupted my silent observations. We’ll start with fall, since we’re fast approachin’ it.

Fall, when the weather turned nippy, the daylight hours grew shortened, and the leaves of every tree surrounding Cottonwood deepened from bright green to yellow and orange, burnt umber and brown. Then the meandering smaller groups of cattle were rounded up from the high country, where grazing had been good the whole summer, and leisurely moved down to the ranch.

"The whole meanin’ is to keep weight on the cows, not worked off by bein’ run too fast or too hard."

Chapter 2

ONCE ARRIVED, THE ANIMALS were separated by age and breeding capabilities: yearlings and younger branded, older stock ready for sale and transport. A difficult, hot, dusty business, entailing an ocean of time and energy by everyone capable. Shortly, the selected beeves would be gathered into one large herd, to be driven some two hundred miles to the railroad hub and the stockyards at Denver. The remainder of the herd would be settled in corrals close to the barn from then on; hay would be cut and stored, and any other harvesting crops put up for winter.

Not much goin’ on in winter time, o’ course. We clopped contentedly along, enjoying the sweet crisp freshness of a Colorado morning, like biting into an apple right off the branch, and the faint scent of smoke in the air, far distant. Other’n the usual livestock chores. As long as you got plentya wood cut up for fires, anyway. That keeps all of us busy year round.

Do y’all get much snow? I wondered, having never seen the stuff.

Oh, laws, yes. Some years it can drift high as the roof eaves. Then we need to shovel out. Spend a lotta time indoors, eatin’ Ma’s stews, readin’, arguin’ with Pop over anything that roils his dander.

I shivered a little, in anticipation. That doesn’t sound like much fun a’tall. Let’s get on to spring.

Ah, spring. Spring is nice. All that new green color, pokin’ up through the wet ground; all that wonderful smell of flowers burstin’ through, and trees bloomin’, and the earth all ready t’ give birth again.

His fingers were still wrapped around mine, with his thumb rubbing gently now and then over the rose-gold ring inset with the stone, specially chosen, that had trapped opalescent rays of

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