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Do Not Censor Our Reading Beg the Ladies

censorMy Dear Mr. Clemens,

I am a frequent reader of your publication, and you may imagine my horrified astonishment when I came upon the recently published letter to the editor (your esteemed self) from one Claudius Blowworthey—though one begs to question just how right, honorable, or reverend the wretch actually is–suggesting we censor a certain forthcoming book.

As a well-loved wife, modestly well-educated mother of three young women, and a Christian, I protest this horrid man’s dismissal of novels, of romance, and indeed of love itself. How does he dare dismiss my sex so carelessly? Has he not a mother? As to his poor wife, he dares to tell the world he does not love her. What pathetic creature would choose “esteem” over love?

He dares quote Saint Paul on the subject of marriage being preferable to burning. Did the apostle not also admonish husbands to love their wives as God loves the Church? How does he expect those wives to acquire husbands if not love? And is not love the very nature of the Deity?

Those ladies—if not ladies call them heroes—among the Bluestocking Belles provide us with hours of joy. Never say you will suffer them to be censored, Mr. Clemens.  I have spoken about this matter with Mrs. Cornelia Lumberton and Mrs. Annalisa Waldo, my bosom bows and fellow regulars at the Chapel of the Faithful, and they quite agree. This Blowworthey horror must not be allowed to prevail, sir.

Never say you will encourage this outrage or give further space in your fine publication to such nonsense. We await your response even as we anticipate the next boxed set of stories from our beloved Belles,

Respectfully,

Mrs. Maud Goodbody

For more about the box set, keep an eye on the Belles’ website. We’ll be putting the details of the book up on the Joint Projects part of the site as soon as we reveal the name and cover. Or come to our cover release party, on Facebook on the 8th September 2pm to 9pm Eastern Daylight Time.

 

 

 

A  Guillotine Widow Takes Tea on the Isle of Guernsey

widowThere I was, sipping tea in the Donets’ lovely parlor, decorated in the warm colors of the gardens and filled with sunlight, trying to forget the horrors I had left behind in Paris. Sitting across from me was my savior, Mademoiselle Zoé Donet, and her English aunt, Joanna, comtesse de Saintonge. Zoé’s question stirred me from my reverie.

“Do you have in mind a place to settle in England, madame?”

“I have friends in London we can visit. After that, I’m not sure. I rather like the countryside. For many years, I lived in a small country palace in the Bois de Boulogne near Paris.”

“Then perhaps you should consider West Sussex,” offered Zoé’s aunt. “There is plenty of room at The Harrows, my family’s estate, and my brother, Richard, the Earl of Torrington, would welcome you and your children. It would be a fine place to recover from all you have been through at least until you decide. But, if you prefer, Richard could arrange for you and your children to travel with him the next time he goes to London.”

“That is so very kind of you, Madame Donet.”

“Not at all. It is settled. When my husband sails to England, you shall accompany him. Perhaps we’ll all go. I have not visited my brother in a while and he worries about me even though I am on Guernsey.”

I set down my teacup, trying to imagine the anxiety this woman must face each time her husband and niece ventured into the port towns in northwestern France to help the fleeing émigrésof which I had been one. “You must fear for your husband and niece going into France to rescue people like me. How ever do you stand the agony of awaiting their return?”

A subtle smile crossed Madame Donet’s face. It was the look of a woman who had long ago conquered her demons.

“I knew when I married Jean Donet I was marrying adventure itself. Oh, perhaps not the terrifying kind he now faces, defying the revolution’s madmen. For that, I think he and my niece are quite brave. But I have always known such a man would not be content to sit in his parlor and gaze at his vineyard, though he has—or rather, had—an excellent one. No, once he discovered the sea, there was no other life for him.”

I considered the niece. At twenty, Zoé was a beautiful young woman attired in an elegant gown, so different from the soot-covered peasant she had been days ago. “I can see why Monsieur Donet would undertake the rescues, but why you?”

“I made a vow to a friend that I would do all I could for the royalist cause, no matter the peril I must face.”

Zoé’s aunt smiled. “Anyone who marries my niece will be making the same decision I made when I wed Jean Donet.”

About the Book

WidowA Fierce Wind: Donet Trilogy, book 3
Love in the time of revolution
France 1794

Zoé Ariane Donet was in love with love until she met the commander of the royalist army fighting the revolutionaries tearing apart France. When the dashing young general is killed, she joins the royalist cause, rescuing émigrésfleeing France.

One man watches over her: Frederick West, the brother of an English earl, who has known Zoé since she was a precocious ten-year-old child. At sixteen, she promised great beauty, the flower of French womanhood about to bloom. Now, four years later, as Robespierre’s Terror seizes France by the throat, Zoé has become a beautiful temptress Freddie vows to protect with his life.

But English spies don’t live long in revolutionary France.

Buy links for A Fierce Wind:
US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FYPFVRL
UK:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FYPFVRL
Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B07FYPFVRL</a

Amazon link for the award-winning Donet Trilogy: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B071JPXTT5/

About the Author

I didn’t start out as a writer of historical novels. Although I wrote stories as a child, by the time I got to college, and at the urging of my professors, I became a lawyer. After years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government, it seemed time for a change. Becoming an award-winning author was the subject of dreams when I first began writing, but dreams sometimes do come true.

 

Find Regan:

Website (Newsletter signup, Books, Reader Extras and more!): http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/regan.walker.104
Regan Walker’s Readers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReganWalkersReaders/
Pinterest (storyboards for my books): https://www.pinterest.com/reganwalker123/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RegansReview
Regan’s blog, Historical Romance Review: https://reganromancereview.blogspot.com/

This Stuff Will Sell Papers

Clemens, Editor
The Teatime Tattler
Fleet Street, London

Sam,

I don’t know if you can use this, but one of the Jarratt & Martinson tea clippers is leaving Macao in the morning. I’m coming back to London, but I can’t afford the clipper so I’m sending this ahead. It’ll get there faster. You know that favor I owed you? Consider it paid.

Your hunch was right. The Duke of Sudbury’s cub wheedled his way into the East India Company Factory in Canton. By all accounts, the worthless oaf spent more time prowling the flower boats where they provide all the delights he chased in London along with plenty of exotic local depravity tossed in. He either quit the Company or was tossed because he’s supposed to be working for Jarratt, though “work,” may not be what he’s doing. I know you don’t care about politics but Jarratt may be trying to use the pup to get to Sudbury. Bears watching.

Now you owe me because there’s more. It isn’t just the boy that washed up in Macao. A girl followed him—Sudbury’s oldest girl, the uppity one too proud to so much as dance with any gent lower than a duke, the one with the weird Arabic name. Superintendent Eliot and his wife put it out that they’re hosting her on Sudbury’s behalf, but I doubt Sudbury even knows where she is. I saw her myself going in and out of Eliot’s house as swanky and stuck up as ever she was in London, every inch the duke’s daughter, but I heard rumors.

I got myself an invitation to dinner by one of the China traders, Harold McIlroy.  It cost me a pretty penny in drinks at the club where they all congregate, but it was worth it. The ladies of Macao dig dirt with the best of them. I got an earful, I can tell you. I don’t see how it can all be true, but where there’s smoke, there has to be at least an ember or two.

Ingram, Dennison, and Dean’s ladies between them told me the girl:

~wears men’s clothes
~escaped torture and worse for her crimes by convincing some big Chinese official to let her off as the ladies said, “in the way of light skirts everywhere.”
~wormed her way into Jarratt’s house with nothing but a Chinese servant. The Dennison woman said Jarratt actually admitted he had his way with her.
~threw herself at the Duke of Murnane, a married man whose “poor abused wife,” lives in a dumpy little house in the native quarter
~uses opium tar
~sneaks into the house at night even with the man’s wife in residence

The Chit has nerve. All Macao knows what she is, but she parades around town while a little servant hops along behind her holding some fancy parasol on a bent handle to keep the sun off her like she’s some short of rajah’s female.  I cornered the little weasel, a Chinese boy who looks like at least one Portuguese tomcat got at his great-grandfather’s tabbies. Name’s Filipe. The boy talked about the trollop like she’s the queen herself. Calls her “Lady Zamb.” I think he’s half in love with her. Wouldn’t say a bad word. Talked about her like she’s some kind of saint, and I know for fact she isn’t that. He told me to ask the woman who runs the mission school. One of the Quakers. He had to be lying. I can’t see a prune-faced female missionary tolerating the sort those women at McIlroy’s described.

I’ve had enough of the mission crowd myself. That job my cousin promised in the newspaper here? Turned out to be the mission rag. Can you see me writing for some chapel-goers? They print it at a place they call Zion’s Quarter. Bunch of tea totalers. No thanks. I’m for home.

I hope you can use some of this because I need the money. If you print it you owe me. Just send the cash to Greaves at the Horse and Gander in Southwark. He’ll hold it for me. Sudbury will make your life hell if you do it though. I remember what he did to you years ago when he came back to London after he was trapped by the Barbary corsairs. He had a wife and suspiciously well-developed baby in tow. Wait, wasn’t that the one with the Arabic name? Apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Don’t let him bully you. This stuff will sell papers.

See you in six months.
Garrett Mullins
___________________________________________

About the Book: The Unexpected Wife
Children of Empire Book 3

Crushed with grief after the death of his son, Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane throws himself into the new Queen’s service in 1838. When the government sends him on an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China, he anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his frustration. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters a pair of troublesome young people that need his help. However, the appearance of his estranged wife throws the entire enterprise into conflict. He didn’t expect to face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale, much less to encounter profound love at last in the person of a determined young woman. Tensions boil over, and his wife’s scheming—and the beginnings of the First Opium War—force him to act to rescue the one he loves and perhaps save himself in the process.

Zambak Hayden seethes with frustration. A woman her age has occupied the throne for over a year, yet the Duke of Sudbury’s line of succession still passes over her—his eldest—to land on a son with neither spine nor character. She follows her brother, the East India Company’s newest and least competent clerk, to protect him and to safeguard the family honor. If she also escapes the gossip and intrigues of London and the marriage mart, so much the better. She has no intention of being forced into some sort of dynastic marriage. She may just refuse to marry at all. When an old family friend arrives she assumes her father sent him. She isn’t about to bend to his dictates nor give up her quest. Her traitorous heart, however, can’t stop yearning for a man she can’t have.

Neither expects the epic historical drama that unfolds around them.The Unexpected Wife, will be released on July 25.

https://www.amazon.com/Unexpected-Wife-Children-Empire-Book-ebook/dp/B07FGGC918/

Here’s a short video about it:

The Unexpected Wife

Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, beloved secondary character in books 1 and 2 of Caroline Warfield's Children of Empire Series, runs to the other side of the world only to find his problems—and true love at last—waiting for him in The Unexpected Wife.

Posted by Caroline Warfield, Storyteller on Saturday, April 14, 2018

About the Author

 

Carol Roddy – Author

Traveler, would-be adventurer, former tech writer and library technology professional, Caroline Warfield has now retired to the urban wilds of Eastern Pennsylvania, and divides her time between writing and seeking adventures with her grandbuddy. In her newest series, Children of Empire, three cousins torn apart by lies find their way home from the far corners of the British Empire, finding love along the way.

She has works published by Soul Mate Publishing and also independently published works. In addition, she has participated in five group anthologies, one not yet published.

For more about the series and all of Caroline’s books, look here:
https://www.carolinewarfield.com/bookshelf/

Too Hurriedly Matched?

scandal

‘People are sitting in opera boxes using them for many activities. Etching by George Cruikshank.’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

We are reliably informed that hussy, Harriette Wilson, was seen parading on the arm of the Regent at the opera last night. No doubt, she expected the punters would be more interested in her scandalous doings than in watching Edmunde Keane’s faultless performance of the gloomy Hamlet. Alas, her grand moment was eclipsed by the presence of Lord Rogan Windermere and his brand new bride, the erstwhile Miss Jassinda Carlisle.

The pair were recently wed in the old chapel at Windermere Abbey, the Earl’s country seat in Hampshire. Why we ask, when Windermere waited so long to come up to scratch, was the thing done with such haste? Even more intriguing was their being accompanied at the opera by Windermere’s cousin, Dominic Beresford, the Duke of Wolverton.

It is common knowledge the Duke twice laid his heart at Miss Carlisle’s feet and had it rejected. What scandal is that lady now courting by spending the entire evening closely attended by her new husband and her rejected lover? And I do wish someone would tell how she brought an obviously besotted, but just as obviously reluctant, Windermere to his knees. I’m guessing they were desperate measures indeed for the lady is fast approaching the quarter century!

scandalPerhaps she will give a hint to the Heavenly Iceberg, Lady Sherida Dearing, who was also in attendance, though left to the questionable attentions of that handsome scapegrace, Lord Baxendene. One can only surmise the Great Bax is losing his touch for no hint of a thaw was noted. Lady Sherida should consider that even icebergs of the heavenly variety lose their freshness if left too long in the ice house!

Although the gentlemen are frequently seen together it is unusual for any one of them to attend the opera. It is to be hoped that now Miss Carlisle is finally off the marriage market the Duke of Wolverton will allow his heart to engage elsewhere.

(Now there’s a man whose boots would look well under a lady’s bed!)

But we digress! Our informant noted neither gentleman appeared particularly happy nor communicative with the other.

And since I have information from another source hinting at Windermere’s absence from the country for several weeks following the marriage, one suspects all is not charity in Chez Windermere.

Lady Verity Nonesuch, Purveyor of Truth & Treachery

About the Book

The Earl of Windermere Takes a Wife

(Regency Romantica – Sexy Romance with a hint of Erotica.)

How long, and why, must a woman wait for a man to make her his when she knows his love is as great as her own?

Jassinda Carlisle was always to have been his, but by the age of twenty Rogan Wyldefell, Earl of Windermere, knew he could never be hers.

At her 16th birthday, he’d slain her dreams of becoming his wife and had maintained a strictly platonic friendship ever since.

At twenty-five, Jassie had waited long enough.

Her desperation and a small push from fate force Rogan to a point of honor. To save her reputation they must marry, but who will save Jassie from the vengeful monster unleashed within him when the woman in his arms begins to beg?

Is Rogan strong enough to withstand the woman he loves?

Is Jassie strong enough to be his redemption?

~Excerpt~
‘Do you know how old I am, R—Rogan?’

‘What? Of course I know how old you are. Twenty-five. And I know how old I am too. Thirty-six, in case you’ve forgotten,’ he snarled, almost sarcastically. He’d sensed she was off-balance and that what she wanted to discuss with him was, doubtless, even more so. ‘What does that matter to the point?’

Jassie breathed deep and fixed her attention on their hands gripped so tightly their knuckles had whitened. This was her moment, her only chance. She might as well just spit it out, as Philip would have said.

‘I’m never going to marry but—but I—confound it, Rogan, I just have to know—just once—what it’s like to—to make love—no, I’m not asking that—I know the mechanics but I want to know how it feels to—you know—lie with a man!’ He never blinked and her own gaze danced across his face, desperately searching for a reaction, an emotion. Anything but the impression of horror that looked out of his eyes! She swallowed. ‘There is no one else I can ask. No one else I would want to ask—’

Breathing no longer a priority, Jassie wrenched her hands from his and jumped to a spot about three feet away and stared blindly down at Brantleigh Manor, lying like a toy model in the shimmering distance.

Then she closed her eyes and focused on the pain flowering in her chest and spreading to her belly. What had she done?

Links for The Earl of Windermere Takes a Wife

Amazon US:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENSMA2A
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENSMA2A
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01ENSMA2A
Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01ENSMA2A

About the Author

Jen Yates has always called New Zealand home, though she grew up with stories of her mother’s great-grandfather who came from England in the 1840s, to ‘drill the first militia’. Thus, England has always called even though Jen is a 4th generation Kiwi. Discovering the Regency era was like coming home, Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer ranking as her two favorite authors.

With a fair bit of life behind her, Jen spent thirty-three years as a primary school teacher, then retired and realized a dream of owning an antiques shop. It would still be one of her favorite things to do – after writing. But while learning the craft, income had to come from somewhere!

Jen now lives with her husband in Piopio, a small rural village in the North Island of NZ, and writes full-time. When she is not writing, she is keeping track of her family now spread through NZ and Australia, wandering about with camera in hand, or hanging out with friends, many of whom are writers!

Social Media Links for Jen YatesNZ

Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B009MSEA7U
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JenYatesNZ/
Website – https://www.jenyatesnz.com
Twitter – @JenYatesNZ

Pah-Ute War: in A Long Trail Rolling!

“Oh my goodness, Edith, will you look at this?” Mabel said, as she rushed through the garden gate.

“What is it?” Edith picked up another of her husband’s shirts from the basket and shook it out.

“Wasn’t your sister coming west from St. Joseph by stage?” Mabel’s voice rose as she spoke.

“Yes?” Edith paused, a clothespin in her mouth.

“Says here,” Mabel went on, “the Pah-Utes are on the warpath again.”

Edith swallowed hard and bit her lip. “Do you blame them, after those idiots in Williams took those poor Indian girls captive?”

“Yes, well, you’re one of the only ones feeling sorry for them. No stage’ll be coming this way for awhile—it says nearly every stage and Pony Express station has been attacked, station keepers killed, and stock run off or taken—for nearly a hundred miles!”

“Where?” Edith peered over her friend’s shoulder at the Deseret News. “Which stations are they talking about?”

“Says from Schell Creek nearly to Carson Sink.”

Edith let her breath out. “Oh, thank God for that. That’s west of us. No stage runs west out of Salt Lake.”

“Oh,” Mabel said, visibly deflating. “But it’s still bad news, nonetheless,” she said defensively.

“But bound to happen,” Edith said, her mouth a firm line.


A Long Trail Rolling

Long Trail Rolling

She didn’t expect to become a target…but she is one now.

In the Old West’s Utah Territory of 1860, Aleksandra is trained by her father in the Cossack arts. She finds herself alone, disguised as a Pony Express rider, running to keep her pa’s killer from finding their family’s secret. And that was before she galloped full speed into the middle of the Paiute Indian War.

Xavier isn’t about to let anyone get too close, especially a woman, while he bides his time as a Pony Express Station Manager in the middle of a desert, evading his heritage as the eldest son of an old Spanish Californio family. His history taught him women are not to be trusted. Letting this slip of a stroppy, yet alluring, girl get under his skin is not on the cards.

The villain is coming closer, with his sights set on Aleksandra. Thrown together in an ever-worsening situation, despite their own agendas, can Aleksandra and Xavier overcome their differences before the ever-increasing odds overtake them?

 


Excerpt from A Long Trail Rolling

In A Long Trail Rolling, due to circumstances best left unsaid until you read it, Aleksandra rides the Pony Express—as a boy. Things went from bad to worse and she rode through some of the worst part of the attacks of the Pah-Ute war. Here’s an excerpt from the story. Aleks is just about to leave a Pony station in to the west of Salt Lake City in Utah Territory.

Enjoy!


‘You take care out there through the canyon. Horses and riders don’t just disappear by themselves.’ Peter shook his head, his lips a firm line below his furrowed forehead.

‘I promise.’ Thanking him, she vaulted on and the mare laid back her ears and fairly flew on toward Overland Canyon.

The trail entered the canyon from the flat valley floor, meandering gradually upward in a wavelike fashion, sage-brush and early sprouts of grass growing along the creek next to the trail. Aleksandra was just wondering why everyone thought Overland Canyon was so dangerous when the trail became abruptly steeper and began to twist and turn tightly as the hills closed in. Sitting straighter, the blood beginning to pound in her ears, she picked up her reins and scanned the mountainsides flanking the track as they rose higher and higher, ensnaring the pathway within a narrow gorge of exposed strata and tumbled stone bluffs.

Bluffs just meant for ambuscade, with caves big enough to shield a man.

Aleksandra gulped. Giving the little mare her head, they raced on through the canyon.

She glanced left up the mouth of a small ravine as they surged past it.

Blood Canyon.

She shuddered, remembering its name from stories in the Indian village, glad she didn’t have to ride through that even narrower defile winding its way to the top of Blood Mountain.

The trail finally opened up into rolling sage-brush covered flats, Canyon Station dead ahead.

Feeling faint, Aleksandra gasped for a breath, wondering how long she’d held it through the last gauntlet. Laughing shakily, Aleksandra leaned forward, giving the puffing mare a heartfelt hug, then sat up and mumbled sweet nothings to her, scratching her withers as they trotted slowly into the station.

Aleksandra left there on a gray colt, keen and ready to run. The keeper, his jaw set and a frown deeply embedded in his lined face, hadn’t seen the Eastbound Express rider either.

The trail ran gradually uphill ahead of her along the little creek, then left it, rising up the center of a long, open valley. On her left, two prospectors looked up from working their rocker in the creek to wave at her. She reined in for a moment.

‘Good afternoon gentlemen!’

‘And to you! Safe through Overland, are ye?’ shouted a big bear of a man.

‘Yessir!’ she shouted. ‘You haven’t seen an Eastbound rider in the past few days, have you?’

‘No.’ He turned to the other, who shook his head. ‘No, we haven’t, sorry, lad!’

‘Okay, thanks. Having any luck?’ She smiled at the pair.

‘Luck’s all good, Boy! All good!’ the other one added in a shrill voice.

‘What are these workings, please?’ Aleksandra remembered to lower her voice this time.

‘This here’s Clifton Flat, best gold workin’s in the territory!’ He puffed up his chest. ‘Major Egan found gold here a few years ago and we’re in his employ, workin’ it for him!’

‘Excellent, thank you, enjoy your day!’ she replied with a wave and loosed the reins. The colt, needing little encouragement, shot off like an arrow from a bow.

‘Hold on to your hair!’ The burly prospector bellowed over the wind in her ears, as the horse bolted on up the valley, then over the top of the next ridge.

Hopping off at the top, Aleksandra looked out over the expanse spread out before her in awe. The track arced steeply down the mountainside for several miles, with good visibility in every direction, before coming to rest in a huge, fertile-looking wash that seemed to go on forever. Her papa had called the place by its Indian name, Ibapah.

‘Guess we’d better start down that hill,’ she said to the colt, and began running down the track beside the colt, who snorted and skittered beside her until he became accustomed to trotting alongside her.

The Deep Creek Station keeper had no word of the missing rider either. Feeding her well, he sent her out on a pinto Mustang, who loped across the flat valley floor, heading for Prairie Gate. Only four more stations until she was done for the day.

On a keen horse and free to enjoy the day.

She finally let her mind wander back to Xavier and her heart sank, the only shadow in her day. She wondered how he fared with his family and if he missed her as she missed him.

With a gulp, she realized was time to face it. Ahead was a good three hours of open and clear trail to ride. It was time to work through it.

She took a deep breath to try to dispel the anxiety that immobilized her when she thought too hard about their relationship. Every time they seemed close, it all slipped away. She feared nothing she could do would ever hold it together.

Her thoughts circled throughout the day as they traversed the dry sage-brush flats, passing Prairie Gate and Antelope Springs Stations. She repeatedly gripped the buckskin bag beneath her shirt, desperate for guidance.

In the distance ahead stood the Antelope Range. The pass they needed to traverse wasn’t particularly high, but the rocky divide lined by cedars and piñón pines was still challenging. The fresh scent of the evergreens tingled in her nostrils when she brushed them in passing, clearing her head.

At Spring Valley Station, the worried keeper handed her two thick sourdough muffins filled with salt pork.

‘Hope it don’t spoil yer supper over at Schell, but it’s a long slog over that mountain.’

‘Always enough room for more food,’ she said with a grin.

‘Anyways, I’m givin’ you the best little horse I’ve got, Aleks.’

‘Thanks, Patrick.’ She took a deep breath and looked at the little black Mustang. Her eyes shone with a quiet intelligence. She was evenly muscled and solid, her legs clean.

‘She’s the toughest horse I’ve ever known. She’ll take good care of ye over Shellbourne Pass and get ye to Schell Creek in no time!’ He puffed his chest out as he stroked the mare’s neck.

‘I’m thankful for all the good horses and the men of the stations. They’ve always got a smile for me and a pat for the horses when we ride out.’

His brows drew together and he tried for a smile. ‘You take care out there, won’t you? We don’t want another missing rider.’

‘I’ll see you on the way back. We’ll be fine.’ Aleksandra gripped his hand firmly, then vaulted onto the mare and set off for Schell.

Aleksandra wasn’t sure which of them she was trying to reassure.

Her heart sang as the nimble mare climbed up through the trees to the top of the 7000-foot high pass. As the sun neared the horizon, the air began to cool and she hopped off, jogging down the descent to warm up and get some feeling back into her feet.

As she prepared to mount again, a movement back down on the flats caught her eye. Spinning toward it, she saw only a herd of antelope, now motionless, eyes staring and ears perked to scrutinize her passing. She gave a shaky laugh and the antelope disappeared into the dusk.

Aleksandra swayed and jerked back upright, coming awake from drowsing.

Not a good idea.

A station showed, about a mile away.

Must be Schell Creek. Think about something to stay awake.

Her mind flicked back to Xavier and she cringed.

And stop avoiding the challenge with him. Think it through, focus. Try to resolve something, before we get to Schell.

She shook herself.

It finally clicked. In her impatience, she’d driven him away by asking for more closeness than he could give. The emptiness in the pit of her stomach overwhelmed her, and the thought she might never have a chance to see him again, much less get the opportunity to make, no, let this relationship work.

Life is indeed short in the West.

As they neared the station, her choices suddenly became clear as a mountain lake.

How did I miss them before?

It was as if they were written on a wall before her.

You can’t make someone love you,

you can’t fix anyone,

and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

Fervently she vowed to offer Xavier, and others in her life, the time they needed to learn to trust, fully knowing she might never get the chance to try again with Xavier. Her desolation ran deep and tears poured down her cheeks as she rode into Schell Creek Station.

It might have been the mare that did it, stopping dead in her tracks, nearly dropping Aleksandra over her shoulder, or maybe it was the flies that buzzed around the blood pooling beneath the butchered man in the Express station doorway. Whichever it was, it got her full attention.


I hope you enjoyed that!

Long Trail Rolling

To read more, you can find it here

 

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