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Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Mail-Order Adelaine

I'm so excited about my mail-order bride books. I hope you'll check them all out. But for now, let me tease you with a chapter from my new release, "Mail-Order Adelaine".



Montana, 1877

 

Adelaine Campbell’s future appeared cloudy, but she would make the best of it. She had to since there was no place else to go.

As she stood at Missoula, Montana’s depot, Adelaine searched the platform, looking for the people who had promised to pick her up. She was a stranger to Montana, being born and raised in Wyoming, but already she loved the green, lush hillsides, and for being in a historic town, the buildings were well-kept in their original condition.

Missoula was where she’d make her new home, even if it was under dire circumstances.

Nervously, she shifted from one foot to the other as she moved her gaze to everyone in the crowd, wondering if they would be the person to pick her up and take her to Blue Creek Ranch. They all passed her by, not even giving her a second glance.

Impatiently, she sighed. The correspondence she’d had with Mrs. Turner instructed Adelaine to meet her at the train depot at precisely one o’clock. As if on cue, the courthouse’s clock tower from across the street struck one, announcing the hour. Still, Mrs. Turner hadn’t arrived.

Adelaine’s gut twisted. Had she made a mistake in coming here?

There were many things in her life that she regretted or wished she’d done better, but she couldn’t focus on them. Instead, she must look at what she’d accomplished. She’d taken care of her mother and younger sister for the last eighteen months, being their sole supporter, but working at the Walton’s Mercantile didn’t give her much of a social life. However, it taught her how to help people, and most importantly… to have patience. Even though she still struggled with that trait from time to time.

She would always cherish the moments she spent taking care of her mother as she lay in bed, dying of Tuberculosis. Her mother had always been a cheerful, positive, and uplifting woman, even during her last moments on earth. Adelaine had an excellent example to live her own life after.

Where is Mrs. Turner? Adelaine grumbled impatiently. What was taking the woman so long? Or… had Dallas Remington found another mail-order bride that he wanted instead?

Frowning, Adelaine sighed. What probably happened was that Mrs. Turner noticed Adelaine and her two-year-old sister, Charity, and decided that Adelaine wasn’t the right woman to wed the rancher. After all, the newspaper article for a mail-order bride that Adelaine had first responded to had mentioned no children.

Adelaine cursed her wayward father for the millionth time. This was all his fault! When Ma realized she was dying, she’d written to Mavin Campbell and asked him to come and collect Charity, his illegitimate daughter, that he’d left on Ma’s front porch right after the girl was born. Ma, being the kind and loving woman she was, couldn’t turn the girl away. Although Adelaine loved her sister, she couldn’t raise her. Especially, not when her soon-to-be husband wouldn’t allow her to have children of her own.

What else was Adelaine to do when her father never came for Charity? Adelaine glanced at Charity, sitting on the wooden bench, holding her rag doll, swinging her legs back and forth. The poor girl had nowhere to go since both her biological parents didn’t want her.

Releasing a gush of air between her teeth, Adelaine squared her shoulders. From her correspondence with Dallas Remington, she knew that he was dedicated to his cattle ranch and his children. That was enough for Adelaine to know he would be a good husband. She also prayed that he would understand why she had to bring her younger sister along.

“Pardon me, Miss?”

Adelaine swung toward the voice of the woman. Not far from her, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair stuffed under her bonnet and a thin face, peered questionably at Adelaine.

“Yes?” She took a step closer to the woman.

“I’m looking for Miss Adelaine Campbell. Is that you?”

“I’m Adelaine Campbell,” she answered with almost too much enthusiasm. “Are you Mrs. Turner?”

“Indeed, I am.” She shook Adelaine’s hand. “I’m Blue Creek Ranch’s foreman’s wife.’

“It’s nice to meet you face-to-face, finally.” Adelaine smiled.

“I agree.” The woman’s gaze skimmed over Adelaine briefly before hopping to Charity. “Are you, um…” She looked back at Adelaine. “Ready to go?”

“Yes.” Her heartbeat whacked crazily against her ribs. It was now confession time. “However, there is a slight change of plans that I didn’t foresee.”

Mrs. Turner arched a thin eyebrow. “There is?”

Adelaine swallowed hard, hoping her voice wouldn’t squeak while trying to explain. “I had to bring my sister along.”

“Your sister?” The woman gasped, looking back at Charity. “But… she is so young.”

“Yes, well… Charity and I have different mothers.” Adelaine didn’t want to go into details. “But after my mother died, Charity’s mother wouldn’t take and raise her.” She shrugged. “The poor girl has nowhere else to go.”

Mrs. Turner’s expression grew dim, and she wrung her hands against her middle. The woman’s thinning lips told Adelaine that there might not be a wedding after all. Her mind spun with ideas of how to convince the other woman that Charity needed her big sister.

“Mrs. Turner,” Adelaine said in a rush. “Do you have children? If so, you must understand how difficult it is to have a family ripped apart. I’m all the girl has left since her parents don’t want her.”

The woman’s sigh and sag of her shoulders gave Adelaine hope that the woman might change her mind.

“Mr. Remington won’t be pleased about this.”

“Why?” Adelaine hated to be nosy, but she just had to know. “After all, doesn’t he have two children of his own? The newspaper ad mentioned he had a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old.”

“Yes, Tobias and Susan.”

Adelaine took a hesitant step toward the other woman. “Then why can’t I bring Charity along? If Mr. Remington is worried about feeding her, she doesn’t eat much, and I can share my plate with her.” Gingerly she touched Mrs. Turner’s forearm. “Please. My mother would be turning over in her grave if she knew I couldn’t care for my sister.”

Mrs. Turner studied Adelaine carefully before moving her gaze to Charity and looking at her for the next uncomfortable moments. Adelaine silently prayed that the woman’s heart would be touched.

“Well…” Mrs. Turner licked her lips. “I suppose it isn’t right to separate you two since you are her only family.” She grew quiet as she stared at Adelaine. “However, to convince Mr. Remington that the girl needs to stay, we cannot let him know she’s your sister.”

“Why not?” Adelaine blinked rapidly as her mind tried to find a reason for what the other woman was saying.

“We must let Mr. Remington think that Charity is your child.”

Adelaine sucked in a quick breath. “My child? Oh, no. That will not do. I’ve never been married, and Mr. Remington… well, he’d figure that out, wouldn’t he?”

Mrs. Turner flipped her hand. “He is only marrying you to gain a mother for his children. That’s all. He’ll never know unless you tell him, and this secret will be ours. I won’t even tell my husband.” She stepped closer to Charity and smiled. “Hello. Would you like to come with me to a big ranch with horses?”

“Wasee?” Charity’s eyes widened.

Mrs. Turner glanced up at Adelaine, confused.

“Wasee is her name for horsey.” Adelaine chuckled softly.

Nodding, the older woman returned her gaze to Charity and put forth her hand. “Come on. Let’s go see the wasees.”

Charity jumped off the bench and grasped the woman’s hand. The cute little blonde girl looked up at Adelaine with big, blue eyes.

“You comin’?” Charity said.

“Of course, sweetie.” Adelaine reached down and picked up the trunk that held all of hers and Charity’s belongings.

They walked toward a wagon. A man with shaggy red hair sat in the driver’s seat, whistling. When he saw Mrs. Turner, he jumped down and hurried toward them, but as his gaze moved to Charity, his footsteps faltered.

“Who is this?” He motioned toward the little girl.

“Her name is Charity. And this,” the woman nodded to Adelaine, “is her mother, Adelaine Campbell.”

Mother… Adelaine groaned. Could she really pull off this deception? Then again, did she have a choice?

The man doffed his hat and nodded. “Nice to meet you, Miss Campbell.”

“Adelaine? This is my husband, Clark Turner.”

She smiled politely. “It’s a pleasure, sir.”

“Here, let me take that from you, Miss Campbell.” He hauled her trunk to the back of the wagon before assisting both her and Charity up onto the buckboard.

Adelaine pulled her sister closer to her as the wagon began to move. With her heart in her throat, Adelaine worried over the outcome of her soon-to-be marriage. Starting it off with a lie wasn’t a good thing at all. Yet, Mrs. Turner mentioned the marriage would be in name only, so would it even matter?

Her heart clenched in sadness. Why had she expected something more? She’d been a fool to think she would marry a man who would love her and be with her forever. It had hurt to watch her mom raise Adelaine without a father around, and she hadn’t wanted that type of marriage. However, Dallas Remington had two children of his own, so at least he was a better father than Adelaine’s.

“Charity?” Adelaine said in a soft voice, looking down at her sister.

“Yes, Addie?”

Smiling, she laughed softly. “You mustn’t call me that any longer. You must call me Mommy.”

The girl shrugged and rested her head on Adelaine’s lap. She stroked Charity’s hair as they made their way toward the ranch, hoping that Mr. Remington would have a kind heart and not turn them away. After Ma’s death, a few people in town gave them some money that would help them get by until the wedding, but if Mr. Remington was going to turn them away… How would she and Charity live?

She wasn’t certain how much time slipped by, but soon, they were entering a ranch. Several heads of cattle were grazing in the fields. She shook Charity awake and pointed to the animals. The girl gasped and sat up, rubbing her eyes and taking in the sights. Adelaine watched with interest as she noticed two stables, and at least ten small cabins lined nearby. Several men, who were in the yard or walked out of the cabins, stopped and looked at her with wide, curious eyes. She nodded politely.

Once the wagon continued up a knoll, away from these buildings, she was able to get her first glimpse of the house. Her jaw dropped in awe. Dallas Remington must be very wealthy to have such a grand home – or should she label it an estate? Never in her life had she seen a house with so many windows. The three-story manse also had a wooden wrap-around porch that was painted white. The yard was well taken care of, as was the simple flower garden off to the side.

Adelaine’s heart calmed. Not even in her dreams had she imagined such a cheerful place, and she prayed the occupants inside were just as pleasant.

The wagon came to a stop out in front of the porch, and Mr. Turner hopped down before helping his wife off. He then turned and reached a hand to assist Adelaine and Charity. The little girl blinked with excitement as she gazed at the looming house in front of them.

“Home?” she asked, turning her focus to Adelaine.

Although her smile was shaky, she didn’t know how to answer her sister’s question. Home? She could only pray that Mr. Remington would let them stay.

Suddenly, the front door opened, and a man limped out slowly, leaning heavily on a cane. His narrowed gaze moved over her, from the top of her un-bonneted head, over her beige blouse and calico skirt, all the way down to her dusty booted heels. He looked to be in his early thirties, not older than thirty-five, she surmised. His full head of hair was black with a few streaks of lighter hair. He sported a beard, but it was much shorter than some of the men she’d seen already on the ranch. The man’s broad shoulders and slim waist made him look superior, but when he used his cane to limp forward on the porch and looked at Charity, his expression turned harsh.

He raised a steady finger, pointing at the little girl. “Who is she and what is she doing here?”

His booming voice made Adelaine’s insides shake. Charity gasped and pressed her face against Adelaine’s side. They were doomed!




FIND OTHER MAIL-ORDER BRIDE STORIES HERE - https://www.authormariehiggins.com/mail-order-brides

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Taming the Carefree Billionaire

It's finally here! This story really should have been written and released in January, but then life got in the way. But, I'm very happy to announce the third book that I've written with my sister is available! 

Here is the first chapter for your enjoyment.



Carefree billionaire, Thomas Powers, is slacking in his duties. He’s living a wild lifestyle and letting the family winery business slip away from his priorities. It’s not until he meets a headstrong photographer when he realizes this is the first woman who doesn’t melt whenever she looks at him. It’s a challenge, but he’s determined to change her mind. He’s also determined to get rid of a problem in his life – the pesky imaginary man who proclaims to be Thomas’ guardian angel.

Morgan Foster is a photographer for a tabloid paper, and when she suspects there’s more to the story on one of her assignments, she’s determined to find out what is really happening. Unfortunately, that means she must work with the arrogant man who enjoys playing with women’s hearts. Being nice to him is difficult, only because she doesn’t want him to eventually capture her heart.


ONE


“Come on baby… Daddy needs a new jet.” Thomas Powers shook the red dice in his hand as he stared down the craps table. He’d been playing for an hour now and winning. He’d never considered himself a professional gambler, but he did like to play once in a while. And today… he was literally on a roll.
His good friend, Cole Langston, whose brother owned the casino, put this evening’s events together. Since it was Cole’s turn to find the entertainment for Thomas and their billionaire groupies, this was the perfect spot. Angie Birmingham was one of these groupies. Thomas had known her since grade school and only considered her a friend, even though he knew she wanted more. But today she was his good luck charm, so… if the stars were aligned correctly, she just might get her wish.
Angie stood by him so closely that she could have been the one wearing his clothes and rolling the dice. He held out his hand in front of her face. “Blow some good luck on me, Ang.”
Her eyes danced with excitement as she blew on his hand. From the smell of her breath, she’d been drinking much more than he’d realized. Hopefully, her intoxicated breath would put some kind of spell over the dice so that he could continue his winning streak. Already his total was up to fifteen thousand dollars. He’d already decided that when he reached twenty thousand dollars, he’d stop and call it a night. He could already hear his pillow calling him since he’d been up for forty-eight hours straight.
“Okay, here we go,” he said loudly to the crowd surrounding the table. “I’m going to roll a ten again.” Thomas didn’t know half of the people at the table – or even at the casino – but since he was a likable man, when he made friends, he usually kept them for years.
Holding his breath, he threw the dice. The room grew silent, and only the rolling dice was heard knocking against the gaming table. One of them stopped on the number six, and the other stopped on… four!
The crowd cheered. He whooped with excitement and grabbed Angie around the waist, swinging her around. She wrapped her arms around his neck and planted a kiss on his mouth. The kiss was okay, but he’d had better – and less alcohol-based.
When Angie tried to deepen the kiss, he pulled away from her and set her back on her feet. His friends who stood nearby clapped him on the shoulder and congratulated him. Thomas bent and gathered the winning chips. It was time to end the night, especially before he lost everything he’d won.
Suddenly, a flash from the end of the table drew his attention. A woman in a silky, black figure-hugging dress with spaghetti-straps stood out from the crowd. It wasn’t that the dark-haired woman was breathtakingly gorgeous that captured his attention, but it was the camera she held as she snapped pictures of him.
His first reaction was to yell at her and have someone escort her out of the casino. Thomas had had his share of nosey tabloid photographers. However, this woman was different somehow. Maybe it was that she was prettier, but it could have been the look of interest in her eyes when she lowered the camera and met his gaze.
“Oh, don’t stop now, Tommy.” Angie’s finger toyed with the wavy hair on his nape. “You’re on a roll. I mean, we are on a roll.”
She rested her head against his arm and peered up at him with glassy eyes, putting on her pouty face. He really didn’t like pouty faced women. He also didn’t like the smudged dark makeup under her eyes. Her auburn hair had lost its luster, too. Right now, she looked like one of those women who hung out in bars and only left when they were seeing double. He also didn’t like her calling him Tommy – a name he was teased with as a kid in grade school.
He switched his gaze back to the woman holding the camera. Her eyebrow arched in a judgmental fashion. He could read her thoughts perfectly without her even saying a word. Obviously, she wondered why he visually flirted with her when Angie hung all over him like a shroud. Perhaps after this last roll, he’d shake off his irritating shadow and meet the new woman he couldn’t stop looking at.
“Just one more roll… please,” Angie purred forcefully.
Gradually, the crowd began to chant. One more. It didn’t take long before the whole room echoed the encouraging sentiment. The woman his stare had been glued on wasn’t part of the chant. She shrugged and lifted the camera back to her eye and clicked a few more pictures.
Laughing, he joined the group again and focused back on the game. One more roll wouldn’t hurt… not since he was on a winning streak. Right?
He placed the chips back on the number ten square and picked up the dice again. The crowd cheered once again, making him feel that much more important.
Glancing at Angie, he could tell she was ready to blow on his hand, but he really didn’t want her to this time. There was no way he wanted her to think he’d be taking her home with him tonight, especially when his interest had turned to the gorgeous woman in the silky black dress.
“Okay, let’s do this again.” His voice lifted above the cheering. He shook the dice, trying to ignore Angie who kept tugging on his sleeve because she wanted to blow on the dice.
When he let the dice fly, the room became quiet once again. One dice landed on five, and the other…
Two hours later, Thomas’ driver dropped him off at his mansion. Maybe he should have let Angie blow on his hand again. Good grief! He’d lost twenty thousand dollars with one roll of the dice. I’m such an idiot!
However, what made him more of an idiot was when he’d confronted the gorgeous lady taking pictures. It had seemed that his failure was something she’d wanted to cherish. When he’d realized that she continued to take pictures, he stormed over to her, yanked the camera out of her hands, and threw it to the floor. The lens had broken off the expensive camera. At the moment he hadn’t cared. Now he felt guilty. Seeing the flash of anger in her pretty eyes and hearing the words exiting her mouth, would remain in his memory for a long time.
He didn’t know what had come over him. Was he embarrassed for acting like a sore loser in front of an attractive woman? Or was it the insult that he’d lost twenty thousand dollars on one roll of the dice? Either way, the night had ended poorly.
Marching into his home, he grumbled under his breath. He’d never forget the way everyone at the table at looked at him after he’d rolled that last hand. The dice were rigged. That was the only explanation. One minute he was winning like a king – and the next minute he was leaving the casino without a dime of his winnings. At least he hadn’t taken any more money out of his bank account.
He reached the stairs and stopped, gritting his teeth. He’d learned two very important lessons tonight. Gambling with his money was not a good idea. The game was addicting… or at least winning had become addicting. But no more. Next time it was Cole’s turn to pick a party spot, Thomas would let his friend know they were not going to the casino.
The second lesson was… never let his anger get so out of control that he chased off women. If he hadn’t broken her camera, maybe she would have given him her phone number.
He scrubbed his hands through his hair and yawned. It was definitely time for bed. He’d been up for forty-eight hours straight. Well, the last time he checked, it had been that long. Now his bed was really calling him. He’d be surprised if he made it to the mattress before his eyes closed.
“Excuse me, sir.”
The unfamiliar voice snapped Thomas around on the step so fast he lost his balance. He quickly grasped the wooden railing to keep from falling onto the black and white checkered tiles on the floor.
Blinking, he tried to focus his vision on the short, middle-aged man standing in the corridor. The light from the hall shone on his thinning head of hair, emphasizing a bald spot on top of his head. The man wore the oddest clothes. The shirt was baggy and entirely too ruffled around the wrists and neck, but it was the man’s strange shorts that had Thomas nearly chuckling out loud. They were snug fitting and reached below his knee… and were fastened with buttons. Not only that, but he wore stockings, and shoes with large buckles on them.
Thomas rubbed his eyes. He was definitely seeing things. Had he been watching a historical movie sometime during the forty-eight hours of partying? And really, why would he? He didn’t like watching historical shows.
When he focused back on the stranger, the bizarre man was still wearing those different clothes. This must be a joke. “Who are you and what are you doing in my home?” He glanced around him, wondering if one of his other household staff was nearby. But the few that worked for him usually didn’t stay up waiting for him to come home.
“Pardon me sir, but my name is Percy Mills.”
“Why are you here?” Thomas snapped. “Are you filling in for one of my workers?”
“Uh, no sir.” He twisted his chubby hands against his thick waist.
“Then why are you here?”
“You see, Mr. Powers,” he stepped closer, “I was sent from…” pausing, he glanced upwards, “a higher elevation.”
Thomas arched an eyebrow. “Alaska?”
“Uh, no… not quite. You see, sir, I was sent from… Heaven.”
Thomas sure wasn’t hearing correctly – due to lack of sleep, he guessed. Closing his eyes, he shook his head, trying to clear the fog out of his tired thoughts. “Yes, because that makes so much more sense than coming from Alaska.”
The man grinned, displaying two crooked bottom teeth. “Indeed. That does have more logic.”
“Who sent you?” Thomas snapped, wishing the man would just tell him so he could go to his room and sleep.
“Well, you see,” Percy stepped closer, “the man who actually sent me is named Luke – you know, like the apostle in the Bible?”
Thomas rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know the Bible. I’ve read it.”
Percy’s eyes widened. “You have? I would have never guessed.”
Thomas fisted his hands. Who was this man to judge, anyway? And why was he still here?
“Anyway,” Percy continued, “Luke is considered the head of the department. He sent me here to help you get back on the right road.”
Road? Thomas glanced around him. He was inside his house, so why did this man think Thomas was on the wrong road? Unless…
Inwardly, he groaned. He was dreaming. That was it. That would explain the historic-looking man and his strange language and the odd things he was telling Thomas.
He held up a hand, stopping the small man. “Right now, the only road I want to be on is the one leading to my bedroom, so if you’ll please just go back to wherever you came from and let me sleep.”
Thomas turned and climbed a few more stairs, but the man’s buckled shoes clicked on the tiles as he hurried toward the stairs.
“But Mr. Powers, I cannot go back. I’ve been sent to help you and I won’t return until I’ve completed my mission. Then, and only then, will I get my wings.”
Thomas rubbed his throbbing head. “Oh, I see. You’re a pilot. Well, you might as well look elsewhere because I’m not hiring. I have my own pilot, thank you.”
The man chuckled. “No, sir. I’m not a pilot.”
Thomas looked over his shoulder at the man and sighed. How was he going to get rid of him? “Then what are you? A stewardess?”
“No, Mr. Powers. I’m… your guardian angel.”



Friday, July 3, 2020

30-second pitch

I'm going to submit my screenplay "How to Win a Man's Love" to Netflix. I need your prayers that this might be where my stories will get noticed. Anyway, this particular website where I'll answer questions about my story, requires the authors to send in a 30-second pitch. So... I did one. What do you think? Does it work??





This is the novel that I've adapted into a screenplay.


Cynthia Randall’s neighbor is all wrong for her. Rich and handsome, Damien Giovanni’s love ‘em and leave ‘em lifestyle isn’t a fit for her. Cyndi wants it all—the love, the romance, the white picket fence, and someday children. When the new Channel Nine Anchorman shows up at her station, Cyndi sets her sights on her old high school crush, Maxwell Harrington. Of course, he doesn’t remember her, but thanks to the Internet, Cyndi is armed and ready to make him her boyfriend—an easy no-fail method “Ten Ways to Win a Man”.

Damien knows Max plays fast and loose, and Damien refuses to let Cyndi’s heart be broken again. He offers to help her. He wants to get closer to Cyndi and show her the wonderful woman he knows she is… and yes, he wants to win her heart.

But which man will Cyndi want? It’s easy to lose track of who is wrong or right.

Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Her-Own-Fairy-Godmother-Modern-day-ebook/dp/B00TVF12NE

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Vexed in Vermont

My third book in The Lovelorn series will be here in a few weeks, so to entice you to add this book to your pre-order list, I'm giving away Chapter One for FREE!



Nicolette McFarland will do anything to prove her worth as a Veterinarian, but when a man from her past comes back to interrupt her life, she doesn’t know what to do. Desperate, she sends a letter to a newspaper article for advice. While waiting for The Lovelorn to respond, Nicolette tries her best to show everyone around her how good she really is. Unfortunately, the vexing man from her past, Captain Adrian Robinson, ends up getting shot, and it’s up to her to help him even if she doesn’t want to. All she knows is that The Lovelorn had better hurry and reply to her letter because Nicolette is in grave danger of losing her heart – or having it broken forever.



ONE


Vermont, 1880

Dear Lovelorn,
I have just received some unsettling news, and I’m not sure how to handle it. I’ve lived with my aunt since I was nine years old, and although my aunt and her husband have treated me well and raised me to be a lady, those first few years with her family were not pleasant. My aunt’s stepson was a thorn in my side since before he joined the military several years ago. Now he’s coming back and he’ll stay at his father’s house until he can start a new life. I have been enjoying life and the rituals of courtship, but I still haven’t found anyone to love, so I must continue to live with my aunt. Please, Lovelorn, tell me how I can handle my aunt’s womanizing stepson who has no morals. I fear he’ll return to his childhood tactics that made my life intolerable, and I might not have the patience to put up with him. What if I strangle him… or shoot him? I’m anxiously awaiting your advice.
Sincerely, Vexed in Vermont

Nicolette McFarland set her writing pen down and reread her letter to The Lovelorn who wrote a daily column in the St. Louis Gazette. She’d been following the column for quite a while and enjoyed reading the responses from The Lovelorn. It was her turn now. She needed advice.
Adrian Robinson, her aunt’s stepson, would be surprised to see how much Nicolette had changed. No longer was she the simpering little girl who cowered every time Adrian came near, nor was she the cry-baby who went bawling to her aunt whenever Adrian hurt her. But Nicolette had grown to be a strong, self-assertive woman. Nobody stopped her from accomplishing her goals, not as long as she could use the brain God had given her. If Adrian dared try to go up against her this time, he would discover quickly what kind of a monster he’d turned her into. Revenge would be sweet, indeed!
It didn’t matter that he was seven years older than her, she’d show him that he couldn’t hurt her anymore. However, it would be difficult to forget how many times he locked her in the cellar late at night, telling her that the devil would find her if she cried or made a noise. Thankfully, she grew to realize that Satan didn’t work like that – only the evil Adrian Robinson did.
And what about those times he had shortened Nicolette’s dresses or ripped the seams right before her parties? She’d been humiliated in front of her friends. There were even times he had tied her up in the backyard behind the tall hedges and singed the edges of her long light-brown hair. She reached up and stroked her palm down her wavy locks of hair. Luckily, her hair had grown back long and was now soft and silky like it should be.
Nicolette quickly slipped the letter in an envelope and addressed it to the St. Louis Gazette. She held it tightly in her hand as she tiptoed out of her bedroom and headed downstairs. Mornings were usually quiet in the Robinson household. Teddy, Adrian’s father, owned a profiting lumber store in Woodstock, Vermont, where they had been living since Nicolette first came to stay with them.
Teddy and his oldest son, Jacob, were already at the store this early in the morning. Aunt Betty was probably still sleeping since the middle-aged woman usually stayed up late at night attending social functions. The few servants the Robinson’s had knew that they weren’t really needed until Aunt Betty was awake, especially since Nicolette could dress herself and fix her own meals – and had done that since she was nine.
She moved into the kitchen and found an apple. This would work just fine for breakfast. Of course, she also didn’t want to waste another minute eating when it was most imperative that she get this letter to the Post Office.
The family dog, Bandit, jumped on her several times in the stable to get her attention, but she ignored the long-eared, furry animal and moved to a horse. Trying to eat and saddle a horse at the same time was a little more time-consuming, but soon she was on her horse and heading quickly to deliver her letter. The roads were quiet this morning, thankfully, because usually when riding to town, people were out and about, which meant that someone would want to stop her and chat.
Thankfully, she made it to the Post Office and gave them her letter without any interruptions. She mounted her horse and took off toward home. Another bonus about being an early riser and going into town without many people around, was that she could wear her trousers. Riding astride was much easier with pants. Of course, most men hadn’t understood her need for comfort. Neither had they understood how she enjoyed going fishing and actually gutting the fish herself. Nicolette figured that stemmed back to days of yore when her father took her fishing and taught her so many things that most girls never learned. And speaking of fishing…
She eyed the Ottaquechee River, and slowly, her mouth turned up into a grin. She hadn’t been fishing for over two weeks, and suddenly, the prospect of being one with nature – and getting her feet wet, of course – became too much of a temptation, and she urged her horse a little faster.
As she came almost to the edge of town, she saw a tall man with wide shoulders, walk out of the bank. Nicely dressed in his long over-coat, hat, and of course, his fancy boots, was the mayor’s son, Eugene Dickson. The man with blondish-brown hair was the most recent gentleman to take an interest in her. He was sweet and not as serious as the last man to court her, but Eugene was also not exactly her type of man. He didn’t enjoy getting his hands dirty… and unless a man was all right with getting his hands slimy from fish guts, she lost interest in him quickly.
Ducking her head, she urged the horse with her heels, trying to get the animal to go faster so that Mr. Dickson wouldn’t see her. He would be absolutely appalled if he saw her wearing trousers, and she didn’t want to embarrass him in any way.
As she kept low, she pushed her horse faster. Soon, she was out of town and in the wooded area, so she pulled gently on the reins to slow the animal down. At that moment, a jackrabbit zipped across the road, startling the horse. The horse came to a sudden stop and reared, lifting his front legs in the air. Not prepared for this sudden action, the reins slipped out of her hands and she fell back, tumbling to the hard ground.
Her breath was knocked out of her, and for a few moments, she couldn’t breathe. Nicolette struggled to a sitting position, trying not to panic as she tried to force her lungs to start working again. Finally, her body allowed breath to come into her lungs, but then other places on her hurt. Her ankle actually throbbed.
Great… just great. Nicolette frowned. A sprained ankle was something she didn’t need.
She pulled her knee up to her chest, and tried to feel her ankle without taking the boot off. She didn’t dare do that right now. The swelling would keep the boot from going back on, and if she had to walk home she needed the boot.
She moved her attention around her and through the trees on both sides of the dirt road, searching for her horse. Dagnabbit! This was not a good place for her horse to run off, because now she couldn’t see him.
As she tried to stand, she gritted her teeth against the pain shooting through her leg coming from her ankle. She couldn’t allow the pain to halt her goal, and yet, if she couldn’t stand, she couldn’t walk, and therefore she’d never get home. She applied pressure to her foot, but the pain had her crumbling back to the ground and crying out.
So perhaps crawling back home was her only option. She’d do whatever she must, but after a couple of crawls in the direction of home, she realized her knees weren’t made for this kind of rocky road. Still… she must keep moving, even if she huffed and puffed the whole way. At least she realized why Uncle Teddy had named the animal Bucky.
The rush of the nearby Ottaquechee River was louder than normal. Of course, they had gotten a lot of rain lately, which was probably the reason why there was so much water, but it was difficult to hear anything else. She grumbled under her breath again, knowing that she wouldn’t be going fishing anytime soon – not with her sprained ankle.
The neigh from the horse followed by the crushing of footsteps on the rocky road, caught her attention. She stopped and swung her attention over her shoulder. The sun nearly blinded her, but a man’s tall, broad-shouldered figure was silhouetted in the gleam as he pulled his horse behind him holding the reins. He was dressed in a blue soldier’s uniform.
“Pardon me, but do you need assistance?”
His kindness warmed her heart, but she was sure she looked a fright… and wearing men’s trousers, no less. “Thank you. I was bucked from my horse and in my fall, I twisted my ankle.”
“Then allow me to help.” He walked closer and stopped, bending down and scooping her in his arms.
She gasped from the suddenness and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding tightly for fear of him dropping her. Immediately, she noticed his masculine – and clean – scent, as if he’d just taken a bath not long ago.
Once he situated her in his arms, she glanced at his face. He was too handsome, and being this close to him made her nervous. His short hair was black as coal, and his eyes were hazel. In fact, he reminded her a little of…
When recognition hit, she lost her breath. Realization turned her blood cold and made her stomach churn. She prayed the fall on the ground had somehow knocked something loose in her head, because she didn’t want to think of Adrian Robinson being this handsome… or sweet. He was exactly opposite.
He lifted her on top of his horse to where she sat sideways, and she quickly made the switch, swinging her legs astride as she tried to get further away from him when he mounted. That’s when she realized her hands hadn’t been as cold as the blood flowing through her. In fact, she felt quite flushed, and just thinking about jumping into the river to cool off became tempting as each second passed.
“Th-thank you,” she said, almost having to spit the words out. She’d never had to thank him before. It was hard to start now.
He glanced up at her and smiled a devilish, wicked smile. “I couldn’t leave a stranded woman helpless, now could I?”
It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he’d done this very thing several times when they were younger. Instead, she gritted her teeth, not daring to say anything at all as he situated himself behind her.
His arms reached around her as he gripped the reins and urged the animal into a trot. As much as she tried to hold herself still, her body couldn’t stop from bumping against him. The ride home would be agony.
“Are you going to tell me where to take you?” he asked in a deep voice.
Warm shivers ran over her back. Even his voice had changed from what she’d remembered. She would just have to look at his face while talking to him, because then she’d be reminded of how utterly mean he’d been to her before he’d left the house to join the military.
It bothered her that he didn’t recognize her. Then again, it had been almost ten years. She’d been a girl in pigtails the last time he had seen her.
“I suspect,” she kept her voice steady, looking over her shoulder, “that I’m going in the same direction as you, Adrian Robinson.”
His gaze dropped to her face. Confusion filled his expression as he studied her face, slower this time.
She waited for him to remember, but he still showed no signs of knowing her. It appeared as if she would have to help his memory along.
“It’s been nearly ten years. I’m surprised you don’t recognize your stepmother’s niece.”
His eyes grew wide and his mouth hung agape. This time when his gaze moved over her, it was faster, and she could finally see the light of awareness in his eyes.
“Lottie? That can’t be you.”
Inwardly, she groaned. She really hated that nickname he always used to use. Not once had he called her that name using a pleasant tone. “Yes, it’s me, Nicolette.
Even with the stunned expression across his face, his mouth stretched into a grin. “The years have been very kind to you. I cannot see the imp I used to know.”
Imp? She fisted her hand, wanting to punch him in the face. However, she refrained. Making him upset right now wasn’t a good idea. How else would she get home?
“And I must admit,” she replied in a tight voice, “that those years in the military has turned you into a strapping man.”
He straightened, smiling wider. “I made it to the rank of Captain.”
“Congratulations. What made you want to return home?”
The light in his eyes dimmed enough to notice. Even his smile slowly faded. “I knew it was time I did something else with my life.”
Part of her wanted to know what had brought him to that decision, and yet, another part of her didn’t really care. As long as he found his new life quickly and left the house, she would be very happy for him. Unfortunately, her luck had never been good when Adrian was around.
“And what about yourself?” He arched an eyebrow. “Have you made some man happy by becoming his wife?”
Nicolette hesitated, thinking she heard a touch of sarcasm in his voice. “It’s really none of your business, but no, I haven’t. I’ve had other things directing me.”
He blinked with wide eyes. “Other things? What could they possibly be?”
“That’s for me to know, and you never to find out.”
She wasn’t sure what it was about Adrian that grated on her nerves all the time, but she was tired of this conversation, and tired of feeling as though he thought less of her just because she wasn’t married.
He shrugged and moved his attention back to the road. “As long as it makes you happy, I suppose you can do whatever you’d like.”
She fisted her hands in her lap and gritted her teeth. In her letter to The Lovelorn, Nicolette worried that she might strangle – or shoot – Adrian. At this very moment, she wanted to do both, and she didn’t care what kind of problems it would cause. All she wanted was him out of her life, and she’d do anything to make it happen.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Nursing of the Heart - NEW SERIES!

I'm so excited to be part of this new series about nurses. I have so many nurse friends, and in these troubled times with the virus going around, our nurses are doing all they can to help us. What would we do without them? I dedicate my story to all nurses who selflessly put their hearts into their work!

Here is the list of authors involved with this series, and of course, the Amazon series link - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0881KGBVV




My book, "A Nurse for Mitch" is book #2 and comes out 6/18.

Nurse Lydia Simmons is assigned to a hospital in Laramie, Wyoming. She’s dedicated her life to caring for the sick and wounded, but when she meets a soldier, known only as Mitch, she is particularly drawn to him. Mitch has lost his memories and is desperate to re-discover himself. Lydia strives to help him, and soon finds herself falling for this lost soul, despite the fact that her heart belongs to another. A part of her fears what will be discovered if she helps Mitch find his memories. What secrets lurk in his darkened mind? Does he have a wife? A family? As glimpses of his past begin to surface, Lydia begins to wonder if helping him uncover his memories will be his downfall... or hers?




Fort Laramie, Wyoming 1868

With both arms full of bandages and creams, Lydia Simmons hurried to the operating room to stock the cabinets. The room was long and filled with many tables. Several shelves and cabinets hung on the wall, all loaded with supplies. This evening, only one lamp was lit since most of the doctors had retired for the night.
Putting these supplies away was the last thing she had to do before going home, and she was anxious to complete her duties. Although she loved being a nurse at Fort Laramie Hospital, and had been for a few months now, tonight she and three other nurses were getting together and would attend a ball given by the governor. Lydia couldn’t remember the last time she had attended a ball. The Civil War ended when she was seventeen, and nobody wanted to hold social functions like that anymore. So many men had been killed or injured, and there weren’t many men to dance with.
Regardless, she and her three friends were using tonight’s ball as an excuse to dress up pretty and mingle with healthy people for a few hours. It was difficult not to hurry and still stack the supply cabinets neatly.
“Simmons?”
Doctor Hatchett stood at the doorway with his beefy arms folded over his very round middle. The older man was stern, but he taught the nurses well and was a good example to the other doctors.
Lydia paused. “Yes, Doctor Hatchett. Do you need something?”
“When you’re finished here, I need you to go upstairs to Captain Lewis’ room. He needs his bed changed.”
Her heart sank. Captain Lewis had been in and out of the hospital several times since the war ended, according to the doctors she’d talked to. Captain Lewis was a sweet man, but his mind wandered much too often, and most of the time she couldn’t get him to stop talking.
Tonight, she would need him asleep, but she doubted that was going to happen. “Yes, Doctor.”
She finished with stocking the cabinet and hurried out of the room and up the stairs to the third floor. Hopefully, her friends wouldn’t go to the ball without her. She wanted to fix her hair differently, and that would take a while, she was sure.
Nearing the room where the captain stayed, she adjusted the white apron with the red medical cross that pinned to her dress’ bodice, and smoothed her hands over the bottom portion of the apron as it covered her front down to her knees. She was finally used to wearing the apron, but the hat seemed to never stay on her head.
Captain Lewis had shrunk in size over the years, she was told. He’d once been a robust man who rode a horse perfectly and led his battalion with courage. A cannon had nearly blown off his leg. The army surgeon should have removed it, but for some reason, the captain kept his leg. However, infection kept setting in, and every time it happened, the man lost weight. Lydia feared the middle-aged man would be a skeleton soon.
A few other beds had patients, but they looked to be sleeping. She walked past the captain to the shelves against the far wall and pulled out some bed sheets. She peeked over at the man. His thinning blonde hair lay limply on his head, matching the rest of the man’s un-working parts on his body.
“Good evening, Captain Lewis.” She brought the sheets over. “Doctor Hatchett said you were ready for your bed to be changed.”
“Yes, I am.” He gave her a wide smile. “You look absolutely radiant this evening.”
A blush warmed her cheeks. “Captain, I’m appalled. What would your wife say if she knew you were talking that way to another woman?”
He chuckled. “She would thank you for not being twenty years older, that’s what she’d say.”
“All right, Captain Lewis. Enough flirtation. I’m here to change your bed.”
He scooted to the side of the bed. She set the sheets down before sliding an arm around his waist, helping him to stand and moving him to the closest chair.
“Thank you, nurse. I appreciate your help.” He cocked his head. “I cannot recall your name.”
“I’m Lydia Simmons.”
“Ah, yes. Miss Lydia.”
It was still hard for most men – and even women – to comprehend that she had a title. She’d gone to school and was trained by Clara Barton, as was many other women like Lydia. They all graduated with certificates in nursing. And yet, she still had to remind some people to call her Nurse Lydia. The urge to correct the captain was strong, but she fought it. She didn’t want to waste any time changing his sheets.
“Will you get me a newspaper, Miss Lydia?”
She took a quick glance around the room and spotted one on the other side of the eight-bed chambers. She hurried over and snatched it up, quickening her step to bring it back to the captain. “Is that all?”
“Yes, for now. Thank you.”
She was grateful that he would read it while she changed the bed. At least she wouldn’t have to hear him talking much.
After a few moments, he sighed heavily in sadness. She glanced at him to make sure he wasn’t getting ill or something. His expression was pulled into a deep frown as his gaze stayed on the newspaper.
“Is something amiss, Captain?”
“The war has been over for three years, but the newspaper still reports men who have deserted the army.” He shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if these men are dead and their families don’t know.”
Lydia nodded. “It would be so hard on their families if they didn’t know.” She turned back to the bed-making.
He was silent for another second before he gasped loudly. This time she thought he was in pain, but he still stared at the newspaper.
“I don’t believe it.” He grumbled and shook his head.
“What’s wrong, Captain? Did you see a name you recognize?”
“This man, Peter Mitchell, is listed as a deserter. He was younger than most of us, but he had connections and made it to Lieutenant very quickly. I worked under him and he put his men through…” He cleared his throat. “Pardon me, but I won’t cuss around a lady.”
She smiled. “I appreciate it.” She turned back to the bed, tucking in the sheets under the mattress.
“This young man,” he continued, “was a cocky fool and thought he knew everything. Sometimes, he thought he could run the war by himself. He whipped us like animals and sometimes he starved us. He told us that was his way of teaching us a lesson.” He paused, scrubbing a hand over his unshaven face. “Before I was wounded, he was reassigned somewhere else.”
“How young was he?” she wondered, caught up in the conversation.
“At the time, he was probably in his late twenties. He came from a family with money, which is probably how he was able to work himself up in rank so quickly.”
“I remember Lieutenant Mitchell.”
One of the other men in the room sat up in his bed. “Most everyone hated him. He had a glare that made you want to crawl under a rock and hide.”
“I remember he thought he was God.”
Another man in the room stood from his bed and leaned against the wall. Mr. Heath’s face was covered in sores, and it reminded Lydia that she should give him some cream.
“He thought he was God?” she asked Mr. Heath.
“Mitchell’s father was a minster, and sometimes Mitchell was heard quoting scriptures that talked about hell and damnation. Some men in the regiment wanted to take their own lives just because they couldn’t bear Mitchell’s torture.”
“Oh, dear.” She held the pillow in her hand, pressing it to her chest. “And the deserter is still missing?”
Captain Lewis shook his head. “I pray he’s found and arrested… or he’s dead.”
“Do you think he’s in Wyoming?”
“Possibly.” The captain shrugged. “Why else would they have his name in the newspaper?”
It made Lydia nervous to think there was a madman walking the streets who was that dangerous. “What does he look like?”
Mr. Heath chuckled. “He was a woman’s man, that’s for sure. The young ladies thought he was quite handsome. He knew how to charm, but that was not his real side. He just showed the ladies what they wanted to see – a perfect and kind gentleman – but when he was away from them, he turned into the devil himself.”
“I heard he was married,” the captain said.
“The poor woman.” Mr. Heath shook his head.
“Well,” she said, releasing a heavy sigh as she turned back to finish making the bed, “I hope they find him soon.”
“He’d be easy enough to spot,” Captain Lewis added. “The authorities would have to look for a man with sandy brown hair.” He paused, tapping his finger on his pointy chin. “Oh, and Peter Mitchell also has the greenest eyes you’ve ever seen. The eyes of the devil…”
A half-hour later, Lydia left the hospital, clutching her cloak around her throat and rushing to her one-horse buggy. It wasn’t the small wind that night that chilled her, but the tale of the madman who was still on the loose. It was nights like this when she wished she didn’t have to return home by herself. The sooner she could get home, the safer she’d feel.
Curse you, Captain Lewis, for frightening me so.
It comforted her to know that her uncle and guardian, Albert Wilkinson, would be waiting for her, just like he always did on the nights she worked late. Albert’s wife, Beatrice, would be in bed. She wasn’t one who liked to stay awake after the sun had gone to bed. But Bea was like a mother to Lydia, since her mother had died during the war. Lydia always knew it was heartbreak for losing her father in battle that killed her mother.
At times Lydia wanted to experience that kind of love with a man – a love that was the reason you woke up every morning and went to bed every night… a love that made you happy and made your children happy. But then, Lydia never wanted to feel so heartbroken over the man’s death that it literally killed her.
She guided her horse around a bend. Through this section of town, the trees were extremely dense and shadows were everywhere. Her chest tightened with an eerie feeling, and she urged the horse faster. Thankfully, the sun hadn’t quite disappeared, and she could still see the road.
By the time the end of the road was in sight, she tried to calm her fiercely beating heart. But suddenly, a shadow moved in front of her buggy.
Panicking, she tried to stop the horse, yet at the same time, tried to keep the buggy from running the person over. Luckily, the horse missed the man, but she felt a heavy thump on the right side of the buggy. Her heart sank. She’d hit them!
Once she was able to stop the horse, she jumped down and searched for the person lying on the road. It was a man, and he lay motionless near the edge of the road, lying on his chest with his head turned to the side. She prayed she hadn’t killed him.
The blood oozing out of the side of his mouth and a spot of blood coating his shoulder and spreading quickly, kicked in her nurse’s senses and she hurried to his side, kneeling down next to him. His ragged clothes looked to be at least two sizes too big. His shoulder-length brown hair was dirty, and bits and pieces of twigs were stuck in his ratted locks.
“Sir?” She touched his hand as her fingers searched for his pulse. There was one, but it was weak. “Sir? Can you hear me?”
Gently, she turned him over as she continued to check him for injuries. His face was covered with dirt and he sported an unkempt beard that covered the lower half of his face and even hung lower to cover his neck. Obviously, he hadn’t shaved for several months, maybe even a year.
“Sir? Can you hear me?” she repeated, shaking him, but not enough to cause serious damage.
He groaned, but he didn’t open his eyes. This man needed a doctor, and yet, Uncle Albert’s house was closer than the hospital. Not to mention, she was a nurse. She could help him until a doctor arrived.
She stood and moved toward his head. He looked thin as if he hadn’t eaten for a while. Hopefully, she’d be able to lift him to her buggy. She bent and slid her arms underneath his shoulders. When her hand grazed the blood on the shirt, he moaned again. Blowing out a frustrated breath, she wasn’t sure how she could move him by herself, especially not knowing how serious his shoulder injury was.
“Ma’am? Do you need help?”
She released a frightened scream and stumbled back, turning to look behind her at the man standing so very close to her. When recognition hit, she sighed with relief. He worked on her uncle’s farm. He continued to wear the tribal headband of the Sioux Indians. He also seemed to be a good example to the others of his race who wanted to be part of the great state of Wyoming.
“Oh, Samuel.”
“Miss Lydia? Is that you?”
“Yes, Samuel. I need you to help me carry this man to my buggy. He’s hurt and I need to get him home to Uncle Albert.”
“But the hospital,” he motioned in the opposite direction, “is that way.”
“I know, but this man is hurt. I need to bandage him first, and then I’ll take him to the hospital.”
“But Miss Lydia, you cannot help this man. He has been living in these woods. He is not fit to be at the farm with you fine folks.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m a nurse, and I will help anyone who needs medical attention. He’s bleeding, and I don’t want him to lose too much blood or he will die. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Lydia.”
Samuel was tall and built like an ox. He lifted the stranger as if he was a sack of flour. He placed the man in the buggy as she climbed up and took hold of the reins.
“Miss Lydia? Do you want me to ride with you?”
“Yes, please.”
Since there was no place on the seat for Samuel to sit, he hopped on the back of the buggy and rode to the house with her. As soon as she stopped, Samuel jumped down and lifted the man in his arms again.
She hurried into the house. Uncle Albert walked out of the kitchen. When he saw Samuel and the unconscious man in the worker’s arms, he gasped.
“I don’t have time to explain,” she told her uncle. “This man is injured and I need to get his bleeding stopped before he dies.”
Nodding, Albert rushed into the guest bedroom and pulled down the blankets on the bed. Samuel laid the stranger on the mattress.
“Uncle Albert? Will you help me remove the man’s shirt?”
Between Samuel and her uncle, the man was stripped from the waist up while she prepared the water, and the soap, along with the bandages and ointment. Lydia turned up the lamp to get a better look at his shoulder wound. Immediately, she went to work removing the blood and the dirt. Once the spot was visible enough to see what kind of wound it was, she gasped and straightened. Her heartbeat hammered in a different rhythm.
The man had been shot! Her mind clouded with thoughts of what could have happened to him, but the one that stood out most was that he was running from the law. Inwardly, she groaned. Had she just brought an outlaw into her uncle’s house?