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Monday, June 1, 2020

Callie's Calamity - Mail-Order Bride Series

I'm excited about my second mail-order bride romance! And I just adore the book cover!! The book is available in Kindle and Kindle Unlimited - and in paperback.

All Callie Cartwright knows is that she's got to get out of town fast. Her husband is dead and she's pregnant. If the truth comes out to how her husband died, she won't live to see the day her baby is born.

Thankfully, she went through an agency to find a man in search of a mail-order-bride. Callie is a city girl, but perhaps living out in the country on a horse ranch is what she needs right now. One week later, she travels to meet the man she has arranged to wed but is sidetracked when the train she is riding breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Time is running out and she's desperate, but can she rely on the handsome stranger with the dreamy eyes to help her?




CHAPTER ONE


Texas 1889

It had been three days. Three very long and tiring days of running.
And hiding.

Callie Cartwright clutched her satchel with one hand and secured the edges of her cloak at her neck with the other hand. Peeking around the wall of the train station office, she watched for anyone who resembled a lawman. Men with silver stars on their coats frightened her.

The train heading to Colorado would be leaving in ten minutes. She would wait until the last minute before boarding. She couldn’t take any chances of getting caught, not only for her wellbeing, but for her unborn child’s.

Callie pressed a hand to her belly. She had realized her delicate condition two weeks ago, so she hadn’t started showing yet. She prayed her slender figure would keep the pregnancy from showing for at least another four or five months. Her soon-to-be husband couldn’t know, yet.

She glanced at her left hand. The ring Bill Donovan had given her on their wedding still circled her finger. Scowling, she tugged it off. The dirty rat hadn’t deserved the quick death he’d received. If it had been up to her, she would have put him through something more difficult and torturing.

Unwanted memories flashed through her mind of him lifting his heavy hand in an attempt to make her bend to his will while she cowered in front of him. Closing her eyes, she prayed those terrible memories would disappear. She was starting a new life and finding a new husband… one that would care for her and her unborn child… the child she’d convince her new husband was his.

The loud whistle of the train brought her out of her thoughts. Once more, she peeked around the corner of the station office and scanned the platform. Several people hugged their loved ones and said goodbye before they boarded the train and prepared to make the next few days journey as comfortable as they could be. Not Callie. She would only relax once she was out of Texas.

Shifting from one foot to the other, she waited for the conductor to give the last boarding call. A woman with two children holding onto her hands hurried to the train and up the stairs. A man rushed from the other end of the station and climbed onboard. Not far from where Callie hid, a man walked out of the station office. His steps were slow as he headed for the train, and he held a newspaper in his hand. He stopped before lifting his foot to the small landing on the train, and looked down the wooden platform as if waiting for someone. He was dressed nicely in a gray suit jacket and matching trousers with a dark blue vest and white shirt. His brown hair was slicked back off his forehead, and from what she could see of his face, he was remarkably handsome. He appeared to be several years older than her husband, but she was certain the stranger wasn’t much older than thirty-five.

Her first impression of him was that he wasn’t the type of man who would angrily strike a woman. But then, Bill hadn’t appeared to be that kind of man when she first met him, either. Alcohol had poisoned his mind and his heart.

The stranger’s gaze did another sweep of the platform before he released a noticeable sigh and his shoulders sank. He proceeded up the landing and into the passenger car.

The whistle blew again, and the conductor made the final call. Callie glanced around the nearly empty platform once more before hurrying toward the train. The conductor saw her and reached out a hand to help her on board.

Callie’s heartbeat hadn’t calmed yet, but it probably wouldn’t. Not until she was out of danger and far away from Texas.

As she wandered through the railcar, she searched for an empty seat. A few faces glanced up at her, but then the people returned to what they’d been doing. Callie searched for a seat near an older woman or even a woman with children. She didn’t want to stand out, just in case someone was looking for her.

Callie clutched her satchel so tightly to her chest that her fingers turned white, but since this was the only thing she had left in this world, she didn’t want to lose anything. She only had a little money to live on until she reached Fort Collins, Colorado.

When she saw an empty spot on the bench across from a woman with two children, Callie breathed a sigh of relief. She reached the bench and smiled at the slightly older woman looking up at her.

“Is this place taken?”

“No.” The woman motioned toward the empty space. “Please sit.”

Callie smiled the best she could under her duress and sat. “My name is Mrs. Cartwright.” She decided not to give the woman her married name, only because until death do you part. “I’m widowed.” She didn’t want to lie about everything. Besides, an unwed woman traveling by herself was unheard of.

The other woman nodded, wearing a pleasant expression. “I’m Mrs. Linda Butters. I’m also widowed.” She motioned to her two children who looked very much alike and the same age. “This is Matthew and Margaret.”

“Twins?” Callie asked.

The two children nodded.

“Yes. They are eight-years-old,” Linda said.

“Nice to meet you all.” Callie relaxed slightly. “Where are you traveling?”

Linda adjusted the bonnet on her head, pushing back some locks that had fallen across her forehead. “Denver, Colorado. I have family there. And you?”

“I’m heading to Fort Collins.”

“That is a nice place. Have you been there before?”

Callie shook her head. “My first trip. I’m also meeting up with family.” Of course, her family consisted of her soon-to-be-husband and his daughter.

“I wish you a pleasant journey.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Butters. And I wish you and your children a happy journey, as well.”

“Please, call me Linda.”

Callie’s smile didn’t seem as forced this time. “And you must call me Callie.”

From up the aisle, the conductor made his way toward them, collecting the tickets. She dug through the homemade pocket she’d added to her cloak before she left home, looking for her ticket, but when the ticket wasn’t there, her heart dropped. Had she put it somewhere else? She quickly opened her satchel to see if it was on top, but it wasn’t.

Her heartbeat quickened as panic filled her. They would kick her off the train without a ticket, and yet, she had purchased one, so where was it?

She set the satchel down and stood, removing her cloak and shaking it. She then shook out her skirt, but still, the ticket didn’t magically appear.

“Tickets, please.” The older man wearing the conductor’s uniform held out his hand.

Linda handed over hers and the children’s tickets. The conductor ripped off the bottoms and gave the tickets back. When he turned to Callie, she looked at him as her eyes filled with tears. She couldn’t have come this far only to be stopped. Why couldn’t her life go smoothly for once? When would it finally be her turn for happiness? But apparently, that was asking the impossible.

“Your ticket?” the conductor asked.

“I…” Her voice shook. “I had it before I got on the train, but now…” She shook out her cloak, hoping the ticket would appear quickly. Yet, she was prone to receiving bad luck. Why should today be any different?

“Excuse me.” A man’s voice came from across the aisle. “I believe this is yours.”

Callie snapped her gaze to the handsome man with the deep voice. He was the one she’d seen climb on the train a few minutes before she had. He stood behind the conductor, holding a ticket.

“I saw this on the floor.” He motioned toward his feet. “I’m suspecting it’s yours.”

Relief flooded her and she nearly sagged to the ground. With a shaky hand, she took the ticket from him, looking into his kind eyes. “Thank you, sir.”

He nodded. “Glad to help a lady in distress.”

She tried to regulate her breathing as she handed the ticket to the conductor. “I’m sorry about that.”

He took her ticket and ripped off the bottom before handing it back. “I’m glad it was found, ma’am.”

The conductor walked away, and she looked at the man who saved her… Inwardly, she cringed. No, she couldn’t think of him as doing that. He saved the moment. That’s all.

“Thank you again, sir. I thought for sure the conductor would kick me off the train.”

His bright smile only enhanced his handsome looks and made his blue eyes sparkle, his thick, dark brown hair appeared soft. He was a tall man, and had very broad shoulders, but was slender enough to fill out his clothes quite well.

“I’m just glad I noticed it on the floor. I would have hated to start a fight with the older man. After all, throwing a woman off a train is very disrespectful, if you ask me.”

She hitched a breath. Could this man be real? Or maybe he was a figment of her imagination. She hadn’t been sleeping well at all since her husband’s death, and especially since she’d been running. “How kind you are. I’m relieved to know there is a real gentleman on the train.”

“I’m here to assist you in any way, ma’am.”

Her heartbeat stalled, if only for a moment. What made him think she needed his assistance? She had once relied on Bill and look how that turned out. No, she wouldn’t fall so easily for a man again – even if he had a sweet smile as this stranger had.

She muttered another thank you and stepped back to her seat. Once she was comfortable, she turned her head away from him to look out the window. For a moment, she’d forgotten how it had been when Bill had hurt her. He had smiled so sweetly at one time, too. She couldn’t trust smiles. They were fake, just as hers was.

When she and Bill were first married, she was so in love, and had been optimistic about their future. Bill had worked in his father’s bank, and he’d been determined to make a life on his own for him and his bride. Not more than six months later, she realized he wasn’t the man she thought he was while courting her. He didn’t love her as much as he loved his whiskey. At that point, she wasn’t a wife to him, but instead, she felt more like his slave.

The train’s rhythm seemed to slow slightly before the steam engine gained speed again. She tore her gaze away from the moving scenery and picked up her satchel. Just inside was the newspaper article she’d found not more than a week ago, advertising for a mail-order-bride.

Westward Home and Hearts Matrimonial Agency looking for unmarried women who would like to become mail-order-brides. Contact Milly Crenshaw.

Five telegrams later, Callie was getting ready for her trip to Fort Collins, Colorado, to meet a rancher and his five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Callie was confident that she and her unborn baby would find a new life with Everett Lindon in Colorado. Now with her husband dead and a baby growing inside her, and with no money to help them, she didn’t care how she found a husband, as long as she found one who could support them. Love didn’t have to enter the marriage at all. Of course, she had lost hope in love, anyway. That emotion was only for dreamers.

Tears stung her eyes, so she quickly turned her gaze back to the window. The rhythm of the train felt different than before, which was odd. She’d never been on a train before, and yet she could tell something wasn’t right.

She shook her head and adjusted in her seat. Perhaps she was worried over nothing. If something was wrong with the steam engine, she’d let the engineer fret about it. She had other things to concentrate on.

“Mrs. Cartwright…eh, I mean, Callie?”

The woman she’d just met tapped Callie’s arm. She swung her gaze to her. “Yes?”

Linda chuckled. “Forgive me for pulling you out of your thoughts.”

Callie blinked quickly, trying to focus. “Please, don’t fret. I’ve just been overly tired lately.” She sat up straighter. “What do you need?”

“I’m wondering if it’s all right with you if my brother-in-law joins us. He’s by himself and it’s a long ride. I figured he would like the company.”

“Of course, I don’t mind at all.” Callie glanced at the empty seat by Linda. At least the seat wasn’t by Callie since one of the children occupied it.

“Splendid.” Linda turned toward the man who had found Callie’s ticket, motioning her hand toward him. “Wayne? Please, come and sit with us.”

The handsome man looked up from the newspaper he was reading, and his gaze met Linda’s before switching to Callie’s. Inwardly, she seethed. It would be very difficult sitting so close to a man whose dreamy eyes held her attention. But she must resist. She needed to prove to herself that she wasn’t the type of woman who swooned over a man with eyes that made butterflies dance in her stomach.

PURCHASE - https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085DCSCTC

Monday, April 20, 2020

Dear Lovelorn - NEW SERIES!

I'm excited to tell you about a new multi-author series coming at the end of this month - Yours Truly: The Lovelorn!!



Each book in this series will be about the hero or heroine writing a letter to The Lovelorn - and her response... and then how each character will go about following the advice given.

The first book in the series is "Dear Lovelorn". Here's the first chapter:




St. Louis, Missouri

Summer, 1880

 

Annette Baldwin hurried from one desk to the next, collecting articles from the journalists who worked in her father’s newspaper office. Each man glanced up at her, gave her a nod, and returned to typing their next article. Six men worked for her father, and not one of them noticed her swollen red eyes or the tears of rejection she couldn’t stop from running down her cheeks.

Taking a deep breath, she tried to compose herself before taking the articles to her father. Even if the others hadn’t noticed her solemn mood, her father would. Then again, since he was busy getting the weekly edition of the St. Louis Gazette ready for printing, perhaps he wouldn’t notice at all.

She wiped her eyes and dried her moist cheeks as she mentally reminded herself that this was not the end of the world. Discovering her beau didn’t love her – as much as he loved her father’s money – wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last time. Although she didn’t want to admit that she was a spinster, she was nearing her twenty-sixth birthday, so perhaps she shouldn’t worry about trying to find a husband. She’d do what her father had done to get over the loss of her mother. Annette would find a career and put her heart and soul into it.

Releasing a breath of frustration, she entered her father’s office. Just as she’d expected, he was busy arranging the articles on the front page of tomorrow’s issue before sending it to the press.

“Father, I’ve gathered the articles for next week.”

Malcolm Baldwin mumbled something and motioned his head toward the desk tray. She placed the papers in the tray and stepped back, watching her father at work. The newspaper had always fascinated her, especially seeing her father as he concentrated on getting the columns just right and making sure all the articles fit perfectly.

He was still a handsome man, and the silver streaks in his light brown hair only made him look more sophisticated. It was a shame he hadn’t remarried after her mother died ten years ago. Then again, he’d been so dedicated to the newspaper – and to his only child – that he probably didn’t have time to meet women.

As she turned away from the desk, her father’s assistant rushed in the room, knocking into her. She stumbled, and he quickly grasped her arm to keep her from falling.

“My apologies, Miss Baldwin.”

Peter Fletcher’s face was the one she’d seen every day when coming to the newspaper, and one of the last faces she looked at before retiring for bed. Peter spent just as much time at her house as he did at the newspaper office. Six years ago, when he first started working for the newspaper, she wanted to think of him as the brother she never had, but yet he was dedicated to helping her father and didn’t have time to be the big brother she’d always wanted. So, his position in her life was a friend… one that only talked to her whenever he and her father were in a heated conversation.

“There’s no need to apologize.” She smiled.

The man hurried to the desk and placed his palms down on the layout her father had been piecing together, stopping the process.

“I just discovered,” Peter said in a panic, “that Cooper’s article isn’t true.” He shook his head. “The woman was not accosted while taking the train.”

Her father’s forehead creased and his gaze narrowed. “That cannot be. Cooper assured me he had interviewed the woman.”

Releasing a heavy sigh, Peter pushed his fingers through his thick, black hair. “Cooper had assured me as well, but I just came from the train station. I talked to Mr. Hemsworth himself. No woman was attacked while on the train. Apparently, the attack didn’t happen until she was almost home.”

Her father slammed his fist down on the desk, and Annette jumped. Not often did she see her father this upset. She slowly walked into the adjoining room where she had a desk. Her job at the paper was minimal. She collected the articles so that her father could put the paper together, and she went through the mail when it came in since many readers enjoyed sending them suggestions on what type of issues to write about. Occasionally, a letter arrived from an angry customer, but she never took it personally.

“That’s the last straw.” Her father’s loud voice grumbled. “Cooper has written too many untrue articles in the last month. I had warned him to lay off his whiskey, but apparently, he didn’t take me seriously. It looks like I need to fire him.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Peter said, “however, that still leaves us without an article for tomorrow’s paper.”

Growling with frustration, her father paced the floor as he rubbed his forehead. After a few moments, he stopped and looked directly at Peter. “What about the articles that Annette has just gathered? Maybe one of them will work.”

Immediately, the two men started searching through the pile on the tray. Annette sat behind her desk and picked up the first letter, opening it as her mind started spinning with ideas. Although she wouldn’t mind being a journalist, her second love was to write stories. Her father had told her once how gifted she was, and yet… not once had he offered to make her a journalist at the paper. Her father didn’t believe women could handle such a task. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask him, but she didn’t dare for fear he’d shoot down her idea again.

“Augh! None of these will fit in the small space we have left for the article.” Her father groaned and moved to the window, pushing back the curtain and staring outside. “I’ll think of something. We have until six o’clock tonight to get this done. If I have to write something myself, I will.”

Peter moved to her father and stood beside him. “Let me know if you need any help. I can look back through some of the things I’ve written—”

“No, Peter. I don’t want something that has been printed before. Our readers like the fact that we give them new information to read. They enjoy reading about the events happening in our great city or in the United States. I don’t want to break their confidence and give them yesterday’s news.”

“Yes, I understand.” Peter nodded.

“But plan on working late tonight. With this interruption in our schedule, it’s going to push back the printing.”

“I will.” Peter turned and walked toward the door. He peered toward Annette. “Good day, Miss Baldwin.”

“Good day.” She raised her hand in a small wave.

Peter was another man she couldn’t figure out. Of course, since she still wasn’t married, it was obvious that understanding men wasn’t one of her God-given gifts. But she had wondered why Peter had never married. Then again, he was married to the newspaper, just as her father.

Her father stood by the window, peering outside. The urge to ask him for permission to write an article overwhelmed her, but once again, she pushed it aside, not wanting to feel that kind of rejection two times in one day. Seeing the man who’d been courting her for a month as he intimately held another woman was heartbreak enough.

She focused on the letter in her hand. She skimmed the contents. It was from Mrs. Selmer. The older woman complained about everything. Annette expected to read a letter from that old biddy at least twice a month. In this letter, she focused on politics and how women needed more to read about than government topics.

Annette opened the next letter and read it. Apparently, Mrs. White and Mrs. Selmer shared the same thoughts.

After reading ten more letters – most of them written by women – Annette felt encouraged that this time when she asked her father’s permission to become a journalist, it just might work. Because now she had the fuel that would support her cause.

Breathing deeply, she slowly built up the courage needed to confront her father. She prayed this would work.

She moved away from her desk and into the adjoining office. Her father had returned to the layout, but his forehead was still marked with worry lines.

“Father,” she began in a tight voice, “I believe I have a solution to your problem.”

He straightened and met her stare. “You do?”

“I do, but first let me ask… how many women read the Gazette?”

He shrugged. “We probably have more men than women. Why do you ask?”

“Since you’ve put me in charge of going through the mail, I’ve come to realize that I receive more complaints from women than I do from men. The newspaper has more articles about politics and laborious work in the job market.”

He sat behind his desk and folded his arms. “Get to the point.”

“If you had more articles in the newspaper that women would enjoy reading, then I’m sure we’ll get more subscribers, especially if those women have husbands who are too busy working to read, so they don’t have a newspaper.”

He slowly nodded. “Go on.”

“I think that you should allow at least one article each week that will focus mainly on women’s issues such as taking care of their families, running a household, and perhaps… love.”

Her father’s big brown-eyed gaze widened as a chuckle released from his throat. “Women? You cannot be serious. Why would they read the newspaper?”

“Father,” she moved closer to him, touching his arm, “most of the letters that are mailed to us are from women. If the newspaper wants to sell more papers, I honestly believe the way to do that is to bring in women readers. Don’t you realize how much women like to gossip? Well, can you imagine that if one lady says something to her friend or neighbor about the great article they’d read in the St. Louis Gazette, then word will spread quickly and we’ll have more people buying the paper.”

Her father kept quiet for a few very uncomfortable seconds as he tapped a finger on his chin. “How much room would this article take on the page?”

“Not very much room at all. In fact, I suspect it wouldn’t have to be more than three or four paragraphs.”

“Are you thinking a woman should write this?”

“Well, I was hoping—”

He shook his head. “I’m not sure men would appreciate that.”

“The men won’t have to know. We could give the writer a pseudonym so that nobody will know the gender. Perhaps we’ll even get more male readers if the topic is right.”

Her father’s tight-lips made her nervous. She’d seen that expression before. He was pondering over the suggestion, but she figured he’d reject it, just as he’d always done. She continued to say a prayer in her mind that her father would be reasonable about this.

“Father, we could try it for two weeks, and if it doesn’t work, then no harm would be done.”

“I’m assuming,” he finally said, “that you want to write this?”

She swallowed the lump in her throat. “You know I can do it. You’ve read my stories.”

“True, but writing articles and silly stories are two different things.”

Clenching her jaw, she wanted to snap at him for thinking that her stories were silly. Didn’t he understand how committed she was to her writing?

She clasped his hand, pleading with her gaze. “Please, Father. Give me this chance to show you what I can do.” She took an unsteady breath. “You probably haven’t noticed, but I’ve passed the age of marriage.” Her voice cracked. “Since I won’t have a husband and children, I need a career, and what better career could there be for me than following in the footsteps of my hard-working father?”

Releasing a heavy breath, he patted her hand. “Two weeks. That’s all you get. And you must have an article ready to go in tomorrow’s paper.”

Excitement rose inside of her and she gasped.

“However,” he said quickly, pointing his finger at her, “the article had better blow those female readers away, yet at the same time, not offend the male readers.”

Her heartbeat tripped and her knees weakened. Could she do as her father had requested? Part of her mind told her she couldn’t do it, but she chose to listen to the positive voices in her head, instead.

Smiling wide, she nodded. “I’ll get right on it.”



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