Authors: Ruth Ann Nordin
Tags: #love, #north dakota, #stranger, #sex, #romance, #prairie, #Historical, #widow
A Chance in Time
A novella based on the characters
Meant to Be and Restoring
Ruth Ann Nordin
A Chance In Time
- Smashwords Edition
Published by Ruth Ann Nordin at
Copyright © 2010 by Ruth Ann
All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by
any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction. Names,
characters, places and incidents are either the product of the
author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance
to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
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Cover Photo © Copyright
Shutterstock Images LLC. All rights reserved – Used with
Dedicated to Danielle
Watson, Cyn Goustin, Tiffany Davis, and Bonnie
Steffens whose input while I wrote this is greatly
Other books written by
Ruth Ann Nordin
A Bride for Tom (novella)
A Husband for Margaret
Eye of the Beholder
The Wrong Husband
His Redeeming Bride
An Unlikely Place for Love
The Cold Wife
An Inconvenient Marriage
Meant To Be
With This Ring, I Thee Dread
What Nathan Wants
The Keeping of Greg Wilson
Late spring 1898
Loneliness. It was a constant
companion out in the middle of a vacant North Dakota prairie.
Vacant, that is, except for a woman. A woman who ventured out west
as a mail-order bride only to have her husband die shortly after
they built their home. A woman who spent a year alone with nothing
for company except two horses and the howls of coyotes in the
middle of the night. Their howls echoed the resounding emptiness in
her heart and in her life.
Penelope Jordan packed her things.
Today she’d return to civilization. She had enough of being
isolated from other people. God, after all, did not create man to
be alone, and after spending endless hours by herself, she learned
how true that lesson was.
Loading her belongings into the wagon
didn’t take long. The two geldings obeyed her command to move
forward. At long last, she was leaving. She didn’t look back at the
one room cabin. It was a cruel reminder of all that she’d hoped for
but lost. A lifetime with someone who was to be her lover and
But she wouldn’t dwell on the past.
Things that could have been were better left untended to. And so
she guided the geldings northeast where the nearest town was. She’d
take a job. She didn’t care what that job was as long as it
involved being near other people.
Twenty minutes passed before she found
him. He was lying down, on his stomach, in the tall grass. She
pulled the horses to a stop and set the brake before she stepped
down from the wagon. She rushed over to him. He was badly burned
from spending a good length of time in the sun. Blisters had formed
on his hands and face. How lucky he was that his clothes covered
the rest of him.
She tucked a rebellious strand of hair
back under her bonnet and knelt beside him. “Mister.” She nudged
him in the arm.
Still, no response. His blond hair
ruffled from the wind’s activity, and thankfully, his beard had
protected most of his face. The poor man. What he must have gone
through to end up like this.
She took a deep breath to settle her
sudden anxiety. What if he was dead? She glanced at the miles of
grass that spanned in all directions. If he was dead, should she
carry his corpse to town? He should have a proper burial, shouldn’t
he? Or should she leave him to the elements and let nature take
care of him?
Startled, she turned her attention
back to him. “Mister?” She shook his shoulder. “Can you hear
Instead of giving her any answers, he
She touched his face and realized his
skin was hot. Maybe it was from the sunburn...or maybe it was a
fever. He really didn’t look well. She stood up and ran to her
wagon where she picked up the canteen that had been resting next to
When she returned to him, she realized
he was having trouble breathing. She turned him over, hoping the
change in position would help.
He moved his lips as if to speak but
no sound came out. She gently lifted his head and tucked it into
the crook of her arm before letting the cool liquid seep into his
mouth. She watched him swallow. His eyelids fluttered until they
opened. He had light blue eyes, but they were unfocused. He most
likely didn’t even see her.
Can you hear me?” she
He gave a slight nod, winced and then
closed his eyes again.
She couldn’t help but feel sorry for
him. She’d never seen a man who looked worse off than he did,
except for her husband as he struggled for his last breath through
fluid-filled lungs. The reminder struck a cord of panic through
her. Not this time. She wasn’t going to let another man die if she
could help it!
She let him sip on the water until he
passed out. Setting the canteen by his side, she felt his forehead
again. It was too hot. There was no way she could blame this on his
sunburn, even if it was severe. How many days had he been wandering
through the vast wilderness? What was he doing out here? He didn’t
even have a horse...or if he did, the horse was long gone. She
shook her head. Such things didn’t matter right now. She needed to
get him to the cabin where he could rest.
The task of bringing one of the
geldings to him and pulling his dead weight onto it was daunting,
to say the least. He must have been a head taller than her. But she
managed it. The journey back to her solitary home took longer than
normal, but she wanted to be careful so she didn’t cause the
stranger more damage than he’d already endured. By the time she
dragged him onto her bed, she was out of breath and sweating so
badly that her clothes stuck to her like a second layer of skin.
Still, she ignored her aching back and arms and checked his pulse.
His breathing was shallow but steady. He was still alive. That’s
The sunlight drifting through the
small window hit something shiny in his shirt pocket. She squinted
and took the object. She stood and examined it. Cool, metal,
silver. A thin line traced it’s sides, so she dug a fingernail into
it and it opened. At least, she assumed it opened. She saw numbers
and months and symbols she didn’t recognize. What in the world was
this thing? A small blue pulsing light startled her.
She quickly shut the thing
and threw it in the small dresser drawer by the bed. Rubbing her
hands on her dress, she wondered what that thing was. She glanced
at the man who lay silent on her bed.
Maybe he was dangerous. Maybe she
shouldn’t have brought him here.
As soon as the thought came to mind,
she dismissed it. He was in no shape to harm her. But...just in
case. She searched his clothes and found a wallet in his back
pocket. It had some money, though not much. He didn’t have any
weapons on him. She had a gun. Her husband had taught her how to
shoot. She had a knife she used for skinning rabbits and deer. She
decided she’d hide her gun and knife. If she needed to, she could
Finding comfort in the reminder, she
decided to turn her attention to putting her things away so she
could tend to the ill man.
Cole Hunter drifted in and out of
awareness. At moments, he thought he was running. Then at other
times, he knew it was an illusion. He hadn’t moved at all. Instead,
he was lying on his back somewhere. Images of a man pursuing him
haunted him. He knew the man, but for some reason, he couldn’t
recall the name. He moved his legs. At least he tried to. Was he
running or not? Was the man still chasing him? What did the man
He gulped. His mouth felt dry. Hot.
Hot like fire. Wincing, he tried to touch his face, but his arms
wouldn’t budge. He couldn’t be on fire, and yet, that’s what the
heat reminded him of.
He took a deep breath. The air around
him was warm. But there was no smoke. Relief set his mind at ease.
Still, there was a question lingering in his mind. Where in the
world was he? He struggled to open his eyes, and for a moment, he
thought he did. A light struck his vision. He wanted to turn his
head but couldn’t. It was as if he were paralyzed.
His heart sped up. He could feel the
frantic beating of it. He didn’t like being helpless.
Relax, Cole. The sooner
you relax, the sooner you can figure out what’s going
He inhaled and exhaled, counting to
ten each time. It worked. His heart slowed. Good. Now he could
focus. Since all he managed to catch were glimpses of light, he
decided to let his other senses give him clues.
The place was silent. No. That wasn’t
exactly true. There was a faint humming. It faded in and out like a
radio station that wouldn’t give him a clear signal. He ordered his
fingers to move and they finally inched forward. Paper. What was he
doing on paper? His head was inclined on something soft. A pillow?
Then what was he on? A bed made of paper? That didn’t make sense.
Ignoring the oddity of it, he turned his attention to the smell. He
already knew there was no smoke. The last thing he remembered, he
was walking along an endless stretch of flat land that never seemed
to end. But he didn’t smell the tall grass or the fresh air as the
wind refreshed him from the sun’s intense heat.
The sun. That could be the source of
light. It also explained the heat. But no. That couldn’t be right.
He knew it wasn’t right. He wasn’t walking. He couldn’t even move
his legs though he tried. He groaned in aggravation.
You’ll be alright,”
someone said in a soft tone. “Here.”
Whatever he was lying on shifted and
something cool and damp covered his forehead. It reminded him of
cold water. He had been swimming. The man swam after him.
Try to drink,” the voice
Whoever tended to him pressed a wet
cloth to his lips. He tried to suck the water out of it but his
mouth wouldn’t comply, so he allowed the water to trickle on his
He had gulped water during that cold
moonlight swim. He recalled the splashing, the man shouting at him
to return...something. What was it? Then he remembered what he had
been holding in one hand, making sure it didn’t get wet. Time
travel. He had stolen a time machine the size of a cell phone, and
the man was trying to get it back. Blake. The man’s name was
But Cole had escaped. Or was he still
in the water? No. He wasn’t. His mind became jumbled as he tried to
focus on the water someone was giving him. Tall grass. Sun. Heat.
Cole knew the voice was in his mind.
It was Blake calling out to him, still pursuing him. He knew he
wasn’t really out in the prairie, but he ran anyway. His feet were
sore, his chest hurting from the exertion of the chase, and his
hand clenching the time travel device.