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Authors: Marie Higgins

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Family Saga, #Romance, #Historical, #Victorian, #Teen & Young Adult, #Sagas, #Historical Romance

A Walk in Heaven

BOOK: A Walk in Heaven
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A Walk
In
Heaven

 

Book One in the “Grayson Brothers Series”

Historical Western Romance

 

By: Marie Higgins

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or
dead,
is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

A Walk
In
Heaven

Copyright
© 2011 by Marie Higgins

Cover Design by Alicia Hope

 

 

Edition License Notes

This
ebook
is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This
ebook
may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

 

For more information about author:
 
http://mariehiggins84302.blogspot.com

In the early hours of the morning, Careen becomes Matthew Grayson’s wife…and then in a blink of an eye, his widow. How can she tell the family she’s never met that her own cousin is responsible for their son’s death?

 

While she waits for the right moment to admit the cousin’s guilt, a budding attraction grows between Careen and her new brother-in-law, Joshua. But this will only complicate matters, especially when the truth finally comes out.

 

Joshua Grayson could never understand why his brother left the family ranch to wed – in secret – a woman he’d never met. And now Matthew is dead.
Killed just moments after taking his wedding vows.
Joshua struggles with both resentment and a growing attraction for his mysterious sister-in-law. He knows Careen is hiding something, but can he give love another chance or is he just setting up his heart for another break?

 

Dedication

 

I want to thank my parents for raising me in a loving family environment.
 
It was easy to write this story since I know how it feels to love your family unconditional.

 

I also want to thank my husband and daughters for their support.

 

Chapter One

 

Pierre, South Dakota 1875

 

Such a perfect day for a wedding.

Holding hands with her new husband, Careen Grayson’s heart filled to the brim, she nearly floated down the three wooden steps of the church.
Mrs. Matthew Grayson...
Smiling, she sighed. In all of her daydreams of the ideal husband, she never imagined she’d find one as wonderful as the man she’d just married.

Sunlight danced upon them as a blessing from the Lord above. The warmth banished the early spring chill, and a slight breeze tousled Matthew’s blond hair.

He grinned, his hazel eyes twinkling like diamonds. “Careen, you have made me the luckiest man alive.”

She cuddled against his arm. Tilting her head, she kept her eyes locked with his. Matthew was a tall man, and the top of her head reached his shoulder. Finally, after years of loneliness, comfort surrounded her like a thick blanket. “No, I am the fortunate one.” She squeezed his hand. “We are going to be very happy.”

“I’m already happy.”

Glass breaking and shouting from across the street captured Careen’s attention. Matthew whipped his head in that direction.

Two men staggered out of the saloon, each holding a bottle of whiskey. The larger one with black hair pushed the younger man with thinning red hair. The redhead tumbled onto his backside.


Yer
nothin
’ but a cheat!”
The large man was built like a bull and snorted just as loud. “I saw ye pull that ace out of
yer
sleeve, ye dirty sidewinder.”

The redhead scrambled to his feet. “You saw nothing of the kind. I have never cheated in cards, and I’ll have words with anyone who says differently.”


Words
?”
The large man belched a laugh, his full gut jiggled with the movement. “Here in Pierre, we don’t have
words
with anyone.” He withdrew his pistol. “We speak with these, junior.”

Careen gasped and clung to Matthew’s arm. Protectively, he pulled her closer.

The thin redhead dropped his whiskey bottle. It shattered on the boardwalk. “I see your hand, and I’ll raise you two,” he clipped as he pulled both guns from his holster.

The bulky man shot his weapon first, but only managed to clip off his opponent’s hat. A one-horse buggy passed between Careen and the drunks on the street. The gunshot startled the animal, and it reared up on his back legs as panic coated his neigh.

“Oh, dear,” Careen gasped.

Matthew’s arms tightened around her. “I think we’d better get out of here.”

“I agree.”

Another gunshot blasted the air, and several more popped through the street. Matthew urgently dragged her past the startled horse and owner who tried to calm the beast down, keeping Careen close by his side.

Sharp whistling penetrated the air, zipping past Careen’s ear. Before she could react, Mathew’s body jerked violently, his hold on her weakening and finally sliding away. He collapsed to the ground, crumbling motionless on his side. Blood poured from the back of his head.

“Matthew!” She landed on her knees beside him, yanking him onto his back. A hole just below the hairline marred his handsome face. Blood gushed down the side of his face, flowing faster than a river. “No!” she screamed shaking him, willing him to blink and rise. He couldn’t be shot.

Naught but sightless eyes stared up into the sky. “Matthew Grayson, talk to me.” She demanded, shaking him again. “You can
not
die on me!”

Fear and confusion pumped through Careen, making her stomach sick. This could not be happening!

Gunshots continued to blast through the street. All around her people scattered in fear. Women screamed, while men with yet more raised guns tried to settle the commotion.

Unable to see the fray through the swarming crowd, Careen huddled instinctively beside Matthew’s motionless frame, keeping low to avoid the wild gunfire. Blessedly, after a few heart stopping moment more, the popping ceased, leaving the stench of spent gunpowder in its wake. Ahead, the weaving bystanders parted just enough for Careen to glimpse the saloon. The redheaded cheat slumped on the boardwalk, clutching his bloody ribs while two other men subdued his heftier opponent. Yet, more cowboys scattered into doors and alleyways, hats pulled low over their faces.

The wall of legs and petticoats closed ranks once more and Careen turned back to Mathew’s body, startling her back to reality.
So much blood.
Tears filled her eyes.

“Please, someone help me!” Careen screamed into the crowd. A middle-aged woman hustled past at that moment. Careen grasped the woman’s skirt. “Please, help…me.”

The woman’s gaze switched between Careen and Matthew, eyes widening before her face turned white.

“Oh, good heavens, child.”
She crouched to Careen’s level. “How did this happen?”

Tears flowed down Careen’s cheek as she shook her head. “He…we…just came out of the church. Two drunks were arguing across the way… Gunshots fired…”

“My dearest child,” the woman said, cupping Careen’s face. “I’ll fetch the sheriff and the doctor. They must be close after all this commotion.”


Tha
—thank you.”

The woman hurried off, leaving Careen all alone again. Her chest hurt – physically, as though someone reached inside and squeezed the life right out of her. All of this was too incredulous. Matthew wasn’t supposed to die, especially not right after they’d exchanged marriage vows.
Until death do us part

She released a strangled sob and buried her face against Matthew’s chest.

Her heart hiccupped and stumbled over a beat.

No longer would she hear the steady thud-thud, thud-thud of his heartbeat when he held her close. No longer would his loving hands caress her hair. Chills shook through her, but she refused to draw away. She couldn’t leave him. Not now. Not a mere ten minutes after she’d vowed
never
to
leave him…to love him forever.

Two months ago, she’d advertised herself as a mail-order bride. Through Matthew Grayson’s letters, she’d known he was the
one.
The man to be her rescuer in every way.
Her proverbial knight in shining armor.
They’d arranged to have a secret wedding, and met for the first time yesterday face to face. Love at first sight. Or so she’d believed. Careen began falling for him through their correspondence, and after meeting the wonderful, selfless, and very handsome man, she’d known he’d make her happy.

Feet clomping on the boardwalk pulled her out of her thoughts. She jerked up to see the older woman and two men rushing her way. One wore a shiny silver star on his brown
vest,
the other carried a medical bag. The lawman gave her a curt nod, dropping beside Matthew along with the doctor.

“I think…one of those drunks…shot my husband,” she offered in a strained voice.

The sheriff finished his once over of the body and met her gaze. “That’s what Doctor Skinner and I think as well.” He shook his head and looked back at Matthew.
“Struck by a stray bullet.
Terrible way to go.”

The doctor placed his fingers on Matthew’s throat,
then
moved his ear to Matthew’s chest. Careen held her breath in hope, even though she knew what the doctor would discover.

When the physician straightened and met her gaze, he frowned. “I’m so sorry, Ma’am, he’s gone.” He turned to the kindly woman. “Mrs. Black, would you go back to my office and ask Roberta to prepare a room for…” His gaze flicked back to Careen. “Forgive me, what is your husband’s name?”


Gra
-Grayson,” Careen stammered. “Matthew Grayson.”

“Mrs. Black, kindly
have
a room prepared for Mr. Grayson’s remains.”

“Yes, Doctor Skinner.” She gave Careen an awkward, one-armed hug then left.

Careen swept her hand against Matthew’s jaw. She trailed fingertips across his very still hand.
What am I going to do now?

Doctor Skinner laid a brown wool blanket over Matthew’s body.

The doctor and sheriff rose to stand and she pushed herself up on shaky legs beside them. Laying a caring hand on her shoulder, the white-haired doctor shook his head as a frown burrowed in the deep wrinkles around his mouth. “Accept my condolences, ma’am. I’ll take your husband’s body back to my office to prepare him for the casket.”

Sadness gripped Careen again and she wrapped her arms around her middle. She wanted to scream in anger – wanted to blame someone. Anyone! Why would the Lord do this to a kind man such as Matthew?

“Will you need help with the burial?” the sheriff said.

“No. I should be fine.”

“Do you have any family here?”

Family?
She had family in Iowa, but none she wanted to help her.
“No, but Matthew’s family lives in Virginia City, Montana.”
She paused and thought of his family. They needed to know. Matthew should be buried there. “I’ll take Matthew back to his home as soon as possible.”

“That a wise choice, ma’am. Let me know if you need any help.”

“Thank you.”

A numbing coldness seeped through Careen’s body as she stared at the blanket covering her husband’s body. How was she going to tell the
Graysons
? Matthew had not invited any of his family just as she hadn’t wanted hers at their wedding. No doubt his parents would blame Careen. Yet she must explain things to them. She needed to let them know the reasons they’d decided to have a secret wedding.

A wagon pulled up and stopped beside them. The doctor and sheriff lifted Matthew’s lifeless body and placed him in the back.

“Ma’am, if you would come by my office sometime today, we can discuss burial options.” The white-haired man’s weak smile didn’t comfort Careen any.

“Thank you.” She briefly switched her attention to the sheriff.
“Both of you.”

The sheriff walked away as the doctor drove the wagon up the street. Careen wanted to leave with Doctor Skinner, but knew there were other things that had to be accomplished now. Arrangements to make for traveling to Virginia City became top priority.

In the distance, her name drifted above the noises in the street. The familiar voice grew louder and she forced her head up to search for the person calling.

May the good Lord have mercy!
The shattered pieces of Careen’s heart trembled in horror as she caught sight of her cousin, Luther Kennedy, running toward her, his face stricken with anger. As usual, he dressed in expensive clothes, appearing every inch the gentleman from his shiny top hat to his white kid gloves, but Careen knew different. Luther was the devil himself. More importantly, however…
Why was he here?
He should be at home in Iowa, unaware of her whereabouts or plans to marry.

He reached her side and yanked her arm, forcing her closer. She stumbled against his bulk. A hard object jabbed into her hip and she glanced down while pulling back. He was wearing a gun? How odd. She’d never known him to carry a weapon… Even though the pistol sat crooked in the holster, obvious to the fact he didn’t know the first thing about using one.

“Oh, Careen…Careen…what have you done?”

Through blurry eyes she peered into his face. “Matthew was shot…a stray bullet,” she explained quickly. Then anger for his accusation rushed through her and she snapped, “I haven’t
done
anything! None of this was my fault.”

BOOK: A Walk in Heaven
10.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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