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Authors: Eugenia Riley

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Bushedwhacked Bride

BOOK: Bushedwhacked Bride
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BUSHWHA
CKED BRIDE

by

Eugenia Riley

Time Travel Romance

Eugenia Riley Classic

Copyright © 1999 by Eugenia Riley Essenmacher

Publication History:
 
First
Dorchester
Publishing Love Spell Edition, 1999;

First Nook Original Edition, April 2012; v.2

 

Cover Image Copyright
© Wallenrock
2012;

Used under license from Shutterstock.com

 

BUSHWHACKED BRIDE is a novel. Although the book incidentally portrays a few actual characters from the history of the times, all non-historical figures are strictly imaginary, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

 

The cover image of this novel is used strictly for literary and illustrative purposes, and any models depicted in the cover image bear no relationship whatsoever to this work of fiction or to any of the characters or events depicted herein.

 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce or transmit this book or any part thereof by any means whatsoever, without written permission of the author, except where permitted by law.

 

Address inquiries to:
 
Eugenia Riley Essenmacher
P.O. Box 840526 Houston, TX 77284-0526

[email protected]
 
www.eugeniariley.com

 

Click
HERE
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BUSHWHACKED BRIDE

by

Eugenia Riley

 

Prologue

Back to Contents

Colorado

1999

 

Of all the “true life” Old West adventures Jessica Garrett
had endured for the sake of her dissertation, this was by
far the nuttiest. Though the year was 1999, she found her
self plunged back so far into the “Wild West” that she half
expected to watch an outlaw on horseback materialize
over the next rise.

Never in her wildest dreams had Jessica envisioned
herself as a guest at the Broken Buck Dude Ranch,
which she’d already renamed “The Dude Ranch From Hell.” But here she was, a passenger in an antique, nut
meg-yellow stagecoach that bounced and slammed its
way down an old mining trail through the mountains
west of
Colorado Springs
, the rough ride jarring the very
bones of Jessica and the other three occupants. On the
door of the old conveyance was emblazoned in flowing red Victorian script the monogram “LL.” Jessica could
hear the stage’s springs groaning, and the rattling of
glass panes in two unlit lanterns attached to the coach’s
exterior.

Glancing out her window, she caught a view of steep
mountains, lined with fir, pines, and aspen, the landscape
jutting up sharply toward the misty heavens. Overhead,
her demented host, Woody Lynch, clucked to the team of
horses, who snorted and plodded along while fertilizing
the trail. The summer day was dry and dusty, and a dis
tinct aroma of
eau de manure
rose from the wagon
wheels to assault Jessica’s nostrils.

From somewhere within the faded burgundy velvet in
terior of the stage came the canned strains of Gene
Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again.” Her host had an ec
centric fondness for cowboy music, which he piped in everywhere at the ranch.

The inside of the stage was far smaller than Jessica had
envisioned, and she disliked being crammed in with three
male colleagues from the history department at
Pawnee
College
in
Greeley
. All four were “guests” at the Broken
Buck—though “inmates” might be a more apt term. For
the Broken Buck specialized in a “reenactment” atmos
phere in order to provide “authentic Old West adventures.”

Today’s misadventure was entitled “A Picnic at Mari
posa,” Mariposa being a ghost town somewhere in the
hills west of the ranch. In keeping with the ordeal, all four participants had been required to wear genuine Old West
costumes. Jessica was ensconced in a long, cinnamon-
brown calico dress, a huge slat-bonnet, and granny shoes.

As for her companions, next to her, elderly Professor Harold Billingsly, in fringed buckskins and felt frontier
hat, held a close resemblance to Buffalo Bill Cody.
Across from her, fair-haired, mid-thirtyish Professor Stan Wilkins looked ready to wrestle a few calves in his boots,
jeans, western shirt, and Stetson. And their illustrious
leader, Professor Walter Lummety, appeared the typical
pot-bellied sheriff as he lounged with his head lolling on
his chest, his double chin partially obscuring his tin lawman’s badge.

Jessica mused ruefully that the four of them looked
like escapees from a Wild West show—or a mental insti
tution. When the stage arrived at “Mariposa,” they’d
doubtless be treated to a “picnic” of greasy corn dodgers
and cold, slimy beans.

Wincing as the coach hit a pothole and her bottom
came down hard on the thinly padded seat, Jessica asked
herself how on earth she’d managed to get into this
predicament. Never in her twenty-seven years had she
felt so foolish. Of course it was all Walter Lummety’s
fault. As history department chair, Walter had organized
the faculty summer field trip, and since the theme had
been “Life in the Old West,” Jessica had cheerfully
signed on. After all, the subject of her dissertation was “Frontier Living: Women’s Issues.” So the tour seemed
tailor-made for her. In the month they’d been on the road,
they’d visited Yuma Territorial Prison, Indian ruins in
New Mexico
, a living farm in the
Texas
hill country, and
numerous western history collections.

They were now on the last leg of their journey, which had
been palatable—up until now! Unfortunately, Walter had
one fatal flaw—a cousin who owned a primitive dude ranch
that should have been dubbed “Outhouse of the Nation.”

Woody Lynch was, mildly put, a lunatic. He took his
role as dude ranch host so seriously that he perpetually dressed and behaved as if he were actually living in the
Old West; already, Jessica was sick of his nasal twang and
crusty speech. And conditions at Woody’s ranch were ap
palling—no electricity, outdoor plumbing, crude lodg
ings. Of course, she
had
wanted to experience authentic
frontier living, but she was learning far more about the travails of pioneer life than she’d ever wanted to know!

The strains of Gene Autry’s voice faded away, and
above them, Woody picked up a microphone—a
micro
phone,
for a man Jessica had spied washing up at the
horse trough this morning!—and began to huff away in
his cowboy jargon. Across from Jessica, Walter Lummety
jerked awake with a loud snort.

“Well, hello there, little cowboys and cowgirls,”
Woody drawled. “Hope old Gene put y’all in an Old West
state of mind. Now, maybe you little guys and gals been
wonderin’ ‘bout this here stage we’re ridin’ in. Why, this here’s a
genu-wine
antique, I’ll have you know. The wife and me bought it at an auction three years ago, and re
stored it to its former glory. Figured our dude ranch
guests deserved to ride in style.”

They hit another bump, and Jessica winced.

“Now, let me tell you all about the history of this fine old chariot. Ya see, folks, over a hundred years ago, the most famous parlor house madam in these parts, Lila
Lullaby, bought this here coach from the Singletree Line,
after them boys went under and pulled out of old
Col
orado
City
. Then Lila started up a delivery service of her own. She had this here coach painted yeller, then she and
a few of her line gals use ‘ta take it out to the mines and
back. If you’ll pardon my frankness, folks, old Lila’s spe
cialty was service with a smile. She and her gals use ‘ta deliver up a lot more than passengers and mail, if you
know what I mean. Caused a pure-dee scandal in these
parts. Hear tell the old
Cumberland
circuit rider use ‘ta make his rounds, beating his Bible and warning them
miners all about the perils of perdition. Then, old Lila and
her gals would come along and teach them menfolks the
true meaning of sin.”

As Woody guffawed, Jessica noted that Stan was smil
ing sheepishly, Walter appeared embarrassed, and
Harold, amused.

Woody loudly cleared his throat. “Hear tell after a few
years, the sheriff chased off old Lila and her gals, and they
set up shop near
Trinidad
. A pure-dee shame, weren’t it?”

As Woody paused, Jessica muttered sarcastically,
“Well, thank goodness. I’ve heard all that I ever want to
hear about Lila Lullaby.”

Walter Lummety flashed her a sheepish look.

Gruffly, Woody continued. “Now, folks, if’n you’ll just
look to the east, you’ll spy a natural-like stone dike
known as Reklaw Ridge. And this here valley is called
Reklaw Gorge.”

Her attention at last piqued, Jessica glanced out her
window at the stone ledge zigzagging its way up the spine
of the mountain. Reklaw Ridge. A picturesque-sounding
name. The dikes of
Colorado
, a natural phenomenon
caused by volcanic activity deep in the earth, never failed to fascinate her.

“Behind them there dikes is where the old Reklaw Gang
use’ta hide out to ambush the stages coming out from old
Colorado
City
,” Woody went on. “You best lay low, folks,
cause Reklaw Gorge is known to be haunted. That’s right,
genu-wine
ghosts. I hear tell some folks can still hear them
outlaw bullets whizzing by. Wouldn’t want for none of
them ghost riders to ambush you. Nossir. Why, them old Reklaw boys might even rob this here stage. Sheriff Lummety, you’d best keep your eyes peeled, partner.”

Across from Jessica, Walter grinned. Jessica groaned.
Would Walter’s idiot cousin never shut up?

As if he’d read her mind, Woody remarked, “Well,
folks, since I know you been missing the old mood music to accompany our little joy ride, you’ll be right pleased to
know our next selection is Roy Rogers and his Sons of the
Pioneers. Lay back and enjoy the view as we hear ‘Tum
bling Tumbleweeds.’ I reckon I’ll be talkin’ at you again
in a spell.”

As Roy and his crooners began, Walter Lummety offered Jessica an apologetic smile. “I do hope you’re having a good time, Professor Garrett.”

“Oh, just peachy,” she replied sweetly, wincing as the
stagecoach banged into yet another rut. How had anyone ever endured travel in these wretched conveyances? she
wondered. Her entire body was already sore from the jolt
ing she’d taken.

Walter sighed. “I realize my cousin goes a bit far,
making us don this absurd getup to ride the stage. But Woody means well, and it is an authentic Old West experience, eh?”

“Sure is,” agreed Stan ruefully.

“Perhaps more authentic than I daresay a body needs,”
put in Harold Billingsly wryly.

Jessica wiped a grain of sand from her eye. “And how.”

Stan added tactfully, “Your cousin’s heart seems in the
right place, even though his approach to this is eccentric.”

“‘Bizarre’ might be a more apt term,” commented Harold. “If my students could only see me now, I’d be
laughed off the campus—and likely committed, as
well.”

As everyone chuckled, Stan continued thoughtfully,
“Still, when you think about it, some of our ancestors
may have actually ridden in this very stage.”

“Let’s hope not while it was in the hands of Miss Lila Lullaby,” quipped Harold, prompting more amusement.

“But it is an intriguing possibility,” Stan contended.
“Just think—a hundred or so years ago, we might have all
been Old West citizens riding along together. I’d be a cowboy on my way to the next roundup, Harold an el
derly wagon train master off to see his grandchildren, and
Walter .. . you’d be the sheriff, of course.” He grinned at Lummety. “Didn’t you say one of your ancestors was ac
tually a
Colorado
lawman?”

Walter nodded with pride. “Great-great-grandfather
Jedediah. He even served in ‘sinful’
Colorado
City
for a
time, before the town merged with
Colorado Springs
. We
think he may have also visited relatives at Mariposa.”

“Could he have been the one who arrested Lila Lullaby?” teased Harold.

“I should hope not,” retorted Walter, prompting laughter.

Stan turned to Jessica. “Now, as for Professor Garrett . . .
I suppose you’d be the new schoolmarm, all decked out
in calico.”

“Of course,” she agreed demurely, smoothing down
her skirts.

Jessica was actually smiling with the others when suddenly the coach hit a huge bump, sending her flying up
ward. She yelped in pain as her head slammed against the
roof of the coach; then her dignity was doubly assaulted as something sharp poked her in the rear.

“Ouch! What on earth?”

Jessica winced and rubbed her head as the interior of
the coach swam before her eyes. She reached behind her, digging between the seats for the object that had stabbed
her. She pulled out an old-fashioned cameo brooch with
an open needle-clasp. So that was what had pricked her!

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