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Authors: Colleen L. Reece

California Romance

BOOK: California Romance
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Romance Rides the Range
© 2010 by Colleen L. Reece
Romance Rides the River
© 2010 by Colleen L. Reece
Romance at Rainbow’s End
© 2011 by Colleen L. Reece

Print ISBN 978-1-62416-220-6
eBook Editions:
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-62416-501-6
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-62416-500-9

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.

All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.

Cover design: Kirk DouPonce

Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
www.barbourbooks.com

Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses
.

Printed in the United States of America.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About the Author

Romance Rides the Range

A Note from the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Romance Rides the River

A Note from the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Romance at Rainbow’s End

A Note from the Author

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

COLLEEN L. REECE was born and raised in a small western Washington logging town. She learned to read by kerosene lamplight and dreamed of someday writing a book. God has multiplied Colleen’s “someday” book into more than 140 titles that have sold six million copies. Colleen was twice voted Heartsong Presents’ Favorite Author and later inducted into Heartsong’s Hall of Fame. Several of her books have appeared on the CBA bestseller list.

ROMANCE RIDES
THE RANGE
Dedication

For Susan K. Marlow
,
author of the Circle C Adventures series—who not only
insisted I write this book but took me to California to research it!

A Note from the Author

God uses many ways to lead His children, including through the written word. I learned to read by kerosene lamplight. One night I said, “I wish we had a magic lamp and a magic carpet like Aladdin.” My parents pointed out that our new lamp was an “Aladdin” lamp and that books were our magic carpet. I vowed to someday write a book of my own.

In 1977 I wanted to write for God. He used a passage from Emilie Loring’s
There is Always Love
to encourage me: “There is only one common-sense [sic] move when you don’t like your life. Do something about it. Get out. Go somewhere. Follow a rainbow. Who knows? You may find the legendary pot of gold at the end of it.” I walked off my government job a few days later.

My “someday” book has grown to more than 140 titles and six million copies sold. Many, such as
Frontiers
and
Frontier Brides
(Barbour books) were inspired by Dad’s love of western lore. How my eleven-year-old heart pounded when I saw my first cowboy. If only I could live on a cattle ranch! (I still hope to visit one.)

I hope you get as much pleasure from reading this story as I did writing it.

Blessings,Colleen

Chapter 1

Spring 1882
St. Louis, Missouri

I
t’s over, girl. Git up.” Gus Stoddard’s gruff voice crackled with impatience. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Joy Anderson ignored the command and continued to bend over the freshly dug grave. Her tears fell freely, mixing with the recent rain shower. The April morning’s sudden cloudburst symbolized her grief. It was as if all heaven wept on her behalf. The shower had cleared the air of the usual humidity of the St. Louis, Missouri, day and left the morning refreshingly cool and clean. A rainbow spread its half circle over her mother’s grave just as the minister read John 14:1–3—a fitting eulogy for a God-fearing woman like Virginia Anderson Stoddard.

“ ‘Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’ ”

The familiar words brought a measure of comfort, but it fled like darkness from dawn at her stepfather’s harsh voice.

“I said git up, girl.” This time, the hard prod of a leather boot accompanied Gus’s voice. “The young’uns are hungry. You take ’em back to the house and fix ’em some dinner. I’ve got business down at the docks.”

A wave of rebellion swept through Sarah. “I want to stay here awhile.”

“It doesn’t matter what you want. Do as I say. Now.” Gus yanked Sarah up from the mound of dirt. He spun her around so hard her worn bonnet slipped to her shoulders, revealing a thick braid of red-gold hair circling her head. “Look at you. There’s no call to shame yourself in front of the preacher and mourners by crawling all over the grave. You’ve got mud on your Sunday-goto-meeting dress. You’re a disgrace! What would your mother think of you wallowing in the mud instead of minding your brothers and sister?”

They are no kin of mine
, Sarah silently protested. Long experience with Gus Stoddard had taught her to hold her tongue even when she wanted to cry out against him.

Sarah glanced down through tears at her blue-sprigged calico dress. Several large, dark splotches covered the skirt and the undersides of the long sleeves. Her hands were caked with mud from falling onto the mound of dirt that held the last remains of the dearest person she’d ever known.
Oh Mama. What will become of me now?
She read the tombstone once more: V
IRGINIA
S
TODDARD
. 1840–82. Nothing more. No words of endearment, no mention of the other little life that lay in the woman’s arms—the tiny baby girl who had never even been named. Engraving cost money—more than the unfeeling man standing next to Sarah cared to pay. He certainly wouldn’t see the need to write anything other than the bare-bones facts.

Sarah looked up and blinked back tears. Most of the twenty-five or so mourners had gone, leaving her alone with the man who now had control over her life. She gazed silently into Gus Stoddard’s face. It seemed chiseled from stone. The hard black eyes staring at her from beneath heavy brows made Sarah wonder what her gentle mother had ever seen in this man. Perhaps Gus had been handsome at one time, with his thick, curling dark hair and solid muscular build. Sadly, whatever charms he’d used to win Virginia Anderson had quickly worn off after the marriage vows. It had been the longest three years of Sarah’s life.

“What are you staring at, girl?” Gus demanded, giving her a hard shake.

She fought back fear and revulsion. “Nothing.” Her voice was so devoid of emotion it earned her a sharp smack across the cheek. She ignored the slap as she had learned to ignore so many things from her stepfather.

“Mind your impertinence, missy,” Gus snapped. “We can’t stand around all day grieving over a dead woman. There’s work t’be done, you hear? Take your brothers and sister home while I mosey down to the docks. I’ve got business with Tice Edwards.”

The look on Gus’s face convinced Sarah he was in no mood to be trifled with. She grabbed eight-year-old Ellianna by the hand. “Come on. Let’s go home.” With her other hand she reached for five-year-old Timmy and motioned for the two older boys to follow. Together they headed back to the three-room cottage on the edge of town, the Stoddards’ most recent residence. It was a two-mile hike through the bustling city of St. Louis; the humidity that had for a short time relented would soon be back in full force.

You’re not my pa
. Sarah shouted silently.
These are not my brothers and sister
. She gave Ellie’s hand an impatient tug. “You’re always dragging your feet, Ellie. Can’t you walk a little faster? Timmy doesn’t have any trouble keeping up.”

In response, the child bit Sarah’s hand.

“Ouch!” Sarah yelped. “What did you do that for?”

“You were pulling too hard,” Ellie answered spitefully, glancing at the older boys walking alongside. They grinned.

Ian, the oldest at thirteen, stopped and shoved his hands into his pockets. “I ain’t goin’ home,” he announced, kicking at a rock with one bare foot. “I’m goin’ t’catch me some rats down by the riverboats.”

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