Authors: Dorothy Wiley
To my dear daughter-in-law
one of the strongest women I know.
Thank you for taking the journey of love with our family.
AMERICAN WILDERNESS SERIES ROMANCE
Frontier Gift of Love
Copyright © 2015 by Dorothy Wiley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any form, printed or electronic, without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials, in violation of the author’s rights.
To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author via her website
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill
Frontier Gift of Love
is a fictional novel inspired by history, rather than a precise account of history. Except for historically prominent personages, the characters are fictional and names, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Each book in the series can be read independently. For the sake of understanding, the author used language for her characters for the modern reader rather than strictly reflecting the far more formal speech and writing patterns of the 18
Other Titles by Dorothy Wiley
WILDERNESS TRAIL OF LOVE
NEW FRONTIER OF LOVE
WHISPERING HILLS OF LOVE
FRONTIER HIGHLANDER VOW OF LOVE
If ever two were one, then surely we
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man
Compare with me, ye women, if you can
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold
My love is such that rivers cannot quench
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense
Thy love is such I can no way repay
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever
First female writer in the British North American colonies to be published.
Cumberland Falls Horse Farm, Kentucky
Early Monday, 19 December, 1799
am Wyllie always faced life’s dangers head on—but this was different—now danger faced
Deep in thought, he strode away from their bedroom, leaving Catherine to rest for a few minutes before he would check on her again. He wished the midwife would show up soon. However, the contrary woman wasn’t due to arrive for a few more hours. And their baby seemed anxious to make its arrival. Their first child wasn’t due for a couple of weeks, yet Catherine first mentioned a discomfort in her side a week or so ago. That’s when he sent word with one of his hands that the local midwife needed to come at once.
She arrived that same day and after spending but a few minutes with his wife, announced that the ache was nothing to worry about, and then she left straightaway despite his protests.
But the pain came back. Several times.
What could be causing her to hurt in that upper right side? Was it related to the pregnancy or not? Catherine would wince when it happened and put her hand on her right rib cage. The dull ache would usually last for a few minutes and then ease. Sometimes it lingered for hours, as it did now.
He exhaled sharply and a tight knot formed in his stomach. Worry would be the death of him before this baby arrived.
He could endure anything as long as it wasn’t the death of his beloved Catherine. He needed her love more than anything in this world. Without it, he would surely die himself. His heart rose in protest at the thought, but his mind would not cease worrying.
Childbirth always posed risks, especially on the frontier. Moreover, his wife’s labor might be even more dangerous. Catherine’s first pregnancy did not go well. Would this one be the same?
He would fight the devil himself to hell and back to defend Catherine, but this was one danger from which he could not shield her. Gritting his jaw, he vowed he would try to protect her anyway.
He’d heard Jane, his youngest brother’s wife, and other womenfolk talk about the terrible pains of childbirth—the sharp contractions that tightened the mother’s protruding abdomen and grew progressively worse. However, the pains Catherine experienced lately seemed different.
He wished he could do more for her. The nearest doctor was at Fort Boonesborough. And then only every other week. Boonesborough was nearly a hundred miles to the north. He could reach it in two days, but he had no way of knowing whether the doc would be in town or gone for a week. And he didn’t want to leave Catherine and Little John alone all that time. Besides, doctors usually deferred to mid-wives when it came to birthing babies.
Perhaps he was just being a jittery first-time father. Women gave birth all the time with no problems. He took a deep steadying breath and resolved to stay calm. At least for now.
“Little John,” Sam said addressing his adopted son. “What are you reading?” The eight-year old lay sprawled out on the rug in front of their massive stone hearth in the spacious front room.
“The letter from Uncle Bear.”
“We already read that letter several times, son.”
“I know, but every time I read it, I get happier and happier.”
Sam sat down across from Little John on an oversized chair that accommodated his sizable frame. Excited was an understatement. “You’re excited about them coming for Christmas aren’t you?” The boy had talked about it nearly nonstop since his ranch manager picked the letter up along with their other supplies at Fort Logan a week ago.
“Bear’s bringing his new wife Artis with him. I just knew he would find a wife. He says she’s a bonny lass and that I will like her more than I like apple pie.”
That was saying a lot. Like Bear, the boy loved pies of all kinds, but especially apple. “I’m sure you will. Artis must be someone special for Bear to have found her and fallen in love so quickly.”
“And Uncle William and Aunt Kelly and their little girl are all coming with Bear too! And, Bear says here,” Little John said, pointing to the words written in his uncle’s fine hand, “that he is bringing me
presents—one because he had to leave us to go find a wife, another for my last birthday, and one more for Christmas!”
“Don’t blame you a bit for being excited. I know how you love presents,” Sam replied. For himself, he wished for only one Christmas gift—that his wife and their babe would be safe and well after childbirth.
“The best present I ever got, in my
life, was the rifle you gave me for my birthday.”
Sam smiled, remembering when he received his own first rifle at the same age. A tough world forced boys to prepare for manhood much too early. Little John quickly learned how to shoot the undersized rifle quite well and was now capable of hunting small game on his own. He’d given the boy a little knife two years ago and Little John could now skin a rabbit almost as fast as he could.
“If your Uncle Stephen and his family come too, we’ll have a sizeable family reunion,” Sam said. It made him even more thankful that he recently managed to hire a cook and a housekeeper, both of whom were unmarried and in need of employment and a roof over their heads. Their new home
was just too large for Catherine to keep up with and have any time or energy left over for him and Little John. And he wanted her to enjoy spending time with the boy. She also needed time to be Little John’s primary tutor, and ensure that their son received an excellent education, until he was old enough to attend a private academy.
Little John’s own mother had died after a difficult childbirth. Sam shook his head as he recalled the lovely young woman’s funeral and his brother John’s long-lasting grief. The gloomy gray shadows of worry invaded his mind once again. He hated those oppressive thoughts. They made it difficult to think clearly and made his heart beat uncomfortably.
Focus on Little John
, he told himself. After the boy also lost his father two years ago, the child needed plenty of love and attention. Sam swallowed the lump in his throat. He would never get over the loss of his brother in that horrific battle with the buffalo hunters. Although he and his other brothers finally defeated their enemy, it came at great cost.
Trying to clear his head of the awful images, Sam closed his eyes and inhaled the savory aromas coming from the kitchen. That was another benefit of hiring the cook. Mrs. Wrigley’s meals certainly earned high marks from him. Since her arrival, he’d gained back almost all the weight he’d lost eating Catherine’s dreadful cooking for the last two years. Although Catherine was the love of his life, cooking was not one of her strengths.
The cook stayed constantly busy in the kitchen, preparing hearty meals for the family, the housekeeper, and the four hired hands. Sam found the smell of the hearty stew simmering and fresh bread baking quite comforting. And as fond as the widowed cook was of Little John, there would likely be a delicious apple pie cooling on the kitchen countertop.
“I can’t wait to see Martha and Polly again too!” Little John said, his big blue eyes peeking up through the blond hair that now hung a little too long on his forehead. Every day, he’s looking more like his father, Sam thought. He’ll be tall and lean too, like John was. And the young lad seemed to exhibit the same keen mind and strength of character.
Always a bit of a loner himself, it surprised Sam that he couldn’t wait to see them all again either. He had to admit he was nearly as excited as Little John. Every time they saw Stephen and Jane’s two pretty girls they appeared taller, but the couple’s new son, Samuel, seemed to grow right before his eyes. Named in honor of the child’s grandfather Samuel, the boy was Stephen’s pride and joy. And Sam wanted to hear all about Stephen’s thriving herd of cattle.
And seeing William and Kelly’s little girl, nearly two now, would be a special treat. When the three visited last spring, Catherine and he both thought Nicole was the prettiest little girl they’d ever laid eyes upon.
But Sam was most excited about meeting the newest family member, Bear’s new wife, Artis. Like Bear, she’d grown up in Scotland. His adopted brother’s letter had hinted that sad events troubled the woman’s past, yet offered no further explanation. Whatever it was, he was certain Bear would have helped her through it. Bear’s heart was nearly as big as he was, and that was saying something.
He missed Bear. Devoted to his entire family, his brother spent more than a year helping Sam build this house before leaving a few months ago in search of his own future. He glanced up at the mantel above the blazing and crackling fire. Bear’s talent with woodworking and exceptionally strong arms had built the stunning adornment for the large hearth.
He hoped that later in the month, they could all gather around a warm fire in happiness to celebrate Christ’s birth and the safe arrival of his own child. Son or daughter, it would be the greatest gift he could ever imagine receiving. If only Catherine could give birth without difficulty.
Too restless to sit, he stood and paced before the hearth, another worry grating against his mind. Would his family all arrive safely? No trip through the wilderness was without risk. And traveling in December could be perilous in itself. In spite of the dangers, he and his brothers always tried to gather together for the holidays. There was something about a Christmas gathering that made being with family special—as though a kind of magic filled the air that brought their hearts closer to one another. It was the one time of the year when they could put aside, if only for a little while, the
harsh realities of life. Life on the frontier demanded constant vigilance. But at Christmas, they all seemed to feel a reprieve—if only for a few days.