Authors: Patricia Watters
Tags: #romance, #wagon, #buggy, #buckboard, #newspaper, #wyoming, #love story, #british, #printing press, #wagon train, #western, #historical, #press, #lord, #lady, #womens fiction
by Patricia Watters
MISS PHIPPS AND THE CATTLE BARON
Copyright Patricia Watters 2011
Published at Smashwords
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: When I chose the name
Priscilla Phipps for my heroine I envisioned an unattractive
spinster with carrot-red hair and pale skin dotted with freckles—a
woman with a striking resemblance to Queen Elizabeth I. As the
story unfolded, Priscilla's likeness to the queen became a driving
force in the developing plot. The hero's mother, certain that
Priscilla must be descended from the Tudors, checked
for the Phipps family (as did I). You can imagine my
surprise when not only did I find a Phipps family descended from
Henry VII, but there was a Priscilla Phipps in the lineage. Born in
1783, she was a likely candidate for my heroine's
great-grandmother, which would make my heroine a distant cousin of
Elizabeth I. My heroine never knows for certain if she's descended
from the Tudors because the family Bible was lost in a fire, but it
explains her strong likeness to the queen, something that all her
life had been a curse and a blessing. My Priscilla Phipps. also
greatly admired the queen, and in her journal she kept quotes from
the queen, which she tried to live by.
'Though the sex to which I belong is
considered weak, you will nevertheless
find me a rock that bends to no wind.'
Wagon train camp east of Cheyenne, Wyoming -
Priscilla Phipps balanced her journal on a
downturned pot, tipped the small bottle of ink in her hand so she
could dip her pen into the last remaining drops of ink, and
continued in her journal, the final entry she'd be making on the
Tomorrow we will travel the last 12 miles to
Cheyenne. I am certain there will be a sizeable crowd to greet our
thirteen bedraggled wagons when we arrive, but among them will also
be three very angry men, whom I do not look forward to
"Miss Priscilla?" A deep male voice called
from outside the wagon.
Priscilla set aside her journal and poked her
head through the canvas flap in the rear of the wagon to find her
negro pressman looking anxiously at her. "Yes, Jim?"
"It's Miss Mary Kate. You'd best come quick.
She's havin' one o' her cryin' spells again and she's callin' for
Priscilla climbed out of the wagon and rushed
across the dusty clearing to where the brides' wagon was parked,
hearing anxious voices as she approached. Crawling through the
canvas flap, she stepped into the wagon and found Libby Johnson,
Abigail Chandler, and Edith Hogan hovering over a very distraught
Mary Kate Burns.
On seeing Priscilla, Mary Kate lamented, "I
just can't do it, Miss Priscilla. I can't marry that man. It seemed
alright when we first started out, but... well, you saw his
photograph. He looks ornerier than a mule with burrs.
"Well yes, he did look a bit intolerant,"
Priscilla said. "But he's not all that old."
Mary Kate cried.
"He's old enough to be my Pa. His eldest daughter's only four years
younger than me. I don't care if he is some high up, British cattle
baron," she wailed, "I'd rather die an old maid like you than get
stuck with the likes of him. I just want to find a nice young
farmer and settle down." She raised tear-drenched eyes to
Priscilla, and said, "Can I still come work for your
Priscilla patted Mary Kate's hand. "Yes, of
course." After assuring Mary Kate that she would take care of
reimbursing Lord Whittington for travel expenses, Priscilla
returned to her wagon and picked up her journal, making a small
among them will also be three four very
angry men whom I do not look forward to facing. Mary Kate decided
to join the other women, who will be working for me, and I don't
blame her one bit Lord Whittington might own half the cattle in
Wyoming, but he did look mean. Actually, a kind of handsome mean.
And not so old really, I being only two years his junior...
At sun up the following morning, Priscilla
went about her chores, preparing to move on. She loved mornings,
when the air was still fresh from night, and the heat of day had
not begun to take over. But unlike most mornings, when she felt
eager and energetic for the day ahead, she was beginning to feel
the first twinges of doubt. Not doubt about the success of
—she knew the ends and outs of running a
newspaper—but because she'd be all alone when informing four men
that their mail-order brides were backing out of their contracts.
From the photographs, though, there wasn't an appealing man among
them. And on reading the letters the women received from the men,
it was clear they wanted housekeepers and mistresses, not wives to
love and cherish.
But Mary Kate was escaping an arranged
marriage to a fat, balding butcher twice her age, Edith fancied
herself an old maid at twenty-four, Libby was fleeing a dreadful
scandal, and Abigail's step-father told her he was going to take
care of her needs, now that she was a woman. Offering the women
jobs gave them a way out of marriages none of them wanted, and a
chance to find men who truly wanted wives and life partners.
But of all the men she'd be facing at the end
of today's long dusty journey, Lord Adam Ainsworth Whittington
would unquestionably cause her the most grief. With wealth and
property comes power, and giving Lord Whittington's bride-to-be a
means out of their marriage contract would put the man on the
opposite side of whatever business venture she, and the women she'd
taken under her wing, were to engage in. But face Lord Whittington
she would. And the face-off was only twelve miles ahead.
Adam Whittington poked his son in the back.
"Stand straight so your new mother will look with favor on you," he
said, "and hold up the flowers so she'll see them."
Weldon Whittington straightened his
eleven-year-old frame and tightened his fist around the flower
stems. "Which one is she?" he asked.
Adam scanned the dusty, weary-looking
travelers who had arrived with the wagon train while he was at the
stock grower's meeting at the Cheyenne club. He saw single women
who looked well past child bearing age, and middle-aged couples
unloading gear, and families with children running about, but there
appeared to be no single women of marriageable age. Catching sight
of Clayton Rathborn, owner of the Grey Wolf Haberdashery, who was
also expecting a bride, he headed toward him.
"Rathborn!" he called out. "Did the women
come in with this wagon train?"
Clay shook his head. "Shortly after the train
pulled in, a couple of wagons left, one with a big negro driving
and a white woman walking, and the other with a woman driving and
what sounded like women inside. But I figured they were folks
Weldon tugged on his father's coat sleeve.
"Can we go home then, Pa?"
"Not until we find your new mother," Adam
replied. "She has to be with this group since there are no other
wagon trains expected for some time. Where are your sisters?"
Weldon shrugged. "Last I saw, they were
across the street reading something posted on the mercantile. Then
I saw Alice go inside. And Trudy left with Tom Rafferty."
"You sure it was Tom Rafferty?" Adam asked,
the heat of anger creeping up his face as he imagined the young
bloke's hands on Trudy. Rafferty was one of his cowboys, and he had
his sights on bedding the cattle baron's daughter. If he did, Tom
would find his balls returned to him on a platter. But short of
locking Trudy up, he didn't know how to handle the headstrong girl.
He could get rid of Tom, but Trudy would set her sights on the next
young cowpoke. She needed a mother to manage her. And he needed a
woman in his bed on a permanent basis so he could keep his mind on
running the ranch instead of finding the next willing female. As
his wife, Mary Kate Burns would fill both needs.
"It was Tom Rafferty all right," Weldon said.
"He took Trudy's hand and pulled her around behind the mercantile.
She was laughing too."
"Well, she won't be laughing when I catch up
with her." Adam rushed across the street, catching a glimpse of the
posting on the mercantile as he passed, but not stopping to inspect
it as he headed around the building. He found Tom's lips about a
breath away from Trudy's. Grabbing Tom by the arm and the belt, he
hurled him to the ground, and shouted, "Keep your bloody hands off
my daughter!" He took Trudy by the elbow and tugged her back around
the building. "Go wait in the buckboard," he barked. "We'll take
this up when we get home!" Trudy said nothing, just headed for the
buckboard. And Adam stopped to inspect the posting, which read:
Any man awaiting a bride please contact Miss Priscilla Phipps at
the old Sentinel building at seven o'clock this evening...
Adam stared at the notice, wondering why the
Phipps women would have the brides at the old Sentinel building.
He'd heard that the building had been sold to someone back east,
but the place was so rundown he couldn't imagine why anyone would
Stepping inside the mercantile, he fetched
fourteen-year-old Alice, who was eyeing a red silk corset with
black ties. Snatching her away from the risqué thing, he herded her
and Weldon onto the buckboard. Weldon sat on the box, and Alice sat
beside Trudy on the seat behind. Adam climbed up beside Weldon and
took the reins. "After I pick up your new mother, she and I will go
to the courthouse and get married," he announced to his offspring.
"I'll expect the three of you to stay in the buckboard. And no
fighting. I've waited three months for this woman and I don't want
her leaving before we even get married."
"What are we supposed to call her?" Alice
asked. "Mary Kate or Mother?"
"You will call her Mother," Adam replied,
anxious to make that distinction clear. The children needed a
mother, not a friend and confident who would cater to their whims.
And he was ready to turn over that thorny task to the Burns women,
who would be Lady Adam Whittington before the day was done. It
could not come soon enough for him.
"Is she going to stay in your bedroom with
you tonight, Father?" Weldon asked.
Adam heard giggles from the girls in the seat
behind him. He also wasn't sure how to answer Weldon's question.
The boy was on the cusp of learning about a man's need, if he
hadn't had his first awakening already, and he'd be naturally
curious about what went on behind the closed door to his father and
new step-mother's bedroom.
As for him... He hadn't had a woman since he
entered into the marriage contract with Mary Kate Burns three
months before, and he was badly in need of her services. But she
was still a virgin, and he wasn't sure he could hold back once he
stripped her naked. If he lost control and took her roughly, she
could let out some questionable cries, which he did not want to
have to explain to his children. But if he messed things up at the
start, and Miss Burns' first experience was a bad one, she'd be one
cold woman in bed from then on. "Miss Burns will have her own room
until we are better acquainted," he said, having made that hasty
decision. "I have not had a chance to court her properly, so she'll
need time to get to know me. You'll understand better when you're