Montana Sky: Mail Order Machinations (Kindle Worlds Novella)

BOOK: Montana Sky: Mail Order Machinations (Kindle Worlds Novella)
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Text copyright ©2016 by the Author.

This work was made possible by a special license through the Kindle Worlds publishing program and has not necessarily been reviewed by Debra Holland. All characters, scenes, events, plots and related elements appearing in the original Montana Sky remain the exclusive copyrighted and/or trademarked property of Debra Holland, or their affiliates or licensors.

For more information on Kindle Worlds: http://www.amazon.com/kindleworlds

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Epilogue

Chapter One

 

 

Brody Finnegan pounded a nail into the wood for the fence he was building around the grazing land for his cattle.  He’d been letting them free range for too long, and it was time for them to be penned up.  With the new barbed wire that had come out a few years ago, he’d be able to do it beautifully.  He’d lost a few too many cattle over the years to various critters and sometimes to unscrupulous ranchers in the vicinity.

When he finished, he stood and looked around him at the vast Montana prairie he called home.  He knew someday his sons would be ranching here and their sons after them.  He was building a legacy, and he was ready to have the sons to go with it.

He’d heard a lot about mail order brides lately, what with Sweetwater Springs bringing in a few, and now even Morgan’s Crossing had one as its first lady.  He’d seen an ad in the store in Sweetwater Springs for a mail order bride service back East, operating out of Maine or Massachusetts or someplace like that.  He’d write a letter tonight and take it into town with him when he went for supplies. 

He wanted a sweet girl, who could cook, clean, and have babies.  What else was necessary in a bride?

Yessirree, he’d have himself a bride soon. 

 

*****

 

Esther Carruthers hurried into the house after her all-day shopping spree.  Planning a wedding and buying a trousseau was hard work!  She dropped her bags at the base of the stairs and walked into the parlor, expecting her mother and younger sister, Coral, to be waiting for her.  She wasn’t disappointed.

“Oh, I found the most beautiful hat today!  It was lavender and had little flowers around the brim.  I bought it for the wedding.  It will go with my dress perfectly!”

Her mother looked at her with eyes filled with unshed tears.  “You’ll have to return it.”

Esther stared at her mother with shock.  “Return it?  Why would I do that?”

“Because we haven’t the money to pay for it.” Her mother patted the spot beside her on the sofa.  “Sit and talk with me for a moment.”

Esther looked back and forth between her younger sister and her mother.  “What’s going on here?  Why wouldn’t I have money to pay for it?  Even if Father can’t afford it, and we all know he can, then Jeremiah will happily pay for one hat.  It’s only a month before the wedding, and he’ll be taking over all my expenses then anyway.”  She moved over to sit beside her mother.  “I’m not sure what the worry is, Mother, but everything’s going to be wonderful.”

Her mother buried her face in her hands and sobbed, obviously overcome with emotion.  Esther shook her head at her sister, Coral.  Their mother had been very emotional since her engagement three months before.

Coral, a year younger than Esther, leaned forward in her chair, which was perpendicular to the sofa Esther shared with Mother.  “The constable came while you were out shopping.  Father’s been arrested.”  She raised her voice to talk over the wailing coming from their mother.  “He’s been embezzling from the bank for years.”

Esther’s eyes widened in shock.  “Embezzling? Father?” Their father was the very picture of a staid banker.  Even the way he breathed was boring in Esther’s mind.  “That’s not possible.”

Coral nodded.  “Apparently it is.  Jeremiah is the one who caught him, and he reported it to his father.”

Jeremiah, was the son of the owner of the bank where their father had worked for as long as either of the girls could remember.  “But—Jeremiah wouldn’t report Father!”

“He did.  Father’s in jail.”

Esther rubbed her temples, trying to wrap her mind around the situation.  “I need to go see Jeremiah!”  Surely once she talked to him, he’d tell her it had all been a mistake, and it could be cleared up quickly and easily.  Her father wouldn’t do something so dastardly.

Coral stood and walked across the room, picking up a single folded piece of paper with Esther’s name written in neat penmanship on the outside.  She handed it to her sister, a pitying look on her face.

Esther stared down at Jeremiah’s handwriting.  “There.  See?  I’m sure everything will be fine after I read this.  He’ll tell me that it’s all some sort of sick joke.” Normally Jeremiah didn’t believe in playing jokes on people, but she was his future wife.  Maybe he was making an exception for some reason.  She’d tell him she didn’t like it, and she was sure he’d stop.

She opened the letter and scanned the words quickly, her face losing color with each word she read. 

Esther,

 

I regret to inform you that due to the events of this very trying day, I must call off our engagement.  You must see that it simply wouldn’t do for a man of my stature to be married to the daughter of a criminal.  You may keep the ring, but I will not be paying any of the bills you are racking up about town. 

 

I’m sure you understand my predicament.  It may be best if you were to go away somewhere so we wouldn’t have to have that awkward moment where my future wife will run into you, and neither of you will know what to say.

 

I wish you the best.

Jeremiah

 

Esther crumpled the note in her hand, not quite believing what she’d read.  Jeremiah wouldn’t just call off their engagement.  They were in love.  Why, she’d allowed him to kiss her on numerous occasions.  Surely he would realize the need for them to marry after that! A lady didn’t go about town kissing just anyone.

She stood and walked to the door.  “I’m going to his house to talk to him.  I can’t let it end this way.”  She looked at Coral.  “Would you accompany me?  Or should I call for Nora?” Nora had been the girls’ maid for more than ten years, and she would happily go with Esther, but Esther would prefer the support of her sister for this meeting.

“Nora’s gone,” Coral told her.  “All of the servants left.  They’re taking all of our furniture tomorrow.  We have nothing.  We’ll be allowed to keep most of our clothes, but nothing of any value at all.”

“Bu
t

Nora’s been with us for ten years.  She wouldn’t just leave!”

Coral had always been the more practical of the two.  “Of course she would.  We can no longer pay her.  She has to go to someone who can.”

“Well, I won’t hire her back when I marry Jeremiah next month!  I can’t believe she wouldn’t wait just one month!” Esther shook her head.  She couldn’t believe Nora, of all the servants, would get so uppity about something like that.  “Well, I guess you’ll need to be the one to walk with me to see Jeremiah then.”

Coral looked like she wanted to argue, but she nodded.  “All right.  Let’s go see him.” 

Esther linked her arm with Coral’s and hurried down the street and over to the next.  She and Jeremiah had been raised in the same neighborhood and had even gone to the same school.  She’d known him her whole life, and they’d loved one another since she’d first discovered that boys were for more than tormenting girls.

When they reached Jeremiah’s house, she rapped on the door, her hands behind her back as she waited.  She’d never actually gone to his house this way before, but she didn’t see anything wrong with her behavior.  She was engaged to marry the man!

Jeremiah himself came to the door, frowning at Esther.  He stepped outside and closed the door behind him, looking around as if to see if anyone was watching them.  “Why are you here?  Didn’t you get my note?”

“Yes, of course.  That’s why I’m here.  I don’t understand.  Why would you accuse my father of stealing?”

“I didn’t just accuse him.  I caught him red-handed.  His hand was in the money drawer with no customer’s around, and then I saw him make a note.  I watched, and he’d moved money from one account to another with no reason or permission.”

“But we love each other!  I can’t believe you’d call off the wedding!”

Jeremiah laughed.  “Oh, Esther.  I can’t marry a woman who’s been shamed the way your family has.  I’ll marry someone more befitting my station in life.  Don’t you have relatives you can go live with?”

Esther frowned.  “But you told me just last night that you love me, and you can’t wait for us to have children together.”

“I’m still willing to have children with you, Esther.  I’ll set you up in a house on the outskirts of town, and I’ll visit you when I’m—interested.”

“Visit me?  But we’re marrying, aren’t we?”

Jeremiah shook his head.  “No, we’re not.  We’re not marrying.  In fact, if you don’t want to be my mistress, then I don’t plan to see you again.”  His eyes were cold as they met hers.

Esther’s eyes widened with shock.  “Your mistress?  Well, I never!”

He shrugged.  “That’s okay.  I can teach you.”

Esther looked at Coral, as if begging for help, and then she straightened her spine, her eyes meeting his. “Goodbye, Jeremiah.  I hope your future wife is cross-eyed and your children are all born demented.”  She turned and walked away from the house, aware that her sister was following her. 

When they reached the street, Coral started laughing.  “I can’t believe you said that to him!”

Esther glared at her sister for a moment before she saw the humor of the situation.  “He deserved it!”  She stood there for a moment, struggling to come to grips her new circumstances.  “What do we do now?” She knew Coral would have figured something out, because she always did.  Coral was good at working through situations.

Coral took a deep breath.  “I’ve had longer to think about this than you have, and I think I have a plan.”

“Enlighten me, sister dear.  What’s your plan?”

“You’ll have to become a mail order bride.  There’s an ad in the back of the mercantile.  It’s always there. It says to go to a house a couple of blocks from here and talk to Elizabeth Miller.  I’m too young.  She only takes brides older than eighteen.”

“So what will you do?  And Mother?  What’s to become of Mother?” Esther certainly didn’t want to be burdened with their mother, because she’d been a recluse for years.  She’d only left the house a few times, and then only because she’d been forced to.

Coral shook her head.  “Mother will move in with her parents.  She’s disgraced, and they live in the country outside of Boston. She can hide away there.  She told me to go with her, but I’m not going to hide away in the country.  I’m ready for adventure!”

“So what’s your plan?” Esther had no idea what her sister was thinking, but she would love to know.

“I’m going with you.  I’ll find a husband out West.”

“But—what if I don’t marry someone who’s willing to have my sister come along?”

Coral shrugged.  “We won’t tell him.  I’ll just come.  It’ll be fine.”

Esther frowned at the idea, but she finally nodded.  “I need you to be with me.  I can’t go out West by myself and marry a stranger.  I’ll need you by my side.”

“Let’s go see Miss Miller then.”  Coral linked arms with her sister once again, and they walked the two blocks to the street where Miss Miller lived, stopping in front of a huge house. 

Esther knocked on the door, her face neutral.  It was hard to swallow her pride enough to become a mail order bride.  How could anyone do that?

The door was opened by a tall, blond man in a suit.  “May I help you?”

Esther nodded. “I’m here to see Miss Miller.  I’m going to be a mail order bride.”

The man seemed to be trying not to smile.  “I see.  Is Miss Miller expecting you?”

“No, she’s not.  Is that a problem?”

He shook his head.  “No, of course not.  Follow me.”  He led the two sisters down a long hallway to a room at the very back of the house off to the left.  “Miss Miller?  There are two young ladies here to see you.  One of them is going to be a mail order bride.”

A look passed between the two that made Esther wonder if there was a romance blossoming.  “Miss Miller, I’m Esther Carruthers.  I’m here to talk to you about being a mail order bride.  This is my sister Coral.  She’s only seventeen, but she would be a mail order bride if you’d let her.”

Miss Miller smiled.  “Please, call me Elizabeth.”  She stood and waved them both toward the sofa, before taking her chair in front of her desk again.  The desk was piled full of papers.  “When will you be eighteen, Miss Carruthers?”

Coral sat down and gave her attention to Elizabeth.  “Not for three more months. In November.”

“I see.  Come see me in November, and we’ll find you a husband as well.”

“I appreciate the offer.  I believe I’ll have moved on by then,” Coral said, telling as much of the truth as she cared to tell.

“I see,” Elizabeth said.  She didn’t of course, but that didn’t seem to matter a lot. Elizabeth smiled at Esther.  “You want to be a mail order bride?”

“No, not really.” Esther spread her hands palms up. “I was engaged to be married until earlier today. Our father was caught—shall we say misbehaving at his workplace? He is now behind bars. My fiancé decided it was a good time to break off our engagement.”

Elizabeth blinked a couple of times. Obviously that wasn’t a story she heard every day. “So you’re wanting to leave town to get away from him?”

Esther nodded. “And I need to marry. It’s time.”

Elizabeth smiled. “All right. We’ll make this happen. Tell me a little bit about yourself.”

BOOK: Montana Sky: Mail Order Machinations (Kindle Worlds Novella)
6.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Outposts by Simon Winchester
Scrubs Forever! by Jamie McEwan
So Much to Live For by Lurlene McDaniel
Silhouette by Dave Swavely
Tempted by Darkness by Avery Gale
Drive Me Crazy by Jenna Bayley-Burke
Irish Linen by Candace McCarthy