Stephanie Grace Whitson - [Quilt Chronicles]

BOOK: Stephanie Grace Whitson - [Quilt Chronicles]
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What Readers Are Saying About
The Key on the Quilt

“In a richly textured novel about the sting of betrayal and the power of truth, three women discover what it means to love and be loved. Equally tender and stirring,
The Key on the Quilt
is not to be missed!”

—Tamera Alexander, bestselling author of
A Lasting Impression
and
The Inheritance

“Whitson’s
The Key on the Quilt
is much deeper and richer than the usual historical romance. I devoured it in one gulp and couldn’t put it down. No one immerses me in a story world like Whitson. Highly recommended!”—Colleen Coble, author of the Lonestar and Rock Harbor series

“From the opening line,
The Key on the Quilt
held me captive. Three women, their lives connecting in a hard place, must each learn lessons about the power of love and truth. As their faith grows, so will yours. Don’t miss this excellent novel!”

—Robin Lee Hatcher, bestselling author of
Belonging
and
Heart of Gold

“Love, grace, forgiveness, a captivating setting, and a compelling story await you in Stephanie Grace Whitson’s
The Key on the Quilt.
An excellent read with well-drawn characters you won’t soon forget, and a story you wish would never end.”

—Judith Miller, author of the Daughters of Amana series

“Stephanie Whitson never fails to deliver a novel that reminds us all of our weaknesses and rejoices in our strengths. History doesn’t change who we are, and the women in this poignant novel give us new insight into what it means to be forgiven—and loved.”—Di Ann Mills, author of
Attracted to Fire

“The Key on the Quilt
is a romance that showcases hope, tenacity, and the strength of the human spirit. Highly recommended.”—Nancy Moser, author of
An Unlikely Suitor

“Stephanie Grace Whitson’s name on the cover of a book makes it a must-buy for me. I discovered her novels over fifteen years ago, and her writing has grown even richer and deeper with the years.
The Key on the Quilt
grabbed me from the very first line and contains perhaps her most unique storyline and characters to date. An unpredictable story of redemption and hope, this one will have a place of honor on my “keeper” shelf.”

—Deborah Raney, author of
Beneath a Southern Sky
and the Hanover Falls series

Dedicated to the memory of
God’s extraordinary women
In every place
In every time

© 2012 by Stephanie Grace Whitson

ISBN 978-1-61626-442-0

eBook Editions:
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-60742-790-2
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-60742-791-9

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.

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.

All scripture is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

For more information about Stephanie Grace Whitson, please access her website (
www.stephaniewhitson.com
), her blog (
www.footnotesfromhistory.blogspot.com
), or her Facebook author page. Contact her at
[email protected]
or write P.O.Box 6905, Lincoln, NE, 68506.

Cover design: Müllerhaus Publishing Arts, Inc.,
www.mullerhaus.net

Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O.Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 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.

CHAPTER 1

April 1876
Dawson County, Nebraska

I
f it wasn’t for the occasional night when he tried to kill her, Owen wouldn’t be a bad husband. Jane Marquis risked a sideways glance at him. Moonlight and shadows revealed an all-too-familiar expression on his weathered face, as Owen guided the wagon across the spring prairie toward home.

Doing her best to suppress a shiver, Jane ducked her head and closed her eyes.
Oh… God.
It wasn’t much of a prayer, but it was the best she could do. God hadn’t seemed interested in answering her prayers for some time now. When the wagon lurched, she grabbed the edge of her seat with her right hand, lest she be thrown against him.

From where she lay sleeping in a tangle of quilts in the wagon bed, Rose whimpered. She stirred but did not awaken as the wagon lurched back up out of the ruts on the trail.
Thank God for that.
If only Rose would sleep through until morning. By then it would be over. Owen would smile and tease her from across the breakfast table, and everything would be fine.

Owen had never so much as raised his voice with Rose. He was good with her. Always had been. In fact, it was Rose’s need for a father that had finally convinced Jane to overlook the one or two incidents when he’d been a little rough on her, back when the two of them were courting. After all, it had only been a couple of times. The rest of the time, he’d been exactly what any woman in her right mind would want—successful, handsome, and fond of the child he’d be getting in the bargain of marriage to a young widow.

It shamed Jane to think of it, but the truth was
handsome
had done a lot to win her over. After all, he could have had any one of a number of single women in the county. Just about everyone had been surprised when Owen Marquis turned his considerable charms in the direction of the widow Jane Prescott, Jane included.

He’d never said a word about thinking her pretty. That didn’t really matter, Jane told herself. Still, she liked to remember the catch in his throat that first night when she let her thick chestnut hair down. She liked the feel of his rough, work-worn hand at her narrow waist. No, she wasn’t beautiful in the way some would think… but Owen had chosen her, and for a while he had seemed to be the answer to her prayers.

It was true she didn’t love him the way she’d loved Thomas, but then a woman only got one of those in a lifetime, didn’t she? Besides, she had to think of Rose, and Owen had been fond of Rose from the start. He’d even promised to see to her education, and that was important. It wasn’t often a man agreed on the matter of educating a woman. Jane liked that about him. In fact, she almost took it as a sign that this was the man to fulfill Thomas Prescott’s dreams for his only child. She told herself it wouldn’t be hard to learn to love Owen Marquis.

It had all seemed so logical only two years ago. But now as Jane clung to the wagon seat beside a husband as tightly wound as a strand of new barbed wire, she wondered at the way she’d ignored all the signs: signs that through the mountain of a man who was Owen Marquis there ran a vein of violence he could not—or would not—control. And now… now she felt like some poor creature caught in a closed trap. Not killed, only forced to remain tethered to the very thing that would eventually bring about its demise. Owen was like that—shiny and sleek on the surface like a new trap, but with jagged teeth that bit down when Jane unwittingly tread on this sensibility or that feeling, on this opinion or that belief.

He was always quick to repent. At first, that had given her hope. He’d even wept over the faint bruises resulting from late-night confrontations. Every time, Jane took him in her arms and promised to forgive and forget and proved her sincerity by giving herself. But as the months went by and Owen didn’t change, Jane began to concentrate less on forgiving and more on trying desperately to avoid doing anything that might displease him. And wasn’t that the irony of it all tonight? The very thing that had painted jealous rage on Owen’s face—an innocent dance with Dr. Zimmer—was something that, absent Owen’s drinking too much at the social over at the Bar T, likely would have pleased him.

How many times had Jane heard Owen praise Doc? How many stories had she heard him tell about the man’s fast thinking and how he’d saved this cowhand’s life or that rancher’s child? Owen trusted Max Zimmer. Appreciated him. And Owen himself had once said there was no better way to show a man your trust than to let him dance with your wife. He’d even encouraged Jane to dance with this visiting dignitary or that bloated politician. So she’d taken it upon herself to grant the doctor a waltz tonight, thinking Owen would see it for what it was—a wife supporting her husband by showing kindness to a trusted friend.

That wasn’t how it had played out, though. Jane had known before she and the doctor took the second pass around the dance floor that she’d made a terrible mistake. The look on Owen’s face—thinking back on it sent a brand-new river of dread flowing over her. This time Owen noticed her shiver.

“Cold, darlin’?”

She started at the sound of his voice. The edge to his mellow purr set her skin to crawling. She managed a murmured “I’m fine,” but he ignored it, pulling her across the wagon seat with one arm, which he clamped around her.

“There now,” he rumbled. “Thas better, hunh?” He squeezed harder.

“Much,” Jane agreed, wishing his breath weren’t heavy with whiskey, wishing she could somehow keep her voice from cracking with fear, wishing she could manufacture a way to take Rose and go so far away that Owen wouldn’t be able to follow them.

“You jus’ put your head on my shoulder and catch a wink or two. We need ta talk, but it can wait till you put Rose ta bed.”

Jane did what she was told. She leaned into him. But she did not sleep.

September 1876
Lincoln, Nebraska

A person learned a new vocabulary in prison, and for Jane Prescott—she’d done away with the name Marquis the minute she’d arrived here—the most important phrase was, “learning to do the time.” At first, she spent a lot of time just standing at the tall, barred windows, staring off toward the west. Then one evening when the sun was setting and Jane was watching a spectacular sunset, wondering if Rose would forget how the two of them used to watch the sky, Agnes Sweeney sidled up to her and said in a gravelly voice, “You stand there much longer, you’re gonna grow roots.”

BOOK: Stephanie Grace Whitson - [Quilt Chronicles]
7.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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