Copyright © Katie Wyatt 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious, and any simulators to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
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“He sounds like a nice enough young man.”
Summer glanced at her seat mate, Martha, an older woman in her fifties smiling kindly at her. “I suppose,” she said. “He did send me a daguerreotype,” she continued, reaching inside the reticule on her lap, her fingers twisted nervously in the thin straps. “He said it was about ten years old, taken just after the war.”
Summer slowly opened her bag and retrieved the small daguerreotype. It was old, creased and weathered, and she idly wondered how it had gotten that way. The small image of her future husband fit into the palm of her hand as she showed it to Martha, who had boarded the train in Chicago. They’d been sitting together ever since.
“Oh, a fine figure of a man, isn’t he?” Martha commented.
Summer stared down at the photograph again and nodded. The man staring back at her looked stern. Not surprising. She did get the impression that Beauregard Kearny looked rather uncomfortable in his officer’s uniform. Obviously taken during the latter years of the War Between the States, all she knew about her future husband was that he had left the Union Army as a captain and then headed out west, where he eventually settled in Laramie and became a US marshal.
She felt exhausted by the time the Union Pacific Railway train reached the border of Colorado and Wyoming in Cheyenne. The train came to a halt, the rumbling of the seat under her finally stopping with the release of a huge amount of steam from the engine. Her head pounded, her back ached, and once again she felt a brief surge of panic. What in heaven’s name had she been thinking to answer that ad for a wife, especially with the secret she held so close to her heart? She must’ve asked herself that question at least every few hours since she had left her hometown back in western Pennsylvania nearly three weeks ago.
“You know, I had an arranged marriage,” Martha said, handing the photograph back to Summer.
Summer looked at her temporary traveling companion in surprise. “You did?”
“Very common back in my day,” Martha nodded. “I had no dowry to speak of, but my parents made a good match, although I didn’t think so at first.” She laughed. “For the first few months, the two of us fought like cats and dogs.” She sobered, then she turned to Summer, tears brimming in her eyes. “My Albert passed away two years ago. We were married for almost thirty years. I loved him more than anything in the world.”
Summer reached out a comforting hand and placed it on Martha’s. “I’m so sorry to hear that, Martha,” she said. “I can only pray that I made the right decision to become a mail order bride, and that I can make as good of a marriage as you did.”
She watched idly as several passengers moved down the aisle between the train seats to disembark. Would she find what she was looking here in Wyoming? After her father’s passing in a carriage accident the previous winter, Summer was alone now, afraid, and with no way to support herself. Her father’s debts had taken their home, his meager life savings, and left her with nothing but a trunk full of clothes and memories. Her sense of adventure had kicked in.
“May I give you one bit of advice, dear?” Martha asked as several of the passengers walked past them to the door.
Summer nodded. “Of course, Martha,” she said. “I need all the advice I can get. I’m so nervous I don’t know what to do.”
“Don’t hide your emotions,” Martha offered. “If there’s something you don’t like, say so. Don’t beat around the bush. Start your relationship by being completely honest with each other. That’s the only way that you learn to trust.”
Summer’s heart skipped a beat. Honesty. She hadn’t been completely honest with Mister Kearny, had she? Would it change things when she finally divulged the truth?
Martha took Summer’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “Give it time. Love takes time to develop, but once it does you hang onto it for dear life.”
Summer felt tears brimming in her eyes and quickly blinked them back. “Thank you, Martha,” she said. “I will keep your words close to my heart.” With that she stood, allowing Martha to get out of her seat. She grasped Martha’s elbow to help her down the stairs and walked with her, taking small steps to accommodate the older woman’s shuffling gait into the train depot, bustling with passengers.
“And this is where we part company, dear,” Martha said. “You’re a lovely young woman, Summer, with a good head on your shoulders. Use it. Don’t let any man run roughshod over you, and stand up for yourself. He’ll have to earn your respect and loyalty just as much as you’ll have to earn his.”
Summer wrapped her arms around the older woman in a gentle embrace. “Thank you Martha, I will treasure your words and keep them close to my heart. No point in saying I’m not terrified, because I am, but you’ve given me a solid foundation to stand upon.”
“I hope so,” Martha said. “Remember, it’s not going to be easy on either one of you. Patience is key. Whenever you find yourself getting upset, worried, or panicked, as I did, remember to take a deep breath, think things through, and make decisions with your brain
Patience. That would be a tough one. Patience was something that Summer had always struggled with. Many times she tended to respond to situations purely on emotion, but she understood the need for rational thought, especially in this situation. What if she didn’t like him? What if he didn’t like her? Oh boy, she had certainly gotten herself into a pickle this time hadn’t she?
Summer bid goodbye to Martha as a young man, and a woman she assumed was the man’s wife, rushed forward to greet the older woman, wrapping her in loving hugs. Her heart thumping forcefully in her chest and blinking back tears, Summer quickly turned away from the sight. Would she ever be loved like that?
She plucked her fingers at the high fitting neckline of her heavy wool dress, no match for the western heat, although it was quite a bit dryer than she was used to back east. She should have worn her cotton dress today, but it was so wrinkled that she had left it in her trunk, which she supposed the train employees should be unloading just about now. She adjusted her small bonnet and swiped a hand down the length of her skirt. Lifting her chin, she sat down on a highly polished oak bench underneath the windows on the west side of the building to wait for her soon-to-be husband to pick her up from the train station.
Would she recognize him? After all, that photograph was so old! Her back straight, her feet together, and her hands folded in her lap, Summer hoped that no one could sense her increasing panic as she continually swept her gaze over the crowd of people in the station, watching for Mister Kearny. She supposed she should call him Beauregard, but the familiarity of it left her feeling nervous again.
Tomorrow morning she would be married by a local justice of the peace, and then she and her new husband would complete the rest of their trip by wagon to Laramie, another fifty miles to the west. She could look forward to at least several days of travel on horseback or wagon married to a man she didn’t know.
Well, that wasn’t quite right. She and Beauregard had exchanged several letters in the past year, but since mail traveled so slowly, not many more than that. While her letters tended to be longer, his were rather short, sharing little of himself other than the fact that he was a US Marshal in Laramie, that he owned a small ranch outside of town, and that he was a widower. No children. That’s about all she knew.
Staring idly out the window, Summer watched people coming and going, some leaving the depot with their families, others entering. She watched as a tall man approached the steps of the depot from across the wide dirt street, pulling the cowboy hat off his head and slapping at the dust that had accumulated on his pants. He wore denim waist overalls, scuffed boots, a long-sleeved shirt, a leather vest, a kerchief tied around his neck, and of course, the traditional cowboy hat, which he promptly shoved back on his head while he stared straight ahead. She noticed that people gave him a wide berth as he passed. Perhaps it was the gun he wore low on his hips, or the determined walk that personified a confident man. Then again, perhaps it was the menacing frown he wore, which Summer noticed as he got closer. The rest of his face was wreathed in shadow from his hat.
The sound of a crying child pulled her attention from the man and toward a middle aged woman holding tightly onto the hand of a five or six-year-old who was dragging his feet as his obviously frustrated mother tried to pull him along. The little boy literally dug in his heels and came to a complete stop, causing his mother to nearly fall over by his sudden lack of momentum. Summer watched with amusement while the mother tried to coerce the child into movement again.
Heavy footsteps from nearby caused Summer to turn from the mother and child and glance up. She barely managed to stifle the startled cry of dismay that nearly escaped her lips. The tall man from outside stood in front of her, staring down at her as he pulled the hat from his head.
“Miss Summer Percy?”
Summer gazed up at the man with wide eyes, trying not to stare at the thick white scar that ran from the corner of his left eye all the way down his cheekbone and along the bottom of his jaw toward his chin. Dark brown eyes riveted to her face, his expression inscrutable. “Yes?” she said, swallowing nervously.
“The name’s Beau… Beauregard Kearny. Your… fiancé,” he said.
Summer stared up in stunned amazement for several seconds and then shot to her feet. “Oh! Excuse me, I didn’t recognize you! The daguerreotype you sent—”
“It’s an old image,” he gently interrupted.
He towered over her. Literally. Summer fought the urge not to take a step back. She strove to remember what Martha had told her. She pasted a smile on her face though her heart pounded with doubt and uncertainty as she tilted her head to look up into her future husband’s face. He looked so rough, so… so….
“Please, call me Summer,” she said. “After all, we are to be married in the morning, aren’t we?” He nodded. She felt somewhat relieved to discover that he seemed to be as nervous as she was.
“Miss Summer,” he said. “Have your belongings been unloaded yet?” He gestured vaguely outside the station. “I have a wagon just around the corner. As soon as your luggage is offloaded I can take you to the hotel and you can rest up for a while.”
She nodded. “We can go outside and check,” she suggested.
He nodded and then held out his arm, elbow bent. She hesitated a brief instant, then placed her hand on his arm. Solid. Strong. Large. She allowed him to guide her outside, trying to ignore the wobbly feeling in her knees. It looked like the luggage had been taken off the train, stacked in a haphazard fashion on the edge of the boardwalk. She recognized her trunk and pointed.
“That’s my trunk there, the green one.”
He nodded, glanced around, and gestured for her to take a seat on a nearby bench. “You wait right here and I’ll go fetch the wagon.”