Authors: Kit Morgan
ANGEL CREEK PRESS
The New Year's Bride
(Holiday Mail Order Brides Book Two)
Copyright 2013 Kit Morgan
Find other titles by Kit Morgan Including:
The Prairie Bride Series:
His Prairie Princess (Prairie Brides, Book One)
Her Prairie Knight (Prairie Brides, Book Two)
His Prairie Duchess (Prairie Brides, Book Three)
Her Prairie Viking (Prairie Brides, Book Four)
His Prairie Sweetheart (Prairie Brides Book Five)
Her Prairie Outlaw (Prairie Brides Book Six)
Christmas in Clear Creek (Prairie Brides, Book Seven)
The Holiday Mail Order Bride Series:
The Christmas Mail Order Bride (Book One)
The New Year's Bride (Book Two)
Coming in January:
His Forever Valentine (Book Three)
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without permission in writing from the publisher.
All characters are fictional. Any resemblances to actual people are purely coincidental.
Cover design by Angel Creek Press, The Killion Group and Hotdamndesigns.com
-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Table of Contents
For my friend Gayle, who picked up the pieces at their source. Nothing like a Tackett to lift you up when you fall down. Love ya girl!
New Orleans, December 1870
Elnora Barstow wasn’t
the most graceful thing in the world but she wasn’t a total klutz either. But wouldn’t you know, right when she needed her feet at their nimble best, they failed her.
“Run, Miss Elle!” Jethro cried as he shoved her into an alley and began to push her ahead of him at a rapid pace.
She stumbled down the alley only to trip and fall, the action toppling Jethro over like a mighty tree. He landed on the other side of her and with lightening speed jumped to his feet. She didn’t realize a man of his size could move so fast and let out a gasp of shock when he grabbed her and pulled her up to stand before him. “We gotta move Miss Elle! Dey be comin’ round da corner any minute lookin’ for ya!”
Elle glanced up at her escort and doing her best to catch her breath, tried not to look frightened. “Surely we’ve lost them by now?”
Jethro, one of Mrs. Ridgley’s two huge Negro servants shook his head. “No ma’am. You don’t know dis sort of men like I do. Now I gots to get you to da train station and on your way before dem devils finds us!”
“But Mrs. Ridgley assured me this wouldn’t happen!”
“Dat was before dat devil-man Mr. Slade found out about you! He done been snoopin’ round da orphanage da last few days and must’ve got a look at ya somehow.”
Elle’s face fell. Mrs. Teeters
, the head of the Winslow Orphanage, had warned her about a group of men who preyed upon the older orphan girls and tried to find when any of their lot were to leave the safe confines of Winslow’s walls. Having just turned eighteen a couple of weeks ago, it was time for Elle to either find decent work or a decent husband. Mrs. Teeters promptly skipped the first option and insisted Elle take option number two; become a mail order bride.
Elle took a
deep breath. Option number two, however, was
supposed to involve running for one’s life through the dark streets of New Orleans!
“Now don’t be makin’ no trouble for ol’ Jethro Miss Elle. We gots to be on our way!” He gave her another shove to get her moving. She was about to comment when a shot rang out.
Elle spun at the sound only to face Jethro, his face locked in pain, as he sunk to his knees before her. “Run Miss Elle!”
Elle looked up. A man with a gun was standing at the other end of the alley. He grinned like the devil as he slowly made his way toward her. Elle gasped with panic. Je
thro clutched at the left side of his chest, his face locked in a horrible grimace as he grappled with the gun belt at his side. “Jethro!”
“Why ain’t you runnin’? You gots to run Miss Elle!”
She looked at the big Negro, her heart in her throat. The bullet had passed clean through, missing his heart, if it hadn’t he’d already be dead. She at least knew that much, she also knew she couldn’t leave him. If she did he would bleed to death. She didn’t have much time.
dropped her satchel to the ground and glanced at their assailant who stood not twenty feet away, a gun still in his hand. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a crisp linen handkerchief. He casually dabbed the sweat from his brow and the back of his neck as if he had all the time in the world, then grinned at her once more. “Come along now and I’ll let him live,” he drawled in a deep southern accent.
She looked to Jethro, horrified. “I can’t let him kill you, Jethro. I can’t!”
Jethro fell forward and stopped himself with one hand. He looked up at Elle with a face so agonized it tore her heart out. “You gots to go, Miss Elle. Da train tickets in my right pocket. Take it and run! He’s gonna kill me no matter what,” he rasped, his voice low. “Get me my gun …”
Elle’s eyes f
lew to the gun belt at his side as Jethro pushed himself against a nearby brick wall into a sitting position. Blood oozed from his wound and soaked his shirt and vest.
e now girl, don’t waste my time,” the man said casually. “What ever are you doing talking with the likes of him? Back away from him, now.”
at their assailant as she pulled the train ticket from Jethro’s vest pocket then once again looked into the big man’s pain-filled eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered to him.
“Run…” Jethro rasped as she handed him his gun.
“He won’t shoot you, you ain’t worth nothin’ dead.”
“I’m tired of waiting. Let’s end this now,” the man said with a sneer as he began to stride toward them.
Elle didn’t think, she only acted when she heard the audible click of Jethro’s gun and watched as he struggled with the effort it took to lift the weapon. It was then everything slowed and time stood still. She hadn’t realized she picked up Jethro’s hand, the gun cocked and ready, until her small finger connected with his and they began to squeeze the trigger as one.
The shot was deafening and she reeled back onto the hard ground. Jethro sat against the wall, his head slumped to one side as
, ears ringing, she shook her own head and struggled to her knees. “Jethro!”
He looked up at her. “Run now, Miss Elle. Dat devil ain’t gonna come after you no more, but …
dere might be more on da way …”
Elle looked in horror at the man lying
face down on the ground not feet away. “Oh my God! What have I done?” She looked desperately back to Jethro. “I killed him? Did I kill him? Oh God!”
“Run, Miss Elle,” Jethro said weakly.
Shouts could be heard heading for the alley. “Jethro! Someone’s coming!”
“Bad men, good men, don’t know which. Run Miss Elle. Either way, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Elle began to sob.
“Do it for me, run…” he said
as he closed his eyes and brought the gun to his chest where he weakly cocked it again.
looked up one last time as the shouts drew closer. She let out a final sob, grabbed her satchel, got to her feet and ran. Ran and prayed like she’d never prayed before. Would they be good men, or more like the one that shot Jethro? How was she to know? If she heard another gun shot that meant they would have finished off the gentle giant. But if she didn’t, would it mean they were good men tending to him, or bad men who didn’t have to because he died the moment she jumped up and left?
Elle continued to run and stumble her way to the train station wondering if she would ever know.
She fought for breath as she ran and saw the conductor hop up into a car and shout his last call of “all aboard!” just before the train whistle sounded. Elle gave one final push with what strength she had left to make it. A tall, thin, southern gentleman stood on the platform near one of the train’s open doors. He glanced at her before looking away, then quickly looked back and gave her a once over. Panic filled her as she saw his eyes narrow. She ran for the nearest car and took a flying leap into it, banged her knee on one of the steps and went sprawling. She quickly looked over her shoulder and watched as the train moved past the man but he gave no pursuit, as if he wasn’t sure of what to do. Neither did she. Elle wasn’t sure whether to sigh in relief or cry at the horror that made up her evening.
She didn’t get the c
hance to do either as someone yanked her to her feet. “What do you think you’re doing running after the train like that? Are ya trying to get yourself killed?”
Elle looked dumbly up at the conductor’s scowling face. “I’m … I’m sorry. I wasn’
t sure I was going to make it,” she pushed out.
“Are you all right?” he asked with an impatient sigh.
She nodded as she brushed off the skirt of her dress with one hand. She then noticed he stood and eyed her warily. “I’m fine,” she said.
He held out his hand. “Let’s have a look at your ticket then.”
A chill went up her spine. She looked to the ticket she had crushed in her other hand and prayed there wasn’t any blood on it. She’d been holding the handle of her satchel in the same hand, but tossed it into the train car just before she launched herself in after it. She was surprised the ticket was still in her hand at all and silently thanked the Lord as she held it out to him.
snatched it from her and read it. “Long way to go, end of the line in fact. Just where you heading, miss?”
Elle let go a long sigh as she retrieved her satchel then turned to face him. “Nowhere.”
* * *
Nowhere, in the Washington Territory
, New Year’s Day, 1871
“Spencer? Spencer it’s time to go, do hurry dear!” Mrs. Riley called up the stairs. She stepped in front of a mirror that hung in the front hall and adjusted her hat. She then proceeded to put on her gloves. “Oh, where is that boy?”
“I’m coming ma, the stage isn’t gonna be here for an hour, we have plenty of time.” Spencer Riley said as he stomped down the stairs to where she stood.
“Now,” she began as she inspected him. “Is your shirt clean?”
“For Heaven’s sake, I’m not ten years old! Of course my shirt is clean!
I even polished my bullets if you must know.”
Mrs. Riley’s mouth opened in shock. “You did
Spencer chuckled. “I’m kidding ma. Now let’s go.”
Mrs. Riley eyed her youngest son and smirked at his antics. He was nervous, she could tell. She hoped she’d made the right decision when she took matters into her own hands a few months ago and came up with the brilliant idea of sending away for a mail order bride for Clayton. Spencer had been all for it at the time, and played an integral part in pulling the whole thing off with his big brother being none the wiser. What Spencer didn’t know was that not a week later she sent away for
mail order bride. This time for Spencer himself.
delivered the news to him Christmas day when she gave him his Christmas present. An envelope with a letter from his future bride and a marriage contract written up by The Ridgley Mail Order Bride Service. He was shocked at what she’d done but soon got used to the idea. He had no choice, his bride was already on a train from New Orleans and had in fact boarded a stage shortly after Christmas day to finish out the remainder of her journey. She was arriving today and Spencer was beside himself with worry. He had a letter from the girl, but no picture. Likewise she had no picture of him either. Only a small note and one written by Mrs. Riley, not Spencer himself.
“How could you have done such
a thing?” he’d lamented to his mother for days.
“Now, Spencer, it’s for your own good, and besides, I’m sure she’ll be beautiful. Just look at what a beautiful bride that Mrs. Ridgley sent to your brother Clayton! I’m sure she’ll send you someone equally as pretty.”
Spencer of course had moaned and groaned over the prospect. It also didn’t take long for the rest of Nowhere to catch wind of what was going on and soon the whole town was a buzz with the news of Spencer’s upcoming nuptials.
Of course, many a pretty miss was crushed by the news. For years the Riley brothers were the catch of
Nowhere but unfortunately no one had caught their eye. Charlotte Davis had tried for as long as anyone could remember to nail Clayton down, but he would have none of it. Folks speculated whether or not she would go after Spencer once Clayton was married but so far she’d given no indication of it. Just as well, Spencer had enough to worry about.
Aside from his mother surprising him with
a mail order bride for New Year’s instead of a new scarf and mitten set, (a tradition in the Riley household) his brother Clayton informed him Spencer was to be the new Sheriff as well!
Spencer pinned the
silver star to his vest, put on his coat and hat, then turned to his mother. “All right let’s go. But I still say this was a bad idea.”
“Oh Spencer, you’ll love her I’m sure
! Just as Clayton loves Summer.”
“I don’t even know what she looks like!”
“Well that’s fair, she doesn’t know what you look like either.”
“If we don’t suit I’m sending her back!”
“Now Spencer, Clayton said the same thing about Summer, but he didn’t send her back.”
beautiful, both inside and out. I wouldn’t have sent her back either!”
“Your brother is less agreeable than you, I feared he might. It’s a good thing he shot her when he did.”
a good thing he shot her at all!”
“Oh stop your fussing. It was an accident after all
and it did keep Summer around long enough for Clayton to realize he was in love with her.”