Authors: Linda Bridey
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Mail Order Bride: Westward Dreams
Montana Mail Order Brides: Book 7
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The coach rocked back and forth as the horses pulled it along a slightly rocky part of the road on which they travelled. One of the wheels hit a large dip in the earth and Hannah’s head bumped hard against the window frame. She woke with a start and rubbed her smarting forehead.
It was almost noon, she saw as she consulted her locket watch. Her coach driver had said they would arrive in Dawson around four that afternoon. Hannah shifted a little on the seat and wished that she could stand up for a little while, but it would be too dangerous to do so. The countryside was changing, she noted. The ground was more arid and the mid-April air was a little cooler than back east in Ohio.
Hannah closed her eyes again and let her mind drift back over the letters that she and Clive Laramie had exchanged over the past four months. She had never intended to be a mail-order-bride, but when at the age of thirty Hannah hadn’t found a man that suited her, it had seemed like a smart option.
The Cleveland papers were filled with advertisements from eligible gentlemen from all over the western United States. She’d pored over them until she found one that intrigued her.
Ladies, if you’re looking for a mature, strong man who’s got the knack to make a lady feel special this is the fella for you! Six-foot tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. He owns his own home and is a hard-working carpenter. Doesn’t mind if the lovely lady has children. Looking for a woman between the ages of thirty to thirty-eight. Get those letters out and start building a future with this fine man!
The Montana address appealed to her for some reason and she’d sent out a letter a week after reading the ad.
Dear Mr. Laramie,
I’m writing to you concerning your advertisement in the Cleveland Leader seeking a wife. I was intrigued by your ad and would like to begin corresponding with you to see if we would be compatible.
I’m thirty years old with light brown hair and brown eyes. I’m 5’4” tall and weigh 125 lbs. I attended the Bellevue Hospital School of Nursing in New York and graduated with honors. I do not have any children but would like to still have at least one child. I hope this will be all right with you.
Carpentry is hard work. Do you enjoy it? I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, so my work is very satisfying. The reason I’m interested in arranging a marriage this way is that while there are eligible men here, I’m looking for a different type of man. I’m interested in a very down-to-earth man who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. You seem like that kind of man. I look forward to corresponding with you further.
Hannah was a practical woman for the most part, but she couldn’t help hoping for a love match. However, she would settle for a deep sense of fondness and respect at this point in her life. She had been very taken with Clive’s first response to her.
You sound like a smart, pretty lady who would do well here in Dawson. I’m about as down to earth as it gets and I think it’s great that you’re still open to having a child. My family has done carpentry for a long time, so it’s in my blood, you could say. It surprised me that there’s no fella in Cleveland who caught your eye, but I guess that’s my gain.
Dawson is a great place to live. We have a new mayor who is making a lot of improvements to the town. There are a lot of people moving to the area so educated nurses are needed here. We have a small local hospital and I’m sure they’d love to have you.
The letter had gone on to describe more about his family and some colorful friends of his. She’d laughed as she read some of their antics. That he had a sense of humor was a good thing. Hannah was serious about her work, but liked having fun on her off time. Clive’s last letter to her had strongly urged her to come meet him and by that time, Hannah was more than ready.
We’ve been writing long enough now and I really would like to have you come here. You know that we’re a good match and I want to make you happy. Your letters make me happy and having you here in person would make me even happier. So get your affairs in order and let me know when you’re coming.
All my best,
So there she was on the coach, almost at her destination. Hannah was excited and nervous about this adventure she’d set out on. She didn’t have any problem with moving somewhere new. She’d left her home in Ohio when she was twenty-four and spent three years in New York at school, after all. Then she’d moved back home to take care of her sick mother who’d passed away the year before.
Hannah and her father had been estranged since he and her mother had divorced when Hannah was seventeen. Divorce was rare, but Hannah felt it was the best thing her parents could have done since they constantly fought. After the split, he didn’t want to be bothered with his daughter. They had never been close and his absence was more of a relief to Hannah than a loss. However, her mother’s passing had been very hard on her since they’d shared a loving relationship.
Hannah had become lonely without her mother. She had some friends, but no one exceptionally close to her. Hannah wanted to make a strong connection with someone and Clive seemed like the perfect man for her.
It had started raining by the time the coach pulled in to Dawson. Beth, the driver fetched her bags while she urged Hannah to go inside the depot so she didn’t get soaked. Beth was better dressed for the fickle Montana weather at that time of year and wouldn’t get too wet.
Hannah looked out the windows of the depot at the town beyond. She was looking for Clive, but didn’t see him yet. He said he’d be driving a small wagon with a gray horse. Then she began perusing the sights. She looked for the hospital, but didn’t see a building fitting that description.
It must be in a different part of town
, she thought.
A wagon pulled up fitting Clive’s description and she went outside. She waved at the man and he waved back with a smile. He was an average looking man with pleasant features, Hannah noted. He got down and came to shake her hand.
“Well, look at you Miss Fairbanks,” he said. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you in person. My but you’re a pretty thing.”
Hannah blushed. “I’m happy to be here, Clive. Please call me Hannah.”
“All right, Hannah. Let’s get you out of this weather. Let me help you up here and I’ll grab your bags,” Clive said.
Once Hannah was situated on the wagon seat, Clive ran inside the depot and returned with her suitcases. They chatted amiably on the way to his house and Hannah had a very positive feeling about coming to Dawson.
Two hours later that positive feeling had turned to a feeling of horror and disappointment. Clive had lied to her at every turn. There was no hospital and his house was in disrepair because he started a project but never finished it. He had made it clear that he expected her to cook, clean, and take care of his every need. Hannah was shocked by the change in his demeanor when they’d reached his residence.
Hannah hadn’t stood for it very long and picked up her suitcases and began walking. Clive had tried to get her to come back, but she kept going after telling him that if he came after her, she’d have him arrested. As she came into the town, she looked around for somewhere to go. As she passed a building, she read Sheriff’s Office on the front of it. She dragged her suitcases in the door and let them fall to the floor.
A young deputy sat behind a desk. He rose from his seat when he saw her.
“Hello, miss. Can I help you?” he asked kindly.
“I’m not sure where to go,” Hannah said. She was miserable from the shocking disappointment she’d just suffered and tired from walking several miles through the mud and stormy weather.
Jack Samuels guided her over to a chair. “Here, sit down here and tell me what happened. Are you hurt anywhere?” he asked as he looked over her bedraggled appearance.
“No. Just my ego,” Hannah said as she fought tears. “I came as a mail-order-bride to Dawson, but the man I was to meet lied to me at every turn.”
Jack sat down with her. “Dang, that’s awful. I’m so sorry. Who’s the guy?”
Hannah looked into his blue eyes and said, “Clive Laramie. Do you know him?”
“I’ve heard the name, but I can’t say that I’ve ever met him,” Jack said. He was worried about her catching a cold because her clothes were soaking wet. “You need to change. Um, we have an area in the back where you could put on some dry clothes. While you’re doing that, I’ll make some coffee, ok?”
His kindness was touching and Hannah had to blink back tears. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Jack put a comforting hand on her shoulder and said, “Go get changed and once you get something warm into you, we’ll figure something out.”
Hannah nodded. “Yes. That’s a good idea.”
As she followed Jack back to a small washroom, her shoes made sucking noises and deposited water on the floor.
“I’m so sorry to mess up your floor,” she said.
Jack smiled. “Don’t worry about it. It needs scrubbed anyway. All this rain keeps things muddy. Here you go.”
Hannah changed but didn’t know what to do with her wet things.
“Deputy, I was wondering where I should put my wet clothing?” she asked as she came out to the front again.
“You can just call me Jack. I’m sorry I didn’t introduce myself. Jack Samuels,” he said.
“I’m Hannah Fairbanks,” she said with a small smile.
“Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” Jack said. “I’ll take care of your stuff for you. Have a seat.”
Hannah took the chair he offered and sighed. It felt so good to get off her feet. She wore simple slippers since her other shoes were so wet. She could now feel blisters burning on the backs of her heels. The slippers were rubbing over them, so she took them off and sat barefooted. Jack poured coffee into a cup for her and set a bowl of chicken soup in front of her.
She gave Jack a surprised look. “It looks delicious. I’ve never known a sheriff’s office to serve food.”
Jack smiled. “You just haven’t been to the right sheriff’s office. You want cream?”
“Yes, please,” Hannah said and took a spoonful of soup. It was rich and the chicken was very tender. It was hot and tasted like heaven to her. Jack put some cream in her coffee and stirred it for her.
As he turned around, Hannah noticed that there was a small cook stove in the corner. “Do you cook?” she asked.
Jack laughed. “Well, that soup didn’t cook itself.”
Hannah chuckled. “You got me on that one.”
“You work on that while I deal with your clothes,” Jack said.
Hannah watched him walk away and thought him to be an unusual young man. Not many men his age cooked and didn’t mind handling ladies’ clothing. His mother must be an exceptional woman, she thought.
Jack took her clothes out the back door and wrung them out well. There were pegs for coats and such near the door and he hung them there to dry. When he went out front again, he saw that Hannah had cleaned up her bowl of soup.
“You want more? I got plenty,” Jack said.
Hannah didn’t want to appear greedy, but said, “Yes. I would love some more.”
Jack took her bowl and filled it again. “You clean that up and I’ll give you some peach cobbler my Mama made.”
“That sounds delicious,” she said as she began eating again.
Jack sat down at the table with her again. “So tell me what happened exactly.”
In between each spoonful of soup, Hannah related her experience to Jack. She started with the ad in the paper and went from there. When she was finished with both the soup and her story, Jack made good on his offer of peach cobbler and gave her a generous portion of it.
“Oh boy,” she said. “I’m not sure I can eat it all.”
Jack shrugged. “No problem. Whatever you don’t want I’ll eat. I’m always hungry.”
Hannah smiled. “All right.” She put a bite in her mouth and closed her eyes as the sweet flavor filled her mouth. “Mmm.”