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Authors: Zoe Matthews

Westward Skies

BOOK: Westward Skies
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WESTWARD SKIES

 

(Orphan Train Romance Series, Book 7)

 

 

 

Written by Zoe Matthews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner and publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction.  All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.

 

_________________________________________

Orphan Train Romance Book Series

By Zoe Matthews

 

These are multiple western romance series about a group of orphans who live in a New York orphanage.  They are given an opportunity to travel on an Orphan Train to a small town in Texas to be placed with families so they can have a new life.  Some books are about the parents that adopt them, and some are about the orphans themselves. 

 

An Unexpected Family, Book 1

 

The Promise of a Family, Book 2

 

Big Spring Ranch:  Anna, Book 3

 

Big Spring Ranch:  Serena, Book 4

 

Big Spring Ranch:  Katrina, Book 5

 

Orphan Train Romance Series, Books 1 through 5

Westward Promises, Book 6

 

Westward Skies, Book 7

 

 

The Sorcerer’s of Xoralia Series

By Zoe Matthews

 

These are a fantasy novella series, a series that follows a young Irish girl, Kiara, and her newly chosen life with a kind and handsome sorcerer, along with her family and friends as they try to save her village from an evil sorcerer.  Along the way she learns about her gifts and powers she was born with and she also learns who she was born to become.

 

 

The Call, Book 1

 

The Castle, Book 2

 

The World Within A World, Book 3

 

The Eternals, Book 4

 

The Battle:  Book 5

 

The Sorcerers of Xoralia, Books 1 through 5

 

 

 

Majestic Mountain Ranch Romance Series

 

Introducing a six-part western romance series about six siblings who work together to turn their family cattle ranch deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado into a dude ranch. They are each given a job to do, and along the way, they each find love and romance.

 

Colorado Dreams, Book 1

 

Colorado Secrets, Book 2

 

 

This is the seventh book of the Orphan Train Romance Series. 

If you would like to read the rest of the series, please go to

www.zoematthewsromances.com

for more information and to sign up for a free book.

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Lizzie felt very excited and very nervous.  In about fifteen minutes, she would be welcoming her first group of students to the Pine Valley School.  This would be her first time teaching after earning her certificate and she hoped she would be able to be a good teacher to the children who would be coming.  Pine Valley was a small rural school, so she should only have about twenty children between the ages of six and fourteen.  Any children who wanted to further their education went to a high school in a city nearby.

 

She stood in the doorway of the small red schoolhouse and watched as a few children started to arrive.  Some of them walked from the nearby houses in town and some of them rode their own horse.  The grass that was growing around the schoolhouse had been cut down and as the children arrived, they all started to play.  Most of the children knew each other and they all seemed happy to be back with their friends, after summer vacation.

 

Lizzie watched as another horse trotted into the school yard.  It was a man who had a child riding behind him. The man stopped the horse close to the school stairs and waited as the child swung himself to the ground.  He wore overalls and a plaid shirt.  He had on a cowboy hat that was a little bit too big for him.  The boy needed a haircut and had a mess of dark brown curls that only a girl would covet.  

 

Lizzie expected the boy’s father to leave as soon as the child landed on the ground, but he hesitated and watched his child run and join a group of boys nearby that were throwing a red ball to each other.  He then turned his eyes to look at her, and she quickly walked down the stairs to introduce herself.

 

“Hello, I’m Miss Elizabeth Carter, the new school teacher.”  She held out her hand for him to shake when he got off his horse. 

 

He took her offered hand in a well-callused grasp.  “Austin Perry.”

 

She instantly felt a tingle when her hand touched his which puzzled her.  She removed her hand from his and wiped it on her skirt.  “It’s nice to meet you and your…” she waved her hand at his child who had caught the ball and threw it to the next boy.

 

“That’s Jess.”

 

“How old is Jess?” she asked.

 

“Nine.”

 

Lizzie watched as Mr. Perry looked at his son with concern very evident on his face.  She studied him as he watched Jess jump up high in the air and catch the ball again and he smiled with pride.  He was a handsome man who also needed a haircut, although he didn’t have the curls Jess had.  He did have the same color of hair.  He looked back at Lizzie with the same challenge in his eyes that the group of men had given her when she interviewed for this job a few weeks ago.  She lifted her chin and met his gaze without blinking, letting him know that she wouldn’t allow him to intimidate her.

 

“Jess sometimes needs… what I mean is…” He took a deep breath and rubbed his hand over his eyes.  “Jess’s mother is dead.”

 

Lizzie’s heart swelled with sympathy.  She could tell that he greatly cared for his child.  She wanted to tell him how much she admired him. “Please know that I will treat Jess well here.”  It was important to her that all the children received all the help they might need from her.

 

Mr. Perry touched his hand to his hat and swung on his horse.  “Good to know.  I’ll be by to pick up Jess when school is over.” 

 

Lizzie watched as he urged his horse into a gallop as he left the school yard.  She briefly wondered how far away Jess lived from the schoolhouse, but then put it out of her mind and looked at the boys playing.  Did Jess know how lucky he was that he had a father that cared about him?  But then he was a boy, not a girl.  She guessed maybe it was different for a widowed father to raise a motherless boy rather than a motherless girl.

 

Lizzie shook her head to clear her thoughts from her past and walked up the steps to ring the school bell.  It was just a small hand-held bell, but it rang loud and clear, and very quickly all the children ran to the doorway.

 

“Please line up in two lines, girls on one side and boys on the other,” she requested them and soon there was a line of twelve boys and eight girls.  As she counted noses, she noticed that Jess had lined up with the girls. 

 

“Jess, the boys are over here.”  Some of the children giggled and Jess gave her a hurt look.

 

One of the girls standing near her tugged on her skirt. When Lizzie bent down to her, she whispered, “Jess is a girl. She dresses like a boy because her pa doesn’t know how to raise a girl.  Her name is Jessica Perry.”

 

Lizzie was shocked that she had mistaken Jess as a boy, although as she looked at her, she realized that she did look like one, with her overalls, plaid shirt and cowboy hat.  She could feel the anger that started to spring up in her chest and she had to force it back down. Now wasn’t the time to deal with her past, but she knew what it felt like to have your father wish you were a boy.  How ironic something would happen that would remind her of her past in Pine Valley of all places. 

 

“Jessica, you have a beautiful name.  I am sorry for my mistake.”  Jessica scowled at Lizzie as she ducked her head so Lizzie had a hard time seeing her face under the large cowboy hat.  She carefully removed the hat and tilted the child’s head so she could look in her eyes.  With the cowboy hat gone, the black curls fell down to the middle of her back.  “You have beautiful hair.”

 

Jessica’s scowl turned to a smile and Lizzie could tell that she had said the right thing.  That smile went straight to her heart.  In just this short period of time, she knew she had made the right decision to move to Pine Valley, even though she missed her younger sister, Debbie, desperately.  They had been placed in a home in Maple Grove, Texas after traveling on an orphan train when she was ten years old.  Two spinsters who owned and operated a boarding house had taken them both in.  Miss Sarah and Miss Sally had been good to them and had given them many opportunities that they wouldn’t have had if she and Deborah had stayed in the orphanage their father had dropped them off at in New York. 

 

She had loved the teacher who taught in Maple Grove, and when she was twelve years old, she had made up her mind to be a teacher just like Miss Martin.  “The Sisters,” (that’s what she and Debbie had called Miss Sarah and Miss Sally) had wanted Lizzie and Debbie to take over the boarding house since Miss Sarah and Miss Sally were both in their sixties now and wanted to retire.  Lizzie wasn’t interested.  She wanted to be a teacher and “The Sisters” finally agreed and allowed her to get her certificate.  She wanted to be a dedicated teacher to rural children and help them find ways to challenge themselves and follow their dreams.  She wanted to provide encouragement and help to any child that needed it. 

 

Debbie and she were good friends with Hannah Atkins, another girl who had lived with them in the New York orphanage.  She had been taken in by the town doctor.  Hannah eventually came to Pine Valley to marry Chase as a mail-order bride.  She was very happy living in Pine Valley with her new husband and was expecting her first child.  Last spring, she had written Lizzie, informing her that the town school teacher had decided to take another position in a larger city and so there was an opening in their school.  Lizzie had immediately applied. 

 

When the schoolboard had received her application, they asked if she would be willing to come and be interviewed.  Lizzie had immediately agreed.  Hannah had written her and told her that she most likely would be hired. She had talked to the schoolboard herself about Lizzie.  She offered to have Lizzie live with them for the school year.  Her husband, Chase, had added on a few new bedrooms to their home in hopes of having a large family.  Lizzie immediately accepted.  She had left Maple Grove a few weeks ago and had been hired soon after her interview with the school board. 

 

She missed Debbie very much, but she knew they could keep in touch through letters and she hoped that Debbie might want to come and visit next summer.

 

Right now, it looked like she found the first child who needed her, Jessica Perry.  Just like Miss Martin had reached out to her and helped her discover what her dreams were, she could do the same for Jessica. 

 

Lizzie welcomed all the children and instructed them to go inside the building.  She helped them each choose a desk according to their age and grade, with the younger children in the front and older children in the back.  She spent the morning meeting with each child to determine where he or she was academically.  After she dismissed her class for the hour lunch break, she called one of the older students aside. 

 

“Helen, could you give some of these hair ribbons to Jessica?  Maybe she will let you brush out her hair and tie it back with the ribbons.  You could also give out the rest of the ribbons to the other girls, if they would like some.”  She handed the girl a handful of brightly colored ribbons and a hair brush.  Helen nodded, looking pleased that Lizzie had asked her for her help. 

 

Lizzie was glad she had thought to stop off at the general store to pick up some last minute supplies for the school the day before.  The store owner had been having a sale on ribbons and notions for sewing and Lizzie couldn’t resist purchasing some of the ribbon.  She had forgotten to take the ribbon home after dropping off the school supplies she had purchased, and now she was glad she had. 

 

At the end of the lunch break, all the small girls had braids in their hair, including Jessica Perry.  Helen had enlisted her best friend to help.  At the end of the day, Jessica hung back and waited until all the other students had left before approaching her. 

 

“Thank you for the ribbons, Miss Carter.”  The girl had removed them from her hair and held them out. 

 

“I don’t need them.  You can keep them,” Lizzie said as she reached out and smoothed Jessica’s hair with her hand.

 

Jessica’s face broke out in a large smile.  “Thanks, Miss Carter.” She grabbed her books and ran out the door.

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