As a writer I find myself falling in love with some of my books every time I look at the cover or remember it. Falling For the Bride, is one of those books. This book is on pre-order at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/622414
Due out the end of August
Here's an excerpt:
"Don't worry about it, Joe, I got her…" came a slow drawl from just behind her. Priscilla whirled on her heels and stared into the eyes of a tall stranger, dark blue eyes that twinkled like diamonds.
Eyes shaded by long lashes that took her all in with one swoop.
It was the way he stopped at different points of interest that had her blushing despite herself. No one had ever regarded her like a side of beef in a butcher shop before.
She stared at his slicker as though she couldn't believe a man would wear such a thing on a hot day like this. "And you are?" She turned her nose up at the man for being so presumptuous.
"Quinten Hadley ma'am. But you can call me Quint. You are headed for the Bar 7 ranch?" the handsome stranger asked.
Handsome in a strange way, his light brown hair was way past his shoulders, but it shone in the noonday sun, as though he kept it very clean. She'd never seen pretty hair on a man before. She somehow had the wrong picture of a typical cowboy. She thought most would wear sweaty, clothes, with worn out hats and tobacco oozing down his chin. Not so this one.
Unaccustomed to a man with such dangerously good looks, she squinted from the sun once more. "Yes, do you work for Nigel?" she wrinkled her nose as her eyes traveled him with vague interest .Even his clothes were clean, and surprisingly, he didn't reek. Well dressed for a ranch hand, but then what did she know of ranch hands. At least he appeared clean. Perhaps Nigel insisted on cleanliness when picking her up. That stood to reason.
"Nigel?" the stranger's nose wrinkled too now.
"Oh, I mean Jeffrey Banks?" Her cheeks colored against the sun. "He told me to call him Nigel. But I'm told he goes by Jeffrey out here."
"Out here?" The stranger questioned his brow arching.
"In the west."
The man nodded dully, his mouth hanging open in a gape. "The west. Excuse me ma'am. Where you from?" He asked reaching for her bags.
"Philadelphia, of course."
"Really…" he shook his head. "I'd have never guessed."
"Are you making fun of me, sir?" She asked, her voice conveying her displeasure.
"Nope!" he drawled effectively. "Wouldn't dare."
"Quinten is an unusual name. I've never heard it before."
"Yes ma'am, my mother was right fond of it. She read it in some book."
She looked at him and smiled.
"What's the smile for, ma'am." He asked out curiosity.
"You mother liked to read?"
Again his mouth hung open.
"Is that so astounding? We might have been poor but we weren't raised ignorant."
"Oh, you read too?"
"When I get the chance…" He drawled slowly.
When she stared but didn't say anything he leaned on one hip. "I'll take you there," he rasped with a hint of humor to his mouth.
He cast her a quick appraisal and tied his horse to a buggy on the side of the building. She noticed he was wearing a gun. Nigel told her that most men wore guns on their hips out here. It was fascinating. She was riding with a real cowboy.
"Thank you, I'd appreciate that," She said staunchly.
When he saw all her luggage he frowned, but quietly tied it to the back of the buggy. Once it was secure he joined her.
The buggy brought them close and gave her the opportunity of observing him easier. She barely got a whiff of the lye soap he used. His eyes were wide spread, tapering, such a dark blue and quite piercing. In a rugged sort of way he was quite handsome, but not at all her type she reminded herself. But despite that, she was intrigued by this individual.
"You're dressed for rain?" She quipped with her nose in the air.
"Yes ma'am, I expect somewhat of a gully-washer."
"But…there isn't a cloud in the sky…" She glanced at the sky and then him.
"Nope…but it will rain." He assured her. "Do you have a parasol?"
"Yes…of course, but…it's ridiculous, there isn't a cloud in the sky. And the last I heard there had to be clouds to rain, sir."
He eyed her now. His indifference as loud as her arrogance.
She shrugged and turned to dig it out of her bag which was tied to the back of the buggy. It would shade her some, and she wasn't used to the sun bearing down so hard.
She struggled in a comical way to reach the parasol that was tied to one of her bags. She put her knees on the seat of the buggy and completely turned around, also turning her rump to his view.
And he did look with interest.
When she saw him staring, she straightened herself and sat down.
"Did you grow up with 'Nigel'?" He asked after a bit of silence.
"Uh…no." She adjusted her hat, then decided with the wind blowing she'd take it off. She unpinned it and set it in her lap.
"You just visiting or what?" Quint asked.
She looked rather put out with him, as though he should have guessed why she was here. "I'm to marry Nigel, next month…" she said, then glanced at the man. "Didn't he mention it? I'm what is considered a mail-order-bride."
Now his mouth really was hanging open.
"Uh…no, he didn't. But it's not like him to speak much to the hired help." Quint quipped.
"I suppose that is true."
"So you are marrying Jeff Banks." He repeated as though going over that information in his head.
He shot her a quick glance. "Why?"
"Why what?" She shook her head in question.
"Why you marrying him?"
Taken aback, Priscilla frowned at the man. "Well why does anyone marry, sir?"
"That's something I have asked myself a lot." Quint almost chuckled until he saw the look on her face.
"He put an ad in the paper for a proper lady, of breeding, to marry. My father answered the ad…"
"You can do that, put an ad in the paper…for a bride?"
"Yes of course, it's quite proper. Especially out here in the west where women are not as plentiful."
"Oh I don't doubt that ma'am. But seems like a strange way of doing things."
"What's so strange about it?" She snapped.
"Well ma'am, you don't know nothing about him and you are going to marry him. That's strange to me."
"It's done all the time?" She insisted.
"And you are gonna marry him?" He sounded incredulous.
"Mr. Hadley is it? This is none of your concern. Yes, I'm going to marry him. That's what I'm here for."
"Your right, it's not my business." He nodded and whipped the reins harder. "Just makin' conversation, ma'am. But I can't help but find it a might peculiar. I mean, what if you don't like him? What if you marry him and you don't like him?"
She grabbed the side of the buggy as he sped up and her hat nearly blew away.
The silence was almost unbearable and Priscilla thought if she talked maybe he'd slow down.
"Have you worked for Nigel long?"
He hadn't slowed a bit.
"Must we go so fast?"
"You're not in a hurry to get there?" He challenged shooting her a raised eyebrow.
"I'd rather have a pleasant journey…" she said and fell backwards a bit as he whipped the horses again. "It was a long train ride and I had to change trains three times to get here. I suppose I'm a little snappish."
Suddenly he slowed. "So…what's your name?"
"Priscilla Brewster…" she blurted out.
"I'll call you Cilla then." He smiled at her for the first time. She stared at him strangely.
"N-no…of course not."
After a while, she glanced about and asked. "So how much further?"
"We'll be there by nightfall. You ever been to his place?"
"No, I haven't…"
He nodded as though calculating something in his head.
"You ever been out west?"
"No, I haven't."
"Aside from the heat, what do you think of it?" He asked offhandedly.
"Of the west?"
"Oh…well, aside from the heat, it is quite different. More spacious. Not many people it doesn't seem. I mean, back home people are walking about the city, here there doesn't seem to be as many people about. Why is that?"
"Too hot for one thing. And most people don't get to town but once a week, on Saturday." He replied. "On Saturday's the town is full, you'll see."
She looked at him, "Really?"
"Really." he replied.
"Know how to ride a horse?" He asked out of the blue.
She glanced at him now and leaned back in the seat, "Despite that I am a lady from Philadelphia, this might surprise you, but yes, I do know how to ride. I'm quite good at it too."
"Is that a fact." He nodded and glanced at her out of the corner of his eye.
Was he mocking her?
"Yes it is." She challenged him.
"Can you cook?"
"Cook?" she asked wondering where this conversation might lead.
"Yeah, you know, a meal."
"Some…" she frowned. "I've been doing quite a bit the last few months as we've had many guests. I've had to help the cooks out.
"Yes, the cooks in the kitchen." She explained.
"I'll bet you had maids and cooks and stuff back home, didn't you?"
"Well yes, we did, but, I know a few things."
"Uh-huh, I bet you do."
"You don't believe me? I can tell you don't believe a word I’m saying." She frowned at him, a little startled that he would contest her statement.
He shrugged. "It doesn't matter to me. And it certainly shouldn't matter to you, if I do or not."
"Then why ask?" She seemed really flustered.
"Just talkin'. Talkin' is easier than not. Makes the time go faster, and you learn things about people by talkin' to them."
"Can you cook?" She challenged.
"Over a campfire pretty fair, but in a kitchen all I can do is light the stove."
"You are quite the character, aren't you?" She chuckled aloud this time some of the tension flowing out of her with that chuckle.
"Am I?" He glanced at her with a smile.
Sure enough a big droplet of water splashed right on her nose.
He glanced at her and shook his head, "Better use that parasol ma'am. And there's a blanket down under the seat there for you." He offered.
"Thank you…" She looked perplexed. "I don't understand it. The sky was clear moments ago."
"Well, I guess I better warn you now, the weather is one thing you can't count on here in Texas. It can change in a minute. Better grab that blanket ma'am." He said as the rain and wind picked up. "Even the almanac can't get it right all the time."
It was miserable for a few minutes coming in a sheet of rain, fast and hard, and then it stopped altogether, as if it hadn't been there.
"I've never seen weather so unpredictable in my life," she exclaimed, letting the parasol drip dry.
"That's Texas weather ma'am and it does tend to change quickly. You might remember that."
She nodded curtly. "I guess you are right. I'm sorry I misjudged you."
"That's alright, lots of folks do."
The sun was setting and the air began to chill just a bit. She shivered. "It was hot when we left."
He stopped, took off his rain slicker and handed it to her. "It'll take the chill off."
But when they pulled into a wide area, with a widespread ranch in front of her, she gasped. "My God, it's unbelievable. This place is magnificent. Just look at that porch, and what kind of wood is that, cedar?"
"Yes ma'am. I guess it is a little crude from what you are used to." He remarked helping her down from the buggy.
She shook her head, "It's beautiful. Rustic, but beautiful."
"Ma'am?" He stared at her as he practically held her in mid-air.
She wasn't looking at him and he set her down gently.
"Look at that porch. It's lovely….and the view of the valley too. I never expected anything so warm and inviting from Nigel." She remarked. "Perhaps I figured him all wrong too. I pictured him in a two story Victorian kind of home. But this is really lovely. So charming and welcoming. I'm going to love it here."
He took her arm and escorted her inside but all the while he was staring at her as though he couldn't believe her.
Fumbling for a lamp, he lit it and the room became a soft glow.
The room was large and welcoming with a rocked in fireplace, and a huge bear rug in front of it. Books lined one wall, a rocking chair looked inviting, a sofa faced the fireplace, upholstered in fine leather, and a big hound dog came up to her sniffing. He howled for a just a second and she laughed.
She bent down and it licked her in the face. She chuckled.
Taken aback, Quint studied her silently for a moment. "Scout, stop that."
The dog licked her one more time and walked off.
"He's beautiful." She remarked standing up once more.
"You like dogs?"
"Yes, I do, very much. I get along well with animals." She smiled and whirled around." I can't believe I'm finally here. and I can't believe this place will be mine. I'm thrilled."
He stammered a minute. "Yeah, well, let's sit down and talk about that a little bit…"
"About what, where is Nigel? I'd like to see him if you don't mind." She looked a little puzzled by his lack of movement.
"Have you ever seen him?"
"Nigel, no…I guess that's why I'm so anxious."
"Look the truth is, he's not here…"
"I can see that, but where is he?" She questioned.
"I'm sure he's at home…"
"At home! But…" She whirled around and suddenly an Indian woman faced her, with long black braids, and a big knife in her hand. She gasped, and caught her chest, but she didn't scream as Quint expected.
"Want supper…?" The Indian woman asked.
"Yeah, got anything Dancing Tree?"
"Hmm…yes, beans and cornbread.
"That'll do…" Quint told her.
Priscilla stared at the Indian woman, her eyes wide with expectations.
"Don't worry she's friendly. She's a Cherokee."
"She speaks English."
"Sure most of them do."
"I had no idea. There are very few Indians in Philadelphia, either that or I just never ran into them there."
By now Priscilla was staring at him for answers.
"Nigel is at home. But…who's home is this?" She quipped.
"Mine!" He said matter-of-factly.
That took a full minute to sink in.
"Yours? I somehow imagine you'd be living in a bunkhouse, isn't that what they are called?"
"That's what they call them, but I don't work for Nigel. Never did. Sorry I misled you on that."
"Mis-misled me." she gasped. "I wouldn't call that misleading, I'd call it lying." Her voice took on a temper. "Can't we go on to see Nigel tonight?" She asked, a strange feeling assailing her suddenly.
"I don't understand." She began sinking onto the sofa.
"Sit down, I'll get us some coffee. We need to talk a bit." He said.
"I don't want to sit down, I want to know why you brought me here in the first place. "The warmth from her voice had faded, replaced by what sounded curiously like hysteria building.
"I don't work for Nigel…." He smiled simply.
"It's simple. I'm kidnapping you." He told her and walked off toward what she thought might be the kitchen.
"Kidnapping!" She shouted. "But you can't do that…" she protested trying to follow him.
She whirled around the place, realizing things were not as they seemed any longer.
He came back a few minutes later. "Have you calmed down yet?"
"Calmed down? No, I want to go to Nigel's."
"Sorry, can't do that."
"You're holding me for ransom?" She gasped.
"In a way, I guess you could say that." He smiled.
"My God, and I trusted you." She twisted on the sofa to look at him.
"That was your first mistake." He smiled again.
Despite the fact that she should have been scared out of her mind, something instinctively told her that he wasn't going to hurt her. But what did he want?
"I don't understand what is going on."
"Of course you don't. You just walked right into this mess. And you blindly thought I was a hand and going to take you to Nigel…" The way he said his name had her frowning. "You didn't ask, you assumed. Big mistake. When you are a stranger, you don't assume anything."
"You say his name as though you don't like him."
"Now that's the truth of the matter right there. I don't like him. And he don't like me."
"Doesn't." She corrected.
He nodded, "Doesn't."
"You want to explain yourself?" She asked staring as he handed her a cup of steaming hot coffee.
She held it and stared into the hot liquid. "What…do you intend doing with me?" She swallowed hard, but raised her head proudly.
"Not a thing. I got one rule, don't run off, don't try to run off, and I won't do a thing to you."
She stared at him now, realizing for the first time that he was undeniably attractive. She hadn't meant to find him attractive. She hadn't meant to even look at him like that, but he was the kind of man that grew on a person, without their knowledge.
"Are you going to tie me up?" She asked.
"No ma'am, not unless you force me to. You got the run of my place, as long as you don't try to leave. You can eat, sleep and do the things a woman usually does. But you can't leave. And I certainly won't harm a hair on your head."
"What are you planning on getting out of this?"
He sighed heavily, and cast her a strange glance. He opened his mouth to say something but closed it. Then he took a deep breath and told her. "It took my brother and me ten years to make this place what it is. We built every building, fenced every cow. And Nigel wants it. He's got papers from a court, saying the place is his now. I want it back. That's all…I want it back. This is my home, I built it with my own hands."
"How could he do that? I mean…legally."
Quint sat down beside her now, making her back-up a bit on the sofa. "My brother Jess, was a gambler, Nigel was in the game. He'd been winning all night. My brother got this hand, it was a good hand, a winning hand, and he bet the place against the money in the pot that he'd win. He lost. He was drinking, upset of course, and he drew on Nigel. Nigel killed him. Now, I can't bring my brother back, but I can get my place back, and that's what I'm going to do, with you. All I want is the deed free and clear like he got it."
Her mouth opened but nothing came out.
"Nigel killed your brother?" She gasped. Her eyes seemed to take in her surroundings with renewed interest.
"That's right, in a gunfight, in a saloon. But before his death he bet the ranch away. Nigel had the winning hand. I fought him off of here for the longest. Then he got a court order, saying I had to vacate, well…ma'am, I'm not vacating. This place is mine, and I won't leave it. They can bury me on it, but I won't leave. Now do you understand?" He asked his eyes sparkling into hers.
"But I'm not part of this?" She argued.
"No ma'am, you weren't. But you are now. You are going to get my place back for me. If he thinks anything of you, he'll hand over the deed."
"It won't hold up in court!"
"Maybe not! Maybe it won't. But before I let him have this place, or you, I'll marry you myself, and tear the place down, board by board. "
"Marry me!" she shook her head. "You can't do that…"
"Watch me." He threatened and walked away. "What difference does it make who you marry. You're a mail-order bride, you never even seen Nigel."
She sat there staring into the empty fireplace and shaking her head. How could this happen? How could she come west, risk everything to marry Nigel and get caught up in a simple land war?
Question was, would Nigel hand over the deed to get her back?
Questions began dancing in her head. Would Nigel take care of this? Would he rescue her? It seemed simple, all Nigel had to do was turn the land back over to this…man!
She sipped her coffee and sat there for what seemed like hours, and then she laid her head back against the sofa and fell asleep. She hadn't been sleepy but it was a welcome void now.
When Quint returned to carry her up the stairs she was barely awake. "I must have fallen asleep. I was so tired from the train ride, and the buggy ride here…" she said sleepily as she held on to his neck.
He glanced down at her, and stared into her eyes. He threw open a door with one hand and kicked it closed with his boot heel.
"Until this is over, this is your room, do what you want, except you can't leave this place." He reiterated. "That's all I ask."
As he put her down his eyes latched onto hers, and he looked almost as though he might be sorry for putting her through this. He started to walk off, but in all fairness she didn't deserve this. "Look, I'm sorry for you, but this is how it will be. And you have my word I won't hurt you. I realize you are innocent of this."
She nodded dully. But as he was about to leave, she put her hand on his arm. "Nigel will give you the land back, I'll see to it. But…please, let me go."
"I'd like to believe that, but I can't. I've sent a note about you, he'll know by morning." He said.
"Surely he's a fair man.…" she began.
"You should have found out about him a lot sooner ma'am. Goodnight Cilla…" he said softly and left.