"You traveling far hon?" the old woman stared at her across the aisle of the train, twisting her handkerchief in her lace gloved hands. The woman wore a dark navy dress with white lace trim around the squared neckline, and a matching hat, with a feather in it. She had a very sweet round face, and her accent was quite southern.
"To Ft. Worth, yes." Trudy O'Toole glanced at the woman and her quick smile. With a graceful toss of her long, dark hair, she eyed the woman with precision.
"Sounds exciting. I'm going to have to visit Texas one day, I'm afraid I've only stopped here in Wichita Falls a time or two and never long enough to enjoy looking around." The woman continued to watch her, her glance sliding slowly over Trudy's beautiful blue laced dress and down to her shoes. "Pardon me for staring, but that dress is so lovely, you look as though you are getting married or something."
Trudy looked at her dress, fingering the softness of it. "I guess it is a little much, isn't it? It's just I wanted to make a proper impression on my new boss."
"You're going to work?" the lady seemed interested, and amused.
"Yes, I'm going to be a cook." She answered with her confidence soaring momentarily.
"Really, well, you'll certainly make an impression in that dress, I can tell you. Cooks don't usually dress that well, at least not out here. Where you from honey?"
"St. Louis. It's too much isn't it?" Trudy suddenly frowned and let a soft sigh escape her lips. "I was afraid of that. It's just I didn't want to go looking like some orphan." She seemed suddenly bent on telling this woman everything. She had a sinking sensation she'd done everything wrong.
Seeing the frustration on Trudy's face, the old woman rushed to say, "Oh now honey, don't get me wrong hon, it's lovely as can be. But in that, someone liable to snatch you up to marry." She chuckled.
"I saw it in a window in St. Louis and I thought it so beautiful. I'm going to work for a rather affluent rancher. Tell me truthfully, am I way over-dressed?"
The woman stared with a twinkle in her eyes, "Is he a bachelor?"
"Oh, I have no idea. All I did was apply by mail for the job, listing my abilities of course." She told her.
"And he hired you on the spot?" the woman turned her head in question.
"Yes… by mail of course."
"Did you happen to send him your picture?" she asked with instant curiosity.
"N-no, of course not. I just sent him an acceptance letter, is all." She told her.
"My such formality, you must come from a fine family."
Trudy inwardly grimaced, she wished she had of been, but it was the Mayor's daughter that told her how to apply for work by mail and the manners she must use in doing so. Trudy followed her advice to the letter.
The old woman smiled brightly now, her twinkling blue eyes shining at Trudy, "Well, he certainly won't be disappointed in you."
Minutes later the woman departed but she went to touch her arm, "Good luck, honey. And knock 'em dead!" The woman shook with enthusiasm and a beaming smile.
Trudy watched the older woman walk out of the passenger car and an elder man greeted her at the station.
She watched the woman kiss the man and her heart swelled. "And to you too!" Trudy smiled.
Still, she fumbled with the lace on her sleeve.
I'm overdressed, I knew it! She's right, but what can I do? My other clothes are so dull and plain. And on top of that, I'm so hot in this dress! What happened to the air?
In St. Louis, the weather was still mild and breezy, needing a shawl to keep warm. But the weather was quickly changing the further west they rode. It was stuffy in the passenger car and one man leaned to open a window. It did little good though as the air didn't seem to move, outside or in.
When she arrived at the Ft. Worth station, Trudy got her two bags, and headed out of the car. She wondered who would pick her up or if she'd have to rent a buggy to get to the ranch. Then it dawned on her that she was a week early, so she'd have to find her own transportation as he wouldn't be expecting her yet. Foolishly she hadn't asked for directions in her response, and her new boss hadn't said anything about it. But he had mentioned that the Rogers ranch was fifty miles west of Ft. Worth.
She supposed she'd figure that out for herself. It would be a long hot buggy ride, she was sure. She only hoped she had enough money left for a buggy ride.
Most of the car emptied before she got down the steps. She was shaking so bad her legs nearly collapsed. She didn't know if it was the weather or just being nervous about this job, but she didn't feel too well.
As she came out on the car's platform she looked out at the magnificent sky. A new place and a new beginning! Oh Pa, don't leave me now, I need your guidance!
But no sooner had she stepped off the train than a handsome man in a dark suit, with a big cowboy hat grabbed her by the elbow, whirled her into his arms and kissed her like there was no tomorrow. Stunned she reeled from the impact of his amorous kiss.
Agape, she waited for his explanation. After all it wasn't nice to slap someone you didn't know. Perhaps he just made a mistake.
"I'm sorry, but we'll be late for our wedding. That dress is beautiful. And your picture didn't do you justice. I thought you'd never get here."
He kept babbling, and she was so stunned from the kiss she couldn't stop him when he grabbed her elbow and practically drug her away.
"Wait, I think there's been a mistake—" she began, but he wasn't listening. He kept talking all the way to the church.
She barely had time to see the congregation standing and eyeing her closely. She barely registered the wedding march being played on some organ. Her quick glance around the inside of the church, she saw beautiful roses attached to the end of each pew. She saw and arch of roses near the preacher. Before she knew what hit her, she was standing under the arch and in front of the preacher. The man at her arm was smiling and saying, "I do". It was too late, he nudged her with his elbow softly. "Just repeat after me," he said with a soft sexy smile.
She hesitated, and he nodded and smiled. The preacher seemed to lean toward her to hear her. The congregation hushed for her answer. Everyone was waiting. This was a mistake, wasn't it? Suddenly the silence rang like a gong, the preacher looked distorted, and the man at her side smiled sexily at her.
She glanced at the congregation quickly and they all looked with anticipation.
The man at her side, urged her onward.
Time stood still, she opened her mouth to say something but obviously, it was the wrong thing as the man was smiling brightly at her.
How was she ever going to be able to explain this. She slowly muttered the words.
Where had her mind gone? Why had she repeated the words! Because I'm used to taking orders, that's why!
Embarrement flooded her.
Oh God, Pa, what have I done!
It was either that or she'd have to face the entire church and explain, embarrassing the man she just married.
Just married! Surely, I didn't agree to this! Did I?
He stared then the preacher pronounced them husband and wife.
It was so hot in the room. She felt dizzy.
Oh God, what was wrong with her. Had she really married this man? Had she really repeated his words. Why hadn't she thrown a fit, made a scene, something, instead of meekly repeating the words that made them man and wife?
How could she tell him he'd made a huge mistake, she wasn't his bride to be! The people crowded around them as they began making it through the crowd.
But with a church full of onlookers, and such a handsome man at her side, prodding her onward how could she stop the obvious wedding. And the way he kissed her, had her more than a little rattled. When he released her, his eyes were shining into hers.
Then it dawned on her that she'd said, 'I do', she'd really said it, and the people crowded around to congratulate them, none of which she knew, and suddenly the room spun, and she fainted against him.
It was a welcome void!
She was lying on some kind of bed when she woke up and he was sitting by her side. This handsome as sin, man sat holding her hand, and smiling at her as she came to. "You fainted, I guess I rushed you too much. I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm kind of new at the husband thing, but I'll get the hang of it soon."
She licked her lips, when it dawned on her what had happened. What could she say, she was married?
May the Saints slap her dead, she was married!
The man sitting by her side now was terribly handsome, with black hair that was full and thick and warm brown eyes, and a smile as big as Texas on his lips. She was instantly attracted. Who wouldn't be, he looked like one of those finely dressed manikins in the store windows?
But my God, I've lost my mind! Wake up girl, this isn't a fairytale, you are married to this handsome brute!
The man had more than his fair share of good looks, and as he stared down into her face, she saw concern. It began to sink in now, and pure terror had her standing and backing up. She had just married this man and she didn't even know his name.
"I guess you are anxious to get home now, aren't you?"
"Yes, I guess I am." She murmured dully.
"Well, we aren't going home yet. I've got us the best suite in the best hotel here in town. We'll have a wonderful dinner, and tomorrow we'll go to the rodeo and there will be a parade in town, and I'll show you the best of Ft. Worth, I promise. You've come a long way, and I want you to like your new home, in Texas."
She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. She didn't know how to correct this, and every moment she was silent seemed to intensify the situation. She had to tell him he'd made a mistake, but how?
Well hell's bells girl, say something!
But what could she say? How could she explain her own actions? Or inaction? This was a mess and one she wasn't sure she could get out of. But this man had her in a tizzy. He took control of her, and that usually wasn't an easy feat for any man.
It was just too embarrassing to believe. She didn't want to lose a job she had counted on having, but she was going to have to tell this man just how big a mistake this was and send him on his way.
"You're very quiet. I expected you to be a little shy, from your letters and all. But you'll warm up to me."
"I hate to tell you this, but there's been a huge mistake." She began.
"Aw, now, I know this is sudden, and I kind of took you by storm at the station, but the church was waiting. Your train was late, and I was beginning to panic. For a while there I thought maybe you'd changed your mind. I sure am glad you didn't. I know I rushed you inside the church but honey, the entire church had waited an hour on your train. And it was you that insisted we had to get married before we went to the ranch. Everything was waiting on us and I had to rush you. I hope you understand."
She started to tell him, but someone knocked on the door.
She didn't need interruptions, she needed to get out of here!
A man stood at the door, well dressed and young, "The preacher wants to lockup now, Mr. Rogers. I took both your bags over to the hotel, and everything is set. Is she alright now?"
"Yes, she just fainted. Thanks, Martin, for taking care of it for us. Martin, this is Priscilla!"
"Very pleased to finally meet you, ma'am." The young man said. "See ya later Lance."
Her mind went into thinking gear once more.
Her heart stopped.
Oh, no! Could it get any worse? This man was her new boss! How could that be? Not only had she married a man she didn't know, she married her boss! Now she'd done it, she'd be fired before the day was over! What a mess. She had no money for a round trip. She was flat broke after buying this dress.
She looked down at herself. No wonder, it does look like a wedding dress!
He turned around and smiled. "I can't get over how beautiful you are. You take my breath away. That picture you sent certainly doesn't do you justice."
"Mr. Rogers," she began.
"Honey, we're married, you can call me Lance, now."
Her face turned almost red, her face contorting. "Lance, I think we need to talk."
"It's too late to back out now, we're married. Maybe it's a good thing I did rush you, as you are so shy." He grinned.
But just as she was about to tell him what a mistake he made, the preacher came in and she and Lance were whisked out of the room.
Lance gave the preacher something and was telling him how much he appreciated whoever decorated the church. Things a bride should be thanking him for. This was so wrong, but when would he stop talking long enough for her to explain? And there were so many interruptions.
Face it, you’re a coward! Trudy O'Toole, you are afraid to tell him. Because the minute you tell him, you'll be fired, and he'll be mad! And all hell might break loose.
In Missouri, where she came from, they didn't do things this way. Not even in New York where she was born.
How could she have gotten herself into such a mess. And how could he have mistaken her for his fiancée? Didn't he know what she looked like?
She looked down at the lace dress, oh dear God, it was the dress.
This dress had caused it all! Why had she bought it? What possessed her to wear it? It looked very much like a wedding dress. At the time, it was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Why had she been such a fool to buy it? She'd spent most of the money she had for it. She only had enough money to buy her modest meals until reaching her destination. Now she was broke, married, and scared she'd lost her job. Still, she had only the right intentions. She wanted to present herself in a gracious manor.
And there was a plausible reason for that too. All her life she'd worn rags, as her family was dirt poor. She had two dresses to her name, one was a riding shirt and vest, with a skirt and the other was a plain cotton dress. Which would impress no one. Now she had a chance to look and act like a real lady and she'd picked a dress that was unreasonable. Totally unreasonable. She saw things clearly now, why had it taken her so long? Why had she given into this dress? How could she have been so stupid? Still it had caught her eye, and for the life of her she couldn't squash the impulse to buy it. She'd done without so long and that dress begged her attention.
Oh Pa, why did you go and die on me? Why did I have to have this dress?
Her father had died only two weeks ago, and she'd been in a hurry to find employment, as she couldn't pay the rent any longer. Her father being a drunk, he'd squandered his money most of his life. Trudy suddenly had to take care of herself. She needed some confidence, so she bought the dress thinking she'd make a good impression.
Well, she had, too good!
Would she have to go back to scrubbing floors? Her heart sank. Her head began to pound. Her mouth wasn't working either or she'd have already blurted out the mistake.
But how could he mistake her for his beloved sweetheart? It made no sense!
They were sitting in a restaurant an hour later having one of the best meals she'd ever had in her life, steak, shrimp, baked potatoes, fresh greens and homemade rolls. He opened a bottle of champagne and poured her a glass.
She tried to refuse it, but he insisted. She'd tell him after the meal, at least she'd wouldn't go hungry. She'd spent everything but the last two dollars of her money, and she'd done that by skimping on meals. Maybe that's why she fainted.
Her last two meals had been crackers and tea.
"It's our wedding night. It will relax you," he encouraged with a smile.
Oh God! She had to say something, and soon.
She almost choked when he said it.
"Lance," she tried to smile but fell short of it. I think you should know," she began. But another man in a nice fitting suit walked up to them and started talking to him. They must have known each other a while as they got into a heavy conversation about ranching problems. Suddenly he turned to her.
"I'm sorry sweetheart. This is my bride Pricilla Collins, I mean Pricilla Rogers now." He introduced her.
Again, her mouth opened, but the man was bowing and smiling, and the room was spinning again. She nodded, as they went on talking.
She sipped her champagne, a little too quickly too. She didn't drink, ever! Her father had been such a lush with the bottle and she swore she'd never drink. But she always said she'd never marry either, and here she was, married to a complete stranger. She sipped some more champagne. It bubbled at her nose and tasted delightful. It gave her kind of a heady feeling and a false sense of confidence.
When the man left Lance turned his attention back to her. "I'm sorry for the interruption. Well sweetheart, I hope you come to love Texas as much as Boston."
Oh, was he ever in for a shock!
"Lance, I really need to tell you something." She began.
Her head was spinning, but when he suddenly kissed her again, she lost all thought. His lips moved over hers with such sweetness, she couldn't do anything but respond. Woe, he was a good kisser. She forgot she wasn't the right lady. She forgot everything except the exquisite taste of his lips on hers. She forgot he was her boss too!
Heads turned and she blushed when he moved his head away from her.
"Don't worry, they'll know we are just married by that dress. You must be tired from your trip."
"Yes, I guess I am." She murmured, her eyes staring into his now. He had such warm brown eyes, and lips that knew how to please a woman, and a smile sexier than sin.
For just an insane moment, she wished it was all true, she wished she could be his wife
After paying the bill, he took her up to their room. It was a luxurious suite with every kind of amenity. The bedspread was a beautiful quilt done in a peachy color, and the lamp beside the table matched it. He closed and locked the door behind them, and she shook her head. Wasn't there something she needed to tell him? Her mind was a flutter. Oh God, she shouldn't have drunk the champagne. What was she going to tell him?
"You're not used to Champagne, are you?"
"No, I'm not. There was something I wanted to tell you, though. It was important."
"Why don't you get ready for bed, you can tell me later."
He turned her toward the powder room where a small valise with her things awaited her. She looked in the mirror. What was she going to tell him? It was something important, but she couldn't think straight. She was exhausted from her trip, and with a full tummy, she could use some sleep, and she certainly shouldn't have had that second glass of champagne, but she'd been so nervous, and she'd gulped it down instead of sipping it. He'd told her to sip it. She ignored his good advice and gulped it down, thinking she'd find the courage to tell him with a drink.
In fact, the only thing she could think about was how good a kisser he was. She swooned and slumped against the door. Oh, how he could kiss. Her lips still felt the tingle of the sweet massage.
Putting on her cotton gown, and twirling the ends of her long dark hair, she came out.
The room seemed to spin.
He saw her and picked her up in his arms and kissed her again. Her insides melted, her mind reeled at the pleasure of his kiss. This kiss was so much different, this one spoke of needs, of more to come.
How could a woman think when a man kissed her like he did! She suddenly didn't want to think, she began to respond to his kiss, and he pulled his head up to stare into her light blue eyes, "I sure as hell didn't make a mistake marrying you."
That was it! It was a mistake! Oh no!
Why did she have to wake up, it was such a pleasant dream?
She started to tell him again, but he kissed her again and this time she was almost eager for his kiss. This man was a master at it, and she was his pupil. He made her lose thought, made her giddy with strange and wonderful feelings, the kind of feelings she'd never experienced before.
He sat her on the edge of the bed, then sat beside her, unbuttoning the tiny buttons at her back.
"Don't be shy. I already want you so badly, but I promise not to be a beast."
Mistake, mistake, mistake!
She turned to him. And suddenly he was kissing her again, lost in another world, the words she needed were forgotten once more, drowning from the sensations he evoked in her, as the passion of the kiss swept her onward. Never in all her life had she met a man that could kiss like this. He tasted like what her Pa called a fine whiskey. He took her breath, melted her lips, and made her heart trip.
For long lingering moments nothing mattered but the sweet taste of his mouth on hers. She met him now with an eagerness she couldn't control. When his tongue pried her lips apart, he danced with her tongue. She moaned softly against him.
"Oh," she swooned. It was more than a swoon, it was a passionate response to his kiss.
The fire in her Irish blood stirred her to a point she never knew she possessed. The more he kissed her, the more she wanted those kisses.
How can I possibly stop something so wonderful!
A fire began in her belly, spreading all through her, heating her. He turned her so he could start unbuttoning her dress again, his lips trailed down her neck, as he released the buttons in a frenzy. His lips found the sweetness of her skin, and he nibbled.
It didn't take long for him to have the dress falling away from her shoulders and she shrugged, without thinking. She no longer used her brain, while her body was being primed for love.
He pushed the material away and kissed her back.
"You're so beautiful," he murmured. "I never imagined such beauty."
Even his words ignited her. Never had a man told her such beautiful things. Never had a man touched her in this way. And she didn't want to stop him any longer.
He pushed the dress down and away from her, as he turned her to see the beautiful silk and satin camisole. His lips went further down her neck, onto her shoulder and then just above her breasts.
"I need—" she started to tell him, as kisses stirred her onward.
"I know what you need, darlin'." He whispered over the roundness of her shoulder.
He chucked his jacket and shirt quickly, as he lay on the bed with her, half naked. She saw his beautiful chest and her hands itched to travel over him. She'd never been intimate with a man, and the things he was doing and teaching her went straight to her heart.
He stood up and took all his clothes off. She stared at the magnificent body before her. From his wide shoulders that tapered down to a rock-hard stomach, to long legs and then.
"Oh my," she gasped, staring at the shaft that stood at attention for her. She turned her head away but peaked through her fingers to stare. She'd never seen a man like this. Never!
"I'm glad you're not shy now, Priscilla."
That woke her out of this trance he wove around her and she raised up, scooted over to the other side and grabbed the sheet.
"I'm afraid you've made a huge mistake, and so have I."
"Honey, don't be shy, I'm not going to hurt you!" He'd chucked his boots, clear across the room. He put a knee on the bed.
"Don't move," she threw up her hands to stay him as he came to her side of the bed, to stare at her. There he was in all his glory standing there naked as a jaybird. And for a moment all she could do was stare and blush. She'd never realized just how beautiful the male body was, until now!
"I am not Priscilla!" she began. How she got those words out, she'd never understand for she couldn’t take her eyes from him.
The room quieted now. "Is this some kind of joke? You were on the right train, arriving at the right time. What is this? Are you suddenly sorry you married me?" he smiled obviously thinking she was joking.
"Lord no!" The words tumbled from her lips before she could stop them. "I mean. I'm Trudy O'Toole, your cook!" she exclaimed, dropping her head in shame.
"What!" his face contorted into frowns and puzzlement as his head jerked with the news. He shook his head, stared and his sexy grin disappeared faster than a Texas tornado.
She shook her head, wrapped her arms around her camisole and cried now, "You married the wrong girl!"
Suddenly he grabbed the quilt and wrapped it around him. "You're my cook!" he nearly shouted but she almost laughed at his struggle to be decent. She'd already seen it all, and what she saw made her swoon, but she wouldn't be telling him that.
She nodded and he went back to his side of the bed, sat down on the edge and put his face in his hands.
"I married my cook!" he said softly, then louder repeating it, and shaking his head.