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Excerpt for Mail Order Bride: Love in the Wind by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Love in the Wind

By Mary L. Briggs

Smashwords Edition

COPYRIGHT © 2018 Mary L. Briggs


This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It 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 to Smashwords.com to purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 1



The hot bacon grease popped and spit, stinging Josie on the chin. She grabbed the damp cotton towel next to her and nursed the spot. She was going to look like a teenager with a broken out face if she couldn’t learn to regulate the temperature correctly.

Wrapping a thick cloth around the handle, she moved the cast iron skillet to the front burner, hoping for less heat. The pork seemed to be cooking fine. Or at least there hadn’t been any complaints from the miners. Inez, owner of the eating establishment, had told her that they inhaled the food so fast, they didn’t know what it tasted like. That might be a good thing, considering her inexperience with cooking.

If nothing else, the men’s ravenous hunger made a menu of fried pork, biscuits, beans, cornbread, and cobbler easy for everyday cooking. And the fact they were happy with it was the important thing. Not to mention the fact that it gave her something to do.

Not that she couldn’t think of more interesting things than cooking and baking for a group of hungry men. Being stuck in a hot kitchen all day was not something she had been dreaming of. She missed the fresh air and wide open range. The wind blowing through her hair, and the sun on her face.

She sighed. Going west had been Pa’s idea. “You’ve out roped, out-ridden, and out-shot every cowboy in this here Texas country, gal,” he had complained. “Nothing to do but try your luck on out in the west. Heard them fellows were desperate for women. Best you go, girl.”

Desperate for women? It had seemed like an insult at the time. Yet, here she was.

Not that she’d roped in a husband. She’d had plenty of offers, but none that appealed to her. Living in Inez Pollard’s home and cooking at the restaurant was preferable to a drafty cabin and cooking on an open fireplace for a man she barely knew. Or worse yet, a fire pit located outside. No, she was holding out for something a little better than what she’d been offered, so far. What she was really waiting for was love.

“Are those biscuits done?” a waitress called into the kitchen.

Biscuits? Oh no! She pulled open the oven door, wrapped the thick towel around the edge of the baking tin and pulled out a pan of browned biscuits. Maybe a little browner than usual, but edible. At least in her estimation of what she’d seen wolfed down the past few weeks.

“On their way out,” Josie answered, dumping the pan of hot bread onto a platter. Leaving the pork for a moment, she carried the biscuits to the counter separating the dining room from kitchen and left them there.

Back at the stove, she glanced out the window and was instantly transported back home. That fella going down the sidewalk, whoever he was, walked just like Jordan Mays, the neighboring ranch boy she grew up with. And the hat on his head was like one Jordan would wear, too.

She sighed and stirred the meat. Jordan was a nice looking boy, but he’d had no romantic interest in her. He preferred those pretty, frilly girls that lived in town.

“So, what’s wrong with me, Lord?” she whispered aloud. “I was just being myself.” And apparently, that had been a mistake. But didn’t men want an honest wife, and not one that put on silly airs? Pa had said that being with all the brides going out to Colorado would help teach her all the things she needed to know about being a lady.

If only Ma had lived. Instead, she had given Pa five boys, then had Josephine and promptly died. It didn’t make sense to Josie what the Lord could have been thinking, but she knew that He knew best. “So just give me some sort of clue as to what it is I ought to be doing, Lord.”

“Were you talking to me?” a voice said from behind.

Startled, Josie turned around. “Inez, I didn’t hear you come in. So no, I wasn’t talking to you.”

The woman laughed. “Well, talking to yourself probably won’t get you anywhere.”

Josie blushed and kept her face looking down at her cooking. “I guess I was half talking to myself and half talking to the Lord.”

“Talking to the Lord will get you somewhere,” Inez grinned, tying a red checked apron around her waist. “As long as you listen to what He says back, that is.”

Josie shrugged. “Sometimes, the trouble is that I can’t really hear Him.”

“You will if you keep listening.”



***



Josie poured coffee into the customer’s cup. He looked up at her with a forlorn expression. Harley Glass had a mine somewhere in the hills around Silver Ridge and came into town about twice a week. He was usually friendly and jolly when he did appear, but not today.

“Are you all right, Mr. Glass?”

His sad eyes matched his frown. “Not really, ma’am. Just got a letter from back home. Both of the folks are real sick. My sister, too. I just gotta find a way to get back there.”

Josie’s heart went out to him. To be so far from home and find out everyone back there needed you would be a tough thing to go through. She set the coffee pot down on the table. “I’m real sorry to hear that, sir.”

“I’m trying to sell my mine, but not having much luck. I need the money for a train ticket.” He seemed to brighten for a moment. “How about you? Why don’t you buy my mine?”

“How much do you want for it, sir? Maybe I could pass the word around.”

He shrugged and reached for his cup. “I think about $200, though I doubt anyone will pay that. It’s not such a bad mine. I know, really know, that it’s got some good ore in it. It just has to have a shaft sunk on down, and one man alone working on it takes time. And now I don’t have any way to prove its worth.”

Josie glanced around the room. Only a few customers were there and most seemed lost in conversation with others. Taking a seat opposite Mr. Glass, she spoke. “Just where is your mine, Mr. Glass?”

He set his coffee cup on the red-checked cloth and smiled. “It’s east of town, miss, about two miles. Prettiest view you ever saw. Double C Ranch is just below. Got me a little cabin built up there next to the mine. Of course, Bennett Carson claims it’s on his property, but I got the papers to prove he’s wrong.”

Property. Pa always said that property was valuable. Of course, Mr. Glass didn’t have a lot of property, but a cabin on it was a plus. “I just might be interested in buying your claim.” She could always take her time and re-sell, once she thought it over. And besides, helping out Mr. Glass seemed the right thing to do.

His eyes widened. “You? What do you know about mining, Miss Jo? I was only kidding you, before, you know. I don’t expect you to be interested in it. Besides, I don’t know if it would be a good idea to sell to you. Some say women are unlucky for a mine. Of course, it’s just tales, that’s all.”

She laughed. “Women being unlucky is just nonsense. And as for what I know, not much. But my pa always told me to buy property when it’s available. And so far, yours is the first affordable bit I’ve found out here.”

Harley shrugged. “I guess if you want it, I can sell it to you. Besides the little cabin, there is a donkey, Winnie, that goes with it. She’s right handy for packing when you’ve got a load to move.”


Chapter 2



Cabin. That was the word Harley Glass had used to describe what he had built just outside the mine. It was more than an optimistic description of the rambling shack before her. How a person could survive the cold Colorado winter in such a structure was unimaginable. No doubt, there was much work to be done if she was actually going to live here and make a go of the whole thing.

She stepped up to the door and pushed it open, cringing as the rusty hinges screamed in the quiet mountain air. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to take a step inside, stopping to let her eyes adjust to the low light. Streaks of sunshine flashed through the slats nailed over the single window with no glass, making a pattern of stripes on the dirt floor. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of sweat and grease that permeated the space. A small iron stove stood in the corner. It appeared to be splattered with bacon fat and food. Several dirty skillets were stacked beside it. What a mess.

No doubt the musty blankets scattered on the bunk built in the corner needed a good wash. In fact, there probably wasn’t much in the small room that didn’t need a good scrubbing. And the whole place could use an airing out.

The first step was to remove those boards from the window and let in some of the fresh air that Mr. Glass seemed so determined to keep out.

Two days later she brought her things. After another day of hard work the cabin would be presentable enough to take up residence. Still, the thought of leaving the boardinghouse sent tremors of nerves through her. Was it possible to live in the boarding house and walk to the mine each day? No. Well, it could be done, but it wasn’t right. She had her own little house now. She should be living on her own, like a real mine owner. And what would Pa say when she wrote and told him? Probably nothing she wanted to hear.



***



Covered in grime, and bones aching from all the work, Josie built a fire in the little iron stove and put a kettle of water on to boil. For such a small place, it had taken her all of three days to get it clean. And now she was too dirty to stay inside, she laughed. Well, once the water was hot, she would get herself clean and then make supper.

From the shelves she had nailed up on the wall, she selected from the store of canned goods and other food that she had stocked up on from the mercantile. Then she retrieved her bag of flour and tin of baking powder. Beans, biscuits, and a few fresh carrots ought to make a good enough supper for her first night in her own home. It would be easy to fix and she was too tired to care much how it tasted.

Once she had washed and put on clean clothes, her energy seemed to be returning and the thought of food sounded good. She decided to open a jar of jam to go with the biscuits. A treat for her first night in the cabin.

The food was good and she was glad she had made the extra effort. She had seen some miners who probably opened a can of beans and ate straight from the can. She would not sink to such a low level. Someday, when God sent the right man her way, she would be a practiced cook and housekeeper.

Once the few dishes and skillet were cleaned, Jo blew out her lamp and leaned back on the hard, hay filled mattress. She had washed the ticking cover, but the old hay was still inside. She would head to town next week and try to get some new stuffing. That done, the cabin would be as good as it could get.

Which meant she would have to start getting serious about this mining business. Maybe there was someone that could teach her. Some older miner that didn’t work much anymore. She had a little put by, so she could pay them for a few days work.

To make this new life of hers work, she would have to learn about mining.


Chapter 3



Jo stared at the thin streak of silver in the wall. Her heart raced in her throat. Had she really found ore? If so, it probably wasn’t much, as the tiny ribbon of silver was barely bigger than the width of her little finger. Still, it was something. And there might be a lot more, if she could figure out how to extract it from the earth.

Haney Biggs, an old miner she had hired, had been a great help to her, those few days he had spent inside the mine, showing her the correct way to use the pick, as well as describing how it might look if she was to find something. Not that his attitude had seemed to hold much hope. It was a common consensus among local miners that Harley Glass’s mine wasn’t worth much.

She grinned. Maybe today, all of that would change. The first thing she had to do was dig out a sample and take it to the assay office. The results from there would at least tell her if she was on the right trail. If not, she could start working in another part of the mine. Harley had made a long cavern, so there were plenty of spots. Of course, most miners knew that sinking a shaft was where most of the silver would be.



***



She slowed her steps and pulled a little harder on Winnie’s bridle. The silly brown and white donkey had seemed to resist the entire walk to town. No doubt her mind was on a particular green patch up next to the mine.

Jo stared at the people around them. The boardwalks were busy with men, some were ranchers, others were miners, gamblers, and probably a few drifters, all in a hurry to get somewhere. A pair of saloon girls, clad in red sparkling dresses hurried along, both laughing and smoking cigars. A small gray dog ran behind a wagon passing on the other side of the street, its high pitched barks adding to the confusion of noise.

After spending so much time on her mine claim, the town seemed crowded and dirty. She paused and watched as two wagons loaded with ore lumbered between her and the other side of the street at an intersection. Maybe someday there would be a load from her own mine on one of those wagons.

Winnie stomped as a large black dog ran past, and Jo reached out to touch her furry face. She had grown fond of the silly thing, and couldn’t help but notice that the poor mules that pulled the wagon loads of ore looked old and tired. She’d heard some owners used them until they dropped. It was a shame, as they were valuable animals.

She tied the donkey to the railing in front of the assay office and went inside. Two men, one older, one younger, were in front of her, and neither seemed to be in a big hurry. The clerk in the office was enjoying their conversation that seemed to concern a miner just west of town.

“He just thinks he’s got something good going on,” the tall man laughed.

“If it belongs to him, he thinks it’s worth something,” the younger snickered. “Remember when he was trying to sell that old flea-bitten mule last year? The poor old nag was more than half worn out. Still, he wanted top dollar.”

The clerk, looking through the samples the men had brought with them, nodded. “Old Jake is hard to figure. With that worthless piece of ground he has, I’m not sure how he feeds himself.”

Though they were ignoring her, Jo shrunk a little. Was that how people would talk about her and her mine? Resolve built up inside of her. No matter what the results from her sample, she was going to do her best to make something of her mine. Harley Glass had been sure it was worth something.

After delivering her sample to the assay office, she headed to the mercantile. She would like to stock up on quite a few things and Winnie would carry it back for her. So far, Winnie carrying groceries had been the only plus to having her. Well, that and the fact she was company when Josie needed to talk. Winnie wasn’t much on conversation, but she was a good listener.

The store was crowded with men busy picking up their monthly supplies, as well as a few women, baskets on their arms, making purchases for their small homes, or cabin shanties out at their husband’s mines.

Josie stood in line behind two miners, both discussing their lack of success. She sighed. She was starting to have a bad feeling about the mine she purchased. Not only did she know nothing about mining, she had heard a few people recently make the comment that it was a strange place for a mine. She puzzled over what the comments could mean, but, truth be told, she had no idea. All she knew was that the small piece of property was hers, as long as she worked it, or attempted to work it a few days a week.



***



Mr. Stevens packed her flour and coffee into a wooded crate, along with her purchases of bacon, baking powder, salt, beans, and sugar. Josie handed the money to him and waited for her change. The store was still milling with customers, most talking and laughing, glad for company after a long week alone at their mines or homesteads.

Mr. Stevens handed her change to her. “Are you sure there won’t be anything else, Miss Brentwood?”

Josie smiled and reached for the crate. “I think this is all for today. Thank you, sir.”

He nodded and smiled. “I hope you do well in your new venture, miss.”

She nodded and picked up the box. It seemed everyone, whether she knew them or not, knew about her purchase of Harvey Glass’s mine. She imagined there were no secrets in Silver Ridge.

An old man with a long, gray beard held the door open for her. She stepped down on the boardwalk, just as two small boys ran past, one almost grabbing her skirts as he passed. The motion threw her off-balance and she stumbled. When she did, the contents of the box went flying.

Sugar spilled, and the flour bag tore open, sprinkling the boardwalk with white powder. On her knees, she managed to grab the small tin of baking powder before it rolled away.

A shadow covered her, and she looked up to see a tall man wearing a cowboy hat hovering over her. He immediately knelt beside her and grabbed the bag of flour, tipping it up and securing the top.

Turning his face to her, he grinned. “I thought maybe you could use some help, miss.”

Josie’s eyes locked with his and she stared. His chocolate colored hair was fringed below his hat and his dark blue eyes were bright and friendly. His straight nose and strong jaw completed the handsome face. Her heart skipped a beat or two before she managed to answer. “Th-thank you, sir.”

He laughed and began to stack her purchases back in the crate. “No need for the thanks. I’m just glad I could help. Where’s your wagon?”

Josie grinned as they stood. “No wagon. Just my little donkey, Winnie.”

“Well, let’s get her packed,” he chuckled.

She watched as he carefully stowed each purchase in the canvas bags on Winnie’s back. From her observation, she could tell that he had done this before. Maybe he was really a miner, instead of a cowboy. “Do you own a mine?”

He turned his face to look at her. “Me?” Astonishment showed on his features. He laughed. “Nope. I’m a rancher, but I’ve packed more than my share of mules and donkeys. You have to be ready for just about everything when you’re going off in the mountains hunting for a few days. It takes a lot of gear.”

Of course. Why hadn’t she thought of that? She nodded and smiled, hoping he wouldn’t think her too dim-witted. She had a lot to learn about life out here.

“There now, I think she’s all good and solid,” he said, tightening the leather strap around her flour and sugar. “If you can manage to avoid anymore little boys running down the street, you ought to be fine,” he teased her.

Josie gave a small laugh and shrugged. “They were just playing. I’m sure they meant no harm.” She cleared her throat. “Well, thank you, again. I really do appreciate your help.”

He tipped his hat and his eyes met hers. “Any time, miss.”

Josie watched as he walked away. Why hadn’t she introduced herself? Or at least asked his name?

She sighed as his tall, lanky figure blended into the crowd on the sidewalks. “Now, that’s the kind of man I’m looking for, Lord,” she whispered, as he disappeared from her sight.



***



Micah Carson finished his business at the hardware store and swung up on his roan mare. “Let’s get out of this crowded town, girl.” He urged her to pick up speed as they neared the end of Main Street. Ahead, it was clear, with only the open road before them.

He laughed at himself as he breathed a sigh of relief. It was the same whenever he found himself hemmed in by so many people. What he craved was a life of freedom, wide open spaces. The town always made him feel closed in, like a horse in a small corral.

Now that he was free of the oppression, he allowed himself to think about the woman he had met. Not that he was interested. He was a confirmed bachelor. What Marjorie had done to him was unforgivable. But Pa had said it was the way of most women. And, if that was true, he didn’t have much use for a woman in his life.


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