Title: Colorado Bride
Author: Cynthia Woolf
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Emily Loring survived the last few years as a governess to a rich family's children. But when the lord of the house can't keep his hands to himself, she's left with no option but to risk everything as a mail-order bride. Raised in a New York orphanage, she's always dreamed of a husband and children of her own, but even that small dream always felt out of reach. The city is all she's ever known, but the promise of a family and a place to call home, drives her to risk everything and head for the wilds of the Colorado Territory, and the arms of a stranger. Ben Logan fell in love once, to a city girl who left him at the altar to run off with another man. A mail-order bride appears to be the answer to his need for a wife to warm his bed, as long as she loves the country life as he does. He doesn't need much, but he won't risk his heart again. When Emily arrives, her curves tempt him nearly as much as her smile.
But his ex-fiancée is back, and determined to have Ben for herself, even if it means murder...
Saturday, February 6, 1875
Golden City, Colorado Territory
Ben Logan, wearing his best black suit, stood at the front of the church, his best man, Nathan Ravenclaw, at his side. He looked out at all of his friends, filling the pews, who just minutes ago had been smiling and were now wearing looks of concern on their faces.
“She’s just running a little late,” he said to Nathan. “Melissa will be here shortly. She does like to make an entrance.”
Nathan Ravenclaw was his best friend. The fact that he was half Arapaho Indian didn’t matter to Ben. The fact that every woman in town thought Nathan the most handsome of men didn’t matter either. Fortunately Nathan’s wife Ella, took the stares at her handsome husband in stride. Ella was a beauty herself. She had a long scar on her face but she was still a very beautiful woman. Together, she and Nathan made a striking couple.
Nathan put his hand on Ben’s shoulder and in a low tone, said, “If you say so, but she’s already more than a half hour late. I think you’ll have to call this as she stood you up. You can set another date when you find out what has happened to her.”
Ben nodded, angry and embarrassed. Melissa had used him for the last time.
He looked out at all the people filling the church. All his friends, family and business associates, some from when he was a boy growing up at the ranch outside Golden, he’d known most of his life. All of them had come to wish him well on this, his wedding day.
“I’m sorry to have kept you so long. Something must have happened to Melissa. We’ll reschedule and let you all know. Thanks for coming.”
The buzz of whispers and the shocked reaction of some people could be heard as the church slowly emptied. Several people came up and clapped him on the back.
“Sorry Ben,” said Caleb Black.
His wife Maggie, owner of the matchmaking service Matchmaker & Co. was at his side.
“I’m sorry, Ben. There’ll be another time.”
Ben’s anger and embarrassment grew with each attempt to calm him. By the time the last person had left the church, he was about to boil over.
“Don’t worry, son. Melissa will come around and you can reschedule this.”
“No, Mother.” Ben looked at his mother, her steel gray hair done up in a high knot on her head, wearing her best dress. Doris looked better than he’d seen her in a long time. She’d always liked Melissa. Knowing his mother she figured Melissa would be easy to manipulate.
“That won’t happen. Melissa can just find another sucker to marry. She’s taken advantage of my good nature for the last time.”
Ben stalked away from his mother and out of the church.
He walked to Melissa’s house, pounded on the door and when there was no answer, he turned the knob. It was unlocked. Ben stomped through the door making as much noise as possible.
He found a note on the kitchen table with his name on it.
I’m sorry. I can’t marry an ignorant, uneducated man such as you after all. I can’t live in the country, and roll in the dirt. I am a city girl and I’ve fallen in love with a professional man, someone who can actually make me happy. His name is Richard Deveraux and we’ve gone to get married. We’re headed to San Francisco where Richard has a business associate.
I wish you a good life.
Ben would never be put in this position again. He vowed to never love anyone. Never be vulnerable to be hurt again like this.
Ben wadded the note into a ball with his fist and threw it on the floor. Then he walked out of the house and never looked back. He buried himself in his work on the ranch and tried to forget about Melissa. Only in moments like when he was at his sister’s spread and saw how happy Jane was with her family, did he long for a wife and children of his own.
Five months after she’d left, Melissa returned to Golden sans husband. Ben had heard she never got married and that her ‘fiancé’ had run off in the middle of the night.
Ben hadn’t seen her and didn’t want to. Everyone seemed to understand that except his mother. She kept pushing him to make up with Melissa and convince her to marry him again. Why she was so adamant about Melissa, he had no idea, but she was determined that he marry the witch.
Times like this were when he missed his father most. He’d been gone for nearly ten years now. Joseph was always able to handle Doris. Ben had promised his father on his dying bed that Ben would take care of Doris. He felt sorry for his mother and tried to accommodate her whenever he could. She was a bitter, angry woman, having found out her husband was cheating on her, though he couldn’t fault his father, living with Doris was enough to drive a man to drink or worse…find solace elsewhere.
But Doris kept after Ben, which was why he escaped to Jane’s house whenever possible.
There was no way he would ever marry Melissa. A city girl was she? Well he was smart enough to know that he wasn’t marrying any city girl. Ever.
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Cynthia Woolf is the award-winning and best-selling author of fifty-five historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way. She has also published six scifi, space opera romances, which she calls westerns in space. Along with these books she has also published four boxed sets of her books.