Author: Cynthia Woolf
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so when Hannah Granger's little sister takes off for Oregon with a group of mail-order brides to meet her new husband, Hannah has no choice but to follow. She expects her sister to find trouble, and she does. But what Hannah doesn't expect is to fall for the hired gun traveling with the wagon train as they make their way along the treacherous Oregon Trail. The bounty hunter is tall, dark and dangerous, everything she's avoided her entire life. But when she begins to suspect criminals are riding just four wagons back, she'll do just about anything to convince him to listen...and to protect her fragile younger sister from the truth about what this trip is costing them both.
The only thing bounty hunter Joe Stanton wants is to avoid trouble. He's tagging along on this trip to the Oregon Territory to put a little extra cash in his pocket and take a break from the hunt. The only woman he ever loved broke his heart and his last bounty cost an innocent man his life. Joe's had enough blood, death and betrayal to last a lifetime. So why, then, does he make Hannah's secrets his own? Why does he lie to protect her? And why does the stubborn woman's dogged attempts to help him track down criminals drive him insane with worry?
Maybe because he's falling for the red-headed beauty. Maybe because if he doesn't keep her close, they'll both end up dead.
Independence, Missouri, May 1, 1852
Fifty-five wagons, with all their draft animals, cattle and goats, were in the staging area for the wagon train’s start westward to Oregon City in Washington Territory. This wagon train was unlike any other that came before it. It was a train of mail-order brides. One-hundred and three women promised to miners, lumberjacks, and businessmen in Oregon City, population approximately nine-hundred-seventy-nine souls. All the women, except one, had answered ads in the local newspaper put there by the men seeking wives.
The one who wasn’t a bride was Hannah Granger.
Until very recently Hannah worked as a seamstress in a tailor shop. She lost her job after slapping the store’s owner for treating her like she was on the menu and he was the diner. Until the incident happened, she’d hoped she would learn enough from him to open her own dress shop one day. That dream still held her and she would just do it in Oregon City rather than Independence.
Her younger sister, Lydia, was a writer, but her sales of articles to the newspaper weren’t often enough to live off of. She hadn't sold a newspaper article in a month. Their rent was due today and without help they had enough to either pay the rent or eat. They'd been surviving this way since their parents died two years ago and decided they couldn’t do it any longer.
Until Mr. Walter Mosley came to their rescue. Out of desperation, Lydia had answered an ad for a mail-order bride more than a year ago and the man sent five hundred dollars to buy a wagon, a tent, and all the other supplies needed to cross the country to Oregon City where he lived.
Now Hannah helped her baby sister load the last of their belongings into the covered farm wagon. This wagon was fairly light, capable of carrying twenty-five hundred pounds and pulled by three yokes of oxen. The wagon had high clearance and was still sturdy enough to carry them over the mountains and through the rivers without getting stuck.
They’d packed up their apartment and been gone before the landlord came for the rent. They now slept in the wagon. By the time they started westward they would already be used to staying in the wagon at night.
She’d be glad to get away from Independence. All the wagons, with all the livestock and all their droppings made the staging area stink to high heaven. And she was getting used to it. She didn’t like that at all.
More than half of Mr. Mosley’s money went into buying the wagon and supplies they would need. They had packed flour and bacon packed in bran so the heat wouldn’t melt the fat, along with coffee, baking soda, hardtack, jerky, dried beans, fruit, and beef, molasses, vinegar, pepper, four dozen eggs packed in cornmeal, salt, sugar, rice, tea, and lard. The staples would last for part of the long journey ahead. Along with the supplies, they bought two repeating rifles, with ammunition.
Their milk cow and two head of beef cattle would follow the wagon until the time came to slaughter one of the beef cows to provide meat to be shared by everyone on the wagon train. With more than one-hundred-fifty people, the meat was used quickly.
Mr. Titus—the man they’d hired to help outfit them, teach them to drive a team of six oxen and to shoot a rifle—was a fount of information.
"You ladies can hang the milk bucket under the wagon and let the wagon’s movements churn the cream into butter. You can have fresh butter every day which is good when you're down to just beans and biscuits. And don't think you won't get there. Everyone gets to that point."
He was probably in his sixties, with silver-white hair and a well-trimmed beard he pulled to a point on his chin when he was frustrated. He'd been to Oregon and back on a wagon train every year between 1846 and 1850. He knew exactly what to take and what to leave. Plus, he’d been outfitting emigrates with wagons and supply lists for the last two years.
This wagon train was unusual. With very few exceptions everyone on the train was a mail-order bride, including her sister Lydia.
Lydia was a pretty girl, much prettier than she was, thought Hannah. Lydie had long golden blonde hair, blue eyes, and a figure that put most other women to shame. But at twenty-one, she was an old maid. Hannah supposed she was too, at twenty-three. In any case, neither of them had found men she wanted to marry. Lydia figured, if she was to marry just to be married, she might as well marry the rich, old man, who'd seemed nice in his letter.
Mr. Walter Mosley had been upfront in his first correspondence. He told her he was sixty-one and hit it rich in the California gold fields before moving to Oregon City. He promised to provide for her and any family she wanted to bring.
Hannah heard yowling and came around the corner of the wagon where she saw Lydie with a tiny three-legged kitten. Hannah shook her head. Here we go again. She’s collecting strays already and we haven’t even left town yet.
"Lydia, what are you doing with that cat?"
Lydie pulled the kitten to her side, like she was protecting him from Hannah. “I found him in the alley. The mercantile owner would have killed him if I hadn’t stepped in. He’s just a baby, probably not more than four or five weeks old, if that.”
The little thing really was making an awful racket. Hannah wasn’t surprised the store owner wanted to destroy it, but still, the animal was just a baby, probably missing its mama
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This is the start to my Oregon Trail Series and features a great romance to enjoy.
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Cynthia Woolf is the award-winning and best-selling author of forty historical western romance books and two short stories with more books on the way. She has also published six sci-fi, space opera romances, which she calls westerns in space. Along with these books she has also published four boxed sets of her books.
Cynthia loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance Tame A Wild Heart, was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia's father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although Tame A Wild Heart takes place in Creede that is the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner. Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and her great critique partners for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.
WEBSITE – http://cynthiawoolf.com
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