Title Mail Order Mayhem
Author Cynthia Woolf
Genre Historical Western Romance
Drew Talbot made the long journey back East to bring eligible brides to Seattle, not to find one for himself. But despite his best intentions, he is captivated by the shy and somewhat clumsy Lucy Davison. He didn't mean to fall in love, and he certainly had no intention of allowing a dangerous killer to tear her from his arms. But when Lucy is the only witness to a brutal murder, the killer knows that eliminating Drew's bride is his one chance at freedom. Lucy Davison left Massachusetts to find a better life and a chance at love. The Civil War took too many men, leaving women like her pining for a husband and home of her own. A trip to Washington Territory as a mail-order bride seems the only answer. The friends she makes along the way a balm to her soul, and their escort, the handsome Drew Talbot, intensely more interesting than any man she's ever met. Becoming his fiancée is a dream come true, until evil finds them. Witnessing a murder is the least of Lucy's problems. Escaping a crazed killer feels like a miracle. But the true miracle in her life is one man, Drew Talbot, and the depths of love it will take to heal them both.
She and Rachel were near the front and about to sit in the front row when Lucy looked up and locked eyes with the best-looking man she’d ever seen. He had brown hair, but he had light eyes, blue or maybe green. Even though they were only about fifteen feet apart, she was too far away to see.
First she was walking and then the next thing Lucy knew, a chair crashed to the floor, and she was flat on her back looking up into the most amazing green eyes.
“Lucy!” Rachel cried out.
“Are you all right, miss?”
The deep timbre of his voice washed over her, and she blinked several times before finally gathering her wits together.
Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. “I…I…yes. Yes, I’m fine I wasn’t looking where I was going.” I can’t believe I just did that. What’s wrong with me? I’m a trained dancer or I was years ago…still I’ve never done anything like this before.
He reached out a hand. “Here, let me help you to rise.”
She took his outstretched hand and felt lightning travel through her body from his touch. “Oh, my.” She noticed his eyes widen at the same time. Did he feel the same thing?
When she was standing, the man still held her hand, as though he didn’t want to release her, didn’t want their connection to be broken. She certainly didn’t.
“I’m Drew Talbot.”
“Pleased to meet you, Miss Davison.”
“And you Mr. Talbot.” Talbot. The ad said Jason Talbot. Drew must be his brother which means he’ll be accompanying us on the trip to Seattle.
“Are you here in answer to the ad or just accompanying someone else?”
“No. I’m here in response to the notice in the paper.”
“Good. Very good.”
Ladies were looking their way and whispering. She suddenly realized she and Drew still held hands and pulled back on hers.
He released her.
Their connection, whatever it had been, was broken and she immediately felt bereft.
Drew cleared his throat, righted the overturned chair and held it for her as she sat.
“Thank you.” She whispered the words as though afraid to break the spell further.
Rachel hooked her arm through Lucy’s “Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
“I think I sprained my ankle, but very slightly. It hardly hurts.”
“Oh, Luce,” Rachel hugged Lucy’s arm.
Lucy watched as Drew returned to the front of the room with his brothers. They were all extremely handsome. With the exception of their hair colors, their features were very similar and not at all like Suzanne’s.
These men had what she called chiseled features. Strong jaw and chin. High cheekbones.
With shoulder so broad they looked ready to bust out of his plaid shirt and legs impossibly long in the brown wool pants he wore, Lucy was about ready to swoon. He wore his sleeves rolled to the elbow, showing arms strong with muscle but they also could be gentle as she’d just witnessed.
His brown hair, almost as dark as Lucy’s own raven tresses, was pulled back into a short tail fastened with a leather thong. Green eyes, light green, not dark like her own, still had her mesmerized as though they were still gazing at her.
She looked up to where he stood next to his brothers at the front of the room and found him staring at her. Though she knew she should look away and returning his gaze was brazen of her, she did so anyway. She wouldn’t be the first to look away and it didn’t appear that he would either, but his brother required his attention and snapped his fingers.
Drew blinked, then he caught her eye again and winked at her before turning to his brother.
Lucy dropped her gaze, smiling. He noticed me and seemed to like what he saw.
“Ladies, there are one hundred of you and space is limited.” said Jason Talbot. “You may each bring one small trunk and one valise. You will keep the valise with you as you will not have access to the trunk during the voyage. Please keep that in mind when you pack. There will be no room for hooped skirts. Please don’t attempt to bring them with you.”
“Mr. Talbot,” said one petite dark haired woman. “Where will we all live while we are courted by the gentlemen? I assume we will be able to choose our husbands.”
Jason replied to the woman. “There will be four large dormitory buildings that you will live in. In those you’ll each have a bed, a very small closet, approximately eighteen inches wide and pegs to hang your clothes on. On the other side of your bed will be a very small nightstand, large enough for a lamp and a book. This is not like going to a hotel where you each have a room. The head of the dormitories will have her own bedroom. She will be the person that will be responsible for running the buildings and will be the first person contacted should any of the merchants or anyone else need anything. You should also choose a spokesman for the whole group. One person that we will deal with while on the voyage to Seattle.”
“What about choosing our husbands? Are we already matched with some man?” asked Nicole Wescott.
Jason chuckled. “To be honest, the men had the same question, sort of. They thought because they put up the money to bring you that you should have to marry them. They were told in no uncertain terms that would not happen. Each of you will have the final word on whom you marry. That’s not to say you won’t have several men vying to court you, but you’ll have the choice. If, at the end of one year, any of you has not married and would like to leave you will be provided passage to New Bedford or to San Francisco, whichever you prefer.”
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Cynthia Woolf is the award-winning and best-selling author of forty-six 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.
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