Title: Troubled Bride
Author: Cynthia Woolf
Genre: Historical Western Romance
Olivia Hayes wasn't born a liar or a cheat, but circumstances have forced her to play a role she never wanted or imagined for herself. The letters she sends to a well-to-do rancher in Colorado promising to be his mail-order bride are lies, all the same. Desperate for money to care for her ill mother, Olivia had no intention of following through with the contract she signed with Matchmaker & Company. That is, until her mother passes away unexpectedly, she's left penniless and homeless and the owner of the matchmaking company gives her a choice; go to Colorado and be the bride she promised she would be, or go to jail.
Determined to embrace her fate with an open mind, Olivia sets off to meet her new husband, the handsome rancher, Tyler Wainwright. However, life for Olivia is never easy and she is the lone witness to a brutal murder along the way. Forced to flee her new, powerful enemy, she runs straight into Tyler's arms.
Will the killer sent to silence her forever complete his mission? Will Olivia's lies lead to her death or will love and truth be enough to give Olivia and Tyler a happily-ever-after?
Friday, June 26, 1873
New York City, New York
After a full day at the office of Matchmaker & Co, Olivia Hayes stopped to get the mail before trudging up one floor. She and her mother shared the one-bedroom apartment provided to the manager of the Matchmaker & Co. office down below. She’d made it a habit to open the mail in the hall outside the apartment so her mother wouldn’t see the hospital bills. She opened the envelope from the hospital and looked down at the bill in her hand. It was for a fortune—one-hundred and fifty dollars. Her hand shook as her arm dropped to her side.
She leaned against the wall, her stamina waning. If only Olivia could get him—Mr. Tyler Wainwright of Golden, Colorado—to send her the bride money. After all she’d corresponded with him twice in the last month pretending to be a bride so he would send the money.
She knew it was wrong, but she didn’t have any choice. Her mother needed to be hospitalized again but the institution would not treat her without being paid in full for the last admission. And the bill was going up every month with interest on the unpaid amount.
The next envelope she opened was from Tyler Wainwright. It contained a note and the money she requested to get her to Golden as quickly as possible. In the note, he also stated the reason he needed a wife so quickly. He had a newborn baby that needed a mother.
Her hand flew to her mouth, holding in her sob of gratitude and dismay. Now, Olivia had the money for her mother. It would take her forever to pay Mr. Wainwright back, but she would find him a real bride, one who would be right for him and his baby.
Olivia held the bill from the hospital indicating they had room for her mother as well as the envelope with the cash they would need to start treatment. She could get her mother well. She’d worry later about Mr. Wainwright who still hadn’t received his bride.
Maggie Black, a friend of Mr. Wainwright and the owner of Matchmaker & Co. sent her a telegram with explicit instructions…Mr. Wainwright’s bride was to be on the train today. That couldn’t happen. Her mother was critically ill and she would not leave her.
She tucked the money into her reticule and went inside to get her mother. “Mama, I’m home.” Olivia hung up her jacket and leaned her umbrella against the wall. She saw her mother lying on the couch, sleeping as she usually did. Normally she awoke as soon as Olivia came in, but today something seemed wrong. Olivia moved closer and saw that her mother wasn’t breathing.
“No! Mama! I got the money, Mama. Please, don’t be gone. Please, God.” Olivia fell to her knees next to the sofa, laid her head on her mother’s stomach and wept. Finally, she stopped crying and wiped her eyes. She needed to get the police. But first, she went to the undertaker and made the arrangements while she still had the money to do so. Then she went to the police station and reported the death of her mother.
The police took down all the information and then accompanied her back home. Two policemen placed her mother on a stretcher and took her to the coroner. After talking to Olivia and doing a cursory exam of the body, he determined she’d had a heart attack and then released the body to the undertaker.
Olivia was the only person that her mother knew, which was why she did not have a funeral, just a graveside service the next day. The undertaker seemed happy to provide the service so quickly. Afterward, she went to the telegraph office and sent a wire to Maggie.
Maggie. I do not have a bride for Mr. Wainwright. Never did. I needed the money for Mother’s hospital bill, but I was too late and she died at home. I will return his money. I’m sorry to have betrayed your trust in me and therefore, resign as soon as a suitable replacement can be found.
She went back to Matchmaker & Co.’s office and began the process of boxing up the files for shipment to Golden and Matchmaker’s office there.
Olivia didn’t have long to wait for Maggie’s reply. A boy arrived with a telegram for her not a full hour after she had returned to the office. She gave him a dime and opened the missive.
I do not accept your resignation. You will become Tyler’s bride, or I will press charges and I know you don’t want that. He sent the money in good faith for his bride. You’ll use the money left, travel to Golden and marry Tyler…in good faith, as soon as possible. Ask Johanna Barnes if she would like a job. You indicated she was not happy with her marital prospects.
Olivia’s heart pounded and she smashed her hand on the desk. She didn’t want to marry Mr. Tyler Wainwright, but she didn’t have a choice. It was either that or jail. Maggie was giving her a chance to redeem herself and keep her word. After pretending to be his bride by writing him letters inferring she would be willing to marry him, she should marry him. He didn’t deserve to be hurt by her ruse.
Hadn’t she always dreamed of a husband and children of her own? Being raised by her mother, who’d been abandoned by Olivia’s father when she told him she was expecting, Olivia learned to never mention marriage around her. That’s what her father had promised her mother, but he’d never meant to marry her. Janine Hayes was used and abandoned, and it affected her mental stability. Olivia felt lucky to have reached age twelve before she had to help her mother to cope with the world.
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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.
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.
She was born in Denver, Colorado and raised in the mountains west of Golden. She spent her early years running wild around the mountain side with her friends.
Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim and the great friends and critique partners she's made at Colorado Romance Writers for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity.
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