Mail Order Bride - Westward Joy: Clean Historical Cowboy Romance Novel (Montana Mail Order Brides Book 16), p.1
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Mail Order Bride: Westward Joy
Montana Mail Order Brides: Book Sixteen
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Small clouds of dust and dirt puffed up from under the hooves of Will’s horse as he galloped to Thompson’s Feed Mill, where he worked as the assistant manager. He’d been up late working in his woodshop on a table for Sheriff Mitch Taylor and his family. As a result, he’d overslept and was running the risk of being late for work again. If that happened, he’d catch hell from his boss; his older brother, Tucker.
The August morning was hot already at almost seven-thirty a.m. and Will was sweating as he tied his horse outside the front office and ran inside.
“I’m here! I’m here!” Will said as he hurried around the front counter and into the office he shared with Tucker.
Tucker somehow kept from smiling as Will rushed over to his desk and flopped down in his chair. “Late night again?” Tucker asked as his blue eyes roamed over his little brother’s disheveled clothing and messy hair.
Will gave him a half smile and said, “Yeah. Sorry. This table is big and the design Sammi wanted is pretty intricate. It takes a lot of concentration and I lose track of time.”
Tucker leaned back in his chair and said, “You have an alarm clock, don’t you?”
Will’s green eyes, which looked a little bloodshot at the moment, zeroed in on Tucker’s and darkened a little with irritation. “Don’t start that again. I never heard it. That’s how dead to the world I was. I got here on time.”
“Barely,” Tucker said. “If you keep comin’ in late, I’m gonna have to discipline you about it, Will. I can’t be accused of playing favorites.”
Will nodded and swallowed the angry words he wanted to hurl at his brother. He couldn’t quit this job yet, but he was getting close. It was important that he bide his time. “I know. I’m sorry. I’ll go start helping load wagons.”
“In a minute. Any luck in the letter department?” Tucker asked.
Will frowned. Back in February of that year, he’d had Marcus Samuels, one of the town doctors run an ad for a mail-order bride in a bunch of papers. Marcus ran a part-time mail-order bride service. Will had started corresponding with Zoe Fontaine, a very pretty redhead. As they wrote letters back and forth, it seemed as though they were perfect for each other. However, once they’d met, there had been a complete lack of chemistry between them, and they’d parted as friends.
Instead of marrying Will, Zoe had married Raven, a brave from the Lakota tribe that used to reside near Dawson. Will was happy that she’d found someone, but he was dismayed that he hadn’t yet. He was about ready to give up.
Tucker could see Will’s frustration. He wasn’t going to tell Will that he understood, because he didn’t. He’d met his wife, Sadie, when he’d been sixteen, and he’d known that she was the one he wanted to marry. Their attraction had been instant, and they hadn’t been able to control it. Sadie had gotten pregnant, and they’d gotten married very quickly, which was just fine with the both of them.
Tucker had never regretted the way things had happened with him and Sadie, especially because Ethan was such a joy to them. Their eldest was very mature for his age and respectful. Chris, their younger son, was, as Tucker’s father liked to call him, a scamp. Scamp was, in fact, Chris’s nickname and suited him perfectly. The ten-year-old boy had more energy than he knew what to do with and had no sense of decorum. Sadie was always saying that he must get it from her Uncle Marcus, who still seemed to be a child at heart some days.
Turning his thoughts back to Will, who was younger than him by six years, he sighed. He felt bad that things hadn’t worked out for Will and Zoe, but it was good that they had known early on that it wasn’t going to work. Of course, Tucker had his suspicions that Raven had intervened there a little, but he wasn’t going to mention that to Will.
Raven was known to be a bit of troublemaker and liked to keep people off balance. Sadie’s cousin Luke was a perfect example of this. Luke was an only child and his mother, Pricilla Samuels, had doted on her and John’s son. Until a couple of years ago, when Raven had become close with Pricilla, Luke had never had to really share his parents’ affections. Though Luke and Raven were friends, there was a sort of sibling rivalry there, mostly on Luke’s part. Raven knew how to get under Luke’s skin and enjoyed doing so.
Tucker cleared his throat and said to Will, “None of the letters are promising?”
“No,” Will answered with a grimace. “Joe said to respond to the one that stands out, but I tried that last time and look how that worked out. She ended up marrying someone else. Not that I’m complaining exactly. I knew it wasn’t meant to be once I kissed her. There was nothing, you know? No zip, no zing; nothing.”
Tucker nodded. “I know. So you’ve said. I’m not sure what to tell you, Will. I feel bad about the situation. I know you’re ready to settle down and have a family. Just keep looking, I guess.”
Will nodded. “Yep. Well, I better get out to the loading dock.” He rose and left the office before Tucker could say anything more about it. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
Going out to the dock, he saw Tucker’s father-in-law, Dean Samuels, driving his wagon up to it.
“Hi, Dean,” Will said. “How’s things?”
“Busy. We’re getting ready to drive this group of steer to the fall sales and there’s other stuff goin’ on,” Dean said distractedly.
Will noticed Dean’s agitation. “Is everything ok?”
Dean’s shoulders slumped and he sighed as he rubbed his face with a hand. Then he looked around to see how close other people were. “Come here,” Dean said waving Will closer.
Will jumped down from the dock and trotted over to the wagon. “What is it?”
“Don’t breathe a word of this to anyone, not Sadie, your brother, not anyone. I wouldn’t say anything, but it might be good to tell someone outside of the family who can keep their mouth shut. I can’t tell Joe because he’d blurt it out at some point. I know you know how to keep stuff to yourself.”
“Tessa is pregnant.”
Will’s mouth dropped open and then he shut it again. “Are you sure?”
“We’re sure. She’s actually pretty far along. She didn’t tell me until yesterday because she was afraid to. I noticed she’d been gaining a little weight, but I wasn’t going to say something to her about it. You know how sensitive women are about that sort of thing,” Dean said.
“Yeah, I know. When is it due?” Will asked.
“December. I don’t know if I can do this, Will. We never planned on having any more kids after the twins and they’re almost fifteen now. I love all of our grandchildren and other people’s babies, but to have one full-time again? Oh, Lord. Marcus is thrilled, but he’s thrilled whenever anyone’s pregnant. I swear that’s his favorite part of bein’ a doctor, delivering babies.”
Will laughed. “Yeah, it seems that way.”
“He’s calling this a ‘change of life’ baby. On one hand, I’m happy, but on the other? I’m gettin’ older and, well, you get what I’m sayin’,” Dean said. “Tessa’s a wreck about it. She’s worried that she’s too old to give birth, even though Marcus had told her that she’ll be fine. I can’t say it doesn’t worry me, because it does. I don’t want to lose another wife and child.”
Will could see how upset Dean was and felt bad. “Dean, uh, I’m not exactly experienced at this kind of thing, but I think you need to just take it one day at a time. She’s healthy right now and the baby’s ok, right?”
“Then concentrate on that. Tessa will calm down after a bit. She was probably just scared you’d be mad about the baby. You’re not mad are you?”
Dean smiled. “No, I’m not mad. How can I be mad about something I helped create?”
“Good. You know, it’s not like you don’t have plenty of babysitters. The twins can help just like Jack and Mike always helped with them. Not to mention everyone else. You and Tessa will have to fight everyone else just to see the kid,” Will said with a grin.
Laughing, Dean said, “You’re right. We probably will.”
Will’s grin widened. “Plus, you can brag to Black Fox that you still got what it takes to make a baby.”
That made Dean laugh even louder. “That’ll get him good.” Dean clapped Will on the shoulder as he got down from the wagon. “Thanks, Will. I needed to hear something positive. I knew I was talkin’ to the right person.”
“Glad to help. Now, you need more feed for those Indian ponies?” Will asked.
Dean rolled his eyes. “What else would I be here for?”
Will laughed and began loading Dean’s wagon.
That night, Will wasn’t home too long before someone knocked on his door. He was shirtless because he’d been washing up. He threw on a shirt and went to the front door of the little two-bedroom house he’d bought. When he opened it, Sammi Taylor, the sheriff’s wife, stood on the threshold.
The pretty blonde smiled at him. “Hey, Will. You busy?”
“Uh, no. C’mon in. I was just cleaning up a little. It’s so damn hot out and I was sweatin’ all day.”
Sammi stepped inside to the wreck that was Will’s parlor. With two teenage boys and two young girls, her and Mitch’s house wasn’t perfect, but it was kept fairly orderly. Not so with Will’s house. The young man was a disorganized packrat. Tools, pieces of wood, and hardware kept company with a drawing easel and other drawing supplies.
Looking around at it all, Sammi said, “I thought your shop was out back, not in your house.”
Will laughed. “Right now my whole place is a workshop. You want a drink?”
“Sure.” She knew that when Will said “a drink” he meant scotch. “You got the good stuff?”
Will made a sarcastic sound as they went out to his kitchen. “I don’t drink anything else. It’s one of the few things I splurge on.”
He got out two glasses and poured a healthy amount of the amber liquid in them. He handed one to Sammi and took a swallow of his. “That’s better. Ok. Come with me to see your table. I’m done with everything except the staining and varnishing.”
Sammi followed him out the kitchen door and down a narrow walkway to what used to be a small carriage house. Will had converted it into a woodworking shop. Unlike his house, Will’s shop was almost spotless and extremely organized. At any given time, he could put his hand on whatever tool he needed.
She gasped when she saw the table. It was an exquisite walnut piece with a fleur de lis design around the edge. Instead of having four legs, it was supported by an ornate pedestal. The oval table’s surface would boast a beautiful, tan marble inlay, but he had to stain it before he could install it.
Will was anxious as he watched Sammi walk around the table, running a hand over it. She was a tall woman with a great figure even after having two kids. Sammi wasn’t your typical woman. Ever since she’d come to town, she’d worn jeans and western shirts. She was dangerous with weapons of any kind and had worked as a bouncer at the Watering Hole, the local saloon. There were times she also worked as a deputy for her husband.
Many men would not fight her and she was very strong. She also tended to curse more than some women and had a rough way of talking. Most people were thoroughly entertained by her demeanor and smart mouth.
She turned her ice-blue eyes on Will and said, “You know this isn’t just a table, right? Will, this is a work of art. I can’t wait to get it home. How are we gonna get it in the door, though?”
Will smiled. “I’m glad you’re happy with it. The pedestal comes off so we can get it in and then I’ll reattach it. It’s gonna be a heavy sucker with that marble, but it’ll be worth it to see it in your dining room. You guys have done a fantastic job renovating your place.”
The Taylors’ house was a large affair with five bedrooms, two baths, and a full attic that they had turned into a sort of playroom for the kids. There was also a kitchen, pantry, dining room, family room, and front parlor. All of the rooms were spacious with high ceilings and big windows that let in plenty of natural light.
When Mitch had bought the place, it was in great disrepair. Over the years, he and Sammi had worked hard at restoring it to its former glory. It had been a labor of love for them to create a special place in which to raise their family.
“Thanks,” Sammi said. “We’re really happy with it.”
Will moved over to where a large crate sat and removed the top. “Come look at the marble. It’s gorgeous and I’ve already cut it to the right dimensions. All I have to do is drop it in and glue it in place.”
Sammi whistled as she ran a hand over the cool, smooth surface. “Beautiful, Will. When will you deliver it?”
“Today’s Wednesday, so I should be able to get it to you by Sunday,” he said.
“You wanna see the drawings for Tucker’s gun cabinet? Sadie’s real happy with them. She can’t wait to give it to him for his birthday.”
He took Sammi over to his drawing table and tapped the page that laid on it. Sammi let out a low whistle as she looked the drawing over. “He’s gonna love it. I guess I’m gonna have to get you to make me one of them.”
Will laughed. “Don’t tell me you bought more guns.”
Sammi’s affection for weapons and guns was well known and she had an extensive collection. She grinned at Will. “Nope. Mitch got it for me for my anniversary. I’ll show it to you on Sunday.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Will said.
Sammi tossed back the rest of her drink and nodded. “Now, I also came on a different matter.”
Will saw Sammi sober and wondered what was wrong. “Ok. Go ahead.”
“I’m not tryin’ to meddle in your affairs, but I know that you’re lookin’ for a wife.”
“Yeah, but it’s not going very well.”
Sammi said, “Well, maybe I can help
“Of course. How’s she doing?” Will asked.
“She’s good, but she’s homesick. She won’t say it, but I can read between the lines when she writes. I think she wants to come home, but doesn’t know how to say it. With her aunt passing away, I think she’s a little lonely,” Sammi told him.
“That’s too bad. What does this have to do with me?” Will asked, even though he had an inkling.
“Well, you’re lookin’ for a wife and she’s lookin’ for a husband. You know each other a little bit and you have growin’ up in Dawson in common. I’m not gonna push, but I’ll leave her address with you in case you want to write her,” Sammi said, as she pulled a piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to him.
Will took it and looked at it and then back at Sammi. “Are you playing matchmaker?”
Sammi smiled. “I guess so. Look, I know you were disappointed over what happened with Zoe, and you haven’t said anything about finding anyone else. Like I said, I’m not tryin’ to pressure you. I think you’re a good man and you two might hit it off.”
He returned her smile. “I appreciate the thought and I’ll think about it.”
Sammi nodded. “That’s all I can ask for. Well, I’ll get out of your way. Thanks for the drink and for all the work you’ve put into making that beautiful table.”
“You’re welcome, Sammi. I’ll see you Sunday, if not before,” Will said, as he walked her out.
Once she left, Will stood in his kitchen looking at the paper she’d given him. He sighed, put it in his pocket, and began working on the staining process for the table.