Read an Excerpt
The sun set golden across the azure sky. Brilliant streams of light beamed through cotton white, silver-edged clouds, creating a dramatic contrast against the new leafed, spring green of the trees, emerald with the approaching dusk. The coolness of the early evening rushed up to meet the wagon as its large, round wheels cut into black dirt. Rusty metal hinges and brackets clunked against hard buckboard sides as spoked wheels slid easily into the rutted path.
"What a lovely evening for a party!" Ida exclaimed, jubilant.
Chris Trapp held the reins of his two-horse team, looked sideways at Ida and smiled. He knew she was so happy because of the beautiful spring day after the long, cold Nebraska winter. He was as well. The reflected rays of the setting sun caught in her expression. The sunbeams made her smile and glow with happiness. Because of the sunbeams, she was even more beautiful, if that was possible. He was a lucky man! Even if his plan for the evening failed, he still felt blessed to have Ida with him at that moment in his life. Even if he lived no more days, he lived that one with contentment. It was as if God planted all the goodness and wonder of the world around him. How fortunate he could have so much!
Ida's copper hair wafted in the early evening breeze and she reached with her small hand to tuck its waves behind her ears.
Over the arched backs of the draft horses under the rolling hills in their wake, Edgar Conner's plow burrowed into the rich, dark earth of Horner land. The scent of musty soil and damp spring surrounded them as he waved merrily to the passing wagon. Ida waved in return and then looked to Chris.
Up until last year, Ida's life was a turbulent mess! After years and years of frightful grief and terror, her wagon rolled on a wonderful, peaceful and happy path with a great man.
She grinned at her escort, then looked to the bright yellow setting sun. Wasn't it funny how she hardly noticed how much her life had changed? Yet the changes were so drastic! Not in the place or the faces around her. As in any small town, things in Barnhill remained virtually the same. Day in and day out, the small town of Barnhill changed very little, save for births and deaths. The changes were in Ida, and they were good. Her old life seemed like it belonged to another person.
A year? Only a year! It seemed like a lifetime. Ida looked to the man she'd grown to love. Chris was an honorable man, gentle and strong, honest and dependable, trustworthy and protective. Only such a man would have been able to get her through a troublesome period and for that, Ida was very thankful.
She smiled at him as he expertly guided the two spotted horses down the road to the old Hoppie place, now occupied by the Martinas. To look at him, sitting serenely behind the two large animals, no one could tell he was strong and dependable. His baby face and calm, chestnut-shaded eyes concealed the strength that centered in his soul. A look closer and it was apparent with his broad shoulders, muscular arms and powerful legs, Chris Trapp could hold his own.
Chris clicked his tongue to direct the team and sent his comfortable gaze to Ida.
She returned his cheer. To look at his outward, peaceful demeanor, no one would have been able to tell Christopher Trapp was one of the toughest businessmen and most fearsome lawmen west of the Mississippi. Nobody in his right mind would have mentioned otherwise. She found out early in her relationship with him. No one took his boyish looks as a condition of his personality for very long before finding out just how independent, straightforward and vigorous Chris Trapp was. On top of that, anyone could tell he was in excellent shape for a man his age. Not that twenty-eight was old. Chris was considered merely a pup when people were living way into their sixties. All that muscle wrapped up in a button-front shirt neatly tucked into a pair of mildly-worn Levis stretched across his narrow waist; he didn't look old at all! In fact, he was far from it.
"We could bid our regards to our hosts at this party and go home early if you'd like. You could tell them I'm not feeling well." Her hand lit on Chris' shoulder.
Even though she knew he would enjoy nothing more than going back home with her, Ida knew what he would reply.
"Alfonso is expecting us," he said instead.
Ida wrapped her arm through his and brushed her hand tenderly against his ribs. "It's warm and quiet at your house, and I changed the sheets on your bed this morning."
Commanded by their driver, the team stopped and Chris turned toward her. He took her into his powerful arms and kissed her hard and possessively on the mouth. When she could feel his body reacting to his kiss, Chris held Ida away. He stared into the sparkle of her eyes and looked for any hidden message there. "There is nothing I would like more, right now, than to take you home to bed, but I thought we talked about this. My bed is your bed. My sheets are your sheets. My home is your home for as long as you want it. You've worked as hard at keeping it a home as I have. Do you still feel like it isn't as much yours as mine?"