- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Ships from: MCDONOUGH, GA
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Penny giggled and shoved one last pin in place. "There. Independence will never see a lovelier scalp."
Bethany looked up at her friend's beautiful blond upsweep and refuted, "Your hair always looks wonderful."
"Spoken like a true friend. Let's get you into your gown. I don't doubt Mrs. Throckmorton measured the seams within a half breath."
"She did, but Letty was a dear. She added on a tiny bit so I wouldn't have to be laced so miserably tight." Bethany slipped into the white satin gown with Penny's help and let her fasten the seemingly endless row of satin-covered buttons from hips to neck. She glanced at her reflection in the oak cheval mirror and fussed. "We cut the skirts much narrower so it wouldn't take up so much space in my trunk."
"You're so wasp-waisted, we could have had you wear a pillow slip for a skirt, and you'd turn every man's head." Penny's light blue taffeta gown rustled as she stood back and bobbed her head in approval. "We only have a few minutes. Where are your mama's pearls?"
"Here. Uncle Bartholomew sent them."
As Penny draped the luminous strand around Bethany's neck and fastened it, she muttered, "You'd think the old goat could have delivered them himself."
"I'm glad Uncle sent them. Had he come, he might well have given them to some other woman. I doubt he would have recognized me."
Bethany didn't even feel a pang at that fact. Orphaned at six, she'd spent the next five years trying, and fairing, to be invisible and silent under the strict eye of Uncle Bartholomew's housekeeper and a stern governess. While they both went out to a Temperance League meeting one afternoon, Bethany took it upon herself to sled down the stairs on a silver tray. Skirts flouncing, stockings drooping, and one braid unraveled, she ran straight into her uncle. The very next day, she'd been shipped to Mrs. Throckmorton's Ladies' Academy. Fortunately, the headmistress valued loving-kindness as much as decorum and education.
"Well, your mama's pearls are your something old, and the dress Mrs. Throckmorton and the girls made you is your something new." Penny pulled a gold and crystal hat pin from her own sash. "I brought this to help keep your veil in place. It'll be your something borrowed."
"Oh, Penny! It's the one your papa gave to your mama-"
"On their first anniversary," Penny completed with a smile. "She would have wanted you to borrow it, I'm sure."
As they settled the sheer veil in place, Bethany confessed, "It feels scandalous, wearing a blue garter."
Penny laughed. "For all of our escapades, that makes you feel disreputable? What about the time we-"
A knock on the door interrupted them. "Ladies, it's time to go."
Joshua stood at the altar and could hardly believe the vision beside him was real. Bethany handed his sister the bridal bouquet of Star of Bethlehem, phlox, flax, and violets he'd had delivered to her hotel, then knelt beside him so they could share Communion. The back of her gloved hand slid beneath her gossamer veil so she could partake of the elements. Lord, bless our union....
He spoke his vows with assurance that no other woman could please him more. From the moment he'd met her, he'd lost his heart. Two weeks at Christmas and a few letters since were scarcely the courtship she deserved. Joshua thought about proposing and sending for her once he'd gotten settled in Oregon, but he was too smitten to wait. Then, too, he feared someone else would capture her affections if he delayed.
So here Bethany stood by his side. She turned to allow him to slip his mother's wedding ring onto her finger. In accordance with tradition, she'd split the glove along the fourth finger to make it possible, and he noted with pleasure that his bride's hand was both warm and steady. The flower-etched band fit perfectly. "With this ring, I thee wed and pledge thee my troth."
She looked up at him through the veil, so he could see her tremulous smile and wide green eyes. This beautiful woman is my wife.
"You may greet your bride."
Joshua carefully lifted the veil and tucked it back over her glossy curls. She blinked; but since her cheeks turned a fetching pink, he suspected it was more from nervousness than the light. Settling one hand at her tiny waist, he cupped her cheek with the other and kissed her for the very first time.
Before he even drew back, Penny intruded and gushed, "Now we're really sisters!"
His father embraced Bethany. "Welcome to the family, Dear. You're to call me `Papa' from now on."
Josh watched his bride's smile warm. In that instant, he felt an odd twinge. He wanted the warmth of her smile to belong to him. What if she just married me to be with them? She has no family and Penny always said-
Bethany turned back to him. "Thank you for the flowers, Joshua. They're lovely."
"As are you." He stepped into the space beside her that his father had vacated and barely touched the delicate lace on her sleeve. "Your gown does you justice."
"Mrs. Throckmorton and all of my friends helped me."
He chuckled softly. "You had three weeks. From what I've heard, the redoubtable headmistress could have marshaled an army and led it to victory in that time."
Her gloved hand covered her lips as merry laughter bubbled out of her, and her eyes sparkled. "In half that time!"
With a few loud, bright flashes, the photographer took their portraits, and the wedding party moved to the hotel's dining room. Josh wondered if Bethany regretted not having a huge wedding with pews full of guests, but her easy conversation and cheerful attitude convinced him she didn't find their special day a disappointment.
Penny could take the credit for that. He'd never paid much attention to the fripperies and silly details of these affairs. The pricey ladies' academy obviously taught those essentials, because Penny had swept into Independence and arranged for the church, music, the bridal suite at the hotel, and a special wedding supper. She'd even selected a new suit for him in honor of the occasion. In the end, Josh tended but one detail: Penny insisted Bethany wouldn't want fancy hothouse roses. Though Josh had seen brides carry lilies, he associated them with his mother's funeral, so he went out and gathered a bouquet of fresh wildflowers that very morning. When he'd seen them in Bethany's hands, Josh knew he had chosen ones that suited her-bright, pure, and fresh.
Josh rose from the table and extended his hand. "May I have a bridal waltz?"
"Why, I'm honored to accept. Thank you." Bethany beamed as she took his hand and let him lead her to the floor. Others noticed her attire and veil and left the floor as the chamber orchestra struck up a waltz.
"Doct-I mean, Joshua, this day has been perfect," she said as she gracefully followed his lead.
He spun her and relished her graceful moves and the way they made her satin gown whisper. "I worried it would be a disappointment to you."
"A disappointment? Oh, never!" She swayed to the music in his arms and flashed him an impish smile. "If anything, I'm relieved. I'd be embarrassed to make a big fuss when I've no family to fill my half of a church or reception. If you feel we're missing out on any important customs, I'll be sure to tie flowers and strings of old shoes to our wagon when we depart."
Josh drew her closer and chuckled along with her. Her lightheartedness and ready laughter captivated him at their first meeting; and each time they were together, he grew to appreciate her sense of humor. He gave her hand a little squeeze and teased, "I hear shoe leather is too precious on the trail to waste like that."
"Far be it from me to be a wasteful wife."
"Or a barefoot one," he added.
Bethany turned a beguiling shade of rose. "Oh, Penny didn't tell you about that, did she?"
"About you being barefoot?" He had no notion what she referred to, but she'd sparked his curiosity.
"Truly, Joshua, I normally wouldn't be so bold as to be caught in public in such a state, but it was the price of vanity."
He chuckled and repeated, "Vanity?"
Her eyes glittered with humor, and her beguiling smile demonstrated the ability to laugh at herself as she confessed, "I'll never again waste money on shoes that are too big."
"Even if they're beautiful?"
"I assure you," she winked at Penny and Papa as he swept her by their table, "those slippers weren't worth it. Penny and I spent over an hour scrubbing the mud off the hem of my dress after that debacle."
"Where are those shoes now?"
She let out a small gasp. "You're naughty. You didn't know the story, after all."
"You can't leave me wondering."
"Very well. I doubt those lovely Italian leather slippers are still stuck in the mud. Most likely, someone happened by and declared they were an answer to prayer."
He smiled down at her. "Bethany, my dear, I'm sure you're right. I firmly believe in answered prayers."
"It's hard for me to tell. You hid behind the screen until you were buttoned up suitable for church, and now you won't look me in the eye." When she summoned the courage to glance at Josh in the mirror, he patted the mattress in a silent invitation to come sit beside him.
Too embarrassed to share that perch since it was the site of last night's intimacies, Bethany sashayed to the raspberry velvet settee and tilted her head in a counteroffer for him to join her. To her relief, he was mindful of her sensibilities and didn't even comment about the fact that her heated cheeks must match the furniture.
Josh padded across the floor in his stocking feet and sat beside her. "I confess, you surprised me."
Bethany couldn't hold back her laughter. "No doubt, I'll do plenty of that over the next fifty years or so. Seriously, though, Joshua-Uncle Bartholomew insisted."
"We were going to share the wagon with Papa and Penny."
"The wainwrights already made and delivered the wagon. I even chose a beautiful shade of emerald and had them paint it."
"Pretty or not, it'll still need a team of oxen."
"Of course it will. They're in the stable with the wagon."
Josh's brow knit, and his eyes sparked with an emotion she'd not seen yet as he said, "You've taken to arranging a lot on your own."
Bethany laid her hand on his muscular arm. "Don't you see? This way, we'll start out with a little home of our own, and we can take more essentials."
Looking less than convinced, he cast a glance at the trunk in the corner of the bridal suite. "Just what essentials are we supposedly missing?"
"Oh, I started with `Ware's Guide to Emigrants' as a foundation and composed a list of necessities. Some things are already packed in the wagon."
He pulled a folded list from his shirt pocket. "I think we'd better compare lists. Mine is from Marcy's The Prairie Traveler."
Bethany twisted to the side, opened the reticule she'd set on the table, and pulled out a list at least five times as long. "Yes, well, that list was written by a military man. He simply didn't expect to have to set up a decent home at the end of his trip. I've pared this down to the barest essentials."
"Let's have a look." He took the slip and began to read. His very stillness amazed her. The men she'd seen at church or the fathers who came to visit their daughters at the academy often rattled coins in their pockets, drummed their fingers, or jiggled the foot they crossed over the opposite knee-but Josh had a way of settling onto a seat and looking completely at ease and in command. At Christmas time, that instilled a sense of calm in her. Now, it made her nervous. She'd never sat alone with a man, yet she was married to this one!
At first, he nodded in agreement with the items shell listed. As the seconds ticked by, his expression became guarded. Finally, he turned and gave her a look of disbelief. "Calling cards!"
"They weigh nothing and take almost no space. I know every inch has to count, so I selected dishes and pots that all nest together. What did you think of the furniture?"
"Two chairs, not four. The bench and table are fine. Papa and I already lost the battle with Penny about the quilts." He winked. "I'm not going to waste my breath and go down to defeat again."
She eased back a bit on the settee. "I'm so glad you've agreed to the wagon. Since Uncle had his man procure it, it never occurred to me to ask you."
The corners of Josh's mouth pulled tight for a moment, "We're a team now, Beth. I'll always expect you to consult with me."
They went down the list, and Bethany tried to compromise. She would have anyway, but after unsettling Josh with the wagon, she wanted to ease his concerns. She sacrificed her barrel of straw-packed china and crystal. Wishing to show her cooperative spirit, she even agreed they'd bedroll beneath the wagon instead of using military camp cots.
"I'm not sure why you're taking a cookbook. You'll be making beans, biscuits, side meat, and mush."
Bethany shook her head. "Oh, no. Mrs. Collins's The Great Western Cook Book was a wedding gift from the girls at the school. They've been helping me research what will store and pack. We made jerked beef, dehydrated vegetables and fruit, and found other things to take so we'll have nice meals. You might have noticed I don't list salterus because I'm taking something new called Rumford baking powder. I bought some foods already, but we'll need to buy others at the mercantile here in Independence."
"Penny bought some supplies, but she was waiting until you arrived to get most of the provisions."
Sliding her hand over his, Bethany tried to choose her words carefully. "I know it's a delicate subject, but I'd rather discuss it with you." Encouraged by his approving nod, she continued, "Since ... funds ... have become a temporary issue for Papa and Penny due to your father's reversal of fortunes, I thought perhaps you and I could beg their indulgence because it's our honeymoon and shop for the supplies ourselves."
He smiled. "That would suit. Papa's pride has him spurning my assistance, but I doubt he could refuse you anything."
"Perfect!" Bethany drew another item from the reticule. "Here you are."
"What's this?" Josh took the folded envelope and about choked when he looked at the letter of credit inside.
Excerpted from Wildflower Brides by ANDREA BOESHAAR CATHY MARIE HAKE SALLY LAITY PAMELA KAYE TRACY Copyright © 2002 by Andrea Boeshaar
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted April 17, 2013