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About the Author
Award-winning author Deb Kastner writes stories of faith, family and community in a small-town western setting. Deb’s books contain sigh-worthy heroes and strong heroines facing obstacles that draw them closer to each other and the Lord. She lives in Colorado with her husband. She is blessed with three grown daughters and two grandchildren. She enjoys spoiling her grandkids, movies, music, reading, musical theater and exploring Colorado on horseback.
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Black Hills Bride
By Deb Kastner
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Deb Kastner
All right reserved.
If it wasn't heaven, it was certainly the next best thing. Dixie Sullivan's dreams were coming true in Technicolor, and she loved every moment. Sunshine, South Dakota and a horse of her own.
Okay, well, maybe not a horse. Not yet, anyway. But he was next on her list, and so far, her plans had gone without a hitch.
She pulled a deep, pine-laced breath of the crisp spring air of early April and surveyed the property. The land was certainly everything she expected it to be -- covered with brush and lodgepole pines, scattered with a variety of woodland wildflowers.
Ever since her first vacation to South Dakota when she was thirteen, she knew she would someday return permanently and call South Dakota home.
Buying a spread of woodland in Custer was just her first step, and a baby step at that.
But nothing could daunt her today. She'd finally been able to step forward, putting the past behind her and looking head-on into her future. She'd even bought cowboy boots for the occasion, which, she thought, set off her indigo designer jeans nicely.
She might have made a mistake on the one-anda-half-inch heels, which made it difficult to stay vertical at times on this rough terrain. But these boots had looked so much better than the flat-heeled ones. She didn't want to look like a cowpoke just because she was moving into the mountains.
She smiled. This was God's country, or at least it would be once she was done with it, she thought eagerly.
The buildings could be in better shape. She scratched a notation on a steno pad as she walked toward a dilapidated barn. The sawed pine was old and cracking, and there were many gaps in the walls.
Small house, large barn. And all of it falling apart. It looked very much like something built by a pioneer tending his first spread of land.
Dixie laughed. She was a pioneer in her own right, though she doubted the pioneer who settled this place had a wife with enameled, inch-long fingernails. She was a new breed, that was for sure.
She surveyed the notes she'd made and shook her head. A lot about this pioneer business was new to her. She'd have to learn by trial and error, she supposed. She hadn't asked how old the buildings were, and now she wished she had. She'd been so focused on finding the right amount of land for sale exactly where she'd hoped, the details were a bit of a blur.
You get what you pay for. And the land had come cheap. Miraculously so, especially when she offered to pay cash. God's blessing here left her more of the church's money for fixing the retreat up, making it look like the dream she and Abel Kincaid, her exfiance, had carried in their hearts for so many years.
Or at least she had. Abel had his own agenda, one that ultimately didn't include her.
Thoughts of Abel weren't ever far from her mind, but she squared her shoulders and pushed them back. Now wasn't the time. And she wouldn't complain about the place needing a little elbow grease. Abel, a seasoned missionary, had prepared her for that contingency. She frowned and shoved the past to the back of her mind.
She had work to do.
It might take a bit more than elbow grease, though, she thought, running through figures in her head. Instead of renovating, she might have to start over and build from scratch.
It could be done, she decided, and probably should be.
Her guests would want modern facilities on the inside, however rustic-looking they might be on the outside. She doubted these buildings even had running water, a possibility confirmed by the presence of a pump outside the building designated as the main lodge.
Her eyebrows creased as she made another mark on her notepad. The main lodge would definitely have to be rebuilt. But what about the stable? She walked over to the oversize doors and pulled.
A loud crack was all the warning she got as the doors disintegrated into dust, raining a heap of splinters over her.
Shouting in surprise, she covered her head with her forearms, which took the brunt of the attack. Sharp-edged pieces split her skin wide, while large, blunt wood bruised her to the bone.
Shaken, she jumped back and put a palm to her chest to still her pumping heart. Her breathing came in short, audible gasps that scraped through her dry throat.
She groaned and tried to move her arms. She remembered being in a fistfight as a teenager, but that hadn't hurt this much. Several wounds were bleeding, but they weren't deep, Dixie decided, offering up a silent prayer of thanks, glad Someone was watching over her. Her expensive Western shirt was ruined, but she reminded herself it could have been worse.
She wrapped her sore arms around herself to keep from shivering, though the day was warm. She could have been seriously injured, and she was alone on this ranch until she hired a foreman and a crew for the soon-to-be retreat lodge.
"Oh, Abel," she whispered, suddenly feeling very alone. And lonely. The past two years without Abel had been difficult. Not because she needed him -- she'd never admit to that.
Hadn't she learned her lesson? She'd trusted Abel to be around when she needed him, and look where that got her. Certainly not South Dakota. She'd done that on her own.
Excerpted from Black Hills Bride by Deb Kastner Copyright © 2005 by Deb Kastner.
Excerpted by permission.
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