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Brides of Arizona
3-in-1 Historical Romance Collection
By Nancy J. Farrier
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2000 Nancy J. Farrier
All rights reserved.
Camp MacDowell, Arizona Territory, 1870s
Daddy, how could you do this to me?" The petite young woman stalked through the open door, her rust-colored dress and parasol leaving a trail of travel dust.
Lieutenant Conlon Sullivan watched in amusement as the normally stern Captain Richard Wilton lost his military composure in the face of the fiery redhead's anger. Conlon knew this must be Glorianna Wilton, the captain's daughter, newly arrived at Camp MacDowell, Arizona Territory.
"I'm sorry, Sir." A red-faced orderly stood behind the young woman wringing his hands. "I tried to stop her."
Captain Wilton's mouth snapped closed, and he waved a hand at the orderly, who stumbled over his feet as he backed from the room and pulled the door shut behind him.
"Daddy, I can't believe you would make me come to this horrible country to live. Do you hate me this much?" Jewel green eyes sparkled with fire. "There isn't even a decent road for miles. I've been bumped and jolted for days. Not to mention the abysmal boat trip up the Colorado River to get to Arizona Territory."
Captain Wilton stood and rounded the desk in record time. "Kitten, I didn't want to upset you, but I needed to see you." He tried to draw her into his arms, but the girl withdrew a step and stiffened her slender back.
Conlon watched in silence as Captain Wilton regained his composure. Hmm. Anger doesn't appear to be working. I wonder if she'll try pleading now — or tears.
"I'm sorry. I know the trip out here is strenuous. I thought it best, after your mother died, to bring you here to be with me."
Biting his lower lip to stifle his laughter, Conlon watched the rigidity melt from the girl. Her face took on a lost puppy look. She's good. I'll bet she's used to wrapping him around her finger. Still, her wiles may not work now that she's grown.
Taking advantage of the momentary lull, Conlon studied the captain's daughter. Her once shining dress, now travel-stained and dusty, covered a willowy figure. A crumpled, yet stylish hat sat askew on a head of the brightest red hair he had seen since leaving home. She reminded him of his mother with her fiery hair and temper. His fingers twitched as he longed to reach out and brush a strand of hair from her silky white cheek, wanting to know if her skin and hair were as soft as they appeared.
"I'm sorry, Daddy." Her apology broke the silence. "I wanted to see you, too. I just didn't realize the trip here would be so gruesome."
"Hey, Kitten." Richard Wilton lifted his daughter's chin with a gentle finger. "I didn't consider how difficult the journey would be for you. Now that you're here, I'm sure you'll love Arizona."
Shoulders slumped, she gazed up at her father. "Daddy, I must return home. Please. This was the worst time for me to come. You don't understand."
Captain Wilton's brows drew together in a puzzled frown as he looked down at his beautiful daughter. "Why do you want to go back to Boston?"
"Oh, Daddy, I have to get back to Kendrick. You remember Kendrick Hanford, don't you?" She reached out to brush a piece of lint from her father's cavalry jacket.
Captain Wilton's frown deepened. "Of course, I remember the Hanford boy. If I recall, he's the one who tipped over outhouses and threw rotten eggs at any likely target — including me. What about him?"
The young woman's cheeks reddened and her green eyes twinkled. "Oh, Daddy, he was just a boy when he did those things. Now he's a responsible young man, and I intend to marry him."
I suspect the tears will appear any second now. Conlon struggled to suppress a smile. She's just like my sister Maria.
"Marry him?" Captain Wilton questioned. "Has he declared his intentions?"
"Well, not exactly," she said as she twirled her dainty parasol, sending a dust shower to the floor. "But, I know he will, Daddy." She laid a slender hand on his shirtfront, her eyes bright with unshed tears. Like a drop of honey, a single tear traced a path down her cheek. "Daddy, I'm almost an old maid. In four months I'll be eighteen. I have to get married now."
Conlon almost laughed aloud at the thought of this vision's being an old maid. The slender beauty certainly didn't look the part. Lord, I do believe she's an answer to my prayers. At that moment, Conlon Sullivan knew without a doubt he would marry the captain's daughter. Softly, he cleared his throat.
Cat green eyes locked on his, and a soft rose blush crept up her apple blossom cheeks. Captain Wilton looked momentarily confused before his commanding demeanor returned. "Pardon me, Sullivan. I seem to have forgotten my manners." He gestured at his daughter. "Allow me to introduce you to my daughter, Glorianna. Glorianna, this is Lieutenant Conlon Sullivan."
She brushed the stray strands of hair out of her face and back into place, her eyes never leaving Conlon's face. "I'm pleased to meet you." Her lilting voice turned soft with almost a musical quality to it.
Conlon didn't think he would ever breathe again. This enchanting woman stole his every thought. Her heart-shaped face, like that of the angel on his mother's Christmas tree, captivated him. Moments passed. Suddenly, he realized they were staring at him. "Pleased," he stammered like an untried boy. Then, regaining a measure of his usual confidence, he continued. "I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Wilton. We don't usually have the privilege of such pleasant company in the middle of the desert."
Glorianna inspected the handsome cavalry lieutenant facing her. Laughing blue eyes, deep set beside a slightly crooked nose, started her heart tripping faster than normal. Even, white teeth lit up a face tanned from hours in the sun. Neatly combed coal black hair lay straight, except for one wayward shock hanging down on his forehead.
What would it be like to tuck that lock of hair back into place? she wondered. The thought of being that close to such a commanding, strongmuscled man took her breath away. What is wrong with me? I want to marry Kendrick, yet here I am attracted to the first man I meet in Arizona.
"I'm sure it would be okay for you to wait outside, Lieutenant, while I finish talking with my father." Glorianna knew she had to get this man out of here. "Isn't that right, Daddy?"
Captain Wilton frowned, then turned to Conlon. "Please excuse us, Lieutenant. Wait outside, though. I'll have you escort Glorianna to our quarters in a moment."
"But, Daddy, I thought you would show me around."
"I'd love to, Kitten, but I have a lot of work to finish here. Lieutenant Sullivan is perfectly capable."
Conlon flashed a smile at her as he walked out of the office. Glorianna tried hard to be angry at his obvious pleasure in being assigned to escort her. He just doesn't know how much I love Kendrick. He'll give up soon.
"Daddy," she said, turning to see her father once again standing behind his desk.
"Now, Glorianna, don't start. You just arrived. Give Arizona a chance. You might like it better than Boston."
"Daddy, it has nothing to do with Boston or Arizona. I have to marry Kendrick. Every girl in Boston wants to be his wife. If I don't get back right away, he might just agree to marry one of them."
"Well, if that's the case, then perhaps he isn't the right man for you anyway," Richard Wilton suggested.
Twirling her parasol again, Glorianna noted the cloud of dust drifting from its folds, and she shook free the rest of the travel dirt. "Daddy, it isn't just Kendrick."
"Then have a seat and tell me what it is."
Glorianna sank into the chair vacated by Conlon as her father dropped heavily into his desk chair. "Oh, Daddy, I've dreamed of marrying Kendrick and living in a cottage, just the two of us. I want a little cottage with a white picket fence. The neighbor ladies could open the little gate when they come to visit. We could sit outside and drink tea among the rose bushes while we listen to the birds sing." Glorianna heard the wistful note in her voice and shook herself back to reality. "Now do you understand?"
Richard Wilton's eyes shone with tears, and he watched his daughter a moment before speaking. "You look and sound so much like your mother, Kitten. I could almost believe she was sitting across from me." He stopped to clear the huskiness from his throat. "I believe I understand, but I just can't let you leave yet. You'll have to at least wait until a company is traveling across to the Colorado River. Right now, I can't spare the men necessary to escort you. Besides, I expect to receive new orders by Christmas. It's possible I'll be sent back east."
"Christmas!" Glorianna stiffened in anger. "Christmas is months away, and by then it could be too late."
"I'm sorry, Glorianna, but that's the way it is." Captain Wilton rose from his desk, stepped around, and took her arm. "Now come on. I'll have Lieutenant Sullivan show you to our quarters, and he can introduce you to some of our neighbors."
Smiling at his daughter, he continued. "Maybe it won't be so bad as you think. After all, you have no competition here, and I'm sure you could find plenty of suitors."
"That's the last thing I want," Glorianna shot back. "I don't want to be married to an army man who will be traipsing off who knows where just when I need him."
As the words left her mouth, Glorianna wished she could draw them back. She knew from the look on her father's face that she'd hurt him deeply. He couldn't help leaving her and her mother. The army was his job. You couldn't simply quit that kind of a job. He hadn't wanted to leave a sick wife and a young daughter, but he had had no choice.
"I'm sorry, Daddy," Glorianna said softly, gently touching his cheek. "You always did the best you could. Mother loved you so much."
Richard Wilton pulled her close, then said gruffly, "It's time for you to go. Lieutenant Sullivan!"
* * *
"These are the parade grounds," Conlon said, gesturing toward a large area of brown sand dotted with scraggly, unrecognizable plants. "Every morning we have our drills here and most everybody comes to watch." He grinned down at her, his bright smile lighting his face. "Here in the desert you take any excitement you can get."
Glorianna tried hard to contain her anger as Conlon Sullivan insisted on strolling slowly around the camp and pointing out the various sights before taking her by the officers' quarters. She simply had to get away from this man. His presence bothered her more than she cared to admit. She constantly found her gaze drifting to his arms. Even through the sleeves of his cavalry tunic, she could tell they were well muscled, and she kept wondering what it would feel like to be held by them.
"Would you please show me to my father's house, Lieutenant Sullivan?" She stiffened her resolve and tried hard to recall Kendrick's face, but only a pair of sparkling blue eyes set above a once-broken nose appeared. "I've had a long day, and I really need to refresh myself before the dinner hour." Glorianna knew she sounded like some haughty city girl, but she couldn't help herself. She needed to escape his presence.
"Oh, but Miss Wilton," Conlon took her hand and firmly tucked it in the crook of his elbow, "you'll want to meet your neighbors, and we haven't even seen John Smith's store." When she looked up, his azure eyes bore into hers. "Then, too, I'm sure you'll want to know where to find the dining hall. You don't want to run all over the camp hunting for your dinner, do you?"
Morning glory blue, she decided. His eyes look just like the morning glory climbing Mother's fence. The only difference is, his eyes still have the sparkle of the dew in them. Shaking herself, she tugged, gently at first, then harder, trying to free her captive hand. "If we're going to finish this tour, Lieutenant, could we do it at a faster pace? And would you please release my hand?"
"I didn't realize you might be willing to run a race in this heat," Conlon said, barely holding his laughter in check. "I guess we can trot along, but I insist that I hold on to your hand. On this uneven ground, you could fall. I don't want to have to explain such an unfortunate accident to your father. Come then, let's step lively." Conlon started off once again, this time at a pace that took her breath away.
Much later, breathless and flushed, Glorianna marched past a row of officers' houses. The line of identical clapboard and adobe houses stood in formation, one after the other. She wanted to breathe a sigh of relief as Conlon paused before one of the copycat houses and knocked on a door.
"This is the home of Timothy and Fayth Holwell," Conlon stated, as he straightened his already erect military bearing. "I think you will like Fayth, and since you're next-door neighbors, you should meet her first."
The door opened and a slender, dark-haired young woman peered out at them from the dim, cool interior of her house. "Conlon." Her face lit up with a sweet smile of welcome. "Do come in." She stepped to one side, and Conlon slowly released Glorianna's hand so that she could precede him through the door.
Glorianna blinked her eyes to adjust after the brilliant sunshine outside. The inside of the house, surprisingly cool, exuded a homey atmosphere that put her at ease. A young girl toddled on unsteady legs across the uneven floor and hid her face in Fayth's skirt, peeking out to look at the visitors.
"Please sit down," Fayth said as she gestured to the few chairs grouped together at one side of the sparsely furnished room. "Conlon, what have you been doing to this young lady? Her face is as red as the sunset." Fayth called to someone in another room to bring drinks for them.
Conlon made the introductions. "She insisted we hurry our tour, Mrs. Holwell. I believe these Bostonians don't know how to move at the easier pace we Westerners are accustomed to."
"I certainly didn't intend to run a race, Lieutenant." Glorianna wished she could move her chair, for it sat much too close to Conlon's, and she could feel the heat of his gaze. She fought to avert her gaze lest she be captured once more by those eyes and find herself completely drawn to him.
Although she enjoyed the visit, Glorianna was relieved when she, at last, stood outside her door. "Thank you for the tour, Lieutenant Sullivan. I'm certain we shall cross paths again. It seems this is a rather small post."
An easy, heart-stopping smile swept over Conlon's face. "I'd say we'll cross paths again, Miss Wilton. After all, I heard you tell the captain about your dilemma. Since I'd hate to see such a beautiful woman become an old maid, I intend to ask your father's permission to court you."CHAPTER 2
Shock rendered her speechless. Glorianna stared at Conlon open-mouthed. Gently he placed one finger on her chin and pushed upward, closing her mouth. Then, with a cocky grin and a mock salute, he turned and strode toward the parade grounds.
"Never in my life have I been so insulted." Glorianna's words were spoken too late to reach the retreating Conlon. "I'll have a thing or two to say about this, Lieutenant Sullivan. You just wait and see."
Glorianna turned and stormed into the small house that she would share with her father. She ignored the crude furniture and the naked, hard-baked beige adobe walls. Instead, her thoughts were filled with Conlon's tanned and handsome face, which sported that arrogant smile and wayward lock of ebony hair.
Throughout the evening she found herself thinking of him. She tried to concentrate on Kendrick and how much she missed him. Strangely enough, she couldn't vividly recall his face. Her memory of him, already fading from the long trip to Arizona Territory, slipped even farther away, as if pushed by a certain rugged cavalry officer.
"Lieutenant Sullivan asked my permission to court you." Her father's voice jolted her out of her reverie. He looked at her over the top of a newspaper.
"I will not have him courting me," snapped Glorianna. "I plan to marry Kendrick when I go back east. There's no need of my being courted by anyone here."
Richard Wilton frowned. "You said the Hanford boy hasn't declared his intentions yet. Why is that?"
"Well," Glorianna shifted in her chair, "he's busy learning his trade and probably wants to buy a house first."
"Exactly what is his trade? I seem to remember him as being rather shiftless."
"He is not shiftless." Glorianna's eyes flashed fire. "He's just trying out different positions to find the one that suits him best."
"Shiftless," Richard Wilton murmured, rustling his paper as he turned the page. From the depths of the wagon-train–carried, outdated newspaper, he stated, "I gave Sullivan my permission. He's smart, hardworking, and will make some woman a good husband. I think you'd do well to consider him."
Glorianna stood up stiffly, knowing when her father spoke in that tone there would be no changing his mind. "I believe I'll go on to bed. It's been a long day."
Excerpted from Brides of Arizona by Nancy J. Farrier. Copyright © 2000 Nancy J. Farrier. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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