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Brides of Idaho
3-in-1 Historical Romance Collection
By Linda Ford
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Linda Ford
All rights reserved.
Bonners Ferry, Idaho, during the Kootenai gold rush, Spring 1864
His name was Levi. Levi Powers. Twenty-six years of age. A man intent on fulfilling his vow. He pulled to a halt in front of the saloon, tugged his worn cowboy hat low on his head, and swung from the back of his mount, landing neatly on his feet. This was where he intended to start.
His boots thudded on the wooden sidewalk in front of the swinging doors. He strode inside, grabbed a chair, stood on it, and called, "Would you care to put away your whiskey and cards for a few minutes and hear from God's Word?"
The place grew quiet. Deadly quiet. Then several tipped chairs dropped to all fours with the crack of a rifle shot.
He studied each and every face. The hardened men, the eager boys who probably shaved once a week, the anxious greenhorns, and —
He stared. A woman. A young woman. A very pretty young woman who flashed him a bold grin. Not the sort of woman who frequented saloons. No tight, revealing bodice. No rouged cheeks. From what he could see as she sat behind a table, she wore a tanned leather vest. A battered cowboy hat hung down her back. Her sorrel-colored hair was bound in a braid as thick as a woman's wrist.
He jerked his gaze away, but three faces away it returned to her. She leaned her elbows on the table and regarded him as steadily as he did her. Not the least bit ladylike at all. And yet ... yet ... he felt trapped by her insolent beauty.
What was she doing in here? What sort of town opened its saloon to women? Apart from the usual crude types? Right then and there he knew he had his job cut out for him.
He forced his attention away from her, angled his body so he wasn't able to look directly at her, and opened the Bible. He had long thought about the words he would say when he found the place where he would start his work. And yet he paused, momentarily forgetting his plan.
Thankfully, the pages fell open at the chosen place. "I'm reading from the Gospel of John, chapter ten, verse ten, where Jesus says, 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' My name is Levi Powers, and I am here to tell you about this abundant life Jesus offers. I'll be available anytime, day or night, if you want to talk. Otherwise, I will be walking the streets, stopping where I see people and telling them the good news. And Sundays, I'll hold services."
One bleary-eyed patron raised a hand. "Mister Preacher, where you gonna hold these here services? Ain't no church." He gave what Levi expected was supposed to be a laugh, but it sounded more like a choked sigh.
"I'll preach in a field until I find suitable quarters for a church." He closed his Bible, signifying he was done.
The room was quiet. Someone coughed. Slowly the noise grew, though not to the deafening level it had been when he stepped inside. He understood his presence made some of them uncomfortable, and he strode toward the door, allowing his gaze to slide to the woman, rest there only a second before he schooled it away. Not the sort of woman a preacher man should be admiring.
She nodded briefly as if acknowledging his thoughts then pushed her chair back and rose.
He hurried out. Heard her booted feet following and waited for her on the rough-board walk.
She dragged a half-drunk man at her side who staggered wildly when she drew up to give Levi an insolent stare.
"Ma'am." He suddenly didn't know what to say, but he hadn't come here to run from challenges of any kind. "Sort of surprised to see a lady in the saloon." He was even more surprised she wore form-fitting, faded brown britches. He shifted his gaze upward, crashed into her gaze. Her eyes impaled him. Light brown, almost golden. Hard to look at. Impossible to pull away from.
She leaned back on her heels and hooked her thumbs through her belt loops. "Did you?"
"Did I what?"
"See a lady." She didn't wait for his reply. "I don't claim to be a lady. I do what suits me without regard for silly rules."
"I see." Though in truth he didn't. What rules did she consider silly? Her words had the same ringing tone Matthew's voice carried as he rode away from their grandparents' farm and straight into trouble. He perceived she was another rebel. This was confirmation of his calling to this town. This woman needed redemption for sure.
"Mr. Powers ... or Preacher Powers, or whatever you've a hankering to be called ... I got no objection to hearing a sermon now and then. Certainly no objection to you reading the scriptures to us, but don't be thinking you can make rules for everyone to follow. Might be some will gladly do so. But I won't be one of them." She grabbed the elbow of the swaying wide-eyed man she'd dragged from the saloon, paused to give his horse the once-over. "Yours?"
Something flickered through her eyes before she dragged her friend down the street.
"Glory, you sure are a sharp-tongued woman," the drunk muttered. "But I don't mind." He threw an arm across the woman's shoulders, almost upsetting them both.
Levi took a step forward, thinking to extricate her from the man.
The squeak of the swinging doors signaled another person's arrival. "I wouldn't interfere if I was you."
Levi ground to a halt, though it took a great deal of effort.
"That girl could chew up a man like you and spit him out without a thought."
"Like me?" He turned to face the speaker. A man like so many he'd seen — his face work hardened and full of weary discouragement.
"Allow me to introduce myself. Claud Wagoner." They shook hands. "You really going to start Sunday services?"
"I am." And so much more. He'd made a bargain with God and intended to keep it. God, You work on Matt, and I'll work for You out here.
Claud shook his head. "You're lucky Bull Johnson is away. He owns this saloon and wouldn't take kindly to you disrupting his business. If ya know what I mean."
"I expect I do."
"Bull would not make a good enemy."
Levi snorted. "Never known of a good enemy." His gaze had shifted back down the street where the girl and the drunk turned the corner and disappeared from view. "What's her name?"
"Who?" The man followed the direction of Levi's stare. "Oh her. That's Glory Hamilton."
Glory. An unusual name for an unusual woman.
"Best you stay away from her. She's not the sort a preacher man should spend time with."
He had no intention of spending time with any woman except for the sake of turning her feet to the right path, but he wondered why Claud should have such an opinion and asked.
"She is wild as the winter wind. Why, she's a horse trader."
This Glory just got more and more interesting. No, that wasn't the word he meant. It was only that he saw clearly she was part of the reason the Lord had directed him to this place.
Levi tipped the brim of his hat in a good-bye gesture and gathered up the reins of his horse. He didn't bother to swing into the saddle but led the horse down the street giving each building careful study.
A mercantile that appeared to be doing a brisk business, a freight office, likewise busy, a barber shop also offering baths. He considered the two bits it would cost and decided he would save his money and take a dip in some quiet place in the river. There was a lawyer office and a hardware store with an array of shovels, picks, and buckets displayed in the window. The sign to his left read HOTEL, but it was like no hotel he'd ever seen. A rough building. The two windows on the front were missing panes. The door hung crookedly. Flies buzzed around a bucket, and even across the street he could smell the contents. A glance as he passed revealed rotting piles of garbage to the side of the building and he shuddered. He guessed the rooms would be no more appealing. And knowing the sort of person who would stay there rather than outdoors in the clean air, he knew it wasn't a place where a man could expect to wake up with his belongings still in his possession.
He thought of the business close to the ferry. Bonners Ferry Stopping House offering home-cooked meals. That place looked a lot more appealing as temporary quarters. He'd also noticed a small shop offering to shoe a horse. He'd make his way back there first chance he got and ask to borrow the man's tools so he could do a little work on his mount's hooves.
He came to the end of the businesses with modest houses tucked behind them and continued on, passing scattered shacks farther along the road.
A hunched figure trudged toward him. A shriveled woman struggling under the weight of an armload of wood.
He trotted toward her and dismounted as he reached her side. "Ma'am. Let me help."
She resisted his offer to carry the wood. "It's mine. Leave me alone."
"I only want to help. Let me carry it for you."
Reluctantly she released it and gave him serious study up and down his length. "You new here?"
"Yes ma'am." He gave his name and lifted his hat. "Where to?"
She pointed to a shack that looked like it would leave in a good wind.
He shortened his stride to match her slow shuffle and wondered if each step hurt. She was bent forward forty degrees.
They reached the front of the hovel and she stopped. "Here's good enough. Just put it down. I'll take it the rest of the way."
"I'll take it to your kitchen."
The sound grating from her throat was neither disgust nor amusement yet somehow both. Then she shouldered open the door. It scratched against the rough wood floor.
He stepped inside to see four bare walls he could touch with his fingers without moving. It was nothing more than a primitive entryway. He stepped through the second doorway to a room not much larger. In it stood a stove made out of an old barrel. A rough piece of lumber nailed to the wall served as table; sawed-off logs provided seating. A battered wooden bucket and two old tin cans made up the rest of the items. "You live here?" He managed to keep the shock from his voice. Barely. The place was hardly big enough to shelter a horse in a bad storm. He could see light through the cracks between the boards forming the walls, and he suspected from the damp smell that the roof leaked.
"So long as no one objects."
He couldn't imagine why anyone would, but here was another being needing his help. Levi prayed for wisdom on how to deal with this without offending the woman. As he considered his options, he arranged the wood near the stove. Far as he could tell, the woman had no food. He didn't need to glance out the window to see if she had a garden. It was too early in the season for anything but a few greens. His job finished, he brushed his hands. "Ma'am, I'm here to preach the Gospel. Would you like me to read from the Bible?"
She sat cross-legged on the floor.
He did the same, facing her.
"Name's Ina Kish — the widow Kish. I used to be a churchgoing woman. But there's no church here."
"I aim to change that."
"Don't know if there's many Christian people around here. I've seen no evidence of it."
He hadn't either but refrained from saying so. "Then I guess my work is cut out for me." He always carried a small New Testament in his vest pocket. He pulled it out and read several verses, noting the tears glistening in the woman's eyes. A few minutes later, after a prayer with her, he departed.
But he didn't head back to Bonners Ferry. He rode along the valley until he found and shot some prairie grouse. He dressed them and took them back to the widow Kish.
Tears again sprang to her eyes. "You are a godsend."
"It is me should be thanking you."
He touched the brim of his hat as he backed away. Her words of thanks were affirmation for his task. Already he'd found two people to help — both women. One who welcomed his help. The other, he sensed, would not.
Where did the horse-trading Glory hang her hat? She looked like she could provide her own game probably better than many men. But he felt her rebellion like a canker sore under his tongue.
He would make it a priority to locate her and find a way to break through that rebellious spirit.
* * *
Glory didn't slow her steps until she rounded the corner out of sight of the preacher. She wanted nothing to do with a cowboy intent on reforming others. No man would ever tell her what to do. No woman either, for that matter, unless it was one of her sisters.
She realized she held Toby by the elbow and practically dragged him after her, although half the time he dragged her to the right as he lost his balance.
"Glory, what's the hurry?" He struggled for breath. "Whatcha running from?"
She stopped and gave him a chance to right himself. "I never run from anything. You ought to know that."
Toby nodded. "You're pretty tough. Especially for a girl."
She let it pass.
He shifted his gaze to their back trail. "I thought I heard him say he was a preacher."
He didn't expect an answer, and Glory didn't provide one.
"Sure never seen a preacher like him before."
"That's a fact." She made a movement suggesting they should continue on their way, and Toby started again. Steady enough now to walk on his own. That meant she had found him before he got seriously drunk.
"Did you see his vest?"
Of course she'd seen his vest. Hand-tooled leather with Concho-style front leather ties and a fringed yoke. She'd seen a whole lot more. The thickness of his fawn-colored hair that couldn't be disguised or hidden by his hat. His square jaw that said better than words he meant business. The way his blue eyes slanted in hard assessment when he studied Glory. "I don't care what the man thinks."
"But his vest. No preacher wears a vest like that. Nor a hat like that either." Toby ground to a halt and struggled to retain his balance. "Say, I bet he ain't even a preacher. Seems I saw a poster once about a crook who wore a fancy vest. They call him the Rawhide Kid. I heard he pretends to be a nice guy then steals everything but the ground beneath your feet."
Rawhide Kid. Suited him better than preacher. Toby might have something in his rambling observations. What better disguise than posing as a preacher? It would fool a lot of people, especially when he read from the Bible in that deep ringing voice.
But she wasn't one to be fooled by well-spoken words or a rumbling voice that no doubt made others think of thunder rolling from heaven, the very voice of God even. Nope. Not Glory Hamilton. If she had learned one thing in her nineteen years it was to trust only what she could build and hold in her own two hands. Figuratively speaking.
She'd be keeping a close eye on the rawhide preacher. "Come on, Toby. You need to get some wood for Joanna."
"That's the agreement. Remember? You help Joanna around the stopping house in exchange for meals." Glory and her sisters, Joanna and Mandy, ran the stopping house. Joanna was the cook. Mandy, the hunter. Glory ... well, Glory did whatever was needed unless she could get Toby to do it.
"I can work for Bull, and he gives me cash."
"Which you promptly give back to him in the saloon. Good deal for Bull. Not such a good deal for you."
Toby muttered something about it feeling good right now.
Glory chose to ignore the comment. If Toby didn't do the agreed-upon work, Joanna would be after Glory to do it, and Glory had other things to do with her time. She managed to steer Toby to the stopping house and turned him over to Joanna, who issued instructions to get firewood and water, take out ashes, and empty the slop pail.
Toby explained to Joanna about the man in the saloon. "Said he was a preacher."
"Bonners Ferry could use a preacher and a church, too," Joanna said, slanting a pointed look at Glory.
"He can preach his heart out. Won't change me."
Joanna sighed. "You're always so defensive. No one said anything about changing you. But comes a time in all of our lives when we have to stop running from life and simply learn to trust God with it."
"I trust God."
"Trusting covers a lot of things."
"I hate it when you get all philosophical. You got something to say, come right out and say it."
Joanna handed the bucket of vegetable peelings to Toby and waved him away. "All I'm saying is ..." She shrugged. "I don't know. Never mind. I suppose I mean for myself more than anyone else. Where are you off to?"
Glory laughed. "Who said I am."
Joanna lifted one eyebrow in mocking amusement. "Let's see. Could it be because you keep shifting from one foot to the other and glancing toward the door? Or maybe because I know you well enough I just know?"
"Probably both. I want to check on those horses I have up the hill."
"You'll be back for supper?"
"Of course. And I'll wash the dishes and sweep the floor and whatever else needs doing."
"Good. Then go see to your horses."
Glory reached for the door.
Excerpted from Brides of Idaho by Linda Ford. Copyright © 2011 Linda Ford. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsGlory and the Rawhide Preacher,
Mandy and the Missouri Man,
Joanna and the Footloose Cowboy,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Wonderfully written. Great characters and wonderful Christian values!
Disappointing. Come up with some more creative and interesting characters. And some new names too. Levi is not the only name in the world. $10 is a lot for 399 pages of a not very well written story.