About the Author
LYNN A. COLEMAN is an award winning and bestselling author of Key West and other books. She began her writing and speaking career with how to utilize the Internet. Since October 1998, when her first fiction novel sold she's sold 38 books and novellas. Lynn is also the founder of American Christian Fiction Writers Inc. and served as the group's first president for two years and two years on the Advisory Board. One of her primary reasons for starting ACFW was to help writers to develop their writing skills and to encourage others to go deeper in their relationship with God. "God has given me a gift, but it is my responsibility to develop that gift." Some of her other interests are photography, camping, cooking, and boating. Having grown up on Martha’s Vineyard, she finds water to be very exciting and soothing. She can sit and watch the waves for hours. If time permitted she would like to travel. She makes her home in Keystone Heights, Florida, where her husband of 42 years serves as pastor of Friendship Bible Church. Together they are blessed with three children, two living and one in glory, and eight grandchildren.
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Brides of Kentucky
3-in-1 Historical Romance Collection
By Lynn A. Coleman
Barbour Publishing, IncCopyright © 2003 Lynn A. Coleman
All rights reserved.
November 1833 Cumberland Gap, Kentucky
Quinton!" Pam Danner screamed, tumbling down the steep road through the Cumberland Gap. Pinned by the wagon against a huge boulder, Quinton appeared lifeless. Again she tumbled, tripping over the hem of her dress. Her fine high-heeled boots were no match for this rugged terrain. I should have listened to Quinton and purchased a pair of traveling boots.
One large wheel sat in his lap and crushed his chest against the stone. "Quinton!" she screamed again, finally reaching him. His eyes fluttered open, then immediately closed. "Dear God, help me." She pulled at the wagon. It wouldn't budge. Leverage. She scanned the area. Spotting a large, fairly straight branch along the side of the trail, she retrieved it.
"Hang on, Quinton," she panted. His eyes barely moved under their lids. "Dear God, no. You can't take him away, too." Tears burned the corners of her eyes.
A small trickle of blood edged his pale lips.
She pushed and pulled at a small boulder to bring it close to the wagon. Even if she did manage to lift the wagon, she couldn't pull him out. "God, help me!" She wiped the tears from her cheeks, placed the oak branch under the wheel, and wedged it across the smaller boulder.
"Stop," a deep voice hollered from behind. She turned to discover a bear of a man dressed in leather with a Kentucky long rifle in his hand. "You'll kill him for certain."
Her hands released the pole as if it were on fire. He leaned his rifle beside the huge boulder and bent down to check Quinton's pulse. "He's alive but just barely. I'll lift the wagon; you grab him." He didn't wait for her reply.
She scurried into place.
He planted his feet. His face darkened as he lifted. "Now," he said in a strained voice.
She wrapped her arms under Quinton's and pulled him away from his trap.
The man released his hold on the corner of the uncovered wagon, and it immediately lunged forward. The iron-covered wheel scraped against the rock. The huge man bent over, maneuvering his hands around Quinton's still body. "Isn't good. He's busted up pretty bad. I suspect he's bleedin' on the inside. It isn't safe to move him. Whatever were you thinking, trying to drive a wagon over the gap?"
"We didn't. We took it apart and brought it over piece by piece. Quinton was working on the left wheel when it pinned him."
The man shook his head and stood up.
"You best make camp tonight. You aren't going anywhere." His gaze worked its way up and down the trail. "Where are your horses?"
"Quinton tethered them down a ways. He figured they could feed while he worked."
He nodded. Thick black hair spilled out of his coonskin cap. All the sketches she'd seen over the years of Daniel Boone and the other frontier men were rolled into this one man. "I'll fetch 'em, if they haven't been stolen."
"Bandits, ma'am." He grabbed his rifle and ran down the mountain.
"Quint, Quint. Please don't die on me."
"Pamela ..." His lips shaped her name more than she heard his voice. Trembling, she leaned over him, wanting to touch him but afraid to.
"Hurts bad," he gasped, his breathing ragged and labored.
Carefully, she wrapped her hand around his. His response was nonexistent. She squeezed a little tighter. "Quinton, fight it. I can't lose you. I can't. I just can't."
"The store," he coughed. Blood spilled over his lips. Her stomach knotted. Dear God, don't do this. Not now, not again.
"Remember," he wheezed.
Remember? How could she ever forget? She hadn't wanted to come. She'd fought God, fought her parents, and had even fought Quinton. In the end she'd ignored all the omens and came anyway.
Now look what's happened. Quinton lying by a rock in the middle of nowhere, dying. She should have made him see that her parents' death was a warning to stay away from this cursed land. Angus, the old house slave, had warned her how things would be if they chose to move west. He said the air didn't smell right, that trouble was in the wind. She'd never understood how Angus would know all these things, but somehow he'd always been right. Or at least it seemed he was right more times than not. Her parents hadn't believed in Angus, and look where it got them. Dead. Quinton hadn't heeded Angus's warnings. Now he was dying, too.
"The dream," he sputtered.
It wasn't her dream. She'd wanted to stay in Virginia. Stay among her friends, society. She had no interest in taming the wilderness.
He squeezed her hand ever so slightly.
"Quint, I can't. I don't want it like you and Mother and Father. I only came with you because you said I must. I can't go on without you."
His eyelids drifted shut. Slowly, he tried to raise them again.
"Quinton, please don't leave me." Tears dripped from her chin. Lovingly, she wiped them from Quinton's tortured face. She kissed his forehead and ran to the edge of the woods. "God, forgive me, I can't watch him die."
* * *
Mac stroked the muzzle of the lead horse. Thankfully, they were still tethered where Quinton had left them. November brought far less traffic on the Wilderness Road. The drovers had come and gone earlier in the fall, taking the herds of livestock back East to sell.
Not much hope for the young man. Perhaps he'd make it through the night and they could ride him in the morning to Yellow Creek. Nearest doctor was in Barbourville, but Mac doubted he'd make it that far. The young couple could spend the night in their precious wagon. Their supplies hadn't been restocked. It certainly wasn't going anywhere lodged up against Indian Rock.
Christian duty required him to help these poor folks. The eight-point buck he'd had in his sights moments before the squealing broke the woodland silence had bolted. He preferred deer to elk. Both were plentiful, and that eight-point buck was large enough to have met all his winter needs. But now he had neither deer nor elk. Instead he had a mess on his hands.
He tied the horses loosely to the wagon. A soft, golden hue filled the sky, the setting sun a sharp reminder of how little time they had before darkness enveloped the gap.
Gathering some standing deadwood and small stones, he lit a fire. "Excuse me, ma'am," he called to the still distraught woman. "Sun's setting. We'll need to make camp."
She turned ever so slowly at the edge of the woods. Her golden hair hung haphazardly across her shoulders.
"We'll need to keep him warm." Not that it would help much, other than provide the man a small bit of comfort, he mused. If he's aware of the heat at all.
With deliberate steps, she plodded her way toward him.
"Let's make a bed in the wagon for you and your husband," he suggested.
She knitted her eyebrows, then nodded her head.
They really shouldn't move the injured man, Mac knew, but would it make any difference now?
"Pam," the wounded man moaned.
It was hard to figure why this woman didn't stay constantly by her husband's side. It might be too painful, he guessed.
She scuffled to her husband, bent over, and held his hand. Her hands trembled. Mac's gut tightened.
"Quinton!" The heart-wrenching plea echoed off the mountain.
Should he run to her rescue? Should he give them time alone? Uncertain, he sat on his haunches by the campfire he'd been making moments before.
She turned to Mac and motioned for him to come beside her. Tears slid down her cheeks. Mac obliged.
"Thank ..." The young man coughed. His chest heaved from the heavy labor. "You," he finally managed to get out.
"No need, just doing what any good Christian would do."
The pale eyelids closed and opened again. His agreement, no doubt. The man's lips moved, but no words came. Mac bent down on one knee. Again the lips moved. Again, nothing.
Mac glanced over to the young woman who had buried her face in her hands, then leaned over again, his ear an inch from the dying man's mouth.
"Please, Pamela ... safety ..." The broken sentence whispered, then blazed a silent echo within his ears. Take the woman to safety? How could he argue with a dying man's request? He could take her as far as the Cumberland Ford Camp. She could work for one of the taverns. Or, he supposed, he could take her to Barbourville.
"Creelsboro." The word barely escaped.
Mac wanted to plead with the man to fight, fight harder. But he'd been in this situation before. He knew the dying person was far more aware of his passing than those who stood around.
"Help, please." Another labored whisper passed.
The man's hand clutched his.
To take a woman halfway across the state was a heap more to ask than for him to simply bring her to a nearby settlement or town. But he couldn't ignore a dying man's request. Not to mention, if his parents ever heard he'd failed to help a stranger, he'd be hauled off to the barn as if he were a child in need of correction from his father's broad leather strap. Nope, everything in Mac screamed to help, and everything in him feared lending a hand to this woman.
"I'll take her."
The waning clasp on his hand released. Quinton's gaze locked onto Mac's.
"I promise, her honor is safe with me," Mac reassured the dying man.
The man's lids opened and closed once more. Then the pale blue eyes focused past Mac toward the heavens. They widened, then immediately darkened. The final gasp of air escaped from his body. He was a young man who accepted death with a gentle peace, a calming peace. A peace that only God could give.
Mac reached over and closed the man's eyelids. Father God, be with his widow, he prayed.
* * *
Pamela prepared her brother's body for burial, washing his face and hands, combing his hair. Mac, as she'd learned the stranger's name was when they'd exchanged introductions, informed her they could take Quinton into Yellow Creek and bury him. Up here in the gap, solid rock lay six inches or less below the surface. She'd prepared her parents' bodies last year, a ritual all too familiar. She never would have dreamed she'd be doing the same for Quinton.
Darkness covered the mountain, a fitting end to Quinton's life. Mac, with his Daniel Boone attire, was a man of few words. Truthfully, she didn't feel like talking. She didn't want to eat, sleep, walk, or do anything. Getting Quinton's body ready for burial seemed logical, and doing something seemed far more practical than crying.
At least that's what she kept telling herself.
Mac said they'd put Quinton's wrapped body in the open wagon to protect it from the animals. She laid a cloth over Quinton's face.
"I'll carry him to the wagon," Mac whispered.
The gentle giant lifted the lifeless form of her brother. What am I going to do now? The thought of heading back East and the day-long prospect of carrying the wagon piece by piece over the gap again didn't interest her at all. But the dream of going farther west had never been hers. It had been the dream of her father, her brother, and even her mother, but never her own.
Mac returned to the fire and held a cup out for her. "Drink this."
"Thank you, but I'm not hungry."
"I don't blame you, but this tea will help you sleep tonight."
"What's in it?"
A female herb? What's this man doing traveling with that? Who is he? "Thank you." She reached for the cup and brought it to her lips. The tea leaves sat on the bottom of the cup as the warm liquid soothed her parched lips and mouth. She closed her eyes and sighed. Life. It didn't seem fair. Why was she alive and the rest of her family gone?
"Try not to think about it." Mac's gentle words broke her thoughts.
How could he know what I was thinking?
He sat down beside the fire.
"Why are you here?" she quietly asked.
A disarming grin creased his face. Several days' growth formed a shadowy beard. "I was hunting nearby and heard the accident."
"But why are you still here?"
"It wouldn't be right for a man to leave a woman alone, and I promised your husband I'd take you to Creelsboro."
"Quinton was ..." Her words caught in her throat. Should she correct the man, or should she simply let him believe she was a widow? Posing as a grieving widow would give her a bit more safety with this stranger, she decided. "How? When?"
"Those were his dying words, ma'am."
She ran her finger across the rim of the tin cup. "I'm not certain I wish to go to Creelsboro."
"Why were you heading out there?"
"My father purchased a business a little over a year ago. Shortly after that, he passed on. Quinton was going to complete his dream."
He poked at the fire with a stick, stopped, then looked at her. Inhaling deeply, he continued. "I'm not one to disregard a dying man's wish, but if you don't want to go to Creelsboro, I'd be happy to escort you back East."
"I don't know if I want to return to Virginia, either." She rubbed her temples. The whole prospect of deciding one's future when your family, your past, had just died seemed pointless.
"Tomorrow we'll go to Yellow Creek and take care of your husband's burial. I'll leave you there for the night with some friends. I'll return the next day, and perhaps by then you'll have a clearer understanding of where you'd like to go. But for now, it's time to sleep."
He stood up and held out his hand. Did he wish for her to sleep with him? Fear crept down her spine. "I'm not ready for sleep." A yawn betrayed her words.
"I set a bedroll by the fire for you. It won't be as warm as your wagon, but you'll be safe by the fire."
She tilted her head slightly to the right and saw the laid-out bedroll of woolen blankets. She swallowed hard. "Where are you going to sleep?"
Mac stood and stretched. As Mrs. Danner slept by the fire, he had kept watch throughout the night, taking in brief snippets of sleep. He gazed over at Indian Rock and groaned. What had he gotten himself into, making such a promise to a dying man? Fortunately he knew where Creelsboro was. His parents' farm was in Jamestown, a short distance north. Creelsboro was a boomtown of activity. Folks would load up on supplies there before they ventured farther west. He looked over to the sleeping Mrs. Danner and wondered what she could possibly do there, now that her husband was gone.
He rolled his shoulders. A man keeps his word, he resolved. He set his coonskin cap on his head and looked at the eastern horizon. A thin ribbon of pale yellow lit the saddle, the lowest part of the Cumberland Gap. He glanced back at Indian Rock. How many people had lost their lives due to this boulder? In years past, the Indians would hide behind it and ambush the parties coming over the saddle. Today, Indians hiding behind the rock weren't a problem. But who'd ever expect it to be a part of another man's death? He wagged his head and headed into the forest.
Bandits were a constant threat along the trail. He needed to be on his guard. A defenseless female alone on the trail would be an easy target.
A small branch snapped. Mac knelt down behind a bush. He focused in the direction of the sound. He sniffed the air. Silence. Too quiet, he reasoned. He looked back at the small fire and saw the sleeping form of Mrs. Danner. Easing his gun off his shoulder, Mac readied it.
A small fawn came into view. Mac eased out a pent-up breath. The wind stirred the tops of the trees. Father, keep me calm. We've got a long journey ahead of us. I'll need sleep.
A sliver of the sun now radiated over the saddle of the mountain gap. He finished scouting the area and returned to camp. Perhaps he could get in an hour's sleep before the Widow Danner rose.
He went back to the fire and stirred the dying embers, putting on a pot for hot water and coffee.
Pamela sat upright and blinked. "Is it morning?"
"Getting there. There's a small spring to your right. It's not much, but it's enough to help you clean up."
She opened her mouth, then snapped it shut and nodded her head. Perhaps it wasn't right for a man to tell a woman she needed to clean up. Mac held down a grin, but the situation was humorous.
He watched her trek over to the pile of her belongings. Mac groaned. He'd have to pack the wagon. The Danners had more stuff than he'd ever seen anyone bring through the gap. It was probably a good thing they were traveling this late in the year. The mud would have slowed them down. Still, it would be a chore getting it over the Cumberland River around Flatlick. The crossing at Camp Ford wouldn't be too costly. That would be a blessing.
He surveyed their trunks and the mounds of items they had neatly packed on the side of the road. How'd they ever get all of that in there? he wondered. Mrs. Danner will have to decide what comes and what stays.
"Mr. Mac? What is your last name?" Pamela asked as she approached.
"MacKenneth. I go by Mac."
"Oh, I just assumed your first name was Mac."
"No, my first name is Nash, Nash Oakley MacKenneth, but everyone calls me Mac."
Excerpted from Brides of Kentucky by Lynn A. Coleman. Copyright © 2003 Lynn A. Coleman. 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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A Place of Her Own,