Discover romance across America with Janet Dailey’s classic series featuring a love story set in each of the fifty states.
Edie was barely eighteen when she married Joe Gibbs, becoming a stepmother to his five-year-old son and mother to their new daughter. Their life was frugal but happy—until Joe left Edie a widow. Now grief-stricken and anxious about their future, Edie is surprised to learn that Joe had made a secret plan to keep them secure and allow the young widow to pursue a lifelong dream of owning a ranch in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
Excited and optimistic, the Gibbs family heads West—only to find that Will Maddock, their wealthy new neighbor, is determined to add Edie’s acreage to his own sizable spread. It doesn’t help that the man is as handsome as he is arrogant. When their every encounter becomes a battle, how long can Edie keep Will from getting exactly what he wants?
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The Americana Series: South Dakota
By Janet Dailey
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1981 Janet Dailey
All rights reserved.
FINGERS OF SHOCK continued to send tingles down her spine as Edie Gibbs stared at the check in her hands. Her mind refused to assimilate the number of digits in the dollar figure. She lifted a hand to touch her fingertips to her temple and let them glide into her soft brown hair.
"I ... I don't think I quite understand, Mr. Wentworth." At last she found her voice, husky though it was, to address the lawyer sitting in the wing-backed chair her late husband had always occupied. "When you phoned and asked to discuss my ... my financial condition, I thought—" A bewildered laugh escaped her throat. "It took all of our savings to pay the funeral costs. Here I've been worrying how I was going to earn enough money to keep the house. I thought you were going to inform me about a monumental pile of debts. But this?" Her confused hazel eyes sought the attorney's face as she lifted the check in a questioning fashion. "Is it real?"
"I assure you it is very real." The gentleness in his expression said he was pleased his news was good.
"But I didn't know Joe had any insurance." Edie stared at the slip of paper that represented so much money. "We talked about it a long time ago, but we couldn't squeeze the premium payments into our budget." Which raised another question. Again her gaze lifted to the attorney in curious demand. "Where did Joe get the money to pay them?"
"I was just coming to that." He opened the briefcase sitting on his lap and took out a sheaf of papers.
"May I look at that, mom?" Her daughter reached over to take the check from her numbed fingers. The action drew an abstracted glance from Edie that touched the pony-tailed girl seated on the couch before her attention was claimed by the documents the attorney was handing her. She glanced through them, but the legal jargon was beyond her comprehension.
"What does all this mean?" Again her hazel eyes darkened with confusion.
"I believe your late husband did a lot of tinkering in his workshop," he began.
"That's an understatement," Edie declared in a silent and rueful laugh. "Joe spent nearly every spare minute he had in his workshop. He'd come home from the garage, shower, eat and disappear into the shed until it was bedtime." There was nothing malicious or resentful in her statement. It had been too much a part of the accepted routine. "He loved working there. That was his escape."
"It was a profitable escape. In with those documents there are registrations of patents, some of which your late husband was able to sell to auto manufacturers in Detroit," John Wentworth explained.
"Patents?" Edie was beginning to think she would never escape this whirl of confusion. None of this was making any sense. "Joe didn't even have a high-school diploma." Something he had been very self-conscious about. Without it he hadn't been able to obtain any job other than that of a garage mechanic, a trade at which he had excelled, but hadn't found much pride in. "He tried. He took night courses at school whenever he could, but ..." Edie let the sentence trail off unfinished to gaze at the documents she held.
"Whatever your late husband lacked in formal education, he more than made up for in natural inventiveness," the attorney assured her. "The royalties off these patents will provide you with a very comfortable income for a good many years, Mrs. Gibbs. Plus I have a national firm negotiating to purchase the rights on two more of his patents."
This was more than she could take in. The silence from her daughter and stepson indicated they, too, were finding these announcements difficult to comprehend.
"I don't understand." She shook her head in bewilderment, the softly curling length of her brown hair barely brushing her shoulders. "Why ... why didn't Joe tell me ... tell us about these patents?"
"I really can't answer that," John Wentworth sighed. "I know he seemed very self-conscious about his inventions, as if they were a fluke. He was determined that no one should know about them."
"And the money from these patents went to pay the premiums on the insurance policy?" Edie made the statement into a question, seeking a reconfirmation of his earlier explanation.
"The vast majority of it, yes," the attorney nodded. "He seemed determined that you would be taken care of in the event anything happened to him. It was almost as if he had a premonition." He removed another set of papers from his briefcase and handed them to Edie. "These are a summary and a projection of your annual income under the present agreements."
He leaned forward to go over them with her. Edie listened and followed his moving finger down the list, but it was all a haze, something not quite real. She had been so braced for bad news that being presented with a pot of gold was something that seemed too good to be true.
Beneath her suntanned complexion was a white pallor of shock. Features that were usually so animated with her irrepressible zest to meet life and its problems head-on were blank of expression. Her youthfully slim but mature figure was clad in the somber colors of mourning, but she seemed too young to be a widow, the attorney thought—or to have a grown daughter for that matter. Either way, this very attractive woman was not at all the way he had pictured Joseph Gibbs's wife. But it had been said that opposites attract. He noticed the stunned light in her large eyes.
"Let me make a suggestion, Mrs. Gibbs," he said. "I'll leave these papers for you to look over. You can call me in a couple of days. I'm certain you are going to have some questions, and it would be wise if we discussed the possibility of some financial investments for your future."
"Yes. I would like a few days to think about it," Edie agreed a little numbly and belatedly started to rise.
"I'll walk Mr. Wentworth to the door, Edie," the young man seated on the couch volunteered.
"Thanks, Jerry, and I will call you, Mr. Wentworth," she added.
Her confusion began to sort itself as the front door was opened and closed, but Edie still felt stunned by the unexpected turn of events. At the sound of approaching footsteps, she lifted her gaze from the papers in her hand.
"Did you know about this, Jerry?" It was possible since her stepson had often helped Joe in his workshop on weekends. Her gaze curiously searched his face, his features steady and reliable like his father's. Except his blue eyes often held the twinkle of humor, his mouth smiled easily, and his sandy brown hair was shaggy in a carelessly attractive way.
"I remember once he was trying to modify one of the new emission-control devices, but, no—" he shook his head and paused by her chair to take the papers from her hand and leaf through them "—I didn't know anything about patents."
"You'd better take this check, mom." Alison shoved it into her hands. "I can't believe we have so much money. Last night I couldn't sleep, worrying that I might have to sell one of my horses. Now ... we could buy a whole stable full and not put a dent in that check."
"I was afraid we were going to have to sell off the acreage," Edie admitted. "I know we've been able to board enough other horses to pay for the upkeep of our own, but the mortgage payment on this place, the utilities, groceries, all amounted to so much that—"
"You don't have to worry about that now, Edie." Her stepson said the very thought that was echoing through her mind.
"I know," she murmured. "But why didn't he tell us? Why didn't your father tell us?"
"Dad ... was too easygoing," Jerry said without criticizing. "You always were the battler in this family, Edie. You managed the money and kept the bill collectors at bay during the hard times. Remember that time I got picked up for drinking on my sixteenth birthday? You were the one who went to bat for me with the judge."
"But what has that got to do with this?" she argued. "Think of how much money it cost him for this insurance policy. We could have used that money ... or some of it. We could have taken a vacation or bought a new car," she added, remembering the clunker Joe had always coaxed into running.
"Just before I left for the marines, dad and I had a little talk—really one of the few we ever had. He told me that the one thing he had always regretted was marrying my mother when he was just sixteen. He not only had to quit school and get a job to support her, and later me, but he told me that he had to abandon his dreams." Jerry sat down in the chair the attorney had vacated and leaned forward, clasping his hands together in a thoughtful attitude.
"That was one reason he was always so determined that the two of you had a chance at life." Edie knew that story, and she was warmed by the memory of how profoundly her late husband had meant it. "He told me that, too."
"What he probably didn't tell you," her stepson continued, "was that he felt guilty for marrying you."
"Guilty?" She was startled. "Why?"
"After my mother died in that car accident, dad didn't know how to cope with raising a kid on his own. Then he met you, Edie. He married you a week after you graduated from high school. He said he stole your dreams, too. Right away you had a child to raise, debts to pay, a living to earn and no time to be young and in love."
"But Joe needed me. So did you," Edie protested. "I never felt that I missed anything."
"It always bothered him that the two of you never had a honeymoon," Jerry added.
"We had a honeymoon, a belated one," she insisted. "Don't you remember that camping trip we all took to the Black Hills?"
"What kind of honeymoon is that?" Alison laughed affectionately. "You had two nosy kids along. It could hardly be classified as romantic by any stretch of the imagination."
"Joe wasn't a very romantic person," Edie admitted. It was the truth, and she didn't feel she was being unkind to his memory to say so. His other qualities had more than made up for his lack of sentimentality. Anyone who had ever known Joseph Gibbs had loved him, herself included. Honesty about his faults wouldn't diminish what he'd been.
"To answer the question that started all this discussion," Jerry inserted, "I think dad did what he did, and the way he did it, because he wanted you to be able to have your dreams, Edie, if anything ever happened to him."
The telephone rang and Alison bolted from the couch. "I'll get it!" As she raced to answer it, she ignored the extension in the living room in favor of the privacy offered by the kitchen phone. "It might be Craig." The quick explanation was tossed over her shoulder.
Edie watched the slim, long-legged girl sprint from the room. "She hasn't heard from Craig since the funeral," she murmured to Jerry, referring to the boy Alison had been dating steadily since spring graduation, Craig Gurney.
"She won't, either." His face wore a very adult expression, revealing all of his twenty-four years of experience and more.
"Why?" Obviously her stepson knew something neither she nor Alison did.
"The word's out. Since Alison wouldn't deliver, Gurney is looking for a girl who will," he said grimly. "She's well rid of him, but I doubt if she will agree. Don't tell her what I said. I don't think Alison realizes how much guys talk."
"And let me know if Craig tries to see her again. I want to have a little talk with him if he does."
It didn't take much reading between the lines to guess what Jerry would talk to him about. He'd always been very protective toward Alison since the day Edie had brought her home from the hospital. The two shared a rare relationship for siblings. Rivalry between them was nonexistent. Alison idolized her older half-brother and Jerry had long ago put his baby sister on a pedestal. Their closeness had always been a great source of pride and pleasure for Edie.
"Mom?" Alison stuck her head around the kitchen door. "It's Mrs. Van Doren." She wrinkled her nose in dislike. "She wants to know how soon you are going to have her sofa and chair reupholstered. I explained about dad's funeral and all. To hear her talk, you'd think dad picked a terribly inconvenient time to die—the old prune face."
Edie smothered a sigh of irritation and tried to remember how much work was left on the items. "Tell her I'll have them finished by Friday."
"I'll tell her." Alison disappeared behind the door.
Upholstering furniture in her home had been one of the ways Edie had supplemented their income. Joe's salary had barely been able to stretch to meet their necessities. With the house, the garden and taking care of the horses they boarded on the acreage, it hadn't been feasible for Edie to have a job in town. But she had discovered there were any number of things she could do at home to earn extra money.
"There's something I didn't make clear when we were talking a minute ago about the money dad left you," Jerry said. "He left it for you, Edie. Not for me or Alison. You are the only mother I've ever known, I may not call you that, but you are. I don't want you to think that we need any of that money ... or should have any of it."
"But—" She attempted a protest.
But Jerry interrupted, "I mean it. You are only thirty-six, Edie. You are a very attractive woman with your whole life ahead of you yet."
"You are very good for my ego, Jerry," Edie smiled, and would have continued, but he wouldn't let her.
"Dad wanted you to have it. I know I speak for Alison when I say that we want you to have it. We know how much you've sacrificed for us. How long has it been since you bought a new dress?" he challenged.
"How long has it been since I needed a new one?" she joked, because her husband hadn't been the type to party or go out for an evening, even if they could have afforded it. He preferred a home-cooked meal to any restaurant fare.
"With that money—" he gestured toward the check in her hand "—you can buy yourself a whole new wardrobe, travel, have fun, do anything you want." As he was making the statement, Alison reentered the living room in time to hear it.
"There's something else you can do, too, mom," she inserted, pausing to sit on the arm of Edie's chair. "I was thinking about it in the kitchen after I hung up from talking to Mrs. Van Doren. You could open up your own upholstery shop, go into business for yourself. Everybody around here knows how good you are at it."
Own her own business? Edie considered the idea, then dismissed it with a slight shake of her head. "It would mean having a shop in town and spending most of the day inside when I'd rather be outdoors. No, I don't think I'd like that, in spite of the challenge. As for traveling, there are a lot of places I'd like to see, but—" She sighed without finishing the statement, because she doubted if she would find much enjoyment in sightseeing alone. There would always be the memory of how much fun they'd had as a family on that camping trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota and the instantaneous love she had felt for that Indian land.
"It isn't anything you have to decide now," Jerry reminded her.
"No. And I don't intend to make any rash decisions about it, either," she smiled firmly.
"I would be surprised if you did, Edie," Jerry declared, and pushed his lanky frame upright. "It's just about chore time so I'd better get back to the farm." Since he had returned home after his tour of enlistment with the marines, Jerry had worked for a large, corporate-owned farm with an enormous acreage of crops as well as a cattle-feedlot operation.
"I'm glad you could get time off from work to come over while the attorney was here," Edie said.
"Yeah, well, it was too wet to be in the fields today anyhow, so—" He shrugged away the rest of the sentence.
"Speaking of chores," Edie glanced at her daughter, "we have some horses that need to be grained."
"And stalls to be cleaned," Alison grimaced. "I'd better go change clothes."
"Me, too," Edie agreed, glancing down at her brown dress.
Jerry had started toward the front door. "I'll probably be over Sunday, unless we start haying."
"Sunday dinner will be at one o'clock, as always," Edie told him before she followed Alison up the stairs to the bedrooms on the second floor.
After the front screen door had slammed shut, the engine of Jerry's pickup roared to life in the yard of the old farmhouse. Edie paused at the open door of her daughter's bedroom. She watched for a silent second as Alison dragged a pair of worn blue jeans and an old shirt from her closet. It didn't seem possible that Alison would be eighteen in two short months.
Excerpted from Dakota Dreamin' by Janet Dailey. Copyright © 1981 Janet Dailey. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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