Sam Carver had the kind of body that turned a woman's head, and the kind of eyes that had seen more than his share of trouble. But he couldn't get enough of the mysterious, ethereal beauty who had showed up in his little Wyoming town, working at the Blue Plate, keeping to herself.
He knew Angeline Hunter was running scared, pursued by a fanatic who threatened her life. But no matter what it took, Sam would convince his angel to put her trust in him, to put the painful past behind her and learn just how pleasurable the present could be. . ..
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By Emma Lang
BRAVA BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Emma Lang
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Chapter OneApril 1873
Angeline Hunter lived a lie, each moment of each day. She endured the guilt because she had no other choice. It wasn't as if she could simply forget everything she'd escaped, or announce to the world just who she really was. No, she had made a choice and there was no going back.
She refused to feel sorry for herself; after all, she was alive and free.
Her day started before dawn in the kitchen of the Blue Plate restaurant. It was an exceptionally cold spring day and she was glad to be in the warm kitchen making biscuits.
She put the pan of biscuits in the stove and tucked two more pieces of wood into its big belly. The first pot of coffee had just finished burbling, so she poured cool water in to settle the grounds, then sneaked a cup. As she sipped at the brew, she enjoyed a few moments of peace before the rush of the morning customers.
The back door slammed and Angeline nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Mornin', Miss Angeline."
She turned to see ten-year-old Dennis Fox step into the kitchen with a bucket of wood for the stove. His mother, Karen, was a waitress at the restaurant. She always made sure he helped out everyone who worked at the Blue Plate. He was a good boy, a hard worker who seemed to get things done before anyone even had to ask him.
"Good morning, Dennis. Thank you for the wood. We'll definitely need it." She wrapped her hands around the ceramic mug, trying to absorb as much heat from it as she could.
"Frost was thick this morning." Dennis set the bucket beside the stove, and held his chapped hands up to the heat pouring off it.
Angeline looked out the tiny window above the sink, but the glass was fogged from the warmth of the kitchen. She lived above the restaurant in a room just large enough for a bed and a crate upended to keep a lamp nearby. Lucky for her, she didn't need to go outside in the cold most days.
Dennis set a paper-wrapped package on the table. "Somebody asked me to give you this." With a little grin, he was out the backdoor before she could ask him any questions.
She stared at the package, wondering who had given it to him and why. It had been six months since she and Lettie had arrived in the small town of Forestville. During the last year, the two of them had grown closer than most folks would ever be. They were both trying to flee the past, and they shared a secret no one must ever learn. Angeline had even dropped the last name Brown and kept the name she was born with, Hunter.
Angeline needed to make another batch of biscuit dough, but the package aroused her curiosity. Her father had always called her curiosity a sin, something to be ashamed of. That thought alone made her pick up the package and untie the twine.
She peeled the paper back and peered inside. It was a book. Angeline stared at it, as if she couldn't believe someone had given her a book. The title read Sense and Sensibility. She'd never heard of it, but judging by the condition, it was brand new. Since she'd left home, she had discovered the joy of reading books, and had become a voracious reader. This was the first new book she'd ever held.
Growing up in Utah, she'd led a structured, regimented life in the Mormon church. She lived in a ward, where everyone was controlled by elders who told them what to do and how to do it. It was all based on church doctrine, but Angeline now realized just how narrow her world had been.
"What do you have there, child?" Marta Gunderson, who ran the Blue Plate with her husband, Pieter, came into the kitchen with a bowl of eggs for breakfast. She was a German immigrant who was an amazing cook and a wonderful person. Along with her husband, she had blond hair, a big heart, and made the restaurant feel like a big family. Angeline knew she'd been lucky to find a job and a home with the Gundersons.
"A book." Angeline smiled at her boss. "Dennis brought it to me wrapped in paper. He said someone had given it to him. It's a bit of a mystery."
"You don't know who gave it to you?" Marta peered at it. "That is mysterious. It looks new."
"I think it is new." Angeline felt the cover, and ran her fingers along the spine. "It's a lovely gift."
"Well, maybe you have an admirer." Marta smiled. "You're a beautiful girl, Angeline. I'm sure more than one young man in town has an eye on you, wanting to court you."
Angeline's face flushed at the mention of the young men in town. She couldn't possibly accept any man's courting her, and she couldn't tell Marta why.
"I'm not interested in young men courting me, Marta."
"Of course, you are. You should get married and have babies." Marta patted her cheek. "Love, that's what you need, child."
The book, which had been a lovely, unexpected gift, now represented the lack of possibility in her future. Angeline couldn't accept it because if Marta was right, it was a gift from a young man who was wasting his time. She set the book on the stool in the corner.
Angeline could never marry because she was already married, and there was no hope of love in her future.
The morning passed quickly with a steady stream of customers. Angeline and Marta cooked side by side as they had each day since her arrival in Forestville. It was an easy partnership, with the older woman concocting her delicious recipes at the stove while Angeline chopped vegetables and potatoes, and made all the baked goods.
By ten o'clock, they were sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee with the waitresses, Lettie, Karen, and Alice Peters. It had become a ritual for the five of them to spend time together between meals. Pieter avoided the kitchen during those times, claiming a rooster didn't belong with the hens.
"Did you hear someone gave Angeline a gift?" Karen, a dark-haired, plump woman, who'd been widowed during the war, smiled at Angeline.
"Go on. Who gave you a gift?" Alice sat up, her brown eyes full of interest. A twenty-year-old with a pretty smile and curly brown hair, she was the favorite of most of the young men who visited the restaurant.
"I don't know." Angeline shrugged. "It doesn't matter because I can't accept it."
"What? Of course, you can. What was it?" Alice looked around the kitchen.
"It was a book, a new one too." Marta nodded sagely. "I think it's very sweet."
"Maybe it was a mistake." Angeline wanted the conversation to be over.
"Oh, I don't think it was a mistake. My Dennis told me a man stopped him outside the restaurant and specifically told him to give the package to Angeline, the blond angel in the kitchen."
Cold fear crept into her stomach. She lived in fear that her past would catch up with her one day. After Karen's mention of the man who gave Dennis the package, Angeline's instincts were screaming for her to run, to leave Forestville. Immediately.
She got to her feet, unable to sit there any longer. Perhaps one day she might find a place where she could be safe from Josiah, but it obviously wasn't in Forestville.
"Don't be afraid, Angeline. You look as white as a sheet." Karen patted her hand. "It was Samuel Carver, the man who does carpentry work around town. He eats here every day and has taken a shine to you."
Samuel Carver. She didn't even know who he was.
"Who is he?" Angeline was proud of the fact her voice didn't shake.
"His father runs the newspaper. Samuel was just a young man when the war started and he enlisted." Marta shook her head. "Poor boy looked like a skeleton in rags when he came back."
Angeline, despite her initial fear, was caught up in Samuel's story. "What happened?"
"He left an eager boy of eighteen, came back a man much older than twenty-two. Now he's quiet, standoffish even. He bought some supplies here and there until he had himself a set of tools; he works with wood, fixing things, making furniture." Marta patted Angeline's hand. "It took a few years, but now it looks like he's set his sights on a pretty girl to court."
"I don't want him to court me." She turned toward the sink, eager to change the subject. Even if the man was a longtime resident, a man with ambition, she wanted nothing to do with him.
"If she doesn't want attention from a man, then we need to respect that." Lettie met her gaze, understanding clear in her brown eyes. The two of them had a secret no one knew about.
"Well, give the man a chance, Angeline." Karen slurped her coffee noisily, a habit that annoyed even her friends. "He's actually quite handsome."
"Yes, he is handsome for a half-breed. His mama was an Indian, you know. But he does have good hair and teeth, which are important. Plus his father educated him, so he's a smart half-breed." Alice sat prim and proper at the table, speaking of Samuel as if he were a horse up for auction. "It wouldn't be so bad to have him as a beau, since you don't have any family and all."
Half-breed? Angeline didn't even know what that meant, but from Alice's snide tone, it couldn't be good. Honestly, it didn't matter if this man was rich and had a big house, she didn't want to have anything to do with any man. Ever.
"None of that matters to me. I don't want to have a beau. I'd like to be left alone." Angeline washed her mug by rote, not really seeing it. She was desperately trying to keep her memories locked away, but the darkness pulsed behind the locked door within her.
"Oh, Angeline, you can't mean that. No one wants to work here unless they have to." Karen sounded sad and angry at the same time. "I would take him if he wasn't younger than me."
"You can't be that choosy, you know. The men in this area aren't all finds," Alice joined in. "And like I said, for a half-breed he's—"
"Enough." Lettie rose, her chair scraping across the floor. "Let her be. She doesn't want a beau, a sweetheart, or gifts. Perhaps you all need to mind your business."
The silence in the kitchen was palpable, charged with emotion Angeline didn't want to deal with. She wiped her hands on her apron and stepped out the backdoor for fresh air. It didn't matter if it was frigid outside; she couldn't bear to be in there another moment.
Samuel Carver leaned over the old printing press and tried to pry the paper from its maw. Damn thing was older than Methuselah and regularly ate the precious newsprint. If he had some money, he'd buy replacement parts for his father, but publishing a newspaper brought in only enough to scrape by.
Without warning, the paper came free and Samuel careened backward with it clutched in his hand. He landed against the table behind him with a thud. Sam closed his eyes and counted to ten, his hand massaging his bruised back.
"Are you all right?" His father stood there with a cup of coffee, his salt-and-pepper hair in disarray, glasses perched on his forehead. His bright blue eyes were full of concern, and for the first time that morning, lucid and focused.
"I'm fine, just fighting with the monster again this morning." Sam held up the crumpled paper in his fist. "Ate more newsprint already today."
"Sorry. I went to get coffee and it was running just fine." Michael Carver had a brilliant mind; he'd been an excellent teacher, writer, and father. But something had started stealing bits and pieces of that mind, leaving him with holes in his memory and his abilities. Sam had hidden his father's decline from most everyone, but eventually they would know.
It was becoming more and more difficult to keep up the pretense every day without making his father panic or get insulted. Sam was exhausted from the effort and the malfunctioning press notched his frustration level even higher.
He took a deep breath and thought about something else as he readied the machine to begin printing again. That something else was inevitably Angeline Hunter.
It had been six months since she'd arrived in Forestville and a day hadn't gone by that he didn't think about her. She was exquisite to look at, in face and form. He'd never felt that kind of reaction from a woman before, no matter how beautiful. No, there was something else, some kind of instant connection.
Unfortunately, she hardly even knew he existed. At least she hadn't until this morning, when he had impulsively handed Dennis a book to give her. Now she probably thought Sam was odd. However, he'd often seen her sitting on the back steps of the restaurant reading a book in the late day's light. The halo of the sunset surrounded her, making her ethereal in his eyes.
Sam had been struck by what he could only term infatuation. She had already made an impression on him, but the sight of her reading had brought his fascination to a different level.
Now he thought of her every day with an almost embarrassing frequency. Sam wasn't given to flights of fancy or poetic rambling, but there was something about the woman that called to him at an elemental level. He'd given the book to her on impulse. It had cost him quite a bit of money he could hardly afford. He wasn't sure yet if he regretted the impulse.
Sam loaded more paper into the printing press and started it running again. This time, thanks be to whatever forces were at work, the press did not jam. It hummed along as if it wasn't the most confounded machine on the planet.
He sat down with a sigh at the old scarred desk in the corner. The desk was something his father had found abandoned by a wagon train heading to Oregon twenty years earlier. The roll top had long since stopped functioning. It was still solid though, and served its intended purpose, even if it was as ugly as the printing press.
Life in Forestville was somewhat boring, truth be told, and most of his father's stories on the one-page sheet related to happenings outside of town. Information he received from other sources was infinitely more interesting.
Sam sometimes wondered why he stayed there, what kept him in the small town, or even what had brought him back after the war. It was hard to understand himself, much less to articulate to someone else.
Life was predictable in Forestville and it was that sameness he craved. After witnessing the evil that men do, the sweetness of his hometown was a salve to his wounded soul. And now there was Angeline.
He needed to get to work on his next job, a fence at the Widow Primrose's house, but his mind kept wandering to the restaurant. Perhaps if he spoke to Angeline, it might help tamp down some of his imaginings. Of course, that meant any fantasies he'd built up around her would be put to the test. She might be completely different than he expected.
Sam stared down at his ink-stained hands, at the scars and calluses. He might not be a gentleman, or be able to provide anything aside from conversation, but she might like him. What did he have to lose? It was noontime, so he would have dinner at the Blue Plate.
Decision made, Sam rose from the desk and headed outside to wash his hands. He could at least try to get the ink off his fingers.
He hoped she liked the book.
Angeline was off-center and jittery. She dropped a plate, put too much salt in the meat, and forgot to put vegetables on no less than two orders. Marta kept looking at her as if she was a stranger, and Karen had completely lost patience with her.
"You need to stop this right now." Lettie frowned at her. "You're calling attention to yourself."
Angeline looked up at her friend, the only person in the world who would ever know what she'd gone through. "I can't help it."
"Yes, you can. Nothing bad has happened to us in Forestville, but that doesn't mean it won't. If you keep this up, you won't have a job for long. No man is worth giving up what you've fought tooth and nail for." Lettie's brown gaze was steady, familiar. With a nod, she went back out into the restaurant with two plates to serve, leaving Angeline with her thoughts.
Lettie's words helped Angeline come down from the ledge she was teetering on. She'd never had someone admire her from afar, and since she'd left Tolson, Utah, she had never felt safe. Ever. Just because she and Lettie hadn't seen anyone following them didn't mean no one was.
She understood this Samuel Carver was someone who had lived in Forestville all his life. He was harmless, according to everyone who worked at the Blue Plate, even Pieter. Yet she was still unaccountably nervous about the entire affair.
Angeline decided to give the book back to him. It wouldn't be right to keep it, especially considering how nervous it made her. She had rarely received gifts in her life; she could count them on one hand. They had all been from her sister, Eliza, given in secret since their father did not believe in gifts. He was a church elder, a man who was strict and severe, never allowing his daughters even an inch of room to be individuals. They learned early on to obey him or suffer a beating with a switch, or his belt. They celebrated nothing and worshipped every day. It was a gray, dreary, colorless existence. Angeline still marveled at the colors of the world around her now that she had her eyes open.
Excerpted from Restless Heart by Emma Lang Copyright © 2011 by Emma Lang. Excerpted by permission of BRAVA BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The first part was not well written and was really upset with the ending, since it was the same ending as thefirstbook, i wanted more. But its a sweet story.
What was Angeline's secret? Why is she so reluctant to find a man and settle down? Sam Carver is intrigued by Angeline and gives her a gift. He is in the restaurant she works in all the time, hoping to catch the young beauty's eye. As Sam and Angeline get to know each other, she entrusts him with her secrets, and her life. Written with heart and heat, I was sucked into the pages immediately. I must admit I don't read a lot of historicals. With Restless Heart, I found it enjoyable, fast paced, and actually quite a refreshing different read. This book is full of emotion, danger, intrigue, suspense..well, it has it all. I loved reading about Sam and Angeline, and I loved the feel of a small town back in the late 1870's. The characters breathed life right off the pages and put a smile on my face. I never knew what to expect, the plot filled with many twists. If you enjoy historical westerns, then I would definitely suggest Emma Lang's Restless Heart. It's passionate, romantic, and a thrill. I will surely be looking for other titles by this author.
In 1872 the third wife of abusive Latter Day Saints Elder Josiah, Angeline Hunter flees from his brutality as she has no place to turn to in their Mormon community; not even papa who agreed to her marriage to this vicious but highly important man older than him. She makes a new life working at the Blue Plate but always looks over her shoulder in Wyoming. The townsfolk quickly like and admire the outgoing caring newcomer. Reticent half-breed Sam Carver struggles with his injured leg and caring for his elderly father. He especially is charmed by the vivacious Angeline. As the pair falls in love encouraged by the townsfolk, she knows she cannot marry as she is already a wife even if she took a chance with giving her heart to gentle Sam. This sequel to Ruthless Heart (the romance of Angeline's sister) is an exciting post Civil War romance that brings to life rural Wyoming. The story line is fast-paced with a delightful flawed lead couple struggling with their feelings. Although Josiah is the stereotype of the malevolent abusive leader cloaked in religious respectability, fans will enjoy High Noon in late nineteenth century Wyoming. Harriet Klausner