He was a wanted man.But no one wanted him more than she did.
Desperate to escape an arranged marriage, Olivia Sterling flees Chicago and heads west. She dreams of setting up her own seamstress shop in Henry Adams, a small all Black town in Kansas. But her plans are derailed when her train is robbed by Neil July and his notorious band of outlaws.
Neil is enchanted by the headstrong and lovely Olivia. No woman has ever set his blood on fire before, and he suspects no other woman ever will. When they meet again, Olivia is the town's newly elected mayor and Neil is still the wanted outlaw. With bounty hunters on his trail, he would be wise not to linger, yet he can't seem to leave her. Will Neil be able to convince Olivia to ride off into the sunset with him? Or will he finally lay down his guns for love?
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Something Like Love
By Beverly Jenkins
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2007 Beverly Jenkins
All right reserved.
Henry Adams, Kansas
Great Solomon Valley
The seamstress shop owned by Olivia Sterling operated out of a small Victorian house two blocks away from the town's main business district. Last fall, when she'd first purchased the building from the bank, she'd been concerned about not being located on Main Street, but she'd soon come to appreciate being off the beaten path. Being away from the center of town, with all its vehicles and people, made for a quieter existence; it was also cleaner. Olivia could open her windows and doors and not have to shake out her yard goods two and three times a day because of the dust generated by all the traffic.
Right now, Olivia wasn't much concerned with dust or traffic. Instead her attention was centered on customer Harriet Vinton. The middle-aged Harriet had just come out from behind the shop's wooden dressing screen, and all the large, bright yellow bows attached to the white satin ball gown made Olivia mentally shake her head in dismay. Mrs. Vinton's short, portly form was better served by a quieter, more mature design, but it was a dress she'd insisted Olivia design for her, and this was the result.
Mrs. Vinton twirled in front of the mirror and tittered, "Oh, Olivia. It's so beautiful."
Olivia genuinely hoped her responding smile didn't appear as false as it felt.
Harriet turned to get a sideview of the big bow on the capped sleeve. "My Henry is going to be speechless."
Olivia didn't doubt that in the least.
"I'll be the envy of every woman in town."
The Elders Ball celebrating the founding of Henry Adams was going to be held later this month at the spanking-new town hall. All of the residents of the Great Solomon Valley would be attending, and Olivia had been sewing for the past six weeks to accommodate the ladies who'd wanted new gowns for the annual event. Many of the farm women couldn't afford to waste money on a gown they'd only wear once or twice in their life, but Olivia was thankful for the wives of the cattlemen and businessmen who could, because their orders kept Olivia in business.
"Olivia?" Mrs. Vinton asked, "are you going to the ball?"
Olivia shook her head. "No."
Olivia countered confidently, "I'm going to spend that evening resting and catching up on my correspondence. It's been weeks since I've written my mother. There are notes from the last Elders meeting that need to be reviewed and minutes of the Historical Society to place in the ledger."
"A young woman like you should be at the ball."
"Thirty-two is hardly young, Mrs. Vinton, but thank you. And yes, I would like to attend, but since I haven't been asked . . ." she shrugged. "I refuse to be one of the spinsters serving the punch and cake while everyone else is dancing. I volunteered my services last year, and frankly, it wasn't very enjoyable."
Harriet nodded. "I understand. Well, an evening of rest will probably do you good. With all you do it's a wonder you have time to sleep."
Olivia agreed. When she'd first settled in Henry Adams, Cara Lee Jefferson, the schoolteacher and wife of the sheriff suggested Olivia volunteer on some of the women's committees as a way of getting to know her new neighbors. Olivia had taken the advice to heart and now, after working with the church, the school, the Ladies League, and the Historical Society, she knew most, if not all, of the women around. There wasn't a day of the week that Olivia didn't have a meeting of one sort or another.
Mrs. Vinton surveyed herself in the mirror again. "I know you're devoted to your business, but my nephew in Philadelphia is looking for a wife, and I believe you'd be perfect."
Olivia knew from previous conversations that Harriet had a large number of nephews back east. Every few months Harriet would come into Olivia's shop touting the latest one's virtues and marriageable attributes. "I don't wish to marry."
"You keep saying that only because the right man hasn't come along."
Amused, Olivia shook her head. "You need to go home and let Henry see you in your dress."
That shifted Harriet's attention back to her mirrored reflection and away from matchmaking. "I do look fine, don't I?"
All the bows made Harriet resemble a back-east Christmas tree, but if Harriet loved the dress, nothing else mattered. "I'm glad you're pleased with it," Olivia said genuinely.
"I'll take it off now so you can wrap it."
A few moments later, an elated Harriet Vinton left with her dress and Olivia put the payment into her cash box.
For the rest of the day, Olivia waited on customers in between working on dresses and hats. Reverend Whitfield's wife, Sybil, stopped in for the dress she'd had altered so that it didn't look so outdated. Sophie Reynolds, one of the town's pillars and owner of the Henry Adams Hotel, came in to get the final fitting on the pale gold ball gown she'd be wearing to the Elders Ball. Unlike Harriet Vinton, the middle-aged but still stunning Miss Sophie had chosen a design that flattered both her figure and age.
By the time dusk rolled in, Olivia had attended to half the women in the valley, or so it seemed. When she finally closed the doors at the end of the day, she was quite exhausted, but her cash box was smiling.
Excerpted from Something Like Love by Beverly Jenkins Copyright © 2007 by Beverly Jenkins. Excerpted by permission.
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