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About the Author
A popular speaker, Amanda is a member of ACFW and a charter member of Romance Writers of America. A Christmastime bride, she married her high school sweetheart who shares her love of travel and who’s driven thousands of miles to help her research her books. After years as Easterners, they fulfilled a longtime dream when Amanda retired from her job as Director of Information Technology for a major corporation and now live in Cheyenne.
You can find her at www.amandacabot.com.
Three-time Carol Award winner and bestselling author of fifteen novels, Melanie Dobson is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of Dobson Media Group. Because of her husband’s work in the film industry, their family has lived in multiple states as well as Germany, but the Dobson family is settled for now in a small town near Portland, Oregon. Melanie loves connecting with readers via her website at www.melaniedobson.com.
CBA Bestselling author Pam Hillman was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent her teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, her daddy couldn't afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so Pam drove an Allis Chalmers 110. Even when her daddy asked her if she wanted to bale hay, she told him she didn't mind raking. Raking hay doesn't take much thought so Pam spent her time working on her tan and making up stories in her head. Now, that's the kind of life every girl should dream of. www.pamhillman.com
Although currently residing in North Carolina, Myra Johnson proudly claims her heritage as a native Texan, and she sorely misses real Texas barbecue! Myra is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist, winner of the 2005 RWA Golden Heart, and winner of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best Award for historical fiction. Married since 1972, Myra and her husband have two bright, beautiful daughters, two mission-minded sons-in-law, and seven amazing grandchildren. The Johnsons share their home with a couple of very pampered rescue dogs.
Amy Lillard loves nothing more than a good book. Except for her family. . .and maybe homemade tacos. . .and nail polish. But reading and writing are definitely high on the list. Born and bred in Mississippi, Amy is a transplanted Southern Belle who now lives in Oklahoma with her deputy husband, their genius son, three spoiled cats, and one very lazy beagle. When she’s not creating quirky characters and happy endings, she’s chauffeuring her prodigy to guitar lessons, orchestra concerts, and baseball practice. She has a variety of hobbies, but her favorite is whatever gets her out of housework. An award-winning author, Amy is a member of RWA and ACFW. She loves to hear from readers. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest. For links to the various sites, check her website: www.amylillardbooks.com.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Retreat, and Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. Connect with DiAnn here: DiAnnMills.com.
Anna Schmidt is the author of over twenty works of fiction. Among her many honors, Anna is the recipient of Romantic Times’ Reviewer’s Choice Award and a finalist for the RITA award for romantic fiction. She enjoys gardening and collecting seashells at her winter home in Florida.
Ann Shorey has been a full-time writer for over twenty years. She made her fiction debut with The Edge of Light, Book One in the At Home in Beldon Grove series. Her latest releases include Love’s Sweet Beginning, the third book in the Sisters at Heart series, and several novellas. Ann and her husband make their home in southwestern Oregon.
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a preteen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a BA in writing, she has won five writing competitions and was a finalist in two others. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenage son, and four fur children.
Read an Excerpt
The Oregon Trail Romance Collection
By Amanda Cabot
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Amanda Cabot
All rights reserved.
June 1, 1852
They called it Chimney Rock. Avice Longcope leaned against the side of the wagon and stared at the famous landmark, wishing she could join in the celebratory mood that seemed to have gripped so many others in the party. For days they'd talked about reaching this milestone in their journey, and now they were camped practically in its shadow. Some were headed toward the enormous limestone spire, hoping to climb it. Though they'd invited Avice to join them, she wasn't ready for any kind of celebration.
Tears trickled down her cheeks as she gazed across the prairie at what everyone else called Chimney Rock. If she were wise, she would think of it as a chimney, because she had no special memories associated with chimneys. But try as she might, Avice could not ignore the fact that Chimney Rock reminded her of the cake Ma had made for her birthday last year. That cake had had three layers, each smaller than the one beneath it, just like the rock. There had even been a candle on top, completing the resemblance to the wind-sculpted limestone just a few miles away.
The tiered cake hadn't tasted any different than an ordinary one, but its shape had made the day extra special. It was part of a birthday Avice would never forget, for that had been the day Pa had announced that he and Ma were thinking about moving west, building a new store and a new life in a new land.
Trying to tamp back the tears that threatened to turn into a river, Avice looked back at the tracks the wagons had left in the prairie, her mind picturing the single grave that marked the end of her parents' aspirations. Cholera had taken Ma and Pa, along with their dream of opening a mercantile in Oregon.
Earlier this spring they'd sold their home and store in Michigan in preparation for the move west. Avice had been almost as excited as her parents about their journey west, though she'd disagreed when they'd invited Uncle Eli to join them. Pa had claimed it was the Christian thing to do, to help his brother even though Eli had scant experience in a mercantile. He would learn, Pa had claimed. But now Uncle Eli was talking as if he'd been the driving force behind the mercantile. Though it had been less than two weeks since her parents' deaths, Uncle Eli had shown no sign of mourning. Instead he'd spent most of his time with Matthew Dempsey.
Avice shivered, even though the early evening air was still warm. She wasn't sure what Uncle Eli and Matthew Dempsey were planning, but she couldn't dismiss her misgivings. Though the man was older than Pa, when Mr. Dempsey looked at her, it wasn't the way an old man should. And then there were the times he brushed up against her, his hands making Avice feel as if something dirty had touched her.
Just because she was twenty-four years old and still unmarried didn't mean she was desperate for a suitor. Both Ma and Pa had agreed when she'd turned down the four men who'd offered to marry her. They knew that as much as Avice longed for a home and children of her own, she wasn't willing to settle for less than love. She hadn't loved those men, and she didn't love Mr. Dempsey.
Noticing a small rent in her skirt, Avice frowned then climbed into the wagon to retrieve her sewing kit. She was reaching for the cloth bag of supplies she'd placed in one of the inside pockets on the canvas top when she heard familiar voices.
"I tell you, Matthew," her uncle declared in his most bombastic tone, "this will be the best investment you've ever made. With your money and my know-how, we'll be rich. My brother claimed that a mercantile could support a large family. Think how much there'll be for just the two of us."
"The two of us and the girl." Avice cringed at Matthew Dempsey's words, for she had no doubt of the girl's identity. "It's no secret I've had my eye on her since I joined the wagon train. Her pa wouldn't let me court her, but the way I figure it, now that he's gone, you're the only one between me and her." His voice was softer now, as if he and Uncle Eli were walking away, and Avice feared she would not hear her uncle's response. But Mr. Dempsey continued. "The only way you and I've got a deal is if I get what I want—Avice as my wife."
Avice took a deep breath, trying to tamp down the anger that rose inside her. How dare they talk of trading her as if she were a team of oxen!
"It might not be that simple, Matthew," her uncle said. "Avice's got a mind of her own, and she's of age. I can't force her to marry you."
A moment of silence followed, as if Mr. Dempsey was searching for an argument that would persuade her. There were none. Avice would not agree to marry him any more than she had agreed to marry her other suitors.
"The way I see it, Eli, you give her a choice. She marries me, or you throw her out of your wagon. No one else on the train will take her in."
He was right. Now that Uncle Eli had appropriated all of the goods in the wagon, claiming they belonged to him as the surviving partner, there was no reason for another family to take Avice in. She would only be a burden.
The sound of her uncle's laughter sent chills down her spine. "You're a wily one, Matthew. I reckon that'll work. You two can get hitched when we get to Fort Laramie."
Though Avice wanted to scream, she remained silent. Screaming would accomplish nothing. She had four days until they reached Fort Laramie, four days to find a way out of this predicament. And she would find a way, for if there was one thing she knew, it was that Matthew Dempsey was not the man God intended for her.
* * *
Raleigh Bayne didn't need to look at the calendar to know that today was June 5. The date was etched in his memory. June 5 marked exactly one year since he and Dorothy had stood before the minister, smiling as he pronounced them man and wife.
Raleigh wasn't smiling now, and neither was his son. Jay was squalling, and nothing Raleigh did had made the least bit of difference. Jay wasn't hungry. Hannah had fed him only an hour earlier when she'd dropped off the day's milk. He didn't need a clean diaper. Raleigh had checked.
He looked around the building that had been his place of employment for the better part of a year. It was filling with customers and would become even more crowded when the wagon train arrived. He couldn't do anything now but let his son cry while he waited on the people who guaranteed his livelihood.
After exchanging quick commiserating smiles with the clerks at the other two counters, he greeted the woman who'd been standing in line, tapping her foot in annoyance. Rob or Tim needn't be subjected to Mrs. Taylor's legendary temper. Raleigh was managing the store, and that meant he should handle the most difficult customers.
When Mrs. Taylor left, harrumphing about crying babies, Raleigh looked up, his mood improving when he saw Farley making his way to the counter. By some small miracle, the store was experiencing one of the brief lulls that gave Raleigh and the clerks a chance to catch their breath.
"It sounds like your son's unhappy," Farley said, peering over the counter at the red-faced infant who was flailing his arms and legs in the flannel-lined basket Raleigh had placed on the floor.
"Tell me something I didn't already know."
Raleigh had met Lieutenant Farley Miller soon after he and Dorothy had arrived at Fort Laramie, and the two men had developed an instant camaraderie. Even Dorothy, who'd been critical of most of the soldiers, had liked Farley, and it had been Farley who'd stood at Raleigh's side as Dorothy's casket was lowered into the ground. Sometimes brash but always honest, Farley was a man Raleigh would trust with his life.
Right now his friend propped one elbow on the counter and leaned forward, lowering his voice as he said, "You want me to tell you something you don't appear to know? How about this? You've got to give up something. The way I see it, you have two choices. You can tell the sutler to find himself another manager, or—"
Raleigh cut him off. "I won't do that. You know I won't. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, a true godsend." Once his two years of managing the fort's trading post, more commonly called the sutler's store, ended, Raleigh would have the experience and the funds he needed to open his own store in the city of his choice.
Shrugging, Farley said, "Then there's only one thing to do—send Jay back to Dorothy's parents."
"Never!" Raleigh looked down at his son. Screams had turned to hiccups, and if today was like the others, Jay would soon fall asleep. Ogden and Flora Adams may have kept Dorothy fed and clothed, but they'd never given her love. There was no way on earth Raleigh would let them raise his son.
"Then what are you going to do? You can't go on this way. You don't sleep and everything's suffering—you, your son, the store."
Raleigh nodded. Farley was merely stating the obvious. "There's another answer."
"And what would that be?"
"I need a wife. I realized that yesterday." The thought had come to him when he'd been struggling to get Jay to sleep. Every time he'd laid his son in his crib, Jay had begun to scream, and even when Raleigh had tried to rock him in his arms, Jay had remained awake, his chubby cheeks red from all the tears he'd shed.
"A wife?" Farley didn't bother to hide his skepticism. "How are you going to manage that? Single women are as rare as roses around here."
"I know. That's why I asked God to send me one." When Jay had finally fallen asleep, Raleigh had spent an hour on his knees, pouring out his hopes and fears and begging for a way to keep his son with him. Through it all, the one idea that had refused to disappear was that of a wife, and so Raleigh had ended his prayer with a plea for God to send the right woman to Fort Laramie.
Farley's eyebrows rose so high that they almost disappeared under his hat. "And you think He will?"
"I do."CHAPTER 2
It felt like home. Avice took a deep breath, astonished by the sense of belonging that swept over her as she entered Fort Laramie. This was the place where, unless God answered her prayers and showed her another way, she was to marry Matthew Dempsey. If for no other reason, she ought to hate it, and yet Avice couldn't help smiling at the sight of the fort.
The treeless prairie, dotted with blue-gray sagebrush and prickly pear cactus now adorned with pink and yellow blossoms, was far different from the fruit orchards that dominated the landscape in Michigan, but something about it filled Avice's heart with peace. Though this wasn't the verdant Oregon valley of her parents' dreams, she could not ignore the feeling that this was her destination, not merely a stopping point on the journey west. It made no sense, for she knew no one here and had no way of earning a living if she abandoned the wagon train, but Avice could not dismiss the idea that God had something in store for her here.
Grateful that the soldiers' inventory of their livestock kept Uncle Eli and Matthew Dempsey preoccupied, Avice slipped away from the wagon. Fort Laramie was busier than she'd expected, and that was good. With all the people milling around, it would be easy to lose herself in the crowds, if only for a few minutes. And as she did, perhaps she would find a way to escape from Matthew Dempsey permanently.
Though neither he nor Uncle Eli had spoken to Avice about the marriage, she'd heard their plans, plans that included Avice moving into Mr. Dempsey's wagon for the duration of the trip. She'd shuddered every time she'd thought of that, and each time she had offered another prayer for deliverance. At first it had seemed that there'd been no answer, but the way she felt now told her God was watching over her.
Taking another deep breath, Avice smiled. The wind blew the pungent smells of horses, unwashed men, and wood smoke toward her. Though many would consider the odors unpleasant, she found them invigorating, just as she found the sight of sagebrush and cactus appealing. The others on the wagon train had dismissed the prairie plants as ugly reminders of a barren landscape, but Avice found no ugliness in them.
She narrowed her eyes against the bright sunshine, grateful for the shade her sunbonnet provided, as she looked around. She'd expected Fort Laramie to be nothing more than a few crude buildings, but instead the variety of structures flanking the parade ground made it look more like a small town than an army post.
Rather than the uniform size and shape she'd expected, the buildings were a mixture of stone and frame. While many were only one story high, a large two-story white frame edifice with porches on both levels dominated one side of the parade ground. The sight of uniformed men emerging from one of the doorways confirmed Avice's belief that this was Old Bedlam, the fort's famous bachelor officers' housing. Others on the wagon train had claimed that rowdy parties had led to its nickname. Avice had no time for such speculation.
While Old Bedlam was handsome, it was the long, low building to the north that caught her eye. Although it was one of the least imposing structures at the fort, Avice felt drawn to it. The number of people headed that way and the bundles in the arms of those who emerged made her believe it was the sutler's store. No wonder it attracted her. Avice's smile broadened at the thought of comparing this frontier trading post with the mercantile her parents had owned back home.
She hurried along the edge of the parade ground, careful not to disturb the soldiers who were marching, their faces as solemn as if they were leaving for battle. When she entered the store, Avice stopped, amazed by the sight that greeted her. The building itself was ordinary, with wooden counters lining three walls and a wide variety of merchandise displayed on shelves behind the counters. What wasn't ordinary was the chaos.
Three men stood behind the counters, trying to satisfy more customers than her parents' store would have seen in a day. Indian men, women, and children, their garments ranging from beautifully tooled skins to what appeared to be little more than rough blankets, mingled with soldiers, a few white women, some in fashionable dress, others wearing faded and patched calico, and rough-hewn men who might have been fur trappers. Everyone looked and sounded disgruntled. The muttered curses made Avice cringe, but those were more easily dismissed than the baby's wailing.
She looked around, wondering who was responsible for the poor service that was causing such problems. Two of the men behind the counters were little more than boys. In all likelihood the tall dark-haired one was in charge. Though he was more handsome than any man she knew, it wasn't the man's good looks that snagged Avice's attention but the rigid set of his shoulders and the obviously forced smile that left no doubt that he was as frustrated as his customers.
Avice's moment of sympathy faded as the baby's screams intensified. Where was the poor child? Her gaze moved quickly around the crowd. None of the Indian children were crying, and there were no white babies in sight, but the wailing continued. She tipped her head to one side, listening until she determined that the cries were coming from behind the counter. Someone had to help that child, and it looked as if that someone was her.
Avice made her way through the crowd then strode behind the counter. There he was. Her instincts told her that the squalling baby who'd been stashed behind the counter in a basket as if he were a sack of flour was a boy. Reaching down, she gathered the infant into her arms. Though she was no expert, the baby was so tiny that she guessed he was only a few weeks old.
"There now, it'll be all right," Avice said as she patted the child's back and began to croon softly. "It'll be all right."
As if he understood, the child ceased his cries and stared at her, his brown eyes widening in surprise. He was far from the most beautiful baby she'd ever seen, with his face red and blotched from crying, but as she traced her finger along his downy cheek and smiled at the now silent baby, Avice knew why she'd been drawn to the sutler's store. This child needed her.
* * *
Something was different. Raleigh handed the woman the dishes she'd ordered along with a teakettle and three bars of soap. Her frown turned into a grudging smile when he added two peppermint sticks for her children, explaining that they were a small thank-you for her patience. The truth was, she hadn't been patient, but there was no point in aggravating a customer, especially a customer who bought as much as she did.
Though the next few sales went smoothly and quickly, Raleigh couldn't dismiss the feeling that something was different. He glanced at Tim and Rob. Nothing different there. The two young men who helped in the store appeared just as frazzled as they had a few minutes ago. Suddenly Raleigh identified the difference: Jay was no longer crying. His wails had continued for so long that Raleigh had managed to tune them out while he attempted to earn a living for both of them, but somehow the screams had stopped.
He looked down, and for a second his heart stopped. Jay was not in his basket. Fear deeper than anything he had ever experienced made him grip the edge of the counter as the blood drained from his head and his legs threatened to buckle. Where was Jay? What had happened to his son?
Please, God. Keep him safe. Raleigh closed his eyes for an instant as he implored the Lord to protect his son. When he opened them, he blinked in disbelief. There was Jay, on the opposite side of the store in the arms of a lovely young woman. Perhaps five and a half feet tall, she had blond hair and, if Raleigh's instincts were accurate, blue eyes. He couldn't tell from this distance. What he could tell was that she held Jay as easily as if she'd done it every day of his short life while she moved through the crowd, speaking to a few of the women. Raleigh's fear disappeared at the realization that she meant Jay no harm, but merely sought to comfort him. Still, he studied her, wondering why she was speaking to the customers.
As he watched, a woman turned to leave the store, her anger palpable even across the room. Though the other customers continued to murmur among themselves, he heard the beautiful blond address the irate woman.
"I don't like to wait, either," she said, her voice clear and calm, "but I saw some yellow calico on the wall that would be perfect with your hair and eyes. I wish I could wear that color."
Excerpted from The Oregon Trail Romance Collection by Amanda Cabot. Copyright © 2015 Amanda Cabot. 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.
Table of Contents
ContentsThe Sagebrush Bride by Amanda Cabot,
Beckoned Hearts by Melanie Dobson,
Shanghaied by the Bride by Pam Hillman,
Settled Hearts by Myra Johnson,
As Good as Gold by Amy Lillard,
Daughters of the Wind by DiAnn Mills,
His Frontier Family by Anna Schmidt,
State of Matrimony by Ann Shorey,
Sioux Summer by Jennifer Uhlarik,
About the Authors,