One of my favorite tasks as a writer is going on research trips and discovering interesting tidbits of history. While researching End of the Trail, my June release, I learned about a unique historical event. It’s called “The Crash at Crush” and is the brainchild of George William Crush, a passenger agent of the Missouri, Kansas, & Texas Railroad, also known as “the Katy.”
In an effort to better promote their railroad, Katy officials agreed to Crush’s unusual suggestion of crashing two retired train engines. The locomotives, Old No. 999, painted bright green, and Old No. 1001, painted a vibrant red, were displayed prominently during tours throughout the state and the “Monster Crash” was advertised all the summer of 1896. The event was free, with the exception of the train fare to deliver attendees to Crush, which cost $2 for a ticket from anywhere within the state.
Crush chose a shallow valley fifteen miles north of Waco for the location, and in early September, five hundred workmen laid four miles of track for the collision run, built a grandstand for attendees, three speaker’s stands, two telegraph offices, a stand for reporters, and a bandstand. A restaurant was set up in a borrowed Ringling Brothers circus tent, and a huge carnival midway with dozens of medicine shows, game booths, and lemonade and soft-drink stands were built. Lastly, a special depot with a platform 2,100 feet long was constructed along with a painted sign, informing passengers that they had arrived at Crush, Texas.
Twenty thousand people were expected, but by early afternoon on September 15, somewhere between 40-50,000 had arrived. At 5:00 P.M., engines No. 999 and 1001 backed off to opposite ends of the four-mile track. George Crush trotted a white horse to the center of the track and raised his white hat. After a long pause, he whipped it sharply down. A huge cheer rose from the crowd, and the locomotives lunged forward, whistles shrieking as they barreled toward each other at a speed of 45 mph. In a thunderous, grinding crash, the trains collided. The two locomotives reared up like wild stallions as they rammed together. Contrary to predictions, both boilers shattered, filling the air with hot steam, smoke, and pieces of flying metal. Spectators turned and ran in blind panic. In the end, several people were killed and at least six others were injured seriously by the flying debris.
The wreckage was toted away, with souvenir hunters claiming pieces of the debris, booths and tent were removed, and by nightfall, Crush, Texas ceased to exist. The Katy railroad settled all claims against it, and George Crush was fired that same day, but rehired the next and worked for the Katy railroad until he retired. Here’s a link to a You Tube tale of the crash and some cool historic photos: ww.youtube.com/watch?v=jL5i_ZBzYk0
In End of the Trail, my hero and heroine, Brooks Morgan and Keri Langston take a rare day off work from Raven Creek Ranch to attend the Crash at Crush. It’s an exciting day for them and brings big change, especially for Brooks. End of the Trail is the sixth book in the Texas Trails series, which I wrote with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin. I also wrote Long Trail Home, the third book in the series, which is the story of a Civil War soldier who returns home to Texas to find everything has changed.
End of the Trail is the story of a cocky drifter who wins a ranch in a card game, but when he goes to claim his winning, he discovers a pretty woman toting a rifle on his porch. She claims the ranch is her inheritance, but he sees it as his one chance to prove to his folks that he’s finally settled down. He’s not leaving, but neither is she.
I hope you enjoyed the story of the Crash at Crush. What’s the most interesting historical event you’ve read about?
VICKIE IS GIVING AWAY A COPY OF END OF THE TRAIL TO ONE PERSON WHO LEAVES A COMMENT TODAY!
as Cheryl Pierson and Tracy Garrett share scenes of
from their novels, Fire Eyes and Touch of Texas!
Fire Eyes was my debut novel in 2009. It has since been re-edited and re-released with a new publisher, WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER. When wounded U.S. Deputy Marshal Kaed Turner is left in Jessica Monroe’s care, they both find a love they didn’t bargain for.
BLURB: A gritty, sensual western novel not meant for the faint of heart…
Love’s healing power…
Wounded by sadistic renegades who rule the borderlands, U.S. Marshal Kaed Turner understands he faces certain death. Then Fate and a war party of Choctaw Indians intervene, delivering him instead to an angel with the skill to heal him.
Jessica Monroe has already lost a husband and a brother to the outlaws who tortured Marshal Turner. As
the rugged lawman lies bleeding on her bed, she faces a difficult decision. Can she afford to gamble with her heart one last time? For when Kaed recovers, he is sworn to join the battle to wipe out the renegade gang—once, and for all.
When vengeance is done, will Kaed keep riding? Or will he return to claim his future with the beautiful woman the Choctaw call Fire Eyes?
THE SET UP: Marshal Kaed Turner has been deposited on widow Jessica Monroe’s front porch by a band of Choctaw Indians with orders from the chieftain: “Do not let him die.” He’s been severely beaten by Andrew Fallon’s band of renegades that run the borderlands between Arkansas and Indian Territory. The last man the Indians brought to her doorstep died. As the relationship between Kaed and Jessica deepens, she vows to move heaven and earth to heal him, even though it means he must leave her. There can be no future for them as long as Andrew Fallon lives.
EXCERPT FROM FIRE EYES: Jessica Monroe was a woman he could love. A woman he did love. That realization was not easy to face. Love was for other people. Not for him. He had his job, and that was enough. Or was it? More and more lately, thoughts of a place of his own, a family, a yearning to put down roots, had begun to plague him. His lips twisted. It was too soon. He’d had a fever, and what he thought he’d seen in the depths of her eyes had probably been a trick of the faulty workings of his own mind. Yet, he was drawn to her, not just her outward beauty, but her determination and strength. She was like a draught of strong liquor that he couldn’t put down once he had tasted it. Fire Eyes. A question formed in his mind, even as he tried to crush it, to evade the answer that might devastate him more completely than he thought possible. But it escaped his lips before he could thrust it away. “Do you love me, Jessi?” She turned slowly from where she stood beside the crib to face his level look. “Jessi.” The firelight touched her dark hair, setting it aglow with auburn highlights, and Kaed thought she could never be more beautiful than she was at this moment. Her eyes registered disbelief at what she thought she had heard, her sensual lips parted, as if she wanted to reply, but was unsure. She stood, motionless. He made his expression unreadable, but he couldn’t stop the ragged edge to his breathing that had suddenly developed. He forced the fingers of his left hand to unclench and relax, let the veil cover the tell-tale surge of need in his eyes as he lay looking at her. He knew not to speak again, even to say her name, until he gained control of his emotions. She came toward him, and stood between the bed and the baby’s crib, need and want and fear all written on her beautiful features. Kaed swallowed hard, and despite the chaotic rush of blood pounding in his ears, he made his voice even. “Do you love me?” Jessica put her hand to her throat, tears filling her eyes. Before she could speak, he went on. “You said the next time you married, it would be for love. I wouldn’t want you to make a mistake. But, from where I’ve been the past three days, I could swear I’ve seen love in your eyes. Like you said, though, sometimes it’s hard to recognize. So, I need to know, Jessi. Is what I see real?”
* * * * *
She knelt beside him on the floor, her breath catching in her throat. She looked into the depths of Kaed’s dark gaze. He loved her. She was right about not mistaking it again. Slowly, she nodded, unable to find her voice, afraid it would crack if she did. Relief flooded his pain-shrouded eyes. He reached to spear his fingers through her hair, pulling her to him. Her lids drifted closed in anticipation of his kiss, but he held her a hairsbreadth from him. When he spoke, his voice was husky, as if tenderness was not a thing he was accustomed to. “When I take you tonight, Jessica, I want you to understand something.” His clean breath was warm on her cheek, and she opened her eyes slowly to look at him once more. “When I come into you—” He swallowed hard. “—that’s my promise to you that I take you for my wife. This isn’t something I do lightly, and it isn’t something I haven’t thought out.” “Marriage? Kaed, you need to be sure—” She stumbled over her words like a schoolgirl, her cheeks flaming. Kaed’s eyes crinkled, and he smiled at her incredulous tone. “It’s all I’ve thought about. That’s why it’s important that you…that you love me. That I’m what you want. So you don’t marry for the wrong reason again.”
The love was there, lighting his eyes. She didn’t doubt what she’d seen. She bit her lip, wanting him to continue. No one else had ever said such things to her.
I’m giving away a copy of FIRE EYES to one lucky commenter today. Just leave a comment and your contact information—it’s that simple! I’ll draw a name out of the hat and announce the winner.
The e-book version of FIRE EYES is available now at Amazon, Lulu, Monkeybars, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Apple, as well as many other e-book retailers. The new print version will also be available soon! (Or drop me a note at email@example.com and I will be glad to send you an autographed copy for only $10, including the shipping!)
Don’t forget to comment to be entered in the drawing, and thanks for coming by today!
TOUCH OF TEXAS
I’m thrilled to be wrapping up our week of Happy-Ever-After. Brides and Grooms—I just love them. All the lace and candlelight and promises of forever.
In my first book, Touch of Texas, Texas Ranger Jake McCain was convinced he would never have the kind of forever his adoptive parents had. He was a half-breed, good enough to kill outlaws, but never worthy of a seat at the dinner table of society folks. Of course, he was wrong. Rachel Hudson, school teacher, orphaned early, raising her little brother on her own, was strong, beautiful, intelligent—and the perfect match for Jake.
At this point in the story, Jake has dispatched one of the bad guys and is going to have to leave Rachel & Nathan, her eight-year-old brother, for good.
I had such fun writing the scene where Jake finally realizes he doesn’t want to go on without her in his life. So he gathers his courage, walks in to propose—and comes face to belt buckle with loaded rifle.
EXCERPT FROM TOUCH OF TEXAS Jake sat in the dark, watching the cabin. It was where he’d been for the last hour, trying to gather the courage to go in and face Rachel. “Damn it.” He cursed the night and the lack of any proof someone had been near the cabin. Mostly he cursed himself. How did he make her see he was the wrong man for her when he no longer believed it himself?
Somewhere during the long day, he’d realized he didn’t want her to find someone else. He wanted to be the man she turned to, the one she relied upon.
“I love her,” he whispered to the stars. How the hell had that happened?
It wasn’t possible. He waited for the familiar panic, the trapped feeling he always got when he considered marriage and a family. But it never came. Instead, a warmth filled him when he pictured Rachel, heavy with his child, and guiding Nathan as he grew into a man any father would be proud of.
He must look ridiculous, sitting in the dark with a stupid grin on his face, but he didn’t care. He wanted Rachel and he would have her. What if she’d changed her mind? That gave him pause. Maybe a half-breed renegade lawman wasn’t what she wanted after all? Then he’d convince her to change her mind right back. Nothing could be as hard as facing a future without her.
He caught himself before he straightened and presented an easy target to whoever might be watching. He didn’t doubt someone was. Though he’d found no evidence, his instincts were screaming at him that Rachel was in danger. Checking the shadows, he slipped up to the house and made a complete circuit before setting foot on the porch. He came up on the far end, near the window where the candle that saved his life had burned.
“Rachel?” He kept his voice low, not wanting to wake the boys. “Honey, it’s me.” He leaned closer to the window, but he couldn’t hear anything inside. Was she asleep? Hoping he wasn’t destined to a night on the ground with no bedroll, he called out a third time. Finally, sounds of movement came from inside, then an uneven shuffle as she approached the window.
“It’s safe, pretty girl. You can open up.”
He heard her drag the bar from the door and lower it to the floor, but the door didn’t open.
“Come inside, slowly. I have a gun and I know how it works.”
Jake grinned. He couldn’t help it. Here he was, anxious to tell the woman he wanted forever with her, and she met him at the door with a loaded rifle. It was a story they could tell their grandchildren. He opened the door with his left hand, careful to stay out of her line of fire, just in case Wolf wasn’t as good a teacher as he thought.
“Rachel, honey, I’m coming in. Put the rifle down.”
“Are you alone?”
“I’m alone, pretty girl.”
“Then come on in.”
Relief was evident in her voice. He peeked around the doorframe to be sure she knew it was him before stepping into the open.
She faced the door from across the room, the rifle cradled in her arms. It wasn’t pointing at him, but she wouldn’t have to move it far to find a target.
Jake came inside and closed the door, barring it again. When he looked back, Rachel had pointed the rifle at the far wall and was struggling to uncock it.
“Let me, honey.” Taking it from her shaking hands, he eased the hammer forward and set the gun aside. When he opened his arms, she stepped into them without a word. Hugging her close, he let the last of his resistance melt away. Whatever it took, this woman was his and he wasn’t letting her go.
“I’m sorry. I needed to be sure. You were gone so long,” she admonished without looking up. “I was worried.”
“You were safe. I wasn’t far away.”
“I wasn’t worried for me, I was scared for you.”
Jake swore he heard a muttered dammit as she turned away to the stove. He snagged her hand and pulled her back against his chest. “What did you say?”
She squirmed in his arms but didn’t answer.
“I don’t think I can have any wife of mine using language like that.” He felt her stiffen and struggled against a grin. “It wouldn’t be proper.” He glanced down and felt himself drowning in twin pools of azure. God, she had the most beautiful eyes. He leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.
“Wife?” Her voice quavered on the single word.
“If you’ll have me, honey.” Jake loosened his hold and dropped to one knee in front of her. “I know I’m no prize, and you’ll probably spend the rest of your days wishing me to Hades, but I don’t think my heart will go on beating if you aren’t part of my life.” He kissed the fingers of her right hand. “Will you marry me, Rachel Hudson?”
When she tugged on his hand, he rose to his feet and waited for her answer. When a smile curved her lips, he thought his heart would stop.
“I’d be proud to be your wife, Jake McCain.”
A whoop from behind her brought them both around. Nathan raced down the stairs to throw his arms around Rachel. Calvin followed close behind. She returned her brother’s hug with tears in her eyes.
“Well,” Jake muttered, shaking his head at Nathan. “I intended to ask your permission, son, but it looks like we already have your blessing.”
This week we’ve shared Marriage of Convenience, Forced Marriages, Wedding Surprises, Funny Stuff & True Love. Tell me, readers, what’s your favorite kind of nuptial situation?
In honor of brides and weddings and happy-ever-afters, I’ll give away a copy of both TOUCH OF TEXAS and TOUCHED BY LOVE, my second release, to one reader who joins the discussion.
Please come see me on FaceBook – TracyGarrett.author – or follow me on Twitter – @TGarrett_Author.
Thanks for visiting Petticoats & Pistols this week for HERE COME THE BRIDES! We hope you had as much fun reading about all the wedding surprises, hugs, tears and laughter as we had sharing them with you.
Here’s wishing you all the happy-ever-after you could ever hope for!
The following is a short except from Dawn Comes Early. Eleanor owns the Last Chance Ranch. Robert proposes to her yearly, but has never mentioned the word love. This is a good thing—a very good thing. Because even an old hand like Eleanor can’t protect her heart forever.
Miss Margaret is giving away a copy of her book,
so speak up or forever hold your peace!
(Your choice: print or eBook!)
Excerpt 1 — Dawn Comes Early
Robert picked out a clear sandy spot and knelt on one knee. He pulled off his hat and held it to his chest. Most men his age would be at least half bald but not him. His silver hair was just as full and lush as that of a much younger man.
Eleanor gazed down at Robert. “Must you be so dramatic?”
“It’s my proposal. I can be as dramatic as I please.”
“Very well. If you insist.”
He cleared his throat and his pale blue eyes held hers. “Will you, Eleanor Walker, do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Each year on her birthday he proposed marriage and each year she turned him down—and for good reason. Arizona Territory community property laws would make Robert half owner of her ranch. Her painful divorce taught her the folly of shared ownership and she had no intention of making the same mistake twice.
“How long have we been doing this, Robert?”
“Fourteen, fifteen years,” he said. “But like I’ve told you many times, I’m a patient man.”
“I’m not sure that patient is the right word,” she said. “In any case, the answer is no.” No surprises, there.
Her answer hung between them for several moments before he rose and brushed the sand off his trouser leg. “Same time, same place next year.”
Miss Phyliss is giving away a copy of Give Me a Texas Ranger, so be sure to leave a comment!
In my story, One Woman, One Ranger for our anthology,Give Me a Texas Ranger, I used factual events of Mickey and Frenchy McCormick and how they were forced into marriage. I took that tidbit of history and turned it around where my Texas Ranger, Hayden McGraw, is faced with a similar situation. As a matter of fact, McGraw’s character was developed from a real life crusty ol’ Texas Ranger in the Texas Panhandle in the late 1800’s.
Please note that I am using some quotes from the book, but also leaving parts out, so you won’t find every single word of these excerpts in the story.
Excerpt 2 –– “One Woman, One Ranger” in Give Me A Texas Ranger
Not only was he tired, hungry, and dirty, but technically, Hayden McGraw guessed he was still on suspension with the Texas Rangers. The last thing he needed was to become involved in the quarrel that seemed to be brewing in Buffalo Springs, Texas. It wasn’t any of his concern … yet.
First Lieutenant McGraw finds a place to quench his thirst where he walks right into the middle of a room full of grumpy towns folks, including an old toad named Baldy, waiting on the Justice of the Peace to commence a meeting …
“Where’s that dern justice of the peace anyways?” A boisterous voice boomed. “He called this meeting.”
“Probably at Molly Lou’s showing off his new book of marriage licenses, trying to make the gamblers and dancehall girls see the error of their ways,” Mr. Baldy answered. “He says you’ve gotta get hitched if you’re livin’ without benefit of clergy–“
“What in the heck is that supposed to mean?” A woman, not so lady like, spouted.
“Means everybody in Newman County has gotta get legit. No marriage license, no beddin’.” Baldy’s eyes narrowed, brows knitted together. “I’m jest quotin’ the JP.”
It doesn’t take long for McGraw to encounter the feisty, beautiful Patience Eleanor Stevenson, who has come to town to fight for the rights of the ladies who work in Molly Lou’s, her drinking establishment across the creek. She enters the saloon mad as a peeled rattler ….
“Women have rights, and we’re nobody’s have to! We don’t have to do anything, just because a man tells us to do so.”
The bully of a sheriff takes umbrage at her attitude and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t leave. Unfortunately, Hayden can see how things are unraveling. The sheriff attempts to physically remove her, but comes up on the losing end of the stick … she punches him accidentally.
Before Hayden can blink the sheriff tries to arrest her, but the towns folks would just as soon see her hanged. Suddenly, the Texas Ranger is faced with … A beautiful woman with a noose around her neck, no proof he is a Texas Ranger, and a pompous-ass of a sheriff with hangin’ on his mind. Ranger McGraw, being the senior law enforcer, tries to take custody of her….
Sheriff Oldham smirked in a gottcha way. “And, I reckon you don’t even know her name.”
Having a knack for remembering details to a flaw, McGraw says, “Patience Eleanor Stevenson.” He pushed his Stetson back with his thumb. “But, I call her Puddin’ Cake.” He turned to Ella, and said, “Don’t I, wife?”
If looks could kill, Ella’s face would be on every Wanted Poster between the Canadian and the Rio Grande….
“Miss Stevenson, uh Mrs. McGraw.” … “Uh, I’m Wilson Scott, Newman County JP. This won’t take long. Reckon we gotta get the formalities out of the way.” He opened a black ledger. “If you’ll both sign here, then all I’ll need is the fee and your union will be duly recorded as required by law.”
“Can’t this wait? The misses and I are tired and hungry. And, I want to clear up the matter of the Warrant.”
“No, sir.“ The JP stood his ground.
“Nope, Ranger. This needs tending to … now!” Sheriff Oldham interjected.
“Gotcha fee right here.” Dixie (one of Ella’s employees) pulled a stringed bag from between her breasts and began counting out coins.
Reluctantly, Hayden signs his name to the ledger.
Ella folded her arms across her chest and tapped her foot, resisting the JP’s demands. As if it were Hayden’s fault, she furrowed her brow and sent him a go to blue blazes look which scathed all the way to his toes and back again.
“It’s them or me.” Hayden nodded toward the Sheriff and Baldy, who now held the noose.
Almost knocking the JP off the porch, she seized the ledger. In an exquisite script, Ella scrolled her name across the paper. She shared her frown with Dixie, as she handed over the fee.
Dixie raised an eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders. “Should I let them hang you?”
Elizabeth and I are sharing some ceremonies that, well, didn’t quite happen as planned. We’re each giving away a copy of our books today so don’t be a stranger!
Excerpt One: from “Marrying Mattie” by Tanya Hanson
“Dearly beloved…” Jake, his childhood pal, sounded so masterful and mature Call snickered and Mattie giggled. “We are gathered today…”
Coyly she peered up at him beneath her pink bonnet, and Call’s breath caught. Jake went on with a dear little homily about the two of them, but Call didn’t hear a single word. From chuckles throughout the congregation, however, he reckoned Jake did a fine job, then the preacher segued reverently into the Lord’s prayer before starting the vows.
As directed, Call took Mattie’s hand and said firmly, “I will.”
“I will.” Mattie replied firmly when it was her turn.
Before the final pronouncement, Jake gave the congregation the time-honored directive. “If anybody has any objection why these two should not be united in holy wedlock, let him speak or forever afterward hold his peace.”
Brixton Haynes chuckled a bit then; Caldwell understood. He had threatened to break up the wedding vows between Brix and Minda those two years ago although of course, he hadn’t followed through.
A deep voice Call didn’t know resonated through the little church, and the congregation gasped. Shock smacked him in the gut.
At the appalling words, Call’s skin crawled from his toes up his spine to his neck. As he turned around to see who had spoken, Mattie slumped against him. Her mouth hung open.
What was happening? Call couldn’t find air to breathe.
“Who disrupts this sacred ceremony, sir?” Jake asked, voice stern but shaky.
“Woodrow.” Mattie was so breathless only Caldwell could hear.
The newcomer stood tall in the back row and faced the altar with his bowler in his hands. “Reverend, I am Woodrow Paulson Carter the Third,” he said in a loud, confident voice. “Mayor pro Tem of Gleesburg, Pennsylvania. County assistant District Attorney, and husband of this beautiful woman.”
In one loud voice, the gathering emitted a long howl.
A cold worse than winter clammed Call’s skin. His right arm grabbed Mattie as her knees wilted, her pink hem a puddle at her feet. Eyes big as blue moons dwarfed her white face. The air around him started to turn black…
Jake finally found his voice. “Mr. Carter, just what are you doing?”
“Reclaiming my wife.”
Mattie stiffened against her bridegroom. “Woodrow, how could you do this?”
“I could, darling, because I must. I am your husband. And I intend to run for President of the United States. There is no one but you worthy enough to be my first lady.”
“You are not my husband!” Mattie spoke firmly. “I was duly represented in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas. You and I are divorced.”
Excerpt 2: From: “The Hand-Me-Down Bride” by Elizabeth Lane
WEDDINGS UNDER A WESTERN SKY by Lisa Plumley, Elizabeth Lane and Kate Welsh
Arabella’s wedding had been far different than she’d imagined. There’d been only a few days to plan it before the circuit preacher came through. Grandma Peabody’s silk wedding gown was splotched with water stains that not even Sally had been able to remove. Arabella had chosen to wear it anyway, for luck. The wreath of wild flowers in her hair, had matched the bouquet she carried down the aisle of the little white church. She had never felt more beautiful. And when she looked up into Stewart’s eyes to recite her vows, his love had flowed through her like warm sunlight.
In attendance at the simple ceremony were a few friends from town, as well as Charles and Sally who’d smiled and held hands the whole time. A special guest of honor, Stewart’s dog, had been bathed, brushed, and adorned with a garland of ribbons and daisies around its shaggy neck. During the ceremony, the wayward mutt had wandered off to romp in a puddle with a canine friend, then returned to the church, leaving muddy footprints down the aisle. A wedding picnic at Charles and Sally’s had capped the festivities.
In other words, the day couldn’t have been more perfect.
Whether it’s by shotgun or another equally pressing reason, sometimes proposals and weddings don’t come at the right time – even if they’re the right thing. Here are Donna Alward and Mary Connealy with glimpses into a few forced unions from their books!
From THE REBEL RANCHER (June 2012)
“I thought about it all night, Clara. Thought about you and the baby and Diamondback and I know what we have to do.”
She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of this. He seemed very sure of himself and considering she’d already explained her proposal this meant he wasn’t likely to go along with it. She tangled her fingers tighter together and replied, as evenly as she could, “I already told you what I’d like to do. This doesn’t have to change anything, not really. I can keep my life and you can keep yours, and we can work it out so that our baby has both a mother and a father. Right?”
Somehow in the twisting of her fingers, she managed to cross hers, hoping he would see reason.
Another step closer, and this time he was shaking his head. “That doesn’t work for me, Clara. I can’t be a father hundreds of kilometers away.” He reached out and pried one of her hands loose, clasping it in his strong, warm fingers. “What makes the most sense is…”
He paused, then got down on one knee while her mouth fell open. No, no, no! This couldn’t be happening. He couldn’t possibly be proposing. It would ruin everything! She didn’t want to get married. Didn’t want to lose herself in another relationship where she wasn’t loved in return. Why couldn’t he just be reasonable?
She tried to slide her fingers out of his but his grip was too firm. Oh God, he was looking up at her with those heart-on-his-sleeve eyes and she couldn’t look away.
“I want you to marry me,” he said softly. “Come home to Diamondback, and we can raise our child together.”
Panic threaded its way through her body. “We don’t have to get married to be parents,” she answered, adding a nervous laugh to the end that fell completely flat. Ty’s brow furrowed and a wrinkle appeared just above his nose.
He got to his feet and Clara realized once more how very tall he was. Ty had such presence that he tended to fill a room with it without even trying. It was hard to go toe to toe with that. But the truth was Ty had mentioned absolutely nothing about love. He had asked her but for all the wrong reasons. And it would be a disaster to marry without it. They would end up resenting each other and then what sort of parents would they be?
She had to make him understand that somehow. “Ty,” she tried, praying for calm, “getting married would be a mistake. We’d end up regretting it, I’m sure of it. And then there’d be a child stuck in the middle. If we’re calm and practical now, it’ll be so much better, can’t you see? We’ll make rational decisions rather than running on emotion.”
“Of course there are emotions involved. We’re not talking about buying a car or taking a job. We’re talking about a baby here. My baby.”
“And mine,” she reminded him.
A muscle in his jaw ticked. This wasn’t going the way she wanted at all! It had never crossed her mind that he’d propose. He didn’t love her. She wasn’t a naïve little girl after all. She knew that one night of passion and grief did not a love affair make.
“You’re asking me to make an impossible choice, do you realize that?” He ran his hand through his hair. “I either have to try to be a father on special occasions and holidays, or…”
He dropped his hand. “Damn,” he muttered.
“Or what?” she asked, wondering what choice she’d possibly forced.
“Or leave Diamondback.”
Her lips dropped open. “You’d do that?”
The chocolatey eyes she’d drowned in earlier now hardened. “What choice would I have? You should know me better, especially after everything I told you.” His voice turned accusing. “You know my history. You know how I feel about what my parents did. Thank God Virgil and Molly were there, but what if they hadn’t been? Don’t you think I know how it might have ended up for me? Maybe this was unplanned, but I could never turn my back on my own child. I could never put them second in my life and I thought you understood that.”
And now she saw his eyes glisten with the barest sheen of moisture before he blinked and turned away from her.
“But you love Diamondback,” she said weakly.
“Yes, I do.” His voice was hoarse with emotion. And he didn’t need to say anything more. If she insisted on staying in Saskatchewan, he would leave the ranch behind. His birthright. His family.
For a chance to win a copy of THE REBEL RANCHER, leave a comment!!!!!!!!!
And now here’s Mary, with an excerpt from CALICO CANYON:
“I can’t be out here alone with you wearing a nightgown.” Grace clutched the blankets. “It’s not proper.”
Daniel’s fair skin turned an alarming shade of pink as he stared at her. “I’ll bet it wasn’t proper of us to sleep together either.”
“It most certainly was not.” The deep voice from behind hit them at the same instant the cold did.
They all turned to face Parson Roscoe.
The boys wheeled fully around. Daniel sat up. Grace clutched the blankets to her chest and looked into the startled eyes of the kindly parson and, just behind him, his gentle-hearted wife, Isabelle.
“Parson, it’s not what it looks like,” Grace said.
“Oh, thank heavens,” Mrs. Roscoe said. “Because it looks like you and Daniel spent the night together in this cave.”
“Then it is exactly what it looks like,” John said into a silence more frozen than Grace had been last night.
“Well, yes,” Daniel said. “We did spend the night together, but…”
“Daniel,” Grace gasped in horror.
Daniel looked away from the parson, his skin now fully flaming red. “Well, we did. Do you want me to add lying to the parson in on top of having you in bed…I mean, sleeping together…I mean…” Daniel lapsed into silence.
“Pa brung her home to be our ma, but he tried her out for the night and he decided to return her,” Mark said.
Parson Roscoe stepped fully into the cave. “Both of you get up immediately.”
“In front of the children, Grace? I’m shocked.” Mrs. Roscoe came in and shut the door behind her. The plump woman clutched her hands together in front of her chest as if desperate to get away and spend an hour in prayer just to wash the shock out of her mind.
Grace climbed to her feet. She fumbled with the blankets, there were too many of them to hold. She tried to drop a few of them and managed to drop them all. She caught at them and almost fell forward trying to keep herself covered.
In a voice that seemed to promise eternal flames, Parson Roscoe said to Daniel, “We’ll get on with this and no one will have to know what exactly went on here last night.”
The parson gripped his big black Bible in both hands as if he needed to physically hang on to his faith in the face of this indignity. “Do you Daniel take this woman…”
Daniel was staring at her, his eyes so wide Grace would swear the man had seen a ghost, shook his head.
“I don’t even know how I got here.” Grace flung her arms wide, narrowly missing backhanding Daniel in the face.
“I do.” Daniel grabbed her hand to protect himself.
“About time.” The parson turned his fire and brimstone eyes on Grace.
“No, I didn’t mean…” Daniel dropped her hand like it had sprouted cactus bristles.
“Do you Grace take Daniel—?”
“We told you we aren’t keepin’ her for our ma.” Mark turned on Grace. “You want out of here as bad as we want you out of here, don’t you?”
Grace nodded frantically. “I do.”
“Hallelujah!” The parson raised his hands to heaven.
“I now pronounce you—”
Mrs. Roscoe threw herself, weeping into Grace’s arms, whispering ‘congratulations’.
The parson, whom Grace had always liked, and his wife who seemed like such a sweet-natured woman in the normal course of things, swept out of the cabin. The door slammed shut.
“But I need a ride back to town,” Grace called after them.
“You’re not getting a ride back to town, woman. You’re married!”
Daniel might as well have been a cougar trapped in this cave with her, she’d have felt no safer.
“I’m what?” Deafening silence followed her question.
“To who?” Mark shoved himself to the front of the pack of boys.
Grace looked at Daniel, and it hit her. She was the mother of five—including two ten-year-olds. And she was only seventeen. Grace sank onto the floor and pulled all six blankets over her head.
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