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A Quiet Life: 4 Sweet Romance Novellas

A Quiet Life: 4 Sweet Romance Novellas

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A Quiet Life: 4 Sweet Romance Novellas

Länge:
271 Seiten
3 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Feb 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781311588074
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

BOOK 1 - A SILENT YES
Kansas 1884 – Matthias Baker lives on an isolated farm with his brother. Their quiet life is interrupted when a young woman is hastily left in their care. The woman has nowhere else to go and a wedding seems like the obvious solution to avoid impropriety. But Matthias quickly develops feelings that would make a marriage more than a convenient choice. When the preacher arrives before he has the time to work out how she feels about him, it’s unclear to both of them whether or not their marriage is for show.

BOOK 2 - A SUDDEN YES
Kansas 1885 - Lucy Haid has had an increasingly difficult life. She’d been dreaming of running away for years when a young farmer offers to take her to his remote home. She figures the man only wants a wife to cook and care for his house, but at least he seems kind and honest about it. Lucy jumps at the chance to escape. Even a dull life would be better than the threat looming before her. But her new husband is full of surprises. Is there a chance he’ll actually live up to her fantasies?

BOOK 3 - A SIMPLE YES
Kansas 1886 - Sam Haid is desperate to take his sister Caroline back to Texas because he feels he abandoned her years earlier. Caroline is afraid of being lonely and wants to bring her friend Ruth along. Ruth longs to go but her father won’t allow her to leave home unless she is married. The answer to everything is completely obvious. Practical even. But will it be as simple as Sam and Ruth believe?

BOOK 4 - A SECOND YES
Texas 1886 - Caroline Haid’s first marriage was necessary and unpleasant. When her husband died, she promised herself she would never marry again. Now that her brother is willing and able to provide for her, Caroline has no need for a husband. Her promise seems easy to keep. Until Jack Spencer begins to complicate her life. She can’t stop herself from falling in love with him. That love makes her question not only what she needs, but also what she wants. And now Jack is the one looking for an answer.

Freigegeben:
Feb 28, 2015
ISBN:
9781311588074
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor


Buchvorschau

A Quiet Life - Charlotte Thorpe

A Quiet Life: 4 Novellas in 1

Charlotte Thorpe

A Silent Yes

A Sudden Yes

A Simple Yes

A Second Yes

A Silent Yes

a novella

Charlotte Thorpe

Copyright 2014 Charlotte Thorpe

All rights reserved. Before Someday Publishing

Smashwords Edition

A Silent Yes is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, events, etc. are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

~~ ~~

Kansas 1884

You hear a wagon?

Matthias Baker looked up from the cornbread he was pulling out of the oven and perked his ears before he nodded to his brother’s question.

The Griggs wouldn’t pay a call this time of year, would they? Justus didn’t even look up from his whittling as he asked. It’s past Rev. John’s time though, isn’t it?

Matthias stared at the cornbread knowing Justus wasn’t waiting for answers. He simply liked to think out loud.

The preacher wouldn’t bring a wagon though, would he?

The heat from the pan began to sear through the towel. Matthias dropped the contents rather unceremoniously onto the table and tossed the pan into the washtub.

Who do you suppose could be headed this way? Justus asked. He still hadn’t moved. A wagon could be heard for some time before it arrived at their house.

Matthias glanced at the meat for two on the stove and hoped whoever was coming didn’t plan on staying.

He took his rifle down and propped it by the front door before he opened it. A covered wagon was approaching the house, driven by a gray-haired man and a plump older woman who was likely his wife. By the time they stopped the horses, Justus was at his brother’s elbow to help greet the unexpected and unknown arrivals.

Good afternoon, the man at the reins called out with a jerk of his head. Which of you is the head of this household?

I suppose that would be me, Matthias called back. As the older brother, the title was technically his. Justus was only two years younger though and didn’t exactly require ordering about. I’m Matthias Baker. This is my brother Justus.

Silas Mitchell, the man answered. He gave a nod to the seat next to him. My wife.

All four paused to acknowledge that introductions had been made. There was still much sizing up going on though and Matthias didn’t move from arm’s reach of his rifle.

Who all you got living in this homestead? Mr. Mitchell asked.

I might ask how that’s any of your business.

I mean no disrespect, the man said, rubbing a hand over his sun-hardened face. We, uh, we got ourselves a bit of a situation and are, uh, trying to judge the appropriateness of asking you for help.

This Mr. Mitchell seemed to be choosing his words carefully, but Matthias had decided that he did not pose an immediate threat. He took a few steps onto the porch. You’re looking at the entire contents of this household, Mr. Mitchell. Why don’t you step down and tell us about this problem of yours and we’ll decide on the appropriateness of offering help.

Mr. Mitchell exchanged a worried look with his wife before he passed her the reins and climbed off the wagon.

Justus flanked his brother but let him do the talking.

What’s the bind? Matthias prompted once he was face to face with the stranger. He thought he heard a soft moan come from inside the wagon. He ignored it for the moment.

Well… Mr. Mitchell passed his hand over his face so hard it seemed he might be trying to rub the rough whiskers right off his cheek. The wife and I are cooking for a cattle drive passing by here. Just before we left, we got burdened with escorting a young woman. We were told she’d help out in exchange for vittles, but she’s been more trouble than… I knew it was a bad idea.

When the older man paused for breath, Matthias glanced back at his brother. Justus appeared to be thinking along the same lines, that this was either a complicated problem or a simple one with a long-winded explanation. He wasn’t sure which he should be hoping for.

Mr. Mitchell continued, Then the girl went and took ill two days ago. Completely useless now even more than before. We can’t afford any more delays and the fact of the matter is we’d be much obliged if you’d take her in for us.

Matthias looked at his brother again. He wasn’t sure he had heard right. The befuddled expression on Justus’ face said that perhaps he had indeed understood the man correctly. Mr. Mitchell, if I followed your story all right, you propose to leave a sickly young woman in the care of two, uh… strangers? He figured that saying strangers was bad enough without mentioning the added inappropriateness of both of those strangers being men. When do you plan on coming back for her?

Mr. Mitchell shifted his weight impatiently. I realize it’s inconvenient and not exactly proper. I… We simply can’t afford for anyone else to get sick on account of her.

Matthias scratched his head a moment. There must be something else going on here. Surely this man wasn’t as callous as he was sounding. Where is this woman? Can I talk to her?

The older man rubbed his face hard again and glanced nervously at his wife. Then he motioned for Matthias to follow him to the back of the wagon. You can try to talk to her but she’s completely knocked out by the fever. He lifted a flap.

Matthias peered into the back of the wagon. Wedged in between supplies and provisions he saw the terribly pale face of a young and pretty woman. Half her blond hair was spilling out of a bun with loose hair pins sticking out at odd angles. Miss? He spoke softly. Her eyelids didn’t even flutter at the sound of his voice. He tried again a bit louder. Miss?

Mr. Mitchell worked his hands over his face and right up under his hat, which he then straightened as he fixed Matthias with a serious look. All right, Mr. Baker, he said. You see how bad off she is. Now let’s be plain. She’ll likely succumb in a day or two and all we’re really asking is for you to bury her for us.

A wave of nausea passed through Matthias’ gut at the bland tone the man used to deliver this statement. That’s all you’re asking? he said.

We’ll leave her trunk and you can keep whatever she’s carrying as payment.

Matthias felt a strong urge to leave Mr. Mitchell’s presence and a stronger urge to snatch the helpless-looking woman out of his wagon and offer her whatever protection he could whether she was able to accept it or not.

Am I right in thinking you don’t plan on returning for her at all?

She’s not my responsibility, Mr. Mitchell said. His tone was defiant and his stance firm. Will you take her in or not?

Realizing that his fists were clenched at his sides, Matthias knew he needed to step away from this man for a moment. He said, I will need to speak with my brother. We will return with an answer as soon as we have one.

Mr. Mitchell nodded with very little patience.

Matthias led Justus into their house and shut the door. Neither of them spoke while they considered the situation. Matthias knew they couldn’t take her in. They didn’t know how to nurse a sick person, let alone a sick woman. They couldn’t refuse to help her either. This man might be heartless enough to leave her in the wilderness.

I heard what he said behind the wagon, Justus said after a time. The man has no concern for whether she lives or dies.

The older brother blew out a breath, trying to expel the disgust at whoever thought the Mitchells would make a good escort for this woman in the first place. She didn’t belong on a cattle drive.

We can’t take her in, can we?

Their ma might have been several years with God, but she would still never stand for taking a woman into a house with two men and no preacher handy.

But we’re gonna take her anyway?

Thought we should put on a show of thinking it over.

Justus nodded slowly. Rev. John will be here soon. He closed his eyes and appeared to be praying for guidance. That seemed like a good idea. But when Matthias closed his eyes as well he was distracted by the sound of a wagon. It was the sound of a wagon leaving in a hurry.

The younger brother was closer so he reached for the door and wrenched it open. The Mitchells’ wagon had kicked up some dust and in its wake was a small wooden trunk. At the base of their porch lay the young woman, her head in the grass, her body wrapped carelessly in a blanket, her entire form as still as death.

Shock rooted Matthias to the spot. Though they intended to accept the woman, Matthias still felt resentment at having that decision forced on them. He was in complete agreement with Justus, who was muttering next to him. Of all the low down, worthless, sneaky, snake-in-the-grass, low down, good-for-nothing…

Matthias cut him off with a verbal appraisal of the situation. We could catch ‘em on horseback but it’d be a waste of time to try to force compassion from those two. I… I have to conclude that the woman is better off in our care than in the hands of anyone dumb enough or cruel enough to leave her in our care.

Justus smirked at his brother’s assessment before a more sober expression came over him. Tend my sheep, he said. Is she alive?

They approached the blanket slowly, cautiously. Matthias knelt next to her and cupped his hand over her nose and mouth. Hot breath hit his hand as he nodded to his brother. He could feel heat radiating from her face without actually touching it. His fingers brushed across her cheek. It was surprisingly soft and she seemed completely unaware of his touch. The fever’s got a serious hold though. He slipped one arm around her shoulders and the other under her knees. She was a tiny woman and he lifted her easily.

A weak sigh escaped as her head slumped against his chest. It caused a protective instinct to course through him. If he ever again crossed paths with the man who had dumped this helpless creature on him…

What do you intend to do with her?

His brother’s voice broke into the unbidden thoughts of revenge and brought him to the present. We’ll need to get her comfortable and then…

Justus shrugged at him. I’ll get the trunk.

Matthias carried the woman into the house and towards the empty bedroom. He tried not to notice her tangle of golden hair or the smoothness of her pale skin. He hadn’t been this close to a female since his ma died though and that was twelve years. It was pretty hard to be unaware of carrying a woman.

Justus came into the room just behind him and set the trunk near the foot of the bed. He pulled back the quilt and helped get her blanket-covered feet under it. They made sure her head was on the pillow.

Water, Matthias said. It was more of a question than a command but Justus immediately left the room, presumably to get some water. The remaining brother closed his eyes to ask what else he could do. When he opened them, a hair pin caught his eye. Those things looked as though they’d be uncomfortable even in the proper places. He leaned over and pulled on one until it came out. He gingerly searched through her hair and found a few more. He put the pile on the bedside table when he thought he’d gotten them all.

Justus returned with a basin of water, which he placed on the table next to the pins. Matthias scooped some into a tin cup and set it aside. Then he wrung out the rag and placed it across the young woman’s forehead. Her eyelids fluttered and she drew in a stronger breath. It felt as though he had finally done something to provide some relief. It was a good thing, too, because he was plumb out of ideas. He looked at his brother.

Justus shook his head. He didn’t know what else they could do either. They both stared at the woman for a while, pale and still in the bed. Finally Justus said, I reckon I’ll see to some evening chores while you try to keep her head cool. Then we’ll swap?

Matthias nodded. He picked up the rag as his brother walked away and the underside was already hot. He turned it over and then brought a chair closer to the bed to begin his shift of feeling busy yet useless.

No one spoke when Justus returned to relieve him. It was clear there’d been no change and Matthias wanted, for some unexplained reason, to rush through his share of the chores to return to her bedside.

There was cold yet charred meat waiting for him in the kitchen. Justus had eaten his share of the cornbread. Matthias gnawed on the dry dinner thinking ruefully about how he’d been wrong about the man not posing a threat. A woman in the house was a definite threat to the status quo. He wanted the woman to survive but it was difficult to pray for that miracle when he had no earthly guidance on what to do if it was granted.

~~ ~~

Justus looked up as his brother reentered the bedroom. They exchanged quiet nods that everything had been taken care of for the night.

There’s no sense in us both staying up with her, Matthias observed.

Justus nodded and wrung out the rag in his hands. He placed it gently on the woman’s head and remained in the chair. He didn’t seem to understand that his brother was trying to take over.

I can do that.

No better’n I can, Justus replied. The stubborn mule was going to give up a night’s sleep when it was completely unnecessary.

Matthias walked over and picked up the basin.

What are you doing?

We’ll be needing some cooler water, Matthias said as he left the room and then the house with the basin. He dumped it on the ground and pulled the bucket out of the well to refill the basin.

When he got inside, Justus still hadn’t taken the hint and vacated the chair. Matthias thought that he probably should have insisted his brother stay away from her so he didn’t fall ill as well. It was likely too late for that. Some head of the house he was. He dragged a second chair from the kitchen into the bedroom. If they were both going to be up, they might as well hash out a few things. He sighed heavily as he took the chair.

The two men sat in silence, watching helplessly over their patient. After what felt like an hour, Justus said, If she dies, we’ll give her a spot next to Ma and Pa and Peter, right?

Matthias knew that would be the right thing to do. He also knew right was not the same as easy.

And we’ll do the best we can to mark the grave.

I’m hoping we’ll find something with her name on it in the trunk, Matthias said, but don’t plan on looking unless it comes to that.

Justus nodded. We could ask the preacher to say a few words next time he calls. Without changing his matter-of-fact tone, he added, She has more color.

Matthias took a closer look at their surprise visitor. A touch of pink had found its way onto her cheeks. We’ll need to discuss the other possibility as well.

Justus nodded again. How old do you reckon she is?

Can’t be more than eighteen or nineteen.

Do you think she’s much of a cook?

Matthias met his brother’s question with a shrug.

Just thinking… if she’s gonna stay with us, it’d be real nice if she were useful.

You know if she stays with us… we’re sleeping in the barn.

A faint smile flickered over Justus’ face. Figured you’d say that. Didn’t figure any way around it myself.

A fly buzzed by and filled the temporary hush that settled before Justus had any other thoughts to share. Wonder what she was doing heading this way, he said.

Matthias tipped his head against the wall behind him thinking that he hoped they’d have a chance to ask the woman that. He didn’t intend to sleep. His body knew it was past bedtime though and his eyes just wanted to close for a little while.

They flew open sometime later to the sound of a snore. Disorientation only lasted a moment as Matthias recalled why he and his brother were sleeping in chairs in their parents’ old bedroom. He was still confused though as he cast his eyes over the young woman in the bed. What was she doing here? And could he get her to stay?

She had turned onto her side and the fact that she was capable of some movement seemed like an improvement. He stood and walked close enough to pick up the rag that had slipped off her forehead. He brushed her skin as he adjusted the rag and he couldn’t be sure because it was still blazing, but her face did seem a bit cooler.

She didn’t stir under his touch though. Justus, however, picked up his head. She awake? he whispered.

Matthias gave a silent answer.

Justus stretched himself out of his chair. It’s near sunup anyway. I’ll go get an early start and… He finished with uncertainty on his face.

The older brother nodded in a way that conveyed both that he believed an early start was a good idea and that he didn’t know what would happen after that. He took the recently vacated chair and stared at their guest. It was rude even if she didn’t know he was doing it. He didn’t know how to pretend she wasn’t there though. He spent so much time either alone or with only his brother that an extra person in the house naturally drew a lot of attention. And this one was pretty enough to draw attention under other circumstances.

Her eyes suddenly popped open. They were the color of a cloudless sky and though they were locked on his face, he wasn’t sure she actually saw him.

Miss? he whispered.

Heavy lids dropped over the blue of her eyes without a response. She slept on.

~~ ~~

Grace Lawley awoke slowly. Her head was pounding and her lips felt dry and cracked. She was hot all over. She seemed to be in a bed, but she couldn’t move her legs at all. Was she bound? She hadn’t opened her eyes yet and already knew she wouldn’t recognize where she was. Nothing felt familiar. The pain and fog in her head made it difficult to think straight, made it difficult to think at all. Where was she? And why couldn’t she move her legs? They were sore and needed to shift.

Slowly, she began to force her eyes open. The room was dimly lit by morning or evening sun. She couldn’t identify which it was. She was in a bedroom, one she had never seen before. The walls were bare wood and the floor, too. The furnishings were plain and there was a strange man in the chair next to her. His head lolled to the side in sleep. Was he her captor or her guard or… She needed to move her legs.

Grace sat up enough to push the quilt down. She was wrapped in a second blanket that had twisted tightly around her legs. She kicked at it and tugged until she was able to move her legs a few inches. That was enough. She left the quilt where it was. She was asleep again almost as soon as her head landed on the pillow.

A cool sensation on her forehead woke her a second time. The relief it brought was wonderful. But she remembered being in an unknown room. She was more alert this time because the knowledge of a strange man sitting beside her caused alarm. She opened her eyes again and this time the man was awake and looking at her. But it wasn’t the same man. This one had curly hair rather than straight, though he was as badly in need of a shave as the first man. The concern in his eyes made him look friendly. She still felt herself startle when he whispered, Miss?

Grace tried to remember. She had been traveling with a cattle drive. She had gotten sick. Now a stranger was at her bedside and it wasn’t her bed.

Miss? he said again.

She wasn’t sure she could talk. She tried to wet her lips but the inside of her mouth was just as dry.

The man picked up a tin cup. Can I give you some water?

She wanted it desperately. As she tried to sit up to take it, the man reached a hand under her head and held her while he used the other hand to put the cup to her lips. She took a huge gulp and began coughing. The man pulled the cup back and waited for her to stop before he offered her more. He helped her finish the cup and lay her back on the pillow. He picked up a rag, dipped it in a basin nearby and wrung it out before he put it back on her forehead. The sensation made her more comfortable, physically. She was still confused and not sure how distressed to be at her situation.

Can you talk, Miss? the man asked.

She nodded.

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