The Bride of the Burned Homestead (Preview)

Chapter One

Carrie Watson looked out the window of the moving train as it chugged through Colorado. She was excited, nervous, and the feelings kept her on the edge of her seat. They managed to dispel the tiredness that was the result of a week on the railroad. Colorado looked very impressive, and she wondered how she would take to living on a ranch. Carrie had answered the advertisement for a mail order bride, and she was now beginning to feel the enormity of the changes she had set up for herself.

“Almost there,” the woman next to her remarked. They could both feel the engine slow down as they neared the depot in Foothill. “You’ll be able to see what the man looks like very soon.”

“He says that he will collect me at the railroad, and he has dark hair and brown eyes. His letters were mostly about work.

The two women had struck up a friendship on the journey and were about the same age. Fenella March was the daughter of a rancher from out of town and knew the area and the people well.

“Does your father know the man I am meeting? He is called John Jones.” Carrie asked anxiously. This conversation had already taken place twice on the time they were together. Fenella could sense that Carrie was nervous and had asked the same things over and over again. She was kind enough to simply answer as if the question had not been asked before. She said nothing about John Jones and evaded a full answer.

“He knows John Jones but that is about all. It seems like the Jones ranch is quite successful.”

Carrie felt the sense of misgiving that she had already sensed before when talking to Fenella. She pushed it to one side as the train slowed and steamed into the depot. Foothill had not had the railroad for long and it was still a basic depot with no platform as such. The tracks ran across the dusty ground, and it was a long way to climb down for the two women. A gentleman traveling with them handed their bags down, then Fenella gave Carrie a hug.

“Here’s my father now. Good luck, Carrie,” she said as her father picked up the bags, noting that he was pleased to meet her. She watched as the two went to a wagon, loaded their bags, and then drove out of sight. Carrie stood alone beside her bags and felt frightened for the first time since she started the journey.

I’ve done it now. No going back. I wonder where he is.

Carrie knew that she looked smart and hoped he would like what he saw. With her thick auburn hair, green eyes, and a smattering of freckles across her nose, she thought she made a smart and attractive picture, as she stood beside her bags in her fitted purple, velvet coat. Then a man strode toward her, and she thought that it must be John as he was the only man heading her way. He was quite tall and strong looking with dark hair that seemed a bit wild and had dark eyes. He wore the clothes of a man who worked on a ranch with a checked shirt covered with a leather jacket. He came up to Carrie and she smiled but he did not smile back.

“Carrie Watson?” he asked. “I’m John.” Carrie tried another smile and held out her hand to shake. He ignored that and handed her one of the two bags. Carrie was surprised that he did not carry both bags for her. Most of the men she had ever known would have carried both bags, but she took it, and John grabbed her arm with his free hand and strode back the way that he had come. He did not speak as they left the railroad depot and she saw a wagon waiting with a sturdy horse between the shafts. For a second, she forgot about the way she was being hustled along and saw that the horse had a sore leg. It was in her nature to look at animals and there was a large boil on one of the legs. Then the bags were thrown into the wagon and John swept her off the ground without asking if that was alright. He put her on the driving seat and climbed up beside her. The horse moved ahead, and she saw that it had a limp but kept moving anyway.

“That was a long time on the railroad,” Carrie ventured.

“I’ll drive to the tavern, and we can have something to eat.”

“That sounds good, thanks,” she replied and looked across at this man that she had come to marry. He nodded briefly and pulled up the wagon at a saloon. John did walk around and offer her a hand as she climbed down and then he took her arm again as she was propelled through the swing doors.

“Slow down, please, John,” she said. “I cannot keep up with you.” The place had a lot of tables as well as a poker table and a long bar. There were folk having a meal at some of the tables and John pulled her towards the bar.

“What food have you got, Liam?” he asked. The barman glanced at the blackboard with the food on offer.

“Pie, steak or stew,” he answered. “Who is this lovely lady?”

“My fiancée, Carrie.” 

Carrie held out a hand and Liam shook it. 

“Pie would be lovely, thanks,” she said.

“Me too,” John told him. “A beer and a sarsaparilla as well.” He did not ask if Carrie liked the drink or not.

They went to a table and Carrie sank thankfully onto a seat.

“I do feel tired,” she told him.

“Tomorrow you will feel better,” he answered but did not ask any questions about the journey or anything else. Carrie tried to start a conversation.

“How far is it to the ranch?”

“About half an hour’s drive,” he told her, and the barman brought the drinks and then came back with the pie and vegetables. Carrie realized that she was hungry and there was silence as they both ate.

“I needed that,” Carrie said. “You get food where you can as the train stops to load and unload.”

John nodded but did not reply except to say that he would pay for the meal. When he came back from the bar, he took her by the arm again. It seemed to be the way he had decided to hold onto her. He did not offer an arm for her to put her hand into but more or less dragged her wherever he wanted to go.

“John,” she said again. “I cannot run to keep up with you. Your legs are longer than mine.” For a second or two he ignored what she said and then did slow down because she stumbled and would have fallen except the grip on her arm was so tight.

“Oh,” she cried out and he did stop walking and wait until she had steadied herself. “I am so tired.”

“We will walk down here. You can see what shops are in Foothill and we will have a drink at the hotel. People will see who you are, and their curiosity will be satisfied.” She felt that she was being hauled around like some sort of prize at a rodeo. The man seemed to be permanently angry for some reason. She had expected to be made more welcome. The first signs of unease made themselves felt. This was not the man that she had read about in his letters.

“Is Foothill not a good place to live?” she asked anxiously.

“Some strange people,” he responded and stopped to look into a window with leather reins and saddles for sale. “You do ride, don’t you?”

 “Yes, I do ride, and I am good at looking after animals. I see that your horse has a sore leg.”

“That will burst if left alone. I don’t like to pay out money to the blacksmith to look at something that will be fine if left alone.”

“I can milk a cow and I am a reasonable cook.”

“Good. I need help around the place.” 

“Do you have other men that work for you?”

“Two men come in to work through the day, but they ride back to the town most nights. They need some sort of meal at midday.”

“Do you do the cooking?”

“Not now that you are here,” he said with a sort of grim smile. It was the first emotion other than anger that he had shown. Carrie felt a shiver of unease again, but she was very tired and told herself that it would be better after a good night’s sleep.

They reached the hotel, and he propelled her up the steps and into the reception area. There were one or two people in the reception area and John waved at the man behind the desk. Then he pulled her into the lounge.

“Sit here. I’ll get us drinks,” he said and came back to be followed by a waiter with a beer and a sarsaparilla again.

She said hello to the waiter, a pleasant young man, and asked where the washroom was. She stood up but was a bit unsteady as she set off to freshen up. The washroom was mercifully empty, and she slid along the bolt in the door and breathed a sigh of relief. When she had done what was needed and run a brush through her hair, she looked in the mirror.

“This is not what I expected,” she told her reflection. “I hope the ranch is okay. Maybe Pa was right when he said that this sort of move was chancy. I will have to try it and find out.” She straightened her shoulders and went back to the lounge. John was sitting with three other men, and they were laughing together. She had not seen him laugh as if he was enjoying himself up to that point and she smiled back as he did stand and pull out the chair for her.

“This is Jeff, Duke and Milly,” he said. “Meet the future Mrs. Jones.” She shook hands with them and sipped her sarsaparilla. The man called Milly said he was called that because his surname was DeMille.

“I can see that the others are enjoying that,” she said and gave the man a smile. Jeff made a joke about him being a girl and the men laughed. Milly shrugged it off. He was obviously used to the jokes.

“Milly and I work at the ranch. Where did you come from?” Duke asked.

“Clear across the country from a little town called Onestop. My family has a small farm and there was no real work around the area for me. The farm was barely making a living, so I decided to try the wild west.”

“If you like animals and open spaces, Colorado is a good place to live,” Jeff added.

“I do like animals.” She paused. “I saw the mountains from the railroad as we came along. I have never seen anything as dramatic as that before. They are amazing.”

“But dangerous,” Milly warned. Then he looked at John. “This poor girl is tired out. Take her home, John.”

“I am,” Carrie agreed.

“Okay,” John reluctantly stood up and pulled out her chair.

“Good to meet you,” she said and before John could grab her arm, she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow and that seemed to be the right thing to do because he patted her hand and they walked to the door. As they reached the door, a man tried to enter, and John stopped dead in the doorway. The other man looked at both John and the woman with him. Then held out a hand.

“Hi. I’m Daniel, John’s brother.” Carrie withdrew her hand and held it out to the man in front of her. They shook hands and Carrie instantly saw and felt that this brother was nothing like John. He had black hair and blue eyes. He was tall and slim with a kind expression. She felt straightaway that he was a pleasant man who seemed very likeable. It was a complete contrast to the man she had come to marry. The feeling that she had when they shook hands was like nothing that she had ever felt before. It seemed almost as if this was someone she had known for a long time. He seemed familiar but that was clearly impossible.

“You must be tired after the journey,” Daniel said and as she nodded in agreement, John took hold of her arm again.

“We’re leaving now if you would stop blocking the doorway.” John was clearly angry again and she could see no reason why that should be.

“Okay. I was just noting that her journey would be tiring.”

“Thank you,” Carrie said as she was moved closer to the doorway and John shouted at his brother, showing a really nasty side to his personality. Duke and Milly moved closer to try and calm the scene down and John pushed at Milly as the man tried to put a hand on his shoulder to try help. The violent push made Milly stagger and Duke stepped between them to prevent more trouble.

“You see how my brother causes trouble every time we meet,” John shouted and by that time everyone in the hotel was watching the scene at the door. Carrie could see the curiosity on all of the faces and was embarrassed. She tried to move John out of the doorway, but he reacted as he had to Milly, and pushed her away from him. Then he changed tack, looked all around, and called out.

“Entertainment’s over. We’re leaving.” He grabbed her arm.

Thankful for the exit, she climbed onto the driving seat, and he went around to the other side and took the reins. The horse moved forward with a limp on the back leg and Carrie winced for the animal.

“Tomorrow, would you like me to look at that boil on the horse’s leg?” she asked and looked at him. He scowled. She put her hand in the crook of his arm again. “I do know what to do. You might as well use what I know to help you out.” She looked and the scowl disappeared. Carrie breathed a sigh of relief. She had a flash of realization that she would have to learn how to stop his temper boiling over.

“Well, at least you met my brother. We don’t agree with each other, and have divided the ranch between us. I am the older of the two of us and I have the greater part. He has a smaller part.”

“You don’t speak to each other?”

“We do when we have to, but not often.”

To change the subject that was troubling John, she went back to what he needed her to do.

 “What else do you need me to do around the place?”

“If you cook the midday meal for the four of us, milk the cow and collect the eggs, that will let me get back out onto the range.”

“I’m happy to do that,” she told him. Then she gave him a little chuckle. “I do need to sleep first. A week on the railroad is most exhausting.”

“I’ve only travelled as far as the next depot down the line,” he told her. “Here’s the ranch.” He turned off the main trail and went down a narrow track. When the trees cleared, she saw quite a large ranch house with a veranda that went all the way around. There were horses in the corral and a cow that was presumably the one that she had to milk. Chickens ran about over by the barn and a dog was barking at the gate.

“I never knew that you had a dog,” she said. “I love dogs.”

“He’s called Gunner,” he said. “Helps me round up the cattle. Sleeps in the stable.” He pulled up at the house and Gunner leapt into the wagon and tried to join them on the driving seat.

“Down,” John said to the dog who took no notice and showed that he was delighted to have a visitor.

Chapter Two

Daniel Jones came out of the hotel and saw the wagon with his brother and Carrie on the driving seat. He had known that Carrie was due to arrive, and a flash of concern for someone he’d just met went through his mind. He told himself that it was none of his business, and went down the side street to the blacksmith’s shop. At the same time, the picture of Carrie’s face with the freckles over her nose was in his mind. Ben Pollock was hammering at hot metal as he always was. The job he was doing was to repair two of the shoes on Daniel’s horse.

“Nearly done,” Ben called above the noise of his hammer and the roaring of the forge. The horse was tied to the fence and as the shoes were cooled in water, Daniel brought across the gelding called Major. The horse was a quiet animal who stood patiently as Ben fixed the shoes. The blacksmith straightened up and looked at Daniel.

“You look as if something bad happened.”

“Hmm,” Daniel said and sighed. “I saw my brother with the woman who has come to marry him apparently.”

“I wonder how much she knew before she decided to come,” Ben responded. “Would you like a beer before you go back?”

“Yes please,” Daniel answered. “I never actually had a drink at the hotel. After he lost his temper yet again, I just came back here.”

“Come inside and tell me what happened.” The two men sat in front of the fire in the house and took their first sips of the beer that Ben poured.

“I only made a remark about traveling being very tiring and he took offense as usual. By the time he had shouted about the usual things, everyone in the hotel was looking at us and the girl was clearly embarrassed.”

“I hope she can hold her own. He is not an easy man,” Ben said. “How’s your ranch doing?”

“The cattle are fine. There are not enough of them to make it a big job but the young horses that I have coming on are doing well.”

“It’s a shame that you don’t have the amount of land you were entitled to,” Ben went back to something that he had said on many occasions before. Daniel sighed and drank his beer.

“I have my own place at least,” Daniel replied. “I keep away from him unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Folks know that you are honest and run your own place. They know that you are not working with him.”

“Working at what?” Daniel asked. The blacksmith sighed.

“He is up to no good one way or another but I’m not sure what. There are rumors about how he has enough money to gamble so often. How does he earn it? Even though he has the larger part of the ranch, it is still not enormous.”

“I know he gets into arguments about cheating, but he is always ready to argue with anyone about anything.”

“I suppose all that you can do is look after your own place and keep to yourself,” Ben added, and Daniel nodded and stood up.

“Thanks for telling me about the rumors though. It’s better that I know and can keep myself away from it.” He paid Ben for the work on the horseshoes. “I appreciate that you care about how I’m doing.” He patted Ben on the shoulder and went out to mount Major. The blacksmith waved him off and Daniel lost himself deep in thought on the ride back to his small ranch. He was building a ranch house and had enough finished to make it livable. He had a kitchen with a stove that was a recent introduction and made cooking for himself a lot easier.

“I never did get to eat at the hotel,” he told the horse as they reached home. “Back to cooking for myself.” The horse was put into the corral and when he opened the door to the house, two dogs shot out and leaped up at him. They were smooth coated and both black with a white stripe on the chest. They were identical except that Amy had more white than Abby. They were only two years old, and he was training them to help around the stock.

“Come on girls. If I’m eating, we can find something for you as well.” They headed for the house and Daniel glanced across the open fields to his brother’s ranch house, which was built after the fire that burned their original home. There were lights on in the windows but no sign of people. He closed his own door and started his supper. He saw Carrie’s face, in his imagination, and hoped that she would be safe. There was something appealing about the girl with freckles across her nose.

In the morning, Daniel was outside letting out the chickens and his horses. He had more horses than he needed to work the small ranch, but he did love having them around and the two youngsters were starting to respond to training. He had milked the cow and was carrying the bucket over to the house when he saw Milly and Duke arriving at the gates to his brother’s ranch. Both of the riders raised their hands to wave, and Daniel waved back with his free hand. He took the bucket inside and left it in the cool area that he kept for foods that needed cold storage. He went back out with a basket and gathered the eggs, then returned to the house, and poured himself a coffee. Standing in the doorway, he watched as the two men and his brother rode off, appearing to haul materials to mend fences. 

Daniel was reminded to mend a break in his own fence, but paused as he watched Carrie come and go at the ranch. He saw her bring out the cow and put it in the corral. Then she carried the heavy milk bucket to the house, and struggled with buckets of water to top up the troughs in the corral. She held her back and leaned against the fence. Daniel made sure there was no sign of his brother and walked across the distance between the houses with the two dogs at his heels. Carrie saw him coming and straightened up. She ran her hand through her hair and waited. His brother’s dog, Gunner, raced off to meet the two girls that were with Daniel.

“Gunner,” she called but Daniel waved his hand and called that the dogs knew each other.

“Don’t look so worried,” he said as he came closer. “I saw you carrying the water and came to check that you were okay.”

“That’s kind of you. Thanks. I have to figure out where everything is. That takes more time.”

“You would be better with two small buckets instead of one very large one,” he observed. She nodded.

“It will take me a couple of weeks to work out how to do things.” Then she pointed to the dogs. “I do love dogs. Your two girls are sweet.”

“They were a mistaken litter on one of the ranches and I like training animals. They are two years old and just about do as they are told.”

“What are their names?”

“Amy and Abby. Amy has more white on her chest. Otherwise they are as alike as two peas in a pod.”

“I’ve always worked with the animals on our farm, and enjoyed that, but our farm isn’t big enough to pay me a wage. I thought there might be more chance for being with animals on a ranch.” She looked at the brother of the man she had come to meet and marry and realized that this man was the easiest person to talk to than she had met in a long time. She looked across to the corral and took a chance.

“The horse that John was using to pull the wagon has a large boil on his hind leg. I told him that I knew how to fix it, but he wasn’t interested. Do you think he would be annoyed if I just lanced it and tied it up?”

“You can do that?” Daniel asked in amazement.

“Yes, and I hate to see the poor thing in pain.” Daniel looked at her and then across the property.

“I think they will be away until midday,” he said. “I can steady the horse while you do it.”

“Oh, would you? Thank you! I’ll just run and get cloths, clean water, and a sharp knife.”

“I have a sharp knife. We can clean it by holding it in the fire,” he said, and stepped into the house that had been his parents’. He held the blade in the red flame of the fire as Carrie found the other things she needed. They went to tie the big gelding to the fence, then Daniel ran the knife blade under cold water and dried it off.

“He is a quiet beast. He should be good. Be careful that he doesn’t lash out at you though.”

Daniel took hold of the halter and talked soothingly to the gelding. He observed with interest, as she looked at the swelling on the leg. Daniel had a way with animals and recognized it in others. He handed her the knife, and he watched as she held a cloth in one hand and pricked very lightly on the boil. The horse showed no sign that he had felt anything, and she pressed gently to empty the poisonous liquid onto the cloth. 

“I’ll burn the cloth,” she remarked, and took another cloth with some water to clean the cavity in the leg. The horse wasn’t alarmed, and remained standing very still. Carrie wrapped strips of cloth around the wound and tied it. Then she stood away from the leg. “If I can find some flowers of sulphur, I will put that on tomorrow. It will help dry it up. He was a good boy.” She stroked his mane, letting him know.

They cleared everything away, then untied the horse, who wandered away to find some grass.

“He’s limping but not as much,” Carrie said. “Thanks for helping.”

“I cannot believe that you just did what we would have to pay someone to do. That was amazing.”

Carrie smiled.

“He was a good boy to work on, and you have a voice that soothed him down.”

“I had best get away in case the crew come back.”

“Thanks for coming over,” she answered. He called to the dogs and walked back to his own house.

Carrie ran in to start the midday meal and when she found steak, she decided to whip up steak and eggs. Then she mixed a cake and put it in the oven. It would be warm and ready for dessert.

“The Bride of the Burned Homestead” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

From the moment Carrie Watson set foot in the dusty streets of Foothill, Colorado, her dreams of a loving partnership began to fray at the edges. Promised to John Jones, a man whose letters painted him as a gentle soul, she instead finds herself faced with a reality far removed from her expectations. As Carrie’s hopes for a tender connection turn to doubts in the shadow of John’s harsh demeanor, one question burns brightly in her heart.

Is the love she yearns for a mere fantasy, or can it be found in the most unexpected place?

Daniel Jones, the quiet and brooding brother of Carrie’s fiancé, has lived under the shadow of a family tragedy that tore the brothers apart. With a heart weighed down by guilt and a life entangled in the complexities of his brother’s malevolence, Daniel finds in Carrie an unexpected beacon of light. As their paths intertwine, Daniel is faced with a dilemma that challenges the very core of his being.

Can he navigate the treacherous path of redemption, or will the ghosts of his past condemn him to a life of solitude and sorrow?

As Carrie and Daniel unravel the dark secrets that bind the Jones family, they must confront their own fears and hopes. With each revelation, they are drawn closer, forging a bond that could be their salvation or their undoing… Will their love be the flame that consumes all they hold dear?

“The Bride of the Burned Homestead” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

One thought on “The Bride of the Burned Homestead (Preview)”

  1. Hello my dears, I hope you enjoyed the preview and that you are as excited as I am for this upcoming release! Make sure to leave your comments here. I’m so looking forward to read them 🙂

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