Hurrying around the corner, Bethany Walker clutched her bag to her chest and spotted her apartments just up ahead.
“Where did she go?” she heard one of the boys shout.
“That way, let’s get her!”
She didn’t turn around. Listening to the hasty beating of her heart, she kept her eyes on the building up ahead. It was a newer apartment building in the area with three floors. Her father had purchased them these new rooms when they were first let five years back.
Home was where she was safe.
When Bethany didn’t hear footsteps following her, she was tempted to slow down. But she didn’t. She knew better than that. Her eyes remained on the building as she carried her bag close to her. Her purchases in the market an hour ago wouldn’t keep forever at this rate.
“Oh!” The gasp escaped her when she crossed the street and slipped on ice. It took a moment of fumbling before she found her footing.
“Hey, there she is! Get over here!”
Her breath caught. This time, she couldn’t resist looking back. Finding the pack’s leader, Harry Stocking, pointing right at her from a few yards away made her jump. He narrowed his eyes and started after her, with three more boys following.
“Yeah, you better run! Tell your father about us, why don’t you? Tell him we don’t want you here!”
Bethany scolded herself as she turned back and raced to her building. She fumbled for her key in her apron once she cleared the last of the distance to step inside. Then she made it to the fire escape stairs and clambered up them before reaching her kitchen window.
Below, boys shouted. Some of them always found their way inside; the only way she could be certain to escape them was by using these stairs. Their sound made her skin crawl as she pushed the window open and dropped in.
“Finally.” Bethany set her bag on the table before collapsing into a chair.
The shouting faded quickly now she was home. Although the boys occasionally found her, they never dared come to the door. No one would risk actually angering her father.
Bart Walker was a successful businessman who occasionally angered those affected by his work. She understood this. The railroads in Philadelphia required a lot of effort, and while they negatively affected some people, Bethany knew it was for the greater good. With time, those boys and their families would understand this as well.
Her father was a hard worker, the man who had raised her when her mother passed in childbirth. Bethany knew she owed everything to him and did her best to make life easier when she could.
Knowing that he would be expecting supper within the hour, she forced herself to her feet.
The beating of her heart had finally calmed. Bethany jumped to her feet and scrambled around their little kitchen. The walls were painted bright white with wooden cupboards, furniture, and yellow curtains. The latter had been her last Christmas gift, along with blue thread and needle, so now it was covered in lovely embroidery.
As she worked, Bethany worked up the courage regarding a few matters she had been rehearsing that morning while out purchasing vegetables.
“Father, it’s time we discussed my future. The future that I want. It has been over a year since the failed engagement, and I think it is time for you to understand that I … that I can be more. That I can do more,” Bethany corrected herself after a moment. She rolled her sleeves up and brushed her light brown hair from her face.
The front door opened down the hall, and she jumped. “Father?”
She listened as the door swung shut, clicking with the lock. A thump when he put down his briefcase. Heavy steps sounded before he appeared.
Bethany smiled while she smoothed the apron over her wrinkled dress. Her plans to change before he returned home hadn’t worked out. “Hello, Father. How was your day?”
He was a tall man, though she was of only middling height. His hair was darker than hers, his features sharper, but they shared the same green eyes that now studied her carefully.
“Busy,” he grunted. “Your dress is wrinkled.”
“I’m sorry, yes, I’ve been busy. I made salted lamb for supper,” she offered, eager to change the subject. “And boiled potatoes, too. With carrots. They were on sale,” she added when he frowned.
“Carrots are a waste; didn’t I tell you that last time?”
She bit her lip, fidgeting with her apron. “Well, yes, but these were fresh. On sale, and I thought they might be nice. Vegetables are an important root vegetable.”
“So are potatoes.”
Shifting her weight from one foot to another, she hesitated. “Well …”
Then he waved an arm in the air to quiet her. She bit her lip again as he promptly changed the subject. “Just don’t buy them next time. I’m not giving you my precious dollars to waste on ridiculous vegetables. Is supper ready?”
“Um, yes. Yes, it is.”
“Because it doesn’t look ready.”
Confused, Bethany glanced at the table. Two plates were set out across from each other on the round table. Glasses, too, with water. She had a knife and a fork at each place.
“Oh! The food. Yes, it’s coming. I’m sorry,” she added for good measure.
It only took her a minute to dish up both plates. By then, he was seated. Bethany prepped her own plate and then sat down. There was a skip to her heartbeat since this was the best time to talk to her father. Most of his concentration was consumed in his job and related responsibilities. At breakfast, he rarely paid her any mind. But supper meant he would be present. And more importantly, he would listen.
“Not too bad,” her father commented after taking a bite. “The potatoes could use some salt.”
“Of course, I can fix that.” She brought over a small bowl of salt that she pushed in his direction. “I know you were meeting with the county station master this morning. How did that go?”
“Fine. I don’t want to talk about work. Let’s talk about something else.”
She straightened. “May I talk to you about something?”
Pausing from his potatoes, her father looked up. Bart tilted his head as he studied her. “What did you want to talk about?”
This was it, she realized, this was her chance. Bethany swallowed hard while she put her knife and fork down. Having hardly taken a bite, she tried to ignore the growling in her stomach. Except the words she had been preparing for three days were fading away. She stiffened. What was she supposed to say?
“I … I wanted to talk about the future. I mean, about the engagement. The one that didn’t work out,” she stammered before shaking her head. “Father, it’s time we discussed what I might do next.”
She tried not to bite her lip. “Yes. If that’s all right?”
Her eyes followed him as he leaned back in his chair, wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin. In turn, he watched her without saying a word. Tension mounted between them. She bit her lip this time, unable to help it. Did she dare go on in this silence?
“I already know what you’re doing with your future.”
Blinking, Bethany looked at him. The last time he had said this, he had been setting up the rest of her life with an older rich man who cared little for her existence. She squirmed, not wanting to ask what he was thinking.
Except she couldn’t resist.
“What do you mean?” Bethany asked, her gaze following how his hands moved to return to picking up his utensils and cutting his lamb.
“I mean, we’re moving.” Her mouth dropped open as he continued eating, not bothering to look her way. “Colorado. Some small town. They want to add a second loop to the railway there, so we’re headed out there for the spring. It’s been in talks for some time, but it was just decided yesterday. And this morning, the project was handed over to me. We’re leaving in two days. That’s the first of March. Then we’ll probably be there through the summer. You should start packing.”
“I’m … going with you?” It was all she could think to say.
He nodded. “We’ll take a train most of the way to Denver, and once we reach that, we’ll take a stagecoach. It’ll take us a couple of days. I don’t want us eating their stale goods, so you’ll want to get us a basket filled to keep us going most days.”
As he talked, Bethany tried to listen. Yet she was also trying to breathe and think. Part of her was already attempting to pack. And the last part of her struggled to hold her emotions together, wishing for a way out of this.
She didn’t want to go. She had other plans. She wanted to have a life of her own.
But she had few options, and she knew it. Bethany forced herself to smile and nod. When her father moved away, she wiped a stray tear from her cheeks before she cleaned up and started to pack.
“How long will we be there again?” she called.
“Months.” Footsteps sounded down the hall. “Probably until summer. Why?”
She paused, considering her blankets. “Then we’ll be missing the Easter celebrations.” Those were her favorite. She helped out with the events at their church down the street. “Could we come back for a visit?”
The scoff was plain to hear. He ran a hand through his graying spot of hair as he glanced around the room. It was fairly bare but for the bed, chest, yellow curtains, and a framed sketch of her mother.
“Leave my blue suit out,” her father noted after turning away from the art piece. “You can pack everything else.” Then she followed his gaze as he looked at her bag with three books sitting on top. Irritation rolled off the man in a wave. “And no books, Bethany. I don’t want you wasting your time.”
He only walked away once she put them back, her heart torn.
But at least, she told herself, he didn’t have her mother’s journal. That had already been tucked into her things for safekeeping. It was her most prized possession. She had read it many times over through the years, wishing she had known her mother and adoring how much her mother had been in love during their marriage.
Bethany wasn’t certain that marriage was for her now. She had wanted to talk about that with her father, to see about setting her up for a life of her own.
It wouldn’t be the first, second, or third time that her courage had failed her. She sorted through her things again. She knew there wasn’t any way for her to get out of this. Twice she had gone on trips with her father, the rest being short stays where he came and went as necessary.
Apprehension filled Bethany at the thought of leaving town. She liked Philadelphia. It was the place where she had grown up and where both her parents had been raised. This was home.
“Perhaps there will be something else in Colorado,” she murmured to the empty room, clinging to hope. “Perhaps there will be an adventure.”
“The Easter Egg Hunt of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Bethany Walker’s fate is sealed the moment she decides to travel west with her father. Little does she know that her life will take another surprising turn as Easter approaches, thanks to an unexpected encounter with a charming cowboy in town. Urged by her adventurous spirit, she finds herself spending more and more time with him and begins to question her mundane existence of simply being raised to become a housewife…
Will this path down her heart lead her to the happy ending she hopes for?
Johnny Nelson’s world is turned upside down as his family’s ranch faces a grave threat. He’s determined to save it, and when Bethany’s arrival offers him a chance to infiltrate the enemy, he jumps at the opportunity. Although he’s convinced himself he’s in no state to marry, let alone court anyone, he soon finds it impossible to get her off his mind.
Can he find the strength to follow his heart and confess his true motives to Bethany, hoping for her forgiveness?
Bethany and Johnny are at a crossroads, torn between family ties and an uncertain future. How can they find each other, let alone love, when a railroad threatens their future?
“The Easter Egg Hunt of Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.