The kitchen was bustling with activity, bodies twisting and twirling around one another with the well-practiced precise chaos that only came from having lived with someone else for so long. The woman standing at the sink was obviously tired, half-leaning against the countertop as she loaded the last dish into the sudsy water before her and nodding along to the nonstop stream of prattle coming from the small boy tugging on the skirts of her dress.
“And then I told her that was my egg,” the boy rambled, his face scrunching up with attitude.
“And she ate it anyway! Mama, did you hear me? She ate it anyway!”
The taller redhead tying her hair back in the corner snorted, amusement painting her features as she stepped forward. She was a younger, more vibrant copy of the woman at the stove. In place of the pale, lackluster blonde hair was a deep, radiant red. In place of tired blue eyes were flashing green ones. There was no doubting the relation between the two women, any more than there was the other children frantically running about the room.
Elvira finished tying her hair off, swooping in to spin Eddie away from their mother’s skirts. “She hears you, Eddie, Mama’s just got a lot of things to see to, remember?” Her voice was consolatory, even with the smile pulling up her full lips and sparkling behind her bright, green eyes. She didn’t miss the flash of appreciation from their mother as she looked down at Eddie at her skirts, as if only just noticing that he had been standing there. Just like she didn’t miss the guilt that followed shortly thereafter.
Lenora Bartlett was a good mom, with plenty of affection to be divided between her six children, but she had never been much of an early morning riser—and even less so since her illness the previous winter. It was why Elvira hadn’t gone looking for any other work farther out away from town, and why she had been up hours before her shift at the store was to start, helping wrangle the gaggle of her younger siblings throughout the kitchen in an effort to get them out the back door.
“I’ll make you a special egg for a snack,” Mrs. Bartlett promised her youngest, bending over with obvious difficulty to press her lips to the top of his tousled blonde locks. “Will that work for you, handsome boy?” Her pale, blue eyes were watery, but the love shining through them was fierce. Even more so as John hobbled over from the table with a plate in his hand, his bright grin stretching his face near in half as he added it to the sink of soapy water.
“My handsome boys,” Lenora corrected, her hand pushing into the space just above her heart. “I’ll just make everyone eggs after school, and we just won’t tell your father,” she joked.
Elvira grinned, hiding a grimace of worry as her mother caught herself on the counter again. “If we even make it to school on time!” she called out, already ushering both of her brothers with her hands toward that back door. “Which we never will, at this rate! We need to have left five minutes past! John, Jenny, Kenny, Sammy, and Eddie, make haste!”
Elvira clapped her hands in front of her, corralling the chaos of her younger siblings with the ease of one who had been doing it for far longer than her prettily fresh face would suggest. “If y’all go making me late for work, the fat’ll be in the fire, you hear me?” Her words were serious, but the laughter behind them didn’t do a thing to inspire those little feet to move any faster. It did, however, point them all in the direction of the back door, finally, without argument.
“Goodbye, Mama,” the tallest boy rasped, his shoulders curling inwards at their impending departure.
“You have a good day, Johnny, you hear me?” Mrs. Bartlett responded warmly, kissing his cheek and squeezing his shoulder tenderly as he passed. Her worried eyes were only allowed to follow him out of the back door for half of a moment, though, before two shorter bodies collided with her, oblivious to the way that she had to reach to the counter behind to steady herself from the movement.
“Bye, Mama,” the boy and girl chorused in unison, dashing around their mother to continue their game of tag even on their way out of the door.
“Kenny, stop pestering your sister so!” Mrs. Bartlett called after them, sighing and shaking her head as they reversed roles, Jenny taking over the job of antagonizer as if they hadn’t heard their mother at all.
The youngest girl of the bunch walked up more slowly, her softer blue eyes centered on her mother carefully as she pulled Eddie by the hand along beside her. “Bye, Mama, we’ll be good. Won’t we, Eddie? We’ll make Kenny and Jenny listen, too,” she promised. Her hug was even more careful than her eyes, as if she were afraid her mother would break into a million pieces from that soft touch alone.
Mrs. Bartlett’s hand was just as gentle as she ran her knuckles down the edge of her youngest daughter’s face. “That’s because you’re always such a good girl, Samantha.” She smiled and hugged her back, bending to press her lips into Samantha’s and Eddie’s temples in turn. “Go on, now, you hear, and I’ll be here when you get home.” She ushered them out of the door with a soft smile—one that turned to encompass her eldest daughter, picking up the last vestiges of what needed to come with them on their way out.
Elvira was watching her much the same, taking in the slump to her shoulders that she was trying to hide as well as the bruise-like shadows beneath her eyes. “I’ve got them, Mama,” she assured the older woman, forcing her smile even wider despite her own exhaustion. “I won’t let them go all higgledy-piggledy between here and the schoolhouse.”
“I know you won’t, Elvira,” her mother replied, her smile warm as she squeezed Elvira’s forearm in passing. “I don’t know what we would do without you…”
“I imagine you’d have less to cook,” Elvira joked, dismissing the praise with a wave of her hand as she hauled the satchel that John had forgotten to grab up over her shoulder. “You should take a lie down after we leave,” she suggested, dropping her eyes so as to make it seem like an innocent offer. “I already took care of the morning chores before you had breakfast on the table.”
“Elvira, you didn’t have to—” Mrs. Bartlett started, but Elvira quickly cut her off.
“Oh, I know, I just woke up early is all. Mercy on me, but they’re starting walking already,” she lied brazenly through her teeth, stepping out the back door herself with an offhanded wave behind her. Her chest felt tight as she left, both from the lie and the bags that hung beneath her mother’s eyes. She didn’t want to think too closely on either of those two things, though.
She didn’t want to admit that her mother seemed to be weakening.
“John!” she called, catching up to her brother and pulling his satchel off of herself. She slung it carefully around his shoulders, watching the other four lope off ahead of them in a half-game of tag on their walk. “You forgot your bag.” She said it with a smile, one tempered only slightly by worry when he didn’t grin brightly back at her.
He had seemed withdrawn since the day before, something she had attributed to his being tired at first, but now… “Hey, why the long face?” Elvira dropped her voice only enough to keep it from carrying as they entered into the outskirts of the town, the schoolhouse looming before them and her four younger siblings joining the throng of other children already vying for it.
“I do not have a l-l-l-long face,” he stuttered back, pulling his arm out from under hers. His eyes darted to the schoolhouse with a trepidation that Elvira didn’t understand. “I ha-have s-s-s-school now. I d-d-don’t need help,” he muttered, veering away from her in the same direction as his younger siblings.
Elvira’s eyebrows furrowed as she watched him go, her feet coming to a complete stop in order to do so. His stutter was worse than it had been in a long time… and the way he’d responded to her left her worry only mounting further. John was special. Her mother had always said he was one of the ones born without artifice, a rare ability… and, usually, he was the first to smile; for him to be so withdrawn was out of character.
Maybe he’s just noticed that he’s one of the oldest left in school. At sixteen, if it weren’t for his being as special as he was, he probably would have already joined their father in the construction outfit on the edge of town.
Elvira’s teeth worried at her lower lip, indenting the flesh as she stared at the closing school doors. Half of her was tempted to go up the steps to follow him and try and ferret it out, but the closing of those doors jerked her out of her mental occupation.
“Mercy,” she all but cursed, recognizing what time that meant that it had to be.
Dust flew from her feet as she broke into a far more briskly-paced walk, only just short of running as she hurried off down the street. Worry of a whole different variety filled her belly as she rushed toward the diner as if rattlers were chasing at her ankles along the way. She only slowed once the storefront came into sight, trying to calm her suddenly labored breathing and pushing the flat of her palms down her skirts as she went to open the door.
The smell of breakfast that wafted out was near a solid wall of scent as she passed through the doorway, smiling at all of the regulars already seated at their tables. A variety of bodies were spread loosely amongst the tables, the loudest being the group of elder gentlemen at the back with their newspapers and their coffees. She planned to walk over to them first, hopefully to make it seem as if she’d already been in the diner, but a loud voice disrupted that plan.
“Elvira Bartlett!” boomed the balding man standing behind the counter at the far end of the room. The top of his head shone bright with sweat, the stained apron tied about his portly waist indicating that he’d been working the tables himself this morning. Quinton was a fair man, even in his increasing age, and one that Elvira thoroughly enjoyed working for.
Quinton also just happened to be the sort of man that one did not want to get in the crosshairs of once his temper was ignited.
His pitch-black eyes were narrowed in Elvira’s direction, though, consternation clear on his features as he slapped the rag he had been holding down onto the counter in front of him. “Did I change your shift?” he asked, irritation staining his words a touch louder in volume than he normally spoke. “Was there some emergency that cropped up to keep you busy? Last I checked, you were due here at nine a.m. sharp. Not nine-oh-five, not nine-ten. Nine a.m.”
Quinton’s volume had increased with each word, his palm slapping down on the counter after that rag as Elvira twisted to fit herself behind the counter as well. “No, sir, you’re right. I’m sorry,” she replied, her tone as quiet and apologetic as her downturned chin.
“Other people have schedules to stick to as well. I can’t go helping old Ms. O’Malley down those stairs next door if you’re running late every morning,” Quinton continued to grumble. The ire was still clear in his tone, but the volume had dropped some as he moved off in the direction of the door that Elvira had just come through.
Elvira didn’t voice any complaint, nor did she offer explanation, taking the censure he offered silently as she tied her own apron about her waist. She kept her eyes cast down as he huffed his way out of the door, refusing to acknowledge her shaken nerves from his raised voice. She didn’t say anything at all as she removed the rag from the counter, spinning about to store it in the dirty hamper as she caught the gaze of the brunette standing in the window-way behind the counter.
Ally smiled supportively from where she stood in front of the stove, her large hazel eyes shining with understanding as she flipped one of the hotcakes on her griddle. “Rough morning?” she guessed, her volume lowered so as to keep it from carrying to customers. As Elvira’s best friend, she was a little more privy to the personal goings-on of the Bartlett family than most, and it was that which had Elvira nodding slightly.
“Daddy’s having to go in for earlier shifts,” she confided as she began taking out the plateware that would be needed for the coming second breakfast rush. “He’s so tired he’s been missing some of his chores… and Mama—” Elvira’s voice caught in the back of her throat, her words dying out as she swallowed past the sudden lump that had formed there. “Mama’s weaker than ever,” she admitted.
“I thought the doctor said she was going to be improving?” Ally asked concernedly, dragging the back of her wrist across her forehead to remove the perspiration that had begun to gather.
“He did.” Elvira’s response was short and terse, her already frazzled nerves seeming to nosedive even further with that reminder. She squared her shoulders determinedly, watching as a second group of ornery older men filed one by one through the front door, right on time.
It was a group of older ranch hands, the most of them too old to still be working the land, but with tongues still just as sharp as when they had. They met every morning to play dominoes at the tables and have their coffee before wandering back home to terrorize their wives once more. They were favorites of Elvira’s, even with their sharp tongues, and she was a favorite of theirs for her own.
They were the entire reason that Elvira was loading a tray full of coffee cups, pouring out the first glass readily and arranging the add-ins expertly between them all to carry them over. “It doesn’t make sense,” she finally finished, swallowing hard and avoiding Ally’s gaze as she lifted the tray onto her one hand.
It was only as she rounded the side of the counter that she forced a cheery smile to her face, the only hint of sadness or worry left about her lurking behind the shuttered mask of her green eyes. You’ve got this, you’re fine. She didn’t need to focus on her worry over her parents, or her worry now over John, as well, and she certainly didn’t need to be focusing on Quinton having yelled at her.
Elvira was the epitome of calm grace—right up until the front door opened again, the chime of the bell sounding just to the right of her and forcing her entire body to jerk in response. Almost as if in suspended motion, the tray fell from her fingertips, the cups shaking precariously before finally dropping off the edge with the momentum behind them. Shattering glass and the rolling thump of the tray flipping over itself broke the quiet hum of the diner, all eyes turning to Elvira in surprise.
Her face heated, the blush building beneath her cheeks seeming to warm her all the way through to her bones. Her eyes were glued to the pair that had just entered, though, her mortification souring further as she realized who it was.
“Woah,” the shorter of the two men whistled, his slate-gray eyes widening at the sight of the mess in front of him. “You okay, Elvira?”
“Today is out-and-out not my day,” she breathed finally, tossing a half-smile at Zackary for having checked at all. “If you want to go grab a seat and give me a second, I’ll be right with you.”
“You just must’ve been excited to see us,” the second, taller man offered light-heartedly. His tone was friendly enough, sounding as if he were offering her a way out of the embarrassment over having dropped the tray in the first place.
If it had been offered from any other man, Elvira would have found it kind. Coming from the large, brown-eyed man, though, cast it in a wholly other suspicious light. Owen Nichols didn’t even get a half of the smile his friend had received. He didn’t get so much as a second glance, or a response either.
Elvira was in a shaky enough mood as it was without having to pretend to be friendly with a con artist like Owen. She knew the truth of the snake beneath that charming mask he presented to the rest of the world, and she had no qualms over treating him accordingly.
“I’ll be right over with your coffee, gentlemen,” she called out to the group already seated, forcing a smile back on her lips as she waved at them. To the men behind her, she showed no deference, heading off in the direction of the counter once more to get a mop and bucket to clean up the mess she had made.
She could feel Owen’s eyes on her as she spun about, and even all the way back to the counter. Her only answer was a raised chin and carefully avoided gaze, her lips setting into a thin line as she prepared herself for having to deal with him at all.
He was the last thing she needed to be dealing with today.
Owen stood in the doorway to the diner for a mite longer than he probably should have, his heavy brown brows lowered on his face as he watched the waitress retreat from where she had dropped her tray upon his and Zackary’s entering. The rest of the diner seemed to have resumed the pace it had held before his arrival, the soft sounds of dishware and hushed conversations filling what had been silence as he stood there. For a long minute, all he could do was watch the shock of red, tied-back hair as it bobbed over the back of the counter.
He’d never done a darn thing to that girl—and he’d certainly searched his memory to ensure that it was true—and yet she still treated him as if he were the scum on the bottom of her shoe.
“C’mon, Owen, close your mouth and get to stepping.” Zackary laughed from where he had begun to walk away. His gray eyes were amused as he looked back at his friend, lips twitching as he bypassed the broken glassware and headed off to the empty corner of the diner.
“Easy enough for you to say,” Owen mumbled, obeying the command regardless and following Zackary’s footsteps. “She’s not snapping at you.” It was almost a muttered afterthought, his eyes darting back to where she was already busy cleaning up the mess she had made with a smile stretching her lips.
A smile that, assuredly, was directed anywhere but at him.
His own lips turned down as he slid into the seat opposite Zackary, hanging his hat on the back of the chair with a sigh. She was an enticing picture, even with a stained apron tied about her waist like it was. Her hair was as fiery as her mouth, her sparkling green eyes the color of new brush that couldn’t be burned for the moisture in it. Her skin was almost ephemeral, the kind of peaches and cream that he’d seen women pay money to try and achieve artificially.
“She’d be beautiful if she weren’t so darn mean,” Owen went on to mumble, accidentally out loud. His thoughts just slipped out, pulling his lips into a grimace at the laugh they inspired from his friend across from him.
“She’s not mean to everyone,” Zackary answered, his amusement clear in both his gaze and his tone. “Just you. Only you, from what I’ve seen. You must’ve done something to put a burr in her bonnet—and don’t start telling me you haven’t! I’ve heard it all before.”
“That’s because I haven’t,” Owen protested, lowering his voice as she passed their table. He ignored the disbelieving look that Zackary threw him from beneath raised brows. “I haven’t!” he cried exasperatedly as he leaned back into the chair. “I’ve gone over and over it, trying to think of what offense I could have provided her, but I’ve never been anything but polite.”
“Maybe it’s just your face that’s offensive.” Zackary snickered in return, those chuckles turning into outright laughter as Elvira appeared beside them.
She slid two coffees in front of them, her smile notably taking in only Zackary as she did so. “Sorry about the greeting,” she laughed herself, lifting one hand to push a stray red hair back behind her ear. “What can I get for you boys, the usual?”
“You know, if you bring me a whole stack of Ally’s hotcakes today, I think I’ll be willing to trade out my usual,” Zackary admitted, leaning back and inhaling deeply. His grin was easy, his stomach loudly announcing just how influential that smell had been in his decision-making.
“I’ll pass along your compliments,” Elvira teased, her lips twitching—a movement that stopped outright as she turned her attention to Owen. The smile fell off her features, one eyebrow arching imperiously in question as she looked at him.
“No thanks, just the coffee this morning,” Owen answered her silent question. His voice was more abrupt than he had meant for it to be, his own brows lowering at the coldness that she had addressed him with. It might not have been as noticeable if it weren’t such stark contrast, as Zackary had pointed out, to how she dealt with nearly everyone else.
Elvira paused, her other red brow joining the first on top of her forehead as she stared at him. “The smell of hotcakes put you off grits and eggs this morning?” she queried disbelievingly.
“The sour attitude I was met with sure did,” Owen answered back in faux cheer, sarcasm clear in his tone.
The green eyes he stared into flashed, irritation and shock warring behind her gaze before she promptly turned on her heel, flouncing off without a backwards glance.
The low whistle across from him was equal parts surprised and amused. Zackary was barely holding in his chuckle when Owen’s gaze fell back to him, but that expression quickly sobered as he continued looking at his friend. “This about your money problems?” he asked baldly, concern clear in the words.
Owen sighed, lifting his hand to scrub his palm down the front of his face somewhat aggravatedly. “What? No, she’s just mean as hellfire, like I said. I can only take so much of it.” It was mostly true, although even he was aware that he was jumping faster than he usually would have.
“I meant that you’re not ordering food,” Zackary corrected, dipping his head slightly and lowering his tone further to keep the conversation between them. “You know I would have bought your breakfast?”
Guilt and appreciation vied for the forefront of Owen’s emotions at Zackary’s words, his hand lifting again to scrub down the front of his face. He allowed it to go on for longer that time, exhaling in a heavy sigh as he rolled his shoulders. “I know that, and I appreciate it,” he replied.
He didn’t appreciate that Zackary felt the offer was necessary, but that wasn’t his friend’s fault. He just happened to be the only person that Owen had confided his money worries to. It had been more than four months since Owen’s father had passed, and Owen had expected to see a better turn around in that time. He had assumed that the discrepancy in profits he’d noticed had been due to the store being closed during the transitory process following his father’s death.
“I can still afford to buy my own breakfast,” Owen admitted with a grunt. Even if it was only barely. “I just expected to have figured out where the issue was by now.”
“You’ve only been in charge of the general store for, what? Three months? Give yourself some time to take care of it,” Zackary consoled, stopping himself at the approach of Elvira once more. She slid the hotcakes in front of him with a smile before walking off again, answering the call of one of the old men across the diner for another coffee.
“Four months,” Owen corrected, watching Elvira’s back before shaking his head. “It’s been four months. I just can’t make hide nor hair of the numbers in his ledgers,” he sighed. Not only that, he couldn’t even tell if they were even turning a profit from their sales, and that was where Owen’s biggest problem was coming from. “I wasn’t supposed to take all of this over yet…” He shook his head, lifting his coffee to his lips and taking a large swallow to cover the break in his voice.
Zackary’s gray eyes were understanding, his own lips pulled into a frown. “Right, Mr. Nichols hadn’t had time to teach you the books, yet. That’s probably all it is.”
“Right,” Owen agreed, his own mind embroiled with the problem. It wasn’t just that, and he knew as much, but there was no way to sensibly explain the issue to his friend. The books were in complete disarray, and the numbers, even when Owen managed to run them, didn’t add up. He was missing information—he knew it, he just didn’t know what information.
Had his father somehow negotiated better deals with his vendors that Owen had missed? Was there some income that had lapsed since his death? It didn’t make sense. Owen knew, for a fact, that the quality of life he was used to couldn’t have been sustained on the income he was seeing come in from the store by itself.
It certainly didn’t help that his father’s shorthand was so vague, with symbols and code words that Owen had no translation for. He lifted the coffee cup again to his face, surprised to find that he had finished the mug. He was even more surprised, upon lowering his cup, to see that Zackary had finished off the plate of hotcakes in front of him. He was all but licking the plate clean as Owen set his cup back on the table between them.
“You know, if you figure it out, you could find the money to pay me to come work for you,” Zackary joked, pulling money out of his pocket and setting it on the table as he stood.
Owen followed suit yet again, placing his own bills next to the coffee cup and offering his friend a half-laugh. “Sure, because you would be willing to work inside and off of a ranch,” he quipped, the sarcasm ladling his words clear. “That would be asking for a whole heap of trouble, keeping you inside all day.”
Zackary laughed in return as they headed back out the door, lifting his hand to wave goodbye to Elvira good-naturedly.
Owen made the mistake of glancing over at her, catching her heated glare and trying not to roll his eyes, ignoring the prick of irritation that built between his shoulder blades at having seen it.
“Probably,” Zackary agreed as they re-entered the fresh air. He slid his hat back onto his head at almost the exact same moment as Owen did his own, grinning over at him and shrugging. “I can’t say I’d hate the break between eating and working, though.”
“It’s not much of a break,” Owen sighed, turning in the direction of the general store. “Just a different sort of work, is all.”
“Do you miss working outside?” Zackary asked, curiosity pricking his tone as they ambled back to the storefront they’d met in front of earlier.
Owen paused at the question, stopping to the side of the horse that Zackary had tied out in front of the store. Her dappled, gray coat almost matched Zackary’s eyes, a running joke between them—and it was that dappled coat that Owen stared at as he considered the question being posed to him.
“I miss the constant movement,” he said after a long moment, chewing over the words carefully before he said them. “I miss the open air. I miss the exercise.” He paused again, looking out from beneath his brim at the glare of the sun and sighing. “I don’t miss that damnable heat of midday, though.”
They both laughed at that, Zackary flinching as if already considering how bad it was going to be later that day. Out in the heat of the sun, with how hot it ran already this early in the morning, it was likely to make a man sweat through even just one layer of clothing before dusk fell.
“I do need to head back to the ranch,” Zackary said after another moment, walking up to his horse and mounting her with all the ease of constant practice. “You know if you need any help, though…” He trailed off slowly, looking down to Owen with a genuine, open expression.
“You’re too played out at the end of the day,” Owen chuckled. He did the blacksmithing over there when he wasn’t doing it in town, and Lord only knew how many hours he devoted between the both of them. His lips quirked further, eyes sparkling with barely restrained mirth. “And I’d have to be raving distracted to trust you near numbers or dealing with them.”
“You know… that was one time,” Zackary sighed, gathering the reins in his hands with a roll of his eyes. “And it was long enough past that you shouldn’t still be holding onto it.”
“You told the Jacksons that their dog had birthed eight pups,” Owen replied pointedly. “‘Four girls and five boys, that’ll make it eight!’” he quoted. He barely choked the words out through his laughter, watching the faint red building beneath his friend’s cheeks at the memory. He sobered fairly quickly, though, backing toward the store with a shrug. “I’ll manage, one way or another. You go worry about building that fence and leave me to crunching numbers.”
“The offer stands,” Zackary called over his own laughter, wheeling his horse off in the opposite direction and allowing her to break into a slow trot. “You tell your mom and them I said hello,” he added, practically shouting it as he broke the mare into a canter, leaving Owen standing just in front of the storefront to watch him leave.
Owen stood there until the dust the hooves had kicked up had settled, staring off into the sun that his friend had disappeared into. He was, honestly, in no real rush to return to the general store. If anything, he wanted to be running in the other direction.
Going inside would mean going back to those ledgers and notes that were piled on the desk in the back, poring over them and hoping for some clue that he’d managed to miss the past four months. It was hard enough escaping the ghost of his father in his day-to-day doings, but working in the store and poring over the man’s words so carefully called him right to the forefront. Grief, Owen had learned, was a heavy mistress.
She clung to the edges of everything, spinning in and out of things that had once been so normal. And when she reared her ugly head? She was near impossible to escape.
It was with a strained exhale that he turned back to the store, accepting his fate and returning to the numbers, after all.
Maybe, if he was really lucky, he’d find a missing ledger that tied it all together.
“Solving the Mystery of her Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
As the oldest of six siblings, responsibility falls heavily on Elvira Bartlett’s shoulders, but she meets it all with a smile and a quip. However, between caring for her sick mother and helping provide for her five siblings, she’s grown increasingly weary and worried. As if her life wasn’t already complicated enough, a handsome but obnoxious young man will cause even more turbulence to her world. Everything about him seems to set her teeth on edge, and having heard the rumours about his disreputable past just makes it worse. When she finds herself offering him a helping hand, will she discover that there may be more to him than she could possibly imagine?
Owen Nichols is struggling to keep his father’s general store running after his untimely passing. He might not have the necessary skills but he’s trying his best to keep his business afloat. When Elvira starts working for him, things become even harder, as he’s always distracted by her incomparable beauty. Although he finds himself surprisingly smitten with her, he still doubts that romance is in the cards for him. With his life under a dangerous threat and his world about to come crashing down, will he be able to unravel the secrets of the past and succumb to his undeniable feelings for Elvira?
Forced to work together, they’re compelled to reevaluate their preconceptions about one another, while romantic feelings begin to surface. With time rapidly running out, will they be able to solve the mystery of Owen’s secret enemy? Consumed by the danger that lies ahead, will they manage to give a chance to love, or will their hearts be forever doomed to stay apart?
“Solving the Mystery of her Heart” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.