His Unexpected Twist of Fate – Extended Epilogue

Eight Years later

Ragland, Texas

Nick Sloane pulled the wagon to the trough under the mighty oak. It was Sunday, and one of the rare days he was able to take a moment to enjoy his family. Sheila insisted he set a good example to their five children by attending worship.

“Are you sure you want to leave the wagon here?” Sheila asked with a wry grin. “The little ones will follow Nicky and George right up that tree.”

Nick smiled and shook his head. “Trees like this are meant for climbing. I should know because when I was fifteen, I attempted to scale this tree and pulled on a branch that wasn’t sturdy enough. I fell and would have cracked open my skull, but Matt broke my fall.”

The boys laughed in the back as they prepared to climb the tree themselves. They loved stories about their father and uncle Matthew, and they wanted to be just like them. Nicky and George would make sure their two younger sisters were perfectly placed around the trunk so they’d break their fall should they slip. Nan and Cathy were three and four, and whatever their brothers told them to do, they did. Sheila predicted it was only a matter of time before the girls dominated. Girls caught up to the boys fast, if she recalled.

“Can you take Wesley for a spell while I help the girls down?” Sheila requested before placing the baby in Nick’s capable hands.

Sheila had five children in eight years, and she and Nick were not done adding to their brood. A house was built on the two-hundred-acre farm to accommodate the growing family. The cottage was made a part of the larger house because they could never destroy it. It held memories of their first year together, which seemed less tumultuous as years passed. The sharp edges of life when Sheila first came to Ragland were sanded down as time passed.

Nick stood by with the girls after he handed the baby back to Sheila. The boys had adventurous spirits, and they enjoyed the happy childhood Sheila and Nick provided. All the children played hard with the confidence that their parents would catch them if they fell.

Anne and Levon approached with their toddlers, baby and one on the way. Levon had thrown aside his spectacles and guest book when he stopped working at the boarding house. The Sloanes still maintained a small herd, and he was in charge of it. He was a skilled wrangler, and ranches throughout Texas tried to hire him away. However, he was loyal to Anne and the Sloane Family Farm, which it had officially been named.

“Unless you have twins in there, I’m still one nipper up on you,” Sheila jested.

Nick had always told her that Anne was a kind and carefree sister while they were growing up. It had changed when Matthew died, the farm began failing, and she became obsessed with money. When she stood back and looked at the people she was hurting and realized there was more to life than money, she returned to her old ways.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if I had a dozen babies in here.” Anne pointed to her belly. “He or she kicks all night long. Levon thinks it’s a good thing because perhaps he’ll have someone to ride alongside him on the range,” she remarked.

Levon walked up with his two-and three-year-old children struggling to keep pace. Soon they would be out front.

“Howdy,” Levon tipped his hat. “Is Nick somewhere reliving his childhood with your children?” he jested.

“Yup, he’s teaching the boys the fine art of tree climbing,” Sheila joked. “The older my husband gets, the more like a kid he becomes, in the best way possible, I should add.”

“I meant to tell Nick, but you can relay the message to him. The Fosters took the surplus cattle off our hands, which means one less trip to the auction. They paid top dollar because we always give them a break on wheat,” Levon stated. “Sure is good having partners like the Carters in Ragland. We do them a lot of favors, and they’re quick to do the same.”

“That’s the way it’s meant to be,” Sheila commented. “Everyone benefits in the end.”

Things had changed a lot in eight years. Foster realized that ruling the town of Ragland the way he did was not going to work long term. He was convinced by his children and the rest of his family to make more friends than enemies. Joseph and Randy started taking a more active role on the ranch, which allowed Foster to sit back with Kathleen and enjoy what they had built.

“I hear the bell ringing,” Sheila remarked. “It’s time for me to see about rounding up the family and getting everyone inside for service. We’re too loud a bunch to sneak in the church late and go unnoticed.”

“I heard,” Nick said, referring to the bell. “We’re ready to follow in. Wesley knows how to sleep the day away.” He threw his arm around Sheila’s waist and kissed her cheek.

The Sloanes walked in orderly and occupied an entire pew, behind Nettie Newton and her five children, including Susie. She was the big sister to three brothers who adored her and were learning a lot about how to treat those different from themselves. At only twelve years old, Susie had become a symbol of the grit and integrity of Ragland.

After yet another meaningful sermon given by Pastor Newton, services were nearly over. The church was packed as it was every Sunday. Word got out about the dynamic young pastor in Ragland and folks came from all over.

“Thank you all for coming today to share the word of God. I see a lot of new faces, and I hope you keep coming because we’re blessed to have you here. As many of you know and some may not, we hold a monthly lawn party in front of the church. A few of our community members bake cookies and pies that are divine. It’s a great day to take advantage of the blue sky and gentle breeze. God blessed us with a spectacular day.”

The children in attendance poured out as soon as Pastor Newton had made his way down the aisle. Parents allowed the mayhem on days when the lawn party was planned; they were lucky that the children remained in their seats as long as they did.

Sheila was next out the door after sharing a few words with Pastor Newton because Wesley was ready to exercise his lungs. Nicky, George, Nan, and Cathy ran towards their grandparents before they visited the snack table. Nancy and Cliff adored being grandparents to their only living son’s children. Cliff had a special bond with Nicky, whom Sheila was told looked very much like Matthew.

“Look at Cliff with those children. These past years have been a renewal for my husband that wouldn’t have been possible without you. He loves overseeing the boys in the garden, and I’m sure they’ll be ready when it’s time for them to join their father in the fields,” Nancy remarked. “They’ve encouraged me to get out more too. Little Nan is active and insists I keep up with her.”

“They’re all so different. Did you find that with your own children? Sheila inquired.

Nancy laughed. “Well, yes, that’s obvious. I wanted them to be a certain way, but thank goodness they didn’t listen to me. Jill was not going to conform like I wanted her too and look how lovely and successful she’s become.”

“Speaking of Jill. Here are Mrs. Carter and her husband, Randy,” Sheila pointed out.

Randy Carter had returned to town at Delilah and Hiram’s urging because the Big Land Ranch needed him. Hiram’s health was failing, and a steady hand was necessary to lead the ranch into the future. Hiram promised him that a portion of the ranch could be reclaimed for horses.

The first thing Randy looked for when he returned to Ragland was a partner to begin a breeding program. It had been a dream he shared with his friend Jill Sloane. They worked together for a couple of years before he noticed that his old pal had grown into a beautiful woman. Love followed, and it turned out a Sloane finally married a Carter, but it was far from a financial transaction. Neither family needed anything from each other, so the union was only about love.

“I haven’t seen much of you lately,” Sheila mentioned to Jill. Her light brown hair was pulled back loosely, and a spray of freckles covered her nose.

“We went to a horse show in Colorado to check out the competition. Turned out their program is not nearly what ours is. We ran into folks all the way from Kentucky who are willing to pay three times more than we thought our horses were worth,” Jill said proudly as Randy came up behind her and wrapped his arm around her waist.

“Are you telling Sheila what we’ve been up to?” Randy asked Jill with a smile.

“I told her about the horses but not about the baby we’re fixing to have,” Jill squealed.

Sheila congratulated the happy couple. They deserved the good news because they both took it hard when Hiram passed. He died right before they got married, but he’d be proud of their breeding program and their strong marriage.

Amos and Lucy brought their three children to the lawn party after worship. Lucy had always been meek, but she had come into her own. She was standing up straighter and made mothering three rambunctious children look easy. Sheriff Larsen found employment in another town, so Amos Smith finally wore the sheriff’s badge. He was proud of the position he held, and Ragland was safer with him in charge. He chose Nate Maxwell, Blue and Mary’s boy, as his deputy. Ragland had no issues with crime as long as they were in charge.

A familiar face was heading straight for Sheila. Delilah Beddington was in town with her husband, Linc. They rode in from Houston, which they did almost monthly. She was trying to convince Linc to move to Ragland full-time, but he liked Houston, where everything was bigger. Delilah met him at a livestock auction she had gone to with her father. He was recently widowed, and she became a supportive friend. He fell in love with her first, and she took time to make sure she wasn’t marrying Linc for his money. She realized that it was also wrong to pass someone over because they did have money. They were married in a lavish ceremony at the ranch, and now she was in love and fabulously rich.

“Look at you all dolled up and looking like you’re ready for Easter Sunday,” Sheila commented.

“I tend to overdo it when I’m home because I’m so used to Houston society. How’s life on the farm with all those little nippers running around?” Delilah asked.

“I’m busy but happy as can be,” she gushed. “Things turned out as they were supposed to. Somehow I can’t picture you milking a cow or cleaning a stall.”

Delilah laughed. “No, I made the right choices, and I believe in my heart you were meant to be here. We’ll chat later. I see Linc, and I have to point him towards a slice of pie.”

Delilah walked away in her pastel dress but not before opening her parasol. Sheila shook her head and smiled. That was certainly something that didn’t happen often in Ragland, Texas.

Karen Belshears walked up and grabbed her Aunt Sheila by the arm.

“Hello, what are you doing alone? Where are your parents and Maxine?” Sheila inquired.

“They’re coming. All the parents in Ragland want to know how their children are doing in school, and my mother is the one to ask. Did you have your own bedroom growing up?” Karen asked.

Karen was twelve and experiencing growing pains. She was pretty and looked older than her age, the reasons her parents were strict. She regularly came to Sheila with questions.

Sheila laughed. “No, I didn’t have my own room. I shared with two sisters. I know it’s a confusing time for you, but slow down and try to enjoy the time you’re in. When you become a grown-up, you’ll have responsibilities, and they only increase as you get older,” Sheila said. “You should also give your mother a break. Being a teacher in a new school must be scary, and you should respect her for being so bold.”

“Cathy and Nan are lucky to have you for a mother.” She hugged Sheila.

“They won’t like me so much when they’re older; it’s a stage. Everyone else’s mother seems perfect at your age.”

They both laughed, and Karen ran to join her sister in line for pie.

Mary Maxwell walked towards Sheila quickly, and she had a parcel in her hands. She raised it in the air and spoke as she walked. “It’s here,” she exclaimed. “The package from Boston that you’ve been waiting for. It feels like a book.”

Sheila handed baby Wesley to Mary and took the package.

“I’m going to cry, so prepare yourself. This is a copy of my brother’s first published novel.” Sheila tugged at her baby’s foot. “Your uncle wrote a book. He’s a famous novelist who overcame difficulties that we’ll never face. Thank you for bringing this to me. I’ve been expecting it, but I didn’t believe it until just now.” She ran her finger over the raised gold lettering that said, Wesley Littlefield.

“I imagine you think of him when things get bad because, for him, they’re worse, and look what he’s accomplished. That can-do attitude must run in your family because it wasn’t easy for you when you showed up in Ragland,” Mary pointed out.

“Pastor Newton says that we all have our crosses to bear, and he’s right. For so long, you fought to hold on to the general store, which has doubled in size since I came to town,” Sheila said.

“For years, the Carters wanted control of the store, and they were willing to pay good money for it, but we refused. That store is like a member of our family, and it’s worth more than money. We used the place to teach our children a good work ethic and responsibility,” Mary explained.

“You must have done something right because your oldest is a deputy sheriff,” Sheila remarked.

“Yes, we’re immensely proud. The biggest and nicest surprise is the change in Foster Carter. Not only has he stopped harassing us about buying the store, but he and Blue have also gone hunting together on several occasions. They don’t always come home with the game they were seeking, which makes me curious about what the heck they talk about for days,” Mary wondered. “Have you seen my nine-year-old?”

“I haven’t. I hope Dora wouldn’t head towards the creek. It runs fast this time of year, and it’s not far from where Matthew Sloane died,” Sheila pointed out.

“If I see her, I’ll bring her back to you. Maybe she’s with Nick and the children who are at the oak tree. I’m heading there now.” Sheila and baby Wesley walked towards the tree and saw Nick helping Cathy up to the first branch.

Nick spotted her coming and knew she didn’t want any of the kids climbing until they could get up themselves. He lowered Cathy safely to the ground before Sheila arrived and could say a word.

“You know the rule, Nick,” Sheila scolded. “My worst nightmare is any of the kids getting hurt. I don’t think I could recover from that. Have you seen little Dora Maxwell?” she asked.

Nick nodded his head. “She was here a second ago playing with Nicky.”

Sheila heard Nick and saw a panicked look on his face. Next, she heard a scream coming from the direction of the creek. They followed the sound and found Dora on the bank, pointing at the seemingly calm water. There was nothing, and if Nicky had gone under, he wasn’t coming up. Nick Kicked off his boots and threw his hat because he was going in.

Sheila hit the soggy ground and screamed. She sounded like a wounded animal and wouldn’t let anyone near her. Nick was chest-deep in the water when little Nicky popped out from behind a tree on the other side of the creek. He was wet but smiling and confused about why there was mayhem across the creek and why his father was in the water.

It turned out that Nicky had crept away with Dora while Nick was occupied with Cathy. He was only playing a trick on his playmate. Nick made it across the water and walked down to the footbridge to the other side to be reunited with Sheila. She didn’t know whether to be mad or thankful when she took Nicky in her arms, so she held him, and when she let him go, she walked to Nick.

Sheila began pounding on his chest because she blamed him for not keeping a closer eye on their son. She continued to scream at Nick while he stood there and took it. The crowd that had gathered began to thin.

“He’s an eight-year-old boy, and while I’m at fault here, these things will happen,” Nick pointed out.

“What were you doing lifting Cathy in the first place? Wasn’t losing your brother enough?” Sheila asked and knew that she had just said something cruel that she wished she could take back.

Nick was silent. He walked to the water’s edge, lowered his head, and came back.

“You told me once that we would have ups and downs, and that they were inevitable. You also said we would get through anything because we have each other. I was wrong not to pay closer attention, and I’m sorry. I love you, Sheila.”

Sheila outstretched her hands for Nick to take. “I said something I shouldn’t have said. I was mad and scared. I love you, Nick.”

Sheila and Nick continued to have a perfect life because it wasn’t flawless, and that was okay. Everything was okay as long as they had each other.

THE END


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50 thoughts on “His Unexpected Twist of Fate – Extended Epilogue”

    1. I think this is the best western romance I have ever read! Thank you, Ellen Knightley.!!! Also, loved the descriptive scenes and landscapes.

        1. Thank you so much for this excellent extended epilogue Ellen Knightley! The book was one I couldn’t put down and then to be able to find out how everyone was fairing eight years later – priceless!

    2. Love this story of love, devotion and forgiveness. I felt like I was right there with all the characters. 😄

    3. Loved the story. Strong women from the east moving to the south, and not backing down. I can almost picture the lands and such as you described them. True love that grows by the day. Thank you for your books.

    4. I njoyed hearing how Mr.Carter had finally changed and how his children showed him they would leave if he didn’t change his ways. I liked how Sheila and Nick fell in love right away. Looking foreword to more of your books to read.

  1. Ellen, I evidently did not complete my comment! Your story was delightfully told,making it very clear that a Christian-based book is an excellent read. Emotions were explicitly felt, and characters came across as the deeply-ingrained humanity that abides in Christians throughout the world. Thank you for such an inspiring story!

  2. enjoyed it, cried when I realised Wesley had written his book. Stayed up all night reading this!! couldn’t put it down

  3. Very enjoyable story. The character development was very encouraging. One person can make a difference and it was fun to see that she affected the whole town creating a more harmonious community.

  4. Thank you for writing this delightful story. Loved the moral message of looking at the inside of someone not just the outside. The book kept me up very late but well worth the loss of sleep. Loved the story and it made me so happy

  5. Taking a leap of faith as a mail order bride, it came with no guarantee. In order for it to work, it had to be 2 willing souls who would learn to trust in each other, and their faith that love would give them a blessed life time.

  6. This is a lovely and exciting book about hurt, anger, forgiveness and redemption.,a delightful story with the man in character a young lady of spunk and character that cemented an entire town.

  7. I really, really liked this book.
    Lots of emotions going on with all the characters.
    I was surprised when Delilah found out how much Nick really loved Sheila. She became a different person.
    Did not like Nick’s mom or Jane and felt sorry for Jill. But they all became a family in the end.
    Ellen you are a wonderful writer and all I can say is “keep on writing.”

  8. What a terrific story. The characters were well developed with strong personalities that drew you into the story. It showed all aspects of human nature and how God works in all things for good. It is a story that everyone can relate to on some level. I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted to keep reading till the end.

  9. I liked this story Ellen. It was about new beginnings, for both Sheila and Nick and eventually for the rest of the Sloane family and their neighbors.

  10. I loved the story and stayed up way too late to find our how Foster’s threats were thwarted. A tidy resolution where love and family win out!

    A minor detail nagged at me: you referred to the spotted horses as palominos. They would be appaloosa, if bred by the Nez Perce as you indicated. As the value of the horses is mentioned a number of times in the book, they should be identified correctly.

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