Untangling the Knot of Love (Preview)

Prologue

Six years earlier

“Are you alright there, Miss?” an elderly gentleman asked sixteen-year-old Priscilla North.

“Thank you, yes. My aunt will meet me from the train.” Passengers found seats and stowed away their baggage. A whistle blew outside and just as the huge steam engine started to chug its way out of the depot, several men rushed in at the last minute. They went to find seats and one of the men sat opposite Priscilla.He was an exceptionally handsome man and to the young and impressionable teenager, looked romantic and exciting. His hair was black and slightly curly as it escaped from his Stetson. His eyes were a vivid and unusual green that twinkled at her mischievously. He wore a dark coat thatmatchedhisblack hat. With his green bandana complementing his eyes, he would have turned many heads.

Priscilla could not help but smile at him. He swept off his hat and as he turned his head, gave her a decidedly provocative wink. She blushed to the roots of her hair and the man gave a soft laugh. Priscilla did not know where to look and the older man who had enquired if she was alright saw her embarrassment at the stranger’s wink. He frowned at the good-looking man opposite them and turned to Priscilla.

“Are you staying with your aunt, Miss?” he asked and she gratefully turned to him to have a conversation. She explained that her aunt was a teacher and she hoped to be one as well, when she was older. The gentleman talked about normal things and they exchanged views about the countryside that was flying past the windows. The train was passing through empty wilderness by that time. They both knew that the man opposite had lost interest and Priscilla was relaxing when the men who had arrived at the last minute all stood up and drew handguns from beneath their long, expensive coats.

Some of the female passengers screamed. One passenger went to draw his gun, but a shot rang out from one of the robbers and he changed his mind. The gang were most efficient at what they did. They were only interested in the money and valuables that could be found. The older gentleman that had befriended Priscilla gave up his wallet and his gold watch chain. He gallantly moved himself slightly in front of the young girl beside him. Two of the robbers held the carriage at gunpoint as the rest tipped out the bags that were stowed and found anything that they could take to sell. Some of them discovered money as well as jewelry and they stuffed it into pockets and cotton bags.

It looked as if they had known where to look because one of them called to the others and lifted up a leather bag.

“Well, thank you kindly folks,” the dark-haired robber told them. He had given a hand to one lady and drawn her to her feet. “No time for enjoyment, I am afraid,” he added and let her sit down again. Then he moved past the gentleman beside Priscilla and reached out a hand to pull her locket on a gold chain from her neck.

“Even pretty young girls can give up their jewelry.” 

Priscilla gasped and felt at her neck where the chain had snapped. The man winked again and gave her a charming smile—but this time it was lost on her.

“My beloved aunt gave that to me. You are despicable.” She made to stand up and defy this robber, who seemed to take it all very lightly. The elderly man next to her urged her to sit down.

“No time to chat,” the robber said. He followed the rest of the men to the door, leaped from the train and then could be seen to rise to his feet. The passengers all saw the men roll and stand as more men came from the trees with horses to take the robbers away to safety. The leather bag they had found looked very heavy.

“They had that well planned,” one man said. “Knew exactly how long it would take and to be able to leave where their horses were kept.”

“That bag had my gold in it,” another man said. “They must have known. All my hard work…lost.”

The man sat down suddenly and people tried to give him some comfort, but it was obvious that he had lost a fortune and was inconsolable.

Some of the ladies were feeling faint and everyone had been more shocked than they had thought they were.

“No one was hurt, thank goodness,” the man next to Priscilla observed and they felt the train come to a halt. The other coaches had seen the men escape and the guards were rushing to see what had happened. 

The only help for the man who lost the gold was that there would be a marshal at the next stop on the line. Priscilla felt dreadfully sorry for him and that alternated with anger that the bandit had taken her precious gold locket. It was passed on to her by her aunt and she had treasured it.

Chapter 1

Priscilla alighted the train.The memory of the robbery was in the distant past and she had a whole new future to plan. The lady she was going to meet was called Isobel Paul and she was the outgoing teacher of the school in Lovesville. Priscilla stood with her bags and waited until the main crowd of passengers dispersed. It was busier than she had expected from a small town out in the wilds of Texas.

“You must be Priscilla,” a voice said, and she turned to meet a woman in a severe schoolmarm’s tunic. Herdark dress was unadorned.

“I am,” Priscilla answered and held out a hand. “You must be Isobel.”

“Let me take you to the lodging house. You can leave your things and then I can show you the school.” She picked up one of Priscilla’s bags and then put it down again. “I’ll get one of the men to put these on a trolley.”

“I did bring quite a lot of things I might need in the classroom,” Priscilla said. “It makes the bags heavy.” Once the bags were loaded, the man offered to pull the trolley for them. They all walked to a lodging house that was not far from the railroad depot. He unloaded the bags at the door and Priscilla gave him a coin for his trouble. 

The lodging house was large and rambling and looked as if it had grown with the town. The landlady, Georgia Dillon, seemed to lift the bags with no effort at all. She made the welcome and showed Priscilla her room.

“I thought you might need room to work as well as rest,” she said. “I added this writing desk and chair.”

“Oh, that is such a thoughtful thing to do. It will be so useful. Thank you.”

“I will take Priscilla down and show her the school and then we can make a start in the morning,” Isobel said.

“And then you will be leaving for your new life, I expect,” Georgia Dillon observed. Isobel smiled for the first time and let her tight expression disappear.

“Yes. The wedding is to be in two weeks. I am anxious to leave.”

“Are you to be married?” Priscilla asked and Isobel said that she was marrying her childhood sweetheart.

“Best wishes. I hope it all goes without a hitch,” Georgia told her.

The two teachers left to walk to the school, which was set back from the main street. It had a corral behind it as well as an area where the children could safely play. 

“I guess the town has sort of grown around you,” Priscilla observed. There were other buildings at the sides of the school. One was a workshop with stacks of wood kept under a shelter. On the other side was a storage barn, and beyond that was a blacksmith.

The building was a large wooden cabin and Isobel opened the front door. 

Priscilla stepped inside. “That is much bigger than I expected, and quite light as well.”

“There’s plenty of cupboard space as well and a pump with water for classes and for children to wash their hands.” Isobel stood at the desk and told Priscilla that there were twelve pupils, and they were all in the register.

“Two of them ride in on ponies and the ponies go out in the corral. The others are younger and are in town. If we start tomorrow, I can introduce you to them and you can see what is needed.”

“That sounds good. Thank you.” Priscilla answered and as they parted company and she walked back to the lodging house, she pondered about how the place could use that light and space to become a cheerful place to work. Isobel does not like decoration, she mused.

Georgia was preparing a meal and introduced her to two other lodgers.

“Tan Martin,” the man said as he shook hands. “I come and go as I am a salesman.”

“Judy Carruthers,” the lady added as she held out a hand. “I work at the bakery.”

“Which is why we have this flaky pastry pie,” Georgia added and served them all a hearty dinner.

Priscilla found the place pleasant. It was clean and the food was good.  She unpacked and settled to write a letter to her aunt before slipping between clean sheets and enjoying a feather bed.

“My new life,” she whispered to herself.

*

In the morning, she was up ready to start that new life. She ate a huge breakfast and Georgia handed her a packet of cold meat and bread to take for her midday meal.

“How good of you. I had not thought about that.” She tucked the packet away and picked up her first bag of things that she might need.

The town was very busy as she walked to the school. There were stores which were outnumbered by saloons. There was a saloon that seemed respectable but even early in the morning, there were men rolling in and out of the bars and there was one fist fight going on that she avoided. She was glad to reach the school. Then there was no time to think about it as there were parents with the smaller children anxious to meet the new teacher and twelve pupils of varying ages.

As she arrived at the school and was walking to meet the folk all waiting for her, she glanced across to the workshop and saw a man picking up wood to take inside. He did give one quick glance over before disappearing into the building and she had a sudden flash of feeling that she knew him from somewhere. Then it was gone.

“Good morning,” she said to all of them waiting. “I am Priscilla North.” She shook hands with the adults who told her their names, but she knew it would take time to meet everyone.

“These two ginger ones are mine,” a woman said. “Millie Simmonds. This is Janey and Mal. If they are out of line, let me know.” Priscilla thanked her and met an older woman called Mrs. Meredith who handed in her grandchildren. The two pony riders said they were Bart and JedDelaney and the parents left the two teachers to start the day.

“Good morning, Lovesville School,” Isobel said.

“Good morning, Miss Paul,” the class chanted back.

“This is Miss North, your new teacher.”

“Good morning, Lovesville School,” Priscilla said. The class dutifully chanted back.

“I will watch how you do things today and join in where I can. I will learn names in a few days.”

Formalities established, the class started work for the day and Priscilla was pleased to see that Isobel had done excellent work with reading. Even the youngest were trying hard. She went around and listened to all of them read while Isobel sat with the two youngest. It was a good atmosphere and Priscilla was relaxing when there was a knock at the door. A woman came in without waiting for anyone to invite her. There was a stir around the class and Priscilla noted that some of the pupils were hiding a smile or two.

“Well good morning, everyone. I had to come and make your new teacher welcome,” the woman said. She was a person in her late forties and carried a large basket. “I am Fiona Gracie, married to the blacksmith.” She held out a hand to Priscilla, who introduced herself.

“Thank you,Mrs. Gracie. I am sure that Miss North would like to get on with her reading work.” Isobel’s voice was sharp and dismissive.

“I am sure she will wait until I leave a few little treats for the children. You won’t mind that, will you, Miss North?” Priscilla started to reply when Isobel told the woman that they were busy and treats could wait until midday. “But my dear, these are warm and newly baked.”  Fiona Gracie took the cloth from her basket and started to hand out little pastry tarts with sticky conserve in them. The pupils lost no time in stuffing the gifts into their mouths and giggling as they did it. Isobel was furious and Priscilla saw the storm coming as the blacksmith’s wife continued to hand out sticky treats.

The outgoing schoolmarm slammed the book she was holding onto her desk and put her hands on her hips. 

“Please leave, Mrs. Gracie. “You have made all of the children sticky and messed up the books. Get out of here now and leave us in peace.”

“Thank you,Mrs. Gracie,” one boy piped up and there was a chorus of other thank you voices. 

“We are not thanking you for ruining the lesson. What an introduction to the new teacher. Please go away.”

Priscilla knew that she had to stop this farce from continuing.

“I think,” she said in a loud and determined voice, “that we should all clean our fingers.” She turned to Mrs. Gracie. “Have a seat, Mrs. Gracie and I will try one of these myself.” She took a moment to look around. “You.” She pointed at a sensible looking girl. “Start by washing your hands and the rest will follow one by one.” The girl did as she was asked. Priscilla pointed to the next and the next until everyone was back at the tables they used as desks. Mrs. Gracie watched this and offered a treat to Priscilla who ate it and said it was delicious.

“Try one, Miss Paul,” she said. “Then I am sure, Mrs. Gracie will let us resume lessons.”

“Try one? I most certainly will not. If you want to have chaos in the room, that is your choice. I am leaving. I only stayed to help, but this woman has made my last day as bad as the others.” The out-going teacher picked up a big knapsack with her things and without another word, walked out and slammed the door.

There was a stunned silence and the ginger girl called Janey giggled. Then another one joined her and Mrs. Gracie burst out laughing. Priscilla was completely taken aback and then could not help the overpowering desire to laugh as well. The whole school plus the peculiar visitor was laughing until they cried.

“Thank you, Miss North,” Fiona Gracie said when the giggles subsided. “I didn’t mean to cause such chaos but I could not resist one last visit.”

“They were lovely pastries,” one child told her.

“And if you tell me when you are coming, we will always accept the gifts,” Priscilla said. She turned to the class and found the one she had thought was a good reader. “Before Mrs. Gracie goes away, will you read her some of that story please?”

The girl picked up the book and read beautifully as the whole class listened and Mrs. Gracie dabbed at her eyes.

“That was lovely, Carrie. I enjoyed it so much. Thank you, Miss North.” She picked up her basket and left the room. Then Priscilla turned to the class. She put her hands on her hips.

“Now, without any giggling, tell me how often that happens.” Isobel had drilled a routine into them because as each one waited to speak, they lifted a hand in the air and told her about the way the classes had been interrupted two or three times a week.

“Well,” Priscilla said. “If we are nice to Mrs. Gracie, maybe she can bring her treats and maybe help us a little. What do you think?”

They were hesitant but did tell her what she needed to know. Priscilla breathed a sigh of relief.

“Right, we have to do some work here. Carrie, can you give everyone a sheet of paper on which to write, please?” When everyone had a pencil and paper,Priscilla asked them to write about their family and where they lived. “That does three things. I get to know who you are, you practice writing, and we are working at the same time. Then we will have our lunch break.”

There were one or two questions about what to write and she pointed them in the right direction, then sat and watched the pupils work and thought about her new situation.

I did actually like Mrs. Gracie.


“Untangling the Knot of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Cilla North has finally fulfilled her dream of teaching after moving to a small and quiet town. On top of that, the kind and handsome carpenter next door is eagerly trying to catch her interest, fluttering her heart. Yet, her peaceful life is violently disrupted, when numerous posters of a wanted robber evoke overwhelming memories she struggles to forget. In a dark twist of events, she realizes that the notorious man is the spitting image of her charming neighbor…

How will she ever be sure that the sweet man she feels so safe with, will never pose a threat?

Being a carpenter in a town founded by his uncle, provides John Loveworthy with the only sense of accomplishment he believes he needs. When the new schoolteacher arrives though, he feels an instant spark that turns his world upside down. In an unexpected twist of fate, bitter feelings and thoughts will prevail as he discovers what Cilla carefully hides from him…

With his trust broken, how will he overcome his hurt feelings and listen to his heart?

Cilla and John will come inevitably closer, as they strive to bring the right man to justice and set the innocent one free. Having the whole world against them, will their love survive despite the gloomy prospects of their future?

“Untangling the Knot of Love” 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!

2 thoughts on “Untangling the Knot of Love (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 reading them 🙂

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