Peggy Andrews looked out the window at her parents, who were loading the wagon, before turning back and sweeping her eyes around the empty room. There were only a few boxes left to take out, and they were parked at the front door, waiting for her father, John, to get them. They’d left the heaviest for last.
The year was 1866, and the Andrews family was about to embark on a wagon train, braving the elements, journeying to a new place to call home. Peggy was the only child of her parents, John and Betty. Her mother was often sick, another reason prompting their move from Maple, Ohio, to Newborn, Texas. Her pa had heard of a wagon train heading that way and was interested in joining them.
In her nineteen years, she’d never been outside of Ohio. They’d done a bit of traveling around the state when she was younger before settling on a farm just outside Maple. She liked her home and had friends in Maple but was ready to leave the state of her childhood. She longed for adventure, to see new things, meet new people, possibly find love. That certainly didn’t seem to be present in Ohio. If she were honest, she’d almost given up hope of finding love and having her own family until her father proposed they join the wagon train to Texas.
Texas seemed like another planet to Peggy. It might as well have been on the other side of the world. She was excited and happy to go, agreeing to the plan so quickly it made her parents laugh.
Peggy enjoyed her close relationship with her ma and pa. They’d wanted more children, they’d told her over the years, but her mother’s ill health wouldn’t cooperate, so they felt blessed with their one daughter, their “miracle baby.” Peggy enjoyed all the love, support, and encouragement her parents could give her, and in return, she tried to be the best daughter she could be.
Heading for the front door after peeking around the house for any hidden items, Peggy prepared herself to leave the house for the last time. She felt like she’d grown up there, even though she was ten when they moved into the farmhouse. The family that had bought it from her father had all their own furnishings, so everything they couldn’t take with them in the wagon had to be auctioned off. She’d lost some of the things she’d had since she was very small. Her father told her it was important to take only what was absolutely necessary, like bacon, lard, and salt. Everything else would be bought once they reached their destination.
The one thing that was coming with her, though, was her “sketch trunk.” It was Peggy’s personal property, hers and hers alone. She had filled it with all the sketches and drawings she’d made that she deemed good enough to keep and possibly show to others. She also had drawings from when she was very small and just starting out. They weren’t good, but they were hers, and she wasn’t getting rid of them.
The trunk was knee high to her, made of dark brown wood with the same color of leather running as two straps around the outside attached with big iron bolts. The two leather straps ended in strong iron latches that kept it safely closed.
Peggy used the trunk for a seat in the back of the wagon, and that’s where she was headed. A large thick blanket had been placed on top so she wouldn’t have a sore bottom after a half hour of riding.
She stopped at the door, stepped around the boxes waiting for her father, and looked over the porch to where her parents were. They weren’t loading up the wagon at that moment. They were standing in front of it, talking. Peggy watched them, a wash of love filling her heart. Her father, the red in his blond hair flashing in the sun, the sound of his laughter ringing through the air. He had such a big smile, one that Peggy adored. His love for her mother was obvious in everything he did. She found him to be a great inspiration for her. She wanted to find a man who would look at her the way her father looked at her mother.
Her ma was laughing, too, throwing back her head so her blonde hair glinted. Her blue eyes were closed, and the happiness on her face made her look radiant to Peggy. Her mother didn’t often look that way. She was typically pale, too thin, sometimes in pain from mere movement. But she always looked happy when she was around her husband.
Pa had that effect on her, Peggy thought. She’d told Peggy only the week before that even if she didn’t want to join the wagon train, she would have because her “beau” wanted to go. When Peggy questioned how her father could still be her mother’s “beau,” the woman just laughed pleasantly. She still felt that spark of attraction whenever she looked at him, she told Peggy.
That’s what Peggy wanted. That’s what she was praying for.
Maybe she would find the man to fulfill her dreams in Texas. Just maybe.
She stepped out onto the porch and crossed, glancing up at the sky when she went down the steps. It was a clear day, but she’d heard rumors that a terrible storm was headed their way. Just more motivation to get on the road, she thought.
“There’s our girl,” her mother said as if she hadn’t seen her daughter in ages. She smiled wide. “Is there anything left in the house?”
“No, not a thing,” Peggy replied affectionately. “I thought I’d jump in the back and get my sketching things out and make a quick drawing of the house, the last one, so I never forget what it looks like.”
“That sounds lovely, dear,” her pa remarked, turning away from his wife to head back to the house. “I’ll get the last of the boxes, and we’ll head for town. The wagons are already there, stopping for supplies and such. We’ll be joining in the middle because I know some of the men, and that’s where their wagons are positioned.”
He continued to mumble to himself about his plans as he went to the porch to retrieve the remaining boxes. Peggy watched him, proud that she could go on this new adventure with her wonderful parents.
Peggy swung her legs under the wagon, sitting on the tailgate and watching her pa check the horses that would follow the wagon. They owned three, and her parents didn’t want to part with any of the animals, so they were coming along. He lifted their legs and peered closely at each shoe, looking for anything that might irritate or hurt the horse on the long journey ahead.
He seemed satisfied and circled the last of the horses to return to the wagon, which six oxen were pulling.
Their eyes met, and smiles came to both their lips.
“I bet you’re ready to go, aren’t you?” he said in a happy voice. She liked seeing him that way. Her mother came up from beside the wagon to join the conversation. The two met in a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. Peggy enjoyed seeing the love her parents shared for each other.
“I know I’m ready,” she said, turning her smile to Peggy, who nodded.
“Me, too, Ma,” she responded. She glanced at her father to ask, “When will we leave to join them?”
Her pa pulled back from his wife and looked at her lovingly. “How are you feeling now that we’ve put everything up? Do you need a rest before we leave?”
Peggy watched as her mother laughed and patted him on the cheek. “Don’t be silly, John. I’m ready to go. Where would I rest? I know how anxious you and our daughter are to get on the road.”
Peggy couldn’t help sharing her father’s concern about her mother’s health. She’d had a weak constitution even before she gave birth to Peggy, and it hadn’t improved after. They’d said they’d wanted to give her a brother or sister, but it just wasn’t in God’s plan for them. They insisted they were grateful God had blessed them with their one miracle, a ploy to make sure Peggy never felt guilty or upset about the situation.
“We want to make sure you are happy, too, my love,” Peggy’s father said. He brushed some of her mother’s blonde hair back from her forehead. “You know that, don’t you?”
Peggy smiled when her mother said, “I do. And I’m feeling just fine, so you stop fussing, and let’s go meet your friends.”
Her father lifted his finger, grinning. “One friend, Dan, and his daughter, who you know is our daughter’s best friend.”
Peggy was looking forward to seeing Tiana. They would be going on the journey together. Tiana’s father was Peggy’s father’s best friend. Despite having five children, Dan decided to go along with the Andrews to Texas to seek a new life. Tiana was excited, and her four young brothers, two sets of twins ages ten and twelve, were about to come out of their skin. They were generally excitable, happy boys, so they saw this trip as their ultimate adventure.
“All right, get on in, now, girl.” Her father released her mother and approached the back of the wagon. Peggy giggled, scrambling to gather her notepad, pencils, and charcoal, which she tossed behind her into the wagon. She turned over on her knees and crawled into the bed while her father slammed the tailgate closed. He had to slam it. The covered wagon was old, its canvas patched repeatedly, sometimes in the same places. The wheels were cracked, but her father was certain they would make it. It had cost a pretty penny to join the wagon train, and they hadn’t been able to afford a new wagon for an additional hundred dollars.
Peggy tried not to be concerned about the state of their old wagon. The oxen were strong and would pull it the entire way with ease. As long as the thing stayed together.
They would be with other people. They weren’t traveling alone. If they had been, she would have been more nervous. Help would not have been quick to come.
But in a wagon train, many other wagons and strong men with tools and supplies were willing to help.
Peggy patiently waited for her father to finish up what he needed to do before climbing up in the wagon next to his wife so he could lead the oxen team to town. Everyone was waiting there. Well, they weren’t waiting, she reminded herself. If they weren’t there when the group decided to leave, they might be left behind. But that wouldn’t happen, Peggy thought. Dan and Tiana knew the family had packed up and were headed to join everyone else. They would be watching for them.
Peggy’s heart shook with excitement as her father slapped the reins and called for the oxen to move. He’d trained them to respond to “git.”
The wagon jerked to a start, and Peggy felt a rush of adrenaline slide through her from head to toe, causing an eruption of tingles all over. Her mother had told her they wouldn’t be riding the whole time and would have to walk much of the way to spare the animals the burden of extra weight. They’d loaded 1700 pounds of goods in the wagon and had not one but two barrels attached to the sides of the wagon filled to the brim with water. They could also ride their horses, but Peggy didn’t want to be a burden on them either.
She could barely contain herself as she crawled to the front of the wagon through the very narrow aisle the goods had made to look out over the seat between her parents. She wasn’t seeing anything new, but she wanted to talk to them while they rode.
“Do you think we’ll see any Indians on the way?” she asked curiously. Tiana was terrified they would be confronted and possibly killed by Indians. Peggy had a different view. She figured they were human, too; maybe they were nice. She’d heard stories of some that were nice. Not all of them were angry at the settlers. She liked to think they could all be friends if they just talked to each other instead of trying to kill each other all the time.
“I hope not,” her mother replied nervously, glancing at her father.
“I doubt we will.” Peggy didn’t think her father sounded very confident when he said that. “But if we do, we’ll have plenty of men around to protect us.”
“But maybe they wouldn’t be trying to attack us,” Peggy said, hope in her voice. “Maybe they would be looking for friendship. We can be nice to them, can’t we? If they’re nice to us.”
“Don’t look for good Indians, girl,” Peggy’s father said sternly. “Can’t trust ’em. If you can’t trust ’em, you don’t give ’em time to hurt you. Or kill you. You just be cautious.”
Peggy felt irritation slide through her. Maybe they weren’t savage. They’d been living in their tribes peacefully and were at least civilized enough to have families, leaders, medicine men … it wasn’t like they were animals.
She dropped the subject, wanting to continue the family’s good feelings when they left their farmhouse.
“Well, I’m just hoping for a safe trip and a quick one,” her mother added, her voice friendly again. “The sooner we’re in Newborn, the better, I say.”
“I agree with you, love.” Peggy’s father flashed a big smile at his wife, his green eyes filled with affection when he looked at her.
Peggy wanted a love like that. She prayed and hoped and wished the man that came into her life would look at her the way her father looked at her mother.
Peggy resumed her position on the back of the wagon as soon as they were parked near town. The wagon train was formed along the right side of the road all the way down the main street running through Maple. A narrow river wound through town, with an arched bridge built to get from one side to the other. It was a well-traveled bridge. Ropes to swing on had been installed by teenage boys in trees all along the side of the river. In some places, it was possible to swing from one side to the other just using a rope. But in other places, the rope was simply for pleasure, giving the kids a reason to splash and play in the water. These were memories she would never forget, she told herself, sweeping her eyes around her.
She swung her legs under the tailgate, her sketch pad in her lap. It was quite a chaotic scene as other people scrambled to make sure they had everything they needed for the long trip. They would be stopping in various towns along the way, but it was necessary to have everything they needed in case something happened as they traveled.
And anything could happen, really. Their journey wouldn’t exactly be a safe one. The weather significantly affected how successful they were in reaching their destination. Peggy tried not to think of all the things that could happen.
She knew Tiana must already be in town because she saw her mother with four boys running around her hurrying out of the supply shop, heading for a wagon three back. The boys were making circles around her, playing with the little black and white dog they had with them.
Peggy couldn’t help smiling, feeling warm inside. She sighed contentedly. She had a sense things were really going to change in her life now. She would have so many new opportunities. To draw, meet people, maybe even find a husband. There certainly wasn’t anyone for her here in Maple. She could only think of two boys close to her age, and neither showed any interest in her.
“Peggy!” Her name was called, and her heart did a little flip in her chest when she recognized the voice. She hopped off the back of the wagon to jog happily to Tiana. Her friend had been carrying a large cloth bag, and she dropped it right where she was, leaving it behind to meet Peggy in a warm hug.
“It’s been a whole day since I last saw you!” Tiana exclaimed as if it had been much longer than that. Both girls laughed as they pulled apart. “Aren’t you so excited? I’m excited. Papa says we will be the wagon right behind you; isn’t that wonderful? And more people will join in the next town, too.”
Peggy lifted her eyebrows, turning so the two could walk back to Peggy’s wagon. “Will we be stopping soon?” she asked.
Tiana nodded. “Papa says we’ll be stopping in Bridgeport tomorrow.”
Peggy swiftly glanced around the action, people coming and going in a hurry, carrying large bundles of items. “Then why is everyone panicking about getting everything they need from here?”
Tiana tilted her head toward Peggy, her dark brown eyes flashing with anticipation. “Because when the train got here, they’d traveled a long way and ran out of a lot of essential things. That’s what Papa says. He says a couple of people died because they didn’t have medicine to treat even minor everyday wounds.”
“I’m glad you’ll be coming along with us,” Peggy said affectionately, sliding her arm around Tiana’s and squeezing it. “I won’t feel so out of place when we get to our destination.”
“Do you know where we’re going? Where we’ll stop?” Tiana asked, lifting her eyebrows. She squeezed Peggy back before turning and lifting herself onto the tailgate, which had been left down when Peggy ran to her.
“Pa said Newborn, Texas.”
“How long will it take us to get there?” Tiana continued, turning her body to pick up Peggy’s sketchbook. Peggy felt a bit of trepidation when her friend began flipping through the pages, scanning her work. She didn’t say anything, though, and dwelled in nervous silence for a minute.
“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “Maybe six months. I don’t know.”
“That’s a long time to be on the road.” Tiana was mumbling, her eyes on the pages as she turned. Peggy watched her, wondering what she was thinking and wishing she didn’t have such a blank expression. It was impossible to tell what she thought of the drawings. “Peggy, you get better at this every time I see your drawings.”
Her words made Peggy’s heart swell, and her entire body heated up for a moment. She grinned wide.
“Thank you,” she said easily. “Pa says he wants to see if there are any classes I can take when we get to Texas. He says he’ll go scout out the perfect teacher for me.”
Tiana’s smile mirrored Peggy’s. “He has high aspirations for you, doesn’t he?” She lowered her voice deep pretending to be John Andrews. “No teaching position or clerk for my daughter. She’s going to be a famous artist.” Tiana thumped one fist gently on the sketchbook on her lap.
Both girls laughed.
“Yes,” Peggy replied through her laughter. “I suppose he does.”
“I think it’s wonderful that both your ma and pa want you to draw a lot. It sure gives you something to look forward to.”
“What about you?” Peggy asked, reaching over and grabbing Tiana’s hand. “You’re still looking for love?”
Tiana laughed softly, shaking her head. “I am going to marry a handsome, rich man who I hope loves me deeply and have beautiful babies to raise. I want to live in a big house like the one we’re going to, but I want it to be my home, not my pa’s, obviously.”
Peggy nodded, understanding. “Oh, yes, absolutely.” Tiana had always talked about marrying a wealthy man and having children. It wasn’t news to Peggy. She probably pictured it much grander than it would actually be. Perhaps with servants and all the bells and whistles that came with wealth.
“What are you looking forward to the most? The big city? More people? More things to do?”
Peggy thought about it a moment, her eyes wandering here and there. “Oh, I suppose. I don’t know what it will be like in a place with many people. This town has enough. I like living outside of town, and I hope the land Pa gets will be outside and not inside the town.”
“I’m happy Pa got a house in town,” Tiana replied. “I won’t be there for long, I’m sure. I’m going to find a husband right away!”
They both laughed again. Peggy knew why Tiana said that. Her friend had always been extremely outgoing, playing with the boys more than the girls at the schoolhouse, roughhousing with them. She was always able and willing to stand her ground with those boys and wouldn’t let them pick on her or Peggy.
Peggy had fond memories of her schooldays because of that.
She was also sure Tiana would be able to find a man quickly when they got to Newborn. It was a wonder she hadn’t already been picked up by one of the boys in town. Despite Tiana’s charm and dark, sultry good looks, they hadn’t given her a second glance. To Tiana’s detriment, Peggy believed she had become “one of the boys” during their schooldays, and the few they’d played with couldn’t see Tiana as a potential wife.
Now that there would be new men to meet, Peggy had no doubt Tiana would find a suitable husband in no time at all.
“When Love Lies Ahead” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
In an attempt to start a new life, Peggy and her parents join the wagon train to Texas, unaware of the dangers that await them. When their wagon breaks down, help arrives from Will, a charming man whose concern sparks unprecedented feelings in Peggy. However, things take a turn for the worse when Indians appear out of nowhere to take her hostage…
What happens when it’s all taken away in the blink of an eye?
As the son of the wagon master, Will is forced to take over the job despite his desire for a calmer life away from the risks of traveling. When he stumbles upon Peggy’s magnetic presence though he gets determined to protect her at all costs. As the perils of the wilderness become too much to bear, Will’s attempt to save her life, lead him down a dark, dangerous road with no one to turn to…
Will he manage to rescue the woman who owns his heart before it’s too late?
As Peggy and Will are forced to fight for their survival and freedom, a ray of hope comes in the most unexpected form. Fate brings another shocking twist as they witness their future together fading away… Will this dramatic interruption ruin Will and Peggy’s only chance for their happily ever after?
“When Love Lies Ahead” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.