“Ouch,” Abbie hissed as her fingers brushed against the burning pan. It was hard to cook things in the oven and avoid being burned. Sometimes, she wondered why baking was such an enjoyable hobby. Besides the fact people loved her cooking, it was nice to have something she was good at.
“How are those biscuits coming?” her mother asked, walking through the busy kitchen with a stack of clean linens piled high over her head. Abbie’s mother was always busy. She was the type of woman to hustle to and fro all day long and never tire. Abbie was often astonished by how much her mother accomplished. She refused to hire more people because why hire people for what she could do herself?
“They’re almost done. Do you want to try one?” Had her mother eaten breakfast? Abbie wasn’t sure. Sometimes her mother was so busy with everything that needed to be done, that her needs, including eating, were quickly forgotten.
“I have to leave these up in the rooms and then will be back for breakfast. Thank you, dear.” Her mother’s skirts swished as she bustled off, leaving Abbie to finish removing the biscuit sheets from the oven.
Abbie usually handled breakfast on her own. Kenneth always came to handle lunch and dinner. He was a good cook and helped take care of the extra duties so Abbie could do the other things she was responsible for. Running a hotel in the west was no easy task. There were days she felt she couldn’t stand on her feet for another minute. The seconds seemed to stretch into hours, and she would feel barely alive by the time she dropped into her bed at the end of the night.
Today was going to be one of those days. She could already feel it in her bones. She pulled a couple of hot biscuits from the pans, placed them on a plate, and scooped up some eggs and baked beans with them. Her parents loved a big breakfast whenever they finally found the time to sit down and eat one.
She’d just finished setting out the three plates when her parents came into the kitchen simultaneously. Her mother through the hotel entrance, and her father through the back door into the kitchen.
“Something smells delicious. Let’s have something to eat before our guests start coming down for breakfast.” Abbie’s father rubbed his hands together as he sat at the table. He wore a huge grin, which warmed Abbie’s stomach to the core. Her father was not always in a great mood, but when he was, it spread to those around him. Her parents were hard workers, the hardest working people she knew. They were always doing something, and usually, it was something to improve their lives, the hotel, or the town.
People in town loved her parents. Many couples would come by the hotel to eat, but so many others passed by for advice or to say hello. It was very probable that her parents’ charismatic personalities were a big contributor to how fast their hotel had grown and how it continued to thrive.
They’d been there in Fairmont, Colorado, for almost ten years, and during that time her father had built three additions to the hotel building. Abbie predicted it would only grow in size in the coming years.
She sat across from her parents and bowed her head as her father said grace. When he finished, they all dug in together.
“I’ve been thinking we might need a bit more help around here. I feel like I’m always busy with repairs and the little things. Bringing another man around the place to help with those sorts of tasks might be useful. Don’t you think, Marge?”
“What?” Abbie’s mother’s eyes widened. “You’re finally willing to bring someone else in to help, Connor? Three rooms upstairs need some work. Room number four has a broken bed, and the window always needs to have something propped against it in a storm.”
“Yes, I am finally willing to bring someone in to help. What about you? Have you considered hiring someone besides Jenny?”
Abbie’s mother pressed her lips in a thin line. Jenny was Abbie’s best friend. They’d known each other for a few years, but their friendship really took off when Abbie’s parents hired Jenny to help around the place. Sometimes it was all that she and Jenny could do to keep up with everything, but Abbie’s mother still insisted they needed no one else.
“No, I believe we’re handling things just fine. Have there been any complaints?”
Just from me and Pa. Abbie smiled at the thought. She didn’t mean to complain about her mother’s administration. Just sometimes it seemed a bit overwhelming to take care of all the duties around the hotel without enough help.
The little bell at the front of the hotel rang. Then the sound of footsteps on the stairs from the upper rooms made all three shovel the rest of their food into their mouths.
“Time to get to work. I’ll keep you updated if I find anyone,” Abbie’s father grumbled as he hurried away from the table and back to the outdoors. Abbie giggled. Sometimes others looking in might think her parents were grumpy with one another, but she saw it as affection. They’d been married so long that sometimes it was almost as if they were one person instead of two.
Abbie gathered up the used plates and dumped them into the wash basin on the counter before hurrying into the dining area. Two tables already had people sitting at them. The sun cast beautiful, glittery patches of light over the clean, wooden floors. If she weren’t so busy she would enjoy sitting down and just looking at the bright patterns on the floor.
Abbie went to the first table. A young couple stared into one another’s eyes as if the rest of the world didn’t exist. Abbie stood at the side of their table for a second, watching how they acted. What would it be like to be so in love that no one else was important at the moment?
“Good morning. What can I get for you two this morning?”
The pair turned to her reluctantly, as if they hated to leave their own little world behind to engage with hers.
“We’ll take whatever special you have for breakfast and some tea, please.” The young man barely looked at her before turning back to the woman across from him. Judging from the simple band around her finger and the glow in her cheeks, Abbie would guess the couple was recently married. All sorts of people traveled through Fairmont, Texas. One thing that Abbie had learned from working at the hotel was the variety of people in the world.
She nodded, making a mental note, then went to the next table. She heard the sound of the back door opening in the kitchen. Jenny was probably there, and Abbie was relieved because two more tables had filled up, and she knew there were still more guests upstairs who would be down later.
At the second table was an old man, who spoke with grunts and few words. By the time Abbie returned to the kitchen, Jenny was washing the dishes from breakfast. Her friend’s face lit up with a kind smile.
“Good morning. I’m sorry I am a bit late. Have I missed much?”
“Nope, just the normal. A couple out there look like they’re from one of those stories you’re always loaning me.” Abbie shook her head. Jenny’s older brother traveled on the train a lot, and when he did, he managed to gather stories from magazines and sometimes even books. A lot of them were love stories about couples falling head over heels in love. It was something Jenny and Abbie loved to do, read stories and imagine they were a part of that world.
“Really? Let me see.” Jenny rushed over to the little area of the counter where they could look out at the dining area without anyone seeing them. Her brown, curly hair bounced as she went, perfectly framing her face. Her hair was so different from Abbie’s, which was limp and uninteresting.
Jenny rested her chin in her hands as she watched the couple. She stayed like that for almost three minutes before turning back to Abbie.
“You’re right. They definitely look like a couple from those stories. Do you think that will be us one day?”
“I don’t know.” Abbie pushed down the sadness that came with her words. There was a time when she thought that was possible, but then she’d lost Carrie, her sister, and the person she’d been closest to in the world. As if that wasn’t enough loss for her, the young man she thought she loved abandoned her too. She wasn’t so sure that love was in her future anymore. How could she allow herself to find someone and be so happy when Carrie could not? The usual guilt that came whenever she thought of her sister twisted in her stomach. She hadn’t talked about those things with Jenny.
Her best friend understood so much about her, but she wasn’t sure she could understand those feelings. Jenny had seven brothers and sisters. Her family was boisterous and filled with laughter and friendship. She didn’t want to make her friend feel bad about the cards she’d been dealt in life, but she couldn’t exactly feel the sadness of losing the sibling she was close to.
“Would it be so bad not to get married and just be by ourselves? I mean … we could always work here at the hotel and be best friends forever.” Abbie laughed like it was a joke, but sometimes she thought it wasn’t such a bad option.
Jenny shook her head and laughed. “I know you think you’ll never find the man who will spark something special in your life, but I know you will. It’s just going to take time.”
Abbie nodded but wasn’t convinced. She’d already met the man who made her heart beat wildly in her chest. She’d fallen in love, she’d wanted to be a part of his life, and he’d walked away without even saying goodbye. She wasn’t sure if she felt as devastated as she had that day, or maybe some of her sadness was now replaced by anger and the feeling that she deserved it.
“Well, I know I’m going to fall in love. He’s going to be tall, rich, and handsome, and he’s going to sweep me off my feet.” Jenny’s eyes turned dreamy. “Then we’ll live on the biggest ranch you’ve ever seen in a house three stories tall, like those buildings people talk about being in the city.”
“Why would you need all that?” Abbie laughed despite herself. She didn’t care about big houses, ranches, money, or even a handsome, tall man. She just wanted a man who would understand her, love her for who she was, and be there for her. Not that she was thinking about those things anymore, anyway. Carrie used to talk like Jenny, and everyone around her believed she would find such a man.
Carrie was the perfect definition of pretty. She’d had a face that would keep anyone looking for hours, always seeing what she was doing, paying attention to her. Compliments were frequent for her. Everyone would praise both Carrie and their parents for what a lovely child they had.
Abbie never felt excluded. She agreed with those compliments, and hated the attention being on herself, so she was glad that her sister received so many nice remarks. She felt plain in comparison to her sister, but she didn’t mind.
She turned back to Jenny, who was busy explaining why she needed a large farm, so much room, and everything else. Abbie shook her head. Perhaps it was because Jenny grew up surrounded by such a big family; she felt she needed more when she moved away.
Abbie finished dishing up all the plates for the customers she’d already attended to and handed one to Jenny.
“Help me get these out there and take care of the new orders.”
“Sure. I’ll finish telling you how I want the inside of my house later.”
Abbie giggled. “Okay,” she agreed. Working with Jenny made the long day in the hotel pass by quickly. Sometimes, it felt more like she was making money just by visiting all day.
They hurried to the dining area and took the food to their respective tables. Maybe today was looking up a little after all.
Leon stopped his horse at the entrance of town. It had been so long since he’d been in Fairmont that it felt like a different lifetime. Of course, it hadn’t been that long. Years had passed by so quickly as he faced constant issues, the biggest of those being providing for himself and his little brother. Those times were in the past, and now he felt like he was back to pick up all the pieces.
He thought he’d never come back to Fairmont. The four years he’d lived here with his adoptive parents were some of the best in his life. Those were the memories he held dear to his heart when it felt like he had an actual family and future. It was strange how fast all of that had been destroyed. He would never know why God decided to give him everything and then take it away. It made him think of Job in the Bible. Perhaps there was still time to receive everything once again.
He didn’t know how long he’d be in town. He needed to figure out what happened to Abbie Hurst. When he’d seen her last, she was young and so full of potential for a happy future. Undoubtedly someone had fallen in love with her, married her and they were now raising five young children and running an upscale ranch.
The thought made his stomach turn a bit. If he’d been a different person, known what he did now, maybe he never would have left town or Abbie.
He still regretted the way it happened, the decision he’d made to walk away. He’d thought he was doing it for the best at the time, but he’d second-guessed that decision every single day since.
He couldn’t stop thinking about Abbie, or whether she’d gone on with her life. He felt a certain responsibility to come back to Fairmont and find out what happened to her. Was she all right? How had her family gotten on since he left?
Leon pulled his horse to stop in front of the mercantile. He used to enjoy the mercantile as a lad. All kinds of people came to the store, and he would often spend time with his friends looking at the wares the store carried.
He made his way to the front of the store. Even though it had been four years since he’d been in town, he still recognized Mr. Lethem as if it had been yesterday.
Mr. Lethem’s eyes widened as he spotted Leon.
“Why, if it isn’t Leon Westley. How long has it been since you’ve stepped foot in my store?”
Leon chuckled. It was good to be greeted by Mr. Lethem. The man had always been kind and welcoming to both him and his little brother.
“Nearly four years. It sure has been a while.”
“You’re right, it has. I didn’t know if I’d ever see you or your family ever again. After what happened with your father …”
“Yes. I was wondering myself if I’d ever be back.” Leon swallowed hard. Maybe Marcos hadn’t been his biological father, but he’d filled the shoes of a father like no one else ever had for him. He’d taught Leon how to hunt, how to do a man’s work, and the values of a Christian husband and father. Leon would always view him as a father as much as anyone ever had been.
“Have you visited the Hursts yet? You used to be close to them, didn’t you?” Mr. Lethem leaned against the counter, an inquisitive look on his face. He was undoubtedly curious about what happened to Leon over the years, and Leon couldn’t blame him.
“I haven’t. They are my next stop. Are they still here in town? How are they?”
Mr. Lethem nodded. “They’re doing all right. They’re still running the hotel together. Their daughter never married.”
“Abbie?” Leon couldn’t keep himself from showing interest. Of course, he wanted to know what happened to her, how she’d been since he left. The only way to really find out was by talking to her, but maybe speaking with Mr. Lethem would give him a bit of an idea beforehand.
“Yes, Abbie. She was never the same after her sister passed away. She keeps to herself for the most part. I always see her helping her parents around the hotel. She’s a good daughter, but I think her parents would have liked her to settle down. It’s not that there’s a lack of interest, though. You wouldn’t be the first young man to ask me about her. Somehow everyone assumes that since I run the mercantile and see people from time to time, I am a better place for information than even the saloon.”
Leon shrugged. He knew that Mr. Lethem was aware of everything going on in the town. He knew when to disappear into the background and listen to what was going on around him, and he knew when to pay attention and ask the right questions.
“So, she really never married?”
“You’re interested, aren’t you?”
“No.” Leon didn’t expect to be forgiven by Abbie. “I just want to make sure she is all right.” That was the truth. She deserved to be happy after everything she went through. If he were being very honest, the truth was he wanted to make sure he wasn’t to blame for her being unhappy. It was more of a selfish reason to be here. He was tired of always wondering, always thinking, and telling himself leaving was for the best. What if it hadn’t been?
“Well, I would suggest you go over there and say hello. You’ll find everyone at the hotel. I’m sure they’d be happy to see you. Mr. and Mrs. Hurst have only ever said good things about you and your family.”
Leon nodded. It was good to know that was the case. It was certainly strange. He expected her parents to dislike him for hurting their daughter by leaving without saying goodbye. Maybe she’d never told them. Why wouldn’t she have told them that?
Leon quickly gathered the things he needed to buy and purchased them. He’d waited too long to go and see the Hursts. Time was precious, and he was not going to stay in this town forever. It was time to put his questions to rest with some answers.
The town hadn’t changed a lot in the years after he had left. Things were a bit more weathered now, covered with more dust, and required maintenance. He wondered if anyone in this town besides Abbie had even noticed he’d gone.
Life went on without people. He’d realized that too in the past few years. When he lost his father, it was devastating. It felt like his world was coming to an end, but so many others didn’t consider it in the slightest. If they noticed at all, it was only to give some platitudes and then move on from the tragedy. It was almost as if his father had never existed for them. Had the same thing happened to him when he left town?
He was surprised to see stables before the hotel. They were built against the side of the road, only a short distance from the hotel building he’d known so well before.
That was new at least. A young man was sitting on one of the stall doors, his boots hanging lazily on his feet as they thumped against the wooden door. The young man looked up and grinned.
“Hey there, can I help you?” he asked.
“I’m heading to the hotel.” Leon slowed down for a moment. He might need somewhere in town to board his horse if he ended up staying for a while. “What are your rates for horse boarding?” he asked.
“They’re reasonable. What do you want with the hotel?”
Leon shrugged. He didn’t know this other young man who seemed somewhat suspicious. “Just catching up. Do you accept horses for long periods?”
“Yes, we do. I’m Adam, by the way.”
Leon set his jaw. He didn’t have time to befriend Adam or anyone else. He wasn’t even sure if he would be staying in town for long.
“My name is Leon. I’m sort of new in town.”
“Well, it’s good to meet you. Pass by some time and we’ll discuss the cost of boarding your horse.”
“Thanks.” Leon didn’t intend to be rude, but he felt annoyed. Why couldn’t Adam just tell him the price? Leon shook his head and continued to the hotel. It looked so familiar. It looked bigger as if there had been a few rooms added on to one side. He remembered how they’d done remolding when he was there several years ago. As a child, he and Abbie had walked through the part of the hotel under construction and used it as their own little house in their games.
He’d enjoyed his days so much back then. He hadn’t cared that his best friend was a girl or that he loved spending time with her more than anyone else. Back then, he never thought any of it would change. He thought he’d be there forever.
If anyone had told him he was going to walk away from Abbie and Fairmont without even saying goodbye, he would have told them they’d lost their mind.
He stopped in front of the hotel and tied his horse to the hitching post. He paused a moment before going up the steps and adjusting his jacket. Why was he so nervous?
The dining area was buzzing with activity. It would be lunchtime soon, and it seemed that plenty of people were ready and waiting for a hot meal. Some people were enjoying tea and others were coming for a room, standing toward the front of the hotel by the counter, waiting patiently.
Leon gave himself a moment to take everything in, noticing the walls were decorated carefully. Everything was perfectly clean as if it had been scrubbed more than once. Then there was Abbie.
He spotted her almost immediately. She was toward the back of the dining area, taking care of a small family eating their meal and talking with them, laughing while she tucked her hair behind her ear. Her hair was brought up into a bun at the back of her head, but a few strands had managed to work themselves free.
Her smile didn’t quite reach her eyes, not in the way that it had back when he’d known her. She looked different, older, sadder maybe, but more beautiful. She’d changed. When he’d last seen her, she was sixteen, barely older than a child.
He turned and walked to the counter. Mr. Hurst’s eyes lit up when they landed on him.
“Now, there’s a familiar face I know.” Mr. Hurst grinned. “What are you doing in town, Leon? How is your family, your brother, and Carrie?”
Leon loosened up a bit. It seemed that Abbie hadn’t told her parents how they’d parted ways, or he was doubtful they would welcome him with such open arms.
“Carrie passed away almost three years ago now.” Leon’s heart ached as he thought of it. He’d considered Carrie his mother, and she had been there for him for most of his life. Losing her was like losing a part of himself.
“I’m so sorry.” Mr. Hurst shook his head. “She was a good woman, and everyone in this town loved her. What brings you back to town?” Mr. Hurst called his wife over by waving when she walked by. She came over and her reaction equaled Mr. Hurst’s.
“Leon! It’s good to see you.” She pulled him in for a hug, surprising him. He was not used to being hugged by anyone, especially someone who was almost a stranger. Well, at some point Abbie’s parents had been like second parents to him, but things changed, and the years had separated them.
“I’m just looking to start over. I know that I haven’t been here in four years, but it feels like home. I figured I’d come back and try my hand at life now that I’m on my own.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hurst exchanged glances. They started talking about all the changes in town, and how much he’d missed when Leon noticed Abbie leaving through the front door with another young woman.
Abbie hadn’t seen him or noticed him. He wished she had. Would she have smiled? Would she be happy or angry to see him back?
“Do you have a job yet or a place to stay?” Mr. Hurst’s questions brought him back to the current moment.
“Do you have any solid plans now that you’re back?” Mrs. Hurst asked the question again.
“I’m afraid I don’t. I didn’t think this through a lot. I just came. I’m going to try and find a job and settle down for at least a couple of months.” Leon shrugged. “Do you have any recommendations? I’m not picky, just need something to work hard at.”
“Why don’t you work here? It’s perfect. I’ve been looking for someone to help around the place and my wife is constantly complaining about all the things I haven’t been able to get done. Do you think you’d be interested? We even have a small place out back. Do you remember? You could stay there. It’s big enough for one person.”
“You’re offering me a job?” Leon was even more than surprised by their generosity. He’d been away for four years, and here they were treating him like family.
“Yes, of course. We always appreciated what a good friend you were to Abbie. Besides, Carrie was a good woman. She was more than a friend, and we’d be more than happy to help you for her sake too.”
Leon’s heart ached when they mentioned Abbie. It was looking more and more like she’d hidden the way they’d said goodbye to one another back when he’d left town.
He wished he could go back and change things now that he knew how it would all end, but there were no do-overs in life, unfortunately.
“I … what would be entailed in the job? I don’t have a lot of experience working in a hotel.”
“Don’t worry, just handyman stuff. Do you know how to fix basic things?” Mr. Hurst watched him carefully as if he were amazed he’d grown up. He’d been eighteen the last time they’d seen one another, and Leon didn’t feel like he’d changed so much on the outside, but he felt like a different person on the inside.
“Of course. I mean, I know a little of everything, and what I don’t know, I’m willing to learn.”
“All right then. You can get started first thing tomorrow. I’ve had to do more and more out and about in town. I have an idea to start another hotel, or maybe another business. You may need to accompany Abbie with some of the buying around town, and other small errands. Besides that, we’ll work it out as we go. My wife will set you up in the little house out back, though it most likely needs some cleaning.”
“Of course and thank you.” Leon was overwhelmed with gratefulness. Carrie always used to say to treat everyone like family because you never knew when you would need a family’s help when falling on hard times. Leon was seeing just how true that was. Carrie was loved by everyone in this town when they’d lived there. She’d won over hearts as quickly as some made enemies. She always had a listening ear, a cup of tea, and a scone for anyone who visited her.
A wave of homesickness went through him. He wished she was still there. He always thought that when he’d been given a second chance to have parents, it meant he would have them forever. He’d been so wrong. He’d had them for a short time, and then they’d passed earlier than so many around them. He wished they could have stayed longer. He really could have used their guidance these past few years. Hannah and Marcos always knew what direction to steer him in. They were natural parents, and their faith in God made them a force to be reckoned with.
His thoughts turned to Abbie. Leon hoped Abbie could find it in her heart to at least accept him being there. Chances were, she might already have someone special in her life, even if she wasn’t married yet. He didn’t expect her to be friends with him again, or even forgive him, but seeing into her life, seeing she was all right, that would be enough. Then if she wanted him gone, he’d leave and never look back.
It was strange to be back in the place where he’d last had everything. When he was in this town, he had a brother, parents, and the girl of his dreams as his best friend.
How he’d lost all that and so much more was a sad tale. Maybe there was no coming back from that, but he had to try.
“A Love Reborn in the Wild West” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Abbie Hurst has been through losses that made her stronger, but the wounds in her soul were further exacerbated by the sudden disappearance of Leon, the man she had loved intensely. She had given up on ever seeing him again until destiny intervened. When Leon returns to town and begins working at her family’s restaurant, Abbie’s heart races with a mix of excitement and trepidation.
Will the struggle to keep her emotions in check reward her in the end?
Leon Westley knew that leaving his hometown of Fairmont, was the only way to move forward from a threatening past although he would hurt the woman he loved, Abbie. Even after being apart for years, Leon still has strong feelings for her, and despite his concerns, he’s determined to win her back. As he finally manages to approach her heart, a figure long forgotten comes back to tear them apart once and for all…
Will he even risk his own life in order to keep Abbie safe?
With their love on the line, Abbie and Leon must decide whether to take a chance on each other or walk away for good. As they face their greatest challenges yet, one question remains, will they emerge stronger together, or will their love be lost forever?
“A Love Reborn in the Wild West” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.