Lullabies for a Lost Baby (Preview)

Chapter One

It was happening again. Right here, in the middle of Barrow’s General Store. Eliza Benedict could feel the heat of her embarrassment prickling her neck and crawling up towards her cheeks. It had been weeks, no, months, since her last… what did Miss Margaret call it again? Attack, yes. It might have seemed dramatic to call what Eliza was going through right now an attack, but to her, it was the most appropriate description. As she stood with her hand gripping the counter so tightly that her fingers were beginning to whiten, memories battered her mind.

It came in flashes:

The trees outside the parlour window, bent sideways in the wind as the rain came lashing down. 

The lightning striking one of the fence posts that contained the cattle and the wood splintering into the air with great ferocity.

Her father, Abner, grabbing his coat with one hand and the doorknob with the other while her mother clawed at his upper arm, begging him not to leave the house.

Her sister, Hattie ignoring Eliza’s pleas and following him out the door as their cows charged past in the torrential downpour.

She and her mother, Ophelia, clinging to each other on the front porch, screaming at Hattie and Abner to come back inside where it was safe.

The final assault began on Eliza’s conscience:

The flash. The crack of the enormous branch that hung over the pasture. The screams. Running behind her mother. Another flash. The terrified cattle coming towards them. Screaming for her family. The impact. Darkness. 

“Miss Eliza? I said, why do you have such a stormy look in your eyes? Are you all right, Miss?” Poor Jedidiah Barrow was trying to reach her, but it would still be a few seconds until Eliza returned to the world. The assault on her mind was just about to begin again when Miss Margaret’s soothing voice overcame it.

“Remember, little Lizzie, this is a memory. Memories can hurt us, but they can’t happen a second time. The past is the past. You carry it with you, but we must not let it become a burden. Tell me, what do you smell right now?”

Through her grief-induced haze, Eliza tried to will herself to focus on the aroma of the General Store. After a moment, she was able to detect something.


“Good girl. Now, what can you hear?”

Eliza closed her eyes. Ever so slowly, the thundering rain retreated, the screams quieted, and she could just barely hear—

The horses drinking at the trough outside the front door.

“Tell me, what do you taste?”

Fear was Eliza’s initial answer, but after a moment, she recognized the peppery taste of the dried meat that Mr. Barrow had gotten her to try just moments before.

“And feel?”

As though I never want to breathe again came the voice inside Eliza’s head, but she did not listen to it. Instead, she gently rubbed the palm of her hand against the many fine ruffles of her skirt.

Cotton. Cornflower blue cotton.

“Open your eyes, child. What do you see?”

As Eliza’s eyes fluttered open, she came back to reality and the first thing she saw was Mr. Barrow’s terrified face. 

“Miss Eliza,” Mr. Barrow said in a quiet voice, gently taking up her ghostly white hand in his two rough ones, “I know that look on your face.”

Eliza’s face grew redder. She couldn’t understand how Mr. Barrow could possibly know what was going on inside her mind, but the mere thought of anyone knowing what she was going through was simply mortifying.

“Mr. Barrow, I assure you that I am quite fine. I have a cut on my foot that caused me a little bit of pain is all.” There were many things that Eliza Benedict was good at in this world. Lying was not one of them. She knew immediately that Mr. Barrow had seen right through her as he smiled.

“There is no need to be ashamed, my girl, none at all. I’d know that look right about anywhere! You wait right here and I’ll go get the Mrs. She always knows what to do when you women get into your, well… your… timely condition.” 

Mr. Barrow patted her hand and began to walk away and Eliza wanted to melt into the floor. Her… timely condition?! She had never heard another soul, outside of Miss Margaret, of course, speak of a woman’s ‘condition’, especially not in a place as public as this.

“Mr. Barrow! No, please, I’m quite fine! I simply wish to pay for—”

But Mr. Barrow had already disappeared behind the curtain behind the counter, which led to his family’s home out the back of the shop. Eliza couldn’t stand the thought of Mrs. Barrow coming to assist her through her ‘condition’ (even though it was not the one she was in at this present moment), so she reached into the pocket in her skirt, produced what she thought was roughly the right amount for the supplies that she was buying and hurried out of the store. She failed to notice that in her rush, she had forgotten her embroidered handkerchief that she had left on the counter.

As she burst through the door and out into the warm May sunshine, she could feel the last remnants of her attack leaving her. She took in a deep breath and could smell the wonderful aroma of Mrs. Jenning’s cooking in the dining room at the Goldstone Inn next to the General store. She waved politely to a couple of townsfolk she knew and then hurried around the next corner to where her horse and small buggy were tied up. Virgil, her horse, gave her a disgruntled neigh as she approached. She stroked his silky brown neck as she walked up to him.

“There, there, now, no need to speak to me like that,” she muttered as she untied his reins. “I was only gone a few minutes longer than I said I would be. You’ve been in the shade this whole time anyhow!”

Virgil, seeming to understand exactly what Eliza was saying, whinnied softly and turned to face her. Eliza chuckled as she stroked his handsome snout, then took up the bottom of her skirt with her free hand so as to not get it any dustier than she already had. She lifted the hemline up so that she could see it more closely and sighed. It was nearly time for her to put in a new piece of reinforcing fabric along the hem, but she hoped that she could put it off for at least another week. There were many things that Eliza Benedict was good at in this world. Sewing was not one of them. 

As she adjusted her basket in her arm so that she could open the door to her buggy, Eliza could have sworn she heard rustling coming from inside. Fearing that an animal had snuck in, she peeked in the window but saw nothing. She gave the handle a good pull and the door creaked open at the same moment that a cry erupted from inside.

Eliza stumbled backwards in surprise. Whatever it was continued to cry, and Eliza was so surprised that it took her more than ten seconds to realize that she recognized the sound. It was the sound of a baby crying. 

She cautiously poked her head inside her buggy. Once her eyes adjusted, Eliza could see that there was a large basket sitting on her seat. It looked as though it was handmade and carefully crafted; the combination of twigs and grasses that had been woven together to create it did not look as though they had been aged by time. The top was covered with a delicate pink blanket, and Eliza could see a rounded thing moving beneath the blanket’s thin fibres. She carefully reached out towards it and drew the blanket back from the top. Slowly, a tiny, but very, very loud and red-faced baby was revealed to Eliza. 

She looked at the little thing in shock for quite some time. The poor thing was wriggling violently inside of its tight wrapping and it was wailing so loudly that blood vessels were starting to appear on the darling’s forehead. 

A baby? What in heaven’s name is a baby doing in my carriage?

But Eliza had little time to think before her motherly instincts kicked in. She took the tiny babe in her arms and began ever so gently bouncing the little thing. Gradually, the baby began to be soothed by the rhythm of Eliza’s movement and the crying became quieter and quieter, until the child stopped crying altogether.

“There we are. That must feel more comfortable, little angel, doesn’t it?” Eliza asked it as though it would respond to her. Instead, the baby opened its eyes and looked at her, and for the first time, Eliza took in the face that was gazing adoringly up at her.

The baby couldn’t have been more than a few weeks old. It… She, it appeared, had fine reddish hair, enormous blue eyes, coral lips, and dimples in both of her chubby cheeks. Eliza grinned girlishly down at the sweet little girl.

“Hello little darling!” She said as she gently tickled the girl’s nose. She scrunched up her face and gave Eliza a big smile, positively melting her heart. “How did you come to be here? I can’t think of how you ended up in my carriage. Did your mother and father perhaps walk into town and needed a shaded spot to leave you while they collected their items from the General Store? That would certainly explain your presence. Well, little one, your presence certainly is a gift! How about we settle in here and wait for them to return? I am certain they won’t be long!”

Eliza gently placed the baby back into her basket and climbed into the buggy. As she did, Virgil began to get restless, so she tugged on his reins to signal to him that they weren’t going anywhere just yet. After another noise of complaint, the horse calmed down and stopped moving. But the slight jostling of the carriage was enough for the baby to begin fussing again. Eliza did what she had done for her baby sister Hattie so many years ago and picked up the little one and began singing to her. 

Oh the moon shines the brightest on the nights you are here,” she sang to the baby, “with your arms wrapped around me, I‘ve nothing to fear. When you are far away, though the time may come soon, I’ll know you are with me by the light of the moon.” 

The little bundle in her arms was beginning to calm, but Eliza could still hear a soft whimper in the back of the child’s throat, so she continued.

Last evening was cloudy, I felt not your beams. When I closed my eyes, you were gone from my dreams. My heart grew colder, I quivered with fear. I long for the night when the sky will be clear.”

The whimpering had stopped and Eliza considered stopping, but the baby’s eyelids were just starting to flutter closed. She thought if she continued that the little girl might float off to dreamland until her parents returned, which was a very enticing prospect for Eliza. Although she had taken wonderful care of her little sister when she was small, the thought of being responsible for another person’s child for any time at all terrified Eliza. And so, she finished the song.

Tomorrow you will return to me, of that I am sure. The sound of your voice has heavenly allure. I’ve waited all year for you, and finally, it is June. You will appear to me by the light of the moon.”

As Eliza sang the last few words of the song, she looked down and saw that the baby was resting peacefully.

Thank goodness. It’s been to long since I’ve comforted a child like this, I thought I would be out of practice!

Chapter Two

It had been a long ride, but neither the length of time he’d spent on his horse nor the amount of time that it had taken him to arrive in Goldstone bothered Samuel Blythe. It had given him time to think, and Samuel, ‘Sam’ to everyone who knew him, certainly had a lot to ponder. He’d just returned from another job, and this one was particularly thought-provoking. He’d been working in and around Santaquin, about a two day’s ride south of Provo. The man he’d been after was unlike any of the other outlaws and ‘bad guys’ he’d been on the hunt for. Charles ‘The Squid’ Jackson was not your average bank robber. He didn’t run into the establishment, guns-a-blazing, and demand they give him all their money. Instead, he’d go from town to town, creating a new persona each time and establishing himself as a trustworthy bank teller for a few weeks or months. According to everyone who had worked with The Squid who Sam had talked to, he was a good, quiet man who kept to himself. What none of them had picked up on, though, was that when he was ‘keeping to himself’, The Squid was actually draining the bank of all of its funds.

The realization that the bank was being robbed would happen slowly over time. First, other tellers would notice that accounts they’d counted the day before would be missing a dollar or two the next. Then, people who came into the bank would be surprised to discover that they had less funds available than they thought they did. Finally, after The Squid had resigned and left town after attending a well-deserved goodbye party, the bank manager would go into the vault and discover the full extent of The Squid’s thievery. All that would be left is a single bill with a large ink stain over the dollar amount. That was The Squid’s calling card.

This pattern had worked for The Squid for a short time, until he got lazy. He’d started weaving minor details about his real life into his fake ones. First, he let slip that he’d once had a dog named Colorado. It was an odd name for a dog, which is why it stood out to folks. Next, he’d used his real middle name as his fake first name: Otis. His third and final error was that he’d told one of the people he worked with that he’d grown up in Illinois. Sam had spent hours and hours listening to people who had worked at the banks The Squid had been employed at. Using these three details, Sam had been able to identify and catch him.

But then, right before his trial, The Squid has escaped. He’d disappeared from jail in the middle of the night and it seemed the only tools he’d used to get away were a piece of string and a rusty nail. Sam had just spent the last three weeks riding all over Utah trying to locate him. At long last he’d found him way down in Cedar City, almost in Arizona. But this time, he was working at a tavern. It seemed that he’d lost his edge in the bank robbing business and had decided to try snatching from a smaller change purse. After a quick shoot out that had left Sam with a near miss on his upper right arm, Sam got The Squid in the knee. He buckled like a good pair of Sunday shoes. After Sam has scraped him up off the floor, he shook him gruffly by the collar of his dusty leather jacket and looked him dead in the eyes.

“You’re a smart man, I’ll give you that, Jackson,” Sam growled at him. Up close, in certain respects, The Squid looked almost as harmless as a puppy: he had big blue eyes, a winning smile and only came up to Sam’s shoulder when he was standing his straightest. Sam could understand how so many townspeople had overlooked his crooked ways. But it seemed that being on the run had not agreed with The Squid; his clothes were disheveled, his beard was coming in patchy, and he’d reverted back to his natural, nasty accent. “But if you’re going to disappear, you’ve got to get better at the actual ‘disappearing’ part.”

The Squid laughed through his wincing pain. “Blythe, if you’re gonna shake me up, you gotta do me the favour of asking me the question I know you’re just dyin’ to ask.”

Sam scoffed. “I don’t have any questions for you, you no-good, stealin’ weasel.”

“Oh yes you do,” The Squid retorted, inadvertently spitting in Sam’s face as he spoke. As the stench of old booze wafted off The Squid’s clothing, Sam held him a bit further from him. It was obvious that The Squid had fallen off the wagon since being arrested the first time. The Squid squinted his eyes and grinned at Sam. “You’re dyin’ to know how I did it, aren’t ya? How I got all that money without nobody noticin’? Well, I’ll make you a deal. You let me go and I’ll tell you everythin’. I’ll even throw in a drink on the house!” The Squid gestured to the bar and the fellow tending the bar shook his head. Sam scoffed.

“I already know everything I need to know about you,” Sam said, hauling the pathetic little man to his feet. “Come on. We’ve got a nice long ride ahead of us and you’ve got the best seat in the house.”

Despite his grave injury, The Squid planted himself as firmly as he could on the ground and struggled against Sam’s weight. 

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere, you hear me!” The Squid cried, clawing and scratching at Sam’s arms like a cat. “The only thing that’s waitin’ for me at the end of the line is the noose! I ain’t havin’ none of that!”

Sam wasn’t entirely sure how The Squid managed to wriggle from his grasp and grab his holstered gun, but in a flash, he had it pointed at his captor. But Sam wasn’t worried. 

“There are no bullets left in my gun, Jackson,” Sam laughed. “I used the last one on that knee of yours. Go ahead, pull the trigger. Call my bluff. The worst that’s going to happen is you’ll kill me, and to tell you the truth, that wouldn’t be a bad outcome for either of us.”

But the more Sam talked, the more he saw that The Squid wasn’t paying him any attention. He wasn’t even fully looking at him. He had his eyes locked just to the right of Sam’s eyeline. He looked as though the Ghost of Christmas Past was standing beside him. But Sam knew better than to look away; that was one of the oldest tactics in the book. 

“He’s right there…” The Squid was now muttering, pointing a shaky finger beside Sam, “I can see ‘im, why’d you bring ‘im here? They’re gonna hang me outside, ain’t they? Bringin’ the hangin’ to me…” Very slowly, the Squid turned the gun away from Sam and gently placed it on his own temple. “You tell ‘im I ain’t goin’. He ain’t gonna make me. If I’m dyin’, I’m doin it on my own terms…”

“There’s no need for that now, Charles.” Sam thought that using the man’s first name might help bring him out of whatever daze he was in. “There’s no hangman in here, nor is there one outside. Let me take you back to Provo, you’ll get a fair trial, and I guarantee you that you won’t be seeing the inside of a noose any time soon.” Sam could not, in fact, guarantee that, but he knew that his payout for bringing back a dead outlaw was far less than bringing back a live one.

But the wild look in The Squid’s eyes had not dampened. “What a to-do to die today…harder still to do… a rat a tat tat…And the dragon will come…”

“Charles, put the gun down,” Sam said calmly with his hands up as he walked towards the shaking man. He wasn’t sure what he was saying, but something about the combination of the words and his tone was deeply unsettling to Sam. “Let me take you in, we’ll get you a fair trial—”

Suddenly, The Squid whipped his head to look Sam straight in the eyes. The look on his face shook Sam to his very soul; he looked like a man who had been abandoned by God. The Squid’s eyes widened as he said his last words to Sam:

“At a minute or two to two today, at a minute or two to TWO! You’ll never know how I did it, Blythe, NEVER!”

The gun went off, Sam instinctively flinched, and The Squid crumpled. It was over. 

“What a to-do to die today…” Sam muttered under his breath as he and his horse, Dante, arrived on the outskirts of town. “Harder still to do…” He couldn’t put his finger on why The Squid’s last sentences had stuck with him so clearly, but he wouldn’t get them out of his mind. “A rat a tat tat… and the dragon will come.”

“That job of yours got you so crazy that you’re mutterin’ incantations to yourself, old man?”

The voice pulled Sam from his thoughts and he looked ahead in the distance. Standing outside of the Goldstone Inn was his friend Dale Calloway. Dale stood akimbo with his chest puffed out and he was grinning at Sam like he’d just won the blue ribbon at the pie eating contest. 

“Don’t you know it, Calloway!” Sam called to him. “I hear if you say this one loudly enough, it’ll bring you the girl of your dreams. Seems like you sure could use it.”

Dale scoffed and patted Dante as the horse and rider pulled up out front of the Inn and Tavern. “I’ve already got me Miss Stacy inside this fine establishment, what more could I want?”

Sam laughed as he tied Dante to the post and clapped him on the neck. A small could of dust puffed into the air as he did it, causing him to cough. When he’d caught his breath, he replied, “To not have to pay for someone to love you!”

“That’s the only way I’ll have it!” Dale shouted, opening the door for Sam. As he walked inside and smelled the heavenly scent of Mrs. Jennings’ cooking, he felt himself relax, just a little. Although he held no great attachment to Goldstone, he was relieved to have somewhere to hang his hat and settle into a quiet life until his next job sent him on the road again. He didn’t much like sitting still, it made unwanted feelings bubble up, but when he had to, he knew how to take it easy.

“Why, Mr. Blythe!” Mrs. Jennings, the older, motherly woman who ran the Inn and Tavern with her husband was standing just inside the door with a cloth in her hand and a smile on her lips. “It’s awfully nice to see you back here so soon. I was sure we wouldn’t set eyes on you again until… Christmas!”

Mrs. Jennings flung her tiny arms around Sam’s neck in a hug and he stiffly hugged her back. He wasn’t one to show much affection, but Mrs. Jennings insisted on it, and he certainly wasn’t going to be the one to disappoint her. He left that job to Mr. Jennings.

“Did you catch whoever you were after?” she asked, holding him at arms length and giving him a good once-over. Sam shrugged.

“You could say so,” which was always his answer when the person, one way or another, ended up dead. Mrs. Jennings rubbed his arms.

“You did your best, I know you did,” she said with a wink. “Come sit down, both of you.”

The portly woman led the two men over to their usual table and they took their seats. “We’ll have the usual, Mrs. J,” Dale informed her, but Mrs. Jennings was already walking away from the table.

“I don’t need to be told what I already know!” she called to them, waving them off as she disappeared into the kitchen. Sam chuckled as he leaned back in the chair and sighed.

“It sure does feel good to be home,” he told Dale.

“I bet,” Dale agreed, “but speaking as someone who hasn’t left home in… oh, say fifteen years, home sure does start to get tiring after a while. But enough about me. What’s this about you not gettin’ your man?”

“I got him, all right,” Sam replied, rubbing his thumb against the inside of his index finger. “I’ve got him in a casket six feet under in Cedar City. I found him and was just about ready to take him in when he started spouting off this nonsense about the hanging he knew was coming. The ‘incantation’ you heard me muttering were the last words he said. You know me, Calloway; it takes a lot to spook me. But the way that man couldn’t stop looking just over my shoulder… he made me feel like death had followed me in there.”

To Sam’s surprise, Dale laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Blythe, I thought you were made of sterner stuff than that! You got the shakes because some two-bit criminal looked at you all haunted like? Get yourself together, man! You’ve rounded up some of the strangest looking fellows this side of the Mississippi! If none of them have looked ‘haunted’, then I don’t know who does.”

Sam leaned forwards and knit his fingers together atop the table, looking seriously at Dale. “Calloway. You’re not hearing me. The Squid wasn’t the one who was haunted; I was. Death followed me to Cedar City. It has been following me for five years.”

Dale looked very skeptically at Sam, hitting the front of his Stetson so that it tipped slightly back on his head. “So you’re the one who’s haunted? So what? You’ve probably got the souls of all those men you put away who got hanged haunting you! But why only 5 years? You were a law man long before you were huntin’ bounty, and I think a few of those men—” Dale stopped mid-sentence and he suddenly looked as though someone had just informed him that his mother had been shot dead in the town square. He let out a hollow sigh and his gaze dropped to the floor. “Sorry, Blythe, I wasn’t thinkin’. My words got ahead of my mind and I forgot that its been five years since… well. That tragedy don’t even need repeatin’ out loud. Do you think… You think death’s been hauntin’ you since then?”

Sam nodded wordlessly. He wished that Mrs. Jennings would come back with their food and drink so that they didn’t have to keep having this conversation. He wished he hadn’t mentioned anything. He had an annoying penchant for shooting himself in the foot when it came to enjoying himself: he always found a way to say something to ruin it.

He suddenly felt Dale’s reassuring hand on his shoulder and he looked up at him. “Don’t go doin’ that to yourself, Blythe. That’s no good path to trod. You know Jenny and Samuel Jr. wouldn’t want you beatin’ yourself up like that. Death takes whosoever it wants. It doesn’t discriminate.”

Sam’s heart broke hearing his friend say that. Dale’s sister, Elsie, the person he loved more than anyone else, had died of dysentery just a year before. If there was anyone who understood the keen sting of grief, it was Dale. Sam put his hand on top of Dale’s and squeezed it. 

“Don’t you go getting soft on me now, Calloway, you hear me?” Sam joked. It was enough to pull Dale just up out of the pit of despair he was circling and he gave Sam a small smile. Just as he was about to reply, a beautiful woman with a crimson red dress and honey brown hair appeared behind him. She winked at Sam when she saw him.

“I hate to break up this heartfelt moment,” Miss Stacy purred as Dale whipped around to face her, “but I believe I have a standing engagement with you, Mr. Calloway.”

“M-miss St-Stacy,” Dale stammered as he collected himself and stood up, brushing some of the dirt and dust off his clothes. It was truly a paltry attempt to appear presentable, but it was an endearing effort. It was why Sam thought Miss Stacy liked Dale the best of all her patrons: he may not have been half as good looking as most of them or anywhere near as intelligent as all of them, but Dale had a good heart and an even kinder soul. Sam just wished that he could find a girl who would love him enough to marry him, not just stay with him for the night.

“Mind if I steal your companion for the evening?” Miss Stacy asked, fixing Dale’s collar and never talking her eyes off him as she asked. 

“By all means,” Sam replied, gesturing towards the stairs that led to the guest rooms. “I’m just here to have a quick bite, then I’m heading back to Mrs. Stanton’s.”

But Miss Stacy had already taken Dale’s hand and was leading him away. “You tell Mrs. Stanton to stop chasing away all my customers with her nonsense, all right?” Miss Stacy called to Sam. “I am a simple woman trying to make an honest living! Nothing more, nothing less!”

“Sure thing,” Sam called back, shaking his head in amusement as his friend was led away, hypnotized by Miss Stacy’s beauty. 

After his dinner arrived and he’d had a much better conversation with Mrs. Jennings than he’d had with Dale, Sam left the Inn and started to head back to his boarding house. He mounted Dante, and the horse and rider slowly sauntered up main street. Sam took in the sights of the town he was honoured to call home for the time being and did his best not to let grief sink its talons into him once again. 

“Lullabies for a Lost Baby” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Eliza Benedict, orphaned and raised by a spinster in Utah, leads a serene life until a mysterious baby appears in her carriage. With no clue of the child’s origin, Eliza has not only to navigate the difficult task of caring for a baby but also learn to trust her heart when it comes to matters of love when a handsome stranger enters her life…

Will she embrace this twist of fate, or retreat in fear of losing all she holds dear?

Samuel Blythe, consumed by grief since the loss of his wife and son, has pursued vengeance against those who shattered his world. Yet, fate intervenes when a chance encounter with a woman and a baby opens new paths. When Sam offers to assist her, unseen visits from a mysterious person put his happiness at risk…

Can he navigate these uncharted waters while guarding his heart and the woman by his side?

When the pieces begin to fall into place, Sam and Eliza think they’ve finally made it to solid ground. Until an unexpected letter pulls Sam towards his past and he discovers that he must end his connection with his old life to progress into the future. Will they seize the chance for a new beginning, or let fear dictate their destiny?

“Lullabies for a Lost Baby” 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!

One thought on “Lullabies for a Lost Baby (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 read them 🙂

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