True Love’s Ransom – Extended Epilogue


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“Boss man!” An excited voice called out from further up the rocky cliff face, the noise sending a few pebbles and other debris cascading down from the lip that the boy stood on.

Although, really, Lukas shouldn’t refer to him as a boy, he knew.

Edward Chestain was only five years his junior, a bright boy with an adaptable personality and a willingness to learn. It was why Lukas had recently promoted him at the mines, even given his age.

“What’d I tell you about calling me that, Edward?” Lukas laughed, shielding his eyes with his hand and looking up to see the boy trying to pick his way down to him.

The other men labored around them, clearing rock and sediment from the place that Lukas had planted the flags several days before. It was supposed to be the start of a new mining shaft, although currently, it just looked like a cliff face and a lot of rubble around it.

A good chunk of the men closest to Lukas laughed at the back and forth, grinning at him as Edward all but slid the last few feet down the face he had been walking down and careened to a stop only inches from where Lukas stood ungracefully. No one jibed the man about it, though, just laughing and continuing.

It was a good crew Lukas had found for this operation, though, not that he had a bad one. In the last three years, Lukas had taken to overseeing more and more of the mining business, taking over the day-to-day operations as his father faded into the managerial role in the background.

“You said only to call you that when I thought the risk of my britches being set afire were worth it.” Edward laughed back, unable to keep the humor from his tone.

Lukas shook his head, shouldering the pickax he had been using and signaling to the men around them that they could all take a break as well. He never asked them to work when he wasn’t, something that had taken time for a good number of them to get used to. It was something he thought that made them respect him just a little more though as well. Every man on any of his sites knew that he valued them as a collective and individually. They also knew that he worked just as hard and alongside them.

It made for a better work environment.

“And are you willing to have your britches set afire?” Lukas asked, laughing at the way Edward nodded. “Really?”

“I think it might be worth it, sir.”

“And why’s that?” Lukas asked, leaning against one of the larger rocks behind him and taking one of the drinks brought to him. He sipped the water with a casual interest in the boy’s explanation, eying the way the job site quickly transitioned into break mode carefully.

“Because you also said that if I saw a horse riding here fast, I was to come get you at once,” Edward said smartly, his grin breaking past his words.

It was all he needed to say for Lukas to drop both the pickax and his drink, taking off in a run up the same path Edward had just come down. Sure enough, coming from the direction of town, a lone horse rode, a cloud of dust in their wake.

“You tell Lily we said congratulations on the new sibling!” Edward called laughingly as Lukas gave up all pretense of grace and scrambled the last few feet up the ledge. “And tell Tonia we said congratulations too!”


The excitement gave way to fear, gnawing at the edges of his consciousness as he hurried towards the line of tied horses even before the rider could reach them.


It was hard to think of her name and picture anything but the sunshine she so clearly embodied, her dark hair so like her mother’s always sticking up at wild angles, and her smile always so ready for anyone she happened to come across.

Lily had been Lukas and Tonia’s first daughter, born just a little over nine months after their wedding.

Tonia and Lukas had been only too glad to welcome a child into their family, their three sets of parents absolutely overjoyed with the news. The pregnancy itself, hadn’t been remarkable. Tonia had done what every woman did in such a situation, growing and softening into the mother she would become.

It was the birth that was different.

She had carried so much longer than anyone thought that she would, and then when it came down to it, the labor had lasted nearly a full day. Lukas had waited outside the room she was delivering in, his heart in his throat and his prayers so frequent he wasn’t sure he was ever even pausing in saying them.

“Your wife is in labor,” the messenger croaked, his body half-leaned over his horse. “Her water bro–”

But he never got to finish his sentence.

Lukas had been saddling and readying a horse before the messenger had even made it to him. As he pulled up, Lukas was already swinging himself into the saddle, not bothering to waste any time on discussion as he took off in the same direction the messenger had come from.

He rode with a desperation he hadn’t felt in years, his fingers so tight around the reins that his knuckles were blanched white.

He had sworn, after all he and Tonia had been through, that she would never be forced to face another thing on her own. He just had to ensure that he kept that promise.

The miles between the new mine site and home flew past, his prayers already started before he ever even saw the rooftop to his home. A very real part of him was almost tempted to ride all the way up to the front door on the horse, but he stopped just short instead. He slid off the horse and onto the porch, walking quickly through the front door and into the foyer.

“Da da!” a little voice called out, full of hope and excitement as Lukas was forced to stop in place. “Da da, Da da, look! Grampy ga’ me pencils!”

Before he could even answer, a small, black-headed child crashed into his knees, gripping them tightly in a hug and jumping up and down. “Grandpa got you pencils?” Lukas asked distractedly, picking her up and hugging her close to his chest as he walked her back into the sitting room she had run from.

Johnny Merrick sat at the small table there, his knees hunched up to his chest and his forever disgruntled expression dispelled by a large smile. It was a smile he only ever wore in the presence of his oldest granddaughter.

“I told her to wait,” Johnny groused, holding his arms out for Lukas to deposit Lily’s wiggling form into them. “Didn’t I, you little grump?”

“I no’ grumpy grampy, you grumpy!” Lily answered back, sticking her tongue out.

Lukas smiled wryly, shaking his head. “You’re both grumpy at times,” he amended, making them meet in the middle. “Tonia …?”

Johnny grinned, gesturing over toward the back of the house importantly. “She’s back there, with Agata,” he informed him. “Delivering my next grandbaby; why don’t you go on back? I’m here to watch Lily.”

“Lily do’n’need watching,” Lily groused, her little face screwing up in a delightful show of stubbornness.

Tonia and Lukas regularly argued over who she got that particular trait from.

“Well, Lily’s going to watch Grandpa then, how about that,” Johnny Merrick offered sweetly, kissing the top of her perfect little head and winking at his son.

Lukas smiled in thanks, stepping back himself and turning to go back to where he knew Tonia was delivering.

He was happy. Or he was trying to be. Mostly he was just worried.

The further he got back in the house, the more he could hear the noises of pain coming from the other side of the door. Each new one was like another frisson in his heart. He had tried going in the last time and had been told that he needed to wait outside. He knew it well enough now, but the desire to be by his wife’s side was still there.

He could hear the indistinct talking of two women from behind the door, his ears straining to hear anything concrete beyond his wife’s noises.

The door opened as he stared at it, though, and Agata came walking out, her brows furrowed in a worry she quickly tried to hide as she caught sight of Lukas. “Lukas!” she called, forcing a smile to her face.

“Don’t, Agata, please,” Lukas breathed out, craning his neck to see around her, but the door was already closing. “Tonia …”

“Is in labor,” Agata soothed, coming up alongside Lukas and taking his hand. “It is a difficult one, just like we feared. The midwife thinks this one, too, will be born foot first.”

Foot first.

Lukas dreaded those words. He knew what it meant. It was the same problem that had come during Lily’s delivery, and that had been such a close call.

“Oh, my boy, don’t make that face; it’s only a complication,” Agata promised, patting his hand. She spoke easily, despite her own worry.

She had always loved Tonia, but she had spent every spare moment getting to know her as an adult now over the last four years, making up for lost time.

Lukas knew she needed comfort just as much as he did, though, and he squeezed her fingers back as they both looked to the door. “So now …”

“Now we are patient.” Agata laughed. “Come now, Lukas; you’ve been here before.”

“It’s the waiting that smarts,” Lukas muttered, his tone almost despondent.

Agata didn’t try cheering him up again, though, only standing and pressing her lips into the top of his forehead before she nodded. Lukas let go of her hand reluctantly, knowing that Tonia needed her more than him and wishing he could just go in there with her. Instead, he sent Agata, his prayers resuming as if he had never stopped.

The door shut between them, and Lukas tried to focus on the last three years.

His marriage.

Lily’s birth.

Christmases as a huge family.

Easters out at Merrick Manor with new friends and old all invited.

He tried to think about the sight of Tonia, two years previous, with her arms wrapped around their firstborn daughter, her black eyes shining with love as she looked down at the beauty they had created. He thought about the first time Tonia had shown him how to find herbs to use for cooking and the first time Lily had ever said Da.

He thought about his life.

Three years before, he had been dream-walking through it, missing everything around him and caught up in what was expected of him and social decorum. Tonia had been like a battering ram to that existence, doing away with the old and planting gardens and gardens of love and understanding in its place.

Although Howell ended up imprisoned for the rest of his life, sometimes Lukas couldn’t help thinking that maybe they owed him a debt of gratitude. For leaving Tonia her necklace, kidnapping them, and forcing them together again after all those years.

It was a strange thought, but one he couldn’t quite banish either.

Not even as he heard something that sounded like a small cry as the rest of the room beyond went quiet.

On the second cry he was up, striding across the space to slam open that door with all the worry and fear he had been trying to contain bristling through his body …

But what he opened the door to required none of that.

Tonia was propped up against the pillows behind her, a swaddled baby being placed in the crook of her arm, and Lukas almost sagged against the doorframe in relief.

“Is she …?” he asked, cutting off as Tonia looked up with her heart in her eyes in that way that he so appreciated once more.

“He,” Tonia breathed raggedly, her exhaustion clear in her voice, but also her love. “Lukas Merrick, meet Johnny Taxim Merrick.”

Lukas stumbled his way to her side, sinking into the chair at her side as Agata and the midwife rushed around to clean the room and provide them with the help that they could. He didn’t have words, looking at that perfectly scrunched face in Tonia’s arms or Tonia’s face as she stared down at it too.

Johnny Taxim … Their fathers would be so proud.

“He has green eyes like you too,” Tonia whispered, her fingers whisper-soft against his face before she lifted him, handing him over.

Lukas felt his chest swell.

Would his heart ever stop growing to fit more?

“And black hair, just like you,” he whispered, brushing the tuft of it on top of his head back. He looked so much like his older sister, tiny and perfect. “Tonia …”

“I know,” Tonia whispered, not even needing him to finish saying the words.

“How did we get so lucky?” Lukas asked, his voice ragged as he brushed the perfectly formed black eyelashes that were still closed.

“I think we were owed some of that after our unlucky start,” Tonia joked, leaning her head against Lukas’ bicep as she stared happily at the two of them. “Or maybe it was always just meant to be like this …”

“Do you think our children will get tired of how invasive we’re going to be?” Lukas laughed, knowing that Tonia knew what he meant.

“Oh, I’m sure they’ll think we’re overbearing and ridiculous …”

“But they’ll deal with it,” Lukas said surely, lifting his face finally to look at his wife.

The bags under her eyes and the tired lines stretching her face were evident, as was the slow progression of years on her skin. He could, like this, almost imagine what she would look like ten years from then. He could imagine her covered in wrinkles, her hair graying …

And she would still be just as beautiful to him then as she was now.

“I choose you, you know,” Lukas whispered, his breath fanning over her face.

“Oh yeah?” Tonia asked, her laugh light. “Why’s that?”

“Because I love you,” Lukas promised, the words sincere.

“Well, good,” Tonia breathed. “Because I choose you too … because I love you,” she promised, lifting her face as he descended.

The kiss he gave her was full of promise and love, just like their first and second, and every one that had come ever after. Because that was what he and Tonia were altogether: Full of love and promise.


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Grab my new series, "Brave Hearts of the Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

71 thoughts on “True Love’s Ransom – Extended Epilogue”

    1. Honestly my favourite of all your books I have read! Great plot, everything. Small spelling or edit errors but it is the advanced reader copy. Very well done. Thank you for allowing me to read and comment here since I am still not able to leave reviews on Amazon.

    2. This was an awesome book full of surprises that kept me turning pages. The two main characters were friends as children when Tonia was kidnapped. A must read to get all the excitement.
      Great job Ellen.

    3. What a wonderful story. Lucas and Tonia friends as children. Tonia being kidnap as a child then not being seen again even though the ransom was paid. Exciting twists and turns to keep your interest.

    4. I really could not put the book down. I loved that Tonia came full circle back home. The writing of the book kept me reading after bedtime until 4 am. But such a wonderful book.

    5. I loved this book. It is now my favorite. I liked how the Vanderbilts found their daughter. How the Merrick’s knew her when she was kidnapped the first time.

    6. A beautiful story. Lukas and Tonia loved each other as Children, were lost to one another but found each other again. I enjoyed reading the extended epilogue. I was happy after all Tonia and Lukas went through during their kidnapping, they had a happy life together with their families.

    7. I just love reading your books. Please keep writing. I can’t fathom how your mother bd comes up with her wonderful stories. Thank you

    8. Enjoyed the book. Kept my attention the story was fabulous love story. It was difficult to put down my Kindle. Wanted to finish the story. Thanks for sharing your talents in writing this book.

    9. Great book! Wonderful characters and such a storyline! I went to sleep thinking about it and woke up this morning ready to finish it. Thanks so much for the gift of Tonia, Johnny and their story.

    10. Love love love this book!! Even with all the bad people in it, there were no bad words in it! I truly enjoy inteagin chapters and suspense!! Would recommend it to anyone to read! Thank you for sharing!

    11. I loved the storyline. The book was very exciting and hard to put down. Toni’s and Lukas went thru so much and I’m glad to see that they made it through and the life they ended up with.

    12. This was a very exciting book that I could not put down! It had so many twists and turns. Great read.

  1. Lucas and Tonia certainly had an amazing journey before they were able to marry. They survived kidnapping, hunger, wounding, near drowning, frantic horse riding, gun shots and a lot of worry which all made for a very exciting story.

  2. What a wonderful extended epilogue! Tonia and Lukas sure went through a lot to get where they are now with two beautiful babies. Who would have thought one could go through one (two for Tonia) kidnappings, hunger, frantic horse riding, near drowning, gun shots oh and all while having your palms cut. Then being caught again! Thank you Ellen Knightley for another great story!

  3. What a fantastic story, so much action. The ending was heart warming. For all of her trials in life she had the love of 2sets of loving parents.

  4. Her nightmares when she was at the orphanage were vivid. But she had been blessed with adoptive parents who raised her with love. Her employment as a maid to a wealthy family’s daughter was a challenge. The stagecoach was held up, and she was kidnappped under mistaken identity. The bandits were after the rich girl for ransom. While waiting for the bandit’s bounty, she was secured in an old barn with another person who had been kidnapped. Their confinement gave time for them to realize they weren’t such strangers after all. The struggles were tremendous to escape. The choice of paying the ransom was not an easy one. Now, it was a choice of love, or the pre arranged marriage with the selfish rich girl, or the maid who was so much more than expected.

  5. liked how Luke and Tonia got to know one another, as captives, and each having their own qualities, which were needed. Together.

  6. What a wonderful journey of adventure and love. It’s amazing and inspiring story. Definitely a must read.@love the excellent extended epilogue.

  7. A wonderful story with unexpected turns. The couple were sure determined to get away from their captures. Loved the outcome.

  8. Great adventure and romance. Tonia & Lucas have the fight of their lives after being kidnapped for ransom. For both, a childhood tragedy was finally resolved

  9. I loved this story so much, I fall asleep the first night at 3 in the morning, just put it down. When Tonka was kidnapped I know that she was the child from before or I hoped she was, the trouble they went though, I was so happy that everything worked out for them. I just love your stories. Thank you again. Ads G.

  10. Absolutely a terrific story. Loved the characters and of course the way Tonia was betrayed by Amy was awful but of course led to much happiness for all in the end.

  11. Oops, I thought this extended epilogue was for A Lesson in Trust and Hope with Carlee and Alan. I just finished it and was looking forward to what happens next.

    I have already read this great story! Is there not an extended epilogue for A Lesson in Trust and Hope ?

  12. A story with lots of action. Tonia and Lukas were both in a heap of terror. Thrown together by the men in the black and white bandanas. Great plot and even better extended epilogue.

  13. Wonderful story!! When Howell admitted that he never “gave anyone back” I think my heart stopped for a moment. So wrapped up in the storyline that I set the book down and wanted to cry for all those victims that were murdered. Cruel and horrible man! The love between Tonka and Lukas was amazing 😍. I have enjoyed so many of your books, but this one is definitely one of my very favorites.

  14. Thanks so much for a lovely story with a lot of surprises and with a great storyline that had it’s hold your breath moments as well as deep heartfelt moments too. The characters were wonderful and its happy ending was with the wait.

  15. Exciting, sweet, moving, and enjoyable story ! I was very impressed with all the characters especially Lucas and Tonia and what they endured .

  16. Great job enjoyed reading it from start to finish. It my interest and I really liked the story. Thanks, I will be reading more of your books.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the book and that it captured your interest. I can’t wait to share more stories with you in the future!

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