This week's Blog Tour Tuesday features
The Rogue's Bride
by Lynn Winchester
AIMEE PRENTICE DROPPED HER CARPETBAG on the boardwalk and took a deep breath.
“You can do this. You can do this,” she muttered to herself, wishing the words actually calmed her pounding heart.
Drawing in another deep breath, Aimee took in her surroundings. Having just stepped from a stagecoach, she was rather surprised at what greeted her. When she’d written to Miss Fisk at the Marriageable Ladies Market Catalog & Advertisement Service to answer the ad, she’d hoped to end up in the middle of nowhere, far away. She hadn’t, however, expected to end up in the middle of such a bustling town.
Dry Bayou. A name she could appreciate as a woman who knew the ins and outs of every bayou near her small home in Dixon, Alabama. Her home—a farm that was no longer hers. A legacy she no longer held. A family she’d lost. The home she’d grown up in, the garden she’d nurtured, the notches inside the kitchen door that chronicled her years… All of it stolen. Stolen by a man she was told she could trust. A man her father had trusted… right up until the moment he was killed.
A lump rose in her throat, threatening to choke the hope she’d only begun to feel again. Fighting back the tears, she blinked into the noonday sun and made a point of noting every detail of the town that was to be her new home.
The street, Robinson Street—as the sign on the corner read—was wide and made of red dirt that kicked up into a fine cloud when people or horses walked by. The dust also coated the wood buildings, which were lined up on either side of Robinson. Each of the buildings, though covered in dust, were otherwise clean and well kept, with brightly colored signs in their windows.
There was a barber shop, a candy shop, a post office, and what looked like a boardinghouse—a large building, with two levels and many windows. It looked welcoming.
In fact, the whole town looked welcoming. The men tipped their hats as they passed by, and the women offered smiles free of the cattiness she’d become so used to seeing in Dixon.
I think I’ll like it here.
She offered a genuine smile to two little girls with large brown eyes. They smiled back then tugged on their mother’s hand. The woman, a lovely lady with the same-colored eyes, turned and smiled at her as well.
The hope that thoughts of Dixon had squashed began rising again. She could make a home here.
Aimee reached into the small clutch purse she carried and retrieved the worn piece of paper she’d kept inside. It had been folded, unfolded, and refolded so many times, it was beginning to tear right along the creases.
She’d read it and reread it, not because she couldn’t understand the words but because she couldn’t believe that a handful of words could mean so much—a fresh start and a new chance at a security she hadn’t felt since Pa died.
Unfolding the paper, she tucked a wayward strand of brown hair behind her ear and reread the words again.
A. PRENTICE. STOP. DIXON, ALABAMA. STOP. AGREEMENT REACHED. STOP. GASTON MOSIER. STOP. DRY BAYOU, TEXAS. STOP. ARRIVE BY MARCH 28. STOP.
- L. FISK
That’s it. A short telegram from the mail-order bride agency that had given her the chance at a new life… one without the fear of living under the watchful, roving eye of her neighbor, Jack MacNaught.
As soon as she’d received the telegram, she sent a quick telegram to Dry Bayou, attention G. Mosier, telling him to expect her in two weeks. She was on the next train to San Antonio, with only the belongings she could fit into her worn carpetbag.
Now, exactly two weeks later, she was standing on the stagecoach station platform, waiting for—she didn’t even know what to call him—her fiancé? There hadn’t been an official offer of marriage. It was just an understanding between Mr. Mosier, the mail-order bride agency, and her.
She didn’t even know how old Gaston Mosier, the saddler from Dry Bayou, was. Or even what he looked like. She only knew what he’d written in his ad, the one she’d answered out of desperation.
She pulled the crumpled cut-out of the ad from her clutch.
SADDLER FROM DRY BAYOU, TEXAS SEEKS A QUIET, MODEST, OBLIGING WOMAN OF NO MORE THAN TWENTY-ONE YEARS. MUST BE ABLE TO COOK, CLEAN, AND BEAR CHILDREN. A HOME AND ALLOWANCE WILL BE PROVIDED. REPLY BY APRIL 30.
So now, here she was. She could be approached by a rheumy hunchback, with missing teeth and a shiny bald head.
Dear Lord, please don’t let that be the case.
Immediate guilt snapped at her. She honestly couldn’t be picky; she was in a tight spot. Either she could marry the man who promised to provide, or she could go home and spend the next four years of her life looking over her shoulder, wondering when Jack and his father would come to steal the clothes from her back… and perhaps more.
She shuddered, suddenly overwhelmed with where life had brought her: alone in small-town Texas, waiting for a complete stranger to come and marry her.
A humorless laugh erupted from her chest before she could stop it.
“Oh, hello,” a pleasant voice said from behind her.
Aimee spun to find a beautiful blonde standing there, big smile, sparkling blue eyes, gorgeous dark green walking dress, and a countenance that immediately put Aimee at ease.
“Hello,” Aimee replied, tucking the telegram and ad back into her clutch.
The woman stepped forward and tipped her head. “You wouldn’t happen to be A. Prentice, would you?”
Surprised, Aimee nodded slowly, not sure what to think. Her surprise was compounded when the blonde stepped forward and embraced her in a warm, strong hug.
Aimee tensed. “Do I know you?”
The woman let go and stepped back, her hands lightly gripping Aimee’s elbows. She laughed. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve lost my head, apparently.” She let go of Aimee’s elbows and smiled. “My name is Tilly Bartlett, I’m Dr. Bartlett’s wife. I came by because I knew he’d leave you waiting,” she rattled off her sentence as if talking to complete strangers was an everyday experience for her.
“Dr. Bartlett? I don’t understand… I’m here to meet my… well, my fiancé, I suppose.” Still not comfortable calling a man she’d never met her fiancé, she felt the heat rise in her face.
The blonde, Tilly, rolled her eyes. “There I go, confusing you. Sorry. You’re here to meet my brother, Gaston Mosier, right?”
Aimee felt a rush of ah-ha and a twinge of anxiety. This was her future husband’s sister? Well, she was young. And beautiful. Maybe, just maybe, Gaston Mosier wasn’t an ugly old coot.
“Oh,” Tilly cried out, clapping her hands excitedly. “Here he is. He’s always late. Always getting caught up in his little projects and forgetting the time. That’s why I came to…”
While Tilly was speaking, Aimee turned, heart in her throat, fear and excitement mingling in her belly.
Her gaze collided with deep blue eyes, rimmed with golden lashes. His nose was straight, with a little bump in the middle as though he’d broken it and it set wrong. His nose led her gaze right down to two wide, unsmiling lips. Aimee immediately wondered what they’d look like cocked in a wicked grin.
She stopped breathing. Why am I thinking that?
Because he was the most gorgeous man she’d ever laid her eyes on, that’s why.
The fear in her belly turned to nervousness in a flash. Her future husband was an Adonis. Heat burned through her skin, rising over her cheeks. Aimee fought the urge to turn tail and run.
Rose, lily, lilac, iris, mum, tulip…
“So, you’re A. Prentice?” his deep voice was like down-covered steel.
Orchid, orange blossom, cherry blossom, narcissus…
“Ya… yes. I… I… I’m Aimee.” She was stammering like a fool, right when she needed to make the best impression of her life.
I think I’m going to be sick!
The man before her narrowed his eyes and cocked an eyebrow, clearly not impressed with the woman he’d agreed to marry.
God, this was a mistake.
After long moments, he nodded to his sister then looked back at Aimee. “Come on, then,” he snapped, bending to take her forgotten carpetbag. “Preacher won’t wait long.” Without waiting for her to respond, he turned and walked toward the end of Robinson Street.
“Wait,” she called out, finally finding her senses. “What do you mean, the preacher won’t wait?”
He stopped, tensed, then began walking again. “We’re getting married. Right now,” he called over his shoulder and disappeared around the corner.
Aimee’s stomach dropped into her feet.
Lynn Winchester is the pseudonym of a hardworking California-born conservative, now living in the wilds of Northeast Pennsylvania. Lynn has been writing fiction since the 5th grade, and enjoys creating worlds, characters, and stories for her readers.
Lynn writes charming, romantic romance that focuses on the growth of the relationship and the power of true love. Lynn's historical western Dry Bayou Brides series is a highly acclaimed, bestselling sweet romance series. Keep an eye out for her upcoming releases.
When Lynn isn't writing, she is running a successful editing business, reading whatever she can get her hands on, raising her four children, making sure her husband is happy, and binge watching shows on Netflix.
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