“Is that everything?” Maya asked, tucking a dozen onions into the market basket under her arm.
Kaila checked over the things in her own basket and nodded. Going to the market was one of her favorite parts of the week, and it was sad that it was already over.
“I suppose we should head back,” Kaila said reluctantly.
They weaved their way through rows of colorful stands of fruits and vegetables.
Kaila took a deep breath of sweet-smelling air as they passed the flower section. Spring was her favorite time of year.
She loved the flowers and the signs of new life everywhere around her. It was almost a symbol of hope, and every time that spring came around, she used the energy to get her through the rest of the year. It had worked for several years, and Kaila was confident it was a strategy that would keep her going for her near future.
Just until I have enough to go and start a new life.
It was something that she reminded herself of often, but it was discouraging to know that that point was still in the far distance.
“Have you heard anything?” Kaila asked, interrupting the silence between herself and her best friend.
“You mean about finding a job for you?” Maya didn’t meet Kaila’s eyes, and Kaila knew before she even answered that the news wasn’t good.
“I’ve asked nearly everyone I know, and no one is looking for extra help just now. I’m afraid that there are just too many people looking for work,” Maya said with a discouraged sigh.
“I still have a few ideas. Don’t give up just yet. Who haven’t you asked? Maybe after we drop off the groceries we can go and ask around today. I think Pa will be out late tonight,” Kaila suggested.
“Isn’t he always out late?”
Kaila knew that Maya wasn’t trying to be mean; she was just being honest. She nodded and swallowed hard. It was hard not to be jealous of Maya’s parents and family. Her parents were the type who cared whether she was around and if she was at dinner, unlike Kaila’s father.
She had a little brother and sister who adored her and greeted her every time she came home. Kaila often wondered how she had even become good friends with someone like Maya when their worlds were so different.
They lived in two townhouses that were right next to each other on the main street. The two houses looked almost identical on the outside, but inside, they couldn’t be any more different.
“I was thinking of asking over at the new mercantile. I heard that they may need someone to help them in the afternoons, but I don’t know if it was a rumor or not.” Maya chewed on her lower lip as she relayed the information. “I’ll just let my ma know that we’ll be going back out and meet you here in five minutes,” Maya said as she took the steps up to her porch two at a time.
Kaila nodded and hurried up to her own front porch. That was something about living in the city that she did enjoy, the fact that everything was at your fingertips.
She had never known anything else, but she imagined that it might be inconvenient not to have a mercantile or general store nearby if you lived in the country.
The door made a familiar creaking sound as she threw it open and entered the tiny empty house.
It was a tiny home, just what she and her father needed to live. When you walked in the door, there was a small dining room table. The parlor was an assortment of two stools and an overstuffed chair with a leg that had been repaired too many times.
The walls were roughly sanded wood and seemed to make the space smaller than it actually was.
The kitchen was off to her left. Kaila didn’t have to check to know that most of the cupboards were bare.
The vegetables she had brought back from the market were just about the only food in the house.
She imagined that Maya’s family had a considerably harder time living in such small quarters, but the few times that she had been into their tiny space, they didn’t seem to mind.
Their walls were decorated with cheerful paintings, and their home had a lightness about it. The hominess made it seem ten times larger, and none of them seemed to mind the fact that they were practically stepping on each other whenever they were in the house.
Maya had mentioned a few times that she might like to have her own room, but Kaila was sure she would tire of it if she ever got the chance.
Having your own room may seem nice at first, but after some time it got more than a little lonely.
Kaila sighed and placed the small basket on the kitchen counter. She’d gotten two pounds of potatoes, half a dozen carrots, some onions, and a cabbage.
Some vegetables weren’t in season yet and others were too expensive. And meat was something they rarely could afford. She knew that her father would be complaining about the contents of their dinner plates that night, but there wasn’t much she could do about it.
She suddenly noticed a few coins she had saved back in her pocket. A visit to the butcher shop would make dinner a little special. Maybe a little meat would make her father overlook the fact that they were eating different variations of the same vegetables they’d had for the last couple of months.
After arranging the provisions she had brought home on the counter, she hurried back outside to join Maya.
There were still a couple of hours before dusk, but she knew that they needed to hurry.
If the new mercantile was looking for someone to help, it wouldn’t be long before they found someone, and if she wanted to have a chance, she was going to have to get there sooner rather than later.
Kaila was only waiting for a few seconds before Maya appeared with a pink glow in her cheeks.
Kaila returned her smile, unable to keep herself from soaking up her friend’s optimism. There was something about Maya that always made those around her smile.
“So, race you to the mercantile or what?” Maya asked with a mischievous giggle.
“No, of course not! Did you already forget the scolding your mother gave us about being ladylike last time? We must be prim and proper at all times if we want to find husbands,” Maya scolded.
Kaila looped her arm through Maya’s, and they burst into happy giggles as they left the house and started marching down the road.
These were the times that Kaila tried to think about, the memories that she tried to have define her life.
If it wasn’t for Maya, her life would be one endless blob of work and sadness.
“What do you think about that anyway?” Maya asked wiggling her eyebrows at Kaila.
“Think about what?” Kaila had an inkling that she knew what Maya was talking about, but she was going to make Maya be more specific.
“Husbands of course. What do you think about finding one?” Maya’s eyes sparkled with excitement as she talked about husbands.
Kaila searched for a way to express her thoughts on the matter gently, but the correct words escaped her.
“I think it’s a terrible idea. What if you get stuck with someone horrible for the rest of your life?”
“Why would I pick someone horrible? You know that you have a choice about who you marry. Maybe we could find tall handsome husbands who would cook for us and take care of us every day until we died.”
Kaila laughed. “Or we could marry some person who pretends to be nice, but as soon as we say, ‘I do’ they come home drunk every night and complain about everything we do and tell us about how their life would be better without us.”
“Well, that’s a dismal way to look at it. Not every man out there is like your father.” Maya glanced at her with that look of sympathy that Kaila hated.
She couldn’t stand people feeling sorry for her. She had received those looks for as long as she could remember. She tried not to be angry about it though because she knew that sometimes Maya couldn’t help it and she meant well.
“I don’t believe I’ll ever get married. Once I save up enough money, I’m going far away from here and starting a new life. Maybe I’ll travel on a ship across the ocean, or I’ll create a homestead in the west.”
Kaila’s heart lifted with the possibilities.
“A homestead? Or travel on the ocean? You have big dreams, Kaila. I hope that one day you’ll be able to make some of them come true. If anyone deserves that, you do.” Maya sighed and squeezed Kaila’s hand. “Speaking of dreams, here we are. Let’s hope that the job is still available.”
A little silver bell rang loud and clear as the two entered the new mercantile.
The place smelled of freshly cut pine wood and a mixture of different spices.
Kaila wasn’t sure that Shallow Springs needed another store, but no one had asked her, and if another store provided her with a job, she wasn’t complaining.
They walked down a long row of sewing and farming goods and arrived at a polished counter.
Behind the counter, a gentleman with slightly greying hair smiled at them. He adjusted his glasses and leaned his elbows against the counter.
“How can I help you, young ladies, this afternoon?” he said in a low, gravelly voice.
“Hello, Mr. Willow,” Kaila greeted with a smile.
Mr. Willow was well known around town, but she hadn’t known that he was the owner of the new mercantile. She felt suddenly hopeful that she had a slightly higher chance of getting the job. Mr. Willow was as kind as they came, and if anyone would have pity on her situation it would be him. As much as she hated pity, it could occasionally come in handy, and this was one of those times.
She put on her best smile and tried to make herself look capable. She wasn’t sure it was working, but she could hope.
“I heard that you might need some help around the place.” Kaila’s voice shook a little and she cleared her throat, trying to steady herself. She needed Mr. Willow to see what a confident and capable person she was.
“You are right, though I already found someone for the mornings. Are you asking for yourself?” Mr. Willow eyed her with that familiar sympathetic look and this time, it didn’t bother Kaila quite so much.
“Yes. I could do afternoons or evenings. I could clean up the place for the next day. Anything you need doing I can do.” Kaila wondered if she sounded too desperate.
Even if she had it seemed to work. After a few seconds, Mr. Willow was nodding his head as if he could imagine how helpful she could be.
“You know, I wasn’t sure I needed a second person, but you’ve convinced me. Every afternoon at three o clock, be here ready to work.” Mr. Willow gave her a wide smile, and Kaila returned it.
“Sure thing, Mr. Willow. I’ll be back first thing tomorrow at three o’ clock. Thank you! You have no idea what this means to me.” Kaila extended her hand and shook Mr. Willow’s hand enthusiastically.
Her heart soared with happiness as she and Maya left the mercantile. She had found another job. She was one step closer to making her dreams come true, just like Maya had said.
Somehow, she would manage to balance her job caring for the Smiths’ children in the mornings and getting the washing done for two other families in town with work at the store.
Right now, she couldn’t turn any work down, no matter how tired she was or how much it filled her days. Every single second of effort took her one step closer to her final goal, toward freedom.
As they headed back home, she didn’t even mind the fact that her father would be coming home drunk that night, angry and loud.
Somehow, despite that, everything seemed just a little bit better and a little bit brighter.
Kaila fingered the money in her hand. It was more than she’d had for groceries in quite some time. Her mouth watered as she thought of the taste of meat to accompany the vegetables and bread for dinner.
The little bell above the door of the butcher’s shop made a cheerful noise as she entered the little store. Behind the meat counter, several different options hung on hooks, all equally appetizing as she considered them.
“Kaila! I haven’t seen you here for a while.” Mr. Smith, the butcher, gave her a warm smile. “What can I get for you today?”
“I …” Kaila found herself at a loss for words. After letting her eyes jump over the different choices for a few more seconds, she pointed to the one that was the most for the money.
While she had money today, she wasn’t sure if she would have it the next day, or the next.
“How’s your father?” Mr. Smith gave her a sympathetic look.
Kaila fought to hold his gaze. She tried her best in every situation not to show people how much it bothered her that they knew about her father and the issues they had.
“He’s doing fine.” Even Kaila could hear the tenseness in her voice.
Mr. Smith nodded, but she could tell by the look of doubt on his face that he was not convinced.
“Tell him I said hello,” Mr. Smith said as he handed Kaila the package of freshly cut meat and nodded curtly as he counted out the exact change she had given him.
“I’ll let him know you said hello. Thank you for the meat.” Kaila gave a forced smile and retreated before Mr. Smith could ask any more questions.
In her haste to escape the uncomfortable encounter, she ran directly into the person who had opened the door to enter the shop. The air in her stomach was punched out through her mouth and she gasped, trying not to fall backward onto the shop floor.
Strong hands reached out to steady her. “Are you all right? I didn’t mean to run you over like that. You must be in some kind of hurry,” a man’s voice boomed.
Kaila tried to gather her bearings while also trying to recognize the voice that was speaking to her.
She looked up to find a face that she was only somewhat familiar with. She had seen the man before, but she was having trouble bringing his name to mind.
“I – I think I’m fine. I apologize. I shouldn’t have been so careless.” Kaila knew that she was mumbling, but the embarrassment of her blunder was making it hard to think, and even harder to enunciate her words.
“Don’t worry about it. We all have those days.” The man gave a little chuckle, and Kaila shivered. His laugh didn’t sound genuine but sounded forced and out of place. His voice was too loud and had a cold edge to it.
Her eyes wandered up to find his. She didn’t miss the fact that he was wearing an expensive suit, and a gold pocket watched peeked out of his pocket.
This man was definitely a rich man, and there weren’t many of those in Shallow Springs.
“I’m Jefferson by the way. I do believe we’ve met before. Your father is the banker for the town. And you are his lovely daughter. Am I correct?” Jefferson flashed a smile and recognition dawned on Kaila. “You certainly have grown up nicely,” he added.
She had met this man before after one of her father’s business meetings. When she was only about thirteen, he had come to their home for lunch, and he had made her feel very uncomfortable.
Her father had gone outside to talk to another man, and while she was alone in the house with Jefferson, he had cornered her and tried to kiss her. She slipped away and ran up to her room and closed the door, her heart pounding in fear. She didn’t understand why such an older man would behave in such a way toward her but never mentioned it to her father.
“Yes, he is. It’s nice to see you again, Mr. Jefferson,” she stammered. Kaila struggled to keep an easy smile on her face.
“No need to call me Mr. now. We are still friends, aren’t we? I think that just Jefferson would do quite nicely.” Jefferson gave her another one of his slick smiles, and Kaila nodded dumbly and shivered.
She didn’t want to quarrel with this man. His position could make her father’s predicament even worse and bring what fragile string of a life she had crashing down around her.
“I should get going, but shall I tell my father you’re asking around for him?” Kaila prayed that Jefferson would tell her not to worry about it and that he was just passing through and curious, but from the look on his face, she could tell she wasn’t going to be that lucky.
“Actually, yes, I would love to have a meeting with your father. Tell him that I’ll pass by to see him very soon. I think I may have a proposition for him.” Jefferson took out a handkerchief and wiped his hands on it, then offered her one of his hands. “Until I see you again, Kaila.” He winked at her and smiled broadly.
Kaila swallowed and accepted the hand with a nod, unable to speak around the uncomfortable lump in her throat.
She hurried out of the butcher’s shop, and as soon as she was pretty sure she was out of sight, she wiped her hand on her skirt and another shiver ran down her spine.
She wasn’t sure what it was about Jefferson, but as was the case in her first introduction to him something about him made her exceedingly uncomfortable. He seemed like a snake; crafty, sneaky, and he looked at her like he was undressing her with his eyes.
A woman passing her on the street raised her hand in greeting and Kaila barely returned the gesture as she passed.
She tried to force her thumping heart to calm down, but she couldn’t undo the damage that the meeting with Jefferson had done.
There was something about him and about the way he had talked about meeting with her father that made her think that something bad was on the horizon for both her and her father.
Sighing, she hurried her steps toward home. At least they would have meat to go with their vegetables for dinner, and for now she planned to focus on that.
“I’m home.” Kaila didn’t turn from the stove at her father’s announcement.
Surprisingly, he sounded sober tonight, and she wondered if it had to do with Jefferson’s visit to town.
Her father slid into one of the chairs at the kitchen table and placed his head in his hands.
“Something smells good. Are we really having something besides vegetables tonight?”
“Actually, I got some meat from the butcher’s shop,” Kaila said as she flipped one of the pieces of meat in the skillet. It was almost done and had filled their little house with its rich aroma, making her stomach rumble with hunger and impatience.
“Where did you get the money for that? You know the situation I’m in with the bank. We can’t be affording luxuries.”
Kaila bit her tongue for a moment to keep from answering too quickly. She knew exactly their position with the bank, and it made her sick to her stomach.
While everyone knew of her father’s drinking habits, they all assumed that he just hit the bottle a little too hard on a stressful day. What they didn’t know was that he hadn’t had money to do it for many months and yet he did. He had been taking money from the accounts he was in charge of and using it to pay for his habit.
Ever since her mother had died, her father had started spiraling down a dangerous path of addiction.
The thought of her mother made tears sting at the back of her eyes. She tried to suppress it. She didn’t have time to think about that right now. It had been nearly five years, but it still felt like it was just yesterday.
“I got a job at the new mercantile,” Kaila said finally, breaking the silence that had sat between them.
“You didn’t ask me about getting another job. When did you start that?”
Kaila wasn’t sure if his voice was angry or curious, but either way, she thought carefully before answering.
“I started a week ago. I knew we needed the extra money.”
“Are you saying I can’t provide enough for this family? Have you been spreading that around town too? Do you know what people in town will think with you getting another job?” With every question and accusation, her father’s voice rose in volume.
He may have come home sober, but he had brought his quick temper with him.
Kaila could tell that they were starting an argument that she couldn’t possibly win.
“I ran into that bank man, Jefferson today at the butcher’s shop,” she blurted, attempting to change the subject.
She wasn’t sure what she had intended to do with the statement, but it certainly had an impact on her father. He went silent and began to drum his fingers against the hard surface of the table.
“Jefferson from over in Burnston?”
“Yes. He said he would stop by to see you one of these days. He said he had a proposition for you. Do you still have business with him?” While Kaila wasn’t very involved with her father’s work at the bank, she knew enough to know that if her father met with Jefferson, it could be dangerous.
She suspected her father was in serious trouble with the bank. Even though they didn’t hardly have enough money to feed themselves he had continued to buy whiskey, and it wasn’t cheap. She was careful never to question him about it. It was a subject that he didn’t want to discuss.
“Not that I know of, but maybe he’s just interested in talking about bank business or something. He has always wanted to buy my bank outright so maybe he hopes that I might change my mind. It’s been about five years since the last time he tried to get me to sell out.”
Kaila felt nervous about the idea and apparently so did her father. His voice sounded shaky and uncharacteristic. His eyes were brooding, and his forehead was wrinkled in concentration.
“How are things going at the bank?” Kaila didn’t want to ask. She knew that it was risky. Her father could either begin to explain the many little issues he was having with his customers or he could go into a rage and tell her that it was none of her business, but she was hoping for the first.
She felt as if she should know what things were coming in their future.
“They’re not good, not good at all,” he replied with a faraway look. It’s not my fault, you know?” Her father’s voice sounded almost sad. It wasn’t something that Kaila was used to hearing in his voice, and it caught her off guard for a moment.
“It just got out of control. And that horse race should have gone down differently. If that horse had won like he was supposed to, it would have all been put back right away. Who could have guessed the horse would fall? Thank goodness people haven’t been withdrawing a lot of money these past few months, but that could change anytime.”
“How bad is it?” Kaila decided to take the risk of prodding and try to find out more. It was rare when her father was actually in a mood to share information, and Kaila decided that it might be better to try and find out what she could while he was willing. She chewed on her lip nervously trying to think of a way to change the subject again if he should become angry.
“I don’t know. I’ve borrowed a bit of money here and there. If people find out about the condition of the accounts, it could be bad for both of us. If they all withdraw their money, there won’t be enough to cover it. And then, well, there would be trouble.”
Kaila tried to push back the anger that reared up in her mind. It wasn’t her fault that they were in this predicament. She had very little to do with bank decisions if anything at all. He had no business borrowing money from other people’s accounts for drinking and gambling.
She knew that telling her father it was his fault wouldn’t help anything. She was certain that deep down, he knew it was his fault but would never accept that responsibility.
Suddenly he thumped the table with his fist. “I shouldn’t be talking to you about this! Knowing you, you’ll spread it around town, just like you have spread the rumors about my drinking.” Her father’s voice had turned angry and hard once more, and Kaila knew that the little conversation that they had been having was over.
She sat down across from her father silently and savored the taste of meat along with her vegetables. Having another job was worth it.
Whatever problems Jefferson’s visit to town brought or whatever her father’s issues with the bank caused, she had one goal, and that was to keep working and prepare for another life away from here.
The thought of a new life for herself far away from Shallow Springs and its impending issues made her mind race with hopeful thoughts. One day, she would be free from it all, and she would only get there through hard work and dedication.
After they’d finished eating, Kaila cleared the dishes and then trudged up to her room, ignoring the ache in her back.
Today had been yet another successful day, and she had a lot to be grateful for. With a tired smile, she settled gratefully down into her bed and pulled the covers up around her chin.
Kaila’s father, Frank turned the whiskey bottle over and over in his hands. He knew he shouldn’t drink right now. Jefferson was in town, and he couldn’t let him see him in a drunken stupor.
It wasn’t that Frank particularly considered his drinking habits wrong, but he knew that someone like Jefferson wouldn’t understand. And he had to keep his mind sharp in case he needed to explain his way out of a corner. Jefferson was a shrewd man, and he had to remember to be on guard.
Frank’s eyes wandered to the faded black and white photograph that sat on the little table beside the bed.
There had been times when he had contemplated burning the photo or throwing it out, anything not to have his dead wife’s smiling face haunt him every night before bed and every morning when he woke up.
But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was the last picture he had of her, and there was still too much pain in his heart to lose that.
He was in the picture as well. He remembered that day as if it had been yesterday. They had been married for a year, and a photographer had come to town.
He knew that they should look serious in the photo, but at the last minute he had tickled his wife, and she had laughed. He couldn’t keep himself from joining in and they had both sported huge smiles on their faces when the camera clicked.
It had been one of the happiest days in his life. What he would do to get that back.
It had always been his wife who wanted children. He had never really been sure about the idea. When she had fallen pregnant, he had been excited to see her so happy.
The idea had slowly grown on him, and he had hoped for a boy with every fiber of his being. Of course, when they’d had a little girl, he couldn’t help being a little disappointed, though he had tried to hide it from his wife.
Frank always felt that he had tried to be a good husband and father, but there always seemed to be something missing. He had never really been able to connect with Kaila in the way that his wife had, and it had taken a toll on their relationship.
Frank sighed. Thinking about these things wasn’t making his mood any better. Unable to restrain himself any longer, he took a long swig of whiskey.
He smiled as the liquid burned down the back of his throat. It always hit the spot. He threw himself back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. Hopefully, tomorrow would be a better day, if that was possible.
“Pa!” The strained voice was accompanied by pounding on his bedroom door.
Frank groaned and covered his head with a pillow. His head was filled with a million little needles, and his vision swam in front of him. His mouth was dry like he had swallowed sand.
His bloodshot eyes spotted the empty whiskey bottle by the bed. He must have finished the entire thing without meaning to the night before. That was the problem with reminiscing and bringing up memories that should stay in the past. They overwhelmed you and caused you to do things you shouldn’t.
“Pa, open the door! Jefferson is here to see you right now.” Kaila’s voice sounded almost scared as the name Jefferson came from her mouth. Frank couldn’t blame her. He was a formidable man, and his visit could mean any number of things. He hoped that somehow word hadn’t leaked about the missing money.
“I– I’m coming, just give me a second,” Frank grunted as he pulled his clothes on and stumbled to the door.
Kaila was standing right outside, a bowl of water in her hands.
“Here, clean yourself up a bit and comb your hair. Your shirt is unbuttoned. I’ll invite him into the kitchen and keep him busy for a few minutes.”
Frank would usually tell his daughter to mind her own business and not tell him how to dress, but he couldn’t argue with her today. Jefferson was already at their door, and it was indeed important that he at least resemble the responsible position of a banker.
Frank accepted the bowl of water and retreated into his room. He dug through a pile of clothes that were stacked on his dresser for a suit coat. He knew that he owned one somewhere.
He finally pulled the worn piece of clothing from the pile and shrugged into it. Next, he ran a comb through his hair and washed his face and hands.
He wasn’t sure how presentable he looked, but he could hope that it was good enough. He plastered a smile on his face and hurried out to the kitchen.
“There he is! Just the man I wanted to see,” Jefferson boomed loudly as Frank entered the room.
Frank extended his hand to greet Jefferson. He smiled politely through the vigorous handshake and then sat down in one of the empty kitchen table chairs.
“While I have immensely enjoyed your daughter’s company, maybe there is somewhere more private we could talk?” Jefferson asked in a low voice.
Frank nodded and motioned to Kaila. He could see the understanding in her eyes, and for once, Frank was grateful for her intuition. She had already deduced they would want to talk alone and had gathered her things and was heading out the door.
Other fathers might not like having such an independent daughter as Kaila, but Frank didn’t mind. He didn’t have time to be raising a daughter anyway, not that Kaila needed much more raising. She would be an adult of marrying age soon, and then she would go off to be the mother of a household.
In his mind, Kaila should thank him for all the practice she was getting ahead of time by caring for their household.
After the door clicked behind his daughter, Frank turned his full attention to Jefferson. “What can I help you with? It’s not often that we see you around Shallow Springs.”
While Frank always feigned his friendship with Jefferson, he was well aware of the threat that he could be to his business and family.
“Always straight to the point. That’s what I like about you, Frank.” Jefferson pulled out his gold pocket watch and looked at it for a long few seconds before sticking it back in his pocket.
“I just don’t want to waste anyone’s time,” Frank said shortly. He fidgeted a little in his seat. He knew that Jefferson was trying to make him uncomfortable, and he was doing his best not to be affected by it.
“Well, today won’t be a waste of our time, or at least I’m hopeful.” Jefferson laughed and adjusted himself in his chair. “I actually have a deal to offer you, Frank, one that I do believe will benefit us mutually.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any money to invest in any projects or anything like that.” It was Frank’s turn to fidget, and he glanced towards the door, almost wishing Kaila had forgotten something and would interrupt this uncomfortable conversation.
“Oh, it’s not money I’m after. I have plenty of money. See, I know about all your money issues, how much money you really have in the bank and where all that missing money went.”
The silence stretched between the two men, and Frank swallowed hard. How had Jefferson found out about the private numbers from the bank? How could he possibly know how much hard cash was still in the bank? Could he just be bluffing? Who was the leak? The questions roared in his mind behind the smiling mask of his face.
“Don’t worry. My plan isn’t to oust you or turn you over to the law, although I could. You know, I’m pretty sure the townspeople would be more than a little angry should they find out that their banker has wasted away their savings on drinking and gambling.” Jefferson gave another chuckle as if he were amused by the idea.
Frank found himself unable to decide whether he should laugh with Jefferson or be angry. He didn’t like feeling as if he wasn’t in control and it was obvious that Jefferson was in control and toying with him, enjoying his position of power.
“I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re wondering if I plan to tell everyone in town about your lack of discretion when handling their money.” Jefferson paused and gave Frank a steady stare.
This time, Jefferson’s intentions were clear. He was here to threaten him, to make sure that he knew who was in control of both this conversation and his future. He wasn’t going to take no for an answer this time, and he made it abundantly clear.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to do here, but whatever it is you want just say it already,” Frank snapped, unable to take the tension anymore.
“No need to get angry. I’m actually here with a way to solve both of our problems.” Jefferson’s voice was slick, and Frank was fairly certain that he couldn’t trust a word that he was saying, but he knew that he didn’t have a choice at the moment.
If the people in town found out that their money wasn’t in the bank, they would run him out of town, or worse he would sit in a jail cell for the rest of his life.
“I wasn’t aware that you had any problems,” Frank said bitterly.
“I don’t exactly, except for the fact that I am the majority owner of all the banks in every town that’s near here. Every bank, except for yours that is.”
Realization ran through Frank and relief too. There could have been worse reasons that Jefferson was here.
“You want Shallow Spring’s bank?” He wasn’t sure he had heard quite right. Anyone who wanted that bank had to be out of their mind, especially if they knew how much debt the bank came with, which it seemed that Jefferson already knew.
“Yes, I want Shallow Spring’s bank. Of course, I will just be the majority owner. You will still maintain your position as the bank manager and receive a small salary.”
Frank considered Jefferson’s words. It was too good to be true. He couldn’t possibly mean what he was saying, or it had to have some crazy catch attached to it.
“What …What do you want in return?” Frank was afraid to ask.
“Only a few simple things that I’m sure won’t even compare to the difficulties you would face should you refuse.” Jefferson pulled out his watch again and began to polish it with his handkerchief.
“What simple things?” Frank wondered if the things would indeed be that simple, but he had a feeling from Jefferson’s subtle threats that he really didn’t have a choice but to comply with whatever plan that Jefferson put forth.
“First, you will only tell people in town that I became a partner in the bank, not that I now own it. Second, you won’t have access to the accounts or money in the accounts anymore. Any money that goes missing will be held accountable to you.” Jefferson paused and gave his watch one final shine before placing it back in his pocket. “Now my last condition might be the one that you’re not too happy about.”
Frank searched his brain for a condition that he wouldn’t be happy about. So far, the conditions were quite agreeable and a nice alternative to the things he was facing on the path he was currently on.
He had no way to pay back the accounts he had borrowed from, and the idea of not having financial responsibility for the bank any longer was very tempting.
“What’s the last condition?” Frank watched Jefferson carefully, trying to read his face or his emotions, but Jefferson didn’t give anything away about his feelings.
“I want to marry your daughter.”
Frank sucked in a breath. It wasn’t as bad as he had assumed. In fact, it actually didn’t bother him much at all. Jefferson was financially secure, and if he wanted his daughter, he probably cared for her in some way.
“You’re twice her age. Why would you want to marry her?” he asked slowly.
“Oh, I’ve had my eye on her for some time. I just had to wait a few years for her to grow up a little,” he answered with a hungry look.
“I suppose I could give my blessing,” Frank said carefully.
“I’m afraid it isn’t that simple. I’ve heard about your daughter, and I wouldn’t be the first man to offer her marriage. Also, I’m not as young and handsome as some of the offers that she has already received. She might not want to cooperate in this matter.”
“I don’t know that I understand what you mean.” Frank hadn’t known that his daughter had received offers to marry.
“You must not be very close to your daughter if you haven’t heard of all the men who have tried to pursue her. I have kept tabs on her, and it seems that Kaila has no interest in marriage.”
“What would you have me do?” Frank asked.
“I’d have you convince your daughter to become my wife and all your problems will go away. It’s as simple as that.”
Frank nodded. It certainly seemed simple, but knowing how stubborn Kaila could be sometimes, he was beginning to wonder if it really would be that simple.
“His Captivating Runaway Bride” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Kaila never had any interest in marrying. She had learnt the hard way even from a young age, that she couldn’t depend on anyone else to take care of her. When her father promises her to the worst man imaginable, she knows she must do something to change her fate. Determined to escape, she chooses to follow her own path and head west. But when her train derails, still too close to home, she’s left with no choice but to trust a mysterious stranger to help her. Will trusting the handsome man turn out to be a risk worth taking?
Edward has been a bit of a loner all his life. When he became a bounty hunter, he didn’t expect to be doing jobs for hire, but it turned out that these jobs pay higher. He doesn’t ask questions and he’s never been one to care who he’s catching until he meets Kaila. It might have been easy to lure her to come with him, but he never expected what would happen next. To find a kindred spirit in Kaila might be the biggest reward of his career. Can he find the strength to complete the job or will his heart make the choice to rescue the very woman he tried to capture?
They say love may come when you least expect it and the unlikely pair is no exception. They appear to be on opposite sides but will love be the thing that unites them? How will they manage to escape their ultimate fate in the name of love?
“His Captivating Runaway Bride” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.