Healing her Silent Wounds (Preview)


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Chapter One

Willow’s lungs ached as she ducked under yet another tree branch. She felt as if she’d pass out at any moment, and yet, that feeling had followed her since beginning her escape.

Pulling in deep breaths, trying to calm the dizziness in her head, she leaned against the rough bark of a nearby tree. It was too unreal. She’d dreamed about leaving for months, escaping the people who had held her against her will and forced her to be a part of something she loathed with every second. And yet, here she was, finally free.

She’d kept up her hopes, and she’d kept her dream alive, but now she felt uncertain and frightened.

The pain in her body brought her back to the present. She might be free in many ways, but in some, she was still a captive of the Coleman Gang. She still had to find a place where she could recover from her injuries and earn some money. Without money, she was as good as caught. As far as she knew, Eugene Coleman was not the type of person to let someone walk away. He was exactly the sort of person who would hunt down people he thought had wronged him and make them pay for every second they thought they’d gotten away with it.

She forced one foot in front of another, and adjusted her path, based on the limited view of a small road in the distance. She’d get to Dallas soon. She had to.

It was her only hope, and right then, it was too overwhelming to consider any other possibility. She had to get to Dallas. Arthur had pointed her in the right direction.

“Go that way. Don’t get lost. Keep the road in sight, but don’t walk on it. Whatever you do, don’t stop.” That’s what he had said.

She took a deep breath. She hated to think what she’d left Arthur to. Eugene would be furious if he ever found out Arthur helped her. Not to mention, he would most likely find some horrible way to punish Arthur.

The thought made her tremble inside. If she never saw Eugene Coleman again, it would be too soon. The sound of a wagon coming down the road made her tense. She had no way of knowing if any potential travelers were working for the gang, or if it was the gang.

She couldn’t risk it either way. She ducked behind a large bush, hoping it was enough to hide her light blue dress from the road. Keeping near the road was a risk; it was easier for people to spot her being so close. She felt that she had to constantly worry about making a bad move or a sound that would attract attention.

However, losing sight of where she was and wandering alone, for miles on end, with no food or resources and no hope of finding Dallas in sight, seemed much worse.

She’d not had a proper meal since she had run away nearly three days ago. Thankfully, she’d run across a huge blackberry bush the day before, and eaten as much as she could hold, then picked a whole apron full to last her for that morning.

Those berries were long gone, leaving only stains on her apron to remind her of their sweetness, and her stomach rumbled in protest as her eyes cautiously tracked the wagon as it passed.

She had to be careful. Getting caught would make Arthur’s sacrifice useless. She only hoped Dallas was a big enough city to hide her long enough for her to get on her feet properly. Once she had enough money, she’d be on the first train or stagecoach, riding as fast as she possibly could from Dallas, or anywhere that was reachable by the Coleman family, as impossible as it seemed. She had to believe that there was a way to do it.

She stood up from behind the bushes and resumed her walk. As she navigated around bushes and boulders, she brought up mental images of her parents. They would be proud of what she’d done these past few days. Sadness swept through her. She missed them every second of every day. They’d been everything to her, and they’d been ripped out from under her. She still dreamed about them. Sometimes, it almost felt like they were watching out for her from above. She wanted to believe that was true.

Willow stumbled as she rounded the bend of the barely visible path beneath her feet, which she’d been following for the past couple of minutes quite by accident.

She was so tired, so done. She didn’t know how much longer she could go on. There had been a time when she’d dreamed of having to choose what she’d do when she grew up. She used to imagine what it would be like to fall head over heels for someone, to marry them and have a family.

She’d wondered what it would be like to travel the world, ride on sailboats, camels, and all other sorts of things. Reading books had fueled her imagination, but reality was something else entirely. The reality was survival.

That was before her life had been torn apart. Fresh anger for Eugene hit her like a sack of flour to the stomach. He was an evil man, and sometimes, it was hard to believe someone as wonderful as Arthur was related to him.

She shivered, this time not from the cold. She had something to prove, to Eugene, to Arthur, and to herself. That was that she could manage on her own, and she would find a way to help others at the same time. She wasn’t going to just sit back and let life happen to her. No matter how difficult, she’d make sure she was doing things right.

The soft sound of trickling water off to her right made her stop in her tracks. Water. She needed fresh water. She rubbed her wrists, making the angry red skin even more irritated. She would take a break from her arduous trek and get some water. Her damaged skin, as well as her sore throat, could certainly benefit from a cool wash.

The source of the trickling wasn’t too far off. It was a tiny creek with tall banks, and barely visible, but certainly audible. It made her wonder what things she’d missed that were hidden in the woods. It was hard to see everything. She didn’t want to spend another night slinking around in the trees, praying that a group of coyotes didn’t find her while she was there.

There was no option, though. At least now, she had some fresh water to drink. She dipped her hands into the cold liquid, bringing it up to her face and lips. Closing her eyes, she savored the feeling, enjoying the sensation of peace while it lasted. She washed her wrists gently. Everything would be okay. She just had to keep going, and not give up hope.

Chapter Two

Griffin jumped up as the door to his practice flung open. He’d been a doctor in Dallas, Texas, for a while now, and yet he’d never get used to the sensation of urgency that overcame him when the door flew open. He always knew that something bad was waiting for him when that happened.

He hurried to the front room to find Mr. West, one of the farmers with land on the edge of town, with his son in his arms. His son was around eleven or twelve, yet he already looked close to his father’s height. He held his arm to his chest, bright red blood dripping onto his shirt.

Griffin clenched his teeth. If he were a more sensitive man, he wouldn’t have been able to stomach the sight of the blood. He motioned for Mr. West to follow him to the back room.

“Set him down here.” Griffin swept the boy over with his eyes, searching for the wound that had caused so much damage.

“He was helping me on the farm, cutting some grass for the cows with the hand blade. He slipped and…” Mr. West motioned to the boy’s arm. “Hold still, Joseph,” he chided.

Griffin took Joseph’s arm gently, but firmly, in his hands, examining a large gash on the inside of it. It was still bleeding, but he was glad it hadn’t cut the major artery.

“How bad is it? Will he be all right? Will he lose the arm? Please don’t let him lose the arm. He won’t be able to work then or help me around the place. Not to mention his schooling.” Mr. West tousled Joseph’s hair. Any other might have thought the man callous from the way he spoke about his son, but Griffin saw just how much the man cared.

Mr. West was a loving father to his six children. Everyone in town knew the family, and how much they cared for one another. Those words were simply his honest thoughts on how such a terrible loss would affect his son’s normal daily life.

“It will be all right, Mr. West. I’m going to give it a proper cleaning, sew this right up, and then it will heal as time goes on. Don’t worry, you did good in bringing him in right away.”

“I’m mighty relieved to hear it. You’ll never imagine how afraid I was when I saw all the blood. I thought he was a goner for sure,” Mr. West exclaimed.

“I can imagine, believe it or not. I may be a doctor, but I still don’t like the sight of this much blood or what it can mean.”

Mr. West looked a bit pale as he shook his head. “He’s a good helper, Joseph is. He’s mighty handy around the farm, a good son to me and his mother.”

“I’m sure he is. He looks like a strong lad.” Griffin grabbed a bottle of medicine from the shelf. “Hold still for me, Joseph. This might hurt a bit.”

Joseph’s lips were pressed tightly together. He looked like he was about to be sick, and Griffin wouldn’t have blamed him if he were. Pain causes different reactions in different people.

To his surprise and relief, Joseph simply sat still after flinching as the clear liquid fell over the cut on his arm, clearing away anything that might harm him. He threaded a needle and had Joseph lay down while he sewed up the cut. After Griffin sewed it closed, he poured the clear alcohol over the cut a second time. He took a deep breath as he applied the bandage. It was going to be a long while before Joseph would be using his arm again, but at least he was going to be okay.


Griffin dried his hands on a clean towel as he walked out of the little room where he had his practice and into the main parlor of the house, which was also a large boarding house run by Ada, a friend of his. He brought the towels he had used on the boy to the laundry area and put them in a tub to be washed later.

“Is everyone okay?” Ada’s face darkened with concern as she looked at the blood on the towels in his hands. She was an older woman, like a mother to Griffin in many ways.

“Fine. It was Joseph West. He cut his arm working on the farm. It’s going to take a while for the cut to heal, but he’ll be all right.”

“Oh, goodness! Poor child. I hate it when your patients are children.” She shook her head. “I know you’re not here to be a doctor, I mean, not really, but this town is lucky to have you. Most of the other doctors in Dallas don’t care the way you do, or do as much as you.”

“Now, Ada…”

“It’s true. I was talking with one of the women in my quilting group. Her daughter nearly died because of bad advice from one of the other doctors. I made her promise she’d bring her daughter here next time she had any issue instead.”

“No pressure to live up to.” Griffin couldn’t help but smile. Ada’s confidence and support were both heartwarming and encouraging, however, he didn’t have time to be a full-time doctor, like what he was supposed to be doing in Dallas.

Ever since he’d lost his parents to illness, he’d known he wanted to be a doctor. When he’d been lucky enough to be taken in by a wonderful couple, they’d supported his dreams, but despite him dedicating years to becoming a doctor, his father couldn’t help but teach him a few things about protecting himself and the law, and somehow, he’d become a deputy, too.

“Are you feeling all right?” Ada watched him carefully. Ada was always much too watchful. That was how she’d found out what he was up to in the first place. Otherwise, there was no way he’d have told her why he was there.

“I’m fine. I was just thinking about…well, I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong, with how long it’s taking to find out anything useful. I came here to find out what the Coleman Gang is planning next. I’m supposed to get all of this information about them, who they are, where they’ll be…and I have nothing.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it, Griffin. You’re trying your best. These things take time. Everyone in the West has been wanting to figure out what happens behind the scenes when it comes to the Coleman Gang. You don’t have nothing, you’ve found a little bit about them.”

“Tidbits, like rumors, maybe a sighting here or there, nothing like what I need.” Griffin sighed. Even though Ada was kind and considerate, and she was more understanding than anyone had been since he’d come to town, he couldn’t share the complete reason he was so worried about his pending failure to find out the information about the Coleman Gang. When she’d started to suspect he was there as more than just a doctor, she’d threatened to get the sheriff involved, something he couldn’t risk. The only way to keep her from bringing too much attention to him was by telling her the basics of why he was really in town. Despite his confidence in her, he was still unsure of sharing some of his most vulnerable insecurities.

He didn’t want to let down the Laneys. They’d been so kind to him, giving him a home, raising him as their own son, giving him every opportunity. Now he had his chance to repay them, to find out what Mr. Laney had been wanting to know his entire career and expose who the Coleman Gang really was. How did they operate? Were they really back in Texas?

Mr. Laney was a wonderful sheriff. He knew everything about everyone back in their area of Chicago. He was the type of man who would put his life on the line if it meant saving a stranger he never met and had no idea what sort of a person they’d turn out to be.

Mr. Laney hated how many people the Coleman Gang had hurt. He wanted them off the street. He wanted them to pay and receive the justice they deserved.

Griffin’s goal was the same as Mr. Laney’s. When he’d heard some of the horrible crimes they’d committed, he knew he had to help Mr. Laney no matter what. He still didn’t regret that decision, he only regretted he hadn’t been more of help.

“Speaking of what you’re doing here, I have something you might be interested in.” Ada pulled out a light brown envelope from her apron pocket, a mischievous smile on her face.

“I got a letter?” Griffin settled down into one of the parlor chairs, knowing that if he tried to take the letter before Ada was willing to give it, he’d be fighting an uphill battle.

“You very much so did. It seems your folks miss you.” She extended the envelope toward him, still looking curious.

“Well, let’s see what they have to say.” Griffin tore open the letter. He wrote to the Laneys every single week without fail and looked forward to the letters that they sent him more than anything. They were little bright spots from home, reminding him of what he was fighting for.

Sometimes when he read those letters, he’d be overwhelmed with homesickness. He wanted to be back where he’d grown up, where he’d had some of his best and worst childhood memories.

He wanted to go back to those times when Mrs. Laney taught him what it was like to have a mother again, and when Mr. Laney taught him how to be a man, to care for people, to yearn for justice. He wanted to do them proud.

He unfolded the paper in the envelope and began to read, Mrs. Laney’s handwriting a familiar bit from home, bringing on that familiar homesickness.

Our Dearest Griffin,

We hope you are well. We had a storm last week, and a tree fell over the house and brought in the roof. We are both quite all right, though it was quite the scare. There is still a small hole in the roof. Your father is going to work with some men to fix it in the morning. I’m worried that it is going to be more complicated, but you know him. He can’t take no for an answer, especially when it is something that he wants to do.

Other than the storm, there has been nothing exciting here. Your father works late every night. He says he knows you have everything under control., though I see how much he worries about you. I’m sure he will continue to worry until he receives your next letter. I don’t think any of us thought that your mission would take so long. The place doesn’t feel the same without you here.

I’m hoping that soon you and your father will give up on the Coleman Gang, and you’ll be back home. I miss you every single day, and so does he. I hope that you are feeding yourself well out there, and doing what you can to stay healthy. I wish that we could be there for you.

Please write soon, and say hello to Ada for us.

Your mother

Griffin smiled as he read the lines where she’d referred to herself and Mr. Laney as his father and mother. They’d adopted him, but he’d always seen them as his parents. It was still nice whenever they also saw him as their son. His parents would have been so grateful to the Laneys, for taking their place, for giving him a family, a place to call home, people who loved and cared for him.

“So, how are they?” Ada’s questioning voice brought him back to the present. For a moment, he’d forgotten she was still sitting close by, waiting to hear about his family.

“They are doing quite well, thank you. They miss me.”

“Of course they do. You’re a nice young man.”

“My mother said to say hello to you for her.”

“Oh, that was sweet of her. They should come to visit while you are here.”

Griffin bit the inside of his cheek. He missed them, too. Perhaps it was what he went through when he’d lost his parents that made him so attached to the Laneys, so worried he’d never see them again. He was thinking nonsense. Of course, he would see them again. They were the type of people who would always be there for him, no matter what.

As a thirteen-year-old boy, he’d once thought that about his parents, the ones who’d given birth to him. How wrong he’d been. He couldn’t afford to think like that, always living in fear. No, he’d try to finish up with the Coleman case, then he could go home and be there for the Laneys, just like they’d been there for him.

Chapter Three

Willow dragged one foot in front of the other, licking her dry lips. The water she’d found had helped, but she had no canteen. She drank as much as she could before she’d had to move on and continue her journey. It wasn’t long though before she was thirsty again. The sun hung low in the sky, touching the horizon, reminding her how late it was and how long she’d been out in the open and on the run.

She kept going, refusing to stop. To distract herself, she thought back to a time when she was happy. Even though it was years ago, it felt so recent, as if it had been yesterday morning.

“Willow? Are you in here?” A gentle knock on the door made Willow sit up in bed. She’d overslept. It seemed that her resolution to enjoy her birthday had worked because she’d completely missed the rooster’s crow and instead slept right through it straight into mid-morning.

“Come in,” she called. Her mother didn’t hesitate, and right behind her was her father. “Happy birthday.”

In her hands, her mother held a beautiful little cake. It was frosted white, with a decoration of a few fresh wildflowers perfectly placed.

“It’s beautiful, Mama.”

Her mother’s cheeks blushed deep red.

“I’m glad you like it, dear. Hop on up, and we’ll have a slice after breakfast.”

Her father beamed, offering her a solemn nod of congratulations. He was a man of few words, the minister said, but Willow liked him like that. He was perfect, kind, and took care of her. He made her feel safe and loved, even in rough times. Besides, she didn’t need words to understand him. Right then, she understood him perfectly. He was wishing her a happy birthday, in his own way.

“I’ll be right down.”

Her parents rushed out of her room, no doubt to wait excitedly at the dining room table. The birthday tradition was for the family to bring the cake to the room, wish the birthday person a happy birthday, and then share a wonderful breakfast together.

It was a perfect tradition, one that Willow looked forward to every single year. Her favorite breakfast was laid out on the table, fried eggs, fresh cheese, fresh biscuits, and porridge. Her mother had even gotten some salted beef and fried it up to go with the eggs. She couldn’t imagine anything better. She imagined that was how the kings and queens ate their breakfast every single morning.

She settled in her chair across from the two of them.

“Tell me, how does it feel to be sixteen? You’re a young woman now, not a child any longer.” A touch of sadness crept into her mother’s tone.

“It feels good, though not all that different from yesterday. With how much the young women at church talk, I would have thought that I would feel very different at sixteen, but I still feel like myself.”

Her parents chuckled. A lot of the young women at church also told her that she would be much happier with a sibling, or how awful it must be to have her parents watching over every detail of her life because they had no other children.

Willow never saw it that way. She was an only child, her mother’s miracle baby as her parents put it. She loved the attention that her parents gave her, how they treated her as someone they wanted to spend time with, someone who they valued as a person.

She couldn’t fathom wanting parents who wouldn’t care where she was or what she was doing. She liked things just the way they were. Her mother put a heaping plate of food in front of her, and she shoveled it down, enjoying every bite. After the food was the cake and the gifts. She looked at the two people she loved most in the world and felt the smile on her face grow.

Nothing could go wrong as long as she had them.

Willow swallowed hard at the memory. Her sixteenth birthday was one of the last happy memories she’d had with her parents before she’d lost them forever and in the worst way.

Little blinking lights in the distance made her quicken her pace.

Up ahead, there were people. Not people on the road, or passing passengers, but an actual town. She could make out the rows of light, the lanterns bobbing in the street as people went to and fro.

Her heart quickened, and she pulled in a big breath. Could it be Dallas? She prayed to God that it would be Dallas. She was so tired, it felt as if she’d given up long ago, and now it was only her body dragging her forward, doing the same mechanical movements that it had been doing ever since her escape.

Yet, somehow, despite the exhaustion, she found the energy to speed up a bit, practically jogging toward the lights, toward the city, the promise of everything she was going without. Now that she was so near, she abandoned the neighboring forest and broke out onto the road. Surely, they hadn’t been following her all this time just to wait until the last moment to take her back. She smiled at the thought that maybe she’d managed to leave Eugene and the others behind for good.

Perhaps she really had outsmarted them.

Willow headed toward the town. As she grew closer, her nerves grew, eating away at her. What if people could see that she’d been with the gang? How would they treat her? They’d think she was an awful person, especially after some of the things she’d done.

Like it or not, she’d helped the Coleman Gang hurt people. She may not have been the one lighting the match or holding the knife or gun, but she’d been equally responsible.

She’d had several times in different towns where she was unsupervised. Why hadn’t she gone to get a sheriff or told someone what was about to happen? Perhaps she could have saved some of those people from the misery that the Coleman Gang inflicted on everyone in its path. She fought tears as the city grew around her, surrounding her with many houses and little streets that led off into dark alleyways.

She felt guilty being there. She had no right to any protection extended by this city, if it was Dallas at all. She’d done nothing to deserve the benefit of the doubt from anyone.

Being forced into something didn’t mean that you had to tolerate it, or even play along forever. She’d done both of those things and now she couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d never be welcome anywhere in her entire life.

She felt sick, and if she’d had something in her stomach to lose, she was certain she would have.

Instead, tears floated down her cheeks as she stuck to the shadows in the side streets. She was not good enough to walk down the main street and ask for help at a hotel or something. No, she was on her own. If anyone somehow found out where she was from, that she’d been held captive by the Coleman Gang for years, they would most likely not believe her. If they did, they would most certainly hate her.

The sound of voices up ahead had her ducking down another alley. She watched as two young men passed in the dark. They looked kind enough, good enough, but she knew better. During her time with the gang, she’d seen several different types of people become members of Eugene’s crew.

Sometimes they were young men who looked as if they’d never had a family, as if they’d do anything for a plate of food. In fact, most of the recruits looked that way. It seemed Eugene knew that they’d be easier to convince to join the cause.

However, sometimes there were different types of men, and once even a woman, who joined the Coleman Gang who were not the type of people who needed to do anything for a plate of food.

They were wealthy, or at least well-to-do. A lot of them seemed to have every opportunity, and yet they chose crime because they wanted to. Those were the type of people that were the worst if Willow thought about it.

They looked so normal, sometimes even nice, as if they could be your friend if you’d met at church or even on the street on the way to buy something at the mercantile.

Then, when they were with the gang, they changed. They would become worse than the men who had been a part of the group for years. It terrified Willow to think that anyone could be like that on the inside, and if they chose not to show her, then she would never know the truth, or how to protect herself. Once the two young men had passed on into the night, she continued toward the main street.

As much as she felt ashamed to even be in this town, she had to get something to eat and drink. Her stomach felt as if it were made of sandpaper. She didn’t know if she could stand being without food and water any longer.

She stopped on the edge of the main street, her eyes falling on a small store across the street. A bakery. It smelled delicious. She could smell all of the wonderful aromas floating out of the windows and over to everyone who was nearby.

Oh, how she wanted one tiny bit of bread from that bakery. Her stomach rumbled again, pushing her forward. She was no longer on the other side of the road, watching the bakery, but walking across the road straight up to it.

“Healing her Silent Wounds” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the heart of Dallas, Texas, Willow Turner’s journey unfolds, marked by a past of sorrow and resilience. Orphaned and later captured by the very forces that destroyed her family, her escape ushers her into the protective embrace of Griffin, a dedicated doctor, and Ada, the benevolent owner of a boarding house. Amidst her fear and skepticism, Willow stands at a pivotal moment.

Is she ready to dismantle the barriers around her heart?

Griffin Webster, harboring ambitions that surpass his medical duties, leads a secret life as an undercover deputy. His existence, a balancing act between his professional responsibilities and clandestine operations, is thrown into disarray by Willow’s arrival. With her troubled past possibly entwined with the gang Griffin vows to dismantle, he finds himself at a crossroads. Torn between his mission and the urge to safeguard Willow, Griffin faces a crucial decision:

Can he protect her without losing himself in the process?

As destiny intertwines their paths, the dark specter of Willow’s history threatens to consume them. With adversaries closing in, the fragile bond between Willow and Griffin is put to the test. In the face of looming danger and buried secrets, can their budding love weather the tempest, or will the truths that bind them also be their undoing?

“Healing her Silent Wounds” 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!


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

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