A Pregnant Bride’s Journey West (Preview)


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Chapter One

Edmondsbury, Virginia, Summer, 1875.

“He killed him, Callie – killed him in cold blood. I saw it with my own eyes,” Burt Jacobs said, shaking his head as Callie Hanson stared at him in astonishment.

“No… you’re wrong, Burt – Nate wasn’t there. He was out with the cattle on the Bigwater Trail. He told me… I know he was…” Callie replied, but a sudden, terrible doubt had gripped her, and now she stared at the old bank clerk, who shook his head sadly.

“It was him, Callie – I know Nate Ransom, and I’m telling you it was him. They were wearing bandanas over their faces – red and white check. But I could see it in his eyes – the look of recognition. I’ve never been so terrified in all my life; a gun pointing at me, swearing and shouting, open the safe! I’d have done it. But Billy thought he could be a hero. He told Nate he wasn’t going to open the safe, and… well… he paid for it with his life,” Burt said, sighing as tears rolled down Callie’s cheeks.

She had bought Nate a red and white check bandana as an engagement present. She had given him it on the day after he had asked her to marry him – the day after she had said yes.

“I… I don’t know what to say… it’s too awful. But I… I know Nate. He’s not like that. I can’t…” Callie stammered, even as her own excuses for her fiancé sounded hollow as she spoke.

The robbery at the bank was the talk of the town – a gang of masked men had burst in, demanding the safe be opened. Billy Johnson – the chief clerk – had refused, and for that, he had paid with his life. The gang had got away, and the sheriff had proved his own weakness by failing to capture them. Edmondsbury was fast becoming a lawless town, ruled over by a gang terrorizing the county, and who operated with impunity. But Burt Jacob’s accounts had made the matter personal, and the thought of Nate being behind the killing was too awful to comprehend.

“Would I lie to my own goddaughter, Callie? Didn’t I promise your Pa I’d take care of you and your sisters? Well, I’m telling you, Callie – the man you’re going to marry is a murderer. I saw it in his eyes. And he knew I knew it was him. He might’ve killed me, too – he might still. But I had to tell you, Callie. You’re not safe with him. Please… won’t you reconsider?” Burt said.

After the robbery, Callie had come to visit her godfather on the smallholding he kept on the edge of the town. He and her pa had been the best of friends, and Burt had always looked out for Callie and her two sisters – ever since their pa had died three years previously of a fever. They had no mother – she, too, had died – and Burt was the closest thing Callie had to a family, apart from her sisters, a man she trusted and respected.

“But I… it’s only a few weeks until the wedding, and… there’s something else, too,” Callie said, and her godfather looked at her and nodded.

“What is it?” he asked, and Callie sighed.

“I think I’m with child,” she replied.


“Burt’s right, Callie – you can’t marry him. But if he knows you’re going to have his child… oh, what were you thinking?” Polly exclaimed as she paced up and down the comfortably furnished parlor of the home Callie occupied with her two sisters.

Her other sister, Mel, was there, too, and she gave Callie a withering look.

“I don’t think she was thinking. What is it about you and men like Nate Ransom, Callie? First, it was Dan Weightbury, and we all know how that ended,” she said, shaking her head.

“I didn’t realize he was like that – and how was I to know Dan was already married? I thought Nate was a good man. He’s been so kind to me – the presents, the compliments, the promises…” Callie replied.

She had met Nate at the coffeehouse. He had offered to buy her a drink after they had got talking about horses. Callie loved horses, and her own – a piebald named Josie – was her pride and joy. She and Nate would often ride out on the trail together, and one night, they had slept out under the stars together…

“And now we discover he’s a cold-blooded killer,” Polly exclaimed, throwing her arms up into the air in exasperation.

“You can’t marry him, Callie. Not now you know the truth about him. But the baby… that complicates things,” Mel said, tapping her fingers on the parlor table as she spoke.

A portrait of their father – who had come to Edmondsbury as a twenty years ago to breed horses – hung on the wall above the mantelpiece, and it felt to Callie as though he was looking down in judgement on her. Visitors often commented on the resemblance between the three sisters and their father – or “Pa” as they still referred to him as. His bright red hair and deep blue eyes had been passed on to the three sisters, but each had the beauty of their mother, too. They were the belles of the town – the three Hanson sisters – and Callie’s engagement to Nate Ransom, a businessman that possessed a considerable fortune, had been seen as an excellent match.

“What would Pa say?” Polly said, shaking her head with a sigh.

Callie knew just what her father would say. He was possessed of a quick temper and strong morals. To discover his daughter was with child out of wedlock would have been a thing of the utmost shame.

“You’ve disgraced me, Calliope,” he would have said – using Callie’s full name as he tended to do when he was angry.

“He’d send her away, and he’d have something to say to Nate Ransom, too,” Mel said.

“Oh, but you can’t say anything to him – please, Mel. He doesn’t know, and if Burt’s right…” Callie began, but her sister raised her hand for silence.

“Do you think we’re fools, Callie? He can’t know. He’d never break off the engagement if he did. I doubt he will now…” she said.

Callie was scared. At first, she had refused to believe her Godfather’s words, but there had been rumors about Nate before – that his business dealings at the ranch were not entirely legitimate, and that he lent money at ruthless rates of interest – and with threat attached. But as for murder…

“But what can I do? If he knows there’s a baby involved… oh, but… I can’t just break off the engagement. He’d never allow it. He’d want to know why, and if I told him… well, what about Burt?” Callie replied.

The more she thought about it, the more awful it seemed. She had not seen Nate for several days, but he was due to call at the house the next day, and Callie did not think she could act normally in his presence, even as she knew she had no choice but to do so. There was no evidence he was the leader of the gang – only Burt’s word against his. He acted with impunity. The sheriff was powerless, and to report her suspicions would mean a death sentence…

“Then you’ll have to leave town, Callie. We can say we don’t know where you are. He’ll threaten us, I’m sure, but… well, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Polly said.

But Callie shook her head. Where would she go? She had lived her whole life in Edmondsbury, and with no family, apart from her sisters and Burt, Callie had no one.

“I can’t just leave. Where would I go? I don’t know anything other than here,” she exclaimed, and to her astonishment, Mel held up a copy of The Edmondsbury Herald.

“You answer one of these,” she said, pointing at matrimonial advertisements


“Wanted, a good woman to cook, clean, and fulfill household duties in a home with six children,” Polly read, and Callie shook her head.

“Six children? I don’t know the first thing about looking after children,” she replied, and her sister raised her eyebrows.

“You’re going to have to get used to it once you have your own. Here’s one. Bachelor, own teeth, and good income, seeks woman for… oh, perhaps not,” Polly said, blushing as she tossed the periodical aside.

Mel picked it up, running her finger down the column of advertisements. Callie shook her head – the whole thing seemed utterly ridiculous, even as she was rapidly running out of options. To move halfway across the country and live with a man she had never met, in order to avoid marrying a man she now knew to be a murderer, seemed the most extraordinary thing to do. But the more she thought about it, the more Callie realized it was her only choice. She had nowhere else to go, and to remain would be far more dangerous than to leave. Better to take her chances away from Nate Ransom than with him.

“Look, here’s one: Bachelor, Greenhills, Texas seeking the companionship of a woman; must enjoy horses. Apply, Augustus Buchanan, Greenhills Ranch, Greenhills, Texas,” Mel read.

At the mention of horses, Callie looked up with interest.

“Could I take Josie?” she asked, and Mel rolled her eyes.

“You’d have to use the railroad, Callie – they won’t take horses. But I’m sure there’s plenty there for you to choose from. Why don’t you answer the advertisement? You could be on your way to Texas in a few weeks. Nate would never know where you’ve gone,” Mel said, and Polly nodded.

“Please, Callie – it’s not safe here. For you, or the baby,” she said.

“But I doubt any man would want a woman arriving with a baby on the way,” Callie replied.

“Don’t mention it. Just… go, Callie. You don’t have any choice,” Polly said, and as Callie looked again at the advertisement, she knew her sister was right…


“Dear Augustus… no, dear Mr. Buchanan… no, Augustus. I read your matrimonial advertisement with interest… no, it’s not a job advertisement… I come from Edmondsbury, Virginia, and I have a great love… no, passion, for horses…” Callie wrote, starting several times over as she tried to compose her letter in response to the advertisement.

She wondered how many women would reply – dozens, hundreds? It seemed a strange way to begin a romance, but as she wrote, Callie tried to convey something of herself, her interests, her hopes for the future…

“I think that’s perfect,” Polly said, reading over the letter and smiling.

“I didn’t know what to write,” Callie said, and her sister looked up at her and smiled.

“You wrote just the right thing – he’s bound to choose you,” she said, but Callie was not so sure…


“All right, let’s see. You don’t need very much – just a change of clothes, your diary, a few books – take what you want from the shelves. Mel’s making you some sandwiches… oh, I’m all over the place. I don’t know if I’m coming or going,” Polly said, sighing as she looked down at Callie’s possessions spread over her bed.

Callie’s letter had received its response. Augustus Gabriel Buchanan had replied, saying he would be delighted for Callie to make the journey from Virginia to Texas, and he had even sent her the money for the railroad ticket. It had surprised her, for she had convinced herself he would have no interest in a woman like her, even as she had made no mention of the real reason she desired to escape Virginia.

“Dear Callie, I received your letter with great interest, and how wonderful to hear you have such a love of horses, too. I have several dozen in my stables here on the ranch, and you’ll have your choice of ride – if you decide to come here. I live a simple life, and I would be pleased to have you join me in it. The sketch you sent of yourself and your sisters was very pretty, though I can only apologize for not sending one back – my artistic abilities could never match yours. But now I know what you look like, and I’ll be able to recognize you when you arrive – if you choose to do so. I’m sending you the money for your journey – I hope it suffices. Please write ahead and tell me about your plans. I will be waiting for your arrival. God bless you, and I’m so very much looking forward to meeting you…” he had written, and Callie had sent an immediate reply, stating her intention to travel to Texas that very week.

It had all happened so fast, and with the day of Callie’s wedding to Nate Ransom fast approaching, there was not a moment to lose.

“I don’t want anyone at the train station to think I’m leaving permanently,” Callie said, and her sister nodded.

“Exactly. We’ll tell Nate you’ve gone to visit our cousin… Philomena in New York. He’ll believe it for a week or so, then we’ll tell him we haven’t heard anything from you, that you’ve disappeared, and… well, that’ll be that,” Polly said.

Callie was still in two minds about leaving. She was stepping out into the unknown and leaving all that was familiar behind her. Augustus’ letter had been unfailingly friendly in its tone. He had explained how he lived with his uncle on a cattle ranch, and that Callie would have her pick of horses to ride. It would be a dramatic change to her life, but one she knew she had no choice but to embrace if she was to escape the influence of Nate Ransom. He suspected nothing – or so she hoped – and had continued to make the preparations for their marriage as if nothing untoward had occurred.

“And what then?” Callie asked.

“You leave that to us. We’re your big sisters. And I’m not afraid of Nate Ransom,” Polly replied.

Callie was to leave that very day – catching a train at the Edmondsbury station and onwards to Texas. She felt nervous – and sad, too, to be leaving her sisters behind, But Callie knew she had no choice but to do so, even as she feared what would happen if – and when – Augustus discovered the truth about her being pregnant.

“Here we are – potted meat sandwiches for today, fish paste for tomorrow. After that, you’ll have to buy something,” Mel said, handing Callie her sandwiches for the journey, wrapped in brown paper, and tied up with string.

“A shawl, and a bonnet – there’s a spare shawl in your bag. Now, let’s see, have we forgotten anything?” Polly said, but it was too late if they had.

Together, the three sisters left the house, stepping down from the porch and across the garden, where summer flowers bloomed in the beds, and the old apple tree grew tall and shady by the parlor window. Callie glanced back at the house – her home since birth. Their Pa had built it – wood slat and painted yellow, with gable windows, and a porch running on three sides.

“I’m going to miss Edmondsbury,” Callie said, and her sisters slipped their arms into hers.

“And we’re going to miss you, too. But it’s for the best, and… oh,” Polly said, glancing up as a familiar figure now came towards them – it was Nate Ransom.

Even without a checked bandana over his face and a gun in his hand, Nate Ransom was an intimidating man. He was tall and well-built, with short black hair and a hint of stubble over his face. He wore a Stetson hat, a shirt with a cravat at the neck, breeches with a belt and silver buckle, and long boots caked in the mud of the trail. He smiled at them, though with a questioning look on his face.

“Three sisters – and where might you be going on this fine summer’s day?” he asked, glancing at the bag Callie clasped in front of her.

“Just for a walk, Nate – it’s too nice to stay cooped up in the parlor all day,” Mel said, and Nate nodded.

“It sure is,” he said, lifting his hat as he stepped aside to let them pass.

“Are you out for a walk, too?” Polly asked.

Nate narrowed his eyes, looking at Callie as though he suspected something.

“I’ve got a little business to attend to,” he replied.

Nate always had business to attend to, and knowing what she knew, Callie’s heart skipped a beat as she wondered what that business was.

“Then don’t let us keep you,” Mel said, and Nate nodded.

“I’ll call by tomorrow, Callie – perhaps you and I can take a walk together,” he said, and Callie nodded.

“I’d like that,” she said, holding his gaze and forcing a smile to her face.

“Until tomorrow, then,” he replied, tipping his hat and walking on.

“Do you think he suspects anything?” Callie whispered.

“Let him think what he wants – you’ve not given him any indication you’re leaving. Come on, the train’s due soon. Mel and I can hide out at the coffeehouse and go home the long way by the creek,” Polly said.

As they approached the platform, the train was puffing into view, and Callie embraced her two sisters, her eyes filling with tears at the prospect of leaving.

“Be brave, Callie – write to us when you arrive,” Mel said, and Callie nodded.

“Every day,” she said, kissing them both as the train pulled up.

Tears welled up in her eyes, and now Callie wondered if she could really go through with it – leaving everything behind. Polly pulled out her handkerchief and handed it to Callie, squeezing her hand as she did so.

“It’s all right – you’re doing the right thing,” she said, as Callie wiped the tears from her eyes.

“I’ll miss you both so much,” she said, as Polly embraced her, kissing her on the cheek.

“It’s for the best, Callie – for you and the baby,” she replied.

Her sisters helped Callie on board with her bag before standing on the wooden platform to wave her goodbye. The carriage was empty, and Callie sat down at the window, waving to her sisters as the train pulled away.

“This is it,” she told herself, knowing there could be no going back.

Chapter Two

Greenhills, Texas, Summer, 1875.

“You did what?” Augustus’ uncle, Obadiah, exclaimed.

Augustus blushed. He had known his uncle’s reaction would be just this, but Augustus had been surprised at the response to his advertisement in The Edmondsbury Herald, and now he had made his decision.

“I’ve asked her to come and live with us, Uncle,” he replied.

His uncle spat on the ground and glared at him.

“This is my ranch, Augustus. Didn’t you think to ask me before inviting a woman to come and live here with us?” he exclaimed.

Augustus – or Gus, as he preferred to be known – returned his uncle’s look with a pleading expression.

“We can’t go on like this, Uncle – the house is filthy, there’s too much work on the ranch for me to manage alone, I don’t have any… companionship…” he said, and his uncle laughed.

“Companionship? Aren’t I good enough for you?” he exclaimed, and Gus sighed.

His advertisement had been an act of desperation. He had not imagined anyone would answer it. But within a week, a dozen women had written to him – some practically begging him to have them come and live with him.

“It’s not that, but… I don’t have a moment to myself, Uncle. I don’t have time for women…” Gus replied.

“So, you thought you’d order one from the newspaper, did you?” his uncle replied.

“Lots of men do it – Joseph Goldin did. He’s been married to Wendy for five years,” Gus replied.

They were standing outside the ranch house. It was a hot Texas day, the sun high in the sky and horse flies buzzing in the shimmering heat. Gus had been rounding up cattle on the northern reaches of the ranch all morning, and had returned to find a letter from the woman he had chosen out of all the others. His reply to her initial letter had asked her to make preparations for traveling to Texas – at his expense. There had not been time for a lengthy correspondence, but something about the letter, its tone, the voice, had attracted Gus to Callie over all the others.

She had expressed a love of horses, and a desire for wide open spaces and the simple life of the ranch. He did not know why he had chosen her specifically, but Gus was used to trusting his instincts. His instincts had told him to choose Callie. The letter he had received that morning told him she was on her way, imminently so.

“Joseph Goldin has his own ranch. He doesn’t live off the charity of a relative,” Gus’ uncle replied.

“I don’t live off your charity. I work my back off for you, Uncle – and what thanks do I get? If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have a ranch to call your own. I gave up a lot to help you – the least you could do is allow my life to be made a little easier,” Gus exclaimed, glaring at his uncle, whose eyes now flashed with anger.

“Don’t use that tone with me, Augustus. If it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have a roof over your head, and after the disaster you made with Velma…” he said.

“Don’t mention Velma to me,” Gus replied.

The memory of the woman he had loved and lost was still raw, and his placing of the advertisement had, in part, been a means of putting the past behind him. He had seen other men, like Joseph Goldin, settling down – marriage, children, a settled life. Gus had been so close to all of that.

“But that’s why you’re doing it, isn’t it? You want a woman – but you can’t buy that kind of thing. Oh, I’m sure she’ll cook and clean – she might even look pretty on your arm from time to time, if you even know what she looks like. But do you really expect anything more than that?” his uncle asked.

After the anger of his initial reaction, there was, at least now, a tone of concern in his voice. Gus knew he owed his uncle a great deal. His own parents had died in a flood – a flood that had taken away everything they owned, destroying any livelihood Gus might have salvaged from the ruin he had barely escaped from with his life. The farm had been on a bend in the river, and the floodwaters had swallowed it up in the middle of the night, leaving Gus floating on a plank of wood downstream.

“I don’t know what I expect, but… she’s on her way now,” Gus replied.

It had all seemed so simple – he had not expected anyone to reply. But now, a woman named Callie Hanson, a twenty-year-old woman from Edmondsbury, Virginia, was on her way to Texas. Gus did not know what she looked like, nor very much about her. She was the youngest of three sisters, both her parents were dead, and she had a love of horses. It was for that reason he had chosen her. Gus loved horses, and he had learned to ride before he could walk.

“Well, then, it seems like you’ve got some preparations to make, haven’t you, Augustus?” his uncle said, and Gus nodded.

“It’ll be all right, Uncle – I can always send her back if it doesn’t work out,” Gus said, and his uncle laughed.

“You’ve got a lot to learn about women, haven’t you, Gus? If you think you’ll be able to send her packing when you’ve had enough of her, think again. Once a woman gets her feet under the table – and she will – you’ll not have a chance in hell of moving her. But it’s your choice. I’m off to the saloon,” he said, and with a wave of his hand, he ambled off along the dirt track towards the town, shaking his head and laughing.

Gus sighed. He knew he had not entirely thought the matter through. But he stood by what he had said – he could not go on alone without help. The ranch needed another pair of hands. They had ranch hands who worked on the land, and cowboys for the cattle. But Gus needed someone he could trust, and with his uncle growing frailer, there would come a time – and soon – when Gus would be the one to run the ranch alone.

“I just hope she really does like horses,” he thought to himself.


“Hey, Gus – was your uncle telling the truth when he told us down at the saloon you’ve got a woman coming all the way from Virginia to live at the ranch with you?” Robert Noel asked Gus, as he met him on the street a few days later.

Robert was a rancher, too, and he and Gus would drink together and play cards in the saloon sometimes. Gus had hoped news of Callie’s arrival would not spread before she had even set foot in Greenhills – just in case he had to send her back quietly. He sighed, tipping his hat up as he stepped beneath the shade of the covered walkway outside the mercantile store.

“I’ve invited a woman to join me, yes,” he said, and Robert laughed.

He was a boyish-looking man with blonde hair and bright green eyes. He looked at Gus and shook his head.

“Just like Joseph Goldin – it worked well enough for him. When she’s not throwing things at him. Those girls can have quite a temper on them. They’ve all got a story attached to them – some of them are even married. They answer the adverts to get away from their husbands,” Robert said, and Gus pushed him aside.

“Oh, nonsense – and you’d know, I suppose. Who is it this week, Robert? Josie Cooper? Miriam Dewitt? Lorna Wood? Or have you worked your way through every girl in town? You’ll be the one placing an advertisement soon enough,” Gus replied, stepping into the mercantile as Robert continued to berate him.

The mercantile owner – an elderly man named Michael Langrish – looked up at Gus and smiled.

“You’re the talk of the town,” he said, as Gus looked around him for the items he had come to buy.

The mercantile store in Greenhills was a treasure trove of goods – everything from nails and buckets to seeds and canned food. Michael Langrish sold everything anyone could ever want, and if he did not have it, he would get it. Every shelf, every inch of floor space, was covered with stacks and piles of this and that, all waiting to be sold.

“Don’t remind me. I wish my uncle had never said anything,” Gus said.

The arrival of any newcomer in Greenhills was always a talking point. It was a frontier town, though the frontier was always extending, and Greenhills was now more of a pass-through place than a stopping place. It was on the road to nowhere, because everywhere lay ahead.

“You know Obadiah – he’s always got a story to tell. Besides, there’s no shame in it. I say it’s a good thing. You and Velma were never meant to be. You’re better off without her,” Michael said, and he spat on the sawdust covered floor as though to emphasize his point.

Greenhills was the sort of place where advice was proffered freely – whether desired or not – and Gus had already been privy to the opinion of Reverend Jeremiah and Mrs. Sloan. The latter was what passed for a socialite in Greenhills, and her long since deceased husband had been the first mayor. As for Reverend Jeremiah, the pastor had reminded Gus of the morality of his situation.

“Make an honest woman of her, Gus,” he had said, and Gus had promised to do so as soon as possible.

But in truth, Gus simply did not know what to expect when Callie arrived. His uncle had left him to make the preparations. He had cleared out a room at the back of the house – swept it, dusted it, and made up a bed. He had found some old pieces of furniture in one of the barns – a bookshelf and an occasional table – and had fixed them up to furnish the room. He had even put a vase of flowers on the windowsill – red poppies – hoping to make her feel at home.

“Velma left town of her own accord. There was nothing I could do to stop her. Anyway, it’s done with now. I won’t ever see her again,” Gus said, and the mercantile owner nodded.

“Let’s hope this one works out better,” he said, as Gus put down his purchases on the counter – a packet of nails, a bucket, and a ball of yarn.

“We’ll see,” Gus replied.

Everyone had an opinion on the new arrival, but Gus hoped there would be no cause for them to show interest in her – once the initial interest in a new face had died down. He wanted an easy life, and he hoped Callie’s arrival was a chance for such a life, even if his own had not been easy up until now. His horse – Bree, a chestnut mare with a fiery temper – was tethered across the street, and avoiding the doors of the saloon, for he knew he would be accosted over Callie’s arrival, Gus made his way over to the tethering post. But just as he was about to mount, his uncle appeared from the doors of the coffeehouse, where the sound of a piano playing could be heard drifting across the street.

“Gus – don’t forget to check the posts on the northern reach. Another two heads got over onto Ralph Buxton’s land. We can’t afford to keep losing cattle like that. He won’t give them back – even the branded ones. He just sits there mocking me,” his uncle said, and Gus nodded.

“A Pregnant Bride’s Journey West” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the rugged Old West’s dreams of love crumble into dust when she discovers her fiancé is entangled in a web of crime. Heartbroken and pregnant with child, she flees her small Virginia town for the safety of Oklahoma. There, she responds to a mail-order bride advertisement from Gus Buchanan, a compassionate rancher whose gentle demeanor ignite a new hope for love in her weary heart.

How long till her past catches up with her?

Gus Buchanan, unlucky in love and life, finds solace at his uncle’s ranch after the sudden loss of his parents. Feeling isolated, he places a matrimonial ad in an eastern newspaper, but hope dwindles with each response—until Callie’s letter intrigues him. Their immediate attraction upon her arrival in Greenhills is palpable, yet with her secret and his fear of heartbreak, their future hangs in balance. As they navigate their budding relationship, Callie’s past looms threateningly close…

Has he found his ray of light?

Just as they begin to envision a shared future, Callie’s past comes back to haunt her. Now, Gus and Callie must confront her former life’s dangers as they fight to protect their newfound love…

“A Pregnant Bride’s Journey West” 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!


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