When Minnie was twelve, she woke up one morning and her mother was gone. Of course, that wasn’t how it had actually happened, but that was how she remembered it, and that was the most important part of it. The sky had been a dusky pink when she’d awoken that morning, and every morning that dawned the same since had always left her feeling like there was a bad omen lingering in the air.
A pink dawn meant bad news, so when she awoke to one, she spent her whole day worrying over it. From dawn till just before dusk she watched everything she did, waiting for the news to drop…but so far nothing had come.
“You’re being superstitious,” Ada teased as the two girls walked arm and arm down the street back towards Baker’s Lane where Minnie lived.
“I’m being cautious,” Minnie responded evenly, not begrudging her friend her laughter as she stepped around a dandelion growing up out of the dirt right in the middle of the path. She would do no harm on a pink dawn day.
“And what, pray tell, other than you being jumpier than a field mouse, has come of it today?” Ada chided, squeezing Minnie’s arm and glancing at her sideways.
Ada was the kind of infectiously bubbly sort of person that demanded one smile just by being around her. She was as bright as she was blonde, with her teasing done in such a way that it couldn’t possibly be offensive to anyone, even Minnie who had known her so long that they might as well have been born sisters.
Minnie just smiled, shaking her head slightly and falling back into step alongside Ada with a sigh. “My order wasn’t at the general store when I arrived,” she mused. Though she didn’t consider such a misfortune pink dawn worthy, it was certainly an inconvenience, and Ada had asked.
Ada snorted. “You went a whole day at the store today with nothing bad happening, I think you’re being paranoid,” she admitted, slowing her step as Minnie and Minnie’s father’s house came into view up ahead. She always slowed down, making the last bit of their walk after work take just that smidgen longer so that they could finish talking.
“Maybe,” Minnie agreed with no real conviction to her tone. She knew there was no point arguing her case with her eternally optimistic best friend. Ada always liked to see things in a positive light, which was actually something that Minnie very much appreciated most days. She knew she could be too cynical and practical for their age. It didn’t help that her feet hurt after being on them all day, but that was hardly a new feeling, so the change of their pace was welcomed.
“You’re not actually going to work the early shift tomorrow too?” Ada asked suddenly, her tone dropping as her concern became apparent. “You’ve worked so many double shifts this week already…”
“Mr. Albertson needs the help,” Minnie defended, looking away just in time to hide her yawn from Ada. “Besides, the money couldn’t hurt. Papa’s doing so poorly lately, what with that cold spell we had last week.”
Ada said nothing for a long minute, their steps putting them closer and closer to the garden gate leading to Minnie’s house. “My daddy told me to ask after him,” she admitted after a moment, her voice hesitant.
Minnie didn’t know why. Ada’s father was as lovely a person as she was. He’d been one of the few people in Minnie’s father’s business that had stuck by him and believed him after the great scandal, and one of the only ones that hadn’t begrudged him stepping down when his health had started taking such a drastic turn over the following years.
“Tell him that he’s doing as well as can be expected,” Minnie offered graciously. “He’s more than welcome to stop by for tea some afternoon, I know Papa would love to have him.”
“He mentioned offering your father a position back at the bank,” Ada admitted, her voice even lower as they both came to a stop in front of the white garden gate off to their right.
Minnie frowned, trying to keep her immediate answer from being too impolite. “I doubt that would be a good idea,” she offered instead, her smile almost guilty as she met her friend’s worried gaze. “He’s doing all right now,” she explained, her voice hushed even though her father was indoors and unable to hear her talking about such sensitive matters. “But come winter…”
“New York winters are so harsh,” Ada agreed, her worried frown turning to the house where Minnie’s father resided. “I’ll let him know not to bring it up, or at least try and dissuade him from doing so. I wanted to talk to you about it earlier…”
“We had a busy day,” Minnie dismissed, not at all upset with her friend. The fact that she had brought it up with her at all was a kindness that she appreciated. “Which is why you need to go home,” she chided, unhooking her arm from Ada’s and shooing her away playfully with her hand. “I’ll need to start dinner anyway. Lord knows if I wait too long Papa will try doing so himself to be helpful.”
“And likely burn the whole kitchen down.” Ada giggled, her eyes shining with mirth from the memory of the two of them walking on him almost doing just that one evening not two summers past. “I’ll leave you to it then, but I’ll see you tomorrow when I get to the store for my shift.”
“I’ll be waiting for you,” Minnie joked, watching Ada walk off for a moment with a smile teasing the corners of her lips before she turned herself, opening the garden gate and trudging tiredly down the stone path towards the once-great, two-story white house nestled within the confines of the runaway garden surrounding it.
Without Ada’s eyes on her, she allowed her shoulders to droop, tiredness settling about her like an old, familiar cloak as she ascended the back steps and headed indoors. Before she had even shut the door behind her she could hear the wet, gurgling cough from the sitting room. It was the sound that most often filled the house these days, and had for some years.
As much as everyone might wish, there was no recovery for Minnie’s father. Between the betrayal of his friend embezzling money from his company all those years ago and Minnie’s mother subsequently leaving him, he had lost a part of himself that he couldn’t seem to recover. This climate, this town, this very house—they were full of the memories of what once was and did little, with the chilly winters, to aid in his recovery.
It was why Minnie had to work until she was as bone-weary as she was, weaving through the house and removing her scarf and jacket to be put in their place as she headed to the parlor where she could smell the hot tea her father had waiting for her.
“Minnie!” Mr. Rogers coughed, his prematurely gray head bowing as he underwent another round of coughing from having greeted her so enthusiastically.
“Papa,” Minnie returned gaily, forcing her shoulders back upright and the tiredness to disappear from her appearance as she bent to kiss his cheek before retiring to the well-worn armchair next to him. “You didn’t have to make tea! I would have been glad to make it when I got home,” she assured him, already leaning forward to pour them both a cup with the waiting china.
“I can put the kettle on still, I’m not a complete invalid,” Mr. Rogers chided gently, reaching out to pinch her knee fondly before settling back in his chair with a sigh of weariness that showed just how much ‘putting the kettle on’ had really cost him.
“I would never dream of calling you such,” Minnie promised, her jaw popping from the force it took to hold back her own yawn. “You’re feeling better today then? No more dizzy spells?” she checked, stirring the medicinal honey into his tea and glancing up at him sharply to monitor his facial expression as he answered.
He blanched at her gaze, his once-bright blue eyes shining slightly as he shook his head. “Only when I have a coughing spell that lasts too long,” he muttered peevishly, not wishing to discuss his health any longer. He made this much clear with the way he took the cup from her, sipping his tea and trying to fight the grimace that came from withholding another set of coughs.
“Well, hopefully the honey will help,” Minnie said gently, not wanting to push him any further than was necessary to know what was happening. “Ada says her father should be stopping in for a visit sometime soon—she wanted me to relay as much to you.”
Mr. Rogers smiled, his irritation with his health forgotten as he sank back into his own armchair and seemed to relax. “Harold Davis is a good man,” he said after a moment, his gaze sharpening with a look that seemed to hint at the bittersweetness of their long friendship. “I wonder how his business is getting on these days.”
“Oh, I’m sure that he’ll bore you with all the details,” Minnie promised lightly, wishing that she didn’t know just how much her father longed to return to work. “The two of you will sit here gossiping like old hens and then I’ll come home in time to hear you talk over all of it again with me,” she teased.
“Don’t accuse me of being long-winded,” Mr. Rogers laughed, coughing slightly around the sudden noise and lifting his hand to push into his chest as if to stave off another upset. “Tomorrow morning I’ll make breakfast, give you a chance to sleep in, and then the two of us can go sit in the garden before your shift. It’s been ages since we picked that book of poetry we were reading back up.”
Minnie smiled, the guilt settling in her chest as she forced her smile even brighter to try to soften the news she had to deliver. “That sounds lovely, Papa, but I have to be in to work early tomorrow.”
Mr. Rogers’ bushy eyebrows furrowed, his gaze unfocused for a moment in his confusion. “What do you mean? You went in early today, tomorrow you were scheduled for the afternoon, weren’t you? Did you switch with someone?”
Minnie shifted, finishing the tea in her own cup and standing as she made herself busy with the tea tray and tidying up so that she didn’t have to face her father too directly as she answered. “No, no, they just needed the extra help in the morning is all. So I’ll just pop in earlier and lend a hand.” She tried to sound dismissive, careful in the way that she phrased it to make it seem like less work than it was actually going to be.
But Mr. Rogers was sick, not slow of mind. “You signed up for another double shift,” he accused her, his voice saddening even as he spoke. “Minnie—”
“Oh, don’t ‘Minnie’ me, Papa, it’ll be fine. Really!” Minnie forced cheer into her words, grinning at him as she took his empty cup from him and balanced it on the tray she was already lifting. “We have the doctor’s bill coming up and your medicine, not to mention I’m in need of some more yarn for darning. And we still have to find the money to pay Jesse to come and fix that rotting porch step too. The double shift will help pay for all of that and really, it doesn’t hurt me to stay busy.”
She spoke airily, ignoring her exhaustion as she edged her way out of the room. “I have to cook dinner though. No, Papa, don’t get up! Stay here, warm by the fire. I’m making a quick stew and I’ll be back.”
Minnie spoke with an authority she barely felt, again waiting until she was out of sight to allow her shoulders to droop, trying to ignore the look of her father’s guilt imprinted on her mind as she hurried from the room. She was going to have to find better excuses to keep working late, ones that made him feel less responsible.
There were just so few hours in the day.
Spring turned to summer and with it came the warmer winds of New York heat, providing less relief to Mr. Rogers’ health than Minnie had expected. She had assumed that the warmer weather would decrease his coughing fits, but after several more doctor’s house calls and two weeks of him laid low at the start of the season, it was clear that it wasn’t just the cold that exacerbated his issues.
Not that Mr. Rogers was eager to admit to any of it being a persistent issue.
It was why Minnie left the shop earlier than she usually would have the day after the doctor’s last house call, winding her way down Main Street at a leisurely pace until she saw Doctor Anderson’s clinic with him standing just outside of it.
She quickened her pace, smiling as she approached the older man.
Doctor Anderson was a gentle-looking man, his hair the kind of golden that gray barely showed through, and soft brown eyes that always seemed comforting. As Minnie approached, he turned to face her, not seeming at all surprised to find her there. If anything, it almost seemed as if he had been expecting her.
“Ms. Minnie Rogers,” he greeted familiarly, glancing behind her down the street before stepping out more to meet her. “I was wondering when you would stop by.”
Minnie shifted, almost embarrassed, her smile short-lived. “I didn’t know I was expected,” she murmured, brushing an errant brown curl back from her forehead. “I was hoping to talk to you about my father though…”
“I know.” Doctor Anderson smiled. “I have a few minutes before Mrs. Cooper makes it down the road for her appointment. I’m assuming you want to know why he keeps getting sick, even with us in the midst of our warmer months?”
Minnie sighed, smiling ruefully at her apparent transparency. “I did. I thought that the summer would bring some sort of respite, but it just seems like there are new problems with the heat.”
“It’s the climate,” Doctor Anderson said simply, shaking his head sadly. “Like I told your father a fortnight back, his health would benefit from a temperate climate; New York isn’t it. We can, of course, keep trying different remedies, but I’m afraid that living here, this is his reality.”
It was hardly the explanation that Minnie had been hoping for.
Her heart sank in her chest, her smile fading slowly from her features as she absorbed what the doctor had just told her. His reality, he said, and the words felt as if they carried the weight of a thousand crates of flour strapped to her back.
“I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear,” Doctor Anderson offered apologetically, reaching out and squeezing Minnie’s arm comfortingly. “And I’d be more than happy to discuss it further after Mrs. Cooper’s appointment, or another day that better suits you. I’d encourage you to talk to your father in the meantime—I have gone over all of this with him. He just didn’t want to overburden you with what seems like bad news.”
“What seems like bad news,” Minnie repeated, snorting slightly as she nodded. “I’ll stop by when I need to refill his medicinal honey then. Thank you, Doctor, I know you’re doing everything you can.”
“I only wish it was more,” Doctor Anderson said seriously, offering her another wan smile before turning to greet the elderly woman hobbling their way.
Minnie stood uselessly for a moment, torn between wanting to just find somewhere to sit and knowing that she needed to continue on her way home. All the hope that she had been clinging to concerning her father’s health seemed to have been leeched from her, her steps a slow sort of sullen when she did take off once more.
No matter how she tried to look at it, nothing that the doctor had said bore any semblance of hope. And hope was something that Minnie was beginning to feel was in desperately short supply. Especially since she had been greeted by a dusky pink breaking through her curtains that morning upon waking.
Even after only working a half-day, knowing that Ada was supposed to be joining her to help can some figs, all Minnie wanted to do was go home and go to bed.
She was half-tempted, going up the walkway through the garden, to veer off to her room before going to check on her father.
Or she was, at least, until she saw her father sitting on the back porch.
He looked nervous somehow, sweating glasses of iced tea placed on the table between the two chairs and his movements almost jerky as he raised a hand to wave her over.
“I didn’t expect to see you out,” Minnie greeted him cheerfully, trying to force her shoulders up from the dejected droop they had taken since talking to the doctor. “And you made tea!” she enthused, taking a seat and trying to decipher the strange look he kept shooting her.
“I wanted to talk to you,” Mr. Rogers coughed, picking up the glass of tea nearest him and swallowing whatever nerves he had along with a gulp of the tea. “I thought you might want to sit in the garden after working too, but you were a bit later than I expected. Tea might not be as cold as you’d like; I can grab some from inside if you’d rather—”
“Papa, the tea is fine,” Minnie soothed, taking a sip and enjoying the way the condensation on the glass cooled her fingers even as she sat back to look at her father quizzically. “I only stopped to talk to Doctor Anderson on the way home.”
He nodded, clearing his throat, and broke her gaze to stare out at the overgrown garden, his jaw ticking slightly. “I reckoned you might do as much. You worry like your grandmother used to. And not for no reason, I’m afraid.”
He spoke matter-of-factly, his eyes focused ahead of him, and Minnie worried what had put him in such a mood. Surely the doctor would have told her if there were anything more serious.
“You’ve seen those mail-order bride catalogs in the store, yes?” he said suddenly, his voice louder in his nervousness and almost making her jump. “Harold Davis was telling me about them when he came to visit the other day. Lots of girls around town are off to find their fortune elsewhere. Out West. It seems to be the only way for men to find wives these days.”
“We have the catalogs in the shop, yes,” Minnie answered confusedly, passing her glass of tea between her hands with a furrowed brow. “Ada sometimes jokes that she’ll answer one to get away from here, but between you and me she’s still too sweet on Mr. Brown’s boy Josh.” She laughed, her smile falling from her face as her father didn’t join her.
“I wrote to the listing in one,” Mr. Rogers said suddenly, his voice monotone. “A rancher in Colorado looking for a wife. At first, I told myself I was just looking, but after talking to him back and forth over the last two months we’ve come to an agreement.”
Minnie blinked, her mind whirling with disbelief. “You wrote to one?” she repeated, her voice sounding far away even to her own ears. “But why? You can’t marry a rancher, and—” She stopped suddenly, her words dying in her throat at the way her father turned to her, his face lined with silent apology.
“The marriage proposal isn’t for my hand, Minnie, but yours.”
Minnie laughed. It was all she could think to do in the face of the absurdity her father was spewing. Her hand? “I live here, in New York,” she chuckled, her words bordering on hysterical. What an odd joke for him to play so late in the day.
“You do for now,” Mr. Rogers said, his voice pained as he broke her gaze once more, the ice cubes in his glass rattling from how his hands shook. “By the end of the week you’ll be headed for Colorado. I should have told you sooner—”
“I can’t go to Colorado,” Minnie argued weakly, the reality of what her father said and the lack of jest in his tone finally settling in. “What will you do? You need me here. I need to be able to pay the bills and my job—Papa! You can’t go back to work! And Doctor Anderson said—”
“I know what the doctor said, Minnie,” Mr. Rogers broke in sharply, his face immediately folding with grief as soon as he had spoken. “I know what the doctor said,” he repeated, his voice more subdued. “I didn’t come to this decision lightly, Minnie. I’ve been looking for months for any other way out of this, but the truth is that we are out of money. What little I had left after the scandal…” He trailed off, his features tightening as a violent cough took over for him.
Minnie reeled, her vision swimming as she tried to make sense of everything being told to her. Being out of money, in a way, had been expected for some time. She would just have to pick up another job, or perhaps she could start taking in laundry when she wasn’t working at the shop…
“You stop what you’re doing right there,” Mr. Rogers sputtered, getting control of his cough with difficulty. “I can see the wheels in that brain of yours turning and I’m telling you now, I won’t have it. You work too much as it is; I won’t have you taking on any more when I should be the one providing for us.”
“Papa, you’re sick—”
“And I’ll stay sick,” Mr. Rogers interrupted, his voice gentling as he reached out to take Minnie’s hand in his own, setting his glass of tea back off to the side. “This weather here, it’s going to be the death of me. But Colorado…”
Doctor Anderson’s comments on a more moderate climate flashed in Minnie’s head, but still she shook her head no. “I can’t leave you,” she whispered, her voice breaking.
“He’s willing to provide for you, Minnie,” Mr. Rogers responded seriously. “Once you’re married you can move me out there too.” His voice broke over the words, his eyes downcast as he took a fortifying breath. “Minnie, the house is in need of repair. With my health, I can’t get to it. Even if we sold this place, we wouldn’t be able to afford a new one and the move. It’s the best opportunity we have and it’s high time you settled down yourself. You’d’ve already entertained prospects if it weren’t for my darned health!”
Colorado. It was a climate better suited to her father’s needs, but Minnie couldn’t feign excitement over such a prospect. Marriage was something she hadn’t dared to entertain.
“You can’t ask me to be happy with this prospect, Papa,” Minnie finally whispered, tears filling her eyes. “I’ll do it, of course I’ll do it, because you ask it of me. But…”
Tears fell from Mr. Rogers’ eyes as well, his hand squeezing hers tightly. “I know what I’m asking of you, Minnie. I know that it seems like a lot, but we didn’t have other options. I wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world. You know that, don’t you?”
The sun’s rays threw out an orange and pink cast over the earth as they began to fall, Minnie’s throat clogged with tears as she nodded. The day had dawned pink. She should have known.
“Mr. Foster is a reputable man. Mr. Davis has done dealings with him and his family before. His brother lives here in New York, and his nephew who works for him is coming to escort you down.” Mr. Rogers spoke quickly, as if to take the sting out of the words or make them sound positive. But all Minnie could see was the pink on the ground, her heart sinking even more.
The Colorado sun was never forgiving in summer. At least not beating down on the back of an already heated neck. Edwin Foster was just that too: heated. He should have been working on the new horse paddock with his uncle, but after the news the older man had dropped, it took all Edwin’s restraint not to say more than he already had.
Even the word put Edwin’s teeth on edge as he tore his hat off his head, running his hand raggedly through the brown hair beneath it. It should have been happy news, momentous news even. And it would have been, except for the fact that his uncle had sent for a mail-order bride more likely to be interested in his wealth than anything else that he had to offer.
Married. “Pah,” Edwin spat, ignoring the concerned glances of passers-by as he turned down the sidewalk and off towards the seamstress shop. He hadn’t originally intended to set out for Allie’s in all of his frustration, though it made sense to him that it was where he’d been led.
Even opening the shop door was a bit like a soothing balm, the familiar scent of lavender washing over him as he stepped over the threshold.
“Oh, look what the wind blew into my shop,” a woman cried, her voice faintly amused.
Allie Hemmings smiled from behind the counter, her fingers twisting in thread as she respooled it, and her blue eyes twinkling merrily in greeting. At thirty-six years old, she’d been deemed a spinster, though anyone who looked at her would never guess.
“I remembered that I said I’d come fix that cabinet door for you, Ms. Hemmings,” Edwin muttered, trying to come up with an excuse on the spot as he traded his hat between hands. “Reckoned now might be a good time.”
Allie looked him over astutely, the needle sticking out of one side of her mouth, bobbing as her smile turned to a frown. “Maybe more than just the wind, hm?” she murmured, jerking her chin to the cabinet in question. “It’s way too early in the day for you to be out offering your help, Edwin. Do you want to tell me what’s got you all turned about or am I going to have to pry it out of you while you work?” she teased, not moving from her stool as Edwin worked his way behind the counter and headed for the cabinet door hanging off of its hinges.
Edwin was half-tempted to tell her that there wouldn’t need to be any of that, that he was fine. Lord knew she wouldn’t pry if he was firm enough. He was just irritated, he knew, and worrying on top of it. She was right though; while Edwin had been helping her out sporadically over the last year since he’d moved to Colorado, it was usually well after he finished his work on the ranch or on his rare days off.
“My uncle is being a git,” he finally answered, his explanation succinct and without all the dramatics that his storming off the ranch had contained.
“Ray?” Allie asked in surprise, covering the shock in her voice and the slip of her fingers with the thread as she looked at Edwin curiously. “The two of you have a falling out of some sort?”
“You could say that,” Edwin grumbled, already at work with the tools he’d pulled out from under the counter to take the door off of its hinges. “You know, I get that he’s getting up there in age. No one wants to be middle-aged and alone I suppose—”
Allie snorted, and Edwin’s cheeks blushed at the reminder that she was only a year or two younger than his uncle at most. Even knowing that they had been friends some ten odd years ago, with the way they liked to avoid one another now, it was easy enough to forget.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. “I just think he’s being foolish. Borrowing trouble, sending away for a bride like he has.”
Allie didn’t answer right away, and Edwin, despite being focused on the cabinet, glanced up in question after a moment or two of silence.
Finding Allie frowning down at the thread in her still hands only made him want to kick himself ten times over. He’d put his foot in his mouth. Knowingly, too. His tools fell still in his hands, his gut lurching as he realized how he had delivered the news.
He’d known, practically since moving to live with his uncle, that Allie Hemmings was a certain sort of special to the man. Ray only ever talked about her when he was tired enough to let his guard down, mentioning their friendship some ten years back and how hard it had been on him for Allie to up and leave in the middle of it. It was only after Edwin had befriended Allie and started doing work for her around her house and her shop due to her having no family to do it for her, that he’d pieced the rest of the story together.
And even that was mostly just from assumptions and commentary that had been strung together over the last year. Knowing, or rather, suspecting that the two had been sweethearts should have been enough to remind Edwin to keep his mouth shut.
“Allie…” he started, uncertainty clinging to his voice.
“A lot of people are doing mail-order brides these days,” Allie interrupted him briskly, seeming to recover herself as she started spooling the thread again. “I reckon if I were ten years younger, I might try it out myself.” She laughed, but the sound wasn’t reflected in her still somber gaze.
Edwin snorted. “It’s all about money,” he said disdainfully, his lips curling in distaste. “You can’t know someone from a letter or from just hearing about them. I don’t know why he’s being so rash about this!”
Allie sighed, putting her thread down to look at Edwin more seriously, her smile a sort of bittersweet. “When you get to be ‘middle-aged’,” she said emphatically, her lips twitching somewhat to show her lack of any real offense, “the prospect of love has dwindled so much, I wouldn’t consider making an ad for money, but out of hope for something richer.”
“How can you expect to find love out of a catalog?” Edwin demanded in frustration.
“How can you expect to find love outside of one?” Allie countered seriously. Her blue eyes took on a sadder hue, her head dropping slightly. “I was in love once, you know. I thought that the man I was with was dashing and true…and he abandoned me when I needed him most, so I vowed never to marry. By the time I was able anyways, I was well past the age most would consider.” Allie sighed again, glancing out of the window with her face a pool of memory. “Sometimes, to move on, you’re willing to try anything. No matter how new-fangled or far-fetched it is.”
Edwin frowned. He knew she was talking about his uncle, just as he knew that it pained her even more than she was letting on. More than ever, with the threat of the woman he was supposed to be going to fetch from New York, he wished he could find a way to make his uncle and Allie spend more time with one another.
“You think I shouldn’t be so harsh on him,” Edwin stated, his voice lifting to make it more of a question.
Allie nodded, shrugging her shoulders as she got back to work with her thread. “I think you ought to consider it from his point of view, is all,” she offered gently. “Support him. Just because he’s meeting the woman doesn’t mean he has to marry her.”
Edwin didn’t know if she sounded more hopeful about that or if it was his imagination making him hear as much.
“Would you mind helping me then?” he asked suddenly, a dash of inspiration hitting him like a runaway carriage as he swallowed back his sudden enthusiasm.
“Helping you?” Allie asked in surprise, her gaze lifting once more.
“I said some pretty harsh things when I left the ranch earlier,” Edwin confided, getting back to work himself to busy his hands and make himself more believable. “I reckon I have to go back with an olive branch of some sort…I was thinking, maybe, that I could tell him I came to see you as a way of helping him.”
Allie said nothing, her brow furrowed in question.
“You know, he’s been a bachelor for so long,” Edwin continued, his heart beating rapidly in his chest at the deception. It was well-meant though, he’d just have to keep reminding himself as much. “The house really isn’t meant for any guests of the female sort. Maybe you could help him get it ready? Make it more agreeable for the feminine eye and all?”
“I don’t know about that,” Allie argued, her voice sounding almost choked.
Edwin pushed on though, swallowing his guilt at doing so. “It would mean a lot to me, to show him that I’m trying. I still think it’s rubbish, but maybe this way at least I can show him that I support him, even if I don’t like his decision. He’ll need new quilts and curtains, probably some dresses. Which, of course, he’d pay you for. But if you could help him figure out what’s best for a young lady…”
“Edwin, your uncle doesn’t need my help,” Allie muttered, her fingers slipping more against the thread and a furrow marring her brow. “I mean, really.”
“He does though,” Edwin insisted, if only just to force them around one another more and see if that spark that had once existed between them was still there. It was devious and underhanded and any manner of other dastardly qualities besides, but Edwin was desperate. He didn’t think that his Uncle Ray quite knew what he was signing up for with this mail-order bride business. Even if she had been referred to him by an old friend.
“I’ll certainly not insert myself so boldly into anyone else’s personal matters,” Allie finally said primly. “Though, of course, if your uncle were to ask me for my help, I’d be only too happy to oblige.”
Edwin hid his grin behind his wrist as he hung a new bracket on the cabinet. That wouldn’t be so hard, he reckoned, getting his uncle to ask that, all things considered. “You’re a life-saver Ms. Allie Hemmings,” he enthused.
“And you’re more mercurial than a winter storm,” Allie retorted, her amusement clear. “You stormed in here like you were ready to disassemble my whole cabinet and now you’re just right as rain!”
“You talked me out of my snit,” Edwin teased, tightening the hinge and shifting so that he could get further under the cabinet. “I still don’t agree with the whole mail-order bride business…But Uncle Ray took me in when no one else would’ve, and he’s always supported me and my decisions. Least I can do is offer him something of the same.”
And hopefully talk him out of this nonsense and into a real marriage, but that thought was kept just for Edwin himself as he worked further on the cabinet, his mood still somewhat soured, but more hopeful at least.
He just had to delay his trip back from New York with that blushing, money-grubbing young bride somehow.
And hope that Uncle Ray didn’t put his whole foot in his mouth with Allie in the meantime.
And hope that they still had some sort of spark between them.
There was a lot of figuring left to do, all things considered. And Edwin set himself happily to that task as he finished hanging the cabinet door, running scenarios and possibilities over in his mind while he let his hands take care of the menial labor.
One way or another he was going to do something. He wouldn’t just sit idly by while some young debutante from New York made a play for his uncle’s money and happiness with her greedy claws.
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Minnie Rogers is nothing if not hardworking and loyal, almost to a fault. In the wake of her father’s declining health and with money running out, it falls to her to handle everything on her own. Willing to do whatever it takes to help her father survive another winter, she must grin and bear her only option; to cross the country to marry an older man she has never met. If only she could find the prospect as romantic as everyone around her seems to…
All Minnie wanted was to save her father; falling in love was never on her agenda…
In an effort to avoid his own arranged marriage, Edward Foster flees to his uncle in the West. When he is tasked to travel with Minnie, his uncle’s new bride, he is determined not to let him succumb to a loveless marriage. Only Minnie isn’t anything like he expected her to be, and soon, he will be forced to explore powerful feelings he hadn’t bargained for.
Will Edward finally open up his heart to a woman, even if she happens to be his uncle’s future bride?
Suddenly, Edwin and Minnie become dependent on one another for much more than just traveling companionship. In a heart-stopping moment, their lives will hang by a thread, and it will take all of their courage to face a peril that could destroy everything. Will their growing trust and affection help them find their way out of the maze they have fallen into?
“Choosing Her Own Destiny” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.