Viola Ledwick was nineteen years old and about to embark on the biggest adventure of her life. She was five feet six inches tall, with light brown hair and dark brown eyes. Her dress was carefully modelled on the fashion of the day that she had gleaned from newspapers and from seeing how the wealthier in society were dressed. She walked with confidence, because she knew that she looked good. Her mother had always told her to hold her head high and her shoulders straight.
“You are as worthy as anyone else to be on God’s earth,” her mother had said. Viola felt the sadness again that losing her mother had brought. Her father had already succumbed to the illness and although she had nursed her mother with great care, it had not been enough to save her.
Her father had worked hard and made a good life for the three of them until he became ill, and her mother had been prudent with the money that was left. Viola had some money to make sure that she was not left a beggar but, like her mother, she had vowed to make sure she used it wisely.
In fact, Missus Ledwick had been a strong-minded lady who could turn her hand to almost anything when the need arose. Despite some hard times there were always meals on the table and she could make a few poor ingredients into an enticing plate of food. She could give the house the coat of paint it needed but always allowed folk to give credit to her husband. Viola had grown up with this attitude and had inherited the desire to do things when they were needed. Coming out to Wyoming was a brave attempt to begin a whole new life, but to all intents and purposes she looked the part of a lady travelling to meet friends.
Viola had good ability with needlework and had successfully copied, from observation, the dress and coat that she was wearing. The skirt of the gown swept out behind her as she walked and the waist was neatly brought in underneath the clasp of the coat. She was a keen follower of fashion and loved materials. One of the things that bothered her about leaving town and moving to a smaller place was that it might not be possible to find the cloth that she liked to make her clothes with.
“I hope I can find materials in Wyoming,” she worried to her friend who was helping her board the train.
“Don’t worry about it,” Madeleine said. “There will be material, needles and thread. You have to look at the positive side of starting a new life.”
“You have spent weeks trying to talk me out of this and now you are doing the opposite.”
“We will miss you,” Madeleine said suddenly overcome by the fact that Viola was about to disappear from her life.
“You can write endless letters to each other,” Brent, Madeleine’s husband, told them as he lifted the heavy trunk that she was taking inside the carriage. It was a long way up to the door of the carriage and another man helped him by pulling from above to lift the trunk inside.
The girls threw their arms around each other and there were tears as they said goodbye.
Brent helped Viola up the four steps into the wooden coach and stepped up himself to make sure she found a seat that was comfortable.
“Thank you, Brent” she said, and the man climbed down again. The couple stood at the side as the noisy, steamy engine slowly chugged its way out of the depot and off into the great open spaces. They waved and Brent put his arm around his wife. Viola waved from the carriage and then sat down and found a cloth to dab at her eyes with.
The man who had assisted Brent with the trunk sat opposite Viola, and said that saying goodbye was not easy. Viola smiled at him and put way the handkerchief.
“Got to think about what is ahead and remember the good things about the past,” she answered with her mother’s wisdom.
“So true,” he replied. “Are you going very far to see what is ahead?” he asked.
“A place called Samuel, in Wyoming,” she answered.
“But that is just wonderful. I live there and I am travelling back home.” The man smiled a genuine smile that appealed to Viola. He had the most striking green eyes that twinkled as he spoke, and the lines at the sides of the eyes crinkled in a very attractive way. He waited a pause to see if she would explain why she was travelling to Samuel, but there was no response.
Viola pushed to one side the reason that she was going to this town. It was better to keep some things to yourself. She knew that she should respond to the man’s friendliness and it was good to have someone to talk to when you travelled alone. Travelling alone as a woman was still not something that was done often.
“I have been writing to a pen friend for some time,” she said. That was quite true because she had been communicating with a man called Thomas for three months. She had not met him, of course, but preferred to keep that to herself. “My parents have both passed away and I need to make a fresh start.”
“That is sad. I am so sorry,” he answered. “At least I can tell you about Samuel and maybe introduce you to people when you are living there.”
“That would be so kind of you,” she said, and meant it. It would help to know about the place. The man held out a hand.
“Joseph” he said, and she took the hand and shook it.
“Viola Ledwick,” she replied, and the touch of his hand in hers was suddenly alive. She took back the hand and rubbed at the sizzling feeling that had run through her veins as he closed his fingers around hers. She noticed that he was doing the same and could not help smiling. He grinned back as if they had suddenly shared a secret. They settled back in their seats as the countryside flowed by. Joseph saw her gazing out of the window.
“Samuel is set in the most beautiful landscape that you will ever see anywhere,” he told her. “I have a great affection for the countryside and when I can, I like to ride out and enjoy the views. I grew up on a ranch. I am no cowboy, but I do like to ride the range sometimes.”
She queried about the views and he explained that there were mountains, lakes, waterfalls and forests.
“There are also wide ranges of grazing land and the ranches all seem to prosper.” Then he laughed. “Thank goodness that all men need clothes of some sort, because that is my business.”
“Clothes?” she asked with her interest suddenly awakened. Joseph saw the look in her eyes.
“Men’s clothing,” he answered “but I can see that you are a woman who likes her clothes.” Viola smiled and agreed and found herself explaining to this man that she had only just met that she loved making dresses and coats for herself, and was so worried that she would not be able to find the materials in Samuel.
“Did you make the dress you are wearing?” he was bold enough to ask and she nodded.
“I just love the feeling of the velvet. The color is very light, but I wouldn’t wear it every day.”
“Viola, it has a professional look about it. I think you are more talented than you would admit.” She laughed and shook her head.
“Purely for myself.”
He told her that there were materials in Samuel but if there was anything she needed in particular, he would be happy to order it for her.
“I have been looking at supplies on this visit,” he explained. The two of them found that they could chatter about materials and fashion quite happily and he looked in the bag that was at his feet and found some papers that he had been given in the city. Viola looked at them with delight and pointed out several dresses that she would like to copy. The time sped by without any trouble as the two heads bent together over the pictures and he spotted technicalities that might cause a problem with some of the designs.
The carriage was not uncomfortable, because the seats were almost like armchairs in a house. The lady in a seat on the opposite side of the carriage heard the conversation about dresses and added her contribution as well. Before long, the travellers close to Viola and Joseph had become almost friends in a very short time and Viola had settled back feeling cheerful about the decision to start a life in Samuel.
The train approached another depot and slowed down. Everyone watched the buildings slide by as the engine huffed and steamed to a halt.
“I know this place,” Joseph told her. “I will go and bring us something to eat.” She told him that was very kind, and that she would return the favor at the next stop. He smiled and strode away across the yard to an eating house. She watched him as he walked with the long, easy stride of a cowboy – even though he was a shopkeeper. He had said that he had a clothing store but was obviously happy in the outdoors. At just over six feet tall, Joseph was a well-dressed and attractive man. She noted that a few people either waved to him or called across. The man was obviously well-known and well-liked.
He returned bearing plates of food on a wooden tray along with cold drinks and some cake. They ate and watched the life outside as the depot bustled about its business. Viola remarked that it was a surprising mixture of people. There were cowboys in their rough clothes, big Stetsons and guns in holsters. They seemed very relaxed and shouted to each other. There were very well-dressed folk with assistants carrying their baggage. Most of those headed towards the carriage where she and Joseph were sitting.
Huge boxes were either loaded or unloaded into the trucks for goods. Horses were retrieved from the livestock carriages and some of them were giving their owners trouble as the travel along with the noise unsettled them. At the far end of the train, quite a lot of cattle burst from their trucks and were guided with lots of noise away from the depot. The engine had men in working overalls, filling up the water and the fuel to keep the whole thing moving.
“It is easy to watch from inside the carriage,” Viola remarked. “It must be quite frightening to be out there with everything moving about.”
“Don’t worry,” Joseph told here. “When we reach Samuel, I will make sure you are safe and we have people to help you.” She settled back in the seat and smiled her thanks. By the time they finished eating, the engine was getting up steam to set off again and the depot slid backwards to give way to more open countryside.
When the day came to a close, Joseph said that he was going to retire to a sleeper compartment.
“Are you going that way as well?” he asked. She shook her head.
“I will stay here a while, thank you. I don’t sleep well.” He left her the pages of garments to look through as she sat but the light was fading quickly. He walked away to the sleeper and most of the others did the same. Viola found her travel rug and wrapped it around herself. She folded a garment to make a pillow and settled in the seat for the night.
The money for the sleeper had seemed like a great deal to spend when she could stay in the seat.
When morning finally arrived, she was thinking that the money might have been well spent on the sleeper, but tidied herself up before people returned from their sleeper compartments. She told Joseph that she was an early riser. There was almost another full day of travelling before they reached Samuel and when they stopped in the middle of the day, she insisted on coming with him to find some food and pay for it.
He smiled and said that she really did not need to do that.
“I like to always pay my share of anything,” she explained, and bought extra when she realised that he was trying to keep down the price. He grinned at her.
“I am kinda hungry,” he admitted. They carried the food back to the carriage and he helped her up the steps and then passed up the food. Their conversation flowed constantly and it was good to feel there was someone that she could talk to. He managed to learn about her parents and how she had been raised. She found out that he had an older brother who still lived in the ranch house that had belonged to his parents.
“My folk ran cattle. It was not a big ranch but they liked it. My brother lives in the house but doesn’t run the place as a ranch. I keep telling him it would be a good business but he has no desire to do that.” Viola glanced at the man as he said this, as there was a hint of sadness in his tone.
She asked about the store and what sort of customers came to shop there. It took his mind off something that obviously bothered him.
“I have a young woman who works in the store for me. She is called Bella, and I am sure you will get to be good friends. Bella has been looking after things for me.”
She told him that she was booked into a hotel and he asked which one. He smiled and she saw that he was relieved that she had made the right choice.
“You are happy about that,” she remarked, and he looked at her and asked how she knew that. Viola smiled and told him that she could tell he was a little anxious. “You ruffle your hair when you are slightly concerned about something.” He put his hand to his head and then laughed.
“Well spotted,” he said.
“In return and just to prove you are not the only one who can work things out,” he told her, “I think you are anxious about this new life you are starting. If I can help, you only have to ask.”
“That is good to know. Thank you,” she answered. “I guess going to somewhere new and meeting so many different people is a big step to take.” She glanced at him and knew that he was thinking that there was more to it than she was telling, but she kept the information to herself.
They talked their way through the rest of the journey until Joseph said that they were almost there. He stood up and started to collect their baggage. Viola felt a great pang as she thought about separating to go their different ways. It had been lovely to feel relaxed and comfortable in someone else’s company. He turned and put down the last bag and she suddenly knew that he was thinking the same.
He took a second, and then suggested that it would be nice to meet up again when she was settled.
Viola felt a thrill of pleasure run through her head at the thought of renewing their friendship.
“It would be lovely, but I will have to see how things are.” She would have loved to be friendlier but it was not possible.
He knew that she was holding something back and wondered what it was. He made the best of it. This woman had an effect on him that he’d had never felt before and he wanted to prolong their time together. He thought how strange it was that travelling with someone for two days on the railroad could make such a strong impression in such a short time.
“Come to the store before you go to the hotel and meet Bella and my friend Roger, who has been helping her. Then I can make sure you are settled there.”
“Thank you. I would like that,” she said. The engine started to slow the train and the truly wonderful views gave way to wooden buildings and finally the bustling depot of the railroad.
There were lots of groups of people around as there had been at other stops on the route, but no single man standing waiting for her as she thought there might have been. At the far end of the platform area a group of men were joking with each other. They looked like maybe gamblers or even gunmen. As Joseph took down the bags and then helped her down the steps, the oldest man in the group separated from the others and strode over to where she was standing.
He wore a dark suit that might have been decent once upon a time, and he also wore a gunbelt with guns at both sides. The ammunition belts crossed his chest. The man was well-armed and the guns looked the best cared for part of his dress.
Joseph had moved away to find a man to carry the bags, but when he came back he stopped short. This older man was spinning Viola around and calling her his little woman. Joseph moved in quickly and took hold of the man by the arm. Viola was obviously quite shaken and the man was very annoyed.
“Interfering again,” he sneered at Joseph. “I am your older brother, remember. You should respect your elders and betters.”
“Elders and idiots,” Joseph retorted. “Now leave Viola alone and go back to your pals.” A nasty grin spread cross the man’s face.
“But this Viola has come here to marry me,” he told his brother. “That is right, isn’t it, Viola?”
Joseph gasped out loud and looked at Viola. She looked sad and nodded.
“Yes, I should have been honest about it but I told him that I would stay at the hotel until the wedding took place.”
“Marry him? You can’t marry him, Viola. The man might be my brother but I know what he is like and it is not nice.”
“An agreement is an agreement,” Thomas Edwards leered at her and she had to stop herself from shuddering. Joseph took control, although he would have been the first to admit that he was very shaken himself.
“You agreed she stay at the hotel. That is where we will go and she can decide what she wants to do tomorrow.” The man who had come to take the bags was standing watching all of this and Thomas’ friends had wandered over and were listening as well. Viola was mortified and Joseph could see that she was still shaken.
“Load these bags on the trolley,” Joseph told the man from the railroad and when that was done, he offered his arm to Viola and told the man to follow. She took his arm like a lifeline and he could feel the grip of her fingers through the material of the jacket. They walked down the main street of Samuel, Wyoming, and the store that he owned was like a haven in a storm. They went inside and he closed the door and bolted it. Then he sat on the trunk and tried to pull himself together.
“What is wrong?” Bella Nightingale asked and came out from behind the counter.
“We met on the train,” Joseph started but Viola had had enough of not telling the truth. She took over, introduced herself, and told the woman that she just met that she had come to Samuel as a mail order bride.
“I never admitted it to Joseph. That was probably a mistake.”
“Mistake?” Mistake?” the man added from his seat on the trunk. “I cannot believe that the man she came to marry…”
“Was his brother.” Viola finished.
“Oh, my Lord above,” Bella exclaimed. “That cannot happen. It just cannot happen.”
“Exactly,” Joseph agreed and stood up. “Come through and have a seat and a coffee until we decide what to do.” He made sure the door was locked and put a closed sign in the window.
Bella said there was coffee in the pot and some soup keeping warm if that was any help. She ushered them into the living room behind the store and saw that they were both very shaken. She poured them both coffee and left them to pull themselves together as she went and stirred the soup, found bread, and brought bowls to the table.
Like a mother hen, even though she was only the same age as Viola, Bella gradually saw them both relax a little and eat the soup.
“I am so sorry that I never told you the truth,” Viola said to Joseph at last. “I normally never lie but I had arranged this through an agency and I didn’t know how people would react. Maybe people will think I am, I am,” she faltered to a halt and drank her coffee.
“It is obvious that you are not a nasty person,” Bella said helpfully. “I know that women do come out to marry and most times it seems to work quite well. Life on a ranch can be very lonely for a man on his own.”
“The trouble is not that folk would not approve, but that everyone here would tell you not to marry my brother,” Joseph added. He had that sad look that he had shown before when he mentioned his brother but it was also tinged with anger this time. “What on earth did my family do to deserve that man as part of it? We were brought up to work hard and be decent folk. My brother could not stay out of trouble from the time he could walk.”
Bella told Viola that Joseph often tried to help his brother and spoke out for him when he was in trouble, but it never seemed to help.
“What sort of trouble?” Viola asked. Bella and Joseph looked at each other.
“She has to know,” Bella said. The man nodded.
“Robbery, drunkenness, gambling and I think he has been hired out to be a gunslinger or a bodyguard sometimes. He has been in jail twice.”
“Oh Lord,” Viola started to realise just how much trouble she had given herself.
Joseph Edwards made a decision.
“You simply cannot marry him. You would be giving yourself a life of misery,” he said. Bella nodded.
“But I signed a contract,” Viola almost whispered. “I have to go through with it.” Joseph put out a hand and patted her arm.
“We will find a way to save you,” he said, and she knew he meant it.
“What was the agreement about the hotel?” Bella asked and Viola said that she had agreed to the wedding but not until she had gotten to know her prospective husband. She had said that she would stay at the hotel until the wedding could be arranged properly.
“That helps,” Joseph answered.
“Which hotel?” Bella queried and Joseph smiled.
“Thank goodness that Viola booked at The Golden Grace,” he said.
“Why is that important?” Viola asked. “You asked that before.”
“Because the other hotel is called The Barn and is a gambling den that Thomas uses all of the time,” Joseph told her.
“They do have some reasonable rooms for folk to stay but there are other rooms that are used for-,” Bella hesitated.
“Ladies of the night?” Viola asked with the hint of a smile. “The Golden Grace sounds much better.”
“And the couple who own the Grace are friendly and will help us keep you safe,” Joseph added.
“How long can I stay safe?” Viola asked.
There was a knock at the rear door of the house before anyone could answer and Viola jumped as if she had been stung. A male voice called out and Joseph laughed and went to let in his friend, Roger Mackay.
Introductions were made and the story told yet again. Roger was a large and reassuring figure of a man, dressed in the clothes that said he could be a cowboy, and he accepted coffee and sat in the largest chair in the room.
“My Lord above,” he exclaimed when they told him what had happened. “How do we stop it happening?”
“I don’t think you can,” Viola answered. “I signed a paper to say I would be a mail order bride.”
“Mmm,” Joseph said. “I know things about my brother that might stop him.”
There was another knock at the door and Joseph went to open it.
“The Heart Knows No Limits” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Viola’s life has not been easy since she lost everyone she has ever loved. Tired of struggling to keep her life together, she decides to become a mail order bride. When Thomas Edwards sends for her, she desperately hopes for a fresh start, but little does she know that fate has other plans for her. On the train to Wyoming, a joyous encounter with Joseph leaves her captivated, but to her horror, she discovers that he’s the brother of her husband-to-be. While Viola dreams of a better life, her conflicting feelings will bring second thoughts when she realizes how troubled Thomas is. Will she manage to start over? Or will her feelings for Joseph get in the way?
Joseph has spent most of his life looking after his family and keeping his brother out of trouble. When he meets Viola, he is quickly charmed by her kindness, but when he tragically finds out that she is going to marry his criminal brother, he knows it’s up to him to save her. In an attempt to protect Viola from Thomas’ unstable behavior, the brothers will get into a big fight. Will Joseph betray his brother’s secrets and turn him over to the police? Will he finally have a chance to make her realize that marrying Thomas would be the biggest mistake of her life?
Viola and Joseph develop an irresistible connection which makes it impossible for them to deny their divine destiny. Well-kept secrets will haunt Joseph as he is trying to rescue the woman he loves, while protecting his brother’s name. Will they be able to let their hearts grow closer and find the happiness they both crave? Or will their moral barriers force them to sacrifice their dreams?
“The Heart Knows No Limits” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.