Mail order doctor, p.1
Mail Order Doctor, page 1
Mail Order Doctor
The Brides of Tombstone
Mail Order Doctor
Copyright © 2015 by Cynthia Woolf
All rights reserved.
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Mail Order Doctor is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Published by Firehouse Publishing
Photo credits – Jenifoto, Scott Prokop Photography and Period Images
Digital formatting – Author E.M.S.
Books written by Cynthia Woolf can be obtained either through the author’s official website:
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For my wonderful husband Jim who supports me in all my endeavors. I love you more than mere words can express.
To Michele Callahan, Karen Doctor and Cate Rowan, thank you for your support of my work and helping me to brainstorm each book. You’re ideas are invaluable to me as is your friendship.
To Romcon Custom Covers and their artist Jennifer Zane, thank you for my beautiful covers.
To my editor, Linda Carroll-Bradd, thank you for making my writing better with each book. Thank you for making me work and learn with each book. You’re amazing.
March 8, 1882
Julia O’Brien Reynolds looked through the window of the stagecoach as it pulled into Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The town was rustic to say the least, but crowded none the less. She looked forward to using her nursing skills and working side by side with her new husband, Doctor Matthew Reynolds.
So many people milled about the street the driver had to slow the coach lest he run them over. With so many people Matthew’s business must be doing well.
Bars, hotels, restaurants, a general store and other shops lined the main street. She spotted a theater, The Bird Cage and she hoped she’d be able to attend a performance.
As the coach approached a hotel, she heard someone yell, “The stage is here,” just before the vehicle came to a stop.
One of her fellow passengers, Mr. Benjamin King, opened the door and jumped down before the shotgun rider could do it.
“Let me help you Mrs. Reynolds.” He offered his hand. Getting on and off the stage was difficult without assistance because her dress restricted her movements. She knew she should have worn a walking dress but she wanted to make a good impression and opted for style over practicality.
“Thank you Mr. King. I have appreciated your aid this entire trip from Tucson. I don’t know what I would have done without it.” He was one of the more handsome men she’d known. Tall, well over six feet, with brown hair streaked with gold, and gray eyes that she thought could be icy if he was angry. She’d only seen them kitten soft and inviting.
“It was entirely my pleasure, Mrs. Reynolds, I assure you. If you should need my assistance for any reason while here in Tombstone, please don’t hesitate to find me. I’ll be at the Tombstone Hotel.”
“Thank you.” She felt the heat rise to her cheeks. “As a mail order bride, I shall remember that, but I hope my husband will be able to help me and I won’t require your assistance.”
His mouth turned down for a moment and then he smiled. “Nevertheless, you never know, my dear. You just never know.” He reached over, took Julia’s hand and brought it to his lips. “Until we meet again.”
Julia stepped away from the stagecoach and toward the hotel where it had stopped. Every movement caused her pain as her corset cut into her tender skin. Rivulets of sweat ran between her breasts and she wished she’d brought a fan. All of her winter dresses would have to stay packed away. They would be useless in this heat that attacked her from all sides. Luckily she had three summer dresses and blouses and skirts she could wear. If she needed more she would have to order them from New York unless there was a dress shop here in town.
The coach driver set her trunk on the boardwalk beside her. He tipped his hat. “Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Thank you, Mr. Johnson.”
“Yes, ma’am. You’re welcome.”
She looked around, wondering if any of these men were Doctor Matthew Reynolds. Since none of them came up to her, she decided they weren’t and entered the hotel.
A young man stood behind the desk, talking to Mr. King.
“Here you go, boss.” He handed him a room key “Glad to have you back.”
“Thanks, Horace. Is there anything I should know about since I’ve been gone.”
“No, sir. Everything ran smooth as glass.”
“Glad to hear it.” Mr. King turned away from the desk and saw Julia.
“Mr. King. I hadn’t realized that you own the hotel.”
“It’s one of my many interests. Horace here, will help you. Good day, Mrs. Reynolds.”
Horace looked up at Julia. “May I help you, ma’am?”
“Yes,” Julia stepped forward. “Can you tell me where to find the doctor’s office?”
“Yes, ma’am. Just turn right when you leave here, down two blocks, make another right and go two more blocks. You’ll see the office on your left. It’s attached to the doctor’s home, so the building looks different than all the other houses.”
“Thank you, young man.” She knew from her letters that the office was attached to the house. The arrangement made it more convenient for Matthew.
“Julia. Julia O’Brien Reynolds.”
She turned toward the sound of her name. A tall man with spectacles and gray hair approached her.
“I’m Julia Reynolds.”
He held out his hand. “I’m Walt Reynolds, Matthew’s grandpa”
“Oh.” She took his extended hand and shook it. “Mr. Reynolds, I’m very pleased to meet you. Where is Matthew?”
“He had a birthin’ come up. I’ll take you to the house and get you settled in. I’ve got the wagon out front.”
Julia glanced up to see a look she didn’t recognize on Mr. King’s face. Was it anger? He nodded curtly in her direction, then turned and went up the stairs.
That’s very strange.
“Where’s your baggage?”
Julia brought her attention back to Walt. “Yes, um…I have a trunk out on the boardwalk, though I’m afraid most of what I brought won’t be useful. The weather is much warmer than I anticipated.”
He waved his hand. “Don’t worry about that. The temperature drops at night, so you’ll still need some of your warmer clothes.”
She followed him out to the boardwalk. “Thank goodness. Though the thought of new clothes is always exciting, I dread having to stand for the fittings.”
“No, I don’t suppose that would be much fun.” He bent and touched her trunk. “Is this the one?”
“Yes, that’s my trunk. Can you get it by yourself?”
“Certainly.” The muscles in his neck stood out as he began to pick up the crate. “I may have gray hair but I’m far from feeble, young woman.”
“I…I didn’t mean…”
“Here let me help with that.” Benjamin King appeared from the hotel, walked over to the other end of the trunk and
“Yes, that’s true, Ben. Good to see you back.” Walt grasped the handle and lifted, then started to walk. “Appreciate the help.”
“I came in on the stage with Matthew’s wife, Julia.” He cocked his eyebrow. “I’m surprised he wasn’t here to meet her himself.”
“Had doctoring to do. You know how that goes.”
“I do. Ready?”
“Yup, let’s go.”
The two men, carried the trunk to the buckboard and placed it into the back of the wagon.
Walt shook Ben’s hand. “Thanks for the help.”
“Of course.” Ben turned to Julia, took her hand and kissed it. “If I can be of any additional aid, please let me know.”
Julia’s face heated. “I’m sure we’ll be fine, but thank you.”
Ben helped Julia up onto the wagon seat, tipped his top hat, turned and walked back into the hotel.
“Ben’s a right fine man. Wish he could find himself a wife. Maybe he ought to order one, like my Matthew did.”
Julia studied her new grandfather-in-law. “It’s unusual to marry by proxy in this day and age, but Matthew’s letters made me fall in love. They were so beautiful.”
Walt coughed and then cleared his throat. “Well, that there is a good thing don’t cha think?”
She sat with her back ramrod straight, her hands folding and unfolding her handkerchief. “Of course. I never would have come if I didn’t believe Matthew and I loved each other.”
“Of course not.” Walt slapped the reins on the horse’s butts just to keep them moving. All the people crossing the street made the going slow.
Matthew’s office and house were two blocks off Main Street, just like the young desk clerk had said. Julia appreciated the location because it was so much quieter. The house was a simple one-story white wooden house with a pitched roof and a white picket fence around the front yard. Attached to the house was another building with a flat roof—the office. The hitching rail on the side of the yard serviced both structures.
“Come in, Julia. Don’t know when Matthew will be back, but you can get settled while you wait.” Walt went through the door and held it open for her. “This here is the parlor. There ain’t no dinin’ room, but there is a small table and chairs in the kitchen through that door.” He pointed to the door on his right. “The bedrooms are down this hall. There are just two. When you start having youngun’s you’ll have to either build a new home or expand this one.”
Her face heated and she knew she blushed. This topic of discussion was most unusual. “Of course. Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to see the office.”
“Matthew did say you was a nurse. Come on this way.” He walked to the kitchen and through the left most of the three doors in the room. “It’s right through here. There’s an entrance on the outside for the patients to use. We don’t want people traipsing all over your home.”
The office was neat and clean with two examination rooms off the main waiting room and the surgical operations room in the very back. Though small the clinic was more than enough for one doctor to handle.
“Let’s get on back to the house and get you settled. I’ll get that trunk and put it in the bedroom for you.”
“Thank you, Walt. Matthew is lucky to have you for a grandfather.”
“Ah, shucks. That’s mighty nice of you to say.”
Walt wrestled with the trunk, but managed to bring it in the house without help.
“So, I’ll let you be. Matthew should be home soon, and you all can get acquainted.”
Excitement flowed through her. “That seems so strange since we’re already married, but you’re right. We do need to get to really know each other.”
“Yup, now I got to git. See you tomorrow.”
Julia walked Walt to the door and closed it behind him. She went back to the bedroom and opened her trunk. There was a built-in closet in the bedroom but it wasn’t very large and with Matthews clothes already hanging, there wasn’t enough room for her dresses. She went to the spare bedroom and checked that closet, which was empty, thank goodness.
After hanging all her garments, she went back to the main bedroom and opened the drawers in the bureau, again finding there was no room for her things. She was forced to use the bureau in the guest room and thought it exceedingly rude that Matthew hadn’t made room for her arrival.
She’d been up for two days of hard travel in the stagecoach from Tucson and the bed looked so inviting. Now that her things were put away all she wanted was out of this corset and a nap. Matthew wasn’t home and she needed sleep if she was to greet him properly. Her corset hooked in the front, so it was easily removed and she didn’t need help to get into it. She removed her corset and laid it on top of the bureau but stayed in her dress, and then she lay down on their bed and fell immediately to sleep.
* * *
“What the hell?”
The gruff voice belonged to a man holding a lamp.
“Hush up woman. Who are you and what are you doing in my bed?”
“Your bed?” Her blood pounding fast, she blinked and rubbed her eyes. “Are you Matthew Reynolds?”
“Yes, I’m Matthew Reynolds, and I ask again what are you doing in my bed?”
She sat up putting her feet over the side of the bed. “I would think that it’s obvious, I was sleeping.” She smoothed her hair and hoped it wasn’t too messed up from her rest.
Matthew closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m in no mood for guessing games, Miss…”
“Mrs. Reynolds. Your wife.”
“What?” His eyes shot wide open. “Like hell you are. I’m not married.”
“I’m Julia O’Brien. We married by proxy. I have the papers. Your grandfather seemed to know everything. Why are you saying we aren’t married?”
He was more handsome than the newspaper clipping showed. His hair was brown, graying at the sides and there were worry lines between his gorgeous blue eyes. He obviously worked too hard.
“Wait. You met my grandfather?” He set the lamp on the nightstand, and then sat on the bed next to her. “What did Walt tell you?”
“Just that I should make myself at home, and that you were out on a birthing call.” Somewhat alarmed that he wasn’t expecting her, she strove for some common ground. “I hope I’ll be able to take over that part of your practice. I’m a nurse and midwife, you know.”
Matthew let out a deep sigh. “No, I didn’t know but I bet Walt did.”
“What are you saying, Matthew?” She put her hand on his leg.
Frowning he moved her hand back to her own leg. “I’m saying I’m not…we’re not married. I’ve never heard of you before this very minute.”
A gasp escaped and she put her hand on her chest to still her racing heart. “But, that’s not possible. We’ve been corresponding for months and we were married by proxy six weeks ago.”
“No, Julia. We didn’t.” He pointed back and forth between them.
“Wait right here.” She went to the guest room where her important papers were stored with her under-things in the bureau.
Matthew followed her with the lamp. When they got to the room, he lit the lamp that sat on the guest room nightstand.
Julia riffled through her documents until she found the one she wanted. “Here, here are the proxy papers. Is that your signature?”
He looked at the papers and the color drained from his face only to be replaced with red hot anger.
He shook his head. “This isn’t possible.”
“Well, is it your signature or not?”
“Yes, it appears to be. But I didn’t sign any proxy papers.”
“The witness is Walter Reynolds. Your grandfather. Don’t tell me he witnessed you signing something you didn’t sign.”
He stepped back and stood straight. “I’m telling you, Julia. I didn’t sign this. We are not married.”
“And I’m telling you, it’s your signature, by your own admission and I don’t know why you’re denying our marriage.”
Matthew started pacing and then turned to her. “Come with me.” He grabbed her hand and pulled her down the hall, to the parlor and out the door.
His buggy was still harnessed to two fine-looking gray horses with black socks.
“Get in.” He helped her into the surrey before walking around the back and getting in the other side. “We’re going to see my grandfather. I know he’s behind this.”
Silence permeated the night and the distance between them. All she heard was the clip clop of the horse’s hooves on the dirt road. It was twilight and getting darker by the minute. The cool breeze felt wonderful on her overheated skin.
“What does Walt have to do with this?”
“I have a feeling he has everything to do with this.” Matthew flicked the reins. “Giddy up.” He put the horses into a gallop.
Julia put one hand on her head to hold on to her hat. The other gripped the strap on the side of the buggy.
The horses flew down the road until they reached a fork. Matthew took the right lane without slowing and then turned off onto a drive that led to a two-story wood home. The house was white with a large red barn behind it.
“We’re here.” He jumped down and started for the house.
She sighed. “Um, Matthew, I could use your assistance.”
He stopped, came back and helped her to the ground.
“I’m sorry,” he said as they walked up the path to the front door. “My anger is with my grandfather not you. In any case, I shouldn’t forget my manners.”
“It’s all right. You’re under a bit of stress right now.”
He nodded and opened the door, letting her pass in front of him.
by Cynthia Woolf / Romance have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes