Mail Order Bride: Love On The Line: A Mail Order Brides Western Romance, page 1
Love On The Line
A Mail Order Romance
Love On The Line
By Catherine Harper
Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Harper
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Elizabet met Charles at the door and shook his hand.
"Good to see you, my dear. How are you?" he asked. On the verge of answering, Elizabet found herself quickly ushered into the room. "Come in, come in."
Looking around, she noticed the difference in the room since the last time she'd been there. "You've gotten rid of the rifle?"
"What that?" Charles looked to the spot on the wall where it used to be. "Ah yes. I didn't think it suited being in a lawyers office. Kinda gives people the wrong impression if they come in here and see a rifle strapped to the wall. Has it been that long since you've been here?"
Elizabet nodded. "Six, I think I was."
"Really? How time has flown. When you get to my age, all those memories seem to gel into one great big ball. Half the times something I think happened a few days ago was twenty years ago. Guess that's the problem with getting old," Charles shook his head. Realizing that she'd nowhere to sit he quickly took hold of a chair from the corner of the room and pulled it to his desk. "Sorry. It's not often I get visitors to the office nowadays. Please sit down."
Taking her seat and placing her purse on her lap, she watched as her father's oldest friend took his position on the other side and stood behind his chair. "Can I get you a drink? Tea, maybe?"
Elizabet shook her head.
Taking his seat he pulled it out and sat down. Then making himself comfortable he said, "He was a good man your father. He'll be sorely missed around here. I don't think there's one person that had a bad word to say about him. Did you know he was one of the first people who hired me?"
"I didn't know that."
"Funny story that. I'd ripped my trousers, snagged them on a nail or something or other. Of course it happened as I was making my way to an important client. Not the kinda thing you want, turning up with a hole in your breeches," Charles smiled.
"I suppose not."
"Luckily I spotted your father's store and dropped in on the off chance that he could do something for me. I thought maybe I'd be able to get a quick stitching done and asked him—but not father. No, he lent me a pair, right off the rack. He said he'd have mine fixed by the time I got back. But I think he knew what he was doing-"
"How's that?" Elizabet asked, not remembering her father mention the story to her.
"Well, could I honestly go back and hand those trousers in after I'd used them? He was being generous and all, but he probably spotted it as a way to sell me a pair."
"And did you?"
"What do you think?" Charles smiled. "But I can't complain. For the price, I made a good friend and one of my first clients."
"He never told me that."
"That was your father,” Charles said and shook his head. “Still hard to believe he's gone—so you know why I called you in today."
"His will," Charles repeated and pulled open a drawer to his left. Taking out a folder and opening it. "Did he mention much about it at all?"
"I knew he had one, but it's not something we talked about."
"That's true," Charles said, pulling out some pages. "Not something we like to think of, leaving this place and going off to meet out maker. You'd be surprised how many people don't take the time to make a will—but enough of me waffling. Let's get down to business."
Elizabet watched Charles go through the motions of reading out the will. Starting off with a small statement of her father being in fit mind and body, he quickly read through all her father's possessions. Beginning with the larger items, he paused only once as he got to the part about a small cash donation.
"Said he'd wanted to help the church out with that leaky roof of theirs," he smiled. "Don't worry we're coming to the end soon. I know how boring all this legal talk and jargon can be—now where was I." Scanning the page he continued reading. "And finally I bequeath that my daughter get a share of my store and all its contents."
Elizabet listened to the words and thought she'd heard wrongly. “I'm sorry, but did you say, a share?"
"Yes my dear. That's what's written here. Your father left you a share of his store."
Hearing the words Elizabet tried her best to digest them. Being an only child and her mother gone too, she'd assumed that she'd get full ownership of it. "I don't understand."
Charles put the will on the table and spun it around. Pushing it across this desk he got out of his seat and joined her.
Looking at the words, Elizabet found Charles place his finger on the document. "If you look here, you'll see his wishes for the ownership of the store."
Elizabet read the name and spun to face him. "You?"
"That's right. Your father gave me the controlling share of his store."
"Now hold on a minute, there's something wrong here."
Taking the will from her hand, Charles pointed to the signature at the bottom. "As you can see your father signed off on it."
Elizabet shook her head and got to her feet. "No, no. There's something wrong here. I know for a fact that my father wouldn't do this-"
"It's all there in his own hand and signature, Elizabet. Your father gave me a majority share of his store-"
"He wouldn't, he couldn't. He never mentioned it to me before-"
"Maybe he was afraid of how you'd react-"
"You did this. You confused him, you tricked him."
Pulling back her chair, he pointed her to it "Please sit, Elizabet. I know how you must be feeling, it must be a shock to you."
Elizabet picked up her fallen purse and pointed her finger. "I'm going to challenge this, you're not going to win here-"
"Elizabet, please," Charles said, holding out his hand. "You're not thinking straight, I know it must be a shock to find out this."
Elizabet slapped the hand away and edged backwards toward the door. "I swear, I'm going to challenge this. You're not going to win, you hear me? You're not going to win." Grabbing the handle of the door to open it, she found it pushed closed again by Charles hand. Looking back she found him standing uncomfortably close to her.
"You can say and do what you want, Elizabet, but you're forgetting things. I know the law a lot better than you do. There's not a court in the land that would see things your way-"
"Maybe, but I'll tell everyone how you cheat…" Cut off short, Elizabet fought against the hand that pushed her back against the door.
"You could, but I know you won't. You might think that because I'm a lawyer that I only work above the law, but believe me I know some people who could make your life very difficult. Nod your head if you understand."
Nodding her head slowly, Elizabet took in the man she now faced. Looking far from the frail gentleman she saw earlier, she found him smile as he took his hand away. "I'm so glad we've come to an amicable agreement. And remember if I hear one single word. Well, I think you'll know what'll happen." Moving his hand he took hold of the door handle and opened it. Stepping back he nodded his head. "Now you have a good day, Elizabet."
Running out the door of Charles office, Elizabet picked the first direction that came to her and ran that way. Not thinking of anything but putting distance b
"Elizabet, is that you?"
Groaning from both pain and embarrassment, Elizabet found a hand held out for her. Looking up to see who owned it, she found a familiar face grin back at her. "Alice?"
Smiling down, as if their collision didn't matter, Alice asked, "Where's the fire?"
"The fire. The way you rounded that corner, I thought you were running for your life."
Picking up her purse, Elizabet apologized once more. "I'm sorry I should have watched where I was going-"
"Are you sure, you're OK?"
Dusting herself down, Elizabet ignored the question. "I'm sorry. I don't know what you must think of me."
"It's fine, no harm done," Alice grinned widely. "After the news I got today, there's nothing that could get me down." Grabbing onto Elizabet's hands she ran on the spot with excitement. "I've just met the man of my dreams. Oh, Elizabet, he's gorgeous."
Seeing the excitement on her neighbors face, Elizabet found herself taken in by it and smile back. "Right. So who's the lucky guy, anyone I know?"
"Maybe. That's if you know many men in San Francisco," Alice smiled.
"Oh, I'm just bursting to share my news. Can we go somewhere to talk?"
"Unless you're in a hurry that is. The way you were running there a moment ago—I wouldn't want to make you late for your appointment."
Elizabet looked at Alice's face and knew there was no way she could refuse. Feeling that a cup of tea and a conversation would help her also, she agreed. "Alright love bird. How about some tea at Henley's then? It's not far away."
Putting her hand under her skirt, Elizabet felt the wet patch that was starting to grow at the knee of her stocking. Knowing that she was going to have a nasty bruise there in a day or two, she found Alice still sitting across from her with a starry look in her eyes.
"Doesn't it get tiring?"
Lowering her cup of tea, Alice looked confused. "What?"
"Smiling like that," Elizabet asked, picking up her own cup and taking a sip. Watching her friend try her best not to smile, she found it come back again.
"Am I still doing it?"
"Believe me, it's come to the point now that I think you're suffering paralysis in your face," Elizabet joked. "I don't think you've stopped smiling since I bumped into you."
"How are you, are you sore?"
"Just a cut knee and hurt pride," Elizabet said, waving away the question. "We're not here to talk about that. Come on, tell me about him."
"Oh, Elizabet, wait until you see him."
Elizabet watched as Alice pulled open her purse excitedly. Taking out a photo, she looked at it for a moment before handing it over.
"What do you think?"
Holding the black-and-white photo Elizabet gazed at the man that looked back at her. Reminding her of someone else she'd known, his clean shaven face and rugged looks definitely put him in the attractive category. Handing it back she watched as Alice held on to it and started to lose herself in the photo again. "Well, I have to say, Alice, I can see why you're so excited."
"Three more weeks until we meet."
"You never did tell me, how did you met? Was he visiting New York?"
Putting the photo way, Alice answered, "Heavens, no. He was looking for a mail order bride."
"Really? So you've-"
"Did it a few weeks ago," Alice said, helping herself to a pastry. Biting down on it, she smiled, "Oh those are divine you've got to try one."
"So go on, fill me in…"
Dusting the powdered sugar from around her mouth with a napkin, Alice continued, "Well I saw an ad in the paper and thought I'd look into it. At first it was as a joke, you know just out of curiosity."
Elizabet nodded, having the same thoughts herself.
"I'd heard so many stories about women heading out west and wanted to see it was all it was cracked up to be," Alice took another drink from her cup.
Putting her cup down on its saucer, Alice leaned in closer as if she didn't want anyone to overhear her next words. Seeing her do this and expecting to hear something juicy, Elizabet found herself mirror her friend's movements.
"You know I had three men interested in me," Alice giggled.
Elizabet found herself repeating the number and not believing it. "Three?"
Squealing with delight, Alice added, "Imagine, three men fighting to have me as their wife. When was the last time that happened to you?"
Thinking of her own life, Elizabet knew how hard it was to find one decent man in this city. Most of the eligible men she knew, were either too old, or married. The ones her own age had hightailed it out west to seek a fortune. "Nice dream all right-"
"And I'm not talking about some rough neck living in a dirt hut in the middle of nowhere. I'm talking a banker, store owner, even a doctor." Looking like the cat that had got the cream, Alice sat back and pointed to herself. "Imagine, three men fighting over me. Me? Heck, if I got three men with the way I look—can you imagine how many you'd have to fight off?”
"Stop that, you're a good looking girl," Elizabet found herself arguing. Although a little on the plump side, Alice's attractive face and sweet nature would be welcomed by any man.
"My problem is too many of these," Alice said, holding another pastry in her hand and taking a bite. "I'm afraid me and food are too good of friends. Oh, you've got to try one of these Alice. I swear I'd marry the person that made it."
Picking up a pastry, Elizabet saluted her and laughed, "Here's to a happy marriage, Alice." Seeing her friend cough as she inhaled a crumb, she found the pair of them laugh until tears flowed from their eyes.
Taking a napkin and dabbing it to her eyes, Alice remarked. "Next time, warn me OK. You could have killed me, with that wise crack."
"Thought that's the way you would have wanted to go out, killed by a pastry," Elizabet smiled and took a drink from her cup.
Giggling along and taking a drink of her own, Alice asked, "So you never told me, why were you in such a hurry earlier."
Hearing the question, Elizabet found herself taken back to her predicament and fell silent.
"What is, Bet?"
Worried about getting Alice involved, she shook her head. "It's nothing."
"I know you too well, Elizabet-"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You're too proud to ask for help."
Smiling over her cup before taking a drink, Alice said, "You always have been. I know you too long."
Elizabet felt herself squirm knowing that Alice was right about her. She's been told enough times by her father on how it reminded him of her late mother. Thinking of her father, she was instantly brought back to the threat by Charles. Seeing the happiness on Alice's face and not wanting anything bad to come to her, Elizabet bit her lip. This was one problem that wouldn't get better by being shared with others. "It's nothing, really. I just heard some bad news today that's all."
"I'm sure, thanks, Alice."
"I know what you need," Alice said, taking hold of the tea pot on the table and making herself busy filling both their cups. "You need a man in your life-"
"Seriously, with your father gone, God bless his soul. But with your father gone, there's nothing to keep you here, other than the store. Why not sell up and head west. One sugar or two?"
"One please. I hadn't really thought of it-"
"Well, you're not getting any younger-"
Holding her hand to her chest and putting on a look of shock, Elizabet answered. "I beg your pardon, you cheeky madam. I'll have you know-"
"What made you say that, I am not?"
"You're scared of leaving this place and meeting the man of your dreams-"
"If it exists."
"I'm tell you what, give it a go," Alice said and took a card from her purse. Sliding it across the table she added. "What's the harm? A few weeks from now, you could be far from this place and in the arms of a loving man. That is unless you're too proud to ask for help in the romance department."
Elizabet held the card and read the name. "Martha Williams."
"Sweet lady. I know you'll like her. Just let her do her magic and see what she happens. Heck if she can find me a husband, you'd be a walk in the park. You eating that last pastry?"
Elizabet looked from the card to the smiling face that waved the last pastry at her and shook her head. Could it really be that easy she wondered? Was becoming a mail order bride her chance to get away from Charles and make a fresh start? Putting the small card in her purse, she decided she'd pay a call on Martha Williams the following day.
Elizabet stood outside the door and compared the address with the card in her hand. Wondering if she was doing the right thing, she held her breath and pushed open the door. Going inside and hearing the doorbell above her head jingle, she found a woman stick her head out of a doorway and come forward.
"For my troubles dear, and you are?" Martha said, dusting herself down and holding out her hand.
Elizabet took the hand that was offered to her and shook it. "It's Elizabet. I'm a friend of Alice."
"Oh Alice, I'm so happy I was able to help her out. Come in, come in." Wondering if she was doing the right thing, Elizabet found an arm around her back as Martha escorted her in. "We can talk better in the back."
Lead through a small hallway, Elizabet found herself quickly led to an office unlike any she'd been in before. Standing in the middle of it, she gazed at the expensive fittings and furnishings around her.