Mail Order Bride: Deception (Historical Western Romance): Clean Romance Series (Western Mail Order Brides Book 1), page 1
Mail Order Bride: Deception
Western Mail Order Brides Book 1
Copyright © 2015 Samantha Price
All Rights Reserved
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This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The personal names have been invented by the author, and any likeness to the name of any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
1890 Dodge City
Austin Wright stared at his older sister, Beth. It seemed like they had been in that same position for an hour, yet, he was sure it was merely minutes. Her brow furrowed as though she were contemplating a huge problem. The stillness tormented him.
“Please, say something,” he said finally, to break the silence.
Her eyes went to his, and she laughed. “Well, I don’t quite know what to say. I had hoped that you’d realize that this isn’t going to make you happy. All manner of things could go wrong.”
He groaned with exasperation. When he had told Beth that he’d been corresponding with a young woman with a view to marriage, he had hoped that she would be happy for him. Now that he was getting to the point of having someone come into their lives, it was clear that his sister was still against it. He had hoped that she would’ve softened to the idea over time.
“I told you that I’ve been writing to a woman with a view to marriage. It was only a matter of time before she arrived.”
“I know, but I thought you would have come to your senses before that happened.” Beth crossed her arms.
He snickered. “You thought I would come to my senses?” He stood up and walked backward and forward in front of her. He stopped suddenly, turned, and stared at her. He thought about what to say, but when he couldn’t come up with a response, he resumed pacing. Finally, he stopped, turned and faced her. “This isn’t a new process, Beth. Many men have found a suitable wife in this way. You know there aren’t enough women here. It was one of Pa’s last wishes that all of his sons be married and have children. This is the only way I know to make that happen.”
“It does happen for some people, but for others, things don’t work out so well. I’m only trying to save you from going through more pain.” Beth breathed out heavily. “It took James a long time to recover when Shirley left him.”
Austin waved a hand in the air. “That hardly ever happens. I had never heard of it before it happened to James. Most marriages, between the women from the east and the men here in the west, work well.” Austin rubbed his chin. “I’m not looking for love, I’m looking for a wife and a mother.”
Beth’s chin dropped. “Did you hear what you just said, Austin?”
He narrowed his bright blue eyes as he studied his sister. “What was that?”
“You just said that you aren’t looking for love, you are looking for a wife.”
“I know what I said, and that’s exactly what I meant. Marriages made from love are a rarity.” He shook his head, and a tremble ran through his body. “What I meant was that I’ve already had love, and I don’t expect to find that again. I’m just being practical; I’m a practical man.” He sat down next to her.
Beth reached out and grabbed his arm. “I don’t think that finding a new wife will be the answer. No one could replace her.”
“Yes, but she’s dead, and there comes a time when the living have to make plans for the living.” He set his face like flint; he didn’t want tears to come into his eyes in front of his sister. It had been just over a year, but the pain of Charlotte’s loss was still heavy in his heart. Beth and Charlotte had been best of friends, and she’d suffered the pain of her loss the same as he had. “Don’t you understand that? I need to move on, and find some happiness in something. Seeing Violet happy will make everything worthwhile.”
“Look what happened to James, though. He had arranged to marry that Shirley woman, and then she just upped and disappeared.”
“At least he tried to find a wife.” Austin scratched his head while he thought about the woman who’d left his brother. James had been writing to Shirley for six months, and they’d been due to be married days after she arrived.
Beth’s hand dropped from his arm into his hand; she held it and squeezed it in a sympathetic gesture. He looked into her eyes to see that she felt that same pain.
“I understand that, but you aren’t over her, Austin.”
He closed his eyes. “Will I ever be over her? I’m sure I won’t, but I have responsibilities.”
“Violet?” Beth asked in a whisper.
He nodded. “I’m doing this for her. She’s going to need a mother at some point.”
“There’s time. You could wait and see what happens. Maybe you could meet someone from around here, then fall in love again, and it would be a real marriage.”
He cringed when he heard her words. He could never replace Charlotte’s love. She was still in his heart and nothing would change that. The outside of his world might change with a new wife and a new mother for his child, but his inner world would never change. “I’ve made up my mind. This is the right thing to do.” As he spoke the words, he looked over at the letter that was on the end of the hall table. He stood, took two steps toward the table, picked up the letter, and placed it in his pocket. “She’ll be here tomorrow.”
Beth nodded. “I want you to be happy, but I don’t know if doing this is something that would be best for you, or Violet either.”
“I have to do something, Beth.”
“You don’t have to rush into anything. I understand that you want Violet to have a mother though.”
“She deserves a mother. I have to give my daughter everything that she could ever need or want, and I see a mother as a necessity for a young girl.”
“I hope everything works out just how you hope it will.” Beth rose to her feet. “I’d better get back home and help Mother with the dinner.”
He smiled and walked her to the door. “Thank you, Beth.”
They both turned their heads at Violet’s loud cry.
“I’ll go and let you take care of her. I’ll talk to you later,” Beth said.
Austin smiled and put a hand on his sister’s shoulder. He hoped that in time he’d gain his sister’s approval over bringing a new woman into their lives.
“I’m fine, Austin. You go and see to Violet.”
“She cries out for a minute to let me know she’s awake, and then she calms down.”
Beth patted his hand and then walked to her carriage. With his hands resting on his hips, Austin watched his sister climb into her carriage, travel up the driveway and back to the road. He wondered if Beth would be nice to Victoria when she arrived, but, of course, he couldn’t expect that she’d be close to Victoria as she’d been close to Charlotte.
Now outside the house, he glanced up at Violet’s window. Just as he’d said, Violet had stopped her cries. He slowly went back into the
Every child deserved a happy family with two parents to love and to care for them. And, if all went to plan, Violet would have brothers and sisters. Even though the idea of having children with anyone other than Charlotte was objectionable, he had decided to play the role of father and husband for Violet, so she could have the best life that she could. He couldn’t have imagined life as an only child. He’d grown up with laughter and good times with his brothers and sisters, and he wanted nothing less for Violet. Nothing mattered except Violet’s happiness; his happiness was the last of his priorities.
He walked into the bedroom to see Violet moving around in her crib. “Hey, sweet baby.” Once he lifted her into his arms, her head fell with a thud onto his shoulder. Then, she lifted her head, and dissolved into peals of giggles. Austin couldn’t help but smile when he was around Violet.
After a few more giggles, she rubbed her eyes, which told him she was still tired. He sat down in the rocking chair, held her close, and rocked back and forth. It was early afternoon, and he’d soon have to think about making dinner. He pulled Victoria’s letter from his pocket. With Violet balanced against his body, he freed both hands to open it. Every time he’d read it, he had tried to get a sense of whether he was making the right move in asking a woman he’d never met to marry him. Either way, it was already too late; he’d given his word that they’d marry. He read the letter once more.
I was pleased to read your last letter. To think that we will soon be married brings me great happiness and joy. I spent much time in prayer before I gave you my answer and I am sure God will bless our union. Already I feel love for your young daughter and I will be the best loving mother to help make up for the mother that she has lost.
I have the train ticket you sent me and I have already packed my belongings in readiness for my new life with you. I’ve packed many things for our home, and my mother is making my wedding dress and it will be finished in time to bring with me.
I am sure our lives together will come with great blessings from God.
He leaned back in his chair as Violet fell back to sleep against him. Everything about Victoria and her letters sat well with him. The whole thing did seem right. As long as she was a kind and Godly woman, that was all that mattered.
His mind drifted to Charlotte. Austin had often asked God why He hadn’t taken him. Why did Charlotte have to leave so suddenly, when everything had finally started to work out well for them? Their tough times had finally come to an end, and they’d had the rest of their lives in front of them.
One thing Austin knew in his heart was that no one could ever replace Charlotte. He needed a wife though. Violet’s life would be better with a woman in it. A mother would teach Violet about being a woman. A kind woman would also teach Violet compassion and manners. The sooner he married again, the sooner he could get back to making a proper income for his family, as he’d devoted nearly a year to staying at home with Violet. He’d employed someone to look after the publication of his newspaper, The Globe, and now it was time to take back the reins.
Violet gave a small sigh, and Austin patted her back. He hoped he’d done the right thing selling his portion of land to Beth’s husband, but still, it had stayed in the family.
Austin sighed heavily as Violet kicked her legs and lifted her head. He patted her on the back some more as he rocked to and fro, a little faster than before. He’d often wondered why Victoria was unmarried at the age of twenty-eight. Most women were married or betrothed before the age of twenty. His only answer was that she must be a woman of ordinary appearance. Austin reminded himself that as long as she was of good character, and kind to Violet, that was all that mattered. Besides, he was certain that Charlotte would have wanted him to marry again.
It was by chance that he had seen the Matrimonial News after James had left it in his office. Austin had taken the newspaper home, and read all the advertisements of men looking for wives, and women looking for husbands. He’d heard of those kinds of newspapers, where people advertise to meet someone with a view to marriage, but this was the first time he’d picked one of them up. It was then that he’d decided to place an advertisement for a suitable wife.
He read that the rules for placing an advertisement for a marriage partner were as follows: one should describe one’s personal appearance, and include both height and weight. Also, one’s social and financial status should be mentioned. He read further to learn that the personal advertisements were numbered, and replies were sent direct to the Matrimonial News, who then acted as a kind of middleman or broker. As far as Austin was concerned, it had been a perfect arrangement.
He had penned his advertisement right then and there.
A widower, thirty two years of age, 6 feet 2 inches, 180 pounds, owns a business, requires the acquaintance of a Godly woman aged between twenty-five and thirty who should be kind, loving, and willing to make a happy home for my young daughter and myself, should things progress.
He sealed his envelope and the next day posted it to the Matrimonial News, along with twenty-five cents in stamps, which was payment for the advertisement.
Victoria had been the only woman to reply. She had asked for no photograph of him and had refused to send one of herself, saying that a relationship was not built on what was on the outside. He liked what she wrote about herself: that she was a good Christian woman, looking for a stable man of good character. She had made him no promises of a handsome appearance, but her words had been honest and simple, and that was the kind of woman he wanted.
Leah Morgan stared out the window of the passenger train as it pulled into another town. On a whim, she’d bought the ticket to Dodge City. She had no family, unless her drunkard father was still alive, but she wouldn’t know, since he’d deserted her and her mother ten years before. Two years ago, her mother had been involved in a rifle accident, which had led to her death. Leah had to get away from Chicago; any place had to be better than the life she’d been living there.
Since her mother had died, she’d found employment with the Bradbury family. She boarded with them and worked for them as a mother’s helper. There were twelve children; Leah found the work intolerable even though she was fond of the children. There was always something to do, always another chore, or another child to keep in order. Conditions in Chicago were hard, and she was lucky just to have a job, so she couldn’t complain about no day off, or the lack of time to herself.
To get away, she’d told the Bradburys that she was needed to look after a sick relative in the east for a few months. She didn’t like lying to them just so she could escape; they’d been good to give her employment and give her a roof over her head. She hoped to get her position back if things didn’t work out for her in the west.
“Last call for those getting off at Dodge City,” the worker called, as he walked up and down the aisle.
Leah straightened her dress and bonnet, took hold of her satchel, and hurried to the door of the train. As she stepped onto the platform, a buzz of excitement ran through her. Even though she didn’t know where she was going or what she would do, she remembered her mother’s words; you make your own luck. Somehow, she always landed on her feet, no matter what situation she was in. She had never gone hungry for too long, and had always had a bed to sleep in.
She glanced around the train depot where families were hugging loved ones, and children were running around. Behind the depot, she saw that the fields were green; they were breathtaking. There was even a touch of snow outlining the edges. It was a stark contrast to living in the middle of Chicago. “Beautif
“Yes, it is beautiful.”
She jumped when she heard a voice next to her. Leah looked at the tall man smiling down at her. The way he stood there expectantly made it seem as though someone had sent him to fetch her. He looked at her as if waiting for her to speak. She frowned at him, wondering what he wanted.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” His voice was warm, and he seemed friendly.
The man’s eyes were deep blue, and his features were square and strong. He wore a hat, but Leah could see from his sideburns that his hair was dark brown. He spoke differently to the men in Chicago; slower, and each word was a little more drawn out. “You didn’t startle me.” When she realized she’d been staring at him, she looked down.
“My mistake. Jumping when spoken to just comes natural?” he teased.
She felt warmth rise in her cheeks, then glanced back up into his eyes, and shook her head. “I guess you startled me just a little.”
“Let’s go then. I’ve got many people waiting to meet you.” He studied her for a minute when she made no move to follow. “You are Victoria Hadley?”
She could only think he’d mistaken her for another, but where did he want her to go? “I’m sorry. Go?”
He nodded and pointed.
She followed the direction of his outstretched arm to a horse and carriage parked close by. Leah took a glance around the station to see if people were watching them. This was an awkward situation. “I’m not sure what you mean.”
His smile was still there, even though his eyebrows lifted. “I’m Austin Wright, and you are Miss Hadley, aren’t you?” When she remained silent, he frowned, and said, “I’m sorry, I just assumed you were Victoria Hadley, since I didn’t see any other young lady get off the train.”
For a moment she stood with her eyes locked onto his. Then, her eyes darted from him to the horses, and then back to him. She’d asked for a sign from God that she was supposed to stay in Dodge City, and wondered if this were it. Nervous and unsure what to do, she shook her head, picked up her satchel and backed away from him.