~ * ~ * ~
Copyright 2017 Barbara
All rights reserved.
Cover Design and
Interior Layout: Laura Shinn Designs
Gospel Hymn, God in the Valley, is public domain, dating back
to the 1860s.
Freestyle translation of I Corinthians 13 by author, using a variety
of biblical texts.
Registered with the Library of Congress
Women’s role in settling the West
Wyoming Cattle Ranches
Discovery of oil and other natural resources.
Conflict between Wyoming Stock Growers Assoc. and homesteaders
All rights reserved.
Except for use in a review, reproduction or use of this work in whole
or in part in any form by electronic, mechanical or other means, not
known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and
recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is
strictly forbidden without the written permission of the author.
Roundup the Brides
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales, or actual
events, is entirely coincidental. Thank you for respecting U.S. and
International copyright laws and this author’s creative work.
Again, my sincere thanks to Carolyn Turner, fellow quilter and one of
my best friends ever!
For fun, she consented to be included, along with her late husband
Byron as secondary characters in my historical western romance, HOME
IS WHERE THE HEART IS, published in 2015. Now, by popular demand,
many of the same characters are back again, including Carolyn and
Byron, in my rip-roarin’ romantic romp, ROUNDUP THE BRIDES.
~ * ~ * ~
of Happy Valley Series: HOME IS THERE THE HEART IS
It all began in 1873 when an adventurous young woman volunteered to
help an Orphan Train full of homeless children find homes out West.
When she reached Cheyenne, three orphans still needed homes, so she
married up with a rancher, who helped her raise all three to
of Happy Valley Series: ROUNDUP THE BRIDES!
Back by popular demand, author Barbara Dan revisits Happy Valley,
Wyoming in 1889 and treats readers to many of the same fascinating
characters, all grown up now, as they face and overcome adversity
through sheer ingenuity. (News Flash! They also fall in love!)
Dear Reader, I imagine many of you are pet owners, as I certainly am!
Dogs have played an important role in my life since my grandfather
gave me my first dog, a Scottie, when I was one month old. Since
then, my family and I have owned, or perhaps more accurately, we
have been owned by several breeds, including German Shorthaired
Pointers, an English Setter I named after gossip columnist Louella
Parsons, a beautiful Merle Collie named Fort, several German
Shepherds, all named Bear, an English Spaniel, two princely Golden
Retrievers, a Bearded Collie, and several lovable Labrador
Retrievers. More recently, a Maltese-Bichon mix and a ShihTzu have
joined the clan of Dan.
Each of them owns my heart for different reasons.
However, because ROUNDUP THE BRIDES touches on a very special
category of dogs, I want to acknowledge the contributions made by
cattle and sheep herding dogs throughout the Western United States.
Representing the Catahoula breed is the late, great Freckles, who
owned the hearts of Al and Diane Rush of Springfield, Oregon.
Additional kudos to four other fantastic herding dogs: Mini-Aussi
Shepherds, Trigger and Angel; Australian Shepherd, Dottie, and
Bentley Blue Heeler, K. C., all lovingly raised by Michael and Tammy
Dan of Caldwell, Idaho.
~ * ~ * ~
REVIEWS of Barbara Dan’s NOVELS:
REVIEWS of HOME
IS WHERE THE HEART IS:
Book #1 of the
Happy Valley series (Western historical novel):
AFFAIRE DE COEUR
magazine, 4--1/2 Star Review:
“Meg Wolverton is a
young Easterner who takes a job as a housekeeper for a rancher in
rural Wyoming,1873. Along the way, she’s responsible for seeing
orphaned children to their new parent. Three kids, Susie, Davey and
Jimmy don’t get adopted, so when she arrives, her new boss, widower
Sam Gallagher realizes he has a ready-made family and suggests they
get married. Meg gets a crash course in being a housewife and mother
on the frontier. Can this marriage of convenience complete with
adopted children turn into a love match?
“HOME IS WHERE
THE HEART IS is a heartwarming historical romance
with a Christian message. Meg is readily reliant and has a strong
relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, but after the death of his
first wife and young daughter, Sam has closed his heart to the Lord.
However, Meg’s warmth and love for the children and their
developing relationship causes him to reconsider his anger toward
God. The spiritual message is well done and not preachy. Faith in God
is a part of the characters’ lives, not an editorial. Humorous and
populated with interesting characters, along with a passionate
relationship between the leads, this is a good Western historical
reviewer for Affaire de Coeur Magazine
crafts a charming novel that blends history and romance.” —Western
Writers of America RoundUp Magazine
5-Star Reviews on Home Is Where the Heart Is:
Heartwarming Story: This book’s characters are facing tough
times, helping each other and becoming stronger in their faith. It
really is a great story.”
“I truly loved
Home Is Where the Heart Is. I was so taken by it I
simply did not want it to end! My Dad was raised in Western Nebraska
near Hay Springs. He told me many stories from his childhood, and
reading your novel brought many happy memories of him and his folks.
His mom had a job teaching in a one-room school. It was his job to
get up early and saddle his horse and ride to the school and get the
fire going to heat the building. Home Is Where the Heart Is
kindled many a story from the western rural life that he passed onto
me. Thank you so much, Barbara Dan. Reading your book was such a
is such an excellent descriptive writer, it was hard to put down.
Home Is Where the Heart Is captures the atmosphere of
Wyoming Territory, and the characters involved make the story
interesting and exciting.”
“Home Is Where
the Heart Is [is] a most delightful tribute to the women who
helped establish the West. It brought it alive for me. Great work!”
Civil War historical romance is a fast paced, adventurous novel which
will appeal to readers of all genres. Gabe and Sarah are a terrific
pair who love to disagree almost as much as they adore being in love.
The author’s references to the late 1800s are on-point, factual and
quite interesting. This story is engaging from start to finish and
contains a perfect blend of history and intrigue, which will warm the
cockles of your heart and excite you all at once.”
Times, 4-1/2 Star Top RT Rating (January 2015
with lot of fireworks and humor. Sarah and Gabe are a fascinating mix
of hot-headedness and attraction. I laughed a lot as Sarah fought to
maintain her independence as a feminist during the Civil War era.”
— S. Habegger,
Amazon.com 5 Star Customer Review
does her homework! The historical detail is impressive ad vividly
colors the romantic story, which is full of surprising twists of
fate. I felt the urgency of being so close to a Civil War
battlefield. Sarah is there disguised as a male doctor desperately
hoping to find her father, who’s been imprisoned by the
Confederates while serving as a Union Army medic. Drs. Gabe and Sarah
are complex characters, her women’s lib ideals in sharp contrast to
his views of male superiority. From the southern woods, to a visit
with Susan B. Anthony, to an elegant New York City mansion, Sarah is
swept along on a journey she never expected to take.”
Books, Amazon.com 5 Star Customer Review
“A high spirited
romance about a strapping sea captain and his love-starved war
bride during the War of 1812.”
— Las Vegas
Reviews for MACGREGOR’S BRIDE:
“I absolutely adored
MacGregor! He is not the typical “dark, forboding, mysterious”
type that many novelists choose to portray [as] their male love
interests. He is gorgeous, yes, but he is also happy, upbeat and
absolutely lovable!!!! This story is very satisfying from beginning
to end. If you like a story with a great ending, you will really like
Wonderful writing .
. . full of detail and research. The hero is a happy-go-lucky
all-American hero. Usually I go for the dark tormented hero, but
Bruce is so handsome and lovable that I fell in love with him
instantly. The heroine, Lydia, is also great . . . I really can’t
rave enough about Barbara Dan’s superb prose.
— P. G. D.
“One of my
all-time favorite romances. LOVE IT, LOVE IT, LOVE IT!
This is one great book. I’ve read it twice, and I never do that. I
couldn’t put it down. It’s a must-have for all romance story
— David B.
Yerkie, Spring Lake, MI
roller-coaster ride with a strong hero and heroine who come alive on
the page. If you enjoy an adventure-filled story, this is for you.”
Times 4-Star Review
is a touching, compelling love story. A wonderful romance! Barbara
Dan is a terrific storyteller.”
— Bobbie Smith,
NY Times and USA Today
is a delightful novel. [The way] Barbara Dan describes the lives of
pioneers [is] the next best thing to being there. I love the way she
develops her characters and storyline — it will make you laugh and
cry. She keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Once
I started reading this, I couldn’t put it down. She is truly an
artist who paints with words.”
Customer Review (arlomore) at CreateSpace.com
“What a pleasant
surprise! When I started reading, I couldn’t stop. My husband would
say, ‘Are you coming to bed?’ I’d say, ‘In a minute.’ Even
2 or 3 hours after I finished reading Silent Angel, it
was so real that I kept wondering about the twins growing up and
weather in Montana. A most enjoyable read!”
“A fun, fast-moving
read. Barbara Dan is a talent to watch!”
— Bobbi Smith,
NY Times bestselling author
marriage of (in)convenience set amid a majestic mountain range . . .
funny and entertaining, as the battle of the sexes heats up in more
ways than one. Hot!”
Customer Reviews: 5-Star Reviews:
Irish West Romance! Barbara Dan treats romance fans with a brand
new rip-roaring western romance with sexy passionate Irish characters
that are very much like a mixture of two all-time favorite John Wayne
movies, The Quiet Man and McClintock.”
— Beverly Romance
Books, St. Petersburg, FL
Characterization. I haven’t enjoyed a book so much in a long
time. It is set in a part of the country I know, so that was fun, but
there is nothing trite or contrived about how this book unfolds. I
especially enjoyed O’Rourke.”
— Jane Jordan,
Romp! You will not be bored with this book! [It’s] romantic,
humorous, and hard to put down. You wonder what the beautiful,
hot-tempered, impetuous Kate is going to do next? From start to
finish, the book entertains, while giving you your money’s worth
(and then some!) in the romance department. On a scale of milk toast
to hot chili peppers, this book’s romantic heat leans more toward
the peppers. A spicy romance with wit aplenty!
Wood Village, OR
has written about cultures clashing: western vs. eastern vs. British
cultures, all set in the bawdy, boisterous and booming times of
Virginia City (NV), 1864. There is a good deal of passion and wit in
this fun book.”
— Love Western
Romances Book Review Online
Western romance, O’Rourke’s Bride, is set in
Virginia City during the mining boom of the 1860s, [and] involves a
sham marriage, lumbermen, miners and the theatre.”
Magazine, Feb. 2007
THE LONG ROAD
“. . . infused with
local history . . . the strength of community . . . and [how] good
neighbors can help and encourage each other. [Barbara Dan’s] book,
The Outcast: The Long Road Back, [is] the fictionalized
account of her grandfather’s arrival in Salem in 1913. . . [When]
towering, 6-foot-8 Alex meets the love of his life, Emily, the two
begin a relationship that sees Alex through his recovery [from
alcoholism] . . . [and] helps him change his life. [The Outcast
takes the reader on] a journey similar to [the author’s]
grandfather’s more than a century ago. People back then
[discovered] what they were best at and benefitted the whole
Keizer Times, July 13, 2012
the Union Pacific Railroad’s
approach into Cheyenne,
“I hate to interrupt, son, but would you kindly stop
fidgeting around with that contraption? Damnation, Stuart! I want
your undivided attention!”
At his wit’s end, Sir Oliver Braden, England’s most recent
industrial tycoon to get out of the East Indian tea and spice market
and invest heavily in the American West, hurled the business section
of the Chicago Times at his son. “What the devil do
you think you’re doing, anyway?”
“One more minute, Father, and I’ll be through. Now hold perfectly
still.” Stuart squinted through the aperture on a small
leather-bound box mounted on a tripod and pushed the button. While
his father was spending the family fortune dabbling in the Chicago
stock market, he had come across a perfectly fascinating gadget
invented by a brainy fellow named George Eastman.
Finally the timer sounded, and Oliver was allowed to breathe again.
“What possible use does that ridiculous box have?” he scoffed.
Stretching to get the kinks out, Stuart cracked a mischievous smile.
“It’s more than just a box, Father. It’s a camera, and it takes
“It’s a total waste of money,” his father groused. “Where’d
you find such a thing anyway?
“At Mrs. Astor’s soirée on Park Avenue–while you were busy
inspecting coal barges on Lake Erie.” He waggled his eyebrows, just
to irritate his obsessively ambitious father. “Eastman himself was
there, giving away samples as door prizes.”
“Ah, Stu,” Oliver groaned. His son’s laissez-faire attitude was
such a disappointment. “You know it will never amount to a
hill of beans.”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Stuart shrugged. “If nothing else, it might
be an amusing way to meet pretty women.”
Oliver frowned. Stuart might be blessed with his mother’s amiable
disposition, but he showed not one iota of his sire’s keen drive
for success. Indeed, this son of his heart seemed quite content to
share his private parlor car on the Union Pacific Railroad, and tag
along on this tour of the West. It troubled him deeply that his only
son seemed perfectly content to be a rather amiable social animal. A
bloody playboy, that’s what he was! Well, he had done his level
best to impress upon Stuart the virtues of making money. And as God
was his judge, he wasn’t about to quit now!
As fate would have it, an enormous cloud of dust enveloped the train
as it pulled into the station. Though temporarily unable to verify
the status of Wyoming’s capitol city with his own eyes, Sir Oliver
saw no reason to doubt what he’d read in the Chicago newspapers.
Cheyenne boasted a population of nine thousand, give or take a
few–certainly a modest number of people, compared with London and
the great cities of Europe. Still, by all reports, it was growing by
leaps and bounds.
Now, the trick to making a killing on the stock market was to invest
early in the game–before the money sharks arrived. Oliver was
shrewd enough to diversify in the area’s more promising natural
resources–gold, silver, coal, and precious minerals, for instance.
And, of course, he was already heavily invested in the Northern
Pacific Railroad, now providing coast-to-coast passenger service and
delivery of manufactured goods.
Between the engine’s belching smoke and the prairie dust,
visibility was almost non-existent. However, a few hearty souls
seemed determined to debark despite the swirling dust.
Oliver preferred to spend his valuable time strategizing.
He never rushed into business dealings without having a well laid out
The steward seeing to the gentlemen’s needs in the private car
advised them to stay put until the dust settled. “Just sit back,
gen’lemen,” he drawled. “Between thet big herd of longhorn
steers milling around in the lot across the tracks and thet wind, you
might as well relax an’ enjoy another bourbon on the rocks.”
“You heard the man.” Stuart grinned at his father. “So, is this
a Wyoming dust storm?” he asked the steward.
“No, suh! It only gets like a tornado right after a big herd o’
cattle rumbles into town. But don’t you worry none. Soon as them
cows settle down in the feed lots, the air clears up right quick.”
Since the Bradens planned to use the private car throughout their
journey, the Verde car would be moved onto a siding without
delay, while the rest of the train headed West later in the evening.
Until Oliver decided how he felt about hotel accommodations in
Cheyenne, the Verde would remain their home away from home.
“A good thing Mother isn’t here.” Stuart squinted past his
glass of bourbon at the tumbleweed bouncing off their parlor car
windows. “Roughing it is definitely not her cup o’ tea, though I
must admit, it suits me right down to the ground.”
“Better make up our beds for tonight, just in case,” Oliver told
After Stuart and his father finished their late afternoon ritual of
bourbon on the rocks, they loaded their pearl-handled Colt revolvers,
special-ordered from the Colt factory back East. Although both men
enjoyed hosting the occasional weekend of hunting on the family
estate in England, they had heard enough rumors about the lawless
American West to ensure that they were prepared for any eventuality.
“Tell you what, Father,” Stuart said, strapping on his holster.
“While you hob-nob with the Governor and charm all the locals, why
don’t I rent a horse and explore the outlying areas for minerals
and various other enterprises you might want to invest in?”
Pleased to see his son take such an interest, Oliver raised his glass
in a salute. “An outstanding idea, son. With you doing the legwork,
I can focus my energies on making the right business connections.”
Stuart clinked glasses with his father. “To our mutual success!”
he declared with a twinkle in his eye and drank up.
After chasing after every prospector with a registered claim within a
forty mile radius of Casper, Wyoming, Stuart Braden decided he was
done with “roughing it.” Camping out over the past week with a
bedroll, fishing pole, and a few pots and pans, was definitely not
his cup of tea. When he was on the move, he sounded remarkably like a
second hand junk dealer clattering through the streets of London at
dawn. True, he hadn’t seen a drop of rain in this wilderness, but
it wasn’t so much the rugged terrain and blowing sand that got into
every pore and made him itch that convinced him there had to
be a better way to search for gold and precious minerals. Oh, no. It
was much worse than that.
Every miner he’d met so far had the half-mad, hollow-eyed look of a
hermit on the lam from the Law. Well, possibly a few were outlaws,
but whatever inspired these loners to “strike it rich” in this
wilderness, the vast majority looked like half-starved wolves, as
they grimly went about the impossible task of digging a fortune out
in these desolate hills. No doubt about it: The vast majority of
these prospectors must have been born stubborn to the bone, or just
A few diehards had dragged a woman along for company– poor,
disheveled, unwashed creatures. No spirit left in them at all.
Sadly, one woman was in the advanced stages of pregnancy. For the
life of him, Stuart couldn’t imagine a worse place to bring a child
into the world than a lean-to, a couple of filthy blankets hung over
a tree branch, and to keep the tree upright, a small deer carcass
covered with flies in the hot sun. To help this young couple out a
bit, Stuart found himself emptying his saddle bags of all his canned
peaches and beans. Poor souls! They looked so gaunt they might
easily blow away in the wind.
Later in the day, thirsty, dusty, and famished beyond belief, Stuart
spotted a watering hole off in the distance. Instead of finding
water, he waded in a couple of feet–and got a boot full of a
greasy, scummy, black substance from the bubbling spring. Figuring it
served him right for agreeing to undergo this insane expedition, he
laughed until his ribs ached. What a mess he’d gotten himself into!
Though parched, he figured he still had enough energy and good sense
to hightail it back to Casper. He could certainly do with a quick
wash-up at the bathhouse and a meal at the local greasy spoon café.
Then he’d catch the next stagecoach back to Cheyenne and report
back to his father.
With an apology to his horse, he spurred his mount away from the foul
smelling, noxious pond. As a souvenir from his first sortie into the
wilds, he packed away a quart-sized jar of pond scum in his saddle
Hopefully his father hadn’t completely lost his sense of humor,
because Stuart thought it was pretty damn amusing that he had so
little to show for his efforts.
With his first decent meal in a week under his belt, Stuart felt much
more optimistic about life, as he approached the Casper Stagecoach
depot. For one thing, the ticket in his pocket had cost him only a
silver dollar. That included taking his rented horse along, tied on a
long rein attached to the back of the stagecoach.
Jolly good price, considering the American economy, he
thought. Securing his camping gear on top, next to a large Wells
Fargo crate, he picked up his saddle bags, which contained his camera
and other valuables, including–ahem!–the “valuable”
specimen of smelly pond scrum, which he hoped would amuse his father.
Eager to take his seat, Stuart nimbly leapt over a pile of manure and
landed–due to sheer luck and his athletic acuity–on the boardwalk
in front of the freight office.
His heart leapt in his throat, as a young woman chose that exact same
moment to step across his path.
And what a sight she was to behold! In his wildest dreams he had
always believed he was destined to meet such a creature. Blonde,
cinnamon brown eyes, with a creamy complexion only faintly marred by
a modest blush, as her startled gaze met his.
Quickly remembering his manners, Stuart bowed gallantly and extended
his hand. “Ah, divine angel,” he rhapsodized. “Permit me to be
of some assistance.”
This enchanting creature raised her eyebrows, looking faintly amused,
as she exchanged quizzical looks with the plump matronly woman at her
Since both ladies were surrounded by an assortment of bandboxes,
satchels, and other luggage, Stuart instantly sought to ingratiate
himself with the older lady. Her mother, perhaps? Or an aunt?
“Perhaps I may be of help to you both.” He flashed his best
dimpled smile. Naturally, Stuart never expected such a gorgeous young
lady–rather well dressed, too!–to materialize in front of
Casper’s rather tawdry stagecoach stop. Indeed, he was so smitten
that all memory of the damage his rugged adventures had done to his
own appearance over the past several days completely escaped his
notice. All he knew was that in the twinkling of an eye, he had met
The Incomparable One.
Ah! The angel spoke.
But while Stuart was transfixed by her melodious voice, her companion
shoved him aside and shouted, “Albert! Get yourself over here.
“Coming!” a heavyset gentleman in dungarees hollered back.
Sweating under the burden of the steamer trunk on his back, he
stomped and shoved his way through a cluster of bachelors standing
idly about, ogling the blonde beauty who would never, ever
belong to them, because Stuart had already made up his mind that this
was The One.
“You fellas take a hike,” the rancher told the onlookers.
“There’s alfalfa planting to be done back at the ranch, and I’ll
dock your pay if you don’t skedaddle. Right now!”
Clearly the rancher and his wife meant it when they said, “Right
now!” After a lot of boot scuffing and “Aw, shucks,
boss!” these lovesick cowboys mounted up and headed out of town.
Hoping to win points with Albert, Stuart helped lift the steamer
trunk off the man’s beefy shoulders. Staggering a bit under the
weight, he passed it up to the guard riding shotgun. “There you go,
my good man,” he said with a winning smile.
Meanwhile two dangerous looking men packing iron pushed past the
young woman and commandeered the best two inside seats.
“Hey!” Stuart protested. “Those seats belong to this young lady
Before he could say another word, Albert reached inside, grabbed the
two ruffians in a chokehold and dragged the pair out of the
The guard riding shotgun jumped down and cocked both barrels of his
shotgun. “I’ll take care of these guys for you, Mr. Bardow,” he
The driver walked up, flexing his leather-clad fists. “Neither of
you guys bought a ticket. Now scram!”
“Okay, okay,” the two men apologized, backing away. “We just
figured the schoolmarm might enjoy a little company.”
“I most certainly would not!” the lady in question indignantly
It pleased Stuart that she wasn’t afraid to speak up for
herself–rather vehemently, in fact. However, such a delicate
creature would be no match for such low-life scum. It was a good
thing he would be traveling with her. In the event any more
unpleasant situations should arise, it would be his privilege to
protect her honor.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Bardow,” said this same fair flower of the
West, interrupting Stuart’s private musings. Opening her handbag,
she pulled out a loaded six-shooter–Smith & Wesson, if he
wasn’t mistaken. “I am an excellent shot.”
Stuart’s eyes goggled. Never had he seen such a nonchalant attitude
about using a gun at the drop of a hat. Not that he wasn’t
perfectly capable of defending the young lady’s right to a forward
facing seat, or if she faced a real threat to her life. But it did
seem a bit extreme for the guard to stick a shotgun in a man’s
“We’re going to miss you, Miss Gallagher,” Mr. Bardow smiled.
“Please give our best regards to your parents. They sure raised you
“Why, thank you, Mr. Bardow.” Her eyelashes fluttered, as she
fought the sudden onset of tears. “I’m going to miss you, too,
more than I can ever say. ” She gave the rancher’s ruddy cheek a
quick buss. “Goodbye, kind sir.” Turning, she threw her arms
around his wife and let the tears roll down her soft cheeks. “Thank
you, my very dear Mrs. B., for everything.”
A lump formed in Stuart’s throat, as he watched this emotional
parting of friends. How long would it be, he wondered, before he was
reunited with his mother and sisters in England? His heart hurt, just
thinking about the long miles that separated them. But, alas, that
was the price one must pay for taking on family responsibilities.
Ever since his father refused to heed his doctors and slow down,
Stuart had become the Chosen One to help his father carry on the work
he so dearly loved.
Even so, Stuart welcomed the chance to escape the constant pressure
of always being at his father’s beck and call. Of course, this
latest adventure had been something of a letdown. Likewise, he
suspected his father welcomed not being under constant surveillance,
too. Stuart did not look forward to having to explain his
utter lack of success on this trip.
Perhaps the quart size jar of slimy mud would earn him some time off,
while he furthered his acquaintance with Miss Gallagher. Ah, well.
Only time would tell . . .
Stuart blinked, focusing on his beautiful traveling companion’s
luggage, now properly stowed on top of the stagecoach. At last!
They were about to depart, he realized with a smile.
But wait. Another delay: A couple of love-struck cowboys, bravely
ignoring Mr. Bardow’s disapproving scowl, had returned to shake
Miss Gallagher’s hand. Cheeky fellows!
How poised and gracious she is, and so very young, Stu
marveled, watching the pair depart with broken hearts. And how
fortunate, he fantasized, that she has me along to keep her
The door slammed shut, and they were off!
Stuart tipped the brim of his hat forward, hoping for a more dashing
look. After all, he and the lady hadn’t been officially introduced.
In England that might create insurmountable difficulties. Still, he
reminded himself, this was America! And when in Rome–that is,
America–one must do things the American way.
“I take it you’ve known the Bardows for quite some time?” he
led off casually.
“Yes. ” She leaned out the window like the Queen of England,
waving her handkerchief at all manner of storekeepers and
pedestrians, all of whom waved back. “Goodbye, Mrs. Carstairs! Tell
Tommy I’ll see him in the fall. Oh, Mrs. Jarvis! I hope Penny and
Alvin will be over the mumps soon. . . Mr. Prentice, how are you,
This exchange of mutual cordialities lasted only as long as it took
the stagecoach to reach the southbound road out of town. Truly
remarkable, Stuart thought. Miss Gallagher seemed to know
everyone in town!
Fortunately he had insisted that Miss Gallagher be given the seat
looking forward, for her own special use. Indeed, he would not have
it otherwise. And, yes! There was method to his madness, for how
could he regret riding with his back to the horses, when it permitted
him such an exquisite view of his traveling companion? No sacrifice
was too great. Any degree of discomfort was worth the slight nausea
caused by rattling along backwards.
Yes, he sighed happily. The lady was destined for far greater
things than teaching unruly children of all ages in a poorly heated,
one-room schoolhouse. No doubt a noble-minded endeavor, but hardly
the future he envisioned for such a charmer, he thought, studying
her through his eyelashes. Indeed, what female among his many
acquaintances back home could compete with the pure magic in those
blonde curls and twinkling brown eyes? Indeed, her hour-glass figure
put to shame last year’s most charming debutantes, bar none. And
her daintily crossed ankles were exquisite, though modestly laced
into high button shoes with a shorter heel than was currently the
fashion in London.
It was not long before he found himself thoroughly bewitched.
He had to know everything about her.
Her favorite perfume.
Her favorite music.
Her likes and dislikes. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera!!
While Stuart was secretly rhapsodizing over Miss Suzanne Gallagher’s
physical attributes and outgoing personality, she was not as unaware
as he supposed of the handsome young Englishman sitting across from
For one thing, she was thoroughly intrigued by his English accent.
Everyone she knew spoke in a hodge-podge of American dialects, nasal
twangs, soft Southern drawls, and some with foreign accents. Wyoming
had been settled by people from so many different places that a
person could expect just about any form of speech. Not to mention
those who resorted to cuss words!
If for no other reason, she felt it was incumbent upon her, as a
teacher, to cultivate an ear for “proper English,” especially
since she had never met a proper Englishman before! Oh, she had heard
Irish, Welsh and Scottish accents, German, Czech, Swedish, Norwegian,
and Spanish dialects, and a couple of Indian children imitating the
soldiers at Bridger Fort. Yes, she decided, this was her
“You’re English, are you not?” she asked, to open the
“Indeed, yes. Stuart Braden, at your service.” He nodded
graciously. “Currently visiting Wyoming with my father, who is in
Cheyenne on business.”
“I see.” She nodded. “So you are–what? Sightseeing? Just
“Yes, I find the countryside quite stimulating,” he said, cursing
himself for allowing her beauty to rob him of his usual savoir-faire.
“What about you? I gather from your chat with the locals that you
have been teaching school?”
She blushed and gazed modestly at the gloves in her lap. “Yes, I
enjoy it immensely.” She glanced out the window at the scenery
rapidly passing by.
“It must have been a quaint experience,” he said. “I take it
you lived with Mr. and Mrs. Barlow during the school year?
Her face lit up with eagerness. “Yes, living with them and their
eleven children at the Bar-Bones Ranch was such a hoot!”
“Eleven?” Stuart bit his lips to keep from laughing out loud.
“Sounds like a lively bunch.”
“Well, of course! You cannot imagine the fun we had, riding horses
and doing trick roping.” She sat forward confidingly. “We had the
best fun, Mr. Braden. Of course, in the winter it did get a
bit crowded indoors when the older boys couldn’t sleep in the
barn.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously. “At bedtime there was
hardly elbow room!”
Stuart struggled with disbelief. Surely the lady played him for a
fool. “I assume it was a one-room log cabin?”
“Oh, no. Quite large,” she smiled. “During the blizzards, Mr.
Bardow asked everyone to sleep in the main room, as close to
the fireplace as we could get. Even the dogs came inside to keep the
“Sounds like a regular snuggle fest.” He cleared his throat,
trying to imagine fourteen people squished together with their feet
to the fire.
“It made it easier to keep one fire ablaze all night, you see.
Especially when it was 40 degrees below zero outside.” She chuckled
softly. Though laying it on a bit thick, she just couldn’t resist
razzing a tenderfoot. “Oh, don’t frown so, Mr. Braden. I’ve
read all about your English castles–”
The corners of his mouth twitched with mild amusement. “I would
hardly compare the great hall in a medieval castle to living in a log
cabin, Miss Gallagher.”
“Such snobs you English are!” She laughed merrily. “I assure
you, the Bardows own one of the largest ranches along the North
“I’m impressed.” He nodded, tucking away a mental note to add
the Bar-Bone Ranch to the list of possible investments his father
might want to consider. “And where is ‘home’ when you’re not
“In a beautiful place called Happy Valley. At least that’s what
we call it, because we have such happy memories of growing up
there.” She clasped her hands to her heart with an ecstatic sigh.
“Just thinking about everybody back home keeps me from getting
homesick.” She stared at him earnestly. “Have you ever known a
place like that, Mr. Braden? A place that cheered you up, no matter
where you were?”
A faint tug of homesickness made Stuart pause. What an entrancing
creature! “Why, no,” he had to admit. “Where is this
“Oh, it’s not on any map, but it’s real, I can assure you,”
she beamed. “It’s just, well, you know–home! A
place where love grows and grows, until you’re so filled up with
gratitude that it’s always a part of you!”
“Home,” he echoed, feeling empty as a brass drum.
She nodded earnestly. “It’s all the memories you carry with you
wherever you go.”
Stuart captured her hands in his, overwhelmed with the same
desperation a man feels when the ship beneath his feet is sinking
fast. “Miss Gallagher,” he asked, slipping to one knee in front
of her. “Do you think, if I went home with you for just a little
while, that I might capture some of this Happy Valley enchantment you
“What an outrageous suggestion, Mr. Braden! And how dare you
take such liberties!” The blonde, cinnamon brown-eyed fulfillment
of all his fondest dreams delivered a solid kick to his shinbone,
damn near crippling him for life. She jerked her hands free. “Do
you have any idea how disillusioned I am with you, sir? I expected
better of you, being an Englishman!” Furious, she turned up her
pert little nose and stared out the stagecoach window. “I am
completely and utterly disillusioned.”
Stuart didn’t know whether to laugh or to weep, though he allowed
that her beauty would inspire any man to undue recklessness.
“You are a wicked, wicked man,” she added, refusing to look at
“I apologize, Miss Gallagher.” He winced painfully and gritted
his teeth, as he resumed his seat. “I assure you, I meant no
“I cannot imagine what gave you the idea you could behave in such
a lascivious manner!” she went on, fluttering her lace
handkerchief. “Apparently one cannot hold Englishmen to the same
high standard as American men.”
“What the devil are you talking about?” He was done with
sweet innocent creatures, he decided, his nostrils dilated with fury.
“I was only trying to describe the joy of anticipation,” she
sniffed, playing the martyr rather well for an amateur actress, he
thought sardonically. “I love Happy Valley and the people
who live there. Of course, you would probably look down your
nose at us and call us a bunch of homesteaders!” She ran her eyes
over his carelessly sprawled body with scorn. “I’ll tell you one
thing, Mr. Braden: You don’t hold a candle to the men who live in
Happy Valley! So there!” She jerked her chin at him, then furtively
looked away with a tight little smirk.
“Is that a dare?” he asked, as foolhardy as she.
“No! Certainly not. Why, even I can rope a calf faster than
“What a bizarre idea,” he laughed. “You, a mere female, dare to
make such a claim?”
“No. I’m just saying you’re a hopeless tenderfoot, Mr. Braden,”
she informed him.
Before this contest of words had time to die a thousand deaths, the
stagecoach driver suddenly cracked his whip several times and began
to shout and push his horses to their limits. The Cheyenne Express
slid around a sharp curve in the road, weaving and bouncing and
swaying, then righted itself as the road straightened.
Forgetting their quarrel, both inside passengers craned their necks
out the window to see what peril had caused the driver’s erratic
handling of the team.
In the road a quarter mile ahead, three horsemen, wearing
neckerchiefs to shield their identities, rode toward the stage-coach,
rifles cocked and at the ready.
Again the driver whipped up his horses. “Stand aside,” he
bellowed to the outlaws. “We’re comin’ through.”
The Wells Fargo guard raised his shotgun. “Make way!” he yelled,
and fired a barrel full of buckshot.
He’s either blind as a bat, or he fired too high on purpose,
Stuart thought, crouched over his traveling companion to keep her out
of the line of fire.
The outlaws fired several shots, quickly eliminating the driver and
the guard. With no one to guide them, the horses bolted through the
scrub oak and sagebrush.
Stuart glanced down and saw that Miss Gallagher was neither angry nor
She was spitting mad.
“Stay down,” he growled, giving her a rather unsisterly shove to
the floor. He drew his Colt .45 and cocked it. “I’ll take care of
“I bet I’m a better shot,” the little twit said, hauling her
Smith & Wesson revolver out of her sizable purse.
Such an attack on his manhood was not to be tolerated. “You
stay put. I’m going up top,” he hollered. “Perhaps I can get
the horses under control before we crash!” Climbing out on the
coach roof, he dropped down into the driver’s box.
But before Stuart could grab the reins, the panicky team ran down an
embankment into a creek. The stagecoach rolled over on its side, and
the outlaws, enraged by the prospect of hauling the Wells Fargo gold
shipment out of the water, gave chase, firing their six-shooters.
Stuart collided midair with a green sapling and hung suspended in the
spindly branches, trying to catch his breath. He hurt all over, but
with some expectation of survival, though his left shoulder hurt like
the very devil.
Truthfully, he was in no shape to play Sir Galahad, at this point.
As for Miss Gallagher, he hadn’t seen hide nor hair of the lovely
young spitfire since the stagecoach crashed. But if she had a lick of
sense, she should go into hiding without delay.
The creek gurgled nearby, and the horses whinnied shrilly, in
terrible pain. From his vantage point, Stuart could see that at least
two horses had been seriously wounded and would have to be put down.
If he was still conscious when the outlaws finished looting the
stagecoach, he would see to it personally. He was pretty sure he had
enough bullets . . .
Roused by the approach of outlaws muttering vile curses and stomping
through the underbrush along the creek, snapping off tree branches,
and tripping over stones, Miss Gallagher kept a firm grip on her
Smith & Wesson. Summoning every ounce of strength, she used her
shoulder to force the passenger door open.
The coach lay at an angle on its side, and with every heartbeat, as
she climbed out, she summoned up her father’s advice, years ago at
the family target range, to give her the necessary courage to act:
“Take your time. You can do this, Susie girl. Never be in a hurry.
See that big tree over there?”
Still a little wobbly, she got to her feet and looked around.
The sound of those vile, wicked outlaws sloshing their way through
creek water suddenly gave her feet wings. In a flash she sought
shelter behind a large oak tree.
Three against one, she thought shakily, then chided herself
for overlooking the obvious: Oh, but I’m never really alone,
she reminded herself
Instantly an inner peace settled over her.
“All right, Lord, give me courage,” she prayed silently.
Suddenly a tree branch creaked off to the right of where she stood.
Drat! Another distraction, she thought.
Already on pins and needles, she glanced around.
There sat the Englishman, arms and legs wrapped around the swaying
trunk of a tall aspen. Grinning, he raised a cautionary finger to his
No, wait just a minute. That is no finger, she decided.
It was his fancy-schmancy, pearl-handled Colt revolver.
Let’s hope it shoots straight, she thought grimly, and gave
him an encouraging nod. Now, hopefully, it would be a fairer fight.
Three against three.
And one of them the Almighty! Imagine that!
Suzanne was still inwardly cheering about the way the Lord worked His
miracles, when lo and behold! The outlaws, fighting a sudden
swarm of mosquitoes, stumbled around a bend in the creek, cussing up
“Stop yer scratching, Jim!” the leader snarled, swatting the air.
“Can’t help it,” Jim said. “I’m goin’ blind. Can’t
“Rob, lemme go fetch the horses,” the other outlaw begged.
“We got horses right here,” said the ringleader, pointing at the
team of lame horses, one of them lying on its side.
“Those nags? Are you kiddin’ me?”
“Okay, okay. Let’s offload the gold shipment and take what we
can,” the ringleader said. “We’ll bury the rest and come back
for it later.”
Straining together, the three outlaws managed to free the Wells Fargo
crate and drag it halfway up the hill. Suddenly the ringleader pulled
out his revolver and shot Jim in the back, then pivoted and shot his
other partner in the head. “Sorry, fellas,” he shrugged,
holstering his weapon. “Got no use for whiners.”
Her jaw hanging, Suzanne glanced over at Stuart, who was scowling at
Stealing was one thing. Cold-blooded murder was another.
They did not hesitate. Simultaneously they took aim and fired.
The outlaw gurgled out a few last words, cursing the unfairness of
life, then fell over dead.
As soon as the dust settled, Suzanne helped Stuart down from the tree
and supported him over to a large rock, where he immediately went
into a graceful swoon. Alarmed, she ran her hands over his body and
discovered a wound in his left shoulder. Poking around, since he was
unconscious anyway, she decided it was best not to meddle. Once they
got to Cheyenne, she would have her cousin Daniel see to it.
His eyes rolled back in his head. “Ah, sweet angel, I’m not long
for this world.”
“What can I do to make you more comfortable?” she asked,
“Water,” he rasped.
Cradling his head in her arms, she took her canteen from her bag with
shaky hands and held it to his lips. Gazing into his face, she
couldn’t help noticing how spectacularly blue his eyes were, and
what a fine, manly specimen he was. Her heart was truly moved, to
think that such a handsome man might die so young.
“Last dying wish,” he whispered.
“Anything!” she said, running her fingers through his long
chestnut brown hair.
His eyelashes fluttered closed. “Let me suckle at your breast.”
“What!” She stared down at him in disbelief.
“Dying,” he gently reminded her.
“Absolutely not!” She pushed him away and, scrambling to her
feet, glared down at him. “You, sir, are no gentleman.”
“You broke . . . promise.”
For a long moment she considered his words. “Oh, very well. Never
let it be said that I, Suzanne Gallagher, didn’t keep my word.”
With stalwart resolution, she set aside her pride and knelt beside
He squinted up at her. “May God reward you for your kindness,
Oh, what does it matter? she thought, expecting him to expire
any moment, and clutched him tightly to her bosom,.
Stuart lifted a quavering hand and weakly inserted his index finger
between two buttons on her prim little bodice. “So soft.” He went
into what she feared was a dying spasm.
“Oh, sir!” she cried. “Do you need more water?”
“Only you, dear lady, to speed me through those pearly gates.”
Using her bonnet to fan her Englishman back to life, Suzanne saw the
corners of his mouth twitch with a mischievous smile.
No longer amused, she firmly tied her scarf around his shoulder to
stop the bleeding. “You’re not going to die, so you can stop the
shenanigans,” she told him in no uncertain manner.
He cracked one eyelid. “I have your word that I’ll live?”
“Unless I have to shoot you myself, to defend my honor,” she
Stuart made a miraculous recovery, based on his reassessment of the
lady’s sterling character. “Oh, well, nothing ventured, nothing
gained,” he wisecracked, sitting up. “My deepest apologies,
Being a good Christian woman, she helped him to his feet. “I hope
you heed my warning,” she warned, dusting him off. “Now let’s
find out if anyone else is alive.”
Gingerly supporting each other, for they were both extremely sore,
they headed upstream to assess the situation. All three outlaws were
They returned to see what could be salvaged from the stagecoach.
While Suzanne was thus occupied, Stuart took it upon himself to put
the two most seriously injured horses out of their misery. Two others
were only slightly lame, so he set them free to graze on prairie
grass and creek water. Hopefully they’d be well on the road to
recovery by the time the stage-coach officials arrived on scene.
Expanding his search, he found the bodies of the stage-coach driver
and the guard near the main road. After covering their bodies with
branches to keep predators away, he came across his rented horse,
calmly grazing on buttercups and tall grass. The long lead rein on
his horse trailed behind him; apparently it had snapped during the
outlaws’ attack on the stagecoach.
“Maybe we should name him ‘Unflappable,’” he told his
beautiful companion, showing off his discovery to her. Giving the
horse an affectionate pat, he tied him to a tree. “We may need him
to help us get back to civilization.”
Together they continued to assess the situation. Their luggage
littered much of the countryside, but they found most of it. He was
especially glad to recover his saddlebags. The jar of mud was still
intact, though upside down. His Kodak camera hanging about his neck
by its strap, he proceeded to document the grisly scene.
“Who knows?” he told Miss Suzanne, gesturing at the outlaws.
“There may be a reward for the capture of our–ahem!–friends.”
She stared at him, aghast. “How can you even suggest such a thing?
They are outlaws, not friends. They would have killed us, if
“So– Down with all criminals, right?” He arched his brow
She shuddered. “I am not personally acquainted with any law
breakers. Are you?”
“Not to my knowledge,” he said, still tidying things up. He
covered the outlaws’ booty on the hillside with debris from the
damaged stagecoach. “Hopefully the gold shipment will still be here
when the Wells Fargo company officials arrive.”
To make recovery of bodies and property easier, he photographed the
dead men and landmarks out by the main road. Then, while she was busy
gathering up her scattered belongings, he took several quick
snapshots of her, as a memento of their first adventure together.
“I hope you don’t mind abandoning some of your luggage,” he
said casually. “It’s easily replaced anyway.”
“Perhaps I should take a change of clothing?” she hypothesized,
nibbling on a hangnail.
“Oh, very well,” he said grudgingly. “I suppose a lady must
always look her best.”
“I could not agree more.” After sorting through her belongings
several times, Suzanne selected two dresses and a large assortment of
ladies’ undergarments, and crammed them into his saddlebags!
Then, commanding him not to look, she went hopping about, first on
one foot, and then the other, while she removed her torn stockings.
Of course, Stuart was fascinated out of his mind by all these
feminine gyrations, though he did try not to look too
Finally she was ready to depart, and he was able to breathe
Glancing around one last time, in case they’d left anything crucial
behind, he helped her mount, then swung into the saddle behind her.
“A strange day from start to finish, would you not agree, Miss
Gallagher?” he remarked enigmatically.
With not a cloud in the clear sky, it seemed sensible to follow the
stagecoach route. Even a tenderfoot from jolly old England could
figure that much out.
But as they proceeded jauntily on their way, Stuart began to question
if they were actually on the well-beaten path to Cheyenne, or quite
the reverse. The terrain looked all the same to him, but when they
crossed another deeply rutted road, going east and west, serious
doubts began to settle in.
He pulled back on the horse’s reins. “Do we turn here?” he
asked the blonde beauty drowsing in his arms.
“You can’t get lost,” she mumbled. “Just follow the road.”
So he did.
Eventually he saw a windmill off in the distance, and a dilapidated
old barn. Needing water for the horse, he followed a cow path for a
mile or two and came to a creek. Still a long way from civilization,
he decided to hop down and refill his canteen.
While he waited for the horse to drink his full, he scanned the
horizon. Didn’t seem like there was a living soul for miles around.
So while the horse continued to drink, he left “Susie” draped
over the horse’s neck, fast asleep, and darted behind the barn to
Minutes later, he heard a blood-curdling scream.
This was quickly followed by a burst of gunfire.
Four shots in all. In rapid fire succession.
His heart pounding, Stuart charged around the side of the barn to
investigate. Braced for battle, he found Miss Gallagher, now
thoroughly awake, dangling a large rattlesnake on the end of a stick.
Walking a few feet away from the horse, which stoically continued to
guzzle water, she flung the snake into a clump of blackberry bushes.
Clearly his assistance was not required. Having always believed it
was his duty to protect members of the fairer sex, this reversal in
traditional behavior might easily have delivered a crippling blow to
his male ego, were it not for the rather perfunctory manner in which
this modern Eve had dispatched the serpent.
“I say, good show!” he exclaimed, applauding her heroic actions.
The warm breeze ruffling her golden tresses, she ran her sparkling
brown eyes up and down his disheveled person. He stood there,
breathing hard. Smiling. Every cell in his body pulsing with
admiration at this great act of heroism on her part.
“By Jove! What an amazing woman you are!” he exclaimed,
Given a few more seconds to gather his thoughts, he might have
composed a sonnet in her honor. He never got the chance.
Blushing at his compliment, she handed him the horse’s bridle. “Mr.
Braden,” she said, “if you will kindly keep ‘Unflappable”
from wandering off, I need to answer a rather urgent call of nature.”
It took him a moment to realize what she was saying. “Oh. Yes,
certainly,” he stammered like a school boy.
“Thank you.” Gathering up her skirts, she made a mad dash into
Stuart sighed, watching her go. What gorgeous legs, he
marveled. She even runs like an athlete!
But then he noticed Unflappable’s expanding belly. The horse was
sucking up water so fast he soon would be foundering. “Come along,
old fellow,” he said. “We need you to get us to Cheyenne before
your stomach bursts.”
They finally made it to Cheyenne in late afternoon, but only because
a kind-hearted farmer, seeing their slow progress, pulled over to the
side of the road and offered them a ride in his buckboard.
“Unflappable’s giddyap just got up and went,” Stuart explained.
Farmer Putnam nodded, in perfect agreement. “Son, it’s a wonder
you made it this far.”
And so Stuart and Suzanne–it turned out ‘Mr. P.’ knew her
family well– accepted the inevitable and bade farewell to
Unflappable. The last they saw of the poor horse, he was munching
grass along a meandering tributary of the Chug-water Creek.
Transferring their modest belongings to the farmer’s buckboard,
Suzanne and Stuart rattled along, sharing their exciting adventures
with the farmer to pass the time of day. They mentioned the
stagecoach getting held up in the middle of nowhere, and breaking
down, but neither one had much to say about the gold shipment, or the
bandits who lay dead beside the creek.
“Mr. Braden got shot, you see,” Suzanne explained to Mr. P, “so
getting him to a doctor is our main priority. That, and contacting
“As well it should be,” Farmer Putnam nodded. Pulling up in front
of the Emporium, he helped Suzanne down from the wagon. “Say hello
to Daniel and the family for me, Miss Susie.”
“Thank you so much for rescuing us, Mr. Putnam.”
Going up on tiptoe, she gave him a quick buss on his cheek.
“Give my best to your Mama, now.” The farmer looked her sternly
in the eye. “You get yourself home right away, y’hear?”
“Thank you. I intend to.” She smiled radiantly. “Well, I guess
we had better head over to my cousin’s office now.”
The farmer nodded. “Good girl. And don’t forget your belongings!”
Stuart appeared at the rear of the wagon, saddlebags slung over his
right shoulder, both arms full of female fripperies and what-nots. “A
real pleasure meeting you, sir.” Shifting his belongings, he shook
their rescuer’s hand. “Can’t thank you enough, sir.” He
glanced at Suzanne. “I suppose we’d best be going.”
“Here, let me help you.” Suzanne graciously relieved Stuart of
her purse and the Smith & Wesson inside. “Thanks again, Mr.
Putnam. You and Mrs. P. be sure to come see us, next time you’re in
“Maybe late this summer, when the harvest’s in.” Putnam doffed
his straw hat and with a friendly wave went inside the Emporium.
Suzanne inspected her bedraggled companion with a dubious look.
“Ready?” she asked.
“Lead on, Lady MacDuff,” he joked.
“Hah! Just as long as you don’t call me Lady Macbeth.” Taking
his arm, she steered him up the street to her cousin’s medical
office, next door to old Dr. Mead’s place. The freshly painted
shingle outside read, “Dr. Daniel Wright, M.D.”
“That’s where my parents fell in love,” Suzanne informed him,
pointing to the fifth step leading upstairs to Dr. Mead’s office.
“The exact spot.”
Stuart laughed. “Is that meant as a warning? Are you saying that
love is contagious?”
With a noncommittal shrug, she pressed her finger against the buzzer
next to her cousin’s office door. “All I know is they fell madly
in love, while walking up those stairs.”
Bracing a hodge-podge of her belongings under his chin, Stuart raised
one eyebrow and gave the rickety old staircase a careful once-over.
“Sounds like a bunch of poppycock to me,” he said, just to jerk
her chain. (Of course, he’d been badly smitten with that very same
disease, ever since he bumped into her at the stagecoach depot in
Casper. Still, he did so love getting her all excited.)
“They’ve been madly in love ever since,” she affirmed, pressing
the buzzer again. “Sixteen years ago, if you must know.”