~ * ~ * ~
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.
my sincere thanks to Carolyn Turner, fellow quilter and one of my
best friends ever!
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
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!
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!)
Reader, I imagine many of you are pet owners, as I certainly am!
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
of them owns my heart for different reasons.
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.
the Catahoula breed is the late, great Freckles, who owned the hearts
of Al and Diane Rush of Springfield, Oregon.
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
~ * ~ * ~
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?
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
Hill, 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.”
Where the Heart Is [is] a most delightful tribute to the
women who helped establish the West. It brought it alive for me.
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
romance 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
Books, Amazon.com 5 Star Customer Review
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:
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 this one!!!!”
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 lovers.”
— 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
Angel is a touching, compelling love story. A wonderful
romance! Barbara Dan is a terrific storyteller.”
Smith, NY Times and USA
Today Best-Selling Author
Angel 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!”
fast-moving read. Barbara Dan is a talent to watch!”
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.”
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.”
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 community.”
Keizer Times, July 13, 2012
the Union Pacific Railroad’s
approach into Cheyenne,
hate to interrupt, son, but would you kindly stop fidgeting
around with that contraption? Damnation, Stuart! I want your
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?”
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.
the timer sounded, and Oliver was allowed to breathe again. “What
possible use does that ridiculous box have?” he scoffed.
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
a total waste of money,” his father groused. “Where’d
you find such a thing anyway?
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.”
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 not.” Stuart shrugged. “If nothing else, it might
be an amusing way to meet pretty women.”
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!
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.
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.
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.
preferred to spend his valuable time strategizing.
never rushed into business dealings without having a well laid out
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.”
heard the man.” Stuart grinned at his father. “So, is
this a Wyoming dust storm?” he asked the steward.
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
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.
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.”
make up our beds for tonight, just in case,” Oliver told the
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.
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?”
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.”
clinked glasses with his father. “To our mutual success!”
he declared with a twinkle in his eye and drank up.
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.
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
few diehards had dragged a woman along for company– poor,
disheveled, unwashed creatures. No spirit left in them at all.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
heart leapt in his throat, as a young woman chose that exact same
moment to step across his path.
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.
remembering his manners, Stuart bowed gallantly and extended his
hand. “Ah, divine angel,” he rhapsodized. “Permit
me to be of some assistance.”
enchanting creature raised her eyebrows, looking faintly amused, as
she exchanged quizzical looks with the plump matronly woman at her
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?
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.
The angel spoke.
while Stuart was transfixed by her melodious voice, her companion
shoved him aside and shouted, “Albert! Get yourself over here.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
two dangerous looking men packing iron pushed past the young woman
and commandeered the best two inside seats.
Stuart protested. “Those seats belong to this young lady and–”
he could say another word, Albert reached inside, grabbed the two
ruffians in a chokehold and dragged the pair out of the stagecoach.
guard riding shotgun jumped down and cocked both barrels of his
shotgun. “I’ll take care of these guys for you, Mr.
Bardow,” he offered.
driver walked up, flexing his leather-clad fists. “Neither of
you guys bought a ticket. Now scram!”
okay,” the two men apologized, backing away. “We just
figured the schoolmarm might enjoy a little company.”
most certainly would not!” the lady in question indignantly
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.
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.”
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
going to miss you, Miss Gallagher,” Mr. Bardow smiled. “Please
give our best regards to your parents. They sure raised you right.”
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
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.
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.
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 . . .
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.
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!
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 safe.
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.
take it you’ve known the Bardows for quite some time?” he
led off casually.
” 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, sir?”
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!
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.
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.
was not long before he found himself thoroughly bewitched.
had to know everything about her.
likes and dislikes. Etcetera,
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
one thing, she was thoroughly intrigued by his English accent.
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!
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 lucky day.
English, are you not?” she asked, to open the conversation.
yes. Stuart Braden, at your service.” He nodded graciously.
“Currently visiting Wyoming with my father, who is in Cheyenne
see.” She nodded. “So you are–what? Sightseeing?
Just traveling about?”
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?”
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.
must have been a quaint experience,” he said. “I take it
you lived with Mr. and Mrs. Barlow during the school year?
face lit up with eagerness. “Yes, living with them and their
eleven children at the Bar-Bones Ranch was such a hoot!”
Stuart bit his lips to keep from laughing out loud. “Sounds
like a lively bunch.”
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!”
struggled with disbelief. Surely the lady played him for a fool. “I
assume it was a one-room log cabin?”
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
like a regular snuggle fest.” He cleared his throat, trying to
imagine fourteen people squished together with their feet to the
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–”
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.”
snobs you English are!” She laughed merrily. “I assure
you, the Bardows own one of the largest ranches along the North
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 teaching school?”
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
faint tug of homesickness made Stuart pause. What an entrancing
creature! “Why, no,” he had to admit. “Where is
this magical place?”
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!”
he echoed, feeling empty as a brass drum.
nodded earnestly. “It’s all the memories you carry with
you wherever you go.”
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 speak of?”
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.”
didn’t know whether to laugh or to weep, though he allowed that
her beauty would inspire any man to undue recklessness.
are a wicked, wicked man,” she added, refusing to look at him.
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.”
the devil are you talking about?” He was done with sweet
innocent creatures, he decided, his nostrils dilated with fury. Next
time he felt an attack of l’amour de coeur coming on, he
would seek his pleasure in a high class brothel!
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.
that a dare?” he asked, as foolhardy as she.
Certainly not. Why, even I can rope a calf faster than you!”
a bizarre idea,” he laughed. “You, a mere female, dare to
make such a claim?”
I’m just saying you’re a hopeless tenderfoot, Mr.
Braden,” she informed him.
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.
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.
the road a quarter mile ahead, three horsemen, wearing neckerchiefs
to shield their identities, rode toward the stagecoach, rifles cocked
and at the ready.
the driver whipped up his horses. “Stand aside,” he
bellowed to the outlaws. “We’re comin’ through.”
Wells Fargo guard raised his shotgun. “Make way!” he
yelled, and fired a barrel full of buckshot.
either blind as a bat, or he fired too high on purpose, Stuart
thought, crouched low to keep his traveling companion out of the line
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.
glanced down and saw that Miss Gallagher was neither angry nor upset.
was spitting mad.
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 this.”
bet I’m a better shot,” the little twit said, hauling her
Smith & Wesson revolver out of her sizable purse.
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.
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.
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.
he was in no shape to play Sir Galahad, at this point.
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.
creek gurgled nearby, and the horses whinnied shrilly, in terrible
pain. From his vantage point, Stu 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
. . .
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.
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?”
a little wobbly, she got to her feet and looked around.
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.
against one, she thought shakily, then chided herself for
overlooking the obvious: Oh, but I’m never alone, she
an inner peace settled over her.
right, Lord, give me courage,” she prayed silently.
a tree branch creaked off to the right of where she stood.
Another distraction, she thought.
on pins and needles, she glanced around.
sat the Englishman, arms and legs wrapped around the swaying trunk of
a tall aspen. Grinning, he raised a cautionary finger to his lips.
wait just a minute. That is no finger, she decided.
was his fancy-schmancy, pearl-handled Colt revolver.
hope it shoots straight, she thought grimly, and gave him an
encouraging nod. Now, hopefully, it would be a fairer fight.
one of them the Almighty! Imagine that!
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
yer scratching, Jim!” the leader snarled, swatting the air.
help it,” Jim said. “I’m goin’ blind. Can’t
lemme go fetch the horses,” the other outlaw begged.
got horses right here,” said the ringleader, pointing at the
team of lame horses, one of themlying on its side.
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.”
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.”
jaw hanging, Suzanne glanced over at Stuart, who was scowling at the
was one thing. Cold-blooded murder was another.
did not hesitate. Simultaneously they took aim and fired.
outlaw gurgled out a few last words, cursing the unfairness of life,
then fell over dead.
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.
eyes rolled back in his head. “Ah, sweet angel, I’m not
long for this world.”
can I do to make you more comfortable?” she asked, anxiously.
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.
dying wish,” he whispered.
she said, running her fingers through his long chestnut brown hair.
eyelashes fluttered closed. “Let me suckle at your breast.”
She stared down at him in disbelief.
he gently reminded her.
not!” She pushed him away and, scrambling to her feet, glared
down at him. “You, sir, are no gentleman.”
broke . . . promise.”
a long moment she considered his words. “Oh, very well. Never
let it be said that I, Suzanne Gallagher, didn’t keep my word.”
stalwart resolution, she set aside her pride and knelt beside him
squinted up at her. “May God reward you for your kindness,
what does it matter? she thought, expecting him to expire any
moment, and clutched him tightly to her bosom,.
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.
sir!” she cried. “Do you need more water?”
you, dear lady, to speed me through those pearly gates.”
her bonnet to fan her Englishman back to life, Suzanne saw the
corners of his mouth twitch with a mischievous smile.
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.
cracked one eyelid. “I have your word that I’ll live?”
I have to shoot you myself, to defend my honor,” she warned.
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
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.”
supporting each other, for they were both extremely sore, they headed
upstream to assess the situation. All three outlaws were dead.
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 stagecoach officials arrived on scene.
his search, he found the bodies of the stagecoach 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.
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.”
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.
knows?” he told Miss Suzanne, gesturing atthe outlaws. “There
may be a reward for the capture of our–ahem!–friends.”
stared at him, aghast. “How can you even suggest such a thing?
They are outlaws, not friends. They would have killed us, if
Down with all criminals, right?” He arched his brow
shuddered. “I am not personally acquainted with any law
breakers. Are you?”
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.”
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.
hope you don’t mind abandoning some of your luggage,” he
said casually. “It’s easily replaced anyway.”
I should take a change of clothing?” she hypothesized, nibbling
on a hangnail.
very well,” he said grudgingly. “I suppose a lady must
always look her best.”
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
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 obviously!
she was ready to depart, and he was able to breathe again.
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.
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.
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.
pulled back on the horse’s reins.
we turn here?” he asked the blonde beauty drowsing in his arms.
can’t get lost,” she mumbled. “Just follow the
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.
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 asleep, and darted behind the barn
to relieve himself.
later, he heard a blood-curdling scream.
was quickly followed by a burst of gunfire.
shots in all. Rapid fire.
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.
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.
say, good show!” he exclaimed, applauding her heroic actions.
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.
Jove! What an amazing woman you are!” he exclaimed, advancing.
a few more seconds to gather his thoughts, he might have composed a
sonnet in her honor. He never got the chance.
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.”
took him a moment to realize what she was saying. “Oh. Yes,
certainly,” he stammered like a school boy.
you.” Gathering up her skirts, she made a mad dash into the
sighed, watching her go. What gorgeous legs, he marveled. She
even runs like an athlete!
then he noticed Unflappable’s expanding belly. The horse was
sucking up water so fast he soon would be foundering. “Come on,
old fellow,” he said. “We need you to get us to Cheyenne
before your stomach bursts.”
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.
giddyap just got up and went,” Stuart explained.
Putnam nodded, in perfect agreement. “Son, it’s a wonder
you made it this far.”
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 Chugwater Creek.
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
down by the creek.
Braden got shot, you see,” Suzanne explained, “so getting
him to a doctor is our main priority. That, and contacting the
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.”
you so much for rescuing us, Mr. Putnam.” Going
up on tiptoe, she gave him a quick buss on his cheek.
my best to your Mama, now.” The farmer looked her straight in
the eye. “You get yourself home right away, y’hear?”
you. I intend to.” She smiled radiantly. “Well, I guess
we had better head over to my cousin’s office now.”
farmer nodded. “Good girl. And don’t forget your
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 the man’s hand. “Can’t thank you enough,
sir.” He glanced at Suzanne. “Guess we’d better be
let me help you.” She 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 Happy
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.
on, Lady MacDuff,” he joked.
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.”
where my parents fell in love,” Suzanne informed him, pointing
to the fifth step leading upstairs to Dr. Mead’s office. “The
laughed. “Is that meant as a warning? Are you saying that love
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.”
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, but he did so love getting
her all excited.)
been madly in love ever since,” she affirmed, pressing the
buzzer again. “Sixteen years ago, if you must know.”
wait a minute,” Stuart said. “Are you telling me that
your parents didn’t get married until sixteen ye–?”
Already he was doing the math in his head.
was three at the time,” she added, just to rattle his cage.
Peeking through the lace curtains in her cousin’s window, she
tapped her finger on the glass. “Come on, Daniel!” she
sang out. “It’s me, Susie. Open up.”
Stuart stood there, his head in a whirl. He was guilty of many sins,
but never of robbing the cradle. Did this mean he’d have to
delay courting the lady till he was old and grey? Or was she only
pulling his leg? He shook his head in disbelief. Such odd customs
these Americans had! Having children before they married? Why, in
England it was positively frowned upon!