Stuck in a life of servitude to her penny-pinching brother, Emily Darling longs for a more exciting existence. When a packet with travel tickets, meant for one Ethel Darton, accidentally lands on her doormat, Emily sees a chance for escape. Having turned down the dreary suitors that have come her way, is it possible a new existence also offers a different kind of man?
Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.
But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.
The mercantile was a marvel to her. A large store carrying about everything and anything someone could want out here. Barrels of apples, their perfume vying with the aroma of coffee. Rows of canned peaches and beans, brightly labeled. Bolts of fabrics and piles of overalls and blue jeans. Racks of handguns and rifles, cartons of ammunition. Rolls of chicken wire and shelves of implements, tools for farm and ranch and home. Jars of sweet candies and a stack of newspapers and books. Emily’s eyes were big with wonder and Daniel was rewarded to see it as she did, the color, the diversity, the spectacle, not just the practicality of things in a jam-packed shop with sawdust on the floor. And then he shook his head to remove the distractions, concentrate on the matter at hand.
“What can I do for you today, Dan? Not your usual day in town.”
His sideways glance caught Emily suppressing a smile.
“Dan?” she smirked.
He gulped a breath and ignored her. “Hey, Jason, how ya doin’? My cousin here is just out from New York, looking to make a new life. We wondered if there was any work going she might take up. And I do have a list, as usual.” He tried to put a cheerful, friendly note in his voice, something he was definitely not feeling.
The shopkeeper took the list and studied it, shaking his head. “No work as I know of. With summer coming, some things might open up. We always get folks moving in, mebbe starting up businesses, in summer. But nothing as yet. You might want to check back in a week or two. Or there’s the saloon. I heared Ben’s been looking for someone to clean up each morning, but whether you’d want your kin working there, well, that’s another matter.”
Emily stepped forward. “Where is it? The saloon?”
“No!” Damn woman. Daniel sucked in a breath. “You’re not working there,” he said more gently.
Jason’s gaze shot from one to the other. “’Course, I didn’t mean nothing by mentioning it. Mebbe shoulda kept my mouth shut.”
Daniel locked on Emily’s hard stare. Her anger was evident, but she stayed silent.
“Well. I’ll get this order together. Be about fifteen minutes. Can you wait?”
“Sure thing,” Daniel said and grabbed Emily by the wrist. He dragged her outside after him, almost tossing her against the hitching rail.
“If it’s the only job?” She stomped her foot. “I don’t belong to you, you can’t tell me—”
“I can. And I am. You made yourself my responsibility...” They were shouting, and he lowered his voice, his gaze darting around. “You made yourself my responsibility the day you took those tickets and came out to me.” He let this sink in, reining in his own truculence. “You’re gonna do what I say, and I’ll make the dang decisions. You got that?” He waited for a response. “I said, do you understand?”
Emily crossed her arms. “You said, ‘you got that,’ not ‘do you understand.’” Smugness was written across her face, her lips a
thin, tight line, her eyes round with the correction.
Daniel straightened. Then he laughed. And he laughed a little more. “Oh, heck.” He lifted his hat briefly, swept the hair out of his eyes, and set the hat back on his head. “How the hell did this happen to me?”
Bio: Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK. She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit. Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC. She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west. Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards. Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards. Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and comes out Oct. 8th and Dances of the Heart, another full length novel, comes out in the next few months.
WEBSITE AND BLOG: http://andreadowning.com
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Andrea-Downing/e/B008MQ0NXS/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0