A Bride's Journey to the Colorado Territory
A Bride's Journey to the Colorado Territory
"These heartwarming romances will pull you in and leave you with a book hangover long after you’ve read the final words.” Julie Grant
She’s running from grief. He’s running from war memories. Can they find love on this dangerous journey west?
Cornelia’s parents send her to America hoping to heal her heart. Accompanied by her protective brother, they’ll travel by covered wagon to the Colorado Territory to search for gold. When Cornelia meets a man who seems as troubled as the friend she lost, it seems she might be given a second chance to save someone before it's too late.
Jake, once a prisoner of the Union Army leaves Tennessee in disgrace. He wants nothing more than to find enough gold to start a new life. The last thing he wants is to fall in love.
Can the feisty Cornelia make him leave his past behind?
As the wagon train brings them together, will they look beyond past promises and old pain and discover treasure worth more than gold?
You will love this sequel to A Bride’s Dilemma in Friendship, Tennessee because everyone craves a second chance.
If you like stories about the Oregon Trail, happily-ever-after, and Christian romance, this book is for you. Start your journey with Cornelia and Jake today!
Read the first chapter!
“I said you need to stay away from him, Sister.”
The steamship whistle blew overhead as another ship passed, going south. Cornelia Taggart refused to glance at her brother, Raymond, knowing full well what his no-nonsense face would look like. She had listened to those older than her before, minded her own business, like they asked and now—now she had lost a friend. And in this country, she needed friends. She had not met one girl near her age on the ocean voyage from Prussia or this steamship up the Mississippi River. Her brother was the closest she had, but he did not count.
“Cornelia? You promised Mother that you would listen to me.”
She faced him. “I told her I would make sure you were fed a decent meal and followed the Lord’s steps. This thing you ask of me is wrong. Ignoring someone who is troubled is not what the Lord would do. Nor I. Not anymore.” She brushed her brother’s arm to lessen the anger in her voice. “I’ll be careful. There is no danger to me on the ship deck.”
“There is plenty. You are innocent of what is going on around you.”
“I’ll be all right. I will stand by him, that is all. Raymond, I’m not asking him for a kiss or to marry me, and there is no reason that you could not do the same. Offer him comfort because it is obvious that he is careworn about something.”
“What is clear to me is that he has been drinking, and I’ve seen him gambling on the lower deck.”
“It’s more than that. He is hurting a lot. I saw it in his eyes when I warned him about tripping over the rope left on the deck yesterday.”
“You were looking him in—”
“Our glances met. That is not a crime, Raymond. Besides that, he ignored me and fell, anyway.” Her brother’s overprotectiveness weighed as much as if she’d been dunked in the ocean wearing her clothes. Not since the first moment when they had left home had she longed to be back there so much. She realized how easy it had been to have her mother direct her daily movements, teaching her the proper way to be a lady even if one had to help one’s husband muck the barn or cook more meals than she wanted. Those days with Mother now seemed like chasing butterflies on a spring day. With Raymond it was all rules, no listening, and if he had his way, she wouldn’t even talk. And when he did converse with her, they didn’t seem to speak the same language. All he did on this trip was read about traveling to the Colorado mountains to search for gold.
“Mother would be angry with you for interfering in business that is not your own.” Raymond’s lower lip turned downward, and he tugged his ear when worried. Yes, she knew her older brother well. When he wore this face, it meant she would not get her way. She would have to attempt a different tactic.
“Or she might be proud. Let me try, please. If he is, as you suspect, a scoundrel, I will walk away. I have heard plenty of harsh language on this ocean trip. My ears no longer burn at men’s speech.” Something banged against the deck behind her, followed by an oath, proving her point.
“It’s more likely that I must drag you elsewhere. Remember, this man is not a stray kitten you encountered in the alley that needs rescuing.”
“If he were, we would not be discussing this. You are such a gentle soul, you would have found a home and a name for das Kätzchen by now.”
Raymond laughed; he had not since they had sailed.
Tears sprang to her eyes. She turned so he wouldn’t see and contemplated the man holding onto the ship’s rail. “I’ll be fine. There’s no need to stand watch over me, though I know you’ll do that.” Truth was, she was glad that her brother would. She had never rescued a man before and wasn’t sure what to expect. With squared shoulders, she strode over and stood as close to the man as she dared. Her skirt hem brushed his boot. He didn’t move, but his hands relaxed their stranglehold on the railing.
Jake Miles knew she was there. She smelled sweet. Lavender, he’d guess. It made the smell of the
Missisippi River with its flopping fish a bit easier on the nose. He’d noticed her several times as they’d crossed paths on the upper deck this week. Then yesterday he had gotten a glimpse of her blue eyes, and for a moment he had hoped that she saw something in him. Then she’d gone and tried to direct his steps. He should have listened to her, or he wouldn’t have crashed against the deck, bruising his hand. He flexed it to lessen the pain. It still ached. Along with his pride. He was thankful she hadn’t embarrassed him further by rushing to his aid. He was well aware of her standing and watching his disgrace as he rose from his knees.
He had boarded the steamboat in Cairo, Illinois, with intentions of heading West when he arrived in St. Louis. She’d been the first woman he’d seen, and he’d kept a watch on her when her husband wasn’t with her. There were a lot of scoundrels on board. He’d lost money to most of them the first day. Then he’d walked away from the games, finding no joy in the losing or the small wins. He couldn’t find happiness in any vice or being alive.
“My brother and I are traveling to St. Louis and then westward.”
Her voice soothed his ragged nerves. Her brother, then, not a husband. “Just the two of you?” She was lightness, and he was darkness. He needed to stay far from her, but now she had made it more difficult to ignore her presence by standing next to him. If he slid his hand across the ship's rail a mere half inch, it would touch hers. His hands relaxed, but he kept them in place, though he longed for the touch of a woman who didn’t know who he had been and become after the war.
“For now. Then we will send for our parents. Raymond thinks it best if we gather enough gold first.”
She thought gold was gathered? Like berries in early spring? Her accent told him she was from overseas. Prussia? Maybe. Many of the others on board were coming from there. From conversations he’d overheard, most of them planned on farming. The news reported unrest in that country. He should have gone west the minute Tennessee began discussing war. “Did someone tell you that gold nuggets are lying on the ground? Or perhaps attached to a bush and that you can pick what you need and fill your basket?” A warm breeze notched his hat higher on his head. He pulled it back down.
“Of course not. We are not stupid. We know we must work hard to find the nuggets, and it is backbreaking work and dirty. That’s why I came with Raymond. I am here to take care of him after he works hard all day. He will come home to a hot meal and leave again in the mornings with a full stomach and a packed lunch pail. He will be successful, and it won’t take as long to send—” she hated the struggle to find the right words — “passage money home for our mother and father. If he had to do all of this alone, it would take much longer.”
“Your brother is fortunate to have you. I’m heading West to search for gold as well, but I’ll be taking care of myself as I don’t have a sister. Or a wife.” Though he should have. But what was done was done and his own fault. “I’m Jake Miles from Nashville.”
“And she is Miss Cornelia Taggart. And I am her brother, Raymond. I keep a close watch on my sister, and I overheard you are also hunting for gold. If you have any knowledge of the gold mines, would you share with me? Right now, I have only bits and pieces that I’ve picked up from those on board and a book I bought. I’m not sure any of these passengers have been in America long enough to know.”
“Raymond. We were having a nice conversation.”
Cornelia’s face flushed the way Heaven’s had when he’d irritated her. He may not have had sisters, but growing up around Heaven and her friend Annabelle had provided him with an extensive knowledge about angry women. And this woman was not happy with the current situation.
“Sister, remember your place. It’s time for you to retire and do some needlework while Mr. Miles and I have a conversation about the best place to locate gold.”
Cornelia’s eyes narrowed, and she balled her hands into fists against her dress. She was not big enough to hurt her brother if she did take a swing at him. Jake held back laughter. Yes, this was something he missed from his youth—torturing his female friends. Yet, his heart ached at the pain reflected in her face at her brother’s dismissal in such a way. Had Annabelle and Heaven felt the same when he’d treated them in a similar fashion?
Cornelia clenched her gloved hands tight into a fist. Nothing was ever going to change with her brother. He wouldn’t listen. He was just like their father. And this Mr. Miles? He appeared to be of the same mind. He hadn’t spoken up and asked her to stay, to see if she had any questions about being hauled off in a wagon across a country she knew nothing about. And she had questions, lots of them.
A flock of geese flew overhead, squawking as if they were joining in with her mental tirade. Would one of them empty their bowels on her brother? That would bring her some satisfaction, but then she’d have to clean his clothes, and that was work she didn’t care to do on the ship, not when they were so close to getting off.
She’d been able to gather some information from listening to others on board who were returning west after a trip home to see their families, but the stories terrified her. Lack of wood for fires, eating cold biscuits for breakfasts and watching for restless Indians or animals. And what struck her as odd was none of them were bringing their wives with them. Would she be the only woman on their wagon train? Please God, let there be at least one person close to my age. There had been enough of male brooding on the trip over the ocean.
Raymond didn’t have any answers for her because he knew as much as she did. That’s what made her angry, being sent back to the cabin to do needlework. Mr. Miles might know the answers, maybe even persuade her brother to listen to her and stay in Illinois. They could start a farm like some of the other passengers planned to do.
She tromped back to the small cabin she and her brother shared. She would do some needlework all right. The loose buttons on Raymond’s good shirt were going to be sewn on so tight he wouldn’t be able to work them with his big fat fingers. And while she was busy with needles, maybe she would darn his socks. If they came out lumpy, then he could learn to darn them himself. She would happily teach him. As if he would listen to her instructions on how to repair his own clothing. She contained a laugh that threatened to spill out, then sobered. This was something she and her best friend, Frieda, would have giggled about until they dropped from laughing before…
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