Love Finds an Outlaw
Love Finds an Outlaw
"These heartwarming romances will pull you in and leave you with a book hangover long after you’ve read the final words.” Julie Grant
Can a pistol-packing spinster and an adventure-loving reporter find love amidst the mishaps and trials of the Santa Fe railroad's ill-fated inaugural excursion?
Mary Owen has a ticket to ride the Santa Fe train on a sight-seeing excursion from Topeka, Kansas to Pueblo, Colorado. She intends to live life unrestrained on this trip because it may be her only chance unless she can convince her father to let her choose her own husband. A future of cooking and babies and small town life is not what she wants.
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Read the first chapter!
The string quartet Mary Owen’s father had hired for her small birthday dinner played in the background. The receiving line thinned to a few more single men waiting for an introduction.
She’d been pleasant to each of them, asking a question to judge their excitement for adventure. None would go west, even to visit, and one thought riding the trolley thrilling. She planned on repeating the responses to her father in the morning. Proving that she had indeed attempted to find someone interesting enough to consider marrying.
Her father shook the man’s hand.
“My father is a friend of Mr. Wagner.”
“Yes, he told me you might be attending. Let me introduce you to my daughter, Miss Owen.”
“Wy— William Crossen, Miss Owen.”
“Thank you, I’ve met so many for the first time tonight. Tell me, what do you think about traveling to Africa?”
“I haven’t considered it. Are you planning a trip?”
His eyebrows scrunched. He didn’t care for her question. She almost sighed but held back. One more handsome gentleman, but not one who would gallop beside her up a mountain or blaze trails through a forest. “Not at the moment, but asking questions helps me remember to whom I’ve spoken.”
Attending and trying, as her father requested, to find someone she might marry was the only way he’d allow her to go with Aunt Cora on a small adventure. Even now, she had yet to see the tickets. She would get them at breakfast if Father felt she held up her end of this event.
And she had. The gloves riding her arms up to her elbows begged to be unbuttoned, slid off, and tucked away. The dress, a breathtaking wonder Father ordered from Paris for her, held her tight at the waist. Did Queen Victoria feel like this? Bound to responsibility with cloth and silk?
Would her mother, if she had lived, understand how much Mary wanted to be like Aunt Cora? Or would Mother have trained Mary to be like her, a lady at all times, content in the life she lived?
Aunt Cora, her father’s sister, bounced in and out of Mary’s life with her exciting travel tales and trunks full of exotic trinkets and clothing. Her spinster life intrigued Mary.
“All you need is one, Mo.” Father whispered in her ear, startling her. “Marry, and you’ll be taken care of forever.”
“You promised not to call me that.” Mo, the nickname he used when trying to get her to follow his chosen path, his clear intention tonight. He’d combined the initials of her first and last names to get it when she fussed about not having a middle name like her friends. The problem arose when she wanted to go in a different direction from his. And she did.
“I sense you are not present in your mind tonight. Why is it so difficult for you to think of being married? I’m to blame for not giving you another mother.”
“Father, you say that, and yet you aren’t married. Perhaps marriage isn’t as wonderful as you wish me to believe.”
“What you don’t remember is the joy I shared with your mother. That is what I wish for you, dearest. I haven’t found another who could outshine her. It wouldn’t be fair to marry someone I couldn’t love as much as my dear wife.”
“Maybe that is my problem as well. You’ve made your marriage to Mother sound so perfect that I want the same. I want to love someone who loves adventure and doesn’t intend for me to wed, live, and die in the same home. He isn’t in this room. I wonder if he exists.”
“You promised me after this trip, this adventure, you will accept someone.” He gave her arm a gentle squeeze. “You will understand so much more when you have children, the need to protect them.”
She met his eyes, surprised to see a bit of moisture in the corners. “I said I would try. Please, can we enjoy my birthday together? I dislike being at odds with you. Especially as you will be leaving for New York in a few days and I will be off on my grand adventure.”
“You need to take care of Aunt Cora as well. That’s why I’m letting you go. I’m afraid she’ll skip meals and something will happen to her. Well, that’s not a cheerful thought, nor is this evening turning out the way I’d hoped. We should have held this at home, with your friends.”
“I see them often enough. Besides, it feels as if you’ve already paraded every marriageable male back home and in Topeka in front of me.”
“And none of them, not even one, interested you a little, Mo?” Her father led her to the dining room.
“None, Father. They were all content to stay where they were, none of them expressed a desire to see the world. And shallow. It’s all about how they will work in the family business. If I become a missionary nun, at least I’ll go places and work with God.”
“You could work with a husband, help him in his career by making sure his home is run in a timely and efficient manner.”
“Father, you can’t be saying that as if you mean it. If you felt a wife’s role crucial to a man’s career, you would have remarried despite your declaration of how much you loved my mother.”
“Maybe tonight will be different.”
Topeka, Kansas was worlds away from her life in St. Louis. In a few days, she would be on a train with Aunt Cora. Sent away again, but this time by her own choice.
Wyatt recognized the glassy look in Miss Owen’s eyes. Had she met too many people? Or perhaps, like him, she wanted to be elsewhere? At least being a male, he had more choices than to be paraded in front of wealthy men seeking a wife.
Potted plants hugged the corners along with a few women who seemed to wear a cloak of invisibility that kept most suitors from seeing them. Was it intentional? Could there be women who didn’t want to marry? According to his father, all women were meant to marry. But then his father was brought up in a different time. Still, tonight’s attendance by so many available women made him think things might not have changed. It could be a story, but not one that he would be willing to write. Articles like that did not build a career.
The question Miss Owen asked him about Africa intrigued him, as it was far from the usual conversations he’d had in receiving lines.
Maybe he’d find a story here if he stuck it out through the evening.
Mary’s heels felt the bite of the too-tight tapestry shoes. They matched the green in her dress, and she’d been so sure they would loosen as the night went on. Her mistake now had her sitting alone next to a potted tree. Her shoulders relaxed as she took in the occupants of the room, the unmarried women huddled together, chirping like birds, probably hoping one of the eligibles would single them out. Hiding by the tree worked to her advantage.
“—leaving Sunday on the Pueblo Excursion train.” A male voice with a touch of excitement continued. “Should be quite the adventure.”
She caught the words and held them close. Did Father have anything to do with this?
All the things!
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