Selah Westbrook decided she didn’t care for the glaring light of day that seemed determined to remind her that her life was meant to change, whether or not her heart was ready for it.
All the stories she read as a child were reminiscent of large life changes. When she turned seventeen, she knew great things were meant to happen eventually. Now that she was nineteen, she supposed she should have expected something.
But the thought of losing her current life tugged at her heartstrings, and she couldn’t imagine losing any of this now.
She lifted her hand to shield her eyes against the sunlight when she heard the door open for the nearby building.
The loud shouts of children racing from the schoolhouse had never phased her as she was the eldest of eight children raised on the Wide W Ranch on the outskirts of New York. She was tall for a woman and didn’t have to do a thing to gather the notice of her five younger siblings still attending class.
“Selah! You’ll never guess what I learned today!” cried Tommy.
Maybe for a while, Selah hoped, she could pretend the changes could wait for her a little longer.
She raised an eyebrow while pressing her lips together to hide a smile. “I hope it wasn’t how to hide a frog in Mrs. Friedrich’s desk.”
“No, I did that last week,” the seven-year-old stated brazenly as he skipped past her. “I learned that New York isn’t really new! It’s just a silly name. Instead, the Earth is really old. That’s what we’re on right now.”
Their four other siblings reached Selah’s side while he chattered.
“Thank you, dears,” Selah murmured. Deftly gathering their sacks into her arms, she motioned for them to start the path back home. “Shall we go on our way? Tommy, pay attention to where you’re looking, or you’re going to run into the fence.”
“I’m not dumb!” he crowed back before running into the nearest pole.
Holding back a chuckle when he bounced down to the ground on his bum, she decided against scolding him. The imminent bruise on his forehead would do that.
All of the other children burst out laughing. Selah had to cover her mouth. Though she meant to scold her siblings, she couldn’t quite manage it, or else she knew she would burst out laughing as well.
“Oh no, he’s broken!” one of the twins shouted and ran to Tommy. “Are you dead, Tommy?”
“I don’t think so!”
Selah’s lips twitched as she reached the two boys. “Tommy, are you all right? I don’t see any blood or scratches, so I think you’ll survive this.”
Wrinkling his nose, he asked her, “Does it at least mean I don’t have to eat my vegetables tonight?”
“Oh, you’re definitely eating your vegetables. They’re what make you strong, Tommy. If you weren’t eating your vegetables, it would have hurt a lot more.”
“All right,” he groaned. Then he took off, none the worse for wear.
Selah laughed and straightened. Everyone else continued on. Someone always seemed to get scraped up on their walks home.
Since she was the only child who had taken a job in town—truthfully, a second job, since her mornings were spent on the ranch managing the smaller animals—it was her responsibility to collect the children from school.
Her siblings could be trying at times, and yet she still loved each and every one of them. Could she really leave them? Selah had dreamed of the day when she might gain her own family. And yet, when she did, she had never considered what she might lose at the same time.
She chewed her lip anxiously as she began to think. While her siblings ran around, Selah replayed the conversation she’d had the evening before with her father. It had just been the two of them watching the twilight settle in.
It was something they did fairly frequently when they both felt they had a moment. They liked the night sky, and it gave them both a moment of quiet. This time should have been like the others, where they hardly said a word; instead, her father had started an innocent-enough-sounding conversation.
“Have you ever thought of leaving?”
“Leaving?” she had asked. “The ranch, do you mean? Or Briarwood?”
Her father scratched his grizzled chin; he had forgotten to shave this morning, a frequent occurrence. He had thick dark hair covering most of his body, and the younger children always joked about him being a bear. If he was, he was the sweetest sort of bear who couldn’t hurt a fly.
It meant he couldn’t keep a secret or share a lie. Not being able to meet her gaze should have clued her in. He had set his mug down and drummed his large fingers on his thighs. “Briarwood, I suppose. You can’t stay here forever, after all. You’re practically a woman grown now.”
“I am,” she responded, glad he had noted that. “While I should like my own family someday, I’m content. I’ve never thought about leaving town. If I married, then I’d stay around here. I really like being in Briarwood, Father.”
Already, she had made mention of Robert. Though her parents hadn’t talked it over much with her, she didn’t think they disagreed with her choice. The man’s family was well-respected, after all, and they would want her with someone who made her happy.
“I’m sure you do. It’s a good town. That’s why I settled on the ranch here after my parents passed. And it’s where I met your mother,” he added. Pausing, he ran a hand through his thick hair. “But it’s important we all carve our own paths. We actually wish the same for you. You’re a woman now, and it’s time you settled down. No matter where it takes you.”
That was the first clue Selah had that something was happening that perhaps she wasn’t quite prepared for.
Hoping that they wanted to talk about Robert, since he had begun talking again about a serious courtship, she had straightened in her seat and faced her father.
“I would agree with that,” she told him.
“We’ve had a few rough winters, as you know, and it helps to have every penny here. Or fewer mouths to feed,” her father added. “Like how we sent the twins to your uncle last winter. But with everyone getting older…well, Mr. Pritchard needs a wife, and I know he admires your skill with your siblings. How would you feel about settling down with him?”
The suggestion made her mouth drop open.
Still, he carried on without looking at her as he talked about Mr. Pritchard’s four children and small farm a full day’s ride out of Briarwood. She struggled to process this in her mind but was still aware of everything being said. The older man needed a wife, a mother, a helpmeet. And her family, though her father didn’t put it so bluntly, didn’t need her.
The shock wore heavily on Selah’s shoulders as she realized what else her parents had discussed in her absence. Daniel would take the apprenticeship with Mr. Henderson, where the family would board, feed, and pay him. They would free two of the five cowboys working on the ranch, and then once school ended next month, all the children would be able to help out as necessary.
Shuddering at the thought of so much change, Selah had gone back to the realization of what her father said. Mr. Pritchard was a friend of her parents. Seventeen years her senior, the man never met her gaze, though it could be because he was a good three inches shorter than herself.
He wasn’t a terrible man. He simply wasn’t what she wanted.
Mr. Pritchard wasn’t Robert Cluttery.
“But I can’t marry Mr. Pritchard,” Selah jumped from her seat and shook her head. Though she loved her family and would do just about anything for them, it couldn’t be this. “I don’t love him.”
Her father furrowed his brow. “Do you love anyone?”
Opening her mouth, Selah meant to say Robert. Yet she wavered, not certain if that was the truth.
Love was an odd thing. She knew her parents loved each other. But how did she know that. How did they feel it? Thinking about her feelings for the handsome young man who always offered her that special smile made her wonder. Could she love Robert without knowing it?
The handsome young man always complimented her. He’d made her a flower crown last week that Tabitha had stolen from her and adored. Robert Cluttery was handsome and young and charming. His family was rich and didn’t worry about anything, not like hers did.
The more she thought about it, the more hope she felt growing in her chest. Selah beamed hopefully over at her father.
“I think so. Robert Cluttery visits me often and says the nicest things. Didn’t I tell you someone was wanting to court me? He didn’t want to make it official yet, but I think he would now. He could even propose marriage, Father. He’ll marry me, and we could be wed by Christmas!”
“You aim for Robert Cluttery?” His eyes widened as he sat beside her, meeting her eye-to-eye. “Are you certain?”
She hoped the smile didn’t look forced. “Of course I’m certain!”
The conversation had faded awkwardly after that. Her father bumbled through a few words, suggesting she have another plan in place if Robert wouldn’t have her. Then he’d hurried inside to leave Selah by herself.
She had eventually retired, settling into a restless sleep, before going about her day. Robert visited often but didn’t that day.
It had left her more anxious than she wanted to admit. How was she supposed to make plans for her future if he wasn’t around? Selah suppressed the panic. The time for big changes was now. It had to be. All she needed was to talk with Robert.
Or else she might be trapped with Mr. Pritchard.
Selah let a small shudder lose before she could help it. Thankfully, a small distraction eagerly came up with her on the walk back home.
“Tommy found three frogs today,” whispered the youngest of the family, five-year-old Rachel. For all of Tommy’s light-hearted nature, Rachel was the most serious child in the family. She took after their mother in looks and manners. “Mrs. Friedrich made him stand in the corner with a bucket on his head.”
“Don’t be a tattler,” huffed one of the twins. Joshua and John held hands while they rolled their eyes. “No one likes a tattler, Rachel.”
With a frown, Rachel asked Selah, “Is that true?”
“I don’t know what the Earth is really made of, though,” Tommy was still talking as he danced around them. In the two seconds Selah had glanced away, he had already covered himself with dirt. “Do you think it’s all crumbly dirt all the way to the other side? Maybe it’s clay. I bet I could dig all the way through!”
“That’s nice, Tommy,” she said distractedly while trying to speak with Rachel as well. “Dear, don’t listen to the twins. It’s good that you tell me these things. We need to make sure Tommy doesn’t keep attacking your teacher with frogs, or else he’ll never be allowed back in.”
The boy raced past them. “Come and get me, Josh and John! No one can stop me! I can break down all the walls! Even the Earth!”
Selah didn’t know why she even tried stopping them since those twins could never miss a challenge, no matter how ridiculous it might be. She fixed the sacks she carried in her arms before shaking her head. All she had to do was remind herself that she loved them. They were family. They were definitely not annoying her or overtly exhausting.
The last of the children to speak up finally came around Selah to take Rachel’s hand. “Let’s skip, Rachel,” said Tabitha. “You were getting so good at that today.”
“I was,” Rachel reassured Selah. “Would you like to see?”
Chuckling, she nodded. “I would love to. Go on, girls.”
An easy grin came to her lips as she watched the two of them start off. It was a struggle since Rachel was a good head shorter than Tabitha, but the two of them managed. The two of them started off with their elbows touching before distance slowly made their way between them.
By the time they reached the turn in the path, Selah wondered if they might let go of hands. Which they might want to with the others coming around. The boys were still chasing each other, turning in circles right before—
“Watch out!” Selah cried out before she winced, knowing it was too late.
She had to stifle a laugh as all five children stumbled into each other. Heads knocked, and shouts sounded, such innocent surprise screeching through the air. Her other brothers would be sorry to have missed the silly sight.
She raced forward to check on everyone. By the time she arrived, everyone was laughing.
Giggling as well, Selah looked at their faces and collected the fallen ribbon from Tabitha’s hair. “Oh, you’re such kids. Is everyone all right? What a sight you all made! It looked like the funniest dance.”
“I don’t like dancing,” Tommy announced proudly. But then he paused and fixed Rachel’s braid over her shoulder. “It was an attack! A very good attack.”
“We attacked very good,” said John.
“It didn’t feel like an attack,” Rachel decided.
The merriment faded into the usual squabbles as everyone tried to decide on what had really happened. Selah did her best to intervene and keep it light-hearted on the last leg of their journey home. Once again, she wished that they didn’t have to go four miles each way to get to town.
By the time they made it home to their little ranch, Rachel was in tears, and Tommy was angry with everyone.
“That’s it,” Selah announced in their yard. “Tommy, you’re in charge of putting the sacks away. You won’t have supper today until you’ve apologized to Tabitha, Joshua, and Rachel. Tabitha, can you help Mama in the kitchen? I’m sure she’ll need help with supper. Joshua and John, go find Father in the fields. Rachel, come here, dear. I’ll get you cleaned up now. Tabitha, don’t forget your ribbon.”
Some days, it felt like there were indeed attacks and battles to be won on her battlefield while she tended to her siblings. At least, she was relieved she no longer needed to worry about Gregory and Daniel, who had stopped school to work full-time on the ranch. They weren’t doing well this year, and they needed as much help as they could get.
Tucking her thick cornsilk-yellow hair behind her ear, Selah helped her baby sister dry her tears before sending the girl inside. She remained outside to wash her hands before stepping in the back door.
Her father had already made it inside to the kitchen, she realized, when she heard his voice. “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken with Robert Cluttery in years, and I have to admit I don’t have high hopes for that young man. He’s known to be flighty.”
Hearing Robert’s name made her freeze.
“I don’t particularly desire him for a son-in-law either, but we owe it to her to try it out. But there isn’t a lot of time. Winter is barely two months away. At this rate, we might need to put the twins in an apprenticeship as well.”
The thought filled Selah with dread. The only apprenticeships available near town were difficult, much too trying for the twins, who were too young. She could only imagine the number of accidents that could happen.
But if her parents needed money, they had to do something. They couldn’t expend all of the boys. Selah sorted through her calculations and held back the urge to cringe when she was reminded that she was the most disposable of the lot.
Everyone needed her to do something. Feeling her heart sink to the depths of her stomach, she wondered anxiously if marrying Robert would be enough. His family was wealthy, but would they be willing to help hers?
Their hushed tones made Selah pause from greeting them. She leaned against the wall to listen. “What are we to do? Can we at least make it through the winter?”
Selah’s heart dropped when her father didn’t answer her mother.
Shifting where she stood against the wall, she leaned closer to hear what might come next. But she hadn’t been paying mind to the boot propped awkwardly against the wall. When she brushed against it, it clattered against the wall.
Jumping in surprise, she let out a loud huff and stumbled over another shoe left out. There were always so many shoes here. Selah grabbed at the wall to steady herself in the minimal hope that no one had heard her.
“Who was that? Selah?”
She winced. Exhaling, she gathered herself and stepped out from behind the wall. She prayed she didn’t look too guilty.
Eavesdropping was a rude thing to do. That, and she hated to hear that she wasn’t doing enough to help the family. Her parents wanted her to stop her job—which meant she would stop seeing Robert nearly every day—because she wasn’t earning enough. The thought put her stomach into knots.
“It’s me, yes, hello,” she stammered with a sheepish grin as she looked at her parents. “I just walked in.”
Though she had her mother’s hair color, she had her father’s height, the willowy build, and the dark eyes. But his gaze was shadowed more than usual, just like her mother’s lips were pressed together in a fine line.
After exchanging a silent look, her parents forced smiles onto their faces and changed the subject. It proved they hadn’t wanted her to listen, to know how dire their situation had become.
Which meant she had to do something.
Imagining marrying Mr. Pritchard put an acidic taste in her mouth. She couldn’t let that happen. Instead, she would marry Robert. He was charming and lovely; he would have to help her. Such a marriage would fix all of her family’s problems. And if it didn’t…
Her plan would work, Selah believed, because it had to.
“This is a pleasant surprise.”
Forcing down the urge to roll his eyes, David Hunter turned to find his friend John Ridgerow coming up to him from the street. “I live here, don’t I?”
“You live in Cottonwood Ridge, sure. But you don’t live here at the pond,” his friend corrected him. There was a smugness in his tone that David didn’t care for. “I haven’t seen you here in forever. I haven’t even seen you off your ranch in weeks.”
“I went to church,” David said defensively as he turned his back to the water’s edge.
Snorting, John stepped closer into his line of sight. The man was of average height, but David still towered over him. They contrasted neatly in the daylight with his lighter brown hair and blue eyes and John’s darker features, though their skin had tanned with hours spent daily under the sun.
“Church? That was two months ago.”
“No, that was…” Trailing off, David furrowed his brow. He was fairly certain it hadn’t been as long ago as that. It wasn’t like him to go that long without being in town.
Except he didn’t really need to go through Cottonwood Ridge that much. The ranch required most of his attention. He had other people who could come into town and do all that needed doing. It wasn’t hard in that case, then, for him to not come through town all that often.
“Two months,” he echoed at last and shrugged. “I’m here now.”
“And it’s such a surprise since it’s not time for church,” his friend teased.
David offered only a head tilt before he gestured loosely ahead of them to where little Emily played at the water’s edge. “I needed to do something with her today. She was even driving Mrs. Leslie crazy this morning.”
“She’s a five-year-old child. They drive everyone crazy,” John reassured him. “How are the two of you otherwise?”
Exhaling, he meant to pass off a glib response before changing the subject. Except, David made the mistake of meeting his friend’s gaze. He couldn’t lie to John.
“I don’t…” he hesitated.
What could he say? That he was at the end of his rope? He was tired and angry all the time, even with a five-year-old daughter who avoided him when she wasn’t throwing her tantrums? Right now, he was trying to keep his distance so she wouldn’t be upset.
The days seemed to be gone when she wanted to show him everything she found in this new world of hers. She didn’t sing him her silly songs any longer, and she rarely met his gaze. Though everyone told him children went through phases, David couldn’t help but feel that he was losing his daughter.
He spent most nights thinking about what he could do to help her. Maybe send her off to her great-aunt in Philadelphia? Have her stay with John and Mary, who had offered up their loft to the two of them countless times?
“Love our little girl,” his late wife’s voice whispered through his head. “Keep her close always, David, please. She needs your love. You need to have enough love for both of us.”
Two painful years had passed since Laura died from tuberculosis. She was buried under the orange tree on his ranch, one of her favorite spots in all of Colorado. He had moved here to be with her. He had started up his ranch to give her a life. They had started a family together, but now she had left him behind.
“You don’t what?” John prompted when he said nothing.
But he was still thinking of his wife. His wonderful wife who promised him a future and a family, only to leave him too soon. His hands clenched into fists even as he told himself he wasn’t angry with her for leaving him. He had no right to be upset.
“We’ll be fine,” David told his friend.
Studying him through narrowed eyes, John waited a long minute before he answered. “But you’re not right now. That’s what you don’t want to say. You know, Mary keeps asking about the two of you. You can let her see for herself that you’re still alive. Why don’t you come to supper tonight?”
“No, we should be heading back to the ranch soon.”
Blue River Ranch was his own creation. It was a prison as much as it was a home for him. He had started it all on his own, belonging to no one else. That was the land he had purchased with every last penny he’d saved during his youth, the homestead he’d built up with his bare hands, and the ranch he had cultivated over the last four years since he first arrived in town at the age of twenty-one.
Not everyone could say they had done such a thing.
The usual pride didn’t resound in his chest like it used to. David supposed he was too tired for that. Everything these days pulled at his weary bones, making him feel like he was ninety-five and not twenty-five.
Laughter used to come easy. Even smiles. But these days…
“Uncle John!” Emily tossed a rock back into the river with a splash as she climbed up the bank and ran over. Ignoring David completely, his little girl grabbed John’s right leg tightly.
That did something to his heart.
She was the prettiest little thing he had ever seen. He’d thought that the moment he first laid eyes on her the second she was born, and he’d had the same thought every moment since. His little Emily was the best of him and his late wife. She had Lauren’s golden curls and bold blue eyes with the sweetest smile on her cherubic cheeks. Her tinkling laugh was Christmas and perfection wrapped into one.
Now, she laughed as John picked her up and threw her in the air. The man would never let harm come to her, David knew, though his heart still clenched at the sight of her in potential danger.
“Careful,” he muttered low.
“I’m always careful,” his friend promised. He tossed Emily in the air one last time before setting her on his hip. “What a lucky girl you are with a papa taking you to play at the river.”
Emily smiled shyly before tucking her head into John’s neck. “I missed you, Uncle John!”
Stepping back so his daughter would be more comfortable without his moody hovering, he watched the two of them interact.
John had married shortly after Emily was born. Mary was the pastor’s daughter, a compassionate and fiery woman who had not yet been blessed with a child, though David knew they both dearly desired such a gift. Mary and John had been a great help when Lauren was ill and then when she passed, making sure Emily was cared for when David could barely get himself out of bed.
Thoughts of the past brought the misery back to light from the shadows where he had stifled them. All they did was hurt him. They hovered over his head, weighing him down and mocking him over all that he had lost.
It felt like the air was thinner here in town. He paused to glance around, frowning. Though he tried rubbing his chest, it did little good.
He blinked and found both Emily and John looking at him. Well, John looked him in the eye while his daughter studied the handkerchief in his shirt pocket.
“Supper?” John prompted, reminding him of the earlier question.
“Ah, right. No, we should be going.” David started closer to collect his daughter with his arms out. “Come on, Emily, back to the horse.”
With a sigh, his friend asked, “What about tomorrow?”
Little Emily meanwhile wiggled violently out of John’s arms. “I want to walk!” She sped past them both, careful to avoid David.
He bit his tongue to hold back the urge to groan. “Not right now, David. There is…We have a lot going on right now.”
“You mean her?”
The man spoke low so Emily couldn’t hear. Having run over to his horse, Emily was tugging carefully on the bridle to make the creature drop his nose so she could pet him. David wouldn’t let her do that with most of his horses, but he knew Old Thunder would behave for her. Still, he kept his eyes on the two of them while he spoke under his breath.
“I’m making a mess of things, I know that. She’s a wild little girl, and she despises me.”
“She doesn’t despise you.”
David barely budged. “Then she hates me.”
“No, she doesn’t.”
“She doesn’t like me, all right?”
Splaying out his hands, John reminded him, “Children don’t always care for their parents. You can love them, and they still run wild. Just because she ran to the horse doesn’t prove she hates you, David.”
“But it’s everything else we do and don’t do. She doesn’t listen to me. She barely looks at me. I try to talk to her, but I don’t know. I never had a five-year-old until now, and I always thought Lauren would…” the words stuck in his throat.
Fortunately, John knew what he was trying to say.
“I know. It’s not easy. It never will be, David. That doesn’t mean you stop trying. Emily needs you now more than ever. She’s a growing girl and needs guidance in this world. Even though Mrs. Leslie is a good woman, she isn’t enough. Your daughter needs you.”
“I just…” David ran a hand through his hair. He could tell it was standing on end. It didn’t matter. Nothing in his life was going the way he had planned, so there was no reason why his hair should do anything it was supposed to.
Nodding, John offered him a sympathetic smile before gesturing toward Emily. The little girl giggled when the horse snorted in her face.
“She needs you,” he repeated himself. “You have to find a way to make life work for you again, David. She doesn’t have years to wait around for you to pick yourself up. I know you’ve been in mourning—”
“It’s barely been two years.”
David’s voice came out much hoarser than he meant for it to sound. But what could he do? There were nights he still woke, reaching for his wife. Two years without her felt like seconds and yet a lifetime, all at once.
Closing his eyes, he forced himself to breathe. That was usually the trick. He had to stop what he was doing and take a minute to concentrate on his breath. A deep breath in through the nose before allowing a lighter one out of his mouth.
“Two years,” he murmured. Yet, it never got easier.
Lauren had taught him this when he had worried through the pregnancy—she’d had to spend too much time taking care of him when he was the one who should have been taking care of her. Just another one of his many mistakes.
Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard if he were on his own. If no one needed him, then it didn’t matter what he did or what happened to him.
He glanced at Emily and then at John, sensing the darkness at the edge of his vision.
“No,” his friend told him firmly before he could open his mouth. “David, you’re not handing her off to me. That’s not how Mary and I will have our first child. It’s not what Lauren would want, do you hear me?”
“No. There is another way. Be there for her,” John reminded him sternly. “Be present. Be here for Emily as the father she needs. You’re struggling, David, and that’s normal. But it doesn’t mean that you get to give up. Do you understand that?”
Forcing a nod, David rubbed his face. The grit in his friend’s tone woke him up by pushing away the darkness.
He glanced again at Emily. His heart threatened to tear at the thought of him ever losing her.
“I’ll try. It’s just…”
John crossed his arms, turning his attention toward Emily as well. “We can’t begin to comprehend the loss you’ve suffered, David. You know that. Mary and I are here for you. It’s clear you need help, whether you want to admit it or not.”
“I have Mrs. Leslie. I have you two.”
“We’re not enough for you and Emily. She needs more. Mrs. Leslie tends to the house more, doesn’t she? The woman is a great cook, but she doesn’t like children that much, and we all know it. Why don’t you find someone, especially for Emily?”
Rocking on his heels, David considered that idea. He’d had a vague notion like that in the past. But what was he to do about that? He couldn’t very well offhand his child just to anyone.
Although he could hire someone to help him, like Mrs. Leslie. Straightening up, he wondered why that hadn’t come to mind before now. He could hire a teacher. No, a nanny.
Surely, David supposed, he could afford that. A small wage for someone to come and tend to Emily. Mrs. Leslie had just moved in with her son and daughter-in-law, leaving him an empty cottage on his property. It couldn’t be more perfect.
He blinked at John. “I have to go.”
“Is everything all right?”
“It’s good. It’s fine, I mean. I’ve got…I have things I need to do now. For Emily. For us,” David said, his thoughts spinning around in his head now that he had an idea. There was much to do to prepare for what he had in mind.
Waving an arm in the air, John called after him. “All right, fine. Be mysterious. Just get home safe, would you?”
“I’ll see you Sunday,” he responded.
Then David collected his daughter, who fell silent once she was in his arms. Setting her in the saddle, he followed behind. He gave her the braided horse hair to practice her steering while he used the actual reins.
“Where are we going?” Emily asked meekly. She didn’t glance up at him, but he could sense her starting to relax when Old Thunder started off at his steady plod.
He nodded down the lane before recalling she had her eyes elsewhere. “We’re going home, pudding.”
“I don’t want to go home.”
“Neither do I,” he admitted.
That made her look up. “Really?”
He managed a half-smile before she hurriedly turned away. It made his heart ache; she used to watch for him coming home every day. But he’d started putting distance between them because of the pain in his heart, and she had slipped away. That was his fault, he knew, but it still hurt. “Really.”
“Can’t we go someplace else? We could go play in the river some more.”
“Not now. It’s going to be dark soon, and I want us home safe before then. Maybe Mrs. Leslie has some apples for us. How about that?”
She shook her head. “I want oranges.”
There was no winning with his daughter, apparently. “We’ll ask Mrs. Leslie.”
Fortunately, it seemed to satisfy her. “All right. Let’s do that.”
“Let’s do that,” David echoed. He sighed as he settled his gaze on the horizon ahead of them. It was a beautiful stretch of sky that was turning pink and purple to a dark blue and black. How many sunsets had he enjoyed with Lauren? Whatever the count was, it wasn’t enough.
Except he needed to be moving on. He needed to focus his attention on Emily now. The future.
He would hire a nanny, David decided. That would help ease his burdens and ensure that his daughter had someone whose sole purpose would be to tend to her. Emily would have company, a person who could fill the gaps he had started to create since losing his wife.
This was what they needed. Emily deserved better, and he would get that for her.
“Love’s Gambit in the Wild West” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
In an act of self-sacrifice Selah Westbrook, a spirited young woman living in New York, makes a bold decision to leave behind her struggling family. Little does she know that this journey will not only lead her to a gruff yet handsome father but also force her to confront the betrayal of a man she thought she loved…
Will Selah find the strength to forge a new life, leaving behind the echoes of a shattered romance?
David Hunter, a rancher still grappling with the loss of his wife, unwillingly hires Selah as a nanny for his daughter, hoping to mend the strained bond with her. Although suspicious and reluctant to change, he finds himself drawn to Selah’s infectious joy and kindness. However, with a persistent threat from the shadows of the past looming over their lives, David’s burgeoning feelings for Selah are put to a test.
Will he find the courage to confront his own emotions and protect the newfound happiness within his grasp?
As Selah faces the relentless pursuit of a former suitor and David grapples with the void his wife’s demise left in him, their journey becomes a test of resilience and love. Will their haunting pasts manage to tear them apart, or can their blossoming love ultimately bring them together against all odds?
“Love’s Gambit in the Wild West” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.
“Love’s Gambit in the Wild West” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.