A Western Love Bound by Ink (Preview)


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Chapter One

May 1887

Carver’s Cove, Texas

The crowd gathered in front of the town hall was growing restless. Daisy Bradford waited with her pencil poised over her notebook. She was nervous, not for the speech the mayoral candidate Rufus McCallister would be delivering soon, but for what it would mean for her. 

A man stepped close to her. Looking around, Daisy saw it was her father. He looked dapper in his better work shirt, his sheriff’s badge gleaming in the May sunshine. 

She smiled. “Yes, Sheriff Bradford, can I help you?” she asked in a playfully mocking tone. 

“Oh no, just making sure that things are peaceful for today’s dissemination of lies,” her father said very quietly.

Daisy wished he wouldn’t air his opinions in public. Being a prominent figure, her father needed to be smart. Rufus McCallister was not one to take a slight lying down. 

“I see that your rival is here,” her father said, jerking his chin across the crowd. 

Daisy nodded. She had spotted Tyrone Eastman a few minutes earlier. The leach. They were both up for the same job at the Carver’s Cover News, the only paper in town. Daisy was deluded, she knew that the only reason she was being considered for more than a secretarial position was because her father was the sheriff and good friends with the editor, Mr. Wilkinson. 

“Oh, don’t worry about him, Papa,” she said with a bright smile. “I can out write him any day. And I know how to use the typewriter in the office. I’ve got this in the bag.” 

Her father smiled. “That’s my girl.” 

She had spoken confidently despite her worry. Tyrone was no slouch. He was diligent and, if lacking a little in imagination, he made up for it in being thorough. Her father was the kind of man who never gave up. He always got his man, and she was supposed to be a chip off the old block. He could never understand why she was worried at times like this. 

Daisy had every right to worry. She was a woman trying to get into an industry that was almost exclusively male. It wasn’t going to be easy. Her first step had been to get herself hired as the secretary and then to push to get a story. She was finally being given a chance, and she didn’t want anything to jeopardize that. 

She felt a tug on her sleeve. Looking down, she saw her eight-year-old brother, Silas, staring up at her. He was deaf and mute but a very bright boy. Between them, they had come up with a series of gestures and facial expressions that helped him to communicate. 

Why is this taking so long? I want to go and play, he signed, puffing out his cheeks in impatience. 

Just now, she signed back. We’re waiting for Mr. McCallister to make his speech. 

Silas rolled his light blue eyes at her and puffed out his cheeks again. He looked so like their mother with his blonde hair and fine features. She ruffled his hair, and he glared at her, swatting her hand away. 

“It’s about to start,” her father said, looking at the steps to the town hall. Then he signed to Silas, Hey Sy, come check the perimeter with me.

Silas nodded happily. He loved doing sheriff duty with their father. It was sweet to watch him strut around as though he had a badge on. 

Daisy’s attention turned from her family to the steps of the town hall. There was movement there, the crowd parting in a rolling wave, and then Rufus McCallister mounted the steps. His gray hair was swept back from his forehead, and his mustache had been waxed and curled so that it looked like a hairy smile on his face. 

Perhaps she shouldn’t describe him like that. After all, a reporter was supposed to be an unbiased deliverer of the news. Daisy wasn’t supposed to impose her opinions into her writing. 

“Has the windbag begun to regale us with his empty promises yet?” a voice asked. 

Leslie Hayes smiled at Daisy as she came to stand beside her. 

“Not yet,” Daisy said. “You look lovely today.” 

“Oh?” Leslie asked, patting her blonde hair. “I didn’t do anything special.” 

“Don’t believe her,” a deeper voice said. Looking past Leslie, Daisy saw her brother, Jack. He smiled a greeting at her. “She was fussing all morning.” 

“Jack!” Leslie complained, slapping his arm. 

Daisy’s heart did a little jig in her chest. She had always liked Jack Hayes. He had never been one of those men who thought the sun shone only for him. He was always thinking of others and doing things for them. And he was handsome. She loved his blue eyes, which were like the sea on a bright summer’s day. 

“I really didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, Jack,” Leslie protested. “I always take care with what I look like.” 

Ignoring her, Daisy spoke to Jack. “Who is the intended mark this time?” she asked, looking around. 

“Joe Williams,” Jack said with a sigh. 

“No!” Daisy said, shocked. Only a month earlier, Leslie had had her eye on Steven James, the owner of one of the fishing boats in the harbor. 

“Yes,” Jack said, nodding sagely. “Steven didn’t quite make it. Did he?” 

“Well, while he was supposed to be courting me, he was also courting Lisa-Anne Trebble and Mindy Marlowe, so—” 

“My friends and fellow Carver’s Covers,” Rufus McCallister said, his voice booming over the crowd. He was using a loudhailer. The crowd really wasn’t large enough for the funnel shaped apparatus, Daisy thought. He was just doing it to be showy. She rolled her eyes before remembering that she was supposed to be there to write up an article on his speech. 

She poised her pencil over an open page in her notebook, ready to write. 

“Here we go,” Leslie said under her breath. “What lies will he spout this time?” 

“Shh,” Jack said, moving uncomfortably, shifting his weight. 

“I’m so glad to see you all here today,” Mr. McCallister said in his booming voice. “I’m glad that so many of you feel it’s your civic duty to make the best decisions for Carver’s Cove.” 

Leslie let out a snort but some folks in the crowd were nodding in agreement. 

“You all know me,” Mr. McCallister said. “My family has been here since the beginning. Since just after Roy Carver, the mariner, and his crew were caught in that storm that washed the Daisy-May up on the sandbar a hundred or so years ago, we have been here. McCallisters have Carver’s Cove in their blood now and so we feel a great responsibility to our fellow Covers. Yes, we do.” 

More nodding heads in the crowd. What did they think he was saying? 

“And we plan to be here for another hundred years, looking out for you good folks,” Mr. McCallister said. “I don’t want to get up here and tally up the current mayor’s shortcomings. What will that achieve? You all know where he’s fallen flat. You all know how none of his promises have been met. But I keep my word. Just ask anyone who works for me. When you are for a McCallister, we’re for you all the way…All the way. Together, folks, with me at the helm, we will not flounder on the rocks and beach ourselves. We will sail on fair seas with fish in our nets.” 

Daisy couldn’t help but roll her eyes. 

“What a load of hogwash,” Leslie said, not bothering to keep her voice down. “If they want to ask one of his men, they should ask you, Jack.” 

“Keep your voice down, Les,” Jack said. “I don’t need trouble.” 

“Well, he does,” Leslie said. “He should have his leg trampled and then removed and see how he likes it.” 

“Leslie,” Daisy said.

Jack’s cheeks went pink. He had lost the bottom part of his right leg in a stampede the previous year. It had been a difficult recovery, and when it was all done, Mr. McCallister had taken him back to work as a cattle wrangler despite his disability. 

Leslie’s cheeks went red, too, and she turned on her heel. “He’s a toad!” She stormed away from the crowd. 

Despite a few dirty looks from those around them, Jack and Daisy made no apologies, and no one seemed to really expect them to. Leslie was outspoken and forthright, and that’s how everyone knew her. She was a fantastic seamstress, so people tended to forgive her a few eccentricities. 

In all of that, Daisy realized she had missed a chunk of Mr. McCallister’s speech. How was she going to write about it when she hadn’t heard bits of it? That was going to be a challenge. 

“…to bring a greater age of prosperity to this town than ever before,” Mr. McCallister said. 

What? What was going to bring a greater age of prosperity to the town? 

“Remember, I can only do these things if I am elected to office, so vote for me in the July election,” he said. 

As he left the stairs, there was a general cheer. 

Looking across the crowd, Daisy noticed Tyrone Eastman looking very happy and smug. Did he know that she had missed parts of the speech? Had he seen Leslie storm off? 

“What are your plans now?” Jack asked. 

Daisy blinked and decided to put her notebook and pencil away. There was no helping it now; she would have to type it up when she got back to the office. 

She smiled at Jack. “I will be heading back to the office, but I thought I would get Sy some cinnamon buns from the bakery. Where is he?” 

“There, with your father,” Jack said, pointing. 

They set off across the square to meet up with her father and Sy. Jack had a rolling gait thanks to the loss of the bottom part of his leg. It made Daisy think he was always walking on the rolling deck of a ship. 

“This leg seems better than the last one,” she said. 

Jack considered it. “Well, it’s a little more comfortable. It doesn’t pinch as much, but I can do better.” 

“I don’t doubt it,” Daisy said. “You’re such a genius at that sort of thing.” 

“Oh gee,” Jack said. “What is the saying, something about necessity?” 

“It should be that necessity breeds geniuses,” she said with a smile. 

Silas was signing madly to their father. 

It’s Xavier’s ship, Papa, I know it is, Silas was saying. Please can I go to the dock? Please? 

“Sy, I don’t know,” their father replied. 

I can wait for him, Daisy said. Then I’ll take him to get cinnamon buns. He’ll have a job taking Xavier’s uncle his special medicine box anyway.

“What about your article?” her father asked. 

“It’s on the way to the office,” Daisy said. “I need some time to let the story percolate in my brain.” 

“If you’re sure,” he said. 

“Definitely,” Daisy said, smiling. She needed time to work out how she wanted to write the article. Just diving in might not be the best approach, especially since she had personal feelings about the person and subject matter. 

Her father nodded. “All right then.” 

Jack frowned. “I almost had that. Something about Xavier and the box.” 

“Yes, that’s very good,” Daisy said. “Sy wants to go to the dock and meet Xavier’s ship. It’s the one with the name in red paint on the prow. He never misses a day when Xavier comes into port.” 

“Can’t Xavier take his uncle his medicine himself?” Jack asked. 

“He can, but he likes to have Sy do it. I think he’s trying to make him feel special,” Daisy said. 

Xavier was a sailor and not a bad young man. He always brought Sy something, a bag of sweets or a toy from a far-off place like the Caribbean. Daisy never really knew how the friendship between him, and Silas had come about, but there it was, and Silas needed friends. Xavier had even given Silas a job to take a box of medicine to his uncle, who lived in town in a little apartment above the grocery store he worked at.

“We can walk the little squirt down to the dock,” Leslie said, joining them. “Off you go, brother. I know you have a date with your leather man.” 

“I have to buy something, Leslie, for the new leg I’m working on,” Jack protested. 

“Yes, yes, but I have womanly things to discuss with Daisy, so shoo!” Leslie said. 

Daisy waved goodbye to Jack and turned to Leslie. She was sad to see him go, but with Leslie in her life, Jack was always close by. 

Can I go to Xavier now? Silas asked. 

Daisy nodded. 

He was thrilled and ran out ahead of them, looking back at them from time to time and waving them on. He didn’t need them to go with him. Papa had been just a little paranoid since their mother ran off, and Sy was the last bit of her he had to hold on to. 

“Well, that was a waste of everyone’s time,” Leslie said. “What a load of manure.” 

Daisy nodded. “It was a farce. I still can’t work out what Mr. McCallister thinks he’ll get out of it. As he said, everyone knows him. So, everyone knows that he’s a miserly, no-good liar.” 

“True,” Leslie said. “Only, some of those fools back there were cheering him on and nodding. Oh, you don’t think he could actually win the election?” 

“Against Mr. Bailey, maybe,” Daisy said. The current mayor was a small, old man whose hands shook. He had been a good mayor though, doing more to help the town than not. “Mr. Johnson might have a good chance, though. I guess we’ll see.” 

“Well, of the lot, Mr. Johnson seems a better choice,” Leslie said. “He doesn’t make me want to take a bath after shaking his hand.” 

Silas ran to the dock, and his footsteps thudded on the wooden boards. Hands went up in greeting on several boats that were tied up. Sailors of all ages smiled their toothy, and sometimes not toothy at all, grins at him as he raced through to where the Lazy Suzan bobbed in the water. 

Out beyond the dock, where the sand bar led into the cove, stood the Daisy-May. She had been there for as long as Daisy could remember, moored on the rocks, the currents building a sandbar around her. She was Captain Carver’s ship, and she was never going anywhere. Sometimes, Daisy felt that the ship was a metaphor for her own life. 

“So, are you and Jack ever going to admit that you like each other?” Leslie asked, making Daisy choke on her saliva. 

“What?” she asked, taking a couple of stumbling steps. “Where did that come from?” 

“Oh, please,” Leslie said, taking her arm and steadying her as they set off down the dock, their footsteps booming on the planks. “Everyone knows you and Jack have been circling each other for years.” 

“We’re friends,” Daisy said. “That’s all.” 

Leslie sighed. “You’re so dull! After Arnold, you’ve not had so much as a stroll through the park with someone.” 

“It’s a rose garden at the back of the town hall, and it’s hardly a park,” Daisy said. 

Leslie huffed. “You’re no fun anymore.” 

Xavier and Sy had met up in front of the Lazy Suzan. Xavier handed Sy two packages; one was the usual box of medicine for his uncle, and the other was probably some sweets for him. Looking up, Xavier waved. He was a handsome young man with bronze skin and hair so blonde it was almost white. His eyes were brown, and he had a quirky smile. 

“Oh, is this the reason my brother isn’t good enough for you?” Leslie asked. 

Daisy glared at her as she waved to Xavier. “He’s a sailor,” she said. “I’m not interested.” 

Luckily, Silas came back at that moment, smiling. He held out the bag to her. It contained boiled sweets. 

Can I have one? Silas signed. 

Only if you don’t run, Daisy returned

Reluctantly, Silas handed over the bag. 

They walked back up to the town and along the main street to the grocery store. Silas bounded inside with the box and a moment later emerged with a big smile. They went on to the bakery. 

“Why do you think Xavier has your brother drop off the medicine?” Leslie asked. “He could do it on his own and save himself a bag of sweets.” 

Daisy shrugged. “It helps to make Sy feel special. I think it’s sweet of him. Not a lot of folks would give Sy the chance. As it is he’s only allowed in school three days a week when the teacher has time for him.” 

They reached the bakery and went inside. Walking up to the counter Daisy let Silas pick which cinnamon bun he wanted. Mrs. Josephson was behind the counter, and she liked Silas. She added a little extra cinnamon sugar to the top for him and then, after wrapping it in wax paper, handed it to him. 

Can I go show Papa how big it is? Silas asked. 

Daisy nodded. 

He ran for the door, and with a jingle of bells, he disappeared outside. 

Daisy and Leslie began to pick their choices of sweet treats. They were debating whether to get a couple of cupcakes when a cry rang through the air. It made Daisy’s blood run cold. 

“Oh no!” she cried, turning as her knees went weak. “Sy!” 

Chapter Two

Ten minutes earlier

Jack Hayes smiled as he entered the livery store. Paul Stanford looked up from the strip of leather he was working with on the table and smiled broadly. 

“Jackie,” he cried warmly. “Good to see you!”

They shook hands. 

“I thought that since I was in town, I would make the best of it and come and see you,” Jack said. “I don’t suppose you’ve got that new harness ready for me. I really want to try out the new leg.” 

“Yeah, I do,” Paul said. 

He was a large fellow with broader shoulders than Jack’s, but he walked with a short gait as though his hips were tight, and he had a slight stoop. Jack wondered if that wasn’t because Paul was so tall, well over six feet. He had to duck so much to get through doorways that he just stayed that way. 

As always happened, Jack’s mind began to think of a series of straps and bindings that might help his friend stand up straight. 

Paul rummaged in a box, looking for something. “I’ve got to do one last thing to it,” he said. “Take a seat while I find it. It needs a buckle, a decent one, and some came in yesterday.” 

“Sure, it’s no problem,” Jack said. 

He was certain that Leslie and Daisy would still be a while about their business. While he was in town, he hoped to see more of both of them. He really liked Daisy. She was beautiful with her dark hair and gray eyes that looked like the sea on a cloudy day. 

“So, how was the rally?” Paul asked. 

Blinking out of his reverie, Jack considered his answer. “It was loud,” he said. 

Paul laughed. “Was that all?” 

“It was also full of politics,” Jack said. “Rufus is trying hard.” 

Paul nodded. He stopped rummaging. “Ah, got it.” He went into the back and came out a moment later with the harness. It was a lovely thing made of supple leather. Jack hoped that it would work. He really wanted something comfortable to stop his stump from aching by the end of a long day on his feet. 

“I added an extra layer of sheep’s skin,” Paul said, handing the harness to Jack. “You know for the softness of it. You were saying that your leg hurt where it pressed on the metal and wood and of the other prosthetic.” 

Jack nodded. “I think extra padding will be wonderful,” he said. 

“Do you want to try it on once I’ve got the buckle on?” Paul asked. 

Jack nodded and began to roll up his trouser leg above his knee. 

“So, I didn’t miss anything keeping my store open instead of closing and going to the rally?” Paul asked. 

Jack shook his head. “Nothing important,” he said. “McCallister made a whole lot of empty promises as always, and that was most of it. He promised to inject new wealth into this town and provide more jobs.” 

With a laugh, Paul said, “Just like they’ve all promised.” He shook his head. “The sooner everyone here realizes that Carver’s Cove is a little fishing town with some ranches and farms around it, the better. We’re never going to be a Galveston.” 

“That doesn’t sound good on a poster,” Jack said. “Or as a headline. And that’s what they care about, getting their names in the paper.” 

“I guess you’re right,” Paul said. He handed Jack the harness with the buckle in place. “Try it on.” 

Taking the soft leather in his hands, Jack’s heart began to race. If this harness worked, perhaps he would be able to live with less pain, and that would be wonderful. The end of a bone, cut off just below the knee joint, wasn’t meant to press on something hard like steel or wood. It made that leg terribly painful to be on all day, every day. 

He undid the buckle of his current harness. This one was less soft, less good. He set it aside and taking the new one slipped it over the tight stocking like sock that Leslie had made for him. It was terribly warm, but it helped with the swelling and the pain. 

The harness fit perfectly. Jack adjusted the straps and did up the buckle. It was like wearing a suit that had been tailored perfectly to his build. The harness was pure perfection. 

“It’s wonderful,” he said. 

“Comfortable? No scratching and pulling this time?” Paul asked. 

“It’s perfect,” Jack said. “You’ve outdone yourself.” 

Paul beamed. “Well, a happy customer is a repeat customer.” He chuckled. “You’ll have to keep oiling it though or the leather will wear faster.” 

“What do I owe you for this?” Jack asked, reluctantly taking it off and slipping the old one back on. Once the prosthetic leg and foot were attached he would put the new harness through its paces properly. The straps that went up to the belt were genius, although he suspected they might chafe a little under the trousers and look odd over them. He’d have to test and see if they were needed. Luckily, Paul had made them detachable. 

“How about you put in a good word with your sister for me, and we—” Paul began, but Jack cut him off. 

“Woah!” he said. “Leslie is her own woman. I’ll be happy to pay for the work, Paul, and I’ll mention that you might like to buy her a cup of coffee sometime. How about that?” 

“Sure, I didn’t mean anything by it,” Paul said. 

“It’s fine,” Jack said. “She made it abundantly clear that I am to stay out of her relationships. But I’ll put in a good word for you.” 

“Thanks,” Paul said. “So, are you and Daisy courting yet?” 

“No, we’re friends,” Jack said. His leg was back on, and he unrolled his trousers.

“Of course you are,” Paul said. “You’ve only been tiptoeing around each other for years. Why stop now?”

Jack sighed. “It’s not that easy with Daisy.” 

“Why not?” Paul asked. “She’s not as feisty as Leslie.” 

“No one is as feisty as Leslie,” Jack said, handing his friend the money. “It’s not about that. After Arnold broke her heart she seems less interested in courting. She’s focused on becoming a reporter.” 

“That’s too bad,” Paul said, taking the money and depositing it into his cash box. He made a note of the sale in his ledger and closed the book. “Maybe I’ll just bite the bullet and ask Leslie for coffee.” 

“Do that,” Jack said. The worst she can say is no.”

They shook hands, and Jack left the store. 

Out in the sunshine again, Jack wondered where his sister and Daisy were. Had they finished all of their errands already? Then he spotted Silas coming out of the bakery holding a large cinnamon bun. He was being careful with it, holding it in both hands as though it was the biggest, most valuable jewel he had ever held. 

He was heading to the street to cross. Jack waited. Surely, Silas would stop. There were people and horses and carts all over. The boy gave the traffic a cursory glance and began to cross the street. He was heading to the sheriff’s office. 

Jack’s heart leaped into his throat, and he started moving up the street towards the boy. Silas wasn’t paying attention. His eyes were glued to his cinnamon bun. 

Jack saw the cart, the driver fiddling with something on the seat beside him. He saw Silas walking carefully across the street, and he knew that it was a disaster in the making. He stuffed his new harness into his pocket as far as it would go and began to run. 

It all happened so quickly. Jack was certain he wouldn’t reach the boy in time and then he was gaining on him, he was reaching out for Silas, the boy screamed as he wrapped his arm around his waist, jerked him out of the way of the cart that was picking up speed and in a deft move, deposited himself and the boy on the other side of the road. 

Silas screamed again and then, seeing that it was Jack, he frowned. 

What you…dropped…? Silas’ hands were flying, and Jack only caught part of it. He saw the cinnamon bun in the street, smashed and trampled into the ground. 

“Oh, I’m sorry,” he said and then made the sign for it. 

Silas frowned. He still didn’t realize how close he had come to being squished like his bun. Daisy came dashing to them, and a moment later, the sheriff’s office door opened, and Sheriff Bradford came striding over. 

“You saved him,” Sheriff Bradford said, first checking Silas over and then turning to Jack and shaking his hand. “Thank you, Jack.” 

Daisy was making hasty signs to Silas. The boy responded with some gestures of his own. Jack recognized the sign for him, two fingers held upside down like a little finger man walking but one was curled up. 

Then Daisy turned to him, her eyes brimming with tears. “I can’t thank you enough. You were amazing. That cart would have flattened him like he was a pancake. I thought he would be more careful crossing the street. He usually is.” 

“It was nothing,” Jack said, the pain in his leg making him grimace a little and wish that he had the new leg on. He’d installed a spring in the new one that should help to take some of the shock out of walking and running. 

“It was not nothing,” Sheriff Bradford said. “You risked your life. We are truly grateful.” 

“Come for Sunday lunch,” Daisy said. “You have Sundays off, right?” 

Jack nodded. “Yes, we come to church and get the rest of the day off in town.” 

“Well, then come to lunch. I’m sure you’d like a home-cooked meal,” she said. 

Jack smiled, his heart racing with excitement. Would he like to go to lunch with Daisy? Yes, he would very much like to. He would like to spend a good deal more time with her and see if their friendship could become something else, as everyone hinted at. Maybe it could. There was no way to know unless he tried. 

“I would love to,” he said. 

“Of course, you’ll have to bring Leslie,” Daisy said, with a grin as his sister arrived on the scene. 

“What did I miss?” Leslie asked. “Is Silas okay? You left me there with the treats and the payment and everything.” 

“Sorry,” Daisy said. “Silas almost got himself squashed like a bug, and if it wasn’t for Jack, we’d be scraping him up off the street.” 

Silas was staring morosely at his feet and had missed everything Daisy said. She sighed and ruffled his hair. He batted her hand away. 

Leslie sighed, too, opened the cardboard box, and pulled out another cinnamon bun. She handed it to Silas and shook her head. “Boys. But he’s all right?” 

“Perfect,” Daisy said. She told Leslie about Sunday lunch, and she smiled, and it was all set. 

With the excitement over, everyone went about their business. Silas went to the sheriff’s office with his father, Daisy to the newspaper office, and Leslie to the haberdashery where she worked. Jack had the rest of the day off. 

It was a bonus from Mr. McCallister in honor of what he had expected to be a fantastic rally. The other ranch hands were also off, and they had congregated at the Ragin’ Bull Saloon on the corner. Since his leg was so sore now, Jack decided to stop in at Dr. Wilbur’s office first for a check-up of the stump. 

The doctor wasn’t busy, and he could see Jack right away. 

Dr. Wilbur was a little portly man with a barrel chest and the dome of his head poking out from a ring of hair that seemed reluctant to fall out. He had rosy cheeks and penetrating blue eyes. 

Sitting on the examination table in nothing but his shorts, Jack let the doctor inspect him. He did a full checkup, listening to Jack’s heart and lungs, as well as inspecting the leg. 

“Well, that is a fine bit of surgery if I do say so myself,” Dr. Wilbur said as he inspected what was left of the leg. “How is the new prosthetic coming?” 

“I got the harness today,” Jack said pulling it from his trousers’ pocket and showing it to the doctor. 

The doctor helped him put it on. He looked it over. “This is a nice design. Will it stay up, though, with the leg and foot on?” 

“I hope so, the straps to the belt might be a little annoying,” Jack said. He sighed and rubbed his leg. 

“I think if you were to adjust the straps like this then it should stay up unless the rest of the prosthetic is very heavy.” 

“I’ve tried to make it light and durable,” he said. 

“When it’s done, come and show me,” Dr. Wilbur said. 

“So, the stump is okay?” Jack asked. “I get a lot of pain, Doctor. Sometimes, it feels like my leg is still there, crushed and aching, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” 

“I think that is largely your imagination,” Dr. Wilbur said. “It might also be pain from the stump that you just feel is coming from the part of the leg that’s gone. It was a great injury, and now you’re putting pressure on a part of your body that never had it before. It’s bound to ache. I can give you willow bark or laudanum for the pain.” 

“I’ll try the willow bark,” Jack said. “I saw a man pass out and fall off his horse because of the laudanum.” 

“It can take folks like that,” Dr. Wilbur said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. 

He gave Jack a bottle of willow bark tincture to take, and when he was dressed, sent him on his way. 

Jack didn’t feel like company. He decided to head down to the lookout point. It was a little piece of raised land that looked out over the cove. Ships and boats of all sizes and shapes were lazily going about their business. 

Most of the fishing boats were out already, but there was a lot of other activity to watch. Sitting there, Jack wondered about his life. Had he made the right decision staying at the McCallister ranch, despite everything? Losing his leg was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to how the McCallisters treated their cattle wranglers and ranch hands. And now, with the election, it was as though Mr. McCallister expected them to all vote for him. He wanted them to cheer and clap at his rallies. Jack had seen the others standing in a clump. They’d clapped. Of course, they had. If they hadn’t, they would have all been sacked on the spot. No one was foolish enough to think that they wouldn’t be, but no one had cheered. Not one of the people who worked for him had cheered even once for Rufus McCallister. He was a bad man, and bad men shouldn’t be in charge. 

Jack knew that deep down in his gut, but he had no idea how to stop it. In his experience, bad men got what they wanted, and to heck with everyone else. There had to be a way to stop Rufus from becoming mayor, to take him out of the running, but for the life of him, Jack couldn’t work out how. 

Chapter Three

The blank page in the typewriter stared at her. Daisy bit her lip as she tried bitterly to think what to write. No, that wasn’t entirely true; she could think of several things to write. She could write about how Mr. Rufus McCallister had been negligent, and that negligence had led to Jack losing his leg. She could write about his sudden and meteoric rise to wealth and influence in a few years, when others in the area were struggling with the aftermath of harsh dry seasons and a series of storm seasons that left the coastline battling to recover. 

But the story wasn’t supposed to be about that. 

What was it supposed to be about? 

She honestly didn’t know. From what Mr. Wilkinson had said, he was expecting a typical political piece from her, something that was grounded in fact and well-balanced commentary mentioning interesting overlap between McCallister’s speech and old Bailey’s from the week before. 

Her thoughts had wandered a little during Bailey’s speech, too. He was sweet but so old that another term in office would be a cruelty to him. He should retire and enjoy the last few years of his life. Could she put that in her article? 

Instinct told her no. 

All right, then she couldn’t do that.

“How is the article coming?” Mr. Wilkinson asked, appearing at her desk as though by magic. 

Daisy jumped. 

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, the air filling with the smell of tobacco smoke. Mr. Wilkinson was a heavy smoker, often lighting one from the other’s dying embers. 

“It’s fine, sir,” she said with a smile. “I was just thinking. I think I have it all planned out in my head now, I can start typing.” 

“Good, because although Tyrone has terrible handwriting, he’s almost done with his version, and only one of them will make it into the paper today,” Mr. Wilkinson said. His smile was not as genuine as Daisy thought it should be. His expression seemed patronizing. 

Daisy swallowed hard and quickly set to work typing away on the typewriter. It was a Remington and quite a wonderful piece of machinery. Although it had a habit of getting several of the letters stuck together if she hit the wrong key, it was still far superior to writing things out by hand. She could go so much faster. 

As the words spilled out of her, Daisy hoped that she would make it and get her article at least done before the deadline. To lose out to Tyrone because of time would be a terrible thing. 

She decided, as she wrote, to simply report the facts as simply and openly as possible and then to offer a little commentary at the end. Wasn’t that what the political column was for? 

And then, before she knew it, it was done. Just like that. Her eight hundred words on the speech were complete. She pulled the paper out of the roller and held it up to inspect it. 

“All done are we?” Tyrone asked with a smile. “You took your time getting back here. I heard you went all over town before deciding to come to work. Don’t you know that the news needs to be new, or it’s just old?” 

“I know,” Daisy said. She hadn’t known. Well, she had, but she thought that a speech everyone had been at hardly counted as news but was more like something old. 

Then, on a whim, she stuck a new piece of paper into the machine and quickly typed up a little something on Jack’s heroic rescue of Silas from being knocked down by a cart. She didn’t think that Jack would mind having his name in the paper. After all, everyone wanted their name out there for everyone to read, didn’t they? It made them feel seen. 

That was far easier to write. The words just flowed out of her. Daisy was soon on five hundred words and had to stop. What was she writing, a novel? She pulled that page out of the typewriter, too, and took both pieces to Mr. Wilkinson. 

His office was a glass cubicle that had a view of all of his employees from any angle in the newsroom. There was no getting away from him and no slacking, dawdling, or staring off into space. 

“He’s in a mood,” Eddie, his personal assistant, said. “Can’t you tell by the color of the air in that box?” 

He always called Mr. Wilkinson’s office, the box, and it was one. The fact that they could see the air in there was quite concerning, too. It had a blue-white haze to it. 

“Has he been smoking constantly, or is something on fire in there?” Daisy asked. 

“I don’t know, but ask him to open his window,” Eddie said. “Sheesh, I’m all for the odd cigarillo, but that’s a little excessive.” 

Daisy breathed deeply and then knocked on the door. 

“Come!” Wilkinson called, and she opened the door. She let some of the smoke out and some fresh air in and hoped it would be enough to survive on. 

“I finished the political piece, sir,” she said, making her way to his desk in the haze. 

Mr. Wilkinson looked up. “Oh, good.” He took the paper and then watched her with his brows raised. “Was there something else?” 

“Yes, sir, I thought if the paper needs a story to fill up some space on a column or something…well, there was almost an accident today, and I…I wrote an article on it,” Daisy said, thrusting the page at him, trying not to breathe but finding it hard since her heart was hammering in her chest. 

He took the page. “That’s thoughtful of you.” An awkward pause followed. “Is there anything else?” 

“No, sir. Thank you,” Daisy said, and she fled. 

Outside the office, she closed the door and took a deep breath. Then she hurried to her desk. What a day this was turning out to be. 

Now, there was nothing to do but wait. 

Daisy sat at her desk. Mr. Wilkinson didn’t like the sound of the typewriter that he had bought, and so she was relegated to the farthest end of the room. He’d bought it so that someone could type up his correspondence, which made it more official, and so, in his mind, better. 

She returned to that duty now. It was dull and mostly consisted of writing little notes back to those who submitted “Letters to the Editor.” Those were mostly little tirades of unhappiness that Mr. Wilkinson enjoyed insulting and proving to be petty while being condescending and petty himself. 

And then she came across something that caught her eye. It had been almost a hundred and fifty years since the Daisy-May ran aground. That was memorable, wasn’t it? The letter reminding the editor of the fact was most insistent that it was definitely interesting and that the paper should run a special series of articles about the old boat. 

Would her editor allow her to do something like that? Could she write a whole series of articles on the ship and Captain Carver and his crew? Most of the people in the town were descended from the sailors who made it to shore. They defended this little piece of land from all sorts of dangers, including marauders, pirates, and bandits. Surely, that would make a newsworthy story, even if it wasn’t actually news but revisiting something old. 

Tyrone came sauntering over to her, his long legs making the journey depressingly short for him. 

“Wilkinson has his red ink bottle out,” he said, in the tones of a practiced tattletale. 

The ink meant changes, corrections, and strikethroughs. He was editing something. Was it Daisy’s article on the speech or the other one? Perhaps it was neither, and Tyrone was just trying to wind her up until she snapped like a clock that had been wound too far. 

“So? It might be your article he’s ringing in red,” she said. 

Tyrone’s face paled. Hadn’t he considered the possibility? Perhaps, being one of the boys, he didn’t have to worry like she did, and so he assumed that the one being corrected was her work, not his. In truth, it could be either of their work or an article from someone else entirely. 

Still, Daisy’s stomach was in a knot now and all thanks to Tyrone. He was such a painful person to be around. Daisy wished that she could just stroll around like Tyrone, but she had actual work to do. 

“Look, I understand that you currently have nothing to do, but I have a lot on my plate, so if you’ll excuse me,” she said and picked up the typed pages. Thankfully, these only had to go to Eddie. 

She brushed passed Tyrone and made her way to where Eddie sat at his desk. 

“Is the local wildlife giving you trouble?” Eddie asked, smiling at her. He was around her father’s age and had a daughter just about the same age as Daisy. Sometimes, he treated her as a surrogate work daughter. It was kind of sweet. 

She nodded. 

“Don’t pay attention to him,” Eddie said. 

Just then, Mr. Wilkinson’s office door opened, and he stepped out, bringing with him the pervasive smell of cigarette smoke. 

“Bradford, Eastman,” he called. 

Daisy found Tyrone beside her so suddenly that she thought he must have used magic. 

“Sir,” Tyrone said. 

“Sir,” Daisy said. 

“Eastman, your article on the speech will be in tomorrow morning’s edition,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Well done, my boy!” He clapped Tyrone on the back. 

As he accepted their editor’s praise, Tyrone gave Daisy a knowing look. It said that he knew he was better than she was. It said that he had never expected her to be competition, and she hadn’t been. It brought her anger to the surface and made it roar. She was so annoyed that she could have slapped his face. 

However, she held herself in check and offered her hand for him to shake. “Well done,” she said. 

“That will be all. Get on with it,” Mr. Wilkinson said, heading back into this office. 

Daisy was crushed, but she still had questions. With no regard for her safety, she followed the editor into the smoky office. It smelled terrible, and she coughed as she was forced to inhale. 

“Sir,” she said behind Mr. Wilkinson. 

He jumped. “What is it, Bradford?” 

“I wanted to know what was wrong with my article,” she said. “So that I can improve.” 

Mr. Wilkinson sighed. He picked up his burning cigarillo, saw the expression on her face, and moved to open a window. “Daisy, take a seat,” he said. 

Oh dear, he’d called her Daisy. 

She sat on the visitor’s seat and waited. Mr. Wilkinson went around the desk and sat down. He sighed and stubbed out the cigarillo. 

“There was nothing really wrong with your article,” Mr. Wilkinson said. 

“Then why…?” Daisy asked. 

“Let me finish,” he said. 

She nodded. 

“Daisy, this is a tough business for a woman to be in,” he said. “Where a man can be mediocre and still have a long and exciting career in news, a woman would have to be exceptional. And that article was not exceptional. You would have had to bring a depth of insight that I don’t think anyone of your tender age would be able to do.” 

Her heart dropped into her boots. This was terrible. Was there no hope of her ever getting anything printed in this paper? She had handed in a large number of articles over the months, and she’d had one tiny fifty-word piece stuck at the bottom of page four. Page four! No one read the bottom of page four. 

“Now, don’t lose hope, I’m sure we’ll find a fit for you,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “Maybe you can join Mrs. Weathers and write the ladies’ pages.” 

“Recipes and knitting patterns, no thanks,” Daisy said, folding her arms across her chest like a petulant child. 

“Daisy, you have to understand, my hands are tied,” Mr. Wilkinson said. “When a man picks up the paper and reads about the latest political views, he expects to hear them from a man. Not a woman. I shouldn’t have let you go to the rally and cover it. I should have left you to do a piece like the one you did about your brother’s near accident. I think it’s a lovely human-interest piece. It’s going on page three. All right?” 

She wasn’t silly enough to assume that she would ever get better than that. “Thank you, sir,” she said and fled the room. 

The rest of the day passed in a horrible blur. Daisy’s heart was in her shoes the whole time, and when she could finally leave, she went for a walk down by the docks to clear her mind. 

“Daisy?” Jack said as he smiled at her. “What brings you down here?” 

Daisy smiled. She was so glad to see a friendly face. “I needed to clear my head,” she said. “And you?” 

“Killing the last hour before I have to meet back at the square to catch my ride back to the ranch,” he said. “I’ve been here for a long time today, and I think the best place to clear your head is here on the bench. There’s something soothing about watching the waves roll in constantly. It’s such a peaceful motion.” He drew in a deep breath and let it out. 

“I’d rather walk,” she said. 

“Okay, mind if I join you? It will get dark soon, and I could never live with myself if I left you to fend for yourself,” he said. 

“Of course, you can walk with me,” she said. 

They began in the direction of her choosing, walking along the edge of the dock where it met the land. And then the dock ended, and they kept on going, finding themselves on the sandy beach of the cove. 

“So, do you want to talk about it?” Jack asked. 

Daisy sighed. “That article I was writing…” 

“Yes,” he said. 

“Tyrone’s is being printed,” she said. “Wilkinson said that he couldn’t print mine because it wasn’t exceptional, and it would need to be if he were to print it. Because I am a woman.” 

Jack didn’t say anything.

“Well, say something,” Daisy said. 

“I wish it was a surprise,” Jack said. “Leslie talks about the same thing all the time. In all the fashion magazines she reads, all the designers are men. She can’t work out why when women are the ones making the clothes.” 

“It’s a man’s world,” Daisy said. 

Jack chuckled. “Not this man’s world. That’s for sure.” 

“Why do you say that?” she asked. 

“Do I look rich and powerful to you?” he asked. He was struggling in the loose beach sand. His prosthetic leg dragging a bit. 

“Are you okay?” she asked. 

He sighed. “Fine, just out of breath. Could we sit a moment?” 

She nodded. They sat on the sun-warmed sand, well back from the waves that crashed and foamed on the beach. 

“It’s lovely here,” Daisy said. “I can see why Captain Carver stayed here when the Daisy-May floundered.” 

“Yes, it is lovely,” he agreed. “Hey, it’s a hundred and fifty years since the wreck.” 

“I know, I was going to ask if I could write a piece about it, but I don’t know. Do men only want their history from other men, too?” Daisy asked. 

Jack laughed. “No, I think you’re fine there. You should ask Wilkinson if you can.” 

“Maybe I will,” she said. “Maybe I’ll do it and then show him, and he’ll have to print it.” 

“That could also work,” he said. 

For a moment, they sat in silence, and then Jack sat up. If he was dog, he would have pricked up his ears. 

“Is that a boat?” he asked. 

The sun was setting now, and the light was bad. Daisy peered off into the gloom. Then she saw it out in the swell heading into shore. It was heading to the far side of the cove, where there was a rocky outcrop. 

“Where are they going?” Daisy asked. 

“No idea,” Jack said. “Maybe there’s good fishing off that point. Do you fish?”

“No,” she said, grinning. “You?”

He shook his head. “I’m strictly a land-based gentleman.” 

“Good to know,” she said with a chuckle. 

When Daisy turned back, the boat was gone. They’d probably gone around the end of the cove. The sun was setting properly now, its whole disc having sunk below the horizon, and the only light was that soft, muted light that remained. 

“We should head home, or you’re going to miss your ride,” Daisy said suddenly, realizing how long they must have sat there for. 

Jack’s eyes grew wide. “Oh boy! I think I might have already.” 

They began to run.

“A Western Love Bound by Ink” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the heart of a bustling frontier town, Daisy Bradford, daughter of the widowed sheriff, is determined to carve her path as a respected reporter all while caring for her deaf little brother. As she delves deeper into the secrets lurking beneath the surface, Daisy finds herself grappling with a hidden affection for Jack, her steadfast friend and confidant. Amidst her pursuit of journalistic fame, Daisy must summon the courage to unravel her own heart’s mysteries…

Can her relentless ambition overshadow her blossoming romance?

Meanwhile, Jack Hayes, after suffering a terrible accident in which he lost a leg, uses his knowledge of smithing to create prosthetics that are a cut above the usual peg leg. With his dream of owning a forge within reach, Jack finds himself entangled in a web of intrigue and danger while trying to help Daisy fulfill her own dream. Despite his dedication to his craft, Jack’s heart is torn by his untold affection for Daisy, a flame that both fuels his determination and clouds his judgment.

Will his unwavering love for her be the catalyst for his ultimate triumph or his downfall?

As chaos descends upon the town with the shocking shooting of the mayor, Daisy and Jack find themselves thrust into a race against time to discover the sinister forces at play. With an election looming and danger lurking around every corner, they must traverse perilous roads to uncover the truth and protect their loved ones. Can they untangle the web of lies before it’s too late? Will they be able to confess their blooming emotions before they fall prey to the clutches of the imminent evil?

“A Western Love Bound by Ink” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Hearts Across the Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

One thought on “A Western Love Bound by Ink (Preview)”

  1. Hello my dears, I hope you were intrigued by the preview of this inspiring love story and you cannot wait to read the rest! Let me know your thoughts here. Thank you kindly! ✨♥️

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