A Widow’s Journey to Love (Preview)

Chapter One

“To happy ever afters!” Harrison Wainright held his glass in the air and looked around the gathering, a bright smile on his face. 

“Here here!” 

“To happy ever afters!” 

“Amen!” 

Words of agreement spread through the crowd as everyone who had a drink in their hands held them up and joined in with the toast. 

“To happily ever after with you,” Sarah Evans said to her husband, Clay. The smile on her face was so big, it was practically hurting her cheeks, but that didn’t stop her. 

“As long as I get to spend the rest of my life with you, I know it’s going to be a happy one,” Clay said with his warm smile. He held her gaze, then leaned in toward her to kiss her deeply. 

Sarah had had no idea it was possible to be that happy. It was her and Clay’s wedding day, and though she knew she was dreaming, she loved reliving the moment. 

She wore a white dress that buttoned from her throat all the way down to the floor. It had lace appliqué around the cuffs of each sleeve, and around the bottom hem, too. The lace continued through the bodice of the piece, with a beautiful sash tied into a bow against her lower back. 

She had even gotten a pair of white shoes for the occasion, a splurge she’d not been too sure about making, but one Clay had convinced her to do. 

“We’re only getting married once,” he’d told her. “And I want you to love your outfit. I say go for the shoes, and even get yourself a pearl necklace, too, to match.”

“Oh, I don’t know about all that!” she’d said with a laugh. 

“But you have the money to do it, so why not?” he’d pressed. 

“I don’t think it’s wise to spend that kind of money on something for just one day,” she’d said. “Just because I have it in the bank doesn’t mean we have to spend it. We’re going to be spending the rest of our lives together after today, and if you ask me, that’s more than enough to make me happy with what I’m wearing for the ceremony itself.” 

In the end, he’d been the one to purchase the necklace himself. He’d given it to her the morning of the wedding, and she felt proud as she wore them. 

In the back of her mind, Sarah heard someone start chanting, “Speech, speech, speech, speech!” 

“Alright, alright, I’m assuming you mean me,” Harrison said with a laugh. He held out one of his hands to quiet the growing chant as it spread through the crowd. 

Sarah didn’t at all mind how much Harrison was running the wedding. It had been his arrangement, after all, and she was grateful to him for it. He was an old family friend, and when he’d matched her and Clay Evans, well, she hadn’t quite known what to make of the union. 

But it hadn’t taken her long to fall head over heels in love with Clay, and when they’d announced their marriage, she’d been happy to let Harrison take the forefront of hosting the event. 

As the mayor of Cedar Ridge, Wyoming, he’d not had any issues pulling together a large crowd for the union. Of course, with Sarah’s wealth, she herself had had a long list of acquaintances to invite. Clay, a man of humble origins, hadn’t had so many. But Sarah wasn’t worried about that. 

Her dream had been to marry him ever since the day she fell for him, and it was finally happening. She was more than content to be wrapped up in his arms and enraptured with the attention he gave exclusively to her. She didn’t care to be the center of attention with everything else, even if it was her wedding. 

“Well, I don’t know where to start,” Harrison said. “I’ve known both the bride and the groom for a very long time, a very, very long time, and they are both very, very dear to my heart.” 

A murmur ran through the crowd, and Harrison smiled. “It’s been a real blessing to me to watch the relationship as it grew between these two, and I have to say, now that we’re all gathered here at their wedding, it makes my heart swell with a love I had no idea I could even experience. I’ve watched Sarah grow up into the beautiful young woman she is today, and Clay, well, you know how you and I have been in some tough spots together. Why, there were many times during the war that I thought Clay’s face would be the last thing I’d see in my life, ugly as it is.” 

Everyone laughed at his joke, including Clay and Sarah. Sarah couldn’t imagine anyone thinking of her handsome man as ugly, which made the joke even funnier for her. Harrison continued with his speech, however, drawing her attention back to the moment. 

“But time after time, Clay and I stuck together, what with the rest of our group, and we managed to make it through the war side by side. He’s like a son to me, and Sarah, you’re like a daughter. To see the two of you coming together now as a family, well, it brings a tear to my eye. It brings me hope for the life you’ll be living together, and the children you’ll have. It really is beyond words,” Harrison said, wiping a tear from his eye. 

“Now I’m getting all emotional about this, and what for? This is the best thing to have happened in Cedar Ridge since I became mayor!” Harrison said, lifting his glass to the laughter of the crowd. “So I’ll get this whole thing wrapped up, and we can slice into that beautiful cake made by the bride herself. To the bride and groom!”

“To the bride and groom!” 

“To the bride and groom!” 

The toasts floated around the crowd, and as Clay lifted his glass, he turned back to Sarah. 

“To you, my love,” he told her in his low, warm voice. 

“To you,” Sarah told him in return, lifting her own glass. They clicked the edges of their glasses together in their own toast before sipping from them, then they set them back on the table just before Clay wrapped Sarah in his arms once more. 

She closed her eyes as their lips met, relishing the love she felt for him. She had never been happier in her entire life, and at the moment, she didn’t realize that it would be the happiest moment of her entire life, either. 

As her mind drifted out of sleep, Clay’s warm embrace melted away. She wasn’t able to keep him there, no matter how strongly she clung to him. Her heart refused to let go, to allow herself to wake up completely, as she knew once she opened her eyes, she was going to find herself alone in her bed once again. 

The tears felt warm as they ran down her cheeks, telling her it was once again too late, and she was awake. Her eyes were still closed, and even before she opened them, she knew she was alone in the room. She kept her eyes closed tightly as she reached her arm out across the bed, feeling the cold, empty place next to her. 

It had been that way for the past three months, and no matter how much she’d tried to come to terms with her grief, she always dealt with the same feeling upon waking in the morning. 

Her sleep was restless. 

She had had that same exact dream again and again since the accident, and she always woke at the same moment with the same feeling coursing through her. Her heart raced as tears flowed freely down her cheeks, unchecked in her grief. 

She hated that her mind took her back to the happiest day of her life in her dreams. It made for a restless night as she always knew in the back of her mind that she was, in fact, dreaming, and she would have to wake up and face her real life in no time at all. 

Sarah sat up on the side of the bed and dried her face. She didn’t want to go downstairs and face Abby with her tears once again. Not that her old friend and housekeeper minded. In fact, Sarah didn’t think she would have made it through the past few months if it hadn’t been for the kindness of the older woman. 

But she also felt foolish getting up morning after morning knowing there were so many things she still had to do to tend to her late husband’s affairs. She hadn’t touched his office, nor any of his possessions that were still in the house. 

As she looked around her bedroom, Clay might as well have been away on some sort of business trip and set to return any day from the way the room looked. Even the nightshirt he had thrown over the side of a chair the morning of the day he’d died was still sitting in place, just as though he had left it there that very morning. 

Try as she might, Sarah hadn’t been able to handle any of the affairs she knew waited for her attention. It was bad enough facing the fact that her husband was gone forever; if she were to deal with his belongings, she would have to actually face the truth. 

While in her mind she could acknowledge he was dead, the rest of her emotions hadn’t caught up with that fact yet. 

She’d thought she would be able to face it better when she’d gone through with the funeral. Then she thought after all the people had come through the house and offered their condolences, things might get better for her. But the funeral had come and gone, and her friends and loved ones had come through to visit her, and nothing had helped. 

She was still alone in her bed at the end of the day. Alone with her thoughts. She was haunted by the memories of the brief time they had been married, and even more haunted by the feeling that she had to now face life on her own. 

The dreams the two of them had talked about were gone. The life they had talked about having together was gone as well. Instead, she was faced with the rest of her life alone. The large ranch house, seemingly endless with its many rooms and spacious interior, the place that once seemed to hold the promise of housing many children that would come from their union, now seemed large and ominous. 

Though Sarah didn’t want for it, the home stood as a stark reminder of the life she wasn’t allowed to keep. 

And it was crushing. 

Sarah slipped into her dress and quickly buttoned down the front of her skirts before pulling her hair back into a tight bun at the base of her neck. She kept herself prim and proper despite the fact she lived out in the wild West, as they called it, and that day was no exception. 

After she was dressed, she headed downstairs as silently as possible. It was still early, and though Sarah knew Abby would be up to start with the morning chores soon, she didn’t want to wake the older woman earlier than she’d normally be up. 

If Abby heard her up and moving around the house so early, the older housekeeper would feel that she should be getting her own day started, and that wasn’t what Sarah wanted. She had a lot on her mind, and she wanted to clear her head at least a little before she was faced with putting on a brave face for the housekeeper. 

Sarah padded through the kitchen and headed out the back door to the stable. 

Her other two ranch hands were still in bed as well, the bunkhouse dark and silent in the early morning light. The sun was threatening to break over the horizon, and the air itself seemed to hold a gray hue to it. 

She let herself into the barn and pulled out Dixie, then tossed on her light riding saddle before fitting the bridle over the horse’s head. After leading the horse out of the barn, she climbed into the saddle and turned toward the sunrise. 

The fresh morning air normally did Sarah some good as she rode along, and she hoped it would clear her head now. She didn’t want to spend the day on the verge of tears again, though she had a feeling in the pit of her stomach it would wind up that way. 

She pushed Dixie to a gallop as she crested the hill, and as she looked across the land, she sighed. She had inherited all the land as far as her eyes could see in that direction, and she knew she should be more grateful for it. She could ride for hours and not reach the end of the property line. 

But without Clay, it felt so useless. 

She rode for as long as she could before she figured Abby would be making breakfast back at the house. She didn’t want to leave breakfast waiting, not with how early Abby got up to put it on the table for her day after day. 

“Morning, Miss Sarah,” Peter, one of her two ranch hands, said as she rode back into the barn. “How was your ride this morning?” 

“It was peaceful,” she said. “I went up the east hill and down to the creek bottom for a while. I do like how calm it is down that way.” 

“Let me get Dixie put back away for you here,” he said, taking the reins from her. “How’d she ride this morning?” 

“Calm and easy as she always is,” Sarah said with a smile. “Clay did such a good job with her, I’m sure she could ride right up on an entire flock of grouse and not have even the slightest start should they fly up in her face.” 

“She’d be good for hunting, if you were so inclined,” Peter said, and Sarah laughed. 

“Certainly not. I appreciate the game that’s brought in same as anyone else, but I’m not one to get out there and deal with it myself.” 

“And you shouldn’t have to,” Peter said. 

“Thank you,” Sarah told him as he started unsaddling Dixie. She wanted to stay and brush her horse and make sure the animal was put away, but she felt she had stayed out long enough. Plenty of things had to be done in the house itself, and it was likely Abby had already gotten a start on the chores. 

Sarah headed inside and went straight to her room to wash up before she headed to the dining room. The table had been set for two, though the place at the head of the table was vacant. Sarah hadn’t sat there since before the wedding, and after Clay’s death, she didn’t want to go back to sitting there herself. 

She didn’t feel right about doing it, telling Abby that she thought putting her own place back at the head of the table was replacing him, so to speak. 

“Are you certain?” Abby had asked. “I think he would want you to go back to your place.” 

“My place is right here,” she’d insisted as she sat to the right of the end of the table. “And you know what? I think it would be nice for you to join me. Why don’t you start putting your own place across from mine here? You do so much about the place, you deserve to have a seat at the table yourself.” 

“Oh, Miss Sarah!” Abby had tried to argue at first, but Sarah wasn’t having any of it. 

“I insist,” she said. “I would really feel less lonely during meal times if you would sit with me, and surely you don’t have so much that you can’t take a break and enjoy a meal.” 

“I suppose it might do me some good,” Abby said, and though it had been rather awkward at first, Sarah had grown to appreciate having her housekeeper eating meals with her at the table. 

She sat in her usual place as Abby came bustling out of the kitchen, a plate loaded with flapjacks in hand. 

“Good morning, Miss Sarah,” she said with a wide smile as she put the plate on the table. But, her smile soon faded when she saw the look on Sarah’s face. 

Though Sarah had done her best to return the smile, she was tired, and she knew her housekeeper would be able to see right through the expression in her eyes. 

“Another sleepless night?” 

“I got some sleep,” Sarah said with a sigh. “But it was restless.” 

“I’m sorry,” Abby said. “I know it’s hard.” 

“I’ll be okay,” Sarah said. “I think today I’m going to start going through some of Clay’s things.” 

“Mercy!” Abby cried. “Are you sure about that?” 

“I am,” Sarah said with a deliberate nod. “It’s got to be done, and I might as well get a start on it.” 

“Are you sure you’re ready?” 

“It’s been three months,” she said simply. “I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be.” 

“There’s no time limit on grief,” Abby gently replied, but Sarah shook her head. 

“I know, but there comes a time when you have to push yourself to do something, or it’s just not going to get done,” she said. “I’m going to have to face the facts, and that’s that Clay is gone.” 

“I’m sorry dear,” Abby said, and Sarah forced herself to turn her attention to the flapjacks on the table. 

“It’s a good thing,” Sarah said, though she’d made the announcement more for herself rather than for Abby’s benefit. “Trust me, it’s going to be nice having things get to a new normal.” 

“Yes,” Abby said, though her voice lingered. 

Sarah pushed it out of her mind. Everything in her screamed to leave the house the way it was, but enough was enough. She had to get through Clay’s things if she wanted to start getting a new normal routine, and she truly did want that. 

It was difficult being caught up in the grief she felt ensnared in living. She had to make a change. 

Even if it was one of the most painful changes she could imagine.

Chapter Two

“Daniel Lawson, that you?” the sheriff asked as he walked outside his office. “I thought that was you.” 

“It’s me,” Daniel said. “I brought you someone.” 

He motioned to the horse he’d been leading behind his own, and there, perched on top, was an outlaw with his hands tied behind his back and a gag secured around his mouth. 

“Excuse the way I brought him in. He was a mite chattier on the trail than I cared to listen to. Told him more than once he was going to wind up with a gag in his mouth. Guess he found out the hard way,” Daniel said with a rattling laugh. 

“I don’t know how you do it,” the sheriff said with an awestruck shake of his head. “This is Black Jones, the notorious bank robber. He’s single-handedly responsible for robbing, what? Four different banks in the Tennessee territory before he lit out this way and tried his hand at cattle rustling?” 

“And robbing wagon trains,” Daniel added. “That was the real kicker for me. I can put up with bank robbers and those who try to steal cattle—you don’t see a lot of women and children getting hurt in those things. Robbing a wagon train, though, that’s whole different business.” 

“Either way, seems he’s met his match with you,” the sheriff said. “I knew I was onto something when I hired you to go after him. Might have to throw that in the news when the papers hear he’s been caught.” 

“Tell them whatever you want,” Daniel said, amused that the man wanted to take credit for hiring him. “I don’t much care what the papers say, so long as they make it clear to the other criminals out there that I’m coming for them. I’m not stopping until I know the land is safe for everyone.” 

“That’s a tall order for anyone to tackle,” the sheriff said. “But bless you for it. I have to say the territory is better off for the work that you do, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” 

Daniel chuckled. He didn’t mind the compliments. God knew he poured his heart and soul into the work he did, and he was proud of what he’d accomplished. It hadn’t been easy getting Black Jones. The man was dangerous and said to be insane. He would  just as likely shoot someone as he would shake their hand, and when he’d found out Daniel was on his trail, he’d done all he could to try to stop Daniel before he’d gotten caught. 

If it wasn’t for the skillful trap Daniel had set, he didn’t know if he would have managed to bring the man to justice. 

“Alright, let me get this man put behind bars, then we’ll get squared away,” the sheriff said. “It’s going to take me about an hour to get him booked in. If you want to wait around that’s fine, or you can come back for your money later. I do have to wire with the news to Big View before I can pay you.” 

“That’s quite alright,” Daniel said. “I’ll be in town until tomorrow, so I can stop by later on tonight or in the morning before I leave.” 

“I’m out of here around six,” the sheriff said. “If you’re going to come back tonight, see to it you’re here by then. The missus doesn’t like it when I keep dinner waiting.” 

“I’ll be back,” Daniel said before turning and untying the horse that was secured to his own. He gave the reins to the sheriff, then he gave one last look to the man on the back of the animal. 

“Are you sure you got it from here, Sheriff?” he asked. “I don’t mind helping you with the booking if you need.” 

“I’ve got a deputy inside who will handle that,” the sheriff said. “No need to keep asking for you to go above and beyond with the work you’ve done. You’re a bounty hunter, after all. Your job is to bring them in, I don’t need to ask you to do all my paperwork on top of it.” 

He laughed, and Daniel joined in, though Black Jones looked unimpressed with both of them. The sheriff called out for his deputy, and once the other man appeared, Daniel grabbed the reins from his own horse and tipped his hat to the sheriff and his man before heading up the street. 

He had heard of outlaws escaping once they had managed to get free from their binds as they were being booked, but Daniel felt comfortable leaving Black Jones with the sheriff and his deputy. 

For as cunning as the outlaw was, he was only human, and he wasn’t strong enough to break away from two lawmen. At least, Daniel didn’t think he would be. And he didn’t want to add insult to the situation with the sheriff by insisting on staying and supervising once the man had been delivered. He’d brought the outlaw into custody; it was up to the sheriff to take it from there. 

Daniel, would get his pay, and that would be that. 

He headed for the saloon, tying Buckshot up to the hitching post outside before he walked through the swinging doors. Inside, T here was a piano with a man playing a lively tune, and three saloon girls who were milling about the place. 

All three of the girls gave him a look when he walked in, but Daniel was used to that. He knew many women found him handsome what with his darker complexion, black hair, and dark brown eyes. He was tall and muscular, too, testimony to the life he spent bringing in men who were desperate enough to do anything to maintain their freedom. 

But he ignored the looks from the girls and headed straight to the bar. He didn’t have any interest in entertaining any of them. He would be getting out of town early the next morning, and he didn’t plan on wasting his time or money on a soiled dove before then. 

“A whiskey, friend,” he said as he set down the money on the counter. “Thank you.” 

The bartender glanced him over from head to toe before grabbing a glass and pouring the brown liquid inside. He took the money, and Daniel took the glass before retreating to a table that was on the far side of the room. There were plenty of men who were playing cards at various tables scattered about the place, but they didn’t give him more than a glance on his way by. 

He avoided making eye contact with anyone, putting out into the room that he wasn’t looking to play cards or entertain company. He had his mind on other things, and he wasn’t going to let himself get distracted with the people in the saloon. Lakewood was just another stop on his journey, and he didn’t care much to get too involved with anyone in the saloon. 

He settled into a table alone and rifled through his pockets, his mind on other things than the people who were present. He carried several wanted posters with him, but to his knowledge none of those men were around. 

He’d tracked Black Jones up to the Dakota territories on a mission, and he’d let the others go by the wayside as he had. There were times, after all, when a single man was carrying a big enough bounty over his head that it made it worth Daniel’s time to go for him exclusively, and that had been the case with Black Jones. 

But he would get to the other posters when he got his money for Jones. As he was sitting in the saloon, another topic had his attention, and he pulled out the letter to read it yet again. 

Daniel, 

I hope this letter finds you, and once it does, that it finds you well. 

This might seem like a strange request to you, but trust me, it’s strange for me to be making it. I need your help. I can’t say with what exactly through pen and paper, as I don’t want this letter to fall into the wrong hands before it reaches you, but trust me when I say I worry that I’m in danger. And if there is anyone out there I trust to help me, it’s you. 

Cedar Ridge is a might out of the way for you, I’m sure, but if you have the time to spare, I would greatly appreciate it if you would come and help me with this problem I have. I can pay you well for your time, and I’ll make it worth letting those outlaws go for a while longer. 

I apologize that this is vague, but I will give you all the details once you arrive. 

Thanks in advance for your time and help. 

Your friend, 

Clay

Daniel sighed and folded the letter before putting it back in his pocket and picking up the glass of whiskey. 

It was strange, he had to admit. He recognized the writing as Clay’s, but it was odd that his old friend would write to him and be so vague about what he was needing. But Cedar Ridge was in the right location for Daniel to pay a visit, as he was curious to know more about his own family that was rumored to be in the area. 

He’d only had the letter for two weeks, though it had been dated back almost four months prior, and that concerned him. He hoped that whatever Clay needed help with hadn’t gotten worse in the past few months, though he also knew there wasn’t anything he’d be able to do to help until he got there himself. 

He wasn’t far from Cedar Ridge. After getting the payment for Black Jones, it might be a good idea for him to at least visit the town and see if he could talk to Clay about the problem—whatever that problem happened to be. 

Daniel gulped the drink in a single swallow and set his glass back down on the table. He would enjoy seeing his old army friend again. He just wasn’t quite sure how he’d be able to help. Shoot, he didn’t know what the problem was he’d be facing, either. 

But he knew one thing was for sure: He wanted answers, and going to Cedar Ridge could very well give him those answers. 

He’d leave at first light.


“A Widow’s Journey to Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Sarah Evans’ life, once filled with joy and promise, comes crashing down when her husband is killed in an alleged accident. Now, haunted by unanswered questions and the lingering whispers of betrayal, Sarah is in desperate need of uncovering the truth behind his demise. Yet, when an enigmatic stranger arrives, offering protection and stirring emotions she thought long lost, Sarah will realize that the secrets buried in the past might hold the key to unlocking the mysteries of her own heart.

Will she find the strength to trust her heart again?

Haunted by his own past, bounty hunter Daniel Blackwood travels to Cedar Ridge receiving a desperate plea for help from his best friend. However, upon his arrival, Daniel is met only by his friend’s grieving widow. As he delves deeper into the enigmatic circumstances surrounding his friend’s death, he finds himself inexplicably drawn to Sarah, with a heavy heart and a burden of guilt for falling in love with his friend’s grieving widow. With every revelation, Daniel’s resolve is tested, and he must confront the chilling truth to unlock his future…

Will he be able to protect Sarah from the dangers that lurk in the darkness?

Together, Sarah and Daniel embark on a journey of discovery, facing betrayal, danger, and the echoes of a shared destiny that neither of them could have ever imagined. As they confront a reality that could tear them apart forever will they emerge victorious, or will the maleficence that surrounds them consume their newfound love?

“A Widow’s Journey to Love” 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!

One thought on “A Widow’s Journey to Love (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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