Rachel stepped through the door with a basket of vegetables tucked under her arm. Going to the market wasn’t something that she always enjoyed, but it was something that needed to be done and that she did to help her mother out.
“How did it go?” Her mother met her in the kitchen and started to help her unload everything.
“Pretty well, I’d say,” Rachel smiled. One thing she did enjoy was talking to the different vendors at the market. They were always friendly and kind, and it was a pleasure seeing them.
“Thank you, Rachel. It’s just not as easy as it was before for me to go out. You know my knee has been hurting more and more these days.”
Rachel nodded and smiled. “It’s ok, Mama. I don’t mind.” She knew that her mother’s knee had caused her pain ever since her fall. Nearly six months ago, her mother had been tending to the clothes outside and she’d had a terrible fall. Her knee had twisted, and it had caused her pain ever since. Rachel was hopeful that it would continue to improve. But so far, it seemed it had only gotten worse.
“Should we go to the doctor again? I don’t know if it should be hurting you this much.” Rachel felt concern fill her. She had a good relationship with both her mother and father, and she felt especially protective of her mother.
“No. I think it is getting better. I just need to be more careful.” Her mother’s pale face and hesitation to walk said something completely different than her confident words, but Rachel decided to let it go for now.
“Why don’t you sit down? I’ll make dinner tonight.”
“Are you sure? You already did so much.” Her mother’s eyebrows knitted together.
“I’m sure. Don’t worry, Ma. I can handle cooking.”
“You know, you are a good cook. I think some man out there would very much enjoy having someone like you as their wife.”
Rachel stiffened. She knew what talk was coming.
“I was looking through your father’s newspaper today. The mail order bride agency is looking for more people who are interested. Have you given it much thought lately?”
“Not really.” Rachel was lying. She thought about it every day, but more than that, she thought about how she would not want to be a mail order bride.
“It’s family tradition, you know. Look at your sister. She was a mail order bride and she wrote me just yesterday telling me how happy she is. Did you know she is awaiting her first baby already?”
Rachel nodded. She knew that her sister was the perfect daughter her parents approved of. She had gladly followed her mother’s tradition and their grandmother’s tradition. She had answered an ad and corresponded with a man and eventually, gone out west to California to marry him.
“Are they wealthy yet?” Rachel tried to lighten the mood. As far as she knew, her sister’s husband was a gold miner.
“No, they are not wealthy in that sense, but they are happy. What more can we ask for in life? Look at me and your father.”
“Ma, just because I am not married and just because you, grandmother and Eliza have all become mail order brides does not mean that it is what I want.”
Her mother’s face fell. “Rachel, it is the best way. You are not from a rich family, even though your father is a banker. We are a simple family, and simple families have a hard time finding good husbands the normal way.”
Rachel shook her head. This was the thing that she disagreed with her parents about. She knew that finding a suitable husband was difficult, but that didn’t mean she wanted to marry a stranger who lived days or even weeks away from her parents.
“What about you and Pa? You would be left behind all alone. Who would help you around here?”
“That is a fair point,” her mother sighed. “But we would figure it out. We could maybe hire someone, or my knee will get better. God will find a way, my dear. But I want you to secure your future. I want to know that you have a good husband and a good marriage. Is that too much for a mother to ask?”
“I- Ma, I have mentioned Simon to you. We’ve been seeing each other for months. We are planning to get married.” Rachel held her breath, waiting for her mother’s response. She had indeed mentioned Simon to her parents before, but she had never mentioned how serious their relationship was or that she planned to marry him.
He had been speaking of it more and more lately, nearly every single day. She couldn’t wait. They had finally settled on a date. In six more months, she would be a married woman.
“Simon? Simon Grott? That young man is not a good man, Rachel. You should know that. There is something shifty about him. I can see it in his eyes.”
Rachel felt irritation grab ahold of her. “Why do you say that? Do you know him? Have you spoken to him more than once? I don’t think so.”
“I have spoken to him in passing. He is quite rude and, more than that, I have heard stories about him and his ways with women. He has been with several other women and I have heard he just uses them.”
“Those are just rumors. They are not true. How many times have you told me not to believe things I hear about people without proof?”
“Too many, apparently.” Her mother looked downcast and for a moment, Rachel felt guilty. She didn’t want to make her mother feel bad. She just wanted what was best for herself and that was not marrying some stranger on a ranch out west. “You can’t trust Simon, my dear. He will break your heart. I can’t tell you how I know. I just do. I know that this isn’t what you want to hear, but I want you to at least consider what I am telling you and, consider being a mail order bride. Most of the men who apply for a bride have good intentions and are ready for marriage and commitment.”
Rachel shook her head. “I can’t, Ma. I just can’t. I don’t want to leave you and Pa, and I don’t want to leave the city. I want to marry a man I love and who I know and who I’ve made plans with. And besides, marrying a total stranger could be dangerous. I wouldn’t know anything about the man.”
Simon wouldn’t break her heart. He had promised to love her. He’d promised to give her everything. They were practically married already. Rachel could almost see the home they would share together, the laughter and love they would have for years to come, and even the children that would be running around everywhere.
The children part was a work in progress. Simon had told her he wanted no children. He didn’t want a family, despite Rachel’s protests. But she was fairly confident he would change his mind, once they were settled down and he realized what they were missing.
Her mother nodded, a weak smile on her lips. “All right then, let’s get supper started.”
Rachel knew that it was her mother’s way of changing the subject and accepting what Rachel had to say.
Rachel knew that her mother thought being a mail order bride was the best thing in the world because she had done it and it had turned out well. Rachel had to admit that her father was perfect for her mother and their relationship was admirable. Her aunt had married a man from her town, and it had not gone so well.
But Rachel was going to prove her mother and her father wrong. She would marry Simon Grott and they would build a family and a life together. Then her mother would see that other marriages could work. She could make a marriage work. She was in love. She knew what love was and she also knew that Simon Grott loved her. But convincing her mother of that looked like it was going to be quite the project.
Of course, Rachel understood that her mother was simply worried and wanted her to have the best. But Rachel needed her to understand that Simon was the best thing for her. How could it be better to leave town and marry a stranger who didn’t even know her name?
There were plenty of people in town who married people they had known for a good portion of their lives. They didn’t have issues just because they weren’t mail order brides.
Rachel had several friends in town; well, acquaintances who had married men they had fallen in love with. There was no reason that Rachel couldn’t do the same. She could get married in the chapel they went to on Sundays. She and Simon could visit her parents whenever they wanted to. They could still have dinner together and she could still care for her mother and help her father.
Nothing in her life had to change. She could be happy, and have everything she needed all at the same time. Rachel stirred the stew on the stove and smiled. It was a dream that was not yet reality, but she was hoping that soon, she would change that.
The sound of her father stepping through the front door made her straighten up.
“I’ll go and walk him in,” Rachel smiled. She always enjoyed seeing her father when he came back from a long day of work. When she passed the window, she realized the sun was already starting to set. Time went so quickly sometimes that she hardly noticed a day going by.
“There’s my beautiful daughter,” her father said as he smiled and gave her a quick hug.
Rachel pulled back and took his coat. It was decent and clean, but it was not a wealthy man’s coat. It was most likely not what someone would expect from a wealthy man.
But her father wasn’t really wealthy. He was a banker, but he always put others before himself. The amount of people he had given money to, or given loans to, were endless. Rachel knew that he only took a basic salary from the bank home to his family. Many bankers made themselves rich at the expense of the people that used the bank, but not her father.
She smiled and motioned toward the kitchen. “Dinner is almost done.”
“Thank you, dear.” Her father glanced into the kitchen and then back at Rachel, a worried glint in his eye. “Have you and your mother been arguing again?” he asked.
“Yes, maybe a tad. We got into it about the mail order bride thing again. When I told her that I would be marrying Simon Grott, she was upset.”
Her father’s face turned to a frown. “That man has not been around here asking for permission for marriage from me.”
“I know. He will be soon. I’m sorry. It’s just, I don’t want to talk about being a mail order bride with Mother anymore. I don’t want to do it. I’m pretty sure I am not the sort of person who would be suited to that lifestyle.”
Her father nodded, “I can try to understand that, but you should try to give your mother some time. Remember, that is how she and I got married before we came back to the city. That is how her grandmother married and your sister. It is like a rite of passage for her more than a tradition. And I don’t think I disappointed her either,” he said with a smile.
“I know, and I hate to disappoint either one of you, but I’ve already given my heart to Simon.”
“I suppose we will have to get used to that. You just need to give us some time. It’s not that your mother or I want you to go away. We just want you to be happy. Sometimes, the men looking for mail order brides in the west are more honest about what they are looking for. I just want the best for you, Rachel.”
Rachel bit her lower lip and looked down at the floor. She knew her father was telling the truth. Rachel had never doubted that her parents wanted the best for her. She had seen that from the beginning they were always attentive and searching out the best opportunities for her. But this wasn’t something that they should decide for her. She needed time to find things out on her own.
“Okay then, let’s go and have us some supper. Frankly, I’m starving.” Her father chuckled and Rachel followed him to the kitchen. She could only hope that both of her parents would eventually come around to the idea of her marrying Simon and leave behind whatever doubts the false rumors about him had been created in their minds.
Simon loved her and he was a good man. He had promised her that they would marry. It seemed that he couldn’t wait just like she couldn’t. It was a wonderful feeling, to be in love.
Rachel only hoped that her parents could see what a good man Simon was. Then they wouldn’t feel nearly as badly about her not becoming a mail order bride.
Despite Rachel’s confidence in Simon’s honor and his intentions, she still felt badly about what her mother had said. Could there be a small reality in what her mother had said about Simon breaking her heart?
Rachel shook her head. She had to have confidence in herself and Simon. If she didn’t, then she had nothing. But that didn’t mean that they had to wait as long as they had planned. Simon had seemed so sure of himself when they’d spoken of marriage. They had planned to marry in six months. But what if they married in three? The sooner they were married, the sooner doubts from her parents would be put to rest.
Even if Simon didn’t have a home finished quite yet, Rachel knew they could work something out.
Rachel put on a shawl and her boots and started toward the door.
“I’m going out for a while, Ma. I’ll be back home later.”
“Okay, come back for our afternoon meal. I am making your favorite.”
Rachel wondered if her mother cooking her favorite food was yet another way to try and convince her to do what she and her father thought was best. But she forced herself not to dwell on the thought too much. She was about to turn twenty-two. Soon, she would be considered an old maid. Maybe that was why her mother was so obsessed with the idea of her getting married. But once she convinced Simon to marry her three months early, her mother would have to settle down with the idea and be happy.
Simon wouldn’t be expecting her. They had agreed to get together the next day. The more Rachel thought about it as she went toward his house, the more she remembered how he constantly insisted on their visits being planned. Something about his parents being strict and not liking it when they didn’t know who was coming to visit.
Rachel had never met his parents, but she hoped they weren’t as overbearing as Simon made them out to be and hopefully, he wouldn’t be angry with her for showing up for an unplanned visit.
What Rachel did know about Simon’s parents was that his father was also a banker, but in another town. He owned a small bank in the next town over. Unlike her own father, Simon’s must have been wealthy because everything from their house to their clothes made it seem so.
When Rachel arrived at the tall fence around Simon’s house, she hesitated. Was it silly or wrong of her to want to get married sooner? She wasn’t doing it to be selfish, but she wanted the best for both her and Simon.
She touched the gate which wasn’t closed all the way. It opened a few more inches, giving her a view of the front of the house and of something else that made her heart stop.
There was Simon, right at the bottom steps of his home. But he wasn’t alone. There was a woman with him. She was tall, and had dark brown hair that fell in perfect curls down her back. She had a kind smile and all of her attention was on Simon.
Simon was returning the favor. For a moment, Rachel let herself entertain the idea that maybe she was a relative or a harmless friend. But when Simon took a step closer to her, she knew she was wrong.
There was practically no space separating them now. Simon reached out and tucked a strand of hair behind the woman’s ear.
“Thank you for coming, Leah. You know that the days are long and dull without you in them.”
“I could come again tomorrow. I might be able to get away from the house.” Leah sounded hopeful.
Rachel’s heart practically stopped. Tomorrow was the day Simon had told her to come by.
“I’m sorry, love. But tomorrow I have work. You know that I am busy for most of the week.”
“I know, but I wish you weren’t. I miss you.” Leah’s voice was thick and pouty. Rachel wondered what he saw in her. But she also knew. Leah was beautiful and she was what every single man probably wanted in a woman.
Rachel gritted her teeth and fought tears. She watched Simon lean in and give Leah a long, lingering embrace. If there had been any doubt in her mind about Simon’s intentions with her before, those doubts were gone. He was with this woman in a way that was much more than a friendship.
Rachel took a few steps back, so she was hidden by the fence. She waited patiently until Leah came walking out, a joyful smile on her face that reminded Rachel of her own smile after visiting with Simon.
Now Rachel had no smile, only rage for the man she thought she had loved who had obviously betrayed her trust.
She followed Leah, waiting till they got a bit further away from Simon’s house.
“Leah?” she called out.
Leah turned toward her, a look of surprise on her perfectly chiseled face. “Hi. Do I know you?”
Rachel ran a little to catch up. “No, you don’t actually. But I know Simon. What are you to him?” Rachel hoped that Leah wouldn’t demand to know why she asked. Rachel wasn’t sure she could answer any questions like that right now.
“I- I am his fiancé. He proposed to me almost two weeks ago.” Leah looked confused. “Are you his sister or something? He has never mentioned you.”
“He hasn’t? I’m Rachel.” For some reason, Rachel hoped that Simon had mentioned her to this beauty, but the reality of the situation was crashing down on her and threatening to break her. She fought to maintain her composure.
“No, he never mentioned you. Can I help you with something?”
“We should go somewhere to talk. It’s important.” Rachel knew she sounded defeated because she was defeated. But somehow, she no longer felt anger toward Leah. It was clear that she had fallen into Simon’s games just as Rachel had.
They walked down the street, saying little until they reached a small diner. It wasn’t the only diner in town as Chicago was a big place, but they were known to have some of the most delicious food. The food didn’t matter to Rachel. What she cared about was the fact that it was a quiet place to talk and it was close by.
They slipped into the cozy room and Rachel was relieved to see it was practically empty. They sat down at a table and Rachel fiddled with her hands.
“So, tell me what you are to Simon.” Leah looked worried, upset, unhappy. The same emotions that Rachel was feeling.
“I thought that I was going to marry him. He promised we would be married in six months. He said we would have a small farm and a garden and chickens.”
“I don’t understand. I have been seeing Simon for months.” Leah looked sad and shocked. For a moment, Rachel felt bad for her. She could understand everything that Leah was feeling because she felt the same way.
“So… how much did he tell you? I mean, did you plan for the future? Did he tell you that he loved you?” For some reason, Rachel needed to know how much of her relationship with Simon had been a lie.
“We planned for everything. He said we would move out to the country and have a small garden and a farm. He said we had to wait for the minister. He said I was the only woman he had ever loved. I can’t believe he was lying to me the whole time.”
Rachel felt violated,; she felt dirty and terrible for having trusted such a man. “When I came to see him today, I was nervous that he might be upset that I came unannounced. He always planned our visits and seemed worried that I might come without prior planning. But I came anyway, and I saw you there. At first, I felt angry with you. But I can see it’s not your fault. He has been lying to both of us. You are as much of a victim of his deceit as I am.”
“What do we do now?” Leah asked, her eyes filling with tears.
I don’t want anything to do with him. If you want to have him, you can.” Rachel knew that it would sting to see Simon stay with Leah, but she didn’t care. There was no way that she was going to marry Simon. Not after the way he had manipulated her and treated her. “I need to go home.” Rachel felt like she was going to be sick.
Leah nodded. “Just so you know, I am not going to stay with him either. He doesn’t deserve a woman.”
Rachel forced a quick smile of acknowledgement. It was a small comfort to know that Simon wouldn’t get anything from either of them after his deceiving ways. She only hoped that any woman he was with in the future would see what kind of a person he was before trusting him.
She considered herself to be rather smart and able to see things clearly now, but she had allowed Simon to play with her. She had allowed him to lie to her and to leave her out in the cold.
Her face burned red with anger and dread as she thought of telling her mother what had happened.
Her poor mother would be devastated for her, but more than that, she would be right about everything she had said, and Rachel knew that her mother wasn’t going to let her forget it any time soon. She wished she could take it all back. She wished she could unsay every single thing she had told her mother about Simon. She wished she would have never met Simon or fallen for his false charms. But it was too late now. He had ruined her life. She had ruined her credibility and she had ruined any chance she had of marrying someone she loved.
She made a promise to herself that she would never trust a man with her heart again. Rachel realized that it was going to be this way with anyone she met. How could she tell if someone’s words were real? If they meant it when they said they loved her and wanted to spend their lives with her? She had no way of telling, and she was never going to make the mistake of trusting a man again.
There was an old woman who lived in town. She had never married, and she had gotten by just fine. Granted, she lived alone and had a dusty little candle shop. Word was, she never got any visitors and people knew she was lonely and sad. But Rachel knew that such a fate was better than living with a man who would take advantage of her and turn around and be with someone else at the same time.
She was young and dumb, and she was not going to make the same mistake twice. She had learned from her pain and her sorrows. She only hoped that it wasn’t too late to reverse the damage that had been done.
Instead of going home, Rachel found herself turning toward the woods. She needed a few moments to gather her thoughts, and to consider her options. She knew what her mother and father would say when they heard. They would suggest the option that they had been telling her to take from the beginning. They would want her to become a mail order bride. They would be so disappointed if she chose to be an old maid.
But what could she do? She didn’t want a husband, not one in the normal sense of the word. But her mother always talked about how being a mail order bride was a mutual agreement. Maybe, just maybe, she could find a man who didn’t want a normal relationship.
They could both bring a benefit to the table. Rachel was willing to work hard and earn her keep. Maybe there was a man out there who needed the help but who didn’t want a wife. The idea made a bit of hope start to creep back in.
It was dashed when she allowed herself to think of her humiliation once more. By the next day, the rumors would be all over the town. Most likely, untrue rumors about herself or about Leah. Rachel doubted that many people would be talking about the kind of man Simon was. But then again, who knew? Her mother had warned her to stay away from him, yet she hadn’t listened.
Maybe he had done this before and that was what her mother had been warning her about. For a moment, Rachel wished her mother had been more specific when she’d said that Simon was not good for her and that he would break her heart. But deep down, Rachel knew it wasn’t her mother’s fault. She had put herself in that situation and the responsibility was hers and hers alone.
Rachel let herself slide down beside a large pine tree in the middle of the clearing. The day was bright and cheerful, making a mockery of her feelings. Tears were in her eyes, threatening to spill over, but Rachel commanded them to stay put. She was not going to cry for Simon. He didn’t even deserve her tears.
She had to talk to him, to tell him exactly what she thought of his horrific ways. She was going to tell him everything she thought of him and how he had treated her. But it was going to have to wait until Rachel had better control of her emotions.
Even though she knew it was the right thing, the vision of losing everything she had dreamed of with Simon slipping away broke her heart. The carefully made plans, the daydreams, the talks of homes and family and love – they were all broken into a million pieces, and her heart was right there on the ground beside those pieces.
“Winning her Loyal Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Rachel’s predetermined fate has always been to follow her family’s tradition and become a mail-order bride. In an effort to escape from a loveless future, she tries to convince her mother to let her marry the man that has been courting her instead. However, Rachel’s world collapses when he betrays her, and she is forced to follow her parents’ wishes, although finding love seems impossible to her. She is determined not to give her heart away a second time, as she isn’t ready to trust anyone, especially Lee, her husband-to-be. Although a bit reserved and homesick upon their first meeting, she can’t help but notice a connection and considers giving him a chance. Is their blooming love strong enough to thaw her heart and help her overcome the doubts that threaten to keep her from happiness?
Left with no other choice than to quit being a bounty hunter, Lee decides to settle down in Texas as a cattle farmer. His life is turned upside down once again, when his fiancée abandons him two days before their wedding, leaving him betrayed and heartbroken. Falling in love is now out of the question for Lee, but in a moment of weakness, he writes to a mail-order bride agency and before he knows it, Rachel is on her way. She is hard-working, caring, and kind, and he finally dares to dream of a happy future with her. How can he surpass his deep wounds and accept that being with Rachel might be his only chance for love, while his past is coming for revenge?
What started as a simple business partnership for Rachel and Lee, soon becomes a mutual attraction, challenging their limits and plans. When secrets from the past surface and they are forced to deal with them, will they be able to trust each other and accept their feelings? Or will they let second thoughts and mistrust come between them and tear them apart?
“Winning her Loyal Heart” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.