Colleen O’Reilly cleared away the remains of the vegetables in the big white kitchen sink in the scullery. She was employed as a scullery maid in a large mansion in New York. It was a magnificent house with a large staff. There was another scullery maid, and they did the worst jobs around. Lighting fires in the early hours of the morning when it was still dark and cleaning anything and everything that needed cleaning was not something that anyone really wanted to do. However, it gave her enough money to keep her desperately ill mother and two sisters in the awful tenement where they lived.
Colleen was not a foolish person, and she had found a freedom in her childhood in Ireland that was sadly lacking where she was in New York. Her father had been well-educated for his time and they had talked about all sorts of things when her parents were both well and had a strong family. She had always been used to giving her opinion and joining in conversation, and it was difficult in the job at the big house to say nothing and be treated as less than human sometimes.
Colleen was a tall, slender twenty-four year old of about five feet eight inches. She often thanked the Lord above for giving her health and a strong back because she needed these to survive. Colleen had a uniform for working in the house, which was a dark dress and white wrap-around pinafore. It was difficult to keep the pinafore clean when you had dirty jobs to do. She checked that she looked clean and tidy after finishing the vegetables. She carried them into the main kitchen to the cook, Missus Lawley.
The kitchen was enormous, with two huge fires, stoves and ovens, and for that reason at least it was warm. The wooden table, scrubbed almost every day by Colleen, was used to prepare food but also to serve a meal to the staff when the owners had eaten their fill. One of the few benefits of the job was that Colleen had at least one square meal a day and extra snacks as well. Lawley was a kind woman, even if she had to order folk around, and the remnants of the meals often found their way into Colleen’s hands as she left for home. Lawley checked the vegetables and sent Colleen off to find the footman.
“Then you can come back and knead this bread for me. It is risen now.” Lawley told her. Colleen made her way along the tortuous amount of long passageways that ran under and alongside the house. The arches were made of stone and although lamps flickered all the way along, the place always seemed dark and slightly menacing. It was a long way to carry everything that the people upstairs needed, but the upper classes had no desire to have the serving staff and food preparation near to themselves. There was a system called a dumb waiter that carried the food from next to the kitchen to the floor where the family lived. It was operated by pulling on a rope and lifting the meals upwards. The food reached the upper floor hot, but the staff had to run the distance and the stairs to serve it.
The butler was always on hand to the family and supervised the servings. His word was law to the household servants.
She found Jason, the footman, polishing brassware in a room kept just for that. He was happy to leave the job and go to lift the stores for Lawley.
“How is your mother?” Jason asked Colleen as they walked back to the kitchen.
“Very ill, I am afraid,” she answered. She bit her lip and showed the young man how frightened she really was. “My two sisters can be really naughty as well. At least the family here let me go away and be home in the evenings.”
“My own mother will help if you need someone to talk to.” He offered. Colleen smiled and her face dimpled beautifully. She was a pretty girl with very long, dark brown hair tied up in a bun and secured with two wooden pins.
“Your mother is very kind. I know she is there if I need it. Thank you,” she said. They arrived back at the kitchen and started the jobs as directed by the cook.
Colleen worked away at kneading the dough for the fresh bread to feed a large household. It was an ongoing task that never seemed to come to an end, but it was quite satisfying to do and the kitchen was safe and warm.
When the time came to serve luncheon upstairs, Mister Carstairs, the butler, arrived in the kitchen and everyone became flustered. He was the man in charge and if he found a mistake, they could be dismissed instantly. That even applied to Lawley, the cook, but she and Carstairs got along quite well.
“That silly girl who is supposed to help me in the dining room has gone sick. I need a replacement.” He looked around and then looked to see what Lawley suggested. She glanced around as well. The other scullery maid was a slovenly creature.
“Well, Colleen here is quite bright. She knows how to read and write and is polite and clean.” Lawley said.
“Right.” Carstairs agreed. “You, O’Reilly isn’t it? Come and change into serving attire. Your hair is at least neat and tidy.”
Colleen put the bread into the big oven and told Lawley what she had done.
“Good girl. Go and help out upstairs.” Colleen ran after the butler, who had already started back the way he had come. It occurred to her that if she did well, it might mean promotion away from lighting the fires and scrubbing the floors. The maids had a small room to dress and undress in and the butler handed her the garments. It was a pretty apron with lace around the edges and a little lace cap that sat on her head. Carstairs looked at her critically and nodded his approval. Then he inspected her hands to make sure they looked clean. He told her the first rules of serving and then they stood back as the family and their visitors came into the room.
The man and wife who owned the mansion never even looked at the staff, but the butler slid into position and he and another young man held chairs for the ladies. The visiting couple had a young boy with them. The soup arrived on the dumb waiter and the butler served it out of the large container into bowls to be served. Colleen let the young man who was serving go first so that she could copy what he did. She saw the butler nod and knew she was doing the right thing.
The people at the table started to eat their soup and the waiter handed around fresh bread. Colleen noted that it was bread that she had made herself. It occurred to Colleen that it was good to see folk enjoying what you made and wondered if Missus Lawley would let her learn to cook properly. It was a moment where she let her mind wander and in that second the little boy dropped his spoon into the soup. It splashed out and hit him on the leg.
He called out in pain and Colleen did what she would have done with one of her sisters. She snatched up a cloth and a glass of water and dropped beside him to wipe away the mess and cool down the leg.
“Sure, mind and listen to me and it is just a tiny splash of the soup.” She said to him. “Never mind. The burn will soon stop and we can find you some more of the soup in a different bowl.” Colleen was about to go for the extra soup when the boy laughed out loud and remarked to his mother that the girl had a very strange voice.
The mother told him to be quiet and wait for the soup but Colleen found herself almost lifted by the elbow and ushered very quickly out of the room.
“You silly girl. We never go and lay hands on the family or their guests. Go back to the kitchen. Tanner and I will manage on our own.”
“I was only trying to help.” Colleen started to explain when the butler stopped her short and said she would have no job at all if she answered him back again.
Colleen drew in a sharp breath, muttered that she was sorry and hurried back downstairs. Her heart was thumping like a drum and there were tears in her eyes when she reached the kitchen. Lawley demanded to know what was wrong, and told Colleen to go and start washing dishes.
“You are lucky to have a job.” She repeated what the butler had said and Colleen went away to the scullery to pour water into the bowl. She let the tears run down her cheeks unheeded because it was so unfair.
In Ireland her father had been well respected as a man who could read and write properly. He had taught his family the same. Colleen could write a letter as well as any scribe and she could do accounts and keep lists of figures accurately. Her father had realised she had a natural aptitude for playing piano and arranged that she could have lessons. That had been more difficult in New York, but one lady in the tenement had a piano and allowed her to practise sometimes.
The tears kept on running as she remembered her father coughing and ending his life wracked by the horror of tuberculosis. Now her mother was desperately ill and there were only the four of them left from a family of nine.
The thought of losing her mother and sisters made things just seem so much worse. The dishes were washed and more mounted up as the dumb waiter brought down the used crockery. The work helped and by the time the butler came down to say that the meal was finished, she had regained her composure. He gave her a look but added nothing to what he had said before. Colleen took her coat, shawl and the little parcel of food and hurried quietly away.
The streets were busy with tramcars and horse driven carriages. The sidewalks were splashed with mud and she tried to keep to the far side, away from the vehicles. Other people rushed past her without a second glance and she thought how good it would be to be back home in Ireland where she had spent most of her childhood. The city was not a place that made you welcome. She turned off the main street and threaded her way down several darker and smaller roadways to the tenement where she lived.
It was not well-looked after, although the owners made a lot of money from the rent and in most places families were crammed into one room. It was not the great new world that her father had dreamed about when they set sail from the Emerald Isle. The family actually had two rooms, and she opened the door to find her two sisters huddled together at the bottom of the bed as her mother lay motionless on the pillows.
“Oh Momma. How are you feeling now?” He mother tried to smile for the girl but it was too much for her. “Try some of this pie that I brought from the big house.”
“Give it to the girls” her mother whispered and clutched at Colleen’s hand. “They need it more than me. It won’t be long now.”
“Oh Momma.” Colleen said. She sat on the bed beside her mother and held her in her arms. She passed the pie to the girls, who ate every scrap very quickly.
“Please try and keep the three of you together. It’s a big responsibility that I am leaving you with. I am so sorry my darling. It wasn’t meant to end like this.”
The tears ran down Colleen’s cheeks and the two younger girls came and to be close as well. The three of them stayed like that until Colleen realised that her mother had stopped breathing. She laid the woman back on the pillows and closed her eyes.
“Cait,” she said to the older of the two girls “please go and ask Missus Wilson from next door to come in.” The younger sister, Helen, sat quietly crying on the bed and Colleen wrapped her in her arms.
A long way away in Moffatt County, Colorado, Marcus Stanton walked around his ranch. It was a different world to the busy, built up and dirty back streets of New York City. The scenery was stunningly beautiful, cattle grazed on the plains stretching away into the distance and Marcus was checking, as he did every evening, that all was well.
He was a tall, lean man of just over thirty. He wore the usual clothes of somebody that worked with livestock. Sturdy trousers and a vest over a plaid shirt topped off with a dusty Stetson said that he was a cowboy. Marcus was a successful cowboy who had turned his skill and hard work into a well-run ranch. He employed extra staff when he needed them for cattle drives and branding, but mostly he had one helper and himself who managed the ranch on a daily basis. Davey Rourke had already left to go into town.
Marcus sighed and leaned on the fence. It did give him satisfaction to see the place tidy and doing well but he longed for someone to talk to about it. He had never had sisters or brothers and his folks were lost to him. His stepfather was a brute who had beaten him up and at thirteen, Marcus had taken off to make his own way in the world. One of the horses came across the corral and he stroked the creature on the nose.
“It’s a good job you are here, Baron, or I would be talking to myself.” The gelding snickered and nudged at his shoulder. “I think you and I will ride into town and find something to eat.” He took the horse to the barn and found his saddle. Then he left the tidy but lonely homestead and rode the short distance into Tall Hill.
The township was not large but there were two saloons, a steakhouse, and a hotel. There were several stores and the usual much-needed places like blacksmiths and livery stables. There was a sheriff’s office and beside it the mayor’s office. Marcus dismounted there and threw the reins around the rail.
He stopped for a word with Drew Younger, the sheriff, and the two of them looked at what was happening on the street.
“All quiet, thank the Good Lord.” Drew remarked. “Nobody argued in the saloon or got thrown out of the hotel.”
“Too quiet at the ranch.” Marcus told him. “I rode in for a bite to eat that I didn’t make myself.”
“I’m finished in an hour. Grab your bite to eat and come and have a drink with Rosie and me.”
“I’ll take you up on that.” Marcus said. “I had better see Boss Wilton or I will be in the black books.” He gave the sheriff his crooked smile that was a feature of his. It made his naturally solemn appearance change. Drew raised a hand and Marcus stepped over the rail between the two offices into the one inhabited by Boss Wilton, the mayor of Tall Hill.
“Howdy.” Boss Wilton said and pushed back his chair. “What’s new on the ranching front?”
“Absolutely nothing and I have to say the town is pretty quiet as well.”
“I am on my way to a card game at the hotel. You fancy taking a hand or two?”
“Why not?” Marcus responded. He had wanted to ask the mayor about a man who’d arrived in town who had asked to buy some steers from him. The two of them had discussed the matter and Marcus had decided to not do any selling to this newcomer. The mayor owned most of Tall Hill and not a lot escaped his attention. The slight annoyance that crossed his face was enough to warn off the rancher.
Marcus wondered what the man had done to annoy the mayor and knew that it could have been something as simple as not knowing who the mayor was. Hilton was very self-important but life was more peaceful if he was kept happy. He reacted instantly if something or somebody displeased him, even if it was unintentional.
Boss Wilton had eyes like a hawk that missed absolutely nothing. He demanded to know every single thing that happened in the town and could be a nasty man if he thought things were kept from him. For the most part, people told him the bits and pieces of gossip and the town ran smoothly.
They went up the steps into the hotel.
“What is your latest bit of engineering?” The mayor asked. He changed the subject and gained that smile that was a feature of the lean cowboy’s face.
“A clock that would not work anymore. Nobody wanted it because it was broken. I took it off Mary Elizabeth’s hands and have taken it apart.”
“The old grandfather clock?” Wilton asked and Marcus nodded.
“It’s a beautiful piece of furniture but she had several folk look at it and it wouldn’t go.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Well. It will give me a puzzle to work out, that’s for sure.” The rancher told him. “Gets to be a bit lonesome sometimes. It’s good to be able to make yourself solve a problem.”
Marcus waved a hand to Davey Rourke, his ranch hand, who was standing at the bar, and took a seat at a table with the mayor. The atmosphere always changed a little when Boss Wilton entered a room. He was pleasant and friendly to everyone but they all knew that he was a bad man to cross. This particular hotel was owned by the mayor and they all stepped very cautiously when he was in there. The man that had enquired about cattle said hello to Marcus who spoke back but left it at that, and Boss Wilton ignored the man completely. The mayor did not like strangers. They didn’t play by his rules.
Once the game was underway, the conversations resumed and someone struck up a bit of a tune on the piano. A girl who more or less ran the place and worked around the bar came over and stood behind Marcus. She was dressed in a satin dress that showed hints of what was underneath and she laid a hand on the rancher’s shoulder.
“Hiya Ruth.” He said conversationally, but took no more notice. Marcus wanted company but he was looking for lifetime connections. He was a Christian for one thing and wanted company and someone who liked the same lifestyle as himself. Sadly, the possibility of finding anyone that matched his ideas in Tall Hill was nigh on impossible.
He came out on top of the card game with his current hand and decided to leave whilst the going was good. He went across to where Davey was still at the bar and took a drink himself. Ruth followed him across and ran her fingers down his arm.
“You looking’ for company, Marcus?” She asked and he was about to try and refuse her without being rude when a man at a gaming table called out something very nasty about the woman.
“No need for that sort of talk.” Marcus answered. “Ruth can talk to anyone she likes.” The man pushed back his chair angrily and strode across the room.
“You lookin’ for a fight, rancher man?”
“Just stopping you saying anymore nasty things, Ladysmock.” There was a ripple of laughter at the man’s name. They all knew he hated anyone using it. Ladysmock pulled back an arm with a clenched fist but Boss Wilton intervened from behind him.
“Enough or you are banned.” He said and signalled to two men to come and throw out the troublemaker. “You as well, Marcus.” Marcus nodded and didn’t argue. The two men from the hotel threw Ladysmock bodily out of the door and gave Marcus a push to make sure that the boss saw them doing their job. Hilton had a selection of men always around to do his heavy work if it was needed. Dan Ladysmock was not a big man and had taken quite a few drinks. He jumped up and rounded on the rancher.
“You want to make it a gunfight?”
Marcus shook his head.
“Walk away, Dan. It’s not worth killing each other.” Then he turned his back deliberately on the man who was the worse for having a few drinks. He knew Dan Ladysmock would think about going for his gun but knew he was not a real threat. When Marcus did look up, Dan was gone. The man stumbled away up the street. Marcus Stanton was an excellent shot and could have killed the man quite easily. It was not something he wanted to do. A hard life from a runaway thirteen-year-old to a successful rancher was not something he wanted to throw away on a silly bar fight. He knew a young man with problems when he saw it and wondered how things would turn out for Dan Ladysmock.
Marcus went into the store and Davey Rourke followed him inside.
“You okay, boss?” He asked. Marcus nodded and picked up a copy of the paper called ‘The Courtship News’.
“I am just fine, thanks. Do you fancy steak at the diner? I am paying.”
“Now there is an offer I can’t refuse. I might not be a pretty woman but I sure am hungry.” The two men laughed and left the store together with Marcus folding the newspaper as he went.
The diner was warm and smelt mouth-watering. The man in charge, called Jem, had a bright red face from constantly working with ovens and stoves but was cheerful and his food was good. Marcus and Davey ordered the steak special and sat waiting for the meal.
“You think those papers are any good?” Davey asked. Davey Rourke was in much the same position as his boss. He worked hard for Marcus and earned enough money to lead a decent life, but the lack of available females was something that a lot of cowboys, ranch hands and farmers found hard.
“I thought you were seeing the widow Pritchard,” Marcus said. “She’s a good woman.” Davey nodded and said that he had spoken to her a couple of times but hadn’t had the courage to ask her out.
“That chap from the livery got in before me.” He said and pointed at the paper. “Might even try that. What do you think?”
Marcus Stanton gave his slightly crooked grin and admitted that he had already written a letter to place an ad.
“Don’t suppose I will hear anything but you never know.” The food arrived and both men were quiet for some time.
“Trouble is,” Davey said as he wiped his lips, “I can’t write enough to make it sensible. I am not too good at reading the ads either.” Marcus looked at his workmate.
“We can take an hour off tomorrow and look at them. If you want me to, I can write the letter for you.”
“Boss, where did you learn to read and write? I know you left home early.” Marcus looked back into his past.
“I worked for a man who ran a warehouse for grain and other stuff. I had done basic reading at school but he needed someone to keep his records and showed me what to do.”
Davey nodded. The man at the warehouse had set his boss in the right direction. Marcus Stanton helped others if he could.
“Thanks. Writing the letter would be great. Thanks for the steak as well.”
They both raised a hand to Jem as they left.
“See you in the morning.” Marcus said and the two men parted company. Davey had lodging in the town. Marcus rode back to the ranch and checked the corrals and barns to make sure everything was fine. It was a routine he always went through. The chickens were put inside for the night and he unsaddled the gelding and turned him out into the corral.
He sat and read the paper for a little while and then went to the big table he had in the spare room. The parts of the grandfather clock were spread neatly on the surface. They were in the order he had removed them and he started to put the thing back together.
Working out how the thing should operate took a lot of concentration. It was something he had done out of necessity over the years as he built up his ranch, but now he found that tinkering with smaller things was something he enjoyed.
“Tomorrow,” he said out loud, “it might even be almost a clock again.” He took the paraffin lamp away that he had set to see what he was doing, locked up and settled in for the night.
It was lonely in a big ranch house by yourself.
“Four good bedrooms there just going to waste.” He muttered as he drifted off to sleep.
Colleen stood up when the neighbour from the next door came inside and checked the person lying on the bed.
“I am sorry, Colleen.” She said and pulled the cover over the body in the bed.
“What do I have to do?” Colleen asked, without really any spark of life in her voice. Her neighbour was a practical woman and knew how hard life was for families in this position. There was no real comfort she could offer except help with the present problem.
“Take your sisters and sleep in the other room. In the morning we will send for the priest. He will know what to do.”
Colleen nodded and said her thanks, and then moved whatever they she into the other room and held her sisters close. They slept eventually and the grim day started when they woke.
The priest said words of comfort over the dead woman and had brought two men to take her mother away. It was a pauper’s funeral because there was no money and Colleen found that she had absolutely no control over any of it. They wrapped her mother in the sheets that had been on the bed and took the body away on a stretcher to a cart in the alley below. The sisters watched their mother go on her last journey. Colleen knew that it would be a communal grave and she would never know where it was but she tried to tell the youngsters that their mother was at rest.
The landlord sent someone to remind her that the apartment was needed for another family who could pay rent. Children were not allowed to have a home for themselves. She sat and wondered what on earth she would do. There were enough stories of orphanages and even prison for children with no-one to look after them. She sat in the neighbour’s house with her few personal belongings in a couple of big bundles and dried her tears. She lifted her chin and thought about her sisters who meant everything to her. They were all she had left. Crying would not help.
The neighbour agreed to look after one of the children whilst Colleen looked for work that would let her find somewhere to live. She went to see the lady who let her practice on the piano and that woman agreed to look after the other sister. Colleen warned the girls, especially Cait, to be good and not cause trouble. Then she went back to work.
Lawley was sympathetic and so was Jason, who offered to help if he could and told her that his mother had sent a message to say to ask if she needed help. It made her feel better to know that some folk was on her side and hard work helped her get through the day. As she went to put rubbish in the fire, she picked up a piece of newspaper that had been used to carry some food.
It was stained and crumpled but just to catch her breath, she read what was on the page. The ad from Marcus Stanton sprang out from the page and told her that a rancher in Colorado needed help, company, and a wife. He would pay expenses for travelling. She read it through twice more and showed it to Lawley as the cook came back into the room.
“I have to do something,” Colleen said. “I can write a letter but need paper and pen.” Jason had come in to stand beside the fire for a few moments and slipped away to the butler’s pantry to find what she needed. He knew the butler was engaged upstairs.
Colleen sat at the scrubbed kitchen table and wrote a letter to the unknown man in Moffatt County. Jason told her that he would take it with the family post and tucked it into his pocket.
“I will probably never hear anything but I have to try.” Colleen said. It was a spark of hope in a very frightening and dark world.
After several days of working and going back to sleep on the floor of the neighbour with the children, another crisis arose. She finished work to find that Cait had been out playing in the streets and was covered in scratches from fighting. The seven year old was a fiery-tempered girl and defiant. She said that the girl she had fought with had called her awful names.
“She said I would go to prison because I have no money and nowhere to live.”
“Oh dear.” Colleen said and turned as a fierce knock came at the door.
“This brat of yours,” The big man at the door told her, “is just too out of hand. If you don’t stop her fighting and chasing, I will take my belt to her. You hear what I say? Do something or I will do it for you.” He shook his finger at Cait, who stared back at him defiantly. “You mind what I say or this belt will go across your back.” Then he slammed the door and stamped away.
Colleen burst into tears. She apologised to the neighbour who was starting to wonder how long this could go on.
“I will ask at work tomorrow if I can take Caitlin with me and she can do some work.” The woman agreed and they cleaned up young Cait. Colleen took the girl down to the other apartment to collect Helen.
“She is as good as gold.” The lady with the piano said. She had found an old dress of her own and cut it down to fit the youngster.
“Why can’t I stay here?” Cait grumbled. The woman had a kind heart and told Colleen that both girls could stay with her for a few days if Colleen thought that was all it would be. Much relieved, they went to collect the belongings from upstairs and Colleen even managed to spend a little time on the piano. She had a natural ear for a tune and where her fingers could go. In Ireland, she had been given enough basic understanding to work out the keyboard.
“You should try to keep playing.” The piano owner, Mary Janetta, told her. “You could be really good.” Colleen smiled and thanked her for allowing her to play.
“I do love it.”
The sisters slept curled up together beside the stove to keep warm. Morning was a bit better as she left the girls and prayed they would be good. Then the day took on a different turn as Jason brought into the kitchen a letter and waved it at Colleen.
“Mail for Miss O’Reilly.” He smiled. She took it and was almost frightened to open it.
“Read it for me.” Colleen said to Lawley and the three of them realised that Marcus Stanton was interested in her letter.
“It says,” Lawley read, “that he has business in Saint Louis and will travel on to meet you. If you are both happy with the situation, he is willing to go ahead.”
“Oh, Lord.” Colleen said. “What do I do about the girls? Where will I meet him? I can’t take him to the tenement.”
“Don’t mention them until you get there,” Lawley said. She looked around. “The family are away. Tell him to come to the servants’ entrance here.”
“Oh, thank you, Missus Lawley. Thanks for the help, Jason.”
They wrote back immediately and Jason managed to get to the post office to send the reply. Colleen was relieved, excited and scared all at the same time, but in the days she had left and aided by the lady with the piano and the folks at the big house, she managed to find clothes that looked decent.
The day arrived and she was almost sick with excitement and fear. She arrived at work looking smart thanks to the efforts of Mary who had the piano, but who had also used her needlework skills to make Colleen look presentable.
Jason whistled as she came in and that made her laugh.
“Thank you, sir.” She said.
“Let me have a look” Lawley said and twirled Colleen around. “Missus Janetta is a godsend.” The dress had the fashionable look that appeared in the newspapers because the woman had added material to extend the top of the sleeves to a fashionable width. There was a coat to slip over the top. It was not new but was in good condition.
Lawley went to her own room and brought out a pair of button boots.
“Try these.” She said, and Colleen found they fitted. Jason came flying back from upstairs with a perfume spray bottle and pressed the puffer to give Colleen a slight fragrance of roses. Then the knock came at the door. Jason did his footman job and asked who it was.
“Marcus Stanton looking for Colleen O’Reilly.” The man’s voice said, and Jason let him inside. Introductions were made and Lawley said that she and Jason had work to do.
“You have the rest of the day off, Colleen. “She added. The two helpers left the room and Marcus looked at Colleen.
“Hello,” he said, and Colleen felt a shiver of excitement and relief run through her veins. The man was, as his ad had said, thirty-two. He was quite tall which was good because she was a tall girl, and he had a slender but wiry figure. His eyes were grey to blue and his light brown hair was starting to show signs of grey at the temples. The hand she shook had long and slender fingers.
“Hello.” She replied. “Would you like to sit here or would you like to go out somewhere to talk?”
“I think they would like the kitchen back.” His eyes twinkled a little and the crooked smile that was so much a feature of the slim, angular face showed itself. Colleen smiled back and he saw an attractive young woman who took his offered arm, and they left the kitchen behind them.
“There is a park not very far.” Colleen told him as she stepped out on the arm of a handsome man for the first time in her life. They found the park and took a seat to look around. The place was not busy and it gave them time to talk.
“Are you sure that you want to come out to a ranch away from the city?” He asked her.
“I hate the city.” She said and almost felt a tear in her eye. “Ever since we came here, it has been unpleasant. Ireland was poor but people cared about you. My father died and then my momma died four weeks ago. There is nothing to keep me in this place.” It was hard not to mention the girls but she was so scared it would all go wrong if he knew there were two children as well. “Tell me about Tall Hill.” She added to deflect the conversation.
“Small town. Most folk know who is who. The railroad is still a good distance away but we can travel on that and then take a stage for the last fifty miles or so. The ranch house is quite big, with four bedrooms and a living room. The kitchen has an oven and a stove. I cook for myself most of the time but it is very simple. Someone to help there would be welcome.” He told her with a slight smile.
“I like cooking.” She said. “Missus Lawley has taught me quite a lot.”
“I like to sit and work out how things work.” He confessed. “So, one of the bedrooms has a table and all the parts of a clock spread out upon it.” She reacted by turning to him and giving him the first real smile he had seen. Marcus Stanton felt a flutter in his chest that was most unexpected.
“You have those long, slender fingers. I can see you working with things that are delicate.”
“Piano players’ fingers, someone told me, but I can’t play.”
“I can,” Colleen whispered modestly. He looked at her in amazement.
“You can really play the piano?” She nodded and told him about Ireland and the kind lady who let her practice in New York.
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After the recent passing of her parents, Colleen O’ Reilly took the responsibility not only for herself but also for her two younger sisters. She now has to find a new home for them and keep them safe at all costs. Under the pressure of losing her sisters, she answers an advert from a lonely rancher. However, to ensure a positive outcome, she will keep some secrets from him, risking losing everything. When all the lies and the secrets are revealed, will there be any chance for their relationship to thrive? Will she manage to keep her promise to her late parents or will her sisters be ill-fated forever?
Marcus Steed has been alone for a very long time after he was forced to run away from home when he was 13. He has been struggling to survive his whole life, and he has neglected to actually live it. Now for the first time in a long time, he can actually relax and reap the fruits of his hard work. Reflecting on his life, what he really wants – and needs – is to share everything with a woman he could trust and depend on. Will he find true love or will he end up devastated and disappointed, when he discovers the truth about Colleen?
Colleen and Marcus’s relationship seems to have no future. Colleen is too busy caring for her sisters’ survival, while Marcus has to deal with his own demons. Affection is not his key strength, and loveless marriage seems to be like a dead-end for her. Will Marcus lower his guard and allow Colleen to approach him? Could Colleen regain his trust and restore his faith to love?
“Finding her Everlasting Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.