Balancing a huge stack of dishes, June pushed through the swinging door to get to the kitchen. Her back ached, and so did her legs. She was sure there wasn’t a bit of her body that didn’t ache.
But June didn’t complain. She had been uncomfortable for the last fifteen years, pretty much as long as she could remember. The only difference now was the fact that it was her choice.
She was doing this for her future.
June dumped the stack of dishes into the sink and then turned to go back out and get more. It was the evening rush in the hotel diner, and there was no end of work to do.
“Hello, beautiful.” A low voice directly behind her made her jump.
Before she could turn, a man threw his arm around her shoulders and pulled her up against him.
June gagged and felt panic rise in her chest. “Let go of me,” she bit out angrily.
The man laughed, and June could smell the whiskey on his breath. His whiskers brushed against her cheek, making her struggle to get out of his grasp.
“Why are you so grumpy? Aren’t you supposed to serve the customers?” The man had a look on his face that June didn’t like or trust. He was leering at her in an inappropriate way.
“I said, let me go!” Despite June’s strong brave voice, her stomach trembled, and she felt anything but confident as she struggled to remove the man’s arm from her shoulders.
The man looked as if he were considering it. His arm felt heavy, and she felt the heat in her cheeks at the lack of distance between them.
Suddenly, something came flying out of the air and hit the man on the shoulder. “Get your hands off of her, you filthy slob!”
June relaxed a little as the man pulled his arm back and turned angrily to his assailant. “Is this how you people treat your customers?” he growled.
June hurried to her rescuer’s side. Sierra stood tall and unintimidated. It was so her. Unlike June, she was rarely afraid of anything and was always sure of what she wanted.
June could always count on Sierra to have her back.
“I suggest that you stay away from my friend for the rest of the night, and any other night you decide to come back. Otherwise, next time it’ll be on the head.” Sierra held up the pitcher she had used as a missile.
June was surprised that it hadn’t broken. It was thick glass, but still, Sierra had hit the man pretty hard. It definitely had to have hurt.
After eyeing the pitcher for a moment, the man stalked off, rubbing his shoulder and mumbling something about having them fired.
“Are you okay? You have to stand up for yourself in the future. What if I hadn’t been right around the corner?” Sierra shook her head, her blond curls bouncing around her narrow shoulders. “Are you gonna just let brutes like him put their hands on you?” she admonished.
“I– Thank you. I owe you another one.” June shrugged. It seemed Sierra didn’t care what others did or the consequences of her actions. She always acted first and thought about consequences later. “What if we get in trouble for hurting a customer?”
“Don’t worry about it. They wouldn’t even fire us if we hurt all the customers. We practically run this place.” Sierra placed her hands on her hips, blue eyes full of energy and confidence. “Come on, don’t be such a worrier.”
June giggled. “I hope you’re right. Come on, we have to get the rest of the tables cleared for the next set of people. It’s getting late so fast!”
Sierra nodded and the two began the heavy task of cleaning the dining room.
They each started on one side of the room and gathered up all of the dishes first. Then, they went back and changed all of the tablecloths, wiped down the chairs, and swept the floor.
They knew it needed to be completed quickly, because they still had to somehow manage to wash the majority of the stacks of dishes in the kitchen before the next group of people came to eat.
The combination hotel and diner was one of the busiest in Chicago, and yet there were only two workers besides June and Sierra. One of them was the cook, and the other handled charging and getting people settled either at a table or a room for the night. They were overworked, and usually overtired, but they did it for the future they dreamed of.
Their entire lives, they had been working for others, told what to do by others. Now, they were finally in control of their own destinies.
The basic cleaning of the dining area took less time than usual and before long they were back in the kitchen, eyeing down one of the biggest piles of dishes they had ever seen.
Every night there was a huge tower of dishes, and every night it seemed larger than the one before.
However, June knew that it wasn’t possible. The restaurant had the same number of dishes it had when they had started working there. After a shift, there was never a single clean dish left.
“Do you want to wash or rinse tonight?” Sierra gave her a lopsided grin.
“I’ll take the wash to start,” June offered. She picked up the small piece of fabric they used to scrub the dishes and rubbed it in the soap until it had plenty of suds.
“You know, I think this is yet another example of why we are great friends.”
“What?” June looked at Sierra with raised eyebrows. Leave it to her friend to always come up with something interesting to talk about to make the time pass faster.
“The washing thing. How is it that you always enjoy washing the dishes more than rinsing them? I mean, I always let you pick, but you never choose to rinse.”
June laughed. “I don’t know. I guess I just like the feel of soaping up the dishes. I like the hot water and the squeaky-clean feeling the plates get when I scrub them.” She added mischievously, “is there a problem with that?”
Sierra shook her head vigorously. “Of course not.”
Washing the dishes was no easy or quick task. Once they finally had stacks and stacks of clean plates, bowls, coffee cups, and pots and pans, they had a whole host of other things to finish.
They first emptied the dirty water they had used to wash the dishes, then took clean towels to dry the dishes thoroughly.
“Finally, almost done,” June exclaimed as she set a stack of twelve plates in the crate where they went.
Despite the hard work and monotony of washing dishes, there was something satisfying about seeing the crates slowly fill with perfectly cleaned and dried plates.
“Thank goodness! Cook already told me that the place is filling up again. I just took the first crate of plates to him.” Sierra placed the empty crate down to prove her point.
“My goodness, does no one ever eat at home in the city?” June felt like crying. She wasn’t sure what it was, today, but what she did know was that she was already exhausted, and it felt like they could never really finish a job without there being another one to do directly after it.
“Come on, June. It’s okay. You know why we are doing this. Just think about that.” Sierra wrapped her arm around June’s shoulders and pulled her close.
“I know, I know. It’s just… sometimes, I wish we could just go home already.” June squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. She needed to be strong. She and Sierra needed to be strong for each other. They didn’t have time to waste thinking about the hardships of their situation.
“We are going to be ready soon. It shouldn’t be long now, and then we can say goodbye to this city, this hotel, and every single thing that we hate about our lives here. We just have to tough it out.” Sierra pulled back and placed her hands on June’s shoulders. “You good?”
“Yeah, I’m good. I just need to keep my thoughts off all the negatives,” June admitted as she plastered a smile on her face and looked into her friend’s eyes.
Sometimes, she wondered if Sierra really did never feel discouraged or want to give up, or if she just acted strong and happy for June’s sake.
“Girls, customers are waiting. I need your help out here! Are you planning on joining me tonight?” Cook’s rumbling voice interrupted them, and they sprang into action.
“Sorry, Cook. We’ll be right out,” June called. She checked her hair for any stray strands poking out, then tied a fresh apron over her dress.
She gave Cook a friendly smile as she passed him into the dining area, where already three tables were full of people waiting to be served.
June knew Cook wasn’t his real name. The day that the owner of the hotel had introduced him, however, he’d called him Cook and it had stuck.
Cook didn’t talk about his past, where he came from, or why he let people call him that, and June didn’t ask. They all seemed to have dark pasts that were better left alone.
“Hey, waitress girl! Over here!” A group of rowdy young people was sitting at a table near the door. One was waving her over with an impatient expression.
June walked towards them with trepidation in her heart. She hated crowds like this. Before she even reached the table, she knew they were the kind of people who would humiliate her and make fun of her.
All the young people did. It was rare to find kind people in this business, especially people her own age.
There were two young women and three young men at the table. The girls’ hair was curled artificially and hung in perfect ringlets down to their shoulders.
They kept their noses tipped slightly up, as if they smelled something bad in the restaurant.
“Look at that, she didn’t get lost on the way over,” one of the girls said, nudging the other and smirking.
The table burst into laughter. June had to fight the urge to groan out loud. Their jokes weren’t funny. June wasn’t even convinced that they thought it was funny. They just made sure to laugh to try and make her feel bad.
They have no effect on you, June. Keep your head high.
June tried to repeat the thought over and over to believe it, but it was hard. Even though she knew their words held no truth, after it had happened so often, it did hurt.
“What can I get you today?” June asked. She was proud to hear that her voice didn’t waver, and she didn’t break her gaze with the young man, who wasn’t laughing.
She was surprised he wasn’t joining in. Usually, the entire group liked to make fun of her simultaneously.
“We’ll all have the fried chicken.” The young man who wasn’t laughing had a kind and gentle voice, and June felt herself smile slightly.
“Tom, cut it out. You know she’s just the help. Stop flirting with the servant girl.” One of the girls quickly wiped the smile off of June’s face.
“I’ll be right back with that,” June managed tightly.
She hurried back to the kitchen, weaving back and forth between tables, trying to get to a private place as soon as she could.
She found herself in the washroom, where there was already a stack of dishes growing all over again. She leaned against the wall and let herself sink to the floor.
“What’s wrong?” Sierra’s voice startled her.
“What are you doing here?” June asked. She hadn’t realized Sierra had followed her.
“I saw you leave after someone at that table said something to you. I know the look you had on our face.”
June shook her head. “I can’t do this anymore, Sierra. We need to go. We can’t wait any longer.”
Sierra sighed. “Fine. We will find a way. I don’t know how; just stick with it a little longer,” she whispered encouragingly. “We won’t wait another year as we planned, but we do need to stick it out for a few more days until we make a new plan, okay?”
June nodded, wiping the back of her hand across her cheek to remove a tear that had escaped her eye.
“Thank you, Sierra. I’m sorry. I just can’t take the way that people look at us here anymore. I can’t stand their demeaning comments.”
“I understand, I feel the same way. I just hope that we’ll make it. I want us to go out there and be successful for the first time. I don’t want to have to come back here – not for anything in the world.”
Sierra turned and headed back toward the crowded dining area. “Chin up, June. We’ll be out of here before you know it.”
Sierra was careful to curve her hand around the match to protect the flame while lighting her lamp. As the light flickered and danced across the wall, she looked over at June’s sleeping form.
Even in her sleep, June’s expression looked pained. Her friend was tired. She knew that. It was why Sierra could never let her walls down around June.
June was like a fragile bird, stuck in a dark and scary world. Sierra always imagined June in a huge house with a grand piano, singing and playing for audiences of rich aristocrats who had traveled long distances to see her.
Her friend was delicate, graceful, and beautiful. She wasn’t meant to be a manual worker, pushed past her limits until her body and mind couldn’t take it any longer.
But no one had asked them what they wanted or what they were meant for.
A little smile slipped over Sierra’s face as she remembered how they used to sneak into the hall of the orphanage. There had been a piano there, and Sierra would keep watch while June taught herself to play.
She couldn’t play complicated pieces or sing the opera, but Sierra was convinced there was nothing so beautiful as her friend’s music.
She sighed and pulled out a little book from under her mattress. She poised a charcoal pencil above the page and then began to write.
Today was rough. June said she can’t do this anymore. I know she’s right. We need to get out of here. I have a plan. I’m going to talk to the stagecoach master tomorrow. We will be leaving Chicago soon. I can feel it.
We have to. We just can’t wait any longer.
Sierra didn’t know why writing about each day was so important to her. Maybe it was because she wanted to remember what it was like to have nothing. She never wanted to forget what they had done to become successful.
Chewing on her lip, she thought hard. She had no idea what they were going to do or where they were going to go. They needed a plan, but what? They couldn’t continue on like this, so they were going to have to come up with something – and soon.
Too tired to write any more or to do anything else, she blew out the lamp and flopped back on the creaky bed beneath her. Another day gone. They were one more day closer to leaving Chicago.
In the wee hours of the next morning, Sierra reluctantly opened her eyes. A soft thumping filled the room, and she grinned.
In the distance, the sound of the piano from the saloon playing could be heard. It was a well-known song and the thumping she had heard was June, dancing to the tune while she hummed it.
Sierra watched her friend flit around the bedroom. She looked so graceful, so beautiful. Her eyes were closed and she twirled effortlessly.
“You’re awake! Come dance with me before the song ends.” June pulled Sierra from her bed before she could protest and began to spin her around the room.
Soon, the two girls collapsed in fits of giggles on the floor. “You know how to make every situation better,” Sierra cried, when she’d finally caught her breath.
June’s look turned somber. “I don’t know about that. Just when I hear music, everything else seems to fade away.”
“I don’t know what I would do without you, June Andrews.” Sierra shook her head.
“You will never have to find out. You know we’ll stick together forever.” June smiled. “One thing I would like to try is playing the violin. There’s a man who plays in town and it is simply beautiful. It’s like a bird singing in the forest,” she added, closing her eyes dramatically.
Sierra giggled and pulled June to her feet. “Leave it to you to dream of more music. I don’t know what it is about it that is so alluring to you. Come on, we’re going to be late for the breakfast rush and get in trouble.”
Sierra couldn’t wipe the smile off of her face as they prepared for the day. Yes, the job was tough and generally back-breaking, but she was doing it with her best friend and that made it tolerable.
“Do you ever get tired of this?” June asked, preparing a tray of toast and fresh jam.
“You know that I don’t like it, but our end goal keeps me going.” Sierra didn’t say how she really felt.
Of course, she got tired. Some days, she hated every minute she had to work. She hated the rude customers and the men who looked at them as if they were a lower class of people.
But she never told June that. She maintained her positive outlook because she hated to see her friend down, and she knew that if she didn’t, they’d never pull through this.
“Here’s your breakfast, girls.” Cook set two large plates in front of them, piled high with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and fresh fruit. It was the difference of night to day compared to the food they had received at the orphanage.
“June, could you cover both our shifts for about half an hour this morning? I need to go into town and check something out about what we talked about last night,” Sierra asked between quick bites of food.
“Sure, I can try. Where are you gonna go?” June’s eyes lit up and she even stopped eating as she awaited an answer.
“The post office, I think that there might be a stagecoach leaving soon, for Kansas.”
“Kansas? That’s out west, right?”
“Of course it is. I’ve heard it’s beautiful, and there are sure to be some good jobs out there.”
“Really? Do you think we can afford the fare for the stagecoach?” June looked uncertain.
“I certainly hope so. You know what else I heard?” Sierra leaned in a little closer.
“I heard there are lots of handsome farmers there, looking for wives.”
June wrinkled her nose and giggled, “You really think someone will want to marry us? I’ve heard a lot of stories about the west. Some people say it’s dangerous. And there are Indians, too.”
Sierra shook her head. “Always afraid of the risks, June. Come on. We’ve talked about this; the west is the best place for us to go if we really want a new start in life. Everyone here in the city will always treat us the same. Do you really want to work here for the rest of our lives?”
“No, no. You’re right. Kansas sounds absolutely perfect. Go ahead, I’ll cover for you. But hurry, you know how Cook gets when we get behind. I can only do so much.”
Sierra nodded and tucked the last bit of a biscuit into her mouth. Cook was very understanding if one of them covered for the other, but if they started to get behind, he would get more than a little testy.
“I’ll see you in a bit.” Sierra gave June’s hand a squeeze and hurried out of the hotel.
She paused a moment to breathe in a deep breath of the fresh morning air. The sun was just coming up, and the first customers were either coming down from their rooms or walking in from the street.
Sierra smiled. She could already feel this was going to be a good day. She nearly ran to the post office. It was almost fifteen minutes away, and she didn’t want to leave June to do things on her own for too long.
When she got there, she had to wait for the three people in front of her.
She tapped her foot impatiently. This was taking longer than she would have liked. When she finally to the front to talk with the man behind the counter, she put on her biggest smile.
“How can I help you miss?” The man eyed her warily.
“I heard there is a stagecoach leaving for Kansas in a week.”
The man nodded. “There is. What interest do you have?”
“Are there any seats left?” Sierra held her breath as the man shuffled through a few papers and pulled one to the front.
“There are two seats left.”
“I’ll take them.”
The man looked at her untrustingly. “You have the money for that?”
“I do.” Sierra fished through her pocket until she brought up the required amount.
“Well, who would have known. You know, Kansas can be a dangerous place for young women like yourself.”
Sierra gave a short nod. “I’m well aware.” She waited until she was sure the man had written down all of her information and that she had paid for the tickets.
“Well, good luck to ya. You should take care to watch out for thieves and bandits. I hear that out west, they are as thick as mosquitoes,” he advised, nodding his head knowingly.
Sierra gave him one more quick smile before taking off back to the hotel at the fastest pace she could. She pushed away the small, fearful part of her that mulled over his parting words.
They were going to Kansas. Suddenly, their time left in Chicago seemed much too short. They had only one week left before they would be starting their new life of adventure and freedom.
“I can’t believe we are finally doing this!” June squealed, holding up her battered satchel.
“I know, me either – look! There it is!” Sierra pointed to the stagecoach, stopped in front of the post office. There were several people milling around, saying goodbye to an old woman and a little boy.
“I wonder who they are?” June said softly.
“They’re probably the other passengers.” Sierra shrugged. She didn’t really care who else was going in the stagecoach as long as they were in it, traveling together toward a better future.
“Come on, let’s see if we can just get in since no one will be coming to say goodbye to us.”
June gave her a pointed look.
“Hey, don’t worry about it, it’s nothing bad. Look at it this way, at least we can sit inside until we are ready to go instead of waiting standing up.”
June shrugged her shoulders but didn’t do anything to show she agreed with Sierra.
“You wait here, I’m going to go ask. Then we’ll see what to do.”
Sierra left June standing there and before she could answer, she had already moved through the crowd and made her way up to the window. “Is it okay if my friend and I wait inside the stagecoach?”
“Sure. I think they’re leaving in a few minutes.”
Sierra nodded her thanks, then hurried back to June. They were so excited that the two of them practically ran to get into the stagecoach.
“This is happening! We are really leaving Chicago forever.” June wrapped her arms around herself in a strange kind of hug.
“Well, I am certainly not going to miss Chicago one little bit,” Sierra exclaimed.
June smiled. “Me, either.”
“We leave in two minutes!” The driver’s voice interrupted their conversation.
The old woman they had seen on the platform got into the small coach, along with the little boy. They took their seats across from June and Sierra. Sierra knew there were stagecoaches that could take more people, but this one was on the small side.
Four people were just about the perfect amount of people for it.
“Hello, there,” the old woman said. “Harry, say hello.” She put her hand on the little boy’s shoulder and squeezed it.
“Hello,” the boy mumbled.
“Don’t mind him, he’s a little shy with everyone. Where are the two of you headed?”
“The heart of Kansas!” Sierra said enthusiastically.
“That’s wonderful! We are headed to Kansas, ourselves. Not the heart, exactly, more like the edge. But still, we will probably travel most of the journey together.”
At that moment, the stagecoach jolted as it began to pull away from the station.
“It’s nice to meet you,” said Sierra politely. After that, the silence stretched between them all.
Sierra was uncertain what else she should say to continue a conversation, and June didn’t seem to know what to say, either.
After a while, June fell asleep, leaning her head against the side of the coach.
Sierra felt a rush of happiness – for the first time in a long time, her friend looked happy. Not strained or anxious, but just peaceful and happy.
She smiled and leaned her own head against the opposite side of the stagecoach. They were on their way. Now, it was just a matter of patience.
Ryker leaned back against the log by the fire and crossed his ankles. It had been a long but fruitful day.
“Hey, boss, what are we doing next?” Tom asked.
Ryker shook his head. Tom and Darren were too ambitious for their own good.
“Not sure, yet. We have to be careful. The sheriff from Whitestar is already close on our tail. We wouldn’t want him getting any closer because we’ve gotten careless.”
Tom scoffed. “I’m not scared of some small-town sheriff – if he gets in our way, we can just take care of him.”
Ryker straightened up a bit. He expected this kind of talk from his men. They were used to this kind of behavior from previous gangs that they had worked with.
“We don’t work like that,” Ryker said evenly.
“What do you mean? He’s a sheriff.” Tom looked incredulous.
“I know he’s a sheriff, and I also know that the two of you work for me.” Ryker wasn’t in the mood to make explanations, but it seemed he didn’t have a choice.
“We are not going to just go around robbing and killing whoever we please. We only steal from people who can afford it. You got that?”
“Sure, whatever.” Tom rolled his eyes and began to whittle something with his pocket knife.
Ryker watched him for a few moments. He didn’t exactly care a whole lot for either Darren or Tom, but he was trying to be patient with them.
They had only been working together for around six months, and Ryker knew it would take longer than that to build their chemistry and learn to work together.
“I’m going to lay low and rest for a few days. I suggest the two of you do the same. When we see the chance for a new job, we’ll take it.”
They all continued eating in silence. Ryker let his gaze get lost in the fire. They had been fairly successful in the last couple of months. Maybe they hadn’t gotten as much as Ryker had with his previous crew, or as much as he had when he had worked alone, but still, it was enough.
They would change camp again in a few days. It was dangerous to stay in the same place for too long. Hunter had not given up on putting them all behind bars and lately, he was coming much too close for Ryker’s liking.
“I’m going to turn in,” he announced gruffly, pushing himself up off the ground and walking to his tent.
Once inside, he sat down on the ground and pulled the small wooden box in the corner toward himself.
He paused for a moment. This was always a special part of his day. The smooth wooden box was adorned with a silver clasp, which he undid gently while pushing back the lid.
Inside was an instrument. It was delicate, with striped wood and four strings. Ryker lifted the violin to his shoulder and plucked the strings quietly, adjusting them until they were tuned to his satisfaction.
He pulled the bow across a string and let himself enjoy the sweet note for a few seconds before continuing.
Soon, the notes of a musical piece were floating around him, taking his mind far away from the dark campsite where he sat.
His mother had played the violin, and she’d taught him from a young age in hopes that one day he, too, would enjoy it.
He couldn’t thank her enough for doing so. His violin was oftentimes one of the only things that kept him sane.
He had always loved the way the violin sounded, but when he had started having tough problems of his own, he had come to a whole new appreciation for it.
The music he made with it seemed to carry his problems far, far away, onto the wind where they floated away and were lost.
After a frustrating, battered past, Ryker couldn’t ask for anything better to accompany him. His violin was his companion and friend.
Once he had spent a good amount of time practicing, he tucked his violin safely back into its case, covering it with a soft cloth and locking the clasp back down with a click. Sighing, he lay down on his makeshift bed and rested his head on the pillow.
He let his eyes close slowly, remembering a time when he was young when he and Hunter hadn’t been so different and had lived in the same town. He went over the scenario again in his mind as he had done many times before, trying to retrace the days that had led him to this night in a camp in the woods.
It seemed like a dream. So much had changed since then.
Ryker walked through the market. The heavy feed sack on his back felt as if it gained a few pounds with each step he took.
He looked over to the field, where there were several other young boys playing a game of ball.
He groaned inwardly. If only he could be like those boys. But he wasn’t. He didn’t have a father, and his mother needed him to be strong for her.
He didn’t have the option to play with friends, or even to go to school anymore. His job at the feed store took every bit of his extra time and then some.
The boys were watching him as he passed, as well. He could tell they didn’t think much of him. In fact, they looked away, scowled or whispered as he passed.
Having arrived at his destination, Ryker dumped the large bag of feed into the wagon he’d been directed to. A moment later, a man and a younger man who appeared to be his son came out from the general store.
Ryker waited for a moment. He wasn’t sure what he expected. The feed store was responsible for paying him, not the man, so there was no reason for him to stick around.
He turned and walked reluctantly back to the feed store and mill where he worked. He wondered what it would have been like to keep going to school for a couple more years. Or what it would be like to be allowed to stay home and help his parents on the ranch. But he knew he would never have that experience.
He only had his mother, and they weren’t wealthy enough for him to not have to work.
“Took you long enough,” the man at the feed mill said, shaking his head. “Here, there’s two more to deliver. One to Mr. Franklin over near the hotel, and the other to the Smiths. Their wagon is up by the doc’s place.”
Ryker nodded without comment. He took the two bags and headed toward the hotel without skipping a beat. His job depended on keeping the man who owned the mill happy.
He made quick work of the deliveries and when he was done, he realized that dusk was approaching. It was time for him to get home.
After saying goodbye to the mill owner, he gathered his things and began the long walk home.
Just as he was about to leave town, he spotted a small group of boys his age, talking beside the last store in town.
“Look who’s coming,” one of them said.
“No, we shouldn’t stare,” one of the others responded.
Ryker fought to keep his head held high. He knew they were talking about him. Of course, a town needed someone or something to gossip about and, in this town, he was what kept a lot of people occupied.
He shouldn’t mind, but there were times when he wished with all his might that he could just be someone else.
After a long and lonely walk, he finally spotted the little cabin on the hill that he shared with his mother.
Their ranch wasn’t near as close to town as everyone else’s, and it made the walk that much more miserable.
But Ryker liked it that way, too. It meant they had their privacy away from prying, sympathetic eyes that were too nosy for their own good.
Ryker hurried his step just a little as he drew closer. Getting home was his favorite part of the day.
He paused at the door, made sure his boots were clean, and gave his clothes a little brush off to make sure he didn’t have any feed or dirt stuck to them before pushing through the door into the cabin.
A rush of warm, delicious-smelling air hit him right away.
“Ryker? Is that you?” His mother sounded cheerful. Ryker knew that the days were long and hard for her, maybe even more so than they were for him.
But she never complained. She was always waiting for him with a warm, freshly-cooked meal and a smile.
He grinned as he walked into the kitchen. “Who else would it be ma?” he teased with a chuckle.
“I suppose you’re right… but you never know.” His mother gave him a quick hug and motioned for him to sit down.
“Dinner is going to get cold. You took longer than usual, did you stop somewhere?”
Ryker nodded. “I know, Ma. There were more deliveries to do, so I had to stay a little late today. I’m sorry.”
His mother shook her head. “Don’t worry about it. I know you always do everything you can to be home on time.”
Ryker gave a tight smile. There were so many times he had been tempted to linger in town, maybe take a few minutes to do something fun. But the thought of his mother waiting for him with dinner ready always made him head home as soon as he could.
Seeing her happy grin and glowing face made that choice worth it, just as it always did.
He was going to work hard to become a doctor. Someday, he would become a wealthy man, and he was going to provide for his mother. He was not going to let poverty keep them down forever. Ryker smiled.
People in town could talk all they wanted. He had a family, no matter how small it was.
“Following the Path of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
June and her best friend Sierra have recently decided to leave the orphanage where they grew up the rough way. Now they are ready to follow a new path and finally find happiness together. Nevertheless, their quest for a new life will soon turn into a risky adventure that will change everyone involved forever. Will their friendship survive the challenges they will face? Will their worst nightmare of losing each other become a reality?
Hunter and Ryker have had a rivalry for years. They may have grown up in the same town, but they have gone down two very different roads. They are destined to fight one another until one of them is defeated. Both of them carry their own emotional burdens that have stigmatized their lives. Is there any chance that they come to terms with each other? How will an unexpected event change their life plans radically?
June and Sierra will have to overcome their trust issues in order to survive. Hunter and Ryker, on the other hand, have to give the benefit of the doubt to each other. When the four of them come up against each other, how will the balance of their relations be disturbed? Will they manage to handle all the conflicts and the ordeals they will go through?
“Following the Path of Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.