Maybelle Tippin sat in the chair offered to her, feeling a little sick to her stomach. The man’s office was small, and it wasn’t really even an office. It was a caravan, part of several that traveled around the great state of Arizona. That’s how they did business, buying and selling properties.
Maybelle had always been under the impression real estate was a profitable business. But these people didn’t act like they were wealthy. They wore dark, grungy-looking clothes, often smelled bad due to lack of personal hygiene and constantly traveling, and were usually avoided unless necessary. Only an emergency would bring a person to a place like this.
If there was ever an emergency, though, this was one. Maybelle was desperate. After her father’s passing last week, she’d quickly discovered that he hadn’t been the man she’d looked up to all her life. She’d always been proud of him. Her mother had died when she was just four years old and her father, Tobias, had raised her on his own – with the help of several nannies, of course. He’d provided well for her, and when he passed, she fully expected to inherit quite a substantial sum, enough to keep her in her beautiful home and with the lifestyle she was used to.
But that didn’t happen.
Tobias had been running a gambling ring that had ultimately cost him greatly in the end. Not only was Maybelle not getting an inheritance, but she was also inheriting the significant debts Tobias had garnered in the last few years of his life.
At twenty-two, she found herself in a position where she needed to sell the legitimate side of her father’s business and the house along with it.
The real estate gypsies were the only ones Maybelle knew who would give her a fair sum. She needed enough to pay off his debtors, or they might come looking for her. She didn’t want to pay for her father’s sins with her own skin and blood. She shuddered to think what those people would do to her.
Louise Mason, her best friend and companion leftover from the days when she’d required a nanny, was sitting behind her. Louise knew everything about the situation she was in. She was just seven years older than Maybelle at twenty-nine, unmarried but attractive with prospects.
She, like Maybelle, had known nothing about Tobias’ business dealings. As a nanny, there was no reason for her to. She had come to work for the family at the age of nineteen when Maybelle was twelve. They’d made fast friends and Louise had never left.
When Maybelle grew into a woman, Louise had decided to stay as a companion. She was paid the same wage until Tobias died, and the scheme came crashing down around Maybelle’s head. Not only had Tobias driven his debt sky-high, but he’d also been living way beyond his means personally – taking trips abroad, buying expensive clothes and jewelry for his ladies, whom he spent lavishly on.
He’d given Maybelle an allowance once a week and, according to Louise, had never missed a payment to her for her services as a companion.
At the reading of the will, wherein it was stated that Tobias had died a pauper owing thousands of dollars to various people and places, Louise had told Maybelle she would stay by her side, that she didn’t need to be paid to be Maybelle’s friend.
She looked nervously over her shoulder when the caravan’s door opened, and a gruff-looking man stepped up into the room. He nodded at her and passed her by.
She smelled a faint odor as he went by, but it wasn’t as offensive as some. She glanced at Louise, who gave her a look of confidence. She had brought Maybelle to be introduced to the man, Big Lou Timberlake. She could see why he was called that. It wasn’t an oxymoron. He had to be at least six-foot-three or more, roughly two-hundred-twenty-two pounds of solid muscle. He wore an oversized red shirt that showed the muscles in his arms and chest poking against it. His jacket made him look even bigger, and with a bushy beard and mustache, he looked about as intimidating as a man could get.
“You Maybelle Tippin?” he asked. His voice was surprisingly smooth for a man who looked so rough.
She nodded. “Yes, that’s me.”
“You have business and property to sell, that right?” The man’s brown eyes shifted to Louise and then back to Maybelle.
“Yes, that’s right,” she responded. She was almost breathless with apprehension. The man looked like he could eat them both for lunch. She was reminded of an ogre and then felt guilty for thinking such things about a man she didn’t even know.
“Let’s see the deeds. You do have the paperwork with you, don’t you?”
“Oh! Yes.” Maybelle pulled her bag up onto her lap and undid the clasp to open it. She reached in and shuffled around a bit until she saw the small stack of papers. “Here you go.” She handed them to the man.
The next ten minutes were silent as the man looked over the documents. He asked a few simple questions Maybelle was grateful to know the answers to. When he finally nodded and quoted his price, Maybelle was able to relax a little. The amount would pay off the debts and give her a small amount to work with until she figured out what to do.
She nodded at him and thanked him, accepting his offer. They shook on it, signed where they needed to, and the man wrote Maybelle a check.
“Take this to the bank in Tumbleweed Junction,” he said, handing it to her. “They know my money is good there and will cash it for you.”
Maybelle nodded, looking down at the cash, denying the tears that threatened to rise. “I will take it there. That’s where I’m from.”
“Yes, I know. Take care of yourselves.” The man lifted one hand and flicked his fingers at them as if to say they were dismissed and should immediately leave.
Maybelle didn’t mind. She was taking her money and getting out of there.
As much of a relief as it was to have the house and businesses sold, Maybelle worked herself into a panic on the way back to the house that was no longer hers. She had five days to pack everything she wanted to take and move on.
Where would she go? What would she do? She’d never had to have a job. She’d never even cleaned off a table, folded a blanket, nothing that required the least amount of energy. She was used to painting, taking music lessons, and socializing.
She’d never thought of herself as spoiled. Tobias hadn’t given her that much money and, in reality, very little attention to make her believe she was unique in any way. She was just not used to thinking about getting a job.
And she had no idea where to start.
Maybelle could see by the look on Louise’s face there was something she wanted to say. She studied Louise’s profile for a moment, noticing how the young woman kept her eyes straight forward, almost unblinking, as she was so deep in her thoughts.
“Hello, Louise…” Maybelle waved one hand in front of her friend’s face. “Where are you? What’s wrong? What are you thinking about?”
Louise gave her a side-glance, slapping the reins gently so the horses would pick up the pace slightly. “Oh, just everything that’s going on. It’s not going to be an easy journey, you know. For you or me. I’m so used to… being in that big house, enjoying the luxury with you, being envious that it wasn’t mine…” She sighed, chuckling softly. “Yes, I’ll miss that a lot.”
Maybelle scoffed, shaking her head. “Look where it got me. Just look where it got me. Debt-free but without a home, a job, or any money. Well, not a lot of money. I don’t know what I’m going to do. If I try to pay for the boarding house, I’ll be out in a few months because I’d run out of money. I could get a job, but what in heaven’s name would I do? I was a socialite, a lay-about.”
“Like a lazy princess…” Louise teased, giving her a wink.
Maybelle laughed. “Yes. Exactly like that. What can I do? Sell smiles?”
“You could start with some of the clothes you have.”
Maybelle felt a little stab in her heart, thinking about giving up her wardrobe. She held a great deal of pride in the things she wore, her own personal style. She tried to keep ahead of the trends, be a trend-maker herself, and all of her items of clothing were a treasure to her.
“I reckon I could,” she said, feeling downhearted. “I don’t want to do that. Surely there’s something else I can sell. Furniture? Mother’s jewelry?”
Louise sighed. “I think you’ll find most of the furniture and jewelry are cheap copies of the expensive stuff. I doubt you will get much money from them. Besides, I think the house was just purchased with everything in it, right?”
Maybelle gave Louise a narrow side-glance. “My mother’s jewelry, real or not, is coming with me. I’m not leaving everything I own with these people. I’m taking my clothes, personal items, and anything else I can stick in the back of the wagon.”
Louise nodded. “I understand, Belle.”
That was the thing about Louise. No matter how riled up Maybelle got over anything, she was always calm and could bring the situation under control with just a few words. Maybelle felt her heartbeat slowing down. She’d gotten way too excited. It wasn’t good for her to be like that. She didn’t like the pain that getting excited like that brought to her chest. It made it difficult to breathe, which scared Maybelle.
“So, what are you going to do now? You only have days to leave the house, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. As soon as I get home, I’ll start packing up the things I want with me. Well, first, I’ll get something to eat. Then I’ll start looking for things to pack. I don’t think I’ll have more than a few trunks of things. But then again, I’d need somewhere to take all that stuff. I guess I’m going to the boarding house.”
Anxiety shot through her at the idea. How much her life would change now. And would she be able to accept how different everything would be? From living in a big house with just her, her father, and a few servants to a boarding house with rowdy mine or construction workers passing her door every few minutes, other residents and guests talking and laughing…
The thought made her want to weep. From a house to a room.
One single room.
“Don’t even think about that,” Louise said, grabbing her attention. “You’ll be coming to stay with me. It’s the only thing to do. You have nowhere else to go, and my place is cozy.”
Maybelle stared at her friend. She hadn’t even known Louise had a place of her own. She was always at the Tippins’.
Louise laughed when she saw the look on Maybelle’s face. “What? Yes, I have a home of my own. Of course, I do. Did you think I was living with you and your father?”
Maybelle didn’t answer. She just gave Louise an amused smile that made her friend laugh again.
“Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I do have my own place. It’s a cottage on the outskirts of the Junction. My parents left it to me when they went abroad to seek a fortune in fabric. I told you that story.”
“Yes, you did. Many times.” Maybelle was always impressed by how often Louise spoke of her parents and how wonderful the pair were. She’d felt the same way about her father and was still trying to come to terms with the man not being everything she thought he was all through her childhood. “But you failed to mention that they had left you a cottage. How is it that I’ve never been there?”
Louise let out a tittering laugh, sounding a little nervous. “Like I was going to bring the little rich girl to that cottage.” She winked at Maybelle. “You’ll like it now. But before all this happened, you wouldn’t have been impressed. I know you, though, and you’ll be satisfied as long as you’re safe and comfortable. You will be at my place. That’s just until you figure out what you want to do, of course. I’m not going to trap you there forever.”
Maybelle had to laugh with her friend. “You couldn’t trap me if you wanted to, Lou. I enjoy spending time with you too much. You might be hard-pressed to get rid of me.”
Both women continued bantering with each other until they got back to the large house Maybelle had grown up in and was accustomed to.
She hadn’t thought about the beauty of the front lawn that stretched out in front of the big building and of the house itself. Tall and majestic, three stories high, more room than either of them needed. It was white with black shutters that flanked the many windows stretching to the left and right from the double front doors.
Louise pulled the buggy around to the front steps, and Maybelle jumped down. When she looked up at the front doors, she half-expected to see her father pop out and hold his arms open wide to receive a hug from his girl. She had indeed been his girl. She had been from the moment she was born to the moment he died.
Despite the illegal schemes he’d had in the works.
Her father hadn’t been a bad man. He’d just been running businesses illegally and making money hand over fist doing it. He used that money to give himself a happy, outgoing, fun life and showered his daughter with gifts whenever he felt like it, special occasion or not.
It was amazing that he had never been caught doing anything wrong. Not once in his entire life. None of it had come out until after he was already gone.
Maybelle wondered if her amazing father had planned it that way. It sure seemed like he had the best of luck. She’d never been one to espouse luck. She attributed everything that was good to God. How could God bestow the blessings of wealth, happiness, and charm on a man who was doing things against the law?
“I’d love to stay with you at your cottage, Lou. Thank you so much for the invitation.”
“You know you’re welcome to anything I have, Belle. You aren’t the type to take advantage of other people. You don’t do it to others, so you don’t expect it to be done to you. My things are your things.” She grinned wide. “At least until you move out. Please don’t take all my things with you.”
Maybelle tilted her head back and let out a sharp laugh toward the sky. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with everything I want to take with me when I leave. I doubt I’ll be getting my hands on anything of yours. But really… thank you, my friend. You are so dear to me. I’m so grateful and blessed to have you in my life.”
Louise put her arm around Maybelle’s, so they were linked at the elbow as they went up the steps to go into the mansion. “I think I have the perfect solution for you, Belle. You’ll have to hear me out. But I think I know what would be the best solution for you.”
“You do?” Maybelle was curious.
“Yes. Mail-order bride advertisements. You can pick up a magazine like Marriage Times and look for one. I-”
“Mail-order…” Maybelle interrupted Louise in a soft voice. The idea was intriguing. She squeezed Louise’s arm with her hand, grinning. “I hadn’t thought about that before. Thank you! I think it’s a good idea. Let’s get a paper. Right now!”
Laughing, both women turned and ran down the few steps they’d taken to get back in the buggy and head to the nearest paper stand.
Gabe Cowlin looked out across the field in front of him, pondering what to do. He’d been sheriff in Silver City, Arizona, for only a year, taking over for his father, Sherman, who had been shot in the leg and left crippled in a way that kept him from being an efficient lawman. He had grown bitter against the occupation anyway, and it was time he left it, even though he was fairly young at fifty.
The letter Gabe had received was burning a hole in his back pocket. He was forcing himself to wait to read it until all the deputies were back from their rounds and reporting all good news. He wanted to be in front of a desk with time to write back before he read it.
Gabe had discovered that he was unable to concentrate on his job when he read her letters in the middle of the day.
He was intrigued by the woman. They’d been conversing for one month, and he’d received three letters from her, the last one in his pocket unread. She was in Tumbleweed Junction, which was only an hour’s ride away. He’d never heard of any woman answering an ad if she was already in the west. Most of them knew what it was like by that point and wanted nothing to do with it. Life was hard, a lot of work, and sometimes the weather made it almost impossible to grow food or even work. Sometimes it was necessary to rely on friends and family to survive a particularly nasty winter.
But lawmen worked year-round despite those things. It was a steady paycheck, and Gabe was grateful for the opportunity. He’d been working as a deputy under his father for ten years. He was nearing thirty, and it was time to have a family. At least, that’s what he’d been telling himself for the past year.
When he’d placed the ad in the paper, he’d fully expected women from the east or north would write to him. To have someone so close to home sending him charming letters was a Godsend. She wouldn’t have to assimilate to the change in the environment much.
One of his deputies and a good friend, Mark, turned a corner near the barn and headed toward him on his horse. Gabe was glad to see him. He was feeling anxious, wanting the day to be over so he could read the letter and write back to his woman.
He was thinking of her that way now. She’d told him he could in the last letter and asked if he would be willing to meet with her before they decided to marry. Since they were so close, it wasn’t as inconvenient as it might have been had she been from the east or north.
He liked that idea and had written back that he wanted to set that up. Soon. He told her to make a plan and send it in the next message.
That’s the letter that was in his pocket. That letter would tell him whether he had a real shot at gaining a bride in the next month or not. He wanted it to be her.
He lifted one hand to greet Mark as he got closer. “Mark! How is everything?”
“Afternoon, boss,” Mark replied. “Not a thing goin’ on as usual. You?”
Gabe shook his head. “Same with me. Nothing goin’ on.”
“I think you’ll find that with Patrick and Lenny, too. Nothin’s happinin’ right now, Sheriff. We might as well all go home and enjoy the pretty day.”
Gabe laughed. He had his own reasons for wanting to do just that.
“As nice as that sounds, it can’t be done. The people of Silver City need to be safe.”
Mark nodded. “At all times.” He finished the phrase with Gabe. “Yeah, I know, boss, I know. I was just funnin’ with ya. Look, here they are. Looks like they didn’t find anything either.” Mark moved his horse toward the oncoming two deputies. “Howdy! You see anything?”
“Not a thing!” Lenny called back, lifting his hat and lowering his chin in a respectful salute to the sheriff. “Patty didn’t find nothin’ either. Guess he don’t have the luck of the Irish.”
Patrick O’Flannery was a large Irishman whose broad shoulders and wide chest made Gabe feel like a child standing next to him. And he wasn’t a small man himself. Patrick grunted, eyeing Lenny. “There’s a whole lot of my people that ain’t got the luck of the Irish, Lenny. Can’t imagine where that phrase came from.”
“Maybe it’s because your people aren’t lucky, they’re resilient, and every other culture thinks it’s luck that you survive through all the struggles.”
The three deputies gave Gabe a long look before Patrick said, “That’s real flattering, Sheriff. Thanks for that. I believe you might be right.”
Gabe shrugged. “Seems to me your people are as tough as they come. I’m privileged to have you as a deputy. My pa always said the same thing.”
“Well, ain’t that a nice thing,” Patrick said.
“Let’s get back to the office. I want to finish up whatever is left there to do so I can go out and enjoy the day. Who is taking the shifts today, boss?” Lenny gave him a hopeful look. He returned a grin.
“Mark and I are taking the shifts this afternoon. You boys can go and relax.”
Both the deputies seemed to deflate, looks of relief on their faces.
Despite the absolutely beautiful day, Gabe was surprised by their behavior. They weren’t usually so anxious to leave. He wondered what could have been going on in their personal lives to make them want to go so early.
“Is there anythin’ left at the jailhouse to do?” Patrick asked, his accent strong in his excitement.
Gabe studied both the men, shaking his head. “No. Why?”
“We’ve got an afternoon planned with the ladies,” Patrick replied, answering Gabe’s questioning. Amusement slid through Gabe, and he laughed softly.
“Well, best be off with both of ya, then.” He waved his hand. The two deputies looked at each other, turned their horses, and rode off, talking about all the treats they were going to give their ladies.
“What about you?” Mark asked, turning his blue eyes to his boss. “You still writing to that lady?”
“I sure am.” Gabe thought about her, his heart skipping a beat. He would ask her to come to Silver City to meet him. If the letter he had from her in his pocket was positive, he planned to send her the money to get the stagecoach and come down for Sunday services, and they could go to luncheon after. He was excited just thinking about it. He patted his vest over his heart. “Got the latest letter right here in my pocket.”
“When are you gonna read it?” Mark asked, his eyebrows raised. “I can’t believe you’ve been keeping it from yourself. I know you want to read it.”
Gabe shook his head, turning his horse to go in the direction of the jailhouse. “I’ll be distracted from my work all day if I read it. I figured I’d wait until this afternoon when the rounds were done, and if everything was calm and collected, I’ll sit back and read it when I have a pen and paper to write back.”
Mark nodded. “So, the jailhouse then. That’s where you’re gonna read it, right? You’re not gonna wait until you get off work.”
Gabe laughed. “You sound anxious. You got a lot invested in this, too?”
Mark responded with a laugh of his own. “Nah. I’m just glad to see you finally doing something about your personal life. You’ve been dedicating everything to the job and not bothering with any women. Not even at the saloon.”
Gabe shook his head, taking on a more somber look. “I don’t want to waste my time with frivolous women. I need someone to be there by my side all the time, someone I can trust and rely on. Not a fly-by-night kind of girl, you know?”
Mark nodded. “Yeah, I understand, boss.”
“I think this girl might be the one I really do ask to marry me.”
“Have there been others?”
Gabe could tell it was a serious question, not meant to be sarcastic. He’d been a deputy sheriff under his father for seven years before he took over the job when Sherman was injured. He knew the other deputies like the back of his hand. “Nah. I reckon there haven’t been any others.”
“Well, I’m glad you like this one. What’s her name again? May? Mary? Ma…”
“Maybelle,” Gabe responded, cutting him off. “She said to call her Belle because that’s what her friends call her. I like it.”
Mark nodded, a satisfied look on his face. “Belle. Maybelle. Yes, I like it too. Belle Cowlin. Not bad if I do say so myself.”
Both men laughed.
They reached the jailhouse just ten minutes later and both dismounted at the same time. As they bounded up the stairs, chatting about something inconsequential, the door opened. Gabe looked up to see who was coming out and smiled when his father’s cane was the first thing to come through the threshold, followed by the man himself.
“Pa!” he called out, reaching the top of the steps and crossing quickly to take his father’s hand. He continued while they shook. “What are you doing here? You should be resting, shouldn’t you?”
“Bah!” Sherman grunted, throwing one hand in the air in disgust. “I can’t sit on my laurels anymore. I gotta do something, son. I just don’t know what to do.”
“So, you’re bored?” Gabe asked, grinning.
“Yeah. Why? You got something for me to do?”
“I might. Follow me.”
Sherman followed Gabe into the sheriff’s office. He didn’t bother to go around the desk to the chair he had once occupied. Gabe didn’t even think about it. He was used to sitting at what had been his father’s desk. Now it was his. He’d taken over the responsibility easily and comfortably. Being a lawman was the only thing he ever wanted to do. He watched his father capture the bad guy on three separate occasions when growing up, and that had solidified it for him. He couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living.
He sat at his desk, removing the letter from his vest pocket. “I got a third letter today,” he said. He hadn’t kept his correspondence with Maybelle a secret from anyone in Silver City that might be interested. All the deputies knew of his ad in the paper, as well as his father and some of the women in town who were looking forward to molding a new female into Arizona life. He hadn’t yet told the ladies that the woman he was corresponding with was already from Arizona and would need very little molding if any.
Thinking of that made Gabe smile. He ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter, unfolding it so he could read it. He loved the swirling loops and arches of her handwriting.
First, he read it in silence and then aloud to his father, skipping over a few parts to save time. He looked up at Sherman with a questioning expression when he was done.
“What do you think, Pa? Is she the one?”
Sherman laughed delightedly. It was a sound Gabe had gotten used to over the years, and yet it still made him laugh, too.
“I can’t tell you if she’s the one, Gabe. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself.”
“I’d love your input, though.”
“Here’s my input,” a new voice from the doorway got their attention. Gabe turned to see his younger brother, Bobby, leaning against the doorjamb, his thumbs stuck in the waist of his trousers, his hat tilted on his head. “You need a woman. Don’t matter who she is, where she’s from, or what she looks like. Plain and simple. You need a woman.”
Gabe gave his brother a contemptuous look but stood up and held out his hand. “Enough of your assessment, little brother. If I wanted your opinion, I’d ask for it.”
Bobby crossed the room and shook hands with his brother. “You’d never ask my opinion,” he remarked. “That’s why I have to offer it free of charge. How you doin’? You say you got a new letter?”
“Yep. Right here.” Gabe still had the letter in his hand, and he tossed it on the desk in front of Bobby, who picked it up and quickly read through it.
He shook his head when he dropped the paper back to the desktop. “I can’t believe she’s interested in you, to be honest, brother. I mean, look at you. A disheveled sheriff from a small Arizona town? Hope you didn’t fib and tell her you’re rich or something.”
Gabe laughed, sitting back down. Bobby sat on the edge of the desk, his upper body twisted so he could see both his father and Gabe simply by moving his head.
“I didn’t tell her that,” Gabe replied. “I was honest with her like always. I don’t want to start a relationship with a woman by lying. I’d never recover from that.”
“Eh, you ain’t a natural liar anyway,” Bobby said, waving one hand. “You never could get away with anything as a kid. And you got in trouble for stuff I did, too.”
“What’s this now?” Sherman asked, his tone sharp. He gave Bobby a narrow look, his white eyebrows pulled together. “You got your brother in trouble as a child? You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Bobby shrugged, a look of amusement on his face. “You were the one who believed me. Not my fault.”
Sherman swung at Bobby, who lifted his arms to block the weak blow and hopped off the edge of the desk, crying out as if he’d been stabbed. He turned to Gabe. “I would like to report an assault.”
“Oh, sit back down, you foolish boy,” Sherman said, affection for his son coming through in his tone. “Stop being so dang foolish.”
Bobby did as he was told, perching on the edge of the desk and grinning wide at Gabe, who had always enjoyed the presence of both his father and brother.
“I’m ready for you to be married, Gabe,” Sherman went on, gazing at his son. “Bobby here has had Ellen for what four years now?”
“Five, Pa,” Bobby replied, folding his hands on the thigh that was on the edge of the desk. “Five years we’ve been married, courted for three before that. Wasn’t in a rush to get married. We’ve always been friends.” He looked at Gabe. “You can’t have that, unfortunately. There wasn’t a woman for you here when you were younger. This really is the best route for you, and I’ll be very honest, I like this woman you’ve been writing to. I haven’t read your letters to her, but her letters to you are very intriguing. She’s had quite the life of luxury, hasn’t she?”
“She says she wasn’t spoiled. Just got what she wanted. Fortunately, she didn’t want much. She swears she doesn’t now.”
Bobby nodded. “Yeah, the last letter she said she thought marrying a sheriff would make her feel real safe. I guess that’s about as true as you can get.”
“It’s not safer,” Sherman put in, “if you got someone after you. Outlaws don’t care who they kill. They’ll go after wives and children of lawmen just as quick.”
Gabe tilted his head to the side, giving his father an interested look. “I don’t remember Ma or Bobby or me ever being in any real trouble.”
“That’s because we live in Silver City,” Sherman replied.
“Nuh,” Bobby interjected, shaking his head. “It’s because of you, Pa. Outlaws knew not to come here and mess with the sheriff of Silver City.” He turned his head to Gabe. “Now… not so much. Surprised they aren’t coming in droves.”
Gabe lowered his lids and pushed out his lips in disgust. “You’re such an encouragement to me. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You wouldn’t be able to use that sarcasm as much, I know that. You’ve got those skills down pat, don’t ya?”
“I could say the same for you.”
“All right, boys, all right. That’s enough. Settle down.”
Bobby and Gabe looked at each other, both lifting one side of their lips in half-grins. They had never been rough with each other, had never gotten in any fistfights. The light bantering and teasing were about all the brothers did to each other. It was amusing when their father even tried to shut that down.
“I take it you’re gonna write back to her right away, right?”
Gabe laughed. “Right.”
Bobby also laughed and continued, “I would love to know what you’re gonna say.”
“I plan to ask her to come here for a visit. If she likes it here, we can discuss courting for a short time and then marriage if we both see a fit.”
“When are you thinking of having her come here? Soon?” Bobby sounded very curious.
“Yeah, I think so, if she will. I’d like to have a companion for the Sunday luncheon. That’s completely doable since she lives right there in Tumbleweed Junction.”
Bobby snapped his fingers. “That’s right. She’s only – what – an hour away. That’s very convenient for you. No big train tickets or long travel times.”
Gabe nodded. “I was thinking the same thing. I might just take the buggy and go get her myself. What’s the point of a stagecoach when she’s that close by?”
“On the road for two hours or more before church?” Bobby shook his head. “Give yourself a break and let her take the stagecoach. It’s not that expensive, and you would be refreshed when she first sees you, not sweaty and tired from the ride. Especially in your Sunday best.”
Gabe thought his brother’s words were very wise for someone only thirty-one years old who had never had to charm a girl after Ellen. And he had been thirteen when Ellen said she wanted to marry him someday. The two hadn’t parted after that. They were like one person, always thinking the same things, and liking the same things. These were all facts they had told him themselves. But he didn’t need them to. It was obvious they were two peas in a pod.
Gabe wanted a relationship like that. It seemed impossible to Gabe, and he expected he would have a lot more trouble adjusting to life with a woman by his side. If he and Maybelle didn’t get along as well as Bobby and Ellen, that was all right. He didn’t hang on to pipe dreams. What Bobby and Ellen had was special and something of their own. He would have a different relationship with his wife. He did hope it was as loving and affectionate, though.
Gabe was putting a lot of hope into this woman. Her letters made her seem intelligent, kind, compassionate, well-articulated. She was an educated woman, thanks to her father’s successful business. It was too bad she no longer had any of the money he’d been bringing in. Gabe wanted to ask about it, but so far, he hadn’t felt right doing so. She said her father died, leaving her penniless and on her own, without even shelter. That she was staying with a friend until she found a new home for herself.
What had her father done that had her growing up in such wealth, only to be left devastatingly poor after his death?
Gabe didn’t know if he’d ever find out. It wasn’t a priority for him anyway. His priority was having the woman come to Silver City so he could meet her in person and find out what she was really all about.
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When Maybelle Tippin loses her father, she is faced with the ugly truth that he has been telling nothing but lies her whole life. Their cotton business is a front for illegal trade and gambling! Distraught by his betrayal and desperate to pay off his debts, she sells the business, and she’s suddenly left with no money and no prospects. Realizing that she has no choice, she decides to become a mail-order bride. An advert from a sheriff catches her eye, and she feels that with him, she’ll be safe from the wrong side of the law. What she doesn’t expect is that her true troubles will start from the very first moment she will set foot in Silver City. To her dismay, she discovers that her fiancé has been accused of murder and her heart breaks into a million pieces. Can Maybelle put all her faith in a man whom she only knows from his letters?
Keen to follow his father’s example, Gabe volunteered to be a soldier as soon as he was old enough. This painful experience made him lose faith in the world, and understand that fighting the good fight can be challenging. When his father is shot, Gabe takes his place as the sheriff, without hesitating to make his mark on the town in order to get justice. He considers himself blessed to have almost everything a man could want, although there is only one thing missing; a woman for him to spend his life with! However, being far too busy to find someone, he chooses a mail-order bride – Maybelle. What he couldn’t have predicted was that upon her arrival he would face serious charges… Now he is forced not only to prove his innocence but also to convince his beautiful new fiancée that she can trust him. Faced with growing suspicion, will he manage to get his life back together and protect Maybelle’s fragile heart?
Maybelle and Gabe go on a journey that will define what metal they are made of, as they race against time to save Gabe from a terrible fate. Will she put her trust in him to pave the way to a happier future that they both deserve, or are there too many΄formidable obstacles standing between them?
“The Bright Moon in his Sky” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.