Daphne York lifted her eyes when her sister, Tory, came through the door.
“Tory!” she exclaimed, putting aside her book, and standing up to greet her sister. “I haven’t seen you all morning! Where have you been?” She went to her sister and leaned to kiss both cheeks without actually landing the kisses on her sister’s skin. Her sister returned the greeting at the same time. She stripped off her gloves and took her hat off with a flourish, shaking out her blond hair.
Daphne had to admit, since her trip overseas, her twenty-year-old sister seemed to have flourished. She was glowing, in fact, and Daphne felt a wash of pride looking at her.
“I have the best news, Daphne,” her sister replied, grinning from ear to ear. “Wait until you hear it.”
“Well, tell me, tell me!” Daphne said anxiously. “I want to know!”
Instead of responding, Tory simply spun around and held out her hand. “Come on in, darling,” she said. “I have to show you off.”
The man who came around the corner was not what Daphne was expecting. She realized her sister was a grown woman, and knew for a long time that she would be bringing home a suitor at some point.
But this was different. Tory was twenty years old. This man looked to be at least forty. She tried to prevent the look of disapproval on her face from blasting her feelings to them all, but she had a good feeling she had already lost that battle.
Tory pulled her brows together. “Well, well. I can see you’re going to have to get used to the idea of me having my own life and my own man, aren’t you?”
“Oh, I am happy that you’ve found someone to spend time with,” Daphne responded, thinking quickly. She wasn’t even sure what words were going to come out of her mouth next. She prayed they would be appropriate and not judgmental.
It was difficult though. The man was clearly much older than her sister. Let alone herself.
She held out her hand to the man. “Daphne York,” she said, trying to make her voice as pleasant as possible.
“Edgar’s the name,” the man replied, taking her hand, and gripping it firmly as he shook. She wondered if he’d mistaken her for a man with the way he squeezed her fingers. “Edgar Martin. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“Likewise, I’m sure,” Daphne said, removing her hand from his by force when he didn’t seem to want to let go. She dismissed it and looked at her sister. “Will you be staying for dinner or going out?”
“Oh, Eddie is going to take me all over town. Aren’t you, Eddie?” Tory asked, fluttering her eyelashes at the man. He smiled at her.
“That’s right, my darling. We will paint the town red!”
He grabbed her around the waist, lifted her off her feet and spun her around twice to her delighted laughter.
“Oh, Eddie! You’re such a silly man! Come on! I want to show you the grounds.” She turned her eyes to Daphne for only a moment. “Do you know where Mother is?”
Daphne shook her head. “I haven’t seen her since lunch. She was asking about you, though. She may have gone into town to look for you.”
“Well, we’ll see her there, then!” Tory gushed, throwing her arms around Edgar’s neck. “Yes, darling, let’s go into town. I want to see the sights and show you off.”
“You won’t be showing me off, my dear. I’ll be showing you off.”
Tory giggled like a schoolgirl and the two of them ran out of the room, hand in hand, leaving a stunned Daphne behind them. She hadn’t had a chance to really talk to Edgar—ask him questions about himself or anything else.
The big house was suddenly more silent than Daphne wanted to bear. She decided to go to the office of the mining company she and her mother took over after her father’s death. Daphne had a head for business and had kept the company rolling along quite nicely after his passing. She sometimes thought he had a feeling he would die at an early age, and decided to train his daughter the best way he knew how to run the company should anything happen to him.
When her father was driving the buggy, a wheel broke in the wrong place and the buggy ended up sliding down the side of the mountain. Andrew York’s body was recovered at the bottom of the cliff a few days later by wandering travelers that took him to the nearest town to be identified.
After the death of her father, Daphne made it a point to tell everyone at the mining company she would be taking over. The men didn’t seem to mind, since they had been seeing her face for months. She was a tall, slender woman with dark brown hair and bright blue eyes. The contrast made up for her height as she sometimes found herself taller than the men around her. Then again, she was still towered over by plenty of them, too. At five-foot-nine, she didn’t think of herself as too tall, but she still seemed as tall or taller than a lot of men around her.
Daphne hurried out of the room and to the front door. She opened it and stepped out on the porch, watching as Tory was helped up into a dark blue buggy with gold trim by her new beau. He couldn’t have been around for very long or Daphne would have known about it.
She was disheartened by the match and could only hope Edgar would show his true colors in due course. Hopefully, before her sister became too enamored.
Looking at her as the buggy turned toward the main road, Daphne had the sinking feeling it was already too late for her dear sister.
Nelson Cannon was the only private investigator in all of Topeka, Kansas, during the year of 1890, and he was very proud of that fact. He was equally proud of the fact that he’d gotten so much work recently, that he’d been required to hire an assistant.
That was where Lucas came in. Lucas Dunkeld was the son of Nelson’s banker, Todd Dunkeld. Although Lucas was willing and eager, he really had no idea what he was doing and tended to be a bit reckless in his decisions. He was twenty-two years old and still learning. Nelson didn’t mind him and thought he was an extremely trustworthy young man. He hoped Lucas would learn quickly because once he obtained the skills, Nelson was sure he would succeed as a PI.
They were working a case that obligated them to stand under a tree in the middle of a pavilion in front of one of the dinkiest, darkest, drabbest hotels Nelson had ever seen. He couldn’t help picturing horrible deaths occurring on the other side of those hotel room doors. He imagined there were walls covered in blood behind some of them.
“Which room do you think he’s in?” Lucas asked, narrowing his eyes, and scanning the doors like that would help him see through them.
“I don’t know,” Nelson answered, leaning back against the tree, tossing a cigarette into his mouth and pulling a box of matches from his pocket.
“You think he’s with her right now, though? In there? Why would any woman be okay with being brought here for a romantic liaison?” He sounded astonished.
Nelson dragged his eyes from one side of hotel to the other.
“I don’t know.”
There were three doors along the bottom, three on the second level and three on the third with a questionable staircase running in a zigzag pattern from the bottom floor to the top. The sun was high in the sky, indicating the noon hour. In his experience, businessmen looking for an extra tryst on the side almost always took their lunch hour to do so.
It was Mr. Baldwin’s buggy that was outside the hotel. Nelson and Lucas had gotten there after him. But neither could think of a valid reason as to why he would be at the hotel during lunchtime other than the obvious.
“What if he doesn’t leave any evidence behind in the room?” Lucas asked, his voice hushed, his eyes resting on Nelson’s cigarette box until Nelson finally flipped open the case and held it out to him. Lucas fished one out for himself and gestured toward Nelson with it. “Thanks. I’m feelin’ a bit nervous.”
“Smoking isn’t going to calm you down,” Nelson replied while closing the case with a snap, and shoving it in his breast pocket under his vest. Four years ago, when he was twenty-five, the cigarette case he’d been using at the time stopped a bullet from entering his chest. Even if he quit smoking, he would carry one in that pocket for the rest of his days. It had saved his life.
“Works for me,” Lucas responded, tapping the end of the cigarette on the back of his hand before popping it between his lips. He had his own pack of matches, which he pulled from his pocket.
Nelson was glad Lucas was quiet for a moment while he lit the cigarette. His assistant-in-training had been talking nonstop since they got there, asking question after question. He was about to stomp on Nelson’s last nerve.
“So how come you aren’t married?” Lucas asked once he’d taken a few drags from the cigarette.
Nelson gave him an odd look. “What kind of a question is that? Why am I not married? Why aren’t you married?”
Lucas shrugged. “Women don’t seem to be attracted to me. I know one eventually will. I can only pray I feel the same way.” He stared at Nelson as if he expected a return answer.
Nelson just looked away from him. He felt a sensation of relief when a door opened across from them and the subject of their interest stepped out. He was, indeed, with a lady friend, and she was dressed in a rather inappropriate way, considering Mr. Baldwin was a married man.
“There’s proof right there,” Lucas murmured. “I wish Mrs. Baldwin was here so she could see it with her own eyes.”
“Me too. But we will have to find some other way to prove it. Hopefully, he left something in the room.”
“What do we do if he doesn’t?” Lucas asked.
“We wait and do this all over again and we’ll repeat the process until he slips up. He will eventually. They all do.”
“How long you think this has been going on?”
Nelson looked over at his assistant. “How would I know the answer to a question like that?” he asked. “I don’t know this couple from Adam.”
Without missing a beat, Lucas said, his eyes on the couple descending the rickety stairs, “Look at the way that she’s hangin’ off his arm. I’ll bet they’ve been meeting for a while now. Maybe a year? Maybe more.”
“You really think a man like that would stick with a woman like that for a long time?” He was genuinely curious. It made him study his subjects a little more closely. When he really observed them, he had a strong feeling Lucas was right. There was just something about the way the woman relaxed against Mr. Baldwin. She was very comfortable with him. It wasn’t just the physical attraction that drew them together. The woman was in love with him.
Nelson shifted his gaze to the man. Was Mr. Baldwin reflecting those same feelings toward the woman? Sadly, that wasn’t what Nelson saw. He saw the quick glances at the woman, the subtle look of disdain he hid until he turned his face away from her. She was shorter and as she walked beside him, practically attached to his hip. Nelson was sure he saw Mr. Baldwin roll his eyes.
“I think you’re right,” he said, tossing his cigarette down and moving back a few steps to stay in the shadows so the couple wouldn’t see him. He reached forward and grabbed his assistant by the arm, pulling him back. “Get back here, you fool.”
“He doesn’t know us,” Lucas protested but did step away from the hotel. They waited in silence until the couple climbed into the buggy and were off down the road. Flicking the cigarette to the ground, Nelson looked at the retreating buggy as he crossed the road. He grabbed the rail of the staircase and took the steps two at a time, watching his feet. There were broken boards to avoid, and he held fast to the notion that his assistant was smart enough to make sure he didn’t fall through any of them.
Once the two men were on the third floor, Nelson dropped to one knee and used a special tool to unlock the hotel door. Inside, they roamed around looking for anything that might incriminate Mr. Baldwin. They searched for five minutes solid before Nelson knelt on the ground near the table by the desk and scanned the floor. He was sure he’d seen something glint.
He scanned the area underneath the table but could see nothing in the dark shadows. He hoisted himself up so that he was on his knees, and looked over the bed at his assistant.
“Lucas, hand me that candle right there, if you would, please.”
“Certainly.” Lucas took a long step and took the candle in its brass holder from the shelf next to him. “Here you go,” he said, handing it to Nelson.
Nelson leaned down to shine the light into the darkness.
He spotted what he’d seen glinting, reached in and snatched it up.
He pushed back and stood up, turning to Lucas, holding up the object.
“What is it?” Lucas asked.
Nelson grinned triumphantly.
“It’s a cufflink.”
“I can’t believe he didn’t notice he was only wearing one cufflink,” Lucas remarked as they rode away from the seedy hotel. “Who doesn’t realize something like that?”
“He probably wasn’t wearing either when he left,” Nelson suggested by way of explanation. “He won’t notice if he doesn’t wear them both.”
“So, what do we do now?”
“We’ll take this to Mrs. Baldwin and ask if it’s his. It might be someone else’s who was in the room before him. We don’t know.”
The rest of the ride to Mrs. Baldwin’s was quiet, and Nelson thanked God for it. Lucas was a good kid, but he was more energetic than Nelson was used to. Not that he was used to having an assistant at all. He’d been working in the business since he was eighteen, having learned from the next-door neighbor while he was growing up. He’d sat in front of Mr. Auburn for hours and hours on end, listening to his cases, even helping him sort through things a few times. He was sure some of his fine-tuned thinking had led to the arrests of some unsuitable characters.
They were nearly there when Lucas grabbed Nelson’s arm and squeezed until it hurt. Nelson yelped and wrenched his arm away, glaring at the younger man.
“What is that?” he demanded before turning his eyes in the direction Lucas was looking.
It was Mr. Baldwin’s buggy. It was parked in front of a small cottage that was lower than the road, so there was difficulty seeing it well. But it was definitely the same buggy.
“Hurry!” Nelson hissed, stopping the buggy altogether. “Go get Mrs. Baldwin. She’s close, you can run. Run!”
Lucas jumped down from the buggy and took off. Nelson kept his eyes on the cottage where the man’s buggy was parked. He hoped Mr. Baldwin wouldn’t come out until his wife got there. He’d be paid in full that day and he could really use the cash.
Not five minutes later, a buggy came flying around the corner and nearly tipped. Lucas was sitting in it, one hand keeping the hat on his head, the other one gripping the door for safety while sporting a huge grin.
Mrs. Baldwin was a formidable woman. She was small and slight, but she had the temper and resilience that went along with the red color of her hair. In fact, it was known that Mr. Baldwin had picked up his wife in New York right after the boat landed with her and her family on it, waiting to be declared Americans.
She jumped down from the buggy the moment it stopped fully, and stomped toward Nelson. He almost feared for his own life upon seeing the look on her face. He prevented himself from taking a step back. He could almost feel her wrath in the air around her.
“Which one?” she demanded.
Nelson pointed at the cottage down the hill. “That’s the one. He’s in there with the woman. And we found this at the hotel on Grainger Street.” He held the cuff link out to her. “Is it his?”
Nelson had never seen a transformation before like he saw at that moment. The woman in front of him seemed to grow taller. He could almost see her fury boiling inside her. Her green eyes flashed as she looked at the cuff link.
Suddenly, she snatched it from his hand. Before he could pull his hand back, she had given him a wad of money held together with a paper ribbon. It felt wonderful to have the money right there in his hand. He could eat regular again. His bills would be paid. He would be able to buy some new boots like he’d been wanting. This money would last him a year if he was frugal.
But he would keep working. He needed to.
“Thank you, Mrs. Baldwin. I’m sorry we had to do business together.”
The woman knew exactly what he was talking about and nodded curtly at him. She grabbed her skirts in her hands and lifted them so high Nelson could see her black laced-up boots. She stomped past him. He went to his buggy and leaned back to see if Lucas had followed him. Lucas had disappeared from the area he’d been when Nelson saw him last.
Curious, Nelson moved around his buggy, searching for the young man.
He finally found him on the other side of Nelson’s buggy. Now, he was leaning against a tree and the rest of the cigarette he hadn’t finished was dangling from his lips, the end smoldering and smoke curling up around Lucas’ face. The young man glanced over as Nelson approached.
“Not leavin’ until I hear what happens,” Lucas said.
“Why on earth would you want to stay around here for that? You won’t be able to hear anything from inside that house.”
As soon as Nelson spoke the words, he saw Lucas’ eyes widen into saucers and his own eyes darted to the front door of the cottage. Mrs. Baldwin was repeatedly kicking it with one foot, raising her leg high up in the air and ramming her black boot into the spot just next to the doorknob. On her fourth try, the door splintered and flew back on its hinges, ramming into the inside wall.
“Gi.. de.. ONNNN!” the woman screamed, entering the cottage. “Gideon Baldwin! Where are you? Don’t you think you can hide from me! I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you!”
“That’s why I stayed around,” Lucas said, moving just his eyes to look at Nelson before returning them to the scene. “I just wanted to make sure nobody died today. That’s all.”
“You won’t prevent her from shooting or stabbing him from out here, though,” Nelson said, a bit of concern going through him. He shook off the feeling. “Look, I’ve been paid, and we need to get out of here. She’s not going to kill him.”
“She might kill the mistress.”
“I haven’t heard a woman scream yet.”
A tingle ran over Nelson as he prepared to hear a woman scream bloody murder.
But there was no scream.
Moments later, Mrs. Baldwin appeared, pulling Mr. Baldwin behind her by his ear.
“Ouch,” Lucas remarked casually.
Nelson raised one eyebrow, watching the pair with amazement. He shook his head. “These people are all nuts. That, my friend, is why I’m not married. That right there.”
Lucas gave him a curious look. “So, you would get yourself in a situation that merited having to be dragged around by your ear? I had you pegged for a more upstanding man than that.”
Nelson gave Lucas a sardonic look, again shaking his head. “No. I meant I wouldn’t want to be dragged around by a woman. By the ear, by the hand, it really doesn’t matter. I don’t want a woman like that. I don’t want to be controlled.”
“Maybe if you loved the woman enough, you wouldn’t mind it. Besides, as I said, I don’t think you would be even interested in a woman who wanted to control you. So, you’ll never be in that situation.”
“Whatever you say, buddy. Come on. We don’t need to stick around now. We’ve done our job. Now, let’s go count our money. My money, really, but I’ll give you some for trying to help.” He paused a moment or two to gauge Lucas’ reaction to that.
He only nodded with enthusiasm. “Sounds good, Nelson. I’m glad we solved one together. I’ll be a real private investigator before you know it!”
Nelson had to laugh. He did like his assistant quite a lot. He should be more patient with the man. He was still so young, but had such a bright and giving spirit. Nelson wished him nothing but the very best.
The two men walked back to their buggy and Nelson got up to drive the horses. They left the cottage behind, paying no attention when the Baldwins passed them by to get to the buggy she’d brought.
He could still hear her hurling accusations and raving at her husband as the Baldwins rode off in the opposite direction.
A month had passed since the arrival of Tory’s new beau. In that month, Daphne had been given no reason to like Edgar Martin any more than she had with her first impression.
He hadn’t deigned to take any time to speak to her or their mother, so the women were left wondering who and what he really was. Tory couldn’t tell them. She was filled with nothing but admiration for the man, and claimed him to be the most intelligent, charming gentleman who just happened to fall in love with her. When Daphne tried to ask more personal questions, like where he’d come from and why he’d moved to Topeka, Tory seemed clueless and made excuses to not give the answers Daphne and their mother wanted to hear.
Marilyn York, their mother, was, at one time, highly influential in their city of Topeka. But when her husband died, she was left with the mining company to run on her own. The business was faltering, and they were losing money hand over fist. It was to the point where Daphne and her mother were considering selling some of the priceless artwork Mr. York had obtained over the years just to make ends meet. He’d done a great deal of traveling in his youth. His most priceless possessions included several DaVincis and a Van Gogh. He also had a painting that was not so old and was in fact painted by a man he’d had the pleasure to meet while traveling. A Frenchman named Claude Monet.
They didn’t want to sell the paintings, though, as they were a staple in the family and a way to insure their wealth. They had several loans riding on the paintings as collateral. Daphne was determined to reinvigorate the mine and bring in more money while not having to let anyone out of work. So far, they’d been able to make the payments, but it was coming to a point where they would no longer be making enough profit to eat regularly and pay for the barest of essentials.
Daphne couldn’t bear the thought of living like a pauper. Even worse was the thought of her mother having to go through that in her old age, when she should be celebrating life. Marilyn York was far from old, being only in her early forties. That was one of the reasons why she was able to work tirelessly at the mining company, trying to generate more money and coming up with schemes to buy and sell goods. She owned several fruit and veggie carts that she placed in small towns around Kansas, close to Topeka, so she could check on them and receive her profit from her employees. She’d chosen one person from each location to mind the cart in their town.
Daphne also put her mind to use and, after a short time, approached their neighbor, a woman who had always encouraged her to be as observant as possible to help her see through the façades many people use to hide their secrets.
Mrs. Baldwin was a highly spirited woman, just like Marilyn and Daphne. The three women got along very well.
So, when her mother and Mrs. Baldwin appeared in the doorway of the office at the mining company with smiles on their faces, Daphne stood up and grinned back.
“Mrs. Baldwin! Mother! How lovely to see you both. Please come in and sit down. I didn’t expect any company today.”
“I hope we aren’t interrupting, dear,” her mother said, taking the seat in front of her to her right and placing her large brown handbag on her lap. She sat properly, with her back straight and her legs tucked together underneath her and slanted to the side.
Mrs. Baldwin took a similar stance but, as always, she didn’t look as elegant as Marilyn York. It was hard to look as elegant as Daphne’s mother.
“Not at all,” Daphne responded, shaking her head, and resuming her seat. “I’ve been a little bored if I may be honest with you. So, I’m glad for the company.”
Her mother sat forward, placing one gloved hand on the desk between them. “Lisa was just telling me something and I think you should hear about it, too.” She turned sympathetic eyes to Lisa, who just shook her head.
“Don’t you look at me like that, Miss Marilyn,” Mrs. Baldwin said, her lips twitching in an effort not to smile. “I’ll be fine, and you know it. She is talking about the affair my husband had with that little woman in the cottage on Grainger Street.”
“Barbara,” Daphne responded automatically.
“That’s the one,” Mrs. Baldwin said pointedly, nodding twice. “Everyone knows her, don’t they? That’s why when I found out he was just around the corner at her house, I went there with enough gumption to tear that woman in half. And he would be right after. But I didn’t. I dragged him out by his ear, which he completely deserved.”
“I agree,” Marilyn interjected strongly.
Daphne gave her mother a sharp look, wondering why she was so invested in this. The case was apparently solved, and Lisa was still with her husband. She didn’t know what she could do to further help it along.
“I hired a private investigator,” Mrs. Baldwin said in a triumphant voice as if she’d won a foot race, “and I think he would help you in your situation. He and his assistant are more than competent with something like this.”
Daphne was instantly confused. She blinked slowly, turning her gaze to her mother.
“What situation are you talking about?” she asked.
“She’s talking about Edgar Martin,” her mother hissed under her breath, looking about as if the flies on the walls were ready to go report to Edgar that he was being talked about. “I don’t like him. I know you don’t either. I think we should have him checked out. He’s not one of us, I’m sure of it.”
“You don’t know everyone in Topeka, Mother,” Daphne said with a gentle smile. “Maybe he just escaped your notice.”
Her mother scoffed, shaking her head and sucking on her teeth. “Oh, I don’t think so. He is a very good-looking man, as you might have noticed.”
Daphne was silently disappointed in herself that she had, in fact, not noticed that fact. Her immediate thought was that he was too old for her.
“I would think that his age would be enough for you to want to have him looked into,” Marilyn spoke up. It was as if her mother was reading Daphne’s mind.
“You’re right, Mother,” she said gently with a nod. “You’re absolutely right. So, we need to set up a meeting with this fellow and see what he can dig up about Mr. Edgar Martin. I’d like to know just what he’s doing with a woman half his age.”
“There’s nothing we can say to her either, Lisa. It’s so strange how she’d suddenly become an independent thinker, but her thoughts are not very logical. I fear she will be very hurt over the course of her lifetime, if she doesn’t learn some common sense.”
Daphne nodded. “I agree. There’s something fishy about a man his age preying on a young woman and not trying to get to know her family. I’m afraid he will try to whisk her away and we will never see her again.”
“Lisa gave me the name and address of the PI she used for it. I think we should go see him. At our first opportunity. Like right now.”
Daphne shook her head. “I can’t go now. I have business to take care of. This is your day off. Why don’t you go see him?”
Marilyn looked regretful. “I can’t go without you, Daphne. I need you to ask the questions. I’m afraid I would be put off by him. You obviously don’t think Edgar is right for our little Tory. You’d ask better questions and explain it better than I would.”
Daphne had to agree with all that. Her mother, while a wonderful woman, didn’t think as quickly on her feet as her daughter did.
“All right, Mother, let’s go in the morning.”
“Where are you going in the morning?”
All eyes turned to Tory as she walked in, pulling a reluctant-looking Edgar behind her.
“Feelings Louder than Words” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After her father’s untimely death, Daphne York and her mother have put great effort into keeping the family’s mining business up and running. Things take a turn for the worst, when her sister’s mismatched betrothed shows his real intentions and runs off with the family’s last heirlooms. Threatened with economic ruin and homelessness, Daphne seeks help from a charming detective to find the valuables and save her family from this dreadful fate.
Will she manage to do that without having her heart stolen on the way?
Nelson Cannon, an extremely capable investigator, is hired by the Yorks to track down the thief and retrieve what has been stolen. On the surface, he is a money-driven bounty hunter, but deep down there is a man yearning for peace and love. Even though he initially takes on the investigation with a heavy heart, when he meets Daphne he seems to have finally found his purpose.
Will he be able to stay focused on his mission and also rediscover himself in the process?
Although brought together by unfortunate circumstances, the spark between Daphne and Nelson is undeniable. As they cooperate in the search for the family’s treasure, the two of them grow closer and closer. Will they be able to discover a treasure much more valuable than the one lost? Or will they be driven apart in the end?
“Feelings Louder than Words” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.