“Everett Winslow?” gasped Tandy Smithfield, staring at her mother and father with large, brown eyes, filled with horror. She couldn’t believe the announcement they had just made to her. The idea of marrying that man was awful, and to think that her mother and father had already arranged the match was absolutely dreadful.
As they sat in the great room of their Connecticut home, Tandy waited for the confirmation that she hoped would not come. And yet, she knew this was a decision that was coming for quite a long time. She had been prepared for this and yet taken by surprise all at once.
“Of course, Tandy! He’s as good a man as they come. I’m sure you’ll be very happy once you have had a chance to think about it,” her mother exclaimed, although it was clear to Tandy that her mother could see the challenge it was going to be to convince Tandy that this was actually a good idea.
“He’s not a good man at all, Mother,” Tandy said.
“Why ever would you say that? What makes you think he is not a good man?” her mother scoffed.
“He is so arrogant. That man loves himself more than he could ever love a woman,” Tandy said.
“Nonsense,” her father said in a determined voice.
“Is it really? I think it’s perfectly accurate. Haven’t you seen the way he behaves? The man clearly thinks he is above everyone else. I can’t bear the idea that he would be the one ordering me about. He’s just a terrible man,” Tandy insisted.
Her mother and father looked at one another, both clearly frustrated by her protests. Their family was one of the wealthiest in Connecticut, and she knew they fully intended to marry her off to someone in the same position. But Tandy had known for months that this day was coming. She had seen her father and Everett discussing something serious just a week ago, and now that she understood what it was they had been talking about, she was overcome with fury.
How had her mother and father believed that it was appropriate to force her to marry someone like him? He was awful, so conceited, and in love with himself. Tandy would have given anything to avoid a marriage to a man like that.
And she had already been considering just what to do to reassure herself that she would. Tandy knew that she could not marry Everett and had no intention of staying in Connecticut to wait around for her mother and father to come to terms with her decision. She knew them well enough to understand that they would not relent or allow her to get away from this obligation.
Instead, Tandy realized, she would need to escape. That had been the only idea to come to her mind, her only recourse. If they did not listen to her, she would go, fleeing everything she knew and leaving all of this behind.
But Tandy didn’t think she could actually bring herself to do that. How could she? The very idea of it was awful. She couldn’t leave her family. She couldn’t leave everything she knew. She would just have to make them realize they were making a mistake and she belonged with someone who could make her happy.
“Please, Mother, Father. Do not make me do this. I can find a better husband. Please, just give me time,” she begged.
“This is for the sake of your family, Tandy. Don’t you see that? We need to make this union between you and Everett so that we can have the benefit of his influence on our family’s reputation and finances,” her father said.
“We are already wealthy enough. And we have a decent reputation. Why is my marriage to Everett necessary?” she asked.
“Because you need to have a good husband, and he is a very reasonable option. The last thing we want for you is to be stuck with some man who has nothing. It’s for your own good,” her mother said.
“How can it be for my own good? I don’t understand,” she exclaimed, desperate to make them see that this was all a terrible mistake.
“Will you please be calm?” her mother asked, clearly frustrated by Tandy’s outburst.
“No, Mother! I can’t be calm. You must realize what you are trying to do. I cannot marry a man like that. He is too dreadful,” she insisted.
“But it is for the sake of us, your own flesh and blood. Why won’t you see that it is the best thing for us all?” her mother asked in a manipulative manner that only infuriated Tandy further. She couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t just hear her out. They refused to listen and even try to see the situation through her eyes.
“It’s not the best thing for me, Mother,” Tandy replied.
“How can you be so selfish? This is for the sake of your father and me. Do you really not see how you might be benefitted as well? He can give you such a grand life. I know you don’t see it now, but this is really the best thing for us all,” her father said.
Tandy looked between her mother and father, frustrated and surprised by their decision. But it only meant that she would have to hold to her own. If they would not give her the freedom to marry whomever she wished, Tandy understood there was nothing to be done but escape.
“This is your final decision?” she asked them, needing to be sure before she made her own final decision.
“It is. And we trust that, in time, you will come to see that it was always the best choice. We’re going to have such a wonderful life ahead once the two of you are married. It’s going to be a beautiful wedding, and I’m eager to see what you are like as a bride,” her mother confirmed.
That was it. That was all Tandy needed to know. She realized they would not change their minds, that this was the fate to which they were going to subject her. Tears welled in Tandy’s eyes, and her skin grew hot. The fact of it was setting in, and she felt as if she might burst with fury and pain.
Unable to sit any longer, Tandy bolted upright and ran from the room, unable to stop herself from sobbing as she went along. She reached her bedroom and collapsed onto it, burying her face in the pillow and letting out a cry of pain.
Tandy knew that the best thing she could do was to pray, but something in her feared that if she did so, the Lord would tell her to do as she was told, to obey her mother and father even though she knew they were subjecting her to a marriage with a man who had no fear of God. Torn by her awareness that she needed the Lord’s guidance and this dreadful fear, she finally took a deep breath and tried to calm herself before praying in her head.
Father God, you know how frightened I am by the idea of this marriage and that I have been making plans to avoid it. Lord, I do not wish to disobey my mother and father, but I feel that I have no choice other than to run, to escape this match. He is a terrible man, and he has no respect for you or your word.
Please, Father, show me if I am not meant to go. If you give me a sign that I must stay, I will. Otherwise, I will depart in the morning, trusting that you will see me through. I will trust that you have allowed this decision and that you have a plan for me.
I would not go, was he a man I disliked, but who still had good character and loved you. But Everett Winslow is not that sort of man, and I cannot raise a family under his guidance. I know that you are good, and you are sovereign. As I seek to begin my life in a new way, I ask for your wisdom with every step. I ask that you would be my guide, my shield, and my fortress.
At once, Tandy felt better. With her prayers prayed and her heart full of determination, she knew she was ready and that this was the right choice. She needed to make her way out from here, to depart for another land, one far away from Connecticut.
She had heard about the simplicity of life in the west. It sounded idyllic and lovely. Rather than the bustling city in which she lived, it was quiet. People worked hard, but they toiled with the earth as God commanded in Genesis, far from the struggles of proving oneself to be better or wealthier than their neighbor as they did here.
One of her friends, Judy, told a story about her cousin who married a man out there. She placed an ad in the paper and ended up with some rancher. She now had three children, a happy life, and grew all their family’s food in the garden and on the ranch. It sounded idyllic in every way.
Then there was Maddie Thornbill, the minister’s daughter, who married a man from church who studied under her father. He took an appointment as minister out in Wyoming, which sounded like an intriguing place where it was often warm and flat and completely unlike Connecticut.
Wyoming sounded like a fantastic place to go, but Tandy feared what might happen if she ended up too close to Maddie. What if someone caught word of her? What if she bumped into Maddie one day?
Tandy realized that it wasn’t safe to go there, so when she had made her escape plans—the plans she had never expected to truly have to use—she decided she would just go somewhere near Wyoming. She would make her way to Colorado, which still sounded beautiful.
With just a little bit of money that she kept set aside, and a box full of nice jewelry her mother and father had bought for her over the years, Tandy trusted that she could make a fresh start.
She shoved the box into the bottom of her carpet bag and a few of her most sensible dresses over it, then a nicer dress on the top. She kept one out for traveling and figured that it was as good a thought as any she would have something comfortable to wear on the train journey.
Tandy was worried that she might fall asleep and miss her chance, but the emotions raging through her were enough to keep her awake. When it was dark, and she heard her mother and father turn in for the night, she knew the time was close at hand. After three hours, she opened her bedroom window on the first story of the house and dropped the bag outside. Then, she climbed through the window with great agility and took a deep breath of the night air.
Was she really going to do this? Doubt began to creep in when she realized there was no turning back if she continued. Once she was on the train, she couldn’t change her mind.
But her mind was already made up. Tandy gripped the bag and hoisted it over her shoulder. It was a long, uncomfortable walk to the train station. She covered nearly six miles and, by the time she arrived, her back was aching. And yet, her heart was free and unburdened for the first time in the months since Everett Winslow had begun expressing an interest in her.
Convinced that this was the right idea, Tandy waited for the first train to arrive, an hour before it would be light out. When she heard the rhythmic chugging and saw the smoke rising against the backdrop of the moon, Tandy was ready.
She soon set out to begin her new life.
Micah Jensen’s shaggy brown hair hung in his eyes that seemed to match the exact same hue. He took off the cowboy hat that adorned his head, as well as the fringed, leather vest he always wore. As a bounty hunter for hire, he liked to look the part.
“Micah? Is that you?” called his mother.
“Sure is, Ma. What did I tell you about not leaving that door open?” he asked, worried that his mother still wasn’t protecting herself to the extent he desired. Micah was anxious that she might not be taking care to protect herself. Unlike him, she didn’t see the frequent crime taking place around Colorado, even near them in Blane.
“Oh, I know. You’ll have to forgive me just this once. I answered the door a little while ago when the sheriff came around,” she said.
“What was Johnny doing here? Did something happen?” he asked, urgently, as he entered the kitchen where his mother was pulling a large loaf of sourdough from the oven. It smelled heavenly, but Micah ignored it, far more interested in making certain that his mother was all right rather than caring about the food.
“Oh, no, nothing happened. He just came around to check on me, that’s all. Oh, and to leave this. He heard you would be back in town today and said this letter just arrived for you this morning,” she said.
Micah’s bushy brows scrunched together as he took the letter that his mother handed him from the table before she returned to her baking. He looked the letter over for a moment, confused as to why anyone would have sent him anything. He didn’t have too many people in his life, certainly no one who might have made an effort to contact him here like this.
“Who’s it from?” his mother asked absentmindedly.
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he replied, opening it slowly with intrigue.
He looked the letter over, seeing that it was from some fella in Connecticut named Anthony Smithfield. Micah had never heard of him. He started to read with great interest.
Dear Mr. Jensen,
I hope this letter finds you well. I have heard of your skill as a bounty hunter and your ability to find people. Well, I am not looking for a criminal of any sort, but rather a young woman who means the world to me.
My daughter, Tandy Smithfield, has run away. By the time you receive this letter, she will likely have been around your parts for two or three days. Once she was gone, we searched high and low in town and finally asked at the train station. The man selling tickets recalled seeing her, saying that she stuck out to him because it was so early in the morning and there were few patrons. This was only the next day after she vanished.
He told us that she had bought a ticket for Blane, Colorado, and I spoke with the law here in Connecticut. They are the ones who told me about you. Apparently, you have quite a reputation for fetching whomever you are sent to find.
I need your skill, Mr. Jensen. I need my Tandy brought home. She means the world to her mother and me.
Because I do not wish to waste time with back and forth negotiations, I will pay you your fee, plus half again as much. Kindly inform me as to whether you are willing to accept my offer and, if so, please begin searching at once.
I have included a small photograph of Tandy. Please take good care of it and return it with her. We have only two. I have also included two train tickets back to Connecticut so that you may bring her back easily.
Micah looked at the photo and train ticket. The ticket would be easy to exchange if he didn’t find Tandy by the date they had been reserved for, but he figured he would find her by then. After all, it wasn’t hard to find a lost young woman, certainly nothing like the bounties he usually took on.
“Anything interesting?” his mother asked.
“Interesting, maybe. Easy, certainly,” he said.
“It’s a job to find a young woman,” he said. “Her father’s searching for her.”
“Well, that’s nice. It will be good to reunite a father and daughter. Nothing at all like the work you normally take on,” she said.
“That’s precisely what I was just thinking,” Micah said.
“Speaking of, what ever happened with that Wild-Eyed Billy Hansen?” his mother asked, turning to him with sudden interest at having remembered the case Micah had been working for nearly three weeks.
“I found his brother and took him in. Finished up there before coming back to Blane,” he said, not sharing too many details. He rarely did. No one expected Micah to say all that much about his bounties. He was a quiet man in general and preferred it that way.
“Oh, well done! I am so relieved that you managed to find him. I know that you worked very hard to do so. Did he put up much of a fight?” she asked.
Micah had long-since learned that he shouldn’t tell his mother about the rough captures of his bounties. Instead, he shook his head and shrugged.
“Not much,” he replied, ignoring the throbbing pain he still had in his rib from taking a hit and the stitched-up wound on his leg from where a bullet had grazed him. So long as he kept himself covered, she would never see the bruises or cuts or scrapes. It was better that way, better that she not know just how bad things could get or how close he had come to dying time and time again.
“So is this young woman nearby?” his mother asked, looking interested.
“Apparently. He said that she made her way to Blane. I suppose that means she’s in town or close by. Even if she decided to move on from here, it shouldn’t be too difficult to track her down,” he said.
“Well, I’m glad to hear that. You’re going to take the case, I assume?” she asked.
“It seems like a good one, and he’s paying well,” Micah replied.
His mother turned to him and shook her head.
“You know you don’t need to worry about me,” she scolded.
“It costs a lot of money to keep this place up and running, Ma. I’m not going to let you struggle to do it on your own when I’m more than capable of helping,” Micah said.
“True though that may be, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m your mother, and I should be providing for you,” she said.
“You have done that long enough. Pa would be proud of how hard you work every day to keep things going here. If I can do something so small as being here to help you out now and then and getting you an extra income, I’m perfectly happy with that,” Micah said.
He loved visiting his mother when he finished a job. More often than not, he would hang around for a little while, long enough to fix any fences that needed mending, fixing the chicken coop if needed, and milking the cows in the mornings. Sometimes, he would do those things with his mother’s company, giving him a wonderful opportunity to spend time with her since he missed out on having that most of the time.
Ever since his father had passed away four years prior, Micah had been the only one his mother had. He still devoted himself to her, even from afar. He hoped that a day would come when he might settle down in town, but there just wasn’t an opportunity for that yet. He made good money as a bounty hunter, and that was the priority. Whatever he had to do to look after his mother, he would do it.
“I would love it if you found a nice girl,” his mother said, not for the first time in recent months. She was always urging him to hurry up and marry.
“Ma, you know I’m not in the right place for that right now. I need to keep looking after you and the farm, and I need to keep getting after them felons if I intend to keep a job for myself,” Micah said.
“That’s what the sheriff is for. I mean, the felons, not looking after me. Yes, I appreciate you wanting to do that, but don’t you think that I can look after myself by now?” his mother asked, a flour-caked hand on her hip.
“I know you can, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to make you. I just want you to know that I’ll always be here for you, Ma. I love being here for you. It makes me happy. I’d rather look after you than make you take care of yourself,” Micah said.
“Well, you are a peach, but I rather enjoy my independence. You and those friends of yours, the bounty hunters, I mean, you all need to think about what the world would look like if you settled down and let the law take care of those men,” she said.
Micah tried not to laugh at that thought. Sure, Johnny was as good a sheriff as they came, but that didn’t mean much. The sheriffs that Micah had interacted with tended to be hotheads. Not only that, but they were oftentimes busy with other things. Petty crimes in a town took precedence over the bank robbers who would swing into town one day and be gone the next.
But Micah looked at his mother, who was all on her own now. He wanted to ensure that the world was safe for her. He certainly owed her that much. But she didn’t seem to realize a part of that meant taking these jobs whenever they happened to be on offer. And this one was going to be a good deal less intense than most. After all, how hard could it be? All he had to do was find the pretty girl and take her back on a train. Surely she would go easily enough.
“Have some,” his mother said, placing a warm, finished loaf before him. She was still working on the next batch that he figured she would sell in town or give to neighbors. She brought over a little bowl of butter, which Micah took care to slather on the bread slice.
“How is it?” she asked once he had a mouthful.
“Ish really goo,” he said, garbling the words as he chewed.
She grinned with pride as she turned back to the risen loaf before her.
Micah didn’t want to leave right away. He knew that he had to write back to Anthony Smithfield and get searching for Tandy, but the last thing he wanted was to leave his mother behind again without having stayed for at least a week. Nevertheless, he knew that he had a duty, and it was his responsibility to see to it that the girl was returned home right away.
“Thank you, Ma. It was excellent,” he said.
“You should take the rest with you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked, already dreading their goodbye.
“I know you have to head out again, Micah. If you happen to find her quickly, you should still stay here for an extra night or two. But if you can’t, just take the bread, and I’ll have a couple more loaves for the two of you to share on the journey,” she said.
Micah smiled, grateful that his mother was so understanding. He wanted to talk to her for a while longer, but Micah went ahead and made his way to his room, where he wrote a letter back to Mr. Smithfield. Then, after taking it to the post office, he headed south.
“Hearts on the Run” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Tandy Smithfield has just received the most dreadful news; her parents are forcing her to marry a man full of arrogance and devoid of grace. With no other choice but to run, Tandy sneaks out one night, sacrificing her comfortable life in the hopes of a better chance at love and happiness. On her way to freedom, beyond the wildness of the West, she stumbles upon Micah, the man her furious father hired to bring her home at any price. Despite being rather angry at first, something about being with him feels oddly liberating, stirring strange feelings within Tandy. Will she manage to escape her miserable fate or is there no way out for her? Could Micah be the man of her dreams, the hero of her fairytale?
Micah Jensen is a famous bounty hunter, whose life’s mission is to keep everyone safe by arresting dangerous criminals. When he is hired to return a runaway bride home, he has no idea what a hazardous journey awaits him. What he could never have predicted was that a seemingly easy and harmless mission would trouble his mind deeply and affect his decisions from now on. Before he even realizes it, Tandy steals his heart, and a complicated dilemma that will question his very values arises. Will he be able to cut ties and stick to his commitment and duty? Or will his honor, and his emotions, require a different answer?
With everything and everyone set against them, an adventurous quest begins, challenging their will and newfound feelings. Soon, the lurking dangers and threats bring them closer, leaving them powerless to resist their mutual attraction. Can Micah silence his tangled thoughts and give in to what he truly wants? Will Tandy break through the walls around his heart before it’s too late, or will the dangers of the mountains be the end of both of them?
“Hearts on the Run” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.