Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice (Preview)

Chapter One

Alanna Rosen stood at the sink in her parents’ home as she washed the last of the lunch dishes. She looked out of the kitchen window longingly, wishing she was outside enjoying the fresh spring weather instead of inside doing chores. Knowing that going outside wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, she sighed and picked up a dirty plate to wash. She had a long list of things her mother, Teresa, had assigned to her before she drove the family buggy into their small town, which was located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, to do her weekly shopping. Teresa hadn’t returned by lunchtime, letting Alanna know she had likely shared the meal with one of her many friends in town. Alanna’s father, James, had eaten with her, but then he disappeared into his study the moment he cleared his plate, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

Not for the first time in the last few years, Alanna wished her life was different. She was the only child and she often wondered what it would have been like to have had a sister or brother. For one thing, if she’d had siblings, she wouldn’t be stuck with doing all the mundane work her mother didn’t want to do. Teresa was very controlling of Alanna’s time and, even though she’d just turned twenty-five a few weeks ago, refused to allow her to find a job to earn money of her own.

“A woman’s place is taking care of her home, husband and any children she may have,” her mother told her many times. “Not earning wages that a man could earn instead.”

Another common reminder that her mother said almost weekly was that Alanna wasn’t getting any younger. Her focus should have been on finding a husband, not working at a job. Alanna was aware that her mother was afraid that her only daughter was going to end up dying an old maid, and how that would look to her friends. Their daughters had dutifully married a year or two after graduating from the town’s school and were now producing grandchildren. 

The kitchen door opened, and Alanna glanced at her mother who stepped inside. Without greeting Alanna, her mother set a cloth bag full of her purchases on the kitchen table and began to remove her gloves and hat, setting them carefully aside.

“You received another letter,” Teresa informed Alanna as she pulled an envelope from the bag and waved it in the air.

Alanna wiped her hands on a nearby towel before taking the letter. She glanced at it to see who it was from before tucking it into her apron pocket, although she already knew who had written the letter. It wasn’t as if she received letters from too many people. It was from a man named Oscar Gray, or Odie as he had informed her that he liked to be called. 

“Aren’t you going to read it?” Teresa asked. 

“I will later after I’ve finished that list of chores you gave me,” Alanna answered dryly as she turned back to the sink. 

She knew her mother hadn’t liked her answer and was relieved when Teresa gave a small sigh of frustration before leaving the kitchen. A few seconds later, Alanna heard a door shut, and she knew her mother had gone in her room to take her daily afternoon nap.

Shaking her head, Alanna finished the last of the dishes and then moved onto her next chore which was to sweep the floor. While she worked, she thought about the letter which felt like it was burning a hole in her pocket and why she was receiving letters from Odie Gray in the first place. 

Three months ago, Alanna had been in the living room with her parents. Dinner was over and Alanna was sewing up a new apron, while Teresa knitted a pair of mittens for James. He was quietly reading a new book he had purchased that day. Alanna remembered feeling envious that her father could use his time reading, learning new things, while she had to sew or do other womanly duties just to keep her mother happy. There was a large bookcase in his study that was full of books, and Alanna had read most of them whenever she had some free time. It was something she had in common with her father, a love for learning. Over the years, James had purchased many books about a variety of subjects. Alanna had glanced at the clock that sat above the fireplace and was glad to see that it was almost time to retire for the night. She was wondering if she could get away with going to her room early when her mother had spoken. 

“Alanna, you will be turning twenty-five in a few months,” Teresa had said. “It is high time that you marry.”

Alanna tried to keep the frustration out of her voice. “Mother, you know that I am not interested in any of the men in town.”

“What about Mr. Roberts?” Teresa asked. “I’m sure that if you would just show some interest, he would make you his wife in no time.”

Alanna shuttered as she pictured the grizzly older man. “I don’t want to marry someone who is almost as old as Father.”

Her mother had waved a hand in the air as if Alanna’s comment didn’t matter. “Then there is Mr. Powell. He has been a widower for almost a year now and those poor children of his do need a mother.”

This time Alanna scowled as she thought of those motherless children, who needed discipline more than anything else. Mr. Powell had three boys who did their best to terrorize the citizens in town. She had a lot to say about Mr. Powell, but her mother had already heard her reasonings for not encouraging him, and Alanna didn’t want to repeat herself.

“I have something to show you.” Teresa stood and walked over to a table where a weekly newspaper, a few books and the daily mail sat. She picked up an envelope and gave Alanna a calculating look as she tapped the edge on her hand. “Since you are refusing to be courted by any of the men that we know, I have taken the liberty to answer an ad for a mail-order bride.”

Alanna looked at her mother in confusion. “What are you talking about? What is a mail-order bride?”

Teresa sat down, still holding the envelope in her hands. “A few weeks ago, I saw a very interesting advertisement in the newspaper. There were three of them, men, I mean, who live in the west and are looking for a wife. I did a bit of research and discovered that evidently, because there are few women who live in some of the smaller towns, it is common for men to place ads in the eastern newspapers for a wife. I chose one of the men and wrote to him on your behalf.”

Dread filled Alanna’s heart. Did her mother want to get rid of her so badly that she would resort to forcing her to marry a man she had never even met? She looked at her father to see what his reaction was. He kept his eyes on the book in his lap, and she had to wonder if he was aware of Teresa’s actions. Was he even listening?

“I think I am going to go to bed,” Alanna said, her voice shaking as she set the sewing aside. 

Her mother held out the letter and when Alanna didn’t immediately take it, she placed it in her lap. “At least read it. You say you aren’t interested in any of the men who live in our fine town. This is another option for marriage.”

Out of curiosity more than anything, Alanna had read the letter once she was alone in her room. It was written by Odie, a man who lived in a small town of Sweetwater Springs, Colorado. He said he was thirty-three years old and owed a small parcel of land just outside of town. He was lonely and wished for a wife for companionship. After reading the letter a third time, she had to wonder what her mother had told him about Alanna. Odie’s letter hadn’t really grabbed her attention, but he seemed to word his sentences thoughtfully, and she could tell he had received some education which she had to admit impressed her. If she was going to be forced to marry, she wanted it to be with a man who at least knew how to read and write well. 

She had talked to her father the next day who encouraged her to write Odie back. What would it hurt, after all? But then he added an incentive, something Alanna couldn’t turn down. He offered to pay for some correspondence classes she wanted to take.

One of the things Alanna desperately wanted was to further her own education, but her mother was against it. Women just didn’t go to college. In her way of thinking, if Alanna did so, she would be smarter than most of the men around her, and that just wouldn’t do. It would greatly hurt any chances of finding a man who would want to marry her. 

Ever since she was a young girl, Alanna spent most of her free time drawing and sketching. James had given her a few books that taught her how to draw various animals and plants. Alanna had gone through those books multiple times and now felt she had learned all she could on her own. She desperately wanted to take some art classes. Since attending a college was out of the question, she wanted to do the next best thing; take correspondence art courses through the mail. She had found a nearby college which offered classes that could be taken entirely by mail. Of course, there was a high fee the college asked for because they would need to mail everything. Alanna immediately began to save her money so she could purchase the first course, but she only had about half the amount she needed. She was able to sell some of her drawings in the general store, but it was going to take her at least another year before she had enough saved up. 

With the knowledge that she might be able to finally realize her dream of taking the art classes, she decided that it wouldn’t hurt to write Odie back. Maybe, out of some stroke of luck, he would turn out to be a decent man she wouldn’t mind marrying. Over the last few months, she had exchanged four letters with him. She actually enjoyed his letters, although sometimes she found parts of them to be strangely inconsistent. 

He spoke about his younger sister who he had helped raise. He described his house that he claimed to have built with his own hands. In his last letter, Alanna began to wonder if he really was older than his stated age of thirty-three because he’d been one of the first to have built a house when Sweetwater Springs got its start over twenty years ago. Wouldn’t he have been just a boy then? In one letter, he stated that his house was of modest size, with two bedrooms, and a shared room that consisted of the kitchen and living area. In the next, he wrote more details about the house, but this time stating that there were three bedrooms and a separate room that could be used as a parlor. He also described a large barn that housed two horses, a few cows and chickens, when in his first letter, he’d indicated that he didn’t own any animals. 

Alanna had been confused at these inconsistencies, but then decided that he must be working hard to make the house and barn nice in the event that he marry. 

She didn’t have time to read Odie’s latest letter until later that evening. Her mother had gone to bed, complaining of a bad headache. While Alanna felt bad that her mother didn’t feel well, she was relieved that Teresa had seemed to have forgotten all about the letter. As usual, Alanna went into the living room and found her father in his usual comfortable chair, a book in his lap. 

“I received another letter from Odie,” Alanna said, getting right to the point. She wanted to talk to her father about this when Teresa wasn’t around, and now seemed to be a good time.

“What did he say?” James asked curiously.

“I haven’t read it yet,” Alanna admitted.

“Now is a good time to do so, don’t you think?” he suggested.

Alanna stifled a sigh, knowing that she was delaying the inevitable, and slowly opened the envelope. She was dreading to find out what was in this particular letter. It was thicker than his others, and she instinctively knew what was inside. Sure enough, as she pulled a single sheet of paper out, and three ten-dollar bills fell to her lap. The letter was short. Odie informed her that he enjoyed writing her and decided that she would do well enough as his wife. He included money in good faith that she would use it to purchase a train ticket and join him in Colorado as soon as possible. She could use any of the money left over for traveling expenses. He asked her to send a telegram, letting him know when she would be arriving. 

She looked at James. “He’s asking me to marry him.”

Her father sighed, setting his book aside, and for the first time Alanna could tell that he wasn’t at all happy at the turn of events. Even though he acted like he supported Teresa’s plans that Alanna become a mail-order bride, she wondered if he really wanted her to leave. “I’m going to miss you around here.”

Alanna noticed that he didn’t ask her if she had actually made a decision to marry Odie. He was assuming that she would.

“I’ll miss you too,” Alanna responded. 

With those words, she knew she was going to travel hundreds of miles to Sweetwater Springs and marry a man she’d never met. 

“Once you are settled, I’ll make sure that the art courses you want are sent to you,” James promised. 

“Thank you,” was all Alanna could think to say. 

She didn’t want to marry Odie, but at least she was going to be able to further her talents because of it. Besides, she really didn’t feel like she had a choice. Her mother had made it clear that she needed to marry, and soon. She was beginning to wonder if she didn’t agree to marry Odie, or at least another man who lived in town, she would be kicked out of her childhood home. While she loved the idea of having her own life and freedom to live it as she wished, she didn’t have the means to support herself. 

Excusing herself, she gave her father a goodnight kiss on his cheek and then went into her room. She read through the short letter again and set the money aside. Pulling out some paper from her desk, she wrote Odie a short letter, letting him know that she accepted his offer of marriage, and that she would send a telegram as soon as she had purchased a ticket. 

As she sealed the letter in an envelope, she felt dull inside. Shouldn’t she be feeling happier and even excited that she was going to be married, most likely by the end of the month? 

She settled herself in her bed and then picked up her Bible. She had started reading a chapter of scripture every night when she was ten years old and had kept up with this habit. Over the years, she always had a peace surround her when she read God’s words. On this night, she let the Bible open on its own, hoping that a verse would stand out to her that could comfort her in this decision she was making for her future. She immediately saw a verse that she had read many times before, found in Joshua.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. 

As she read, peace did fill her heart and she felt comforted that even if she didn’t know what her new life was going to be like with Odie, God would always be with her.

Chapter Two

Tom Paulsen left the sheriff’s office, letting the door slam closed behind him. He felt frustrated that the sheriff, Bill Clayton, had requested that he keep an eye on the saloon by himself today. Bill had informed him that there were rumors that a large card game was scheduled to be held that afternoon. The owner of the Silver Dollar Saloon, Brett Osborne, had requested that the sheriff show his face just to keep things under control when these large games happened, but this job had been passed to Tom. 

Usually, he didn’t mind checking on things, but he was concerned about who would be attending the game. He also knew that these types of jobs were part of being a deputy. He just wished he wasn’t going to be the only law enforcer at the saloon, but Bill had given other jobs to Pete and Jed, the other deputies. 

He strode down the street, greeting a few townspeople as they passed. He loved living in this small town of Colorado. Sweetwater Springs was a ranching town that was located southwest of Taos and near the New Mexico border. There were less than five hundred people in the town and surrounding area, but it was growing. Many people were choosing to live in this area because of the land available for ranching and farming. But it also attracted prospectors who worked in the nearby silver mines and the men who drifted from town to town, some of them causing trouble as they did so, especially the last few months. Because of this, Tom had heard that there were a few families who considered settling in Sweetwater Springs, but had chosen to move on, concerned about the safety of their families. 

He thought of the farm that he’d just purchased about six months ago that was located only a mile from town. He spent most of his spare time getting the house, barn, and land into shape when he wasn’t performing his deputy duties. It wasn’t much as far as farms go, only about ten acres, but it was his. 

He had left his childhood home in Kansas the day he turned eighteen and spent his time slowly moving west. He earned money when he could, working on various farms and ranches, as well as a few deputy jobs. He’d been living in Sweetwater Springs for almost two years and was thrilled when he heard the small farm was up for sale. Using the money he had saved, he was able to purchase it. 

Around the time he had purchased the farm, he had received word that his father had died, so he traveled back to Kansas, helped his mother sell the family home, and then brought her to Sweetwater Springs. He had wanted her to live with him on his farm so that he could take care of her, but Laura had insisted that she was capable of supporting herself. Using the money she had made from selling the family home, she had purchased a new house that was located in the center of Sweetwater Springs. After moving in, she promptly turned the home into a boardinghouse for single women, which was thriving. 

When he reached the Silver Dollar Saloon, he walked purposely through the wooden swinging doors. A quick glance around the room let him know that the card game had already started, but everything was calm. There were six men surrounding a back table as well as two ladies-of-the night, who were also known as Brett’s girls, serving the men drinks. Tom’s heart fell when he saw that Odie Gray was part of the game, one of the two men who he wished would just disappear from Sweetwater Springs. 

Odie was a huge blustering man who fancied himself as a professional gambler, when in truth he lost games more than he won. Sometimes when he did lose a game, he became violent and started fights. Tom also suspected that Odie sometimes robbed the men he felt had cheated him, although that had never been proven, and he had never been caught. Odie usually spent the weekdays working in a nearby silver mine, but he obviously decided to take the day off. 

Tom headed to the bar and sat on a stool. “How are things going, Brett?” he greeted the owner of the bar.

Brett’s gray eyes darted to the card game briefly. “So far there haven’t been any problems. Are you going to join the game?”

Bill had suggested that Tom join the game in an effort to keep things under control, but he was reluctant. Odie was a dirty player and Tom would rather just observe, but he knew what was expected of him. “I’d like to enjoy a drink first.”

Brett nodded his understanding and quickly poured some beer into a glass before pushing it toward Tom. 

“Appreciate that you’re here.” When Tom reached into his pocket for a few coins, Brett shook his head. “Drinks are on the house for you today.”

Brett moved on to help another customer and Tom took a swallow, grimacing at the bitter taste of the lukewarm beer. The doors swung open, and Tom tried not to frown at the man who just walked in—Joe Haring. If Tom had a nemesis in his life, it was this man, all because he’d been able to purchase his land before Joe had gotten to it himself. Joe owned quite a bit of land in the hills that surrounded Sweetwater Springs, as well as one of the silver mines. The previous owner of Tom’s farm had almost sold it to Joe, but when he found out that Tom wanted to purchase it, he sold it to him instead.

“I’m a firm believer that a man needs some land of his own, and Joe Haring has more than his fair share,” the previous owner had shared with Tom at the bank the day they signed the deed papers. 

Even though Tom had purchased the land fair and square, Joe seemed to now have a vendetta against him. From what Tom had been able to ascertain, Joe seemed to be a sneaky, cowardly man who used others to fight his battles for him. Everything he’d ever learned about Joe had been through other people. 

Tom watched as one of Brett’s girls, Daisy, sashayed to Joe’s side, her bright red dress swinging back and forth, and draped an arm on his shoulder in a flirty greeting. Joe’s eyes narrowed when he saw Tom at the bar before giving Daisy a wide smile. He took her hand and led her to a corner table.

“Do you want your usual, Joe?” Brett called out.

Joe gave a sharp nod before turning his attention to Daisy. Tom spent the next hour nursing his drink while visiting with Mr. Willie Dalton, a grizzly older man who spent every afternoon and evening on the same stool. Willie was a delightful man who’d had a long life as a mountain man. Now in his late seventies, he was enjoying his last years of his life in this small town. He spent his days at Silver Dollar Saloon while his spinster daughter taught at the local school. In the evenings, she made sure Willie had a good meal to eat and a warm bed to sleep in. Tom loved listening to Willie’s stories about his life in the Rocky Mountains. 

“Did I ever tell you about the time a grizzly almost did me in?” Willie asked, a sparkle in his gray eyes.

Even though Tom had heard this story before, he smiled. “I’d love to hear it.”

“It happened about twenty years ago. I was out checking my traps. It was late fall when I saw the old guy. I was surprised since it had already snowed once that year, and I thought most of the bears were already tucked in their dens nice and snug for the winter. He was thinner than he should have been for that time of year. This should have been a concern for me.”

Willie paused and Tom knew it was his cue to ask, “Why is that?”

“He obviously hadn’t gotten enough to eat that summer. I soon realized why. He had an injured front paw. Must have gotten it caught in a trap or something like that. The old bear could hardly walk because of that paw. He must have been in an awful lot of pain. But when he saw me, he grew angry. He stood on his hind feet and gave the loudest roar I’ve ever heard.”

“Then what happened?”

Tom looked at a young man, Mark, who looked barely old enough to be out of the schoolroom. Mark had taken another stool and was listening to Willie’s story with wide eyes. Willie turned his attention to Mark, obviously delighted to have a new listener. “I had my gun with me, but I had leaned it against a tree so I could check a trap. It was about ten feet away from me and I cursed myself for my stupidity. A man always knows to never let his gun out of his hands. This bear dropped on all fours and began to lumber toward me. I guess I should thank my lucky stars that he could hardly walk with his injured leg. It gave me time to grab my gun.” Willie stopped talking and took a swig of a fresh glass of beer Brett placed in front of him. 

“Then what?” Mark asked again.

“I’ll tell you. Even though I hated the thought of killing such a magnificent creature, I took aim and fired. It took two bullets to stop him in his tracks. If he hadn’t been injured, I would have met my maker that day. Instead, that old grizzly met his.” Willie laughed, showing a mouth with a few teeth missing. “Even though he was mighty thin, his meat helped me and some friends get through the winter, though it was a bit tough.”

Tom smiled and swiveled around on his stool, glad to see that things were still fairly calm with the card game. He watched as one of the men tossed his cards on the table before scooping up a pitiful amount he’d won and stuffed the coins in his pockets. He glared at the other men, keeping his gaze on Odie for a long second before turning on his heel and left the saloon. With the game one man short, Tom decided it was time to include himself. He finished off his drink and strode toward the table.

“Is this chair taken?” Tom asked as he sat down without an invitation.

“Don’t know if we want a deputy playing,” Odie retorted harshly. “The last time you did, you cheated.”

“My money is as good as everyone else’s,” Tom said evenly. “And I don’t cheat.” 

He gave Odie a firm look. Suddenly, Joe appeared at Odie’s side and whispered something in the older man’s ear. Odie scowled at Joe but finally nodded at Tom. 

“Might as well play,” Odie muttered. “Seeing as we’re short a man.”

The other men nodded their agreement. The first few hands went smoothly. Tom folded one hand and won the next, although it wasn’t enough to brag about. The third hand was when trouble began. When Tom first saw his cards, he knew he was also going to win this hand, but halfway through the game Odie jumped to his feet, throwing his cards on the floor.

“You cheated!” It was Odie yelling the accusation at Tom, his round face red with anger. 

The man who was sitting next to Tom stood up and sneered. “Wonder why you always say that when your losing, Odie.”

“You aren’t the gambler you think you are,” another man, Russ, shouted.

Those words seemed to make Odie even angrier. He began to swing his fists toward Russ, hitting the man in the side of his face. Blood spurted everywhere and the man fell to the floor. 

“I suggest that you men leave now before I have to start making arrests,” Tom stated in a loud voice. 

Two men immediately took him at his word and swept up their winnings before quickly leaving. Russ slowly got to his feet and soon disappeared out the door. Instead of leaving, Dean took a swing toward Tom, but he was so drunk he could barely stand. Tom reached out to grab Dean’s arm in an attempt to keep him from falling but was unable to. With his attention on Dean, Odie swung out, hitting Tom square in the nose. Anger filled him as he turned placed a foot on the fallen man’s chest to keep him down. Fighting through the pain that spread through his face he decided to give Odie an out even though he really should arrest him for punching him. He didn’t want the headache of dragging the man to jail. 

Then Odie sneered. “What are you going to do now?”

“If you don’t leave the saloon, I’ll be arresting you,” Tom retorted angrily as he spit some blood on the floor.

“Only if you can catch me.” Odie began to swing his fists again and Tom immediately had the older man in a choke hold, using a move his father had taught him as a young boy. He pulled some rope that was hanging off his belt and quickly tied Odie’s hands behind his back in a chair. Once Odie was secured, he also tied up Dean. He again wished that Bill had come with him, but he also knew he would be able to get both men to the jail cells on his own, now that they were both tied up. Besides, the way they were swaying told Tom they’d had too much to drink, and there wasn’t much fight left in them.

“Come on. Let’s get you both into a cell. You men can sleep it off,” Tom said as he pulled Dean to his feet with one hand and pushed Odie in front of him with the other toward the swinging doors.

As he half led and half dragged Odie and Dean out of the saloon, Tom noticed Joe still sitting at the table he’d chosen a few hours before, although he was now alone. Joe gave him a smirk and touched his nose, as if mocking Tom for his bloody face. He wondered what Joe had whispered to Odie when Tom had asked to join the game. There was definitely something in Joe’s eyes that warned Tom that he needed to keep an eye on the man. Odie staggered, almost falling to the floor, and Tom turned his attention to the older man.

Dean kept quiet on the short walk to the sheriff’s office, but Odie talked enough for the both of them.

“Joe’s right. He told me to let you join the game so I can prove that you cheat, and that is just what you did,” Odie accused him. “The game was going fine until you joined. None of this would have happened if you had just kept talking to crazy Willie.”

Tom did his best to remain calm even though he still had blood flowing down his face. With each step, Odie grew louder with his accusations and belligerent words. Tom was beginning to want to punch the man just to shut him up and was glad when he finally had both men inside the sheriff’s office and in separate cells. Dean instantly collapsed on the thin cot and began to snore while Odie continued his accusations behind the iron bars. 

Tom ignored Odie and made himself comfortable behind his desk and began to write up what had just happened. While he wrote, he wished that Odie’s younger brother, Matthew, was around. Odie shared a fairly nice house with Matthew when he was in town. Matthew was about ten years younger than Odie and seemed to be able to keep his older brother out of trouble more often than not. But Matthew had been gone for a few months taking care of some business dealings in Texas. Tom hoped that he would be returning soon and could keep Odie in line again. But for now, Odie could enjoy the fine accommodations of a Sweetwater Springs jail.

Chapter Three

Odie glared at the back of Tom as he disappeared into the front of the building, and anger filled him. He hated that the deputy had been able to best him, both at cards and then tying him up before dragging him through town to the jail. He hadn’t wanted Tom to play with them to begin with, but then Joe had approached him, whispering that maybe this time Odie could catch the deputy at cheating. He knew that Joe wanted to get Tom fired from being a deputy. He had bought some land that Joe wanted out from under him and he was still sore about it. Taking the hint, Odie had agreed, against his better judgment. He always had suspected that Tom cheated, but Odie had been doing well, winning almost every hand, and he had wanted his luck to continue. Tom had ruined that for him by joining the game. 

He continued to yell hateful words at the now absent Tom, but finally decided to save his breath. Instead, he paced back and forth in the small space the cell provided. He could see Dean passed out on the cot, the middle of it sagging with his considerable weight. He scowled at the sight of the drunken man. Odie himself drank a lot, but at least he could handle his liquor. 

He shoved his hands into his pockets and something crinkled, reminding him that he had gotten another letter that day. Grinning at the idea that he now had something to do to pass the time until someone let him out, he pulled it out. He sat down on the cot in his cell and ripped open the letter. A thin sheet of paper fluttered to the floor, and he scooped pick it up. He carefully scanned the page, trying to figure out where the letter started and nodded with satisfaction when he recognized his name.

He wished that his younger brother, Matthew, was around to read the letter for him. A few months ago, Matthew had gotten a bright idea that Odie send away for a mail-order bride. Initially, Odie had been against it until Matthew pointed out that having a woman around the house to cook and clean for them would be a good idea. He still remembered that first night when Matthew had brought home a newspaper.

Odie sat at the kitchen table with a bowl full of leftover stew in front of him. 

“Stew again?” Matthew scowled at the cast iron pan that sat on the back of the wood stove. “I wish you would cook something else.”

“Stew is all I know how to make. If you don’t like it, then you cook,” Odie retorted, although he secretly agreed with his brother. He was absolutely sick of the stuff. 

He and Matthew had an arrangement. Odie would cook and do the dishes and Matthew would take care of the barn chores. At the beginning of the week, Odie would go into town and purchase a large beef roast with whatever vegetables he could find. He then made a pot of stew in a large cast iron pan, enough to last all week. If they were lucky, they were able to buy bread to eat with the stew. Odie had tried to learn how to make biscuits, but they aways came out as hard lumps. Although they tasted well enough if they allowed the stew to soak into them before eating. 

“Why did you bring a newspaper home?” Odie asked. 

He hated it when Matthew brought books and newspapers home. It was always a reminder that his younger brother could read and write better than him, and sometimes, he felt Matthew flaunted that fact. Odie had only been able to attend school until he was ten years old before his pa made him quit to work on their farm, against the wishes of their mother. By the time Matthew was old enough to attend school, their father had died, and Ma had insisted that Matthew have a chance to get as much education that their small Texas town could provide, while Odie kept the farm going to support the family. 

“I have something to show you.” Matthew opened it and pointed at a small ad.

“What’s that?” Odie asked.

“It’s an ad for a mail-order bride.” Before Odie could ask what a mail-order bride was, Matthew continued, “I guess there are women desperate enough to want to get married that they will do anything to do so. Men who live in small towns like we do place ads for wives and women back east answer them and eventually agree to travel from their home just to get married. I find that very… interesting.”

“You wanting to get married?” Odie asked, feeling confused, and then laughed. “I can’t picture you settling down with one woman.” His brother spent a lot of time courting one woman or another, but he always moved on when the woman started to think about settling down. 

“Nope, but I think you should.”

“No way.” Odie immediately shook his head. “I don’t want no woman bossing me around.”

“It won’t be like she will be a real wife. Like I said, any woman who answers these ads are desperate to get married. You could send away for one who would cook and clean for us, kind of like a housekeeper, but she’ll be your wife. That way we won’t have to pay her for the work she does around here.”

Odie was about ready to refuse the idea, but then he glanced at the now cold and watery stew. 

“It would be mighty nice to eat something besides stew,” Matthew pointed out as if reading Odie’s mind.

“And wash our clothes,” Odie added, suddenly warming to the idea and thinking about the mound of dirty shirts in the corner of his room. He hated doing his laundry and tended to wear the same shirt every day until it was almost worn out. Then he’d go to the general store and purchase a new one. 

After eating their fill of stew, Matthew helped Odie write up an ad. The next day, he placed it in several newspapers back east. Over the next few weeks Odie had forgotten about the ad until one day when Matthew came home with three letters, all of them were answers to the ad. He read them all to Odie and after much discussion and arguing, they finally chose to write a woman named Alanna Rosen. She had written that she was twenty-five, the oldest of the three women who had answered the ad, so Odie felt she was likely the most desperate since she was already an old maid. He didn’t want her backing out at the last minute. 

Over the last few months, they had exchanged four letters. Matthew always helped by reading the letters to Odie and then composing an answer. In fact, he found himself using Matthew’s identity and the way he spoke, and his brother never corrected him. He did make sure that Alanna knew how to cook and clean which she had answered in the affirmative in her second letter, and even included what she cooked regularly for her parents. The more he received letters from Alanna, the more he found himself really liking this idea. He was sure once Alanna arrived, she would see how handsome and charming he was, and she will instantly fall in love with him. 

He had originally wanted a wife to cook and clean for him and Matthew, but as the weeks passed, he began to realize he could also have a woman to warm his bed. She would be his wife, after all, and she would have to do what he wished. In his last letter, he had taken some of his hard-earned cash from his job at the mine and officially asked Alanna to marry him, making sure there was enough money to entice her to want to agree, and to cover traveling expenses. Matthew had thought it wasn’t smart to send her the money without having a firm answer. After all, she could keep the money while deciding she had changed her mind to be a mail-order bride. But Odie felt it was better to send the money. One thing Odie had learned about Alanna was that she was an honest, God-fearing woman, and he didn’t think she’d keep the money if she decided she didn’t want to marry him. After all, from what he remembered when his ma had read out of the Bible to him when he was a youngster, it was against the commandments to steal.

Now, he stared at the recent letter and then began to slowly read each word. As he read, a grin spread across his face. Alanna had agreed to marry him and would send a telegram to let him know when she should be arriving. When he finally finished the letter, he smiled with satisfaction. Hopefully, Alanna would arrive in Sweetwater Springs by the end of the month. The first thing he was going to have her do, after the wedding ceremony of course, was to make him a roast beef meal with mashed potatoes and gravy, and rolls. He thought about the mess his house was in and wondered if he should hire someone to clean it before Alanna arrived, but then shook his head. His new bride could do the cleaning herself. 

“What are you laughing about?”

Odie jumped to his feet with surprise and then scowled at Tom who had suddenly appeared, upset that he had been so focused on Alanna’s letter, he hadn’t heard the deputy’s footsteps. 

“None of your business.” He frowned. “Just because you arrested me doesn’t mean you need to know my private business.”

Tom didn’t seem at all upset at his harsh words. Instead, he leaned against an open doorway as if he had all the time in the world to hear about the letter Odie had in his hands. 

“Is that letter from your brother?” Tom asked.

“Why would you think it was from Matthew?” 

Tom shrugged. “Just wondered when he was coming back in town.”

“I’m expecting Matthew back any day. In fact, he’ll be here just in time for my wedding,” Odie boasted.

“Wedding?”

“Yep.” Odie held the letter in the air. He knew that he should refuse to talk, but he couldn’t help himself. “I got a woman coming to town to marry me.”

“You do? What is her name?”

“Alanna Rosen.”

“Is she from Texas? Is she coming back with Matthew?”

Odie shook his head. “She is a mail-order bride, coming all the way from Mass-tusetts.” He frowned at himself as he tried to say the city’s name correctly but failed to do so.

“What?” Tom looked surprised. 

Odie kept smirking. Obiviously, he knew something that Tom didn’t. “A mail-order bride. I placed an ad and Alanna answered it. It was Matthew’s idea, but I think it’s brilliant. Matthew is the one who wrote the ad for me and has helped me write her back. She thinks I’m an educated man.” Odie laughed, congratulating himself on tricking a pretty young lady into thinking he was the right man for her.

“Doesn’t sound very honest,” Tom frowned.

With those words, Odie immediately remembered how much he hated this man. He hadn’t wanted to tell Tom in the first place, and he figured he had been tricked into telling the deputy about Alanna.

“I don’t need your judgment. You are a cheater and I hope you go to hell!”

Tom shrugged his shoulders at Odie’s words, but he returned to the other room, leaving Odie alone again. He should have known Tom would think that sending away for a mail-order bride was an awful idea. But he now smirked with satisfaction. Even if Tom hated the idea, soon Odie would have something the cocky deputy didn’t have: a wife.


“Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Alanna Rosen is shocked to find out that her mother has answered a mail-order bride ad on her behalf and expects her to travel west to marry a stranger. Having no other choice, she leaves home only to discover that the man she was to marry has been killed. Luckily, she meets Tom, a handsome deputy, who helps her to find a job and quickly settle into her new life. However, when a well-buried secret comes to light, Alanna has to face an unenviable situation…

Can she learn to trust her feelings as she moves forward with her life?

Tom Paulsen is a hard-working deputy who loves his job and always looks for the good in people. When he finds out that the young woman arriving in town is the bride of a man he accidentally shot in a gunfight, he promises to do everything in his power to protect her. Fate has other plans though, as the moment he looks at her, his heart shivers for the first time…

Will Tom be able to persuade Alanna to open up to him and let him protect her from hidden threats?

A series of coincidences bring Tom and Alanna closer together, but they also reveal a new danger. With their growing feelings for each other getting stronger, they must both allow light to illuminate every hidden truth. While fighting unseen enemies, can these two people learn to rely on each other?

“Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

5 thoughts on “Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice (Preview)”

  1. An enjoyable story of Alanna a young lady from the city whose Mom is forcing to get married and Odie an uneducated man who poses as an educated and self reliant man and wants Alanna to be his mail order bride. How the story unfolds will be very interesting. Will Alanna find happiness in Colorado.

  2. Oh poor Alanna. Odie is awful and Tom is going to get the brunt of the mans issues it looks like. I really am looking forward to the rest of this story. I believe that it will be very interesting.

    1. I am glad it caught your attention my dear! I will be eagerly awaiting for your comment in the extended epilogue section once you’ve read the story! I hope you enjoy! 😍

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