You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Martha Rogers is a former schoolteacher and English instructor whose first book in the Winds Across the Prairie series, Becoming Lucy, became an immediate best seller. Morning for Dove (May 2010) is the second book in this series. Her book Not on the Menu is a part of Sugar and Grits, a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. Rogers lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (October 5, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Rebecca Haynes slammed her book shut. If those children didn’t quiet down soon, she would scream. A mother ought to be able to control her own young ones, but the haggard, worn look of the woman across the aisle told Rebecca that the problem was more than unruly children. She was just the type of woman Rebecca hoped to liberate in her efforts with the women’s suffrage movement. The landscape outside the train window sped by, drawing Rebecca closer to home with each clack of the wheels. To this point the journey had been quite pleasant, but when the mother with her brood of three had joined the travelers, all peace disappeared. Not that she blamed the mother, but the commotion was bothersome. Rebecca turned her attention to the youngsters. They had quieted down some, but the two older ones still roamed the aisles while the baby whimpered in her mother’s arms. She loved children, but she preferred the well-mannered, quiet ones like the cousins she’d met during her stay in Boston. A deep sigh escaped. How she would miss the friends she’d made while in college at Wellesley. Her aunt Clara had made sure she would have the best education possible, and Rebecca had loved every minute of it, but it was now time to go home and see what a difference she could make in the world.
She mused at the similarity of her situation with that of Lucy Starnes, one of her cousins from Boston now living in Barton Creek. Just as Lucy had come to live in Oklahoma Territory to live with her aunt and uncle, Rebecca had traveled to Boston to live with an aunt and uncle there. The difference being that Lucy’s parents had died, forcing her to move out West to live with family. Rebecca had gone back East to further her education and get to know her father’s family.
Now she was headed home to Barton Creek, where she hoped to begin the steps toward a career in journalism. Mr. Lansdowne, her new boss, had balked at first at the idea of having a female reporter working for him, but then he’d relented and hired her. Her father was bound to have had some influence there, but that didn’t matter. She had the job, and if she did it right, she’d be ready for a larger city paper when the opportunity arose.
A hand tugged at her skirt. A blond-haired little boy gripped the fabric with grubby fingers. She glanced over at the weariness in the face of the mother and realized the load carried by the young woman was taking its toll. Instead of scolding the child, Rebecca’s heart softened, and she took matters into her own hands. She grasped the boy’s hand in hers and removed it from her skirt, thankful for the gloves she wore. His bright blue eyes opened wide in surprise. “And what is your name, young master?”
At first he said nothing. He tilted his head as though deciding if it would be all right to answer. A grin revealed a space in his bottom row of teeth. “I’m Billy, and I’m six.”
“Hello, Billy. That’s a fine name.”
A little girl wedged her way next to Rebecca. “My name is Sally, and I’m six years old too. What’s your name?”
A smile filled Rebecca’s heart, her previous vexation gone. The two were twins. No wonder the mother had her hands full. Her heart filled with sympathy. “My name is Rebecca.”
The twins looked at each other, then back to Rebecca. As one voice they said, “We like that name. Can you tell us a story?”
“Children, please don’t bother the young lady.” The mother cast an apologetic frown toward Rebecca.
“That’s all right. I’ll tell them a story.” Doing so would give their mother a much-needed break to take care of the baby.
The mother rewarded her with a relieved smile. Rebecca reached down and lifted Sally to her lap while Billy climbed up beside her. Since she planned to be a writer, Rebecca decided to make up her own story for the two. As she wove the tale of two children on a great adventure across the plains in a covered wagon, Sally’s and Billy’s heads began to nod.
The young woman across the aisle laid her now sleeping baby on the seat and came to Rebecca’s side. “I’ll take them now.”
Though almost reluctant to let her go, Rebecca handed Sally to the mother, then picked up Billy. She followed the two back to their seats. The mother laid Sally on the seat facing her own, then picked up the baby. “You can put Billy by his sister.”
“Do you mind if I sit here and hold him? You must have your hands full with the three of them.”
A tentative smile formed. “That would be nice.”
Rebecca settled herself and shifted Billy so that his weight was more evenly distributed. Just as she craved to speak with another woman, the young mother might enjoy the same. “My name is Rebecca Haynes, and I’m going to Barton Creek.”
The weariness left the woman’s eyes, replaced with a sparkle of excitement. “I’m Ruth Dorsett, and I’m headed for Barton Creek myself.”
Rebecca searched her memory for a recollection of a Dorsett family in Barton Creek. Of course, in the four years she’d been gone, many new families had moved to the town. “I grew up there. Are you visiting, or do you live there now?”
A sadness veiled Ruth’s face. “My husband passed on a few months ago, so we’re going there to live with my parents.”
A lump formed in Rebecca’s throat. “I’m so sorry about your husband. Who are your parents? Perhaps I know them.”
“Their name is Weems. Ma owns a dressmaking shop, and Pa works in the telegraph office.”
“Oh, I do know them. I remember when Mrs. Weems opened her business. We were so glad to have someone who could keep us up-to-date on the latest fashions. She does wonderful work.”
“Thank you. They heard about the opportunities in Oklahoma Territory and moved there when Pa learned they would open a new telegraph office in Barton Creek.”
“Business is doing quite well for your mother. Will you be helping her?”
“Most definitely. Ma taught me to sew at an early age, and I’ve been doing it for my family. I was learning to be a nurse when I met my husband, a doctor, and quit to marry him. I helped with his practice until our babies came along, and then gave assistance whenever I could. Henry was killed in an accident with his buggy going out to deliver a baby on a stormy night. After he passed on, I didn’t know where to turn. I didn’t have the time or money to finish my nurse’s training. The people in Glasson, Kansas, were so helpful, but they weren’t family. After a few months, Ma insisted that I come live with her. She’s delighted to have her grandchildren so close.”
What a small world. Rebecca marveled at the coincidence. The people in Barton Creek were going to love Ruth and these adorable children who had captured Rebecca’s own heart with their big blue eyes and captivating smiles. Now that Aunt Clara lived in town as Doc Carter’s wife, she would certainly spoil them if Mrs. Weems didn’t, and Ruth couldn’t be much older than Lucy. They would be great friends, and Doc Carter could probably use her nursing skills.
The young woman’s desire to work with her mother in business and her nurse’s training impressed Rebecca. If more women would be willing to take charge and seek careers besides baking, cooking, and taking care of children and husbands, more would be willing to join the movement to secure voting privileges for women. Perhaps she could convince Ruth to join the fight. Women had as much right to have a say in who ran the government as any man.
“The twins told me they are six, but how old is the baby?”
Ruth eyed the sleeping child. “Emma is fifteen months old and just started walking without falling every few steps.”
“They’re all beautiful children.” Talking with Ruth reminded her of the story she wanted to write for the editor of the Barton Creek Chronicle. If she were going to be a success at the newspaper, she must show her capabilities right away. “Ruth, if you will excuse me, I have some work I must do before our destination. We’ll talk again later, and I’m happy to already find a new friend in Barton Creek.”
“So am I. It’ll be nice to have someone I can visit with and talk to on occasion.”
Rebecca placed the still sleeping Billy beside Sally. “I look forward to it.” Someday in the distant future she might have such a family, but at the moment her mission was to become the best reporter in Oklahoma Territory and then on to bigger and better opportunities in a larger city.
A grin spread across her face. No matter that she’d won the traditional Hoop Race at Wellesley. After her dunk in the fountain, she’d declared she would break the tradition and not be the first in the class to marry. Hoots and hollers from her fellow classmates told her they didn’t believe that. Let them laugh. She’d prove there was more to life for a woman than being a wife and mother. Although nothing was wrong with that, she simply wanted to see what the world had to offer before settling down, if she ever did.
Geoff Kensington studied the attractive young woman in the seat across from him. She had amazed him several times during this trip. First she’d been reading a book by Sarah Orne Jewett, then she befriended the children who had made enough noise to be heard across the prairie, and then she sat and spoke with their mother. Remarkable! None of the young women he’d known in Chicago would have had anything to with the children, much less their mother. Now the young lady furrowed her brow and stared at a tablet while she tapped a pencil against her cheek.
The stylish cut of her light brown gored skirt and braid-trimmed jacket was of a fashion he’d seen worn by women in the upper classes in Chicago, and it fit her form quite nicely. Her straw hat trimmed in matching ribbon and braid sat at a rakish angle on her upswept hair. He stroked his chin, trying to decide on the color of her hair. Finally he decided that it reminded him of the fine cherry furniture in his mother’s dining room.
In the conversation with the young mother, he had overheard her name, Rebecca Haynes. What a stroke of luck. She had to be kin to one of the men he hoped to meet on this trip. Ben Haynes, Sam Morris, and Jake Starnes were three of the most successful ranchers in the state, and he needed their support for the project he’d been assigned. Perhaps Miss Haynes was Ben’s daughter.
Geoff pulled out his pocket watch and checked the time. He had two hours to charm the lovely Miss Haynes before their arrival in Barton Creek. If his good fortune held out, the children would sleep until then, and he could have an uninterrupted conversation with her.
He stood and bowed. “Pardon me, Miss Haynes. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Geoffrey Kensington, spelled with a G, and I overheard you tell Mrs. Dorsett that you are going to Barton Creek. That is my destination also.”
Miss Haynes’s cheeks blushed pink. “Yes, Barton Creek is my home.” She smiled and indicated the seat next to her. “Please, Mr. Kensington, would you join me?”
“Thank you, I’d be honored. I do have many questions about the town.”
She laughed. “Ask away, but I haven’t been home for four years. I’ve been at college. Wellesley to be exact.”
So, Miss Haynes was not only pretty but well educated too. What a stroke of good fortune to have chosen the same train for the final leg of his journey. “That is a fine school for young women. What are your plans now?”
Her smile only served to accent her beauty. “I’m going to be a reporter for the Barton Creek Chronicle. It’s a weekly newspaper now, but Mr. Lansdowne hopes to publish it more often in the coming year.”
“How interesting. I’ve heard that more women are going into the field of journalism these days. Are you a supporter of the suffrage movement?”
Her eyes, more green than brown, opened wide with excitement. “Oh, yes, I am. I’ve read everything I can about Susan Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Did you know Mrs. Catt has been in Oklahoma, and that women here almost had voting rights granted to them in 1899? And she worked for a newspaper for awhile too. She’s wonderful.”
“Those are all fascinating women.” The animation now in her expressive hands and eyes beguiled him and reminded him of his sister, who was near Rebecca’s age. Even if he didn’t support the movement, he could appreciate her enthusiasm. It might even be a help to him in the business he had in Barton Creek. “Are you related to Ben Haynes, the cattle rancher?”
“I am his daughter. His aunt Clara is the one who insisted that I go back East to go to college. Both of my parents are originally from Boston.”
“I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting that city. I’ve spent most of my time in Chicago and St. Louis. But at the moment I’m more interested in Barton Creek.” And the attractive young woman seated with him.
“Then I shall be happy to share my town with you.”
Her voice had a musical quality that enchanted Geoff. This assignment would be the best one yet in his career. “I have business with your father regarding a cattle purchase. Perchance you will be able to introduce me to him when we arrive.”
“Oh, yes, I’d be delighted to do just that. Father has some of the best cattle to be found in the Territory.”
“Then I shall look forward to our meeting.” He grinned and sat back to enjoy her description of the people in Barton Creek.
Rob Frankston paced the platform at the train station. He flipped open his watch and read the numbers. Two minutes since he last looked. The train was supposed to be on time, but he could neither see nor hear any indication of it coming on the tracks.
The Haynes clan and several friends milled about as a group near the depot, as anxious to see Becky as he was. Of course their reasons were far different from his. He’d waited four years for Becky to return to Barton Creek. He’d loved her since they were thirteen, but she never gave any indication of her feelings one way or the other in those last years of school. Her correspondence with him while he attended the University of Oklahoma indicated nothing more than friendship, and even those letters declined the past year.
When she had up and proclaimed her plans to go off to college in the East, he had to bite back his own disappointment. Aunt Clara spotted his hurt. She took him aside one day and, without naming Becky, told him that if he loved someone more than life itself and let her go her own way, true love would bring her back. He prayed that would be true with Becky’s return to Barton Creek.
The newspaper had announced her arrival with bold headlines in the weekly edition. Rob read of her accomplishments and shook his head. Becky had certainly grown up and made her contribution to activities at the college. After reading the account, even his mother had been impressed, and that was no easy task.
He raked a hand through his dark hair and resumed his pacing.
Matt Haynes, Becky’s brother, made his way toward Rob. The tall, lanky cowboy had captured his sister Caroline’s heart, but he seemed in no hurry to court her.
Matt stretched out his hand in greeting. “I see you’ve decided to join us in welcoming Becky. She’ll be glad to see you.”
“I hope so, but she hasn’t written to me much this past year, so perhaps she’s forgotten her friends here.”
Matt laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. She was probably busy with all those things the paper said she did at Wellesley. You know our Becky. When she’s involved in something, she gives it all she’s got.”
Yes, he did know, and that was one of the things Rob loved about her. Back in their school days here, she had always been a leader and one to speak her mind and do things her own way. She could ride and herd cattle as well as any man on the ranch, but then could appear as a beautiful young lady on Sundays at church.
“She is really someone special.” He sighed. “I hope your father thinks I’m good enough for her.”
With hands on his hips, Matt chuckled. “You won’t have any problem there. You’re gaining a fine reputation in the law firm.”
Rob couldn’t be so sure about that. What with all the run-ins his mother had with Becky’s mother, the Haynes family might not be so interested in letting him become a member, good reputation or not. As the mayor’s wife, his mother may think it her duty to set high social standards and be particular about the people with whom her children associated, but he didn’t intend to let her run his life.
In the distance a train whistle sounded, and Matt nodded toward his family. “Come on over and join us. Be a part of our welcoming party.”
Rob grinned. “Think I’d like that.” He followed Matt back to the group. In the next half hour he’d know whether he still had a chance with Becky. If not, then he’d spend day and night winning her love no matter what anyone may say or do.