Cynthia Woolf is the award winning and best-selling author of twenty-two historical western romance books and two short stories, with more books on the way. Writing as CA Woolf, she has six sci-fi, space opera romance titles. She loves writing and reading romance. Her first western romance, 'Tame A Wild Heart', was inspired by the story her mother told her of meeting Cynthia’s father on a ranch in Creede, Colorado. Although, 'Tame A Wild Heart' takes place in Creede, that's the only similarity between the stories. Her father was a cowboy not a bounty hunter, and her mother was a nursemaid (called a nanny now) not the ranch owner.
Cynthia credits her wonderfully supportive husband Jim, and her great critique partners, for saving her sanity and allowing her to explore her creativity. Today Cindy is sharing an excerpt from her new novel, 'The Replacement Bride'.
She hoped Mr. Donovan had received her last letter stating she would indeed be coming with the intent to marry. Her arrival would be awkward, to say the least, if he hadn’t gotten the note yet. If that was the case, she would stay at the hotel until he was ready to marry her, but he would have to pay for the room. Clare’s stomach was tied in knots. She hadn’t been able to eat anything at all on this last day of her journey.
All these thoughts about Mr. Donovan not being there or aware of her impending arrival, did nothing to help her stomach. But she couldn’t help herself, asking the what if questions. She certainly couldn’t afford to stay at the hotel on her own and if he decided not to marry her at all he would have to buy her ticket back to Golden. The matchmaker, Mrs. Black, had said that sometimes happens but not to worry that she was very sure of this match. Clare didn’t understand how she could be so sure, but she seemed so positive, Clare couldn’t help but believe her.
When she had been able to sit next to the stagecoach window, she’d seen the same prairie landscape until they got closer to Hope’s Crossing. Then they’d gone through the mountains and higher up had even seen snow.
Now the stage was coming into a town and she was again able to peer out the window as she was the only passenger. The building coming up on the right was tall, maybe the tallest in town. The coach stopped right in front of what turned out to be a hotel.
The shotgun rider opened the door to the stage. “We’re here, miss. This is Hope’s Crossing.”
“Thank you.” Clare exited the stage, picked up her two valises and walked across the boardwalk to the door of the hotel. Three stories all painted yellow with white trim. This was where Mr. Donovan would find her. She looked up and down the street. Both sides of the dirt street were framed by the boardwalk. Here in front of the hotel, the walkway grew to be ten feet wide.
“Miss Griggs?” The deep baritone voice came from behind her.
She turned and looked up at the devastatingly handsome man with dark brown hair, a well-trimmed mustache, and the most intense brown eyes she’d ever seen. He wore a black wool coat, a black Stetson low on his head, and looked somewhat frightening.
He extended his hand. “Jesse Donovan.”
She placed her hand in his, and it was immediately swallowed in callused warmth. “I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Donovan.”
He smiled, showing straight, white teeth. “If we’re to be married, I think you should call me Jesse, and I’ll call you Clare.”
She smiled unused to speaking with men, much less shaking hands with one. “Yes, of course.”
“Are those your bags? Do you have a trunk coming?”
“No, just the bags.”
If he thought it strange that she only had the two bags, he didn’t say so. He simply picked them both up with one hand and held out his other arm for her to take. She’d read about men escorting women this way and she put her hand through the crook of his elbow and they walked down the boardwalk together.
“Is your house very far?”
“It’s on the outskirts of town. I have my carriage parked next to the hotel on the street just ahead.” They turned the corner and there was a sleek black buggy with matching gray horses hitched in front.
“They’re beautiful. I’ve never seen such a perfect match in a team before.” He must really be wealthy, as he told Mrs. Black.
“These two were twins, Very rare. You’re familiar with horses?”
“My family has a farm like I mentioned in my letter. I’ve been around animals all my life.”
He placed the bags in the back of the surrey and then helped her onto the seat, after which he walked around and got in the other side next to her.
Hoping she could freshen up a bit before they married, she asked “Are we going to your house now?”
He laughed. “I thought we should get married before I take you home.”
She ducked her head, knew she was blushing and chastised herself for her naiveté, then she smiled. “Yes, I suppose that would be best.”
“The judge’s office is just a couple of blocks this way. Nate is waiting for us. That is the sheriff’s office and jail.” He pointed at an unpainted single story building. Bars were on the windows even on the tiny window in the door. “The sheriff lives next door, in the white house with the small red barn behind it. Sam Longworth is his name. His wife, Jo, was a mail-order bride from Matchmaker & Co., too.”
She looked around as he described the buildings. “So your judge is used to having to marry people in a hurry.”
He glanced at her. “Are you in a hurry to be married, Clare?”
The sensuous tone of his voice caused her to look up at him. He was smiling and a twinkle lit his eyes.
“As a matter of fact, I am. I didn’t want to have to stay at the hotel if we are marrying. I want to sleep in my own home.”
He lifted an eyebrow.
“In my bed.”
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