poignant Christian western…
A country torn in battle.
A Southern woman running from
And a Yankee captain who hopes
to soon possess her heart.
Clemmons loved her life in Atlanta. Balls, soirees, and helping her
physician father to heal the ill and afflicted in their town. But the
dratted War of Northern Aggression has torn her fair city—and her
life—apart. Nothing will ever be the same. During the
Reconstruction period, she and her father set course for San
Francisco and a new life.
as a rancher, Luke Guylenhall is now a captain in the Yankee army.
He’s so thankful the War for Southern Aggression has finally ended.
Such a toll on so many. So many lives lost. All he wants is to muster
out and return home to his beloved ranch. Peace and quiet. Yes, he’s
very much looking forward to that. No more conflict for him. He’s
had more than enough to last a lifetime.
knowing he’s soon to die from gambling debts owed, Madelyn’s
father—a devout Yankee hater—insists the captain wed his daughter
when the two are found in a compromising position. How will two
enemies forge a bond of friendship—let alone possibly let a spark
of love flare between them?
My Husband Tom
this book was basically finished a long time ago, but last year—and
our endless health journeys that followed—totally derailed me.
when I almost lost you, I was too emotionally torn. I didn’t dare
try to voice on paper what I was feeling in my heart. What I was
experiencing daily at the hospital. The thought of writing of near
death was more than I could bear. I feared I would shatter.
So, I set the book
aside. Until now. To a time when I can once again
embrace the future
and all it means to us.
loved you 48 years ago when we wed. I love you today, and I’ll love
you even more tomorrow.
Rancher’s Southern Belle
Guylenhall Family Saga, Book 1
Highland Press Publishing
Rancher’s Southern Belle
Highland Press Publishing original
Cover Design 2017
by Highland Press Publishing at Smashwords
Produced in the
United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an
information storage and retrieval system—except by a reviewer who
may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a magazine,
newspaper, or on the Web—without permission in writing from the
PO Box 2292, High
Springs, FL 32655.
All characters in
this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and
have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names,
save actual historical figures. They are not even distantly inspired
by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents
are pure invention.
wiped her mouth with her crème colored linen napkin, then placed it
in her lap atop the white gloves she’d placed there after being
seated at the table. Slumped in her chair in the hotel’s large
restaurant—a distinct no
at home in Atlanta society, where one had to be prim and proper at
all times and not lean back against chairs—Madelyn looked around
the room and heaved a despairing sigh.
“Father, I really
do not want to do this after all. I have changed my mind about going
to San Francisco. Can we not return home to Atlanta?”
Her father tensed,
his back ramrod straight. “And live where? With my sister again?
Sherman destroyed our grand home on his March to the Sea during that
blasted War of Northern Aggression. Do you know how embarrassed I was
to take residence with your Aunt Agatha after we lost our house? I do
not take handouts from anyone, and being forced to live there until I
decided to move West was akin to the epitome of failure.”
He banged one
clenched fist on the table, setting cups and saucers to rattling.
Ignoring her, he
clipped off the end of a cigar and held it between his thumb and
forefinger. With a lit wooden match, he toasted the clipped end until
it began to smoke. Then he placed it between his lips and took short
puffs while continuing to hold the match near the end and rotated the
cigar. After blowing out the match before it burned his fingers, he
gently blew against the end of the cigar to ascertain if it had been
evenly lit. Seeing the end glow, he smiled and placed the tip back
between his lips and puffed. He continued his conversation as if he
hadn’t taken a break.
Madelyn coughed. She
hated the smell of cigars.
He pushed his plate
away. “I refuse to live through what those Unionists are calling
Reconstruction. It’s naught but a vengeful imposition and I vow I
will never welcome it or them to what was once our fair city. It is
humiliating, a travesty, and merely their way to make all Southerners
bend to their will. I shan’t do that!” His eyes narrowed. “You
might be willing to put up with the likes of them, but I vow I am
not. I want nothing to do with any of them. I would rather die
around the full dining room. “Father, they are everywhere. Look
around us. Union soldiers are eating here as we speak.”
noticed a handsome soldier watching her. The man’s broad, masculine
shoulders well filled the blue jacket of his uniform, and he was one
of the handsomest men she’d ever seen. A shock of brown hair fell
over his brow and he had a strong, clean shaven jaw. But he was a
Yankee, and though not as outspoken as her father, she wanted naught
to do with their ilk.
Yet as her eyes met
his, blue if she wasn’t mistaken, a prickly sense of the unknown
came over her. She tried to shake it off as her father threw his
napkin down on the cloth covered table—it matched the crème
napkins—and slammed his hand against it, drawing disapproving eyes
from patrons around them.
She turned her
attention back to him. “Father, lower your voice. You are causing a
“Do not tell me
what to do, girl.” His brows converged in a frown. “The sight of
those…those disgusting creatures sickens me. They would not know
the first thing about manners if it slapped them in the face. Having
to spend time in the same room as a blue belly leaves me without the
proper words to tell you how much I detest them. The words I would
choose would not be fit for a female’s delicate ears.”
Madelyn closed her
eyes, fighting for control of her emotions. She’d heard this so
many times since the war had ended and Union soldiers and Yankee
carpetbaggers had converged on their town. “I know, Father. You
have been quite vocal about it throughout the entire four years of
Laughter pealed from
tables behind them, where people were clearly enjoying their meal,
not arguing about a war that had already ended.
straightened one of his slightly frayed white cuffs, set his cigar in
the nearby ashtray he’d requested, and picked up his cup and sipped
Madelyn hoped to
change the subject. The man she sat across from was so different from
the man she’d grown up with her entire life. He’d always been
gruff and quick to criticize—especially her—but as with everyone
else in the South, the war had changed him.
“What are we going
to do this evening, Father? May we walk through the town and take in
some of the sights? Since you are bound and determined to head West
in a few days, I would like to tour the city I have heard so much
about.” Excitement surged through her. “Just think, Father. We’re
in the Gateway to the West! It is so exhilarating. I guess it was
just my nerves talking earlier.”
His eyes narrowed as
he scanned the room again. “We’re
not doing anything. From what I hear, these blasted Yankees have
booked the entire hotel for some wedding reception. Had I known that
before we checked in, I never would have walked through the front
door.” His head snapped toward the hotel lobby. “I
be over at the saloon in hopes they have a decent card game going.
You will stay in your room.”
Her shoulders sank.
“We cannot afford any losses, Father. You will not be working again
until we reach San Francisco—and we need all our money.”
He shot her a glare.
“Leave the money to me, missy. Have I not always done what I needed
to in order to take care of you? Even if it meant crawling to my
blamed sister Agatha?”
She offered a brief
nod. There was no sense trying to talk to him in his present mood.
“If I had the
money for the trains that run all the way to San Francisco—that
Pacific Railroad,” he continued, not missing a beat, “—we would
be on them right now. As it is, we shall have to join one of those
accursed wagon trains. I just pray it is decent Confederate folk
heading West like we are to escape Reconstruction, rather than blamed
Yankees like we have encountered in this city.” A tic jerked in his
cheek. “If I had realized they still held St. Louis, I never would
have come this way. I would have taken a different route.”
Angry despair welled
in her heart. “As much as you may wish to, you cannot avoid them
the rest of your life, Father.” Her eyes shot to the Yankee captain
despite herself. Broad muscles strained the seams of his Union
“Maybe not, but I
can certainly try.” A thundercloud descended over his face. “And
you put your eyeballs back in your head. I’ll not have you mooning
over the likes of someone like him!”
He pushed back his chair and rose as he tilted his head toward the
captain. Straightening his gray suit jacket, he picked up and donned
his large brimmed straw hat. He tipped his head toward the entrance
to the crowded restaurant. “I am heading over to the saloon now.
You go upstairs and be sure to lock your door. I have no idea how
reputable this establishment is if they allow the likes of them
to be here. I shall see you in the morning for breakfast.”
She inhaled and then
released a deep breath. Another night alone, with her father off
gambling and getting drunk. If only the war hadn’t happened. Father
would still be a respectable physician and they’d still have their
lovely home in Atlanta.
But General Sherman
had taken that away from them when he burned everything in his path
on his way to Savannah. It mattered not that it was General Hood who
actually ordered the eighty-one rail cars filled
with ammunition and other military supplies to be destroyed when he
evacuated Atlanta. The damage was the same regardless of who started
it. The resulting fire and explosions were heard for miles. When
those eruptions reverberated through the city, she’d thought the
Lord Himself had turned His face from Atlanta and the world itself
may have been ending.
smell of blood and death had
filled the air.
far cry from the euphoric feeling all held when President Jefferson
Davis assigned General Hood to oversee Atlanta. The aggressive man
had been considered by many, her father included, as Atlanta’s
there had been no rescue for her beautiful city. She doubted the
South would ever regain its former beauty. If it did, she wouldn’t
be around to see it. The thought saddened her.
toward the handsome captain again only to find his eyes locked on
the man was striking, but she really did hate Yankees. They’d
stripped her of the life she had known. Although somehow that didn’t
bother her as much as it did her father. He ate, slept, and drank
anger. She almost didn’t know him anymore.
What a pity. He’d
once been a fine, upstanding man. A great physician. Now, more likely
than not, he was getting drunk. But their life was about to change.
She could feel it. After all, weren’t they on their way to San
Francisco? Once there, Father would start practicing again. And she’d
be right at his side.
Helping people. That
was the calling God had placed on her. At least it had been when she
still believed in God. She’d prayed so hard for Atlanta to be
spared, but it hadn’t happened. She guessed God no longer cared
what happened to her. For one who’d had such a strong faith—her
mother had instilled it in her—it had been a long time since she’d
spoken to Him. He’d turned His back on all in Atlanta. Surely He
wouldn’t listen to her now if she tried. She saw no need to bother.
heaved a deep sigh and patted his stomach as he pushed back his
chair. That had been a right delicious meal. And soon his younger
brother was gettin’ hitched. Never once had he thought about the
possibility young Sam wouldn’t be returning to the ranch after he
mustered out of the army. But he’d met and fallen in love with a
young woman when he’d been reassigned and stationed here in St.
Louis after Quantrill’s Raid and subsequent massacre in Lawrence
got folks all up in arms. No way was the government going to let St.
Louis fall to the Confederates or let the likes of Quantrill and his
men slaughter anyone in this town.
Hitched! Who would
have thought that would happen before they headed for Kansas City?
Now Sam was going to stay in St. Louis with Louisa. They made a great
couple and she seemed like a true gem. Tiny, she didn’t even reach
Sam’s shoulders. And his younger brother was the smallest of all
the Guylenhall brothers.
But it sure would be
lonely on the ranch once he mustered out himself and headed home.
contemplated staying in the military. It suited him well, and he was
quickly moving up the ranks. Being offered a job in the president’s
newly formed Secret Service was sure tempting. He liked Washington.
But the thought of having to track down crooks and counterfeiters
didn’t really appeal to him.
That would be more
in line with what his brother Matthew enjoyed. Then again, Matt was
quite content returning to be sheriff in their hometown. He’d been
pleased to receive the letter from his sister Kat telling him Matt
was already back home.
temptations, the little filly in the dark green dress sure fit that
bill. He’d barely been able to keep his eyes off her since he sat
down for supper. Surely she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen.
Delicate porcelain skin molded to high cheekbones and a straight,
Sure as shootin’
he should ask her if she’d like to stay and attend his brother’s
wedding and reception. It’d be right nice to have someone who
looked like that as his dance partner. Her coiffed, upswept brunette
hair made him want to run his fingers through it and mess it up a
bit. Remove all the pins and let it flow down her back. And her eyes!
No doubt he could lose himself in them. Couldn’t rightly tell their
color from where he sat, but he thought they might be chocolate
He ran a fingertip
over his lower lip.
escort—her father he’d overheard her say—had left a few minutes
earlier. Didn’t take much to overhear the man’s conversation
since he spoke much too loudly. When he announced he was heading for
the saloon, Luke thought the man might already be drunk. A Johnny Reb
through and through from the way the man was talking. Well, Luke
could put aside his dislike of Rebels for one night if it meant he
could dance with that beautiful young filly. He bet she’d fit just
right in his arms.
He made his move
when she put on first one white glove and then the other, then gently
eased her chair away from the table. He was there before she had a
chance to rise. “Ma’am, pardon me for bein’ a mite forward, but
I heard your father mention you would be alone for the night. Might I
interest you in some entertainment?” As an immediate blush stole
over her pale skin, he realized how his words must have sounded. “No
ma’am, nothin’ improper,” he rushed to say. “My brother is
gettin’ hitched tonight and there will be a reception afterward.
With dancin’,” he quickly added, feeling like a tongue-tied young
fool. “I would be delighted if you could join me.”
across the young woman’s face as she looked up at him. Then a
wistful yearning, but she shook her head as she rose, the top of her
head only reaching his shoulders.
Captain. I would very much enjoy dancing, but I fear my father would
be quite upset with me if I accepted. You are a…a…stranger after
all.” A hint of disappointment filled her voice.
Her soft Southern
drawl wafted over him.
Yankee is what
she no doubt means.
He’d heard her father’s diatribe. Everyone in the restaurant had.
inside Luke told him they would have hit it off right nice.
Hours later Luke
stumbled up the hotel steps. He’d imbibed far too much, which he
rarely ever did, but one’s brother only got married once.
Fortunately, his men weren’t here to see him. He always tried to
set a good example for the younger men in his command. And getting
drunk sure wasn’t a good example. Ma would turn over in her grave
if she could see him now. Pa’d probably just chuckle.
He stopped in the
hallway a moment trying to remember his room number. Boy he really
drunk! Then he stumbled down the hall a few more steps and tried a
doorknob. Locked. He tried the one on the other side of the hall.
He pursed his lips
to the side as he thought. “Guess I didn’t go far enough,” he
At the next set of
doors—he didn’t think he’d gone any farther than this—he
scrutinized them both, trying to remember which one might be his.
Making a decision, he again tried a doorknob. When it opened, he
Now he’d get a
good night’s sleep and hope he didn’t wake up with a hangover.
Thoughts of his mother wafted over him again as his head banged out a
tympany. He missed her. God rest her soul, she’d been a decent
Christian woman who didn’t cotton at all to those who over-imbibed.
He stumbled into the
dark room and didn’t bother to light an oil lamp. Why inconvenience
himself when he was going straight to bed?
He removed his
jacket and laid it on the small round table after feeling for the
edge in the dark. Then he sat and removed his tall black boots. He’d
shined them with spit and polish so they’d gleam for Sam’s
wedding. It was a shame Kat and Matthew hadn’t been able to come
for the wedding, but he understood why they couldn’t make it on the
spur of the moment. Kat would have made sure he hadn’t gotten
drunk. She’d taken up Ma’s stance once she grew up. Thankfully,
either Kat’s husband, Aaron, held the same feelings or he simply
didn’t indulge to honor her. Whichever, Luke was well pleased with
his little sister’s choice of husband.
Standing, he removed
his britches and laid them across the table. Didn’t want a wrinkled
uniform when he rode back to the Fort later this afternoon.
He stubbed his toe
when he got to the bed frame quicker than he thought, but he bit back
an oath. Easing around the side of the bed, he sat on the edge, then
lay back and stretched out. He was too tired to even deal with
getting himself under the covers.
A few hours’
shut-eye and he’d be good as new.
Pounding sounded at
the door. “Come on, lazybones. Get up. I am hungry and want to head
downstairs for breakfast.”
Luke tried to ignore
the racket. He was comfortable in the soft bed, and he wasn’t the
least bit hungry. He burrowed back against the warmth of the soft
bedding, his arm resting against its pillow soft roundness.
Bang. Bang. Bang!
“Wake up, I said.”
He cracked open an
eyelid to see a riot of brunette hair just as a loud scream rent
through the room, waking him quickly from his stupor.
He jumped off the
bed just as a booted foot sounded against the door and it crashed
The man’s eyes
widened in shock as he took in the scene in the room. Luke had no
doubt his were just as wide.
brunette bolted upright, her eyes wide with fear, and jumped out of
the other side of the bed.
The young woman from
last night! And the man brandishing a gun in front of him was the man
who’d loudly spouted about hating Yankees.
What in Heaven’s
name had happened? All he’d done was go to bed after leaving his
He sure wasn’t
Her head turning
between her very angry father and a very
undressed Yankee captain, Madelyn wished she could fall right through
a hole in the floor.
“Father, I don’t
know how he got in here. I—”
woman,” her father yelled. “Have you no decency?”
She drew back in
alarm, her hand covering her racing heart, then quickly grabbed the
chenille floral print spread off the bed. Wrapping it around her
shoulders, she held it closed at her throat, effectively covering her
white linen nightgown.
The captain tried to
move toward the table, no doubt to get his clothes, but her father’s
gun trained on him brought him up short.
Out in the hall, a
crowd gathered at the broken, open door.
over her, more than likely reddening her cheeks.
“Father, put your
gun away.” She lowered herself to the edge of the bed. “I do not
know how he got in here, but I assure you nothing—”
“Get off that bed!
Have you no shame? Your sainted mother must be turning over in her
grave right now.”
Her father’s words
had the desired effect as she rocketed off the bed.
Nothing happened last night! I swear it. I came to bed alone after
you left.” She grabbed the chenille spread tighter between her
“Sir, if you will
just let me explain—”
Her father spun on
him. “Oh you will do plenty of explaining all right. To the
“Your daughter is
correct, sir. Absolutely nothin’ happened between us last night.
She left the dinin’ room shortly after you did and I spent all
night at my brother’s weddin’ party.”
He looked abashed as
he added, “Apparently drinkin’ far too much.” He spun to face
the young woman. “I do apologize for that.”
Rage filled her
father’s face. “She left the dining room alone and you just
to spend the night in her bed? Do you take me for a fool, Yankee?”
Never once did he lower his pistol. It remained trained on the
“Sir, if you will
allow me to get my clothes.” The captain looked toward the small
mahogany table that had only held an ivory lace doily and the book
she’d been reading before retiring. Now her book couldn’t be
A Yankee uniform
haphazardly covered it!
continued. “I could get dressed and we could take this discussion
elsewhere, the lobby perhaps, allowin’ your daughter to dress as
well—in privacy.” He glanced toward the door, his brow arching.
She quickly glanced there, too, mortification overcoming her.
only peering in from the hall. Many actually had the audacity to
stand inside the open doorway.
Get these people out of here.” Carefully wrapped in the chenille
blanket, she lowered herself to the stuffed emerald green armchair
situated beside her bed.
The hotel manager
shoved into the room just as her father turned to usher people out
into the hall.
“What is going on
here? This is a decent establishment. I do not allow rowdies in my
hotel, sir.” He glanced at her father’s gun, then back toward the
splintered door. “Who is gonna pay for the repair of this door?”
“I don’t give a
fig about your blasted door. This man”—he motioned toward the
captain with his gun—“violated my daughter last night!”
“I did no such
thing!” and “Father, he did not!” echoed off the walls at the
Luke wanted to
strangle the man. Although he guessed to an onlooker the situation
would certainly look something like that. But blasted, he hadn’t
done anything wrong.
had. He took a moment to look around the room. No, this wasn’t his,
although he imagined most of the rooms looked similar. It was kind of
a mirror image of his—things in slightly different places.
I came in the
not turning on the light, I didn’t see anyone else on the bed.
But the door had opened when he’d turned the handle.
He moved toward the
angry man. “Sir, if you will just let me explain. I believe I know
With the hotel
manager between them, he quickly grabbed his uniform and backed up.
Standing in front of perfect strangers in his drawers was the last
thing he wanted to do.
“I care nothing
about your door, but I can tell you exactly what we are going to do
next,” the girl’s father yelled. “We are going to find whoever
is the law in this city and have this man hanged.”
“What?” met his declaration.
Her father had moved
toward the window and looked out—staring pensively at the saloon. A
frown marred his face as he spun on his heel and assessed the
captain. “No. Actually, I have changed my mind.” He swung his
pistol between the Unionist and Madelyn as his eyes narrowed in
thought. “Get dressed. We are going to find the closest minister.
You are getting married.”
No!” Luke shouted at the same time the brunette did. “Sir, you
cannot possibly mean—”
The man glared him
down. “That is exactly what I mean. You, sir, compromised my
“I did no such
“Did you spend the
night in my daughter’s bed?”
Not wanting to look,
he did just that. His eyes were drawn to the bed, then to the
beautiful young woman whom he’d had his arm draped over not very
long ago. She’d been soft beneath his hand. Her perfect hair from
last night was gone. Instead, it hung halfway down her back and was
mussed. He really had been drunk not to stir and realize there was
another body in the bed with him.
She was beautiful.
Vulnerability covered her face.
She was terrified.
“Well, yes, sir.
Apparently I did, but I swear nothin’ happened atween us. I came in
here last night thinkin’ it was my room. I didn’t turn on the
light.” His eyes shot to the brunette again. “But all I did was
go to sleep.”
“And how did you
get in here if she did not open the door to you?”
“Well, that is a
“I locked the
door, Father. I swear I did.”
Tears rolled down
her beautiful face. Luke wanted nothing but to gather her in his arms
and comfort her. Wouldn’t that just go over well with her father!
the hotel manager spoke up. “Been meaning to fix it; haven’t
gotten around to it.” He frowned as he looked between Luke and the
girl. “Never actually needed
it fixed afore.”
Madelyn thought she
might die from embarrassment. While her father had tried to close the
door once the manager entered, it refused to remain shut and perfect
strangers continued to poke their heads in the room and stare at her
and the captain.
Clearly she’d been
judged and found lacking. But she really had
locked the door last night. Well, at least she thought she had. After
the difficult journey to St. Louis, she must have fallen into an
exhaustive sleep as soon as her head hit the lumpy pillow. How else
could she explain not realizing the bed had to have dipped when
someone else got into it?
“Don’t make no
never mind. I had a few too many drinks last night and should have
known this was not my room. The young lady was in no way at fault,
During the discourse
he’d somehow managed to get back into his light blue pants and
white shirt. Now he slid his arms into his dark blue uniform jacket
and started looping buttons through the button holes, then
straightening the epaulettes.
He was still in bare
feet, but somehow he managed to seem in charge of the room. “If you
will just let me leave now, I assure you we will never meet again.”
His voice was quiet,
but she caught the subtle note of fury underneath.
He bent to reach for
“Not so fast,
Yankee.” Her father was still waving the gun around. As angry as he
was, she was surprised it hadn’t mistakenly—or maybe not
mistakenly—discharged. “You are not going anywhere except to the
sheriff or the minister.”
straightened and brought himself to his full height—probably around
6’2” or 6’3” if she had to guess. “Sir, I am a captain in
the—” His voice dropped low and dangerous, his blue eyes snapping
“You are a blamed
Yankee. I know exactly what you are.” Her father looked like he was
ready to explode. “And though I cannot stand the sight of you, you
going to marry my daughter. Or exit this room feet first. Take your
“Father, please. I
have no intention of marrying this man.” Although if he hadn’t
been a Unionist, she might have been quite pleased to be courted by
someone like him. “He is a…”
captain finished for her.
to her full height just like he had, and lifted her chin as well. He
quirked a brow, but made no comment.
It had no effect on
her father. Clearly he was beyond reason. She’d seen him angry
before—almost every day during the war—but never had he been this
He turned to her.
“Get dressed. I shall give you ten minutes to be ready and down in
the lobby, or I will come up and get you myself. And then we are
going to find the nearest church. Surely some folks in this town
worship our Lord.”
He kept his gun
trained on the captain, but motioned him toward the door. “Get your
boots and move.”
His shoulders rigid,
his hands clenched, with a nod and without another word, the captain
left the room.
Luke closed his eyes
and counted to ten. This couldn’t be happening. He’d survived the
entire War of the Rebellion—although certainly not without getting
injured—only to wind up leg-shackled to a Reb? Albeit a very
beautiful one that probably had a pedigree as long as his arm.
Tears streamed down
her face, even as she shot daggers at him with her eyes. This was no
shrinking miss, but was she strong enough to withstand life on the
frontier? Life on a ranch wasn’t easy. Maybe now he needed to
consider staying in the military instead of mustering out and
returning to the ranch. Life at the Fort wouldn’t be too bad. It
just wasn’t what he wanted.
Wait! Was he really
considering going along with this sham? He glanced to the door and
all the people eagerly clamoring around it. The filly’s pa was
right. Whether done intentionally or not—and it certainly had been
not—he had compromised her reputation.
But hadn’t he
overheard them saying they were going to San Francisco? No one there
would know what had happened.
But he’d know.
He’d snuggled up next to her warm, soft body and had been quite
comfortable doing so. And while they’d had a sheet and the
bedspread between them, he’d most definitely felt her womanly
It was his fault
he’d drank too much. Hadn’t Ma warned him about the repercussions
of drink his entire life? She’d preached to him and his brothers
ever since they were big enough to know Pa often rode into town for a
drink with some of the cowpunchers after a hard day ranching.
Englishwoman, she’d fallen hard for the smooth-talking ranch hand.
They’d married and done well between them, now owning a large
spread just outside of Kansas City. But the life had been hard, and
she’d died before the War of the Rebellion had broken out. As much
as she’d loved her adopted country, she would have been heartbroken
to know of the troubles between the states.
She’d instilled a
sense of right in him. And as much as he didn’t want to do this,
Luke knew it was the right thing to do. He’d been wrong, and now
he’d have to pay the consequences.
Even though the
little filly might make him regret this every day for the rest of his
Luke reached for his
boots, his sword, waist sash, and hat, all haphazardly sprawled on
the wooden floor. As he marched out the door in front of the gun
still being brandished at him, he thought he just might feel like
Robert E. Lee had when he surrendered at Appomattox.
With his military
training, not to mention far too many brawls he’d engaged in
growing up, Luke could disarm the man in a minute, although the
elderly man didn’t know that. But Luke had no intention of doing
His pa had taught
him the difference between right and wrong. And he had to do what was
right—even if not convenient.
himself into this situation, and although it wasn’t the way he’d
seen his life when he’d thought of the future, he’d play the
cards God had dealt him and see if he’d come up with a winning
~ Chapter 3 ~
Madelyn wanted to
spit nails. How could her father be doing this? All they had to do
was leave St. Louis and no one would know how she’d apparently
snuggled up against the warmth of a hard, warm body.
A Yankee body!
Saints alive, her
father hated anything to do with the Unionists and here he was
forcing her to wed with one? It made no sense.
Walking past the
general store and what appeared to be some sort of hardware store,
she found herself too soon at the end of the street at the steps to a
white clapboard church. Maybe she’d be lucky and the minister
wouldn’t be here today.
When her father
opened the door and motioned she and the captain in, she saw she’d
run out of luck.
The man was seated
in the front pew praying. He raised his head when they entered.
“Hello. How may I
help you?” He rose and turned his head. “I was just in here
praying, preparing for my sermon tomorrow morning.”
Her father shifted
his gun between her and the captain. “These two are getting
married. Need you to perform the ceremony. Now.”
eyes widened. “Sir, this is God’s house. Put away that gun.”
Her father narrowed
his eyes as he stared at the minister, then nodded and acquiesced.
“Good enough. You will perform the ceremony?”
The man frowned.
“Well…it does not appear the participants are particularly
willing if you forced them in here with a gun.”
“Does not matter.
They are getting married. Either you will do it or I will find
someone else.” He glanced at all of them. “Short of that, I shall
shoot the captain.”
The minister gasped.
“Father! What has
gotten into you? You have never behaved like this before.” Madelyn
smoothed a hand down the skirt of her royal blue dress, her hand
The captain spoke at
the same time. “Sir, that will not be necessary. I am sure your
daughter and I will both be agreeable to a ceremony.”
Madelyn ground out a
sound of frustration and cut him a disapproving side glare. He
ignored her. “Speak for yourself, sir. I wish nothing to do with—”
Bitterness and despair etched her voice.
The minister cleared
his throat. “Well, under the circumstances I guess I can perform
the ceremony. I certainly do not wish to be responsible for a man
Madelyn glowered at
the man. “Did you not just hear me? I said I have no wish to wed
The lanky minister
gave her a purposeful gaze and smoothed a shock of washed out brown
hair from his eyes. He looked uncomfortable. “I heard you,
miss,”—he swiveled his head to look toward her father—“but do
you really wish to be responsible for this man’s death?”
Oh, bother. Would
Father truly go through with his words? Shoot the captain? She cast
him a sideways glance. Then Father would be arrested for murder.
Either way, they’d never make it to San Francisco. Her dream of
practicing at his side was over.
She heaved a sigh
and shot a glower at the irksome captain. Then she returned her gaze
back to the clergyman. “Go ahead.”
“Marriage is a
solemn estate that should not be entered into inadvisably or
lightly.” The clergyman stopped. “Yes, well, er…let me revise
that. Your souls are now bound together, forever one,” he intoned.
She tried and failed
to keep the bitterness from her voice. “Get this farce over with.”
Standing but a
hand’s width apart, soon they both repeated the traditional vows.
Hers were distasteful in her mouth. No doubt the captain felt the
same despite his sudden moment of agreeability.
“I now pronounce
you man and wife.” The minister blessed them, then clearly added as
an afterthought, “And may the good Lord have mercy on you both.”
That was it! Her
wedding ceremony. Within mere minutes she was married. To a man she
didn’t even know. The ceremony shouldn’t have stung, but it did.
She’d waited for and dreamed of this day her entire life.
And this is what
she’d wound up with.
Heaven help her.
The captain took a
step back. He removed his dark, wide-brimmed hat and swept her a bow.
He didn’t try to
kiss her after the brief ceremony. Good thing too. Whether a
traditional part of the ceremony or not, she probably would have
punched him in the face if he’d tried.
She might be married
to this lout, but she’d never be happy a day in her life. And she’d
make certain his life was miserable too. Just as the Union had done
to the Confederacy during the four years of the war—and seemed to
be doing in its aftermath.
What was she going
to do now?
Despite what she
hoped was her firm resolve, her shoulders trembled.
Luke watched his new
bride. She was angry as a cat doused with water. Certainly not the
look of a woman in love like Sam’s wife had gazed at him yesterday
during their moving wedding ceremony. The tiny woman had stood
proudly at Sam’s side.
He glanced around
the small church before he started to head out, then stepped to the
table in front of the pulpit and drew a single red rose from the vase
on the table. He turned back to Madelyn and handed it to her.
Before she turned
away, he’d seen something besides anger. Her eyes were stark with
She was hurt,
vulnerable. He couldn’t blame her. Her sheltered existence was
being ripped away. This certainly hadn’t been a wedding any young
woman would have dreamed of. Her father had robbed her of that. As
had he by agreeing to go along with the farce.
He almost regretted
No, he certainly
wasn’t going to have a happy life like he hoped Sam would have. He
had a feeling this little filly had every intention of making his
life a living hell. She sure was dreadful pretty though.
He didn’t know
what made him do it, but reaching up his work-worn hand, he smoothed
it over her cheek. The look on her face showed he’d caught her off
guard, but she didn’t step away.
He certainly doubted
they’d have a wedding night. Well, at least not one like he’d
always envisioned. She’d probably lock him out of the room. No, her
lock was broken. He heaved a sigh. He’d have to give her his room.
Had to keep her safe. He’d promised that in his vows.
somehow. He’d never forced his attentions on a woman before and he
wasn’t about to start now just because he was married to her.
Married. Ha! That
was a joke. They might be hitched legal like, but he doubted very
much that it would ever be anything like his parents’ marriage. One
full of love.
She had her back up
now. He’d just have to wait and see what played out over time and
hope their life didn’t have a whole heap of trouble in it.
Extending his arm to
her, he willed her to take it. “How ‘bout we head back to the
hotel? We never did get to eat anythin’ this mornin’.” He hoped
she’d come along peaceable like and not kick up a row. The last
thing he needed after what they’d gone through this morning was
When she didn’t
move, he added, “You needn’t be afraid, ma’am. Nothin’ or no
one will hurt you.”
her gloved hand atop his forearm, she stared up at him. “I assure
you, captain, I am not afraid. Certainly not of you.” Bitterness
laced her tone.
He couldn’t stop
the smile that curved the corners of his lips. Yep, she was one
little wildcat. One he wouldn’t mind taming.
He did notice she
kept the flower he’d given her. He’d caught her actually smelling
it a few times when she didn’t think he was watching.
So, she had a
They walked slowly
back to the hotel, him slowing his stride to match hers, and she
groaned when her father entered the saloon. The man had left the
church as soon as the wedding ceremony was completed.
Luke’s heart sank
as he watched her pained face. It was too early in the day. Only
die-hard gamblers or town drunks, no doubt passed out after the
previous night, would be in there now. He could only imagine what she
Who was he to judge?
If he’d passed out in a saloon or down in the hotel reception room
instead of stumbling up to the wrong room, he wouldn’t be in this
predicament. What would his brothers and sister think of him when he
He steered her
across the street and placed a hand at the small of her back as he
moved her into the hotel’s lobby.
The desk clerk
glared at him and called out, “I have added the broken door to your
Luke started. “What?
didn’t break it.”
A superior look
crossed the clerk’s face. “But you were responsible for it.”
Luke wasn’t going
to cause a scene in the lobby. Madelyn was with him. “Fine. Keep it
on my bill. I will pay it when I check out.” Without another word
he moved his wife
toward the restaurant. Would he ever get used to thinking that?
Seating her at one
of the tables near a window overlooking the main street, the clamor
of utensils clattering against plates as people enjoyed their meals
were the only sounds to break the silence between them. He tried to
ignore people’s stares. Had any of them actually witnessed the
debacle upstairs or had they just heard about it from
Didn’t take long
for news like that to travel quickly.
He motioned for one
of the waitresses. “What are your specials today?”
After they ordered
and the waitress departed, he and his wife sat staring at each other,
shafts of light from the sun gently wafting over their table. Finally
she glanced away and looked out the window.
“We have to talk,
Madelyn. We cannot go on just starin’ at each other—or out
windows. I cain’t change the past, but we can do somethin’ about
our future.” He cleared his throat. “My name’s Luke. Captain
Luke Guylenhall at your service.”
She faced him. “Yes,
I heard you tell the minister.”
She pulled at the
fingers of each white glove and laid them across her lap, then
finally spoke. “I do not know what came over Father this morning.
He has never behaved such as you saw him today.”
through his senses. “I doubt he has ever found his daughter in bed
with a man before.” At
least I hope the man hasn’t!
prettily. Her eyes kept returning to the clasped hands she held
rigidly on her lap.
“No, of course
not. Surely that must be it.” She raised her eyes to meet his. “I
regret this happened though, sir.”
He loved listening
to her soft Southern drawl. Her voice sounded as smooth as honey. It
suited her. Sir came out as suh.
“If we wait a few
days until after Father departs for San Francisco, you can apply for
a divorce. It should not take long to rectify this abominable
That shocked him.
“Why would I do that?”
His question seemed
to surprise her. “Because you did not wish to wed with me, of
She seemed a sturdy
girl, hopefully not one given to vapors like many Easterners were
prone to. Yes, despite the circumstances, surely he’d chosen
wisely. He’d not be setting her aside.
“No. Not any more
than you wished to wed
with me. But the fact is, we are hitched. You have courage, ma’am.
From what I have seen, a great deal of it. I admire that.”
When she glanced
away, he laid his fingers on her cheek and turned her to face him.
“Whether or not we were forced into the ceremony, I pledged my
words before God. And I do not break my vows to Him...” He let his
words trail to silence.
She nearly choked.
“You mean you plan to stay married to me?”
He nodded. “I do.”
That was the second
time that day he’d said those words.
inexplicable reason, he realized he meant them.
“You do not even
know me!” Fear made her voice sharp. Trembling with emotion, she
lowered her voice when she realized people were watching them.
“You are right.
But we have a lifetime ahead of us to get to know one another.” He
reached out to brush his fingers lightly over her hand.
A shock of awareness
went through her, but she didn’t pull her hand away. Why wouldn’t
the stubborn man agree to what was certainly the most sensible course
of action? She was learning quickly about him though. He did what he
felt was right, not what was easiest or most expedient. In truth, he
seemed the most honorable of men. Blue belly or not.
“Tell me about
yourself.” His voice fell in deep, rich tones around her ears.
She lifted and
dropped a shoulder in a sheepish shrug. The last thing she wanted to
do was face the memories of the devastation of war. Would it ever
cease to hurt to think of all the suffering the South had endured?
She chose instead to
tell him about life before the war. “Not much to tell. I was born
and raised in Atlanta. I guess to what you would call a life of
privilege. Father was a brilliant physician. Everyone loved
him—contrary to what you saw last night and this morning.”
She drew the tip of
her tongue lightly across her lips and saw his eyes follow the
motion. “He was mild-mannered, soft-spoken. The exact opposite of
what he has become because of the war. He lived and breathed
“So now you have
told me about your father. What about you? What does Miss Mad…Mrs.
Madelyn Guylenhall like to do?”
She started at the
name. If he really meant to not set her aside, she guessed she’d
have to get used to it.
“She likes to be
at her father’s side practicing medicine.” She lowered her eyes
and spoke softly as a knot formed in her stomach. “That will never
happen again. It is what I hoped we would once again do when we
reached San Francisco.”
She looked up in
time to see his eyes widen.
“You are a
“I am not exactly
certain what a ‘healer’ is. I am certainly not a physician since
not many women are allowed in medical school, but yes, I treated many
patients alongside my father. Often if he was not present and someone
ill came to our house, I treated them the same way I had seen him do
so many times.”
He didn’t make fun
of her like she thought he would. Most men guffawed at the idea of a
woman practicing medicine—or at least assisting. Instead he looked
“Do you garden…or
Couldn’t help herself. “We had an elderly man to do most of the
work around our house, but when Father wasn’t around Old Bob tried
to teach me the difference between the newly growing plants and the
weeds surrounding them. I am not sure he really ever succeeded, but I
did try to learn. As to sewing, every proper bred lady learns to turn
a needle. But probably not in the sense you mean.”
He didn’t look
pleased with her answer like she thought he would be. Instead, he
said, “Old Bob.” His brows furrowed. “Your father owned
Ah, so that was the
problem. “No. Old Bob and his wife Aggie were not slaves. They were
free blacks. Well, actually they were
slaves. Father bought them from one of the nearby plantations and
gave them their freedom in return for them working for us. I do not
remember a time when they did not live with us—albeit they did not
our house. They had their own small home out back. They and their
children could have left anytime they wanted to, but I am glad they
did not. They were part of our family.”
“What did you do
“My life revolved
around society, the parties and balls given by Atlanta’s elite. I
spent most days getting ready for and attending the formal dinners,
fancy balls, soirees, and assorted musicales.”
He picked up her
hand and turned it over in his, lightly running his fingers over the
tips of hers. “Do you know how to cook?”
She gulped. “I am
afraid not. Aggie did all the cooking and cleaning around the house.
Although she did let me help in the kitchen sometimes when Father
wasn’t around. I fear you have gotten the short end of this
“Tell me more.”
“That is about it.
My life in a nutshell. Does not sound half as exciting as I thought
it was living it.” And other than Aggie and Old Bob, there was no
love in the house once Mother died. Madelyn fought the tears that
stung the back of her throat.
Oh, to have had a
father that loved her.
They paused when the
waitress brought their food. When she left, Luke reached for
Madelyn’s hand and bowed his head. “Thank you, Lord, for the food
on this table and the people that labored over it.”
The man prayed…in
public? Where everyone about could see him? Surely he would never
cease to amaze her.
He continued their
conversation as he met her eyes, almost as if aware of her thoughts.
“You always mention your father. How did your mother feel about all
this? How did she feel about owning slaves?”
She jerked her hand
free, then picked up a roll to butter it. “I already told you Old
Bob and Aggie were not slaves. Father paid them a small stipend each
month.” She stopped and thought. “I am sure it was not much,
although I never looked at his ledgers. But they had everything they
needed—a home over their heads, food in their bellies.” She
looked out the window. “My love.”
She whipped back to
face him. “Does that surprise you, Captain? That I should love a
colored person? Well I did. Mother died when I was very young—I
barely remember her—and it was Aggie that raised me. I have always
When she didn’t
continue, Luke prodded, “What? You always thought what?”
“That Mother had
Father buy Old Bob and Aggie because she knew she was going to die
soon. I think she wanted the security of knowing someone would be
there to take care of me. Father was always too busy with his
practice. It was only when I grew older and started hanging around
his office all the time that he and I grew somewhat closer. That is
when he started teaching me medicine. Let me help with his office
“So you can read?”
She sat up straight.
“Of course I can! I can read, write and cipher.” She raised her
chin. “What about you, Captain? Can you read and write?”
He didn’t seem
offended at her question, but matched her words with a warm smile. “I
can, and cipher too.”
“I do not mean to
offend, but how did you learn? I often thought of people west of the
Mississippi as a bit…”
A blush covered her
cheeks. He’d never point that out to her, though. It would probably
embarrass her. But oh, how she looked when she did that—warm, soft,
inviting. If she only knew how he felt being around her.
She was one of the
strongest people he’d ever met. She just didn’t know it yet. At
first he’d thought she was just a fragile flower that’d need
close tending the rest of her life, but he’d discounted that
quickly. She had backbone. Determination. Even though with all the
changes in her life she had to be feeling intimidated and insecure.
He couldn’t wait to watch her blossom into the wife he hoped she’d
answered, “Well, yes. Since you put it that way, I guess that is
the word I was looking for.”
It was all he could
do to not reach out and touch her. Giving up, he reached across to
take her hand in his again, ran his thumb lightly over her soft skin.
brought himself back to the present—“I had a mother who was with
me daily. Looked after me. She came from England and was well
educated. Far more than my father. Before we had a school in town,
she taught me and my sister and brothers how to read and write. As we
grew older and the area grew, she made certain we went to the one
room schoolhouse in town—even though Pa announced he couldn’t see
much sense in such things.
“In fact, she
taught him to read too. He wanted nothin’ to do with it, but when
she told him she was only doin’ it so he wouldn’t be swindled in
any of his business dealin’s with other men, he reluctantly agreed.
She told him one day he’d own the best cattle ranch around and he
believed her. Purt near turned out true, too. While not the
biggest, our cattle ranch is one of the largest in the area.”
“Where do your
“Lived. Ma died
right before the Southern War of Rebellion broke out.”
She bristled at his
terminology and started to say something, but he stopped her with his
fingers on her lips. Feelings about the war were still too raw—for
both of them. “Now don’t go gettin’ all riled up, Little Reb.
We is married now and it is only normal we are gonna say things about
the war. We have to learn to get along and not react to each thing we
Not to give in, she
said, “I am not little.”
He broke out in a
loud guffaw. “Well, I guess compared to some women you are not, but
compared to me you are.” He reached out and took her hand in his
again. “Now, back to what you asked me. Ma passed away before the
war broke out. As to Pa, I received a letter from my sister, her name
is Kat, two weeks ago tellin’ me he passed away recently.”
He stopped talking.
She could almost see him processing the news. Without thinking, she
placed her free hand atop his. “I am sorry to hear that. Does your
sister live on the ranch?”
He shook his head.
“No. Well, in a way she does. She and her husband have their own
spread just a few miles away. The land originally was part of the
ranch. Pa gave it to her and Aaron as a weddin’ present.”
He held her gaze.
“With Pa bein’ gone, I had actually planned to muster out of the
army and go back to run the ranch, but now…”
He let the words
“But now what?”
“I do not think
you could survive livin’ on a ranch. I might decide to stay in the
army, live at the Fort.”
flooded through her and she pulled her hand away. “How dare you
decide where you think I can or cannot live? If you can live on a
ranch, so can I!” Maybe.
“You have no idea
what you are talkin’ about. Livin’ on a ranch is hard work.”
The waitress brought
their food, and Madelyn waited until she was gone before she
retorted. “And so is living in a city entrenched in a war. Do not
treat me like a witless child, Captain. I assure you I am not.”
A smirk crossed his
face. “Then do not act like one.”
“You, sir, are no
gentleman! Tell me, what do you
want to do? And make sure your answer is honest.”
He lifted a brow,
probably not used to being talked back to by a woman, but he didn’t
say anything about it. What he said instead was, “I want to go back
to my ranch. If there was a program for protecting the president, I
would try to get a job with them. I enjoyed that when I did it, but
no such unit exists.”