Home Previews Saved by his Western Bride Preview

Saved by his Western Bride Preview

11
Saved by his Western Bride Preview

About the book


"You are the only woman who can save me from this hell..."

Kathleen Elliot is a hard-working woman with high hopes for life.

As the daughter of a famous ranch owner, she spends her days working to achieve what she desires. After her mother passed away, Kathleen’s sole goal has been to be just like her; helping others in times of need. So when an injured man appears on her doorstep, she takes him in, nursing him back to life…

Matthew Olson, a hardened ex-bounty hunter, is running away from his old life. After an accident took his family away, he has been thirsting for revenge ever since, not realizing that he hurt those close to him on the way. With no other choice, he flees, until he gets mysteriously attacked. The next thing he remembers is seeing Kathleen’s beautiful eyes in front of him, giving him a reason to live again…

While Kathleen and Matthew fall in love, they quickly realize that being together means war. Kathleen’s father does not approve of Matthew, afraid it could put her in impending danger.

And when they have to choose between duty and love, a familiar face makes an appearance, targeting those close to Matthew...

Prologue


Goldshire, North Carolina, 1880


It should have struck Matthew Olson as odd that the gate along the trail to the ranch was open. His father was always meticulous about keeping it shut.

“I don’t want just anyone riding rough-shod over my land. You keep that gate closed, you hear me?” he used to say.

Yet today Matthew was distracted. He had ridden into Goldshire that afternoon, having finished his chores, intent on looking over the cattle auction. They were going to buy some new livestock, establish a herd, and make some money. That was his dream, and as he had ridden back along the trail that afternoon, Matthew had been picturing their prosperity and all that it could mean for the future.

He was thoughtful, and at only eighteen years old he was already possessed of far more responsibility than most men his age. His friends would tease him about being a rancher, always talking about cattle and horses, but Matthew did not mind. He was happy in his life, happy on his parent’s ranch, and looking forward to the day when he would take the responsibility of being its master.

His father had talked about it often, telling Matthew that one day soon he would take a step back and let his son see to the hard work. Matthew was so caught up in thinking about all this that the open gate made little impression. He was riding his horse, Murphy, a black young steed with a white nose, which he now reined in, jumping down from the saddle, excited to tell his father everything he had seen at the auction.

The ranch lay on a lonely stretch of land around five miles outside of Goldshire. It was a large town, a meeting point for several of the Western trails, where people came and went, some staying longer than others. It was Matthew’s grandfather who had built the ranch, declaring the land thereabouts to be perfect for farming. The ranch had grown, and with the purchase of the new cattle, the family could look forward to greater prosperity in the years to come.

“Father, are you in the barns?” Matthew called out, looking around him.

There was no sign of either of his parents. He had left his mother baking bread in the ranch house, and his father and sister feeding the hens in the yard. The birds were now scratching the ground, and Matthew looked around curiously, sensing that something was not right.

Usually, his mother came to meet him, or his sister would be playing in the yard, but there was only silence, broken by the distant sound of cattle on the range, and the call of a solitary raven sat on the roof of the barn.

“Mother?” he called out, “Ruby?” He turned his head, looking for his ten-year-old sister.

Still there was no reply, and Matthew unhitched the saddle from Murphy, patting the horse on the nose, as he looked around fearfully.

“I don’t know what’s going on, Murphy, but I don’t like it,” he whispered, and the horse gave a whinny.

Matthew was no coward, there had been times when the ranch had fallen foul to cattle rustlers and he and his father had chased a whole posse off their land. Now, Matthew proceeded with caution. He was not armed. It was just a feeling, and one he did not like.

Calling out again, he got no response, and looking cautiously around him, he made his way across the yard toward the house.

It was built of wood, with a porch running along two sides. His father was proud of having built into the roof space of the original building, and the two-story ranch house was much the envy of their neighbors. Now, Matthew noticed that the door to the kitchen was open, and he suddenly remembered the gate, thinking it very odd that it had been left open too.

“I’m sure I closed it when I rode out,” he said out loud, pausing on the porch, and calling out again.

There was no reply, and with his heart racing, Matthew stepped forward over the threshold. The sight that greeted him caused his legs to give way beneath him, and he let out a cry of horror.

The sight was one that no one should ever have to bear.

There, lying on the floor was his father, his throat cut, and beneath him, Matthew’s mother, a deep wound to her head, her hands raised, as though in self-defense.

Matthew’s stomach wrenched, and he turned to be sick, letting out another cry of anguish, as he fell to his knees. The kitchen was a mess, furniture upturned, pots and crockery smashed. His father’s strong box lay open on the table, the money they had saved for the cattle all gone, and Matthew could only look down at the scene of barbarity in disbelief, tears rolling down his cheeks. It was too much to comprehend, and his thoughts suddenly rushed to his sister.

“Ruby? Are you here?” he yelled, springing to his feet and rushing through the kitchen into the parlor.

She was nowhere to be seen, and he ran upstairs, calling her name.

“Ruby? It’s me, it’s Matthew. Are you here?” he cried, hurrying from room to room.

As he came to her bedroom, he could see the outline of a body beneath the blankets on the bed. He stopped in the doorway, terrified, lest the scene reveal his deepest fears. His hands were trembling, as he stepped forward, the floorboards creaking, just as a high-pitched scream came from the bed and Ruby sat up shaking from head to toe.

“Oh, thank God, oh,” Matthew cried, rushing forward, and throwing his arms around his sister, who clung to him in terror.

“Bad men, chasing me,” she cried, as Matthew clung to her.

“Who did this, Ruby? Who did this?” he cried, tears running down his cheeks.

All she could repeat was ‘bad men,’ the trauma of her ordeal too much to bear.

Matthew held her, vowing to find those responsible. The happiness of his youth was now ended, cruelly snatched away, for that was the day when Matthew became a man.


Chapter One

West Trails, Texas 1889


“Oh, you’re very sweet, Alfred, but I can’t just say yes to getting married,” Kathleen Elliot said, as she picked up her music from the piano in the church and made to leave.

She had been practicing all morning, and Alfred Rulletti, who swept the church and did odd jobs for Reverend Clarke, had been sat listening to her. He always liked listening to her play. That day, he had picked a bunch of snowdrops for her and told her again that he was in love with her. It was always the same, and sweet as he was, Kathleen had no desire to marry him, regardless of the number of times he asked her.

“What am I doing wrong? Don’t you like me?” he asked, and Kathleen shook her head.

“Alfred, it’s not that I don’t like you, but I’m not in love with you. Don’t you see that? It’s kind of you to bring me flowers, and that lovely little box you gave me is just perfect for my jewelry. But I can’t just fall in love over a few pretty flowers. Besides, I’m not ready to get married,” she replied.

Alfred’s face fell, and Kathleen felt terribly guilty at the thought of hurting him. He was nothing if not persistent in his affections. Yet he was not the only one.

Kathleen knew she was a pretty woman and at twenty-five, she had matured to suit her features. With long brown hair and blue eyes, her face was tanned from days working on her father’s ranch, with a pretty complexion, such that many of the men in West Trails considered her a fine proposition.

“I won’t ever find anyone. I put my best shirt on today, too,” Alfred moaned, and Kathleen shook her head.

“There’s plenty of pretty girls around who’d just love you to take them snowdrops. What about Mary Cain in the mercantile? She always looks so miserable when I go in there, though she always has plenty to say. A bunch of snowdrops would cheer her up no end,” Kathleen said.

Alfred looked hurt at the very suggestion of the plain girl in the mercantile, and he shook his head and sighed.

“I’m sorry, Kathleen. It’s just…well, you’re so nice. Have I come on too quickly?” he asked, and Kathleen laughed.

“You haven’t done anything. It’s just not meant to be. Maybe one day I’ll get married, but it’ll be for love and nothing else. You’re a good friend, and if it weren’t for you, I’d never have an audience to practice with,” she said, patting his arm.

Kathleen had played the piano at the West Trails Mission Church ever since her mother had taught her as a girl. She had died some years ago, but Kathleen had always kept up the skill, and each Sunday she would play the piano as the congregation sang. Thursday was her practice day, and she had sat for the past two hours playing over the hymns for Sunday, with Alfred listening attentively.

“So, I’m just a pair of ears, am I?” he replied, folding his arms sulkily.

“Oh, come on, cheer up, it’s a beautiful day out there. I tell you what, you can walk me home and tell me all about those new hens you’ve got. What are their names again?” she asked, offering him her arm.

At this, a smile broke across his face and he proudly took her arm as they left the church together.

“Well, there’s Mindy and Mandy, Beatrice and Polly, and last one’s called Dorothy, though I’m not sure how long she’ll last…” he began.

***

Kathleen left Alfred where the trail forked, one way leading into town and the other toward her father’s ranch at Oak Springs, named for the three ancient red oak trees which grew by the creek there. Alfred seemed to have forgotten his earlier depression, talking enthusiastically about his hens, and promising to see Kathleen at church on Sunday.

She smiled, as she watched him amble on toward West Trails. He was a funny boy, barely a man, but he was sweet and kind. She just didn’t love him. It was something that her mother had told her many years before, words which resounded with her and informed so many of her decisions.

“Whatever you do, do it for love,” she used to say, and Kathleen could not imagine marrying anyone she did not love with all her heart.

Suitors had come and gone, but so far, she had met no one that had ever caused that spark in her. The spark of love, another thing her mother used to talk about.

“When you get it, you’ll know it,” was another of her mother’s favorite sayings.

Kathleen took her time walking back to the ranch, pausing to look out over the wide-open prairie stretching out onto the horizon. It was a patchwork of colors, every shade of brown, red, and gold, broken by occasional trees, straggly and weather-beaten, for it was still early in the year and the greenery of spring was not yet bursting forth. Still, the sun was shining, and despite a slight chill in the air, Kathleen felt happy to be outdoors.

The ranch itself had been built by her grandfather, her father having inherited it when Kathleen was just ten years old. Ever since then, the family had lived happily just outside West Trails, farming the land and enjoying life in the simple farming community which had grown since the first migrations west. The house stood amidst half a dozen barns, surrounded by fenced off ranges, where the cattle grazed. There were henhouses, a stable for the horses and a pigsty too, the sounds from which she could hear as she entered the yard.

“Father? I’m back,” she called out, just as her father emerged from one of the barns, followed by one of the ranch hands, a young man named Stamper Freeman, who took his hat off and nodded to Kathleen, before hurrying to his next job.

“Did you get everything practiced for Sunday?” her father asked, and Kathleen nodded.

Carson Elliot was a well-built man, with a ruddy, weather-beaten face and white hair. He was something of a gentle giant, and Kathleen had always felt safe in the company of her father. He put his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek, the two of them walking together up the porch steps and into the house. There was a pleasant smell of cooking wafting in the air, and Annie, their cook, was busy preparing a stew.

“Did you get all your hymns practiced?” she asked, as Kathleen and her father sat down at the table.

“Just about, I had Alfred sitting listening to me the whole time,” she replied, and her father shook his head.

“That boy is like a lost puppy, he follows you everywhere. Why don’t you just give him a stronger refusal?” he asked.

“I don’t want to hurt him, father. He’s harmless, but I wish he’d stop asking me to marry him,” she replied.

Annie laughed, just as Stamper Freeman came to the door. He and Annie were courting, and they were to be married in the summer. He took off his hat, standing on the threshold and looking slight embarrassed.

“That’s all the animals seen to, Mr. Elliot, may I…” he began, glancing at Annie.

“Go on, I know you’ve been itching to get away all afternoon. You two go and have your fun. It isn’t every day there’s a fair in town,” Carson said.

Annie smiled, taking off her apron, and pushing the pot of stew to the back of the stove.

“Just warm it up when you’re ready. There’s some bread on the side, freshly baked,” she said, pointing to a loaf she had just taken out of the oven.

A few moments later, she and Stamper were gone, leaving Kathleen and her father alone. There were other ranch hands who came and went, but only Annie lived in the house, up a flight of stairs in the attic, whilst Stamper slept in one of the barns.

“They make such a sweet couple,” Kathleen observed.

“They’re good workers, the both of them, we’re lucky to have them. Though once they’re married, I’m sure there’ll be talk of a house together. It’ll fair upset things around here,” Carson replied.

“Oh, father, don’t be saying such things. You know they’re both loyal, we’ll work something out,” Kathleen said.

“Chicken feed,” her father exclaimed, as though he was no longer paying attention to her.

“What do you mean?” she asked, and her father cursed under his breath.

“I meant to ask Stamper to swing by the town and pick up some chicken feed, we’re almost out. They’ll be going the top way by the creek. Darn it,” he said.

“Well, I could go to town,” she said, and her father looked up at her with a smile.

“Would you mind?” he asked, and she shook her head.

“I don’t mind. I like the walk into town, it’s such a beautiful trail. Besides, I can call in and see Sunny on the way,” she said.

The ranch was about three miles outside of West Trails, and they had no immediate neighbors, but her closest friend, Sunny Rodgers, a teacher at the schoolhouse, lived in a small cottage on the edge of the town, and Kathleen would often call in for coffee whenever she passed.

The trail ran along the creek or across the prairie, which was the more direct route, and Kathleen was soon walking happily along, humming the tunes of the hymns she had learned that afternoon and hoping that she would remember them for Sunday.

“Now, let’s see,” she said to herself, “Amazing Grace is easy, and then there’s that lovely one about hope. How does it go? All my hope is found in the Lord, my God. And then there’s…oh, my.”

The trail was passing through a thicket of gorse bushes, their green gnarly branches twisted up into almost sculpture like heights. It ran for about half a mile like this, twisting and turning, before emerging back onto the open prairie.

She had been so caught up in her thoughts, that she had not noticed the figure lying on the trail up ahead, sprawled, as though he had fallen from his horse, though there was no sign of any animals around.

Kathleen rushed forward, not thinking of herself, but only of the injured man, who gave a groan as she approached. He had been beaten, blood oozing from a wound to his head, and she glanced around fearfully, wondering if his attacker was still close at hand. Yet there was no one to be seen, only the man, who looked up at her, dazed and confused.

“It’s all right, I’ll help you,” she said, kneeling down in the dirt at his side and taking him by the hand.

“Help…yes,” he groaned.

“What’s your name?” she asked, pulling out her handkerchief and dabbing at his wounds.

“Matthew Olson,” he groaned, “they’re after me.”


Chapter Two


Kathleen was no coward, but the sight of a beaten man on the lonely trail, with no explanation of how he had come to be there, made her shudder. His words seemed eerie, and again she glanced around her, imagining that whoever ‘they’ were might come back to finish the job. Pushing such thoughts aside, she helped him to sit up.

He was clearly still dazed, lucky to be alive, and now she noticed further wounds, one which looked like the graze of a bullet to his upper arm, where his shirt was all torn. He could not have been much older than her, though she did not recognize him. Certainly, he was not from West Trails, for she knew everyone in the community, and she wondered what could have brought him so far out on the trail to their remote corner of Texas.

Such questions could wait. Kathleen knew she must get help, and offering the man further reassurance, she clambered to her feet and ran off as fast as she could, back along the trail toward the ranch. Her father was surprised to see her back so soon. It usually took at least an hour to walk into the town, then another hour to walk back, along with visiting the mercantile, but Kathleen had barely been gone forty-five minutes.

“Father, come quickly…” she gasped, out of breath from having run so fast along the trail.

“What is it, Kathleen? What’s wrong?” her father asked, hurrying over to her.

“There’s a man…Matthew Olson, he…he’s injured, shot by the looks of it, out on the trail. We’ve got to get the horse and the prairie schooner out, he’s in a terrible state,” Kathleen said.

Carson wasted no time, and they were soon careering along the trail in the old prairie schooner her grandfather had used when he had first come to Texas twenty years previously. Kathleen filled a bucket of water from the pump and found some bandages and ointment in the house. The man would need the ministrations of Doctor Ballard, but she could at least clean his wounds and try to make him comfortable.

“Do you know what happened to him? Did he say who attacked him?” her father asked, as they drove in a cloud of dust along the trail.

“He just said ‘they’re after me,’ that’s all, but I don’t know who they are. We’ve never had trouble out here before,” she said, as they came in sight of the gorse thicket.

She noticed her father had stowed his gun in the back of the wagon, a weapon normally reserved to shoot birds with and scare off unwanted predators that prowled around the herds at night. Now, she glanced fearfully up ahead, wondering if in her absence the assailants had returned.

Yet the man was still sitting in the middle of the trail, propped up on his arm, his face all bloodied. He looked a sorry state, and gave a feeble wave to them, as Kathleen’s father reined in the horse and leaped down from the buckboard. Kathleen followed, carrying the bucket of water, which had sloshed around, half of it spilling out.

“It’s all right, son, you’re safe now,” her father said, kneeling at Matthew’s side.

Kathleen dipped a cloth into the water and gently began to wipe his face. Despite his wounds, he was a handsome man, with sandy blonde hair and a tanned face. There was a scar on his left cheek, and his knuckles were covered in scratches, as though he had used them often to fight. He was dressed in simple clothes and looked like he had been on the trail for some time, having that dusty look about him which all frontiersmen have.

“I…I was hit,” he murmured, as Kathleen wiped the blood from his face.

He did not seem like a typical outlaw, the kind her father would rage against whenever he bought a copy of The Texas Star, which was always full of stories of bandits and hold-ups along the trails. There was something odd about him, as though he did not quite fit. He had nothing with him, he was not a traveling salesman or a military man. Was he a wrongdoer escaping justice? Or just an unfortunate victim?

“All right, son, we’ll help you. Let’s get you onto the prairie schooner and back to the ranch, we can patch you up much better there,” Carson said, and he put his arm around Matthew’s shoulders and hoisted him up.

Matthew let out a groan, but he gave a weak smile, thanking them again.

“I thought I was a goner,” he said, as he was set on the buckboard.

“You were lucky that Kathleen came along when she did. I wasn’t planning to ride into town until tomorrow afternoon and we don’t get many visitors out here. It’s a lonely stretch of the trail. What were you doing riding along here?” her father asked.

“Getting away,” Matthew replied, his head lolling to one side.

“The sooner we get him back the better. I’m worried he’s lost a lot of blood,” her father said, geeing up the horses.

It did not take them long to arrive back at Oak Springs, and Kathleen helped her father to lift Matthew down from the prairie schooner. The two of them helped him into the house, putting him in a chair by the stove, before Kathleen set a pan of water to boil and offered him something to eat.

“There’s stew, and some freshly baked bread, I can make you coffee too,” she said, and Matthew nodded.

With his wounds bathed, and the dirt wiped off his face, she could see his true looks, a handsome face, though one that had seen fights and bad weather. He was a mystery, and she had a hundred questions for him, though she knew he would want to rest and recover.

“Coffee would be nice, thank you,” he said, giving her a weak smile.

She watched as he closed his eyes, sitting back with a sigh, just as her father came back in from the yard where he had been seeing to the horse.

“Nasty business, I don’t like it. First thing tomorrow, I’ll ride into West Trails and speak with Sheriff Kane. He ought to know what’s been going on. If there’s trouble in these parts, then we need to be prepared for it. Who was it that attacked you, son?” he asked, turning to Matthew, but the man was fast asleep, exhausted by his ordeal.

“Let him rest, father, there’s time for all those questions tomorrow. He’s no danger, not in that state,” she said, and her father nodded.

“You’re right, but it pays to be cautious. He can sleep in the back room tonight, then we’ll see what happens,” he replied.

The back room was a storeroom, though it had a bed in it for unexpected visitors and was also lockable from the outside. Kathleen knew it was not wise to entirely trust a stranger, particularly one in such a state as their current guest, but there was something about Matthew that intrigued her.

She wanted to know his story, and she knew her Bible well enough to see a parallel with the Good Samaritan. For now, it was enough to have helped him and she was thankful that God had placed her in a position to do so.

***

When Annie and Stamper returned from the fair, they were astonished to find Matthew asleep in a chair by the stove, even more so when they heard of the extraordinary events that had transpired on the trail. West Trails was a quiet town, not used to such things, and none of them could remember a time when such violence had been reported. It was shocking, and Annie shivered, as Stamper put his arm around her.

“We didn’t see anything suspicious, but we took the top trail by the creek, otherwise we’d have found him,” Stamper said.

“Or run into the same people who did it,” Carson replied.

“Oh, don’t say that, Mr. Elliot, my nerves couldn’t take it,” Annie said, shaking her head.

“It’s surprising they didn’t finish the job, though,” Stamper remarked.

“Stamper, shush, you don’t want him to hear that,” Kathleen said, glancing at Matthew, who was snoring gently in the chair.

Darkness had fallen, and they had lit oil lamps around the ranch house, the four of them enjoying a simple supper of bread and stew, whilst Matthew slept on.

“We’ll have to get him to bed soon,” Carson said, and he pushed aside his empty bowl, stood and shook Matthew gently awake.

Matthew jumped, recoiling in fear, his hand going to his empty holster as though to defend himself.

“What the…” he began, as Stamper leaped to his feet.

“It’s all right, son, it’s all right, you’re safe. We’re just going to get you to bed. You’ve slept all afternoon and evening. Are you hungry? Do you want to eat before you sleep again?” he asked, but Matthew shook his head.

“No, I…I’d rather just sleep. I didn’t mean to. It’s just,” he began, and Carson smiled.

“Don’t worry, son, get some rest, we’ll talk in the morning. Stamper, come and help me,” he said, and the two of them lifted Matthew to his feet.

Annie clearly watched him warily, but Kathleen was not afraid, and she followed them into the storeroom, where Matthew was laid on the bed in the corner.

“Would you like a blanket?” she asked, holding one up.

It could grow cold on the prairie at night, and there was a draught blowing through a gap beneath the window, making the room feel chilly. Matthew nodded, and Kathleen unfolded the blanket she was holding for him, laying it over him, and neatening the corners. He looked up at her and smiled.

“Thank you,” he said, and she blushed in the light of the oil lamp her father had hung up next to the bed.

“It’s only a blanket,” she said, but he shook his head.

“I don’t mean the blanket, I mean for helping me. There’s not many who would stop for a stranger like that. I’m grateful to you,” he said.

“The Bible tells us to help those in need, that’s what the Good Samaritan did. I couldn’t just walk by. I’m glad to have helped, we all are,” she said, and he nodded.

“Well, goodnight,” he said, and she smiled at him.

“Goodnight, God bless,” she said, taking up the oil lamp, and closing the door gently behind her.

Her father was standing there with the key in hand, and he went to the lock the door, as she caught him by the arm.

“Do we have to lock him in?” she whispered, and her father nodded.

“I won’t rest easy if I don’t. I’ve got you and Annie to think of. We’ll find out more about him tomorrow, but for now,” he said, and turned the key in the lock.

“But who is he? I’ve never heard of any Olsons in this county. He’s a stranger, where’s he come from?” Annie asked, once the four of them were sitting around the stove.

“It’s a nasty business, but we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Carson replied, “first thing tomorrow I’ll go to see the Sheriff, he’ll know what to do.”

They played cards that evening, and Kathleen sat reading her Bible, but her thoughts were distracted. She wanted to know more about their guest, who he was and where he had come from. It upset her to think of him being attacked, and she shuddered to think that someone might still be hunting him.

That night, she lay awake for some time, mulling over the events of the day, listening for any strange sounds in the night, but all was quiet at the ranch, with a mystery hanging in the air, the presence of a stranger in their midst raising questions for them all.

Did you like this preview? Please, don't forget to leave me a comment below!

Want to read how the story ends?

Saved by his Western Bride is now live on Amazon!

  • This is awesome. I can’t wait to find out what Dad winds up doing in order to help Mathew. Kathleen has a spirit so clear that you
    can just see it.

  • Certainly a very intriguing start , this book sounds like another page turner.

    Can’t wait to read it through !

  • >