Authors: Elizabeth Goddard and Lynette Sowell
A Wedding for Belle
© 2014 by Lynette Sowell
A Mirage on Snow
© 2014 by Lynette Sowell
© 2014 by Elizabeth Goddard
Ribbon of Light
© 2014 by Elizabeth Goddard
Print ISBN 978-1-62836-810-9
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-63058-568-6
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-63058-569-3
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked
are taken from the
HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
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Published by Barbour Books, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses
Printed in the United States of America.
by Lynette Sowell
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God
Jackson’s Hole, Wyoming, October 1888
he autumn downpour chilled Belle Murray to the bone, despite her good coat with Ham’s old slicker worn over top of it all. She shivered, although her black wool dress ought to provide adequate warmth under all the layers.
She hadn’t planned on getting stuck in the mud on the trail back to the homestead.
“C’mon, Patch. You can do it.” She snapped the reins, urging the horse forward. Patch pulled, his chestnut shoulders straining against the harness, to no avail. The small cart’s wheels remained fast in the deep mud.
Belle was stuck two miles from home, and twilight came early in the fall in Wyoming.
Her numb yet still aching heart almost made her predicament seem laughable. If she had the inclination to ride home, she could unharness Patch and ride him the rest of the way. However, she carried a cartful of provisions from the good people of Jackson, and if she left it here, someone might surely take the bit of food. She needed the supplies, even with her brother-in-law having the foresight to prepare for the winter ahead.
Belle sighed, and Patch huffed, the gelding’s breath making puffs in the cold air. “I know, Patch. We’ve gone and done it this time.” But there would be no one at home to tease her when she told the story.
Melanie Murray Quinn and her husband, Hamilton Quinn, now lay beneath the earth, still soft enough to bury bodies before winter’s cold descended with a fury over Wyoming. The freak wagon accident had robbed Belle of any family she cared about.
She should have taken Ham’s advice and left Wyoming before the leaves fell, gone back East. But to what prospects?
Belle sat contemplating her decision to stay in Jackson on her fool’s errand. Her supposed mission from God to give some propriety to the Wild West.
The squeak and creak of an approaching wagon made her glance over her shoulder. Here came Zebulon Covington, in all his fur wrapped, bearded, know-it-all glory.
She turned back around. Might as well urge Patch once more. “C’mon, Patch. You can do it.” Anything, besides Zebulon coming to her aid. She didn’t care much to hear any “I told you sos” from him.
What was it about men treating women as though they couldn’t think or care for themselves?
“Whoa.” Zebulon pulled up his team, the mules tossing their heads. “Afternoon, Miss Murray.”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Covington.”
“I see you’re in a bit of a bind. Do you care for any assistance?”
She could hear the mocking tone in his voice and dared not look him in the eye to find the twinkle. Why did he always seem to be laughing to himself when he saw her?
“Care? Not particularly. I think … I think Patch needs a moment to gather himself, and he’ll pull the cart from the mud without much effort.”
“Nightfall’s coming soon. How long do you plan to wait for Patch to gather himself?”
“Not long. I was just about to try again.” She gathered her skirt then swung her legs—carefully and genteelly, of course—to the side in order to climb down from the cart. Her boot slid on the mud, and before she could steady herself, her world flipped on its side and she was left staring up at Zebulon’s team, puffy clouds rising from their nostrils while a wet, earthy scent met her own.
Zebulon was off the wagon seat in a flash and by her side. “The mud’s a bit slick.”
A bit slick, indeed. And it had the consistency of sticky dough, much like the time when she’d kneaded the bread too much. Cold seeped through her layers, and she dared not look down. Wearing Ham’s old fur coat had been a wise last-minute decision before leaving for the funeral. They could have had the funeral at the homestead, but she didn’t take to the idea of two corpses, especially family, lingering in the house with her alone. Selfish of her, maybe?
She glanced at Zebulon. He’d crouched down close enough she could see the first few strands of silver in his beard. “Thank you, but I can get up without assistance.” Although it was gentlemanly of the roughened rancher to help her up. No, the man wasn’t a complete beast, but she didn’t trust his intentions.
“Suit yourself, Miss Murray.” He towered above her as she managed to scramble to her feet, not bothering to adjust her skirts. “Let me see if I can get you unstuck here, and we can both be on our ways.”
She stood at Patch’s head while Zebulon worked to free the wheels of the two-wheeled cart from the nearly foot-deep mud Patch had pulled it into. “I hope it works.”
“You and me both.”
He joined her beside the horse. “Here.” He took hold of the horse’s halter. Zebulon tugged, harder than she would have.
Again, Patch strained against the harness. The cart wiggled. Belle bit her lip.
No. It didn’t work.
Zebulon’s mules balked and pulled away from Patch when Zebulon tried to use them to assist Patch with pulling the cart. The mules threatened to bolt, but Zebulon grabbed the nearest bridle and they stopped.
“Well, I do believe I’ll be giving you a ride home this afternoon.”
“Tied to the back of my wagon.” He glanced toward the cart. “We’ll take whatever’s in the back of the cart, too.”
She ought to refuse and unhitch Patch from the cart and ride him home. But then she had no sidesaddle, and who knew how long it would be before she could come back to this part of the road and gather the provisions in the wagon, if someone hadn’t picked them off by then?
“All right. Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Covington.”
Well, well, well.
Zeb hadn’t expected to find himself in this situation on the way back to the cabin. He’d gone to pay his final respects to the Quinns, along with the rest of Jackson. Those who had the time to make it to town, anyway, with one of the final trips of the season for the visiting preacher, until the spring thaw. Until then Zeb and two of the other men in the area would take turns preaching at the weekly Sunday meeting, for whoever showed up in between snowstorms.
He glanced at Belle Murray, who sat ramrod straight beside him on the wagon seat, her gloved hands folded neatly on her lap. The wagon swayed and creaked, but all the while, Belle managed to keep perfect posture. She’d maintained a form of dignity in spite of the mud covering the lower part of her clothing and one sleeve.
This spring, when he’d met the young and proper spinster who’d joined her sister and brother-in-law out West, he and a few of the others almost began a betting pool to see how long she’d last. Almost, that is. Any money he came by he wouldn’t squander on a gamble.
Even if he was pretty sure he’d win. First snowfall and she’d be gone, he told them. The others agreed.
After losing Hamilton Quinn, one of his good friends, he’d modified his tone a bit, as he’d promised to watch out for his friend’s sister-in-law if anything ever happened to him. At the time, Zeb didn’t think he’d ever be called on to keep that promise. He figured Belle would soon be on her way back East and find her proper self a good spouse.
Belle Murray had stayed in Jackson, though. She had some cockamamie notion of opening some kind of school for young women, but it wasn’t a traditional book-learning school. No sirree, she’d told them all she was going to help civilize the West by schooling its young women in culture, poise, and gentility.