Read Farmer Takes a Wife Online

Authors: Debbie Macomber

Farmer Takes a Wife

Here, as a special bonus for readers of Debbie Macomber’s DAKOTA series, is an exclusive short story.

You’ll see that the events in
The Farmer Takes a Wife
actually pre-date those in the trilogy stories—
Dakota Born, Dakota Home
and A
lways Dakota. You’ll
recognise a number of places in Buffalo Valley, like Hassie’s shop and the Hansens’ grocery store (before Maddie took over, of course). And you’ll recognise the warmth, truth and lightheartedness you’ve come to expect from Debbie’s books.

Enjoy this brief journey to Buffalo Valley the way it was before Lindsay Snyder and Maddy Washburn arrived!

Make time for friends. Make time for

Debbie
Macomber

CEDAR COVE

16 Lighthouse Road

204 Rosewood Lane

311 Pelican Court

44 Cranberry Point

50 Harbor Street

6 Rainier Drive

74 Seaside Avenue

8 Sandpiper Way

92 Pacific Boulevard

1022 Evergreen Place

1105 Yakima Street

A Merry Little Christmas

(featuring
1225 Christmas Tree Lane
and
5-B Poppy Lane
)

BLOSSOM STREET

The Shop on Blossom Street

A Good Yarn

Susannah’s Garden

(previously published as
Old Boyfriends
)

Back on Blossom Street

(previously published as
Wednesdays at Four
)

Twenty Wishes

Summer on Blossom Street

Hannah’s List

A Turn in the Road

Thursdays at Eight

Christmas in Seattle

Falling for Christmas

Angels at Christmas

A Mother’s Gift

A Mother’s Wish

Happy Mother’s Day

Be My Valentine

THE MANNINGS

The Manning Sisters

The Manning Brides

The Manning Grooms

Summer in Orchard Valley

THE DAKOTAS

Dakota Born

Dakota Home

Always Dakota

The Farmer Takes a Wife

(Exclusive short story)

About the Author

DEBBIE MACOMBER
is a number one
New York Times
bestselling author. Her recent books include
44 Cranberry Point, 50 Harbor Street, 6 Rainier Drive
and
Hannah’s List
. She has become a leading voice in women’s fiction worldwide and her work has appeared on every major bestseller list. There are more than a hundred million copies of her books in print. For more information on Debbie and her books, visit www.DebbieMacomber.com.

The Farmer
Takes a Wife
Debbie Macomber

www.mirabooks.co.uk

One

D
ave Stafford needed a wife, and he wasn’t in any position to be choosy. He was thirty-seven and lived alone, more than thirty miles from the closest town. Buffalo Valley, North Dakota, was nothing to brag about, either. It had been a thriving community once upon a time, but not now, not with the virtual collapse of the farm economy. A lot of people had been forced to leave Buffalo Valley, abandoning homes and property, in search of jobs.

Dave did all right, though. He owned three thousand acres and grew soybeans, sunflowers and wheat. The work was hard and his days were long, which didn’t leave much time for seeking female companionship. Compared to those pretty boys in magazine ads, Dave figured he wasn’t much to look at; however, he also figured that as a prospective husband, he wasn’t such a bad bargain. He was solvent and reasonably successful. He paid his bills on time and was clean (regular baths), healthy (all that fresh air) and without serious vices. None of that sounded very
exciting, and he suspected it might not be enough of an endorsement to attract a woman, but it was all he had to offer.

That was the reason he’d placed a personal ad in the
Farmer’s Newsletter
, a national publication. The wording hadn’t been easy. He’d spent almost a week writing and rewriting the few short lines, and in the end, he felt the direct approach seemed best and that was what he’d sent.

LONELY FARMER SEEKS WIFE OF CHILD-BEARING AGE. PREFER NON-SMOKER. MUST LIKE COUNTRY LIFE. I’M HONEST, FAIR AND DECENT. FOURTH-GENERATION FARMER AND PROUD OF IT.

He’d tried to fit in a line that stated he wasn’t interested in a woman who’d had parts of her body pierced or tattooed, but couldn’t think of a way to say it. The ad had appeared in the singles column a month earlier, and despite the effort that had gone into writing it, he’d received only one response.

One. Her name was Emma Fowler, and she was a thirty-year-old woman from Seattle. She hadn’t mentioned how she’d happened upon the ad, but considering everything else he still had to learn about her, that didn’t seem important. Her job—routing delivery trucks for a produce supplier—might have something to do with it. He could picture a copy of the
Farmer’s Newsletter
lying around the lunchroom and maybe that was how she’d found it.

What
was
important was that they were going to meet that very day, late in the afternoon since her plane was getting into Grand Forks around four. Dave’s stomach had
been tied up in knots all week as he anticipated this dinner date. Well, he supposed he could refer to it as a “date.” He’d shaved, had his mother take a pair of scissors to his hair and ordered a new shirt. This was it—as cleaned-up as he got. He’d sent Emma his photograph, taken for this purpose by a friend, another farmer named Gage Sinclair. Dave had been standing in front of his farmhouse, which looked a little shabby in the bright light of an April morning. He was six feet tall with wide shoulders and a sun-reddened neck, and he’d been wearing a cap that covered his thick dark hair and shaded his brown eyes. She’d mailed him her photograph, too. She was fairly ordinary in appearance, a little on the short side, but that didn’t bother him. Her hair was dark blond and even from a distance he could tell that her eyes were a pretty shade of green. He wasn’t looking for some stunning beauty—and didn’t expect to find one. What he wanted was a woman with simple tastes, someone who could appreciate quiet, who didn’t need to be constantly entertained and wasn’t afraid of a little solitude. Someone who shared his values, understood the importance of family and community. A woman who’d sit beside him on the porch and listen to birdsong at dawn, watch the sunset, breathe in the good, rich smell of freshly turned earth. Simple pleasures.

“You ready?” His mother checked him over one last time.

“Ready as I’ll ever be.” She clearly considered this meeting significant—enough to drive all the way in from Dickinson, where she lived with her sister. He knew she’d be waiting for him when he returned, too. Emotionally, she seemed to have a lot invested in this; she’d been a widow for years and Dave was her only child, and she definitely felt it was time he got married. In fact, she’d been the one
who’d brought him the
Farmer’s Newsletter
and suggested he place an ad.

“If you bring her back to the farm …” she said, following him out the door.

“That would be only fair, don’t you think?”

“Oh, yes,” she said eagerly. “I’ve got the guest room ready. If she agrees to marry you, then everything’s set.”

He nodded. A month’s courtship through letters and a few phone calls wasn’t much, but it would have to do. As a precaution, he’d requested references and several letters of recommendation with regard to her background and personality; he’d provided the same. She’d checked his references and he’d checked hers. If they both decided to go through with this once they met, they’d get married the following week. He’d already made arrangements for a quiet ceremony in a chapel near Grand Forks.

“I’ll head out now,” he said, knowing it was early. He’d have a couple of extra hours when he got to the city, but he didn’t mind. He was sure he could find errands to do, stores to visit. Besides, he was a man who prized punctuality.

His mother hugged him and stayed on the porch while he pulled the truck around from its usual parking space behind the barn. Waving vigorously, she continued to watch as he drove off. Dave tapped his horn in farewell, then concentrated on the day ahead.

“Be everything you say you are, Emma Fowler,” he whispered.

Two hours later, Dave arrived in Grand Forks and made a point of locating the restaurant first. The place he’d chosen served Italian cuisine. He didn’t eat out often enough to vouch for it, but in one of her letters, Emma had said Italian was her favorite, and he wanted her to know he
paid attention to the things she’d written. He’d read and reread her letters dozens of times, until a picture of her had taken shape in his mind—a picture of the kind of person she was. So far, he liked her.

He’d offered to meet her plane, but Emma had said no. At first that left him feeling a bit unsettled; only later did he realize she didn’t want to be dependent on him if things didn’t work out the way they both appeared to want. She had a reservation for a rental car and directions to the restaurant, where they were supposed to meet at six. Even after completing his errands, Dave had enough time to sit outside for almost an hour, his stomach tight with nerves.

He finally went and chose a table at the far end of the room so he could see everyone who entered. He’d only been seated five minutes when Emma walked in. She stared directly at him, and he could tell she recognized him instantly.

Dave got to his feet. The picture she’d sent looked nothing like her and he frowned, even more nervous now. He couldn’t imagine why she’d purposely misled him. The photo she’d mailed had revealed a rather ordinary woman with dishwater hair. Yet the woman who walked toward him was anything but ordinary. The word that tumbled through his mind was
beautiful
. Emma was a beautiful woman.

“You must be Dave,” she said with a smile that seemed completely effortless.

“And you’re Emma.” Still in something of a stupor, he walked around the table and held out her chair.

“How was your flight?” he asked once he was back in his seat.

She reached for her napkin and smoothed it across her lap. “Wonderful. Have you been waiting long?”

“No …” He wanted to say more, to make some additional
small talk, but his mouth didn’t seem willing to cooperate. “You’re … you’re not what I expected.”

She stiffened noticeably. “What do you mean?”

“The photo …”

“Oh, yes. I’d forgotten about that.”

“You purposely chose an unflattering one.”

She nodded.

“But … why?”

“Because there’s more to me than meets the eye. I didn’t want you to be swayed by appearances…. I wanted you to know
me
, the real me.” Her gaze flew to his, but then she quickly averted it. Dave wasn’t sure what to make of that, but he guessed there was something she hadn’t told him, something she wouldn’t until they met. He held his breath, wondering.

Before either could speak, the waitress approached their table. Dave ordered a bottle of wine; he had the feeling he was going to need it. While they waited, they each studied the menu, although Dave didn’t have much of an appetite.

Once the wine had been opened, approved and poured, they relaxed a bit.

“Would you like my assessment of you?” Emma asked.

Dave took a gulp of wine. “Please.”

“You’re exactly what you led me to believe. Your picture said it all.”

The picture. Dave felt a little embarrassed. He hadn’t wanted to deceive Emma, but he wasn’t going to discount what he had to offer, either.

“Your photo showed a man who’s proud of who he is and what he does. A man who understands hard work. Your ad said you were decent and honest, and for what it’s worth, your photograph and letters confirm it.”

“My picture said all that?” She held his gaze and he asked, “So, what was
your
picture supposed to tell
me?
” He couldn’t help being curious, since she’d deliberately set out to delude him.

“Mine?” she blurted, then reached for her wineglass. “Well, for one thing, it said I’m not as trusting as I once was. It said … I had something to hide.”

“And do you?” Might as well lay it on the line now, he decided.

She took a long time answering, long enough for Dave to fear this entire episode had been a waste of time.

“Yes,” she whispered. “I have a three-year-old daughter. I was as honest as I could be about everything else, but I have to tell you—I come as part of a package deal. It’s me and Jamie, and if you can accept the two of us, I’ll marry you.”

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