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Authors: Sarah M. Eden

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #General, #Western, #Fiction

Longing for Home

BOOK: Longing for Home
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© 2013 Sarah M. Eden.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher, Shadow Mountain
®
. The views expressed herein are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the position of Shadow Mountain.

To Anne,
who left her beloved Ireland in search of a better life
and, in doing so, blessed generations

 

 

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Eden, Sarah M., author.
Longing for home / Sarah M. Eden.
pages cm
ISBN 978-1-60907-461-6 (paperbound)
1. Irish American women—Fiction. 2. Nativism—Fiction. 3. Wyoming—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3605.D45365L66 2013
813'.6—dc232013014178
Printed in the United States of America
Edwards Brothers Malloy, Ann Arbor, MI
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Table of Contents
 

Acknowledgments

 

With gratitude to the following:

The Ryan family of Tramore, Ireland, for welcoming us into their home and proving that Irish people are every bit as kind and witty and good as I have always believed them to be.

Ranee S. Clark and Krista Lynne Jensen, who answered countless questions about Wyoming, saved me from frequent embarrassment, and helped add an aura of authenticity to this work I could never have achieved without their insights.

Pam van Hylckama Vlieg, who has seen me through innumerable hiccups, detours, and temporary roadblocks on this crazy journey. An author couldn’t possibly hope for a better cheerleader, advisor, and all-around go-to gal.

Annette Lyon, Heather Moore, J. Scott Savage, LuAnn Staheli, Michele Holmes, and Robison Wells, the world’s greatest critique group, for countless hours of encouragement and support and for teaching me so much about being a good writer and a good friend.

To my family, for putting up with late hours and frozen-waffle dinners, and for listening to me talk endlessly about the characters and stories in my head. Their support and willingness to embrace this madness has made it all possible.

Chapter One

 

Wyoming Territory, 1870

 

Eighteen years had passed since Katie Macauley killed her sister. Time hadn’t erased the memory of poor Eimear lying pale and still in the biting cold of an Irish winter. Even some two decades later, sitting in the back of a stranger’s wagon, surrounded by the vast desert of the American West, Katie knew if she closed her eyes for more than a moment, she would see her sister’s face.

The five children climbing around the covered wagon bed bumped and jostled each other and Katie with them. She’d taken to sitting on the very back, facing the direction they’d come, with her legs hanging free. The Garrison family was kind but a bit much to take in. She’d not been truly at ease with children since Eimear’s death, and the Garrisons had children in abundance.

“Take care,” Mrs. Garrison called out from the front. “You’ll knock Miss Macauley clear out of the wagon.”

’Twasn’t an exaggeration in the least. She’d nearly toppled out a few times over the past two days. The tiniest Garrison offered her a gap-toothed grin before returning immediately to his mischief.

She clasped her hands in front of her. She’d helped prepare meals and see the wagon ready for each day’s journey since they’d left the train station. Keeping busy meant never being asked to tend the children. Otherwise she’d have spent every moment reliving her sister’s death. Children did that to her every time.

“Hello, there!” Mr. Garrison, driving the wagon, called out to someone Katie couldn’t see from her place in the back.

Every face turned at the sound, necks craning as the wagon slowed to a stop. The children rushed to the front for a peek. They’d not come upon another soul in two full days. Katie found a welcome comfort in the loneliness of the place, despite the constant ebb and flow of the Garrisons’ ocean of offspring.

“Are you men headed home by chance?” Mr. Garrison asked. “We have someone here bound for Hope Springs.”

Mr. Garrison had addressed them as “you men.” Katie didn’t care for the idea of traveling with a group of men she’d never met. She carefully lowered herself off the back of the wagon and leaned around, keeping herself half-hidden behind it.

Another wagon stood near the Garrisons’, pointed in nearly the same direction. Neatly stacked crates filled the back. Two men sat up front.

The driver was a fine-featured man, his ginger coloring familiar to one who’d grown up in Ireland. His was a pleasant face, ordinary enough to not be worrisome. The man sitting next to him was far too handsome for anyone’s good.

He had hair the color of a lake in the darkest hours of night, and a teasing hint of a smile played on his lips. He sat with one arm bent over the bench back, his sleeves rolled up, collar hanging limply open. Something his companion said brought out his smile. Where he’d been handsome before, the change rendered him rather breathtaking.

“If that just doesn’t beat all,” she whispered to herself. The handsome men always were the most trouble. She’d do well to keep her distance from that one.

Katie realized with no small degree of alarm that she’d caught the dark-haired man’s attention. He’d turned about on his seat just enough for his eyes to settle on her. He gave her a questioning look before moving to slide off the bench he sat on.

She stepped quickly back, fully behind the wagon once more. Eighteen years of living on her own had taught her to hit and kick and use her knee to great effect. She could do so again if need be. Still, there was some comfort in knowing that the Garrisons and their children were near at hand. Surely even the worst of rogues would cause no trouble with a wagon full of freckle-faced imps grinning out the back at him.

The handsome stranger stepped around the wagon, stopping within reach of her. Katie held herself still and alert, careful not to show even a hint of wariness. She’d appear confident, whether she felt it or not, and she’d keep a close watch on him.

“I hear tell you’re on the road to Hope Springs.” He spoke with the flavor of Ireland.

“Aye,” she said. “That I am.”

Surprise turned his expression. “Ah, you’re an Irish lass.”

“As are you.”

His smile tipped and laughter twinkled in his eyes. “Not a lass, exactly, but Irish-born, for sure.”

Wasn’t that just like a man. Knew exactly what she meant and yet turned her words about. “You know full well I didn’t mean you were a lass.”

“Didn’t you now?” He leaned against the back of the wagon, arms folded across his chest, and kept grinning as though he’d never enjoyed himself so much in all his life. Katie didn’t relax her guard in the least—even a snake in the grass knew how to smile.

The children had made their way to the back of the wagon, watching Katie and this stranger with curious eyes.

“My name’s Tavish O’Connor,” he said. “And it’s very pleased I am to meet you.”

Katie held her ground and kept her peace. There was nothing that irritated an arrogant man more than a woman who showed no interest in him.

Tavish’s smile remained in place. “Might you see your way to telling me what it is I’m to call you?”

Katie didn’t trust this mysterious Tavish O’Connor and his twinkling blue eyes, not for one moment. Handsome he was. Talkative to be sure. But she’d not give him credit for more than that.

“Come now,” he said. “It seems we’re to take you on to Hope Springs. Wouldn’t do to be calling you Miss for the next two hours.”

“You’re taking me to Hope Springs?” When had that been decided? “I don’t even know you.”

His smile flashed once more. “Aye, but you needn’t be overly worried. I’m not.” The twinkle in his eyes reached ridiculous levels. “You don’t seem the type to kill a person when he’s not looking.”

She looked away, her tiny sister’s pale, still face filling her thoughts for one searing moment.
Not the type to kill a person,
he said. He’d be surprised.

Katie squinted against the bright sunlight, bracing herself against the constant wind, and kept silent.

“I don’t suppose it would set your mind at ease if I told you I’m quite trustworthy.” Tavish gave her a smile that sat with such ease on his face, she didn’t doubt for a moment he knew just how effective it could be.

“Not in the least.” Katie shrugged a casual shoulder. Let the man make of her lack of interest what he would. “If you
are
untrustworthy, you’d have no qualms saying you were honest and all, though it were a bold-faced lie.”

“You don’t mean to trust me even an inch?”

BOOK: Longing for Home
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