RICKY: A Sweet Western Historical Romance (Mail-Order Brides Club Book 5)

BOOK: RICKY: A Sweet Western Historical Romance (Mail-Order Brides Club Book 5)
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RICKY
Ashley Merrick
Contents

C
opyright
© 2015 by Ashley Merrick

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

Chapter 1


I
need a wife
.” Ricky Donovan looked around the table and then addressed Colleen, “Are there any more of your friends in Boston who might want to make the trip out here? The sooner the better.”

It was Sunday afternoon and as usual, the entire Donovan clan had gathered at Jed and Naomi’s house after church for dinner. Ricky was their nephew and didn’t join them every Sunday, but he’d been coming around more often. It started when Colleen first moved to Bozeman as a potential mail-order bride for either David or Paul Donovan. Paul quickly stepped back when both David and Ricky showed interest, but Colleen’s heart led her to David. Ricky recovered quickly enough though as his proposal to Colleen had been impulsive. They’d stayed friends and he had to admit that she and David were perfect together.

Colleen looked at him quizzically. “I think Maeve possibly might be interested. She hinted around in her last letter that the idea of being a mail-order bride was growing more appealing by the day. But, why the sudden urgency?”

“Is it the election?” Ethan asked. He was married to Emma, the first of the friends who moved to Montana.

“It is. Peter and Ted have been insisting that my chances of actually winning the race for mayor will be much better if I’m seen as a stable family man, with a wife.”

“You mean instead of a charming rascal who likes to spend more time than he should at the local saloon?” Julia teased him. She was the second girl who had moved from Boston, and was married to Liam Donovan.

There was some truth to what she said. He probably did spend more time than was prudent at the saloon. But, as a single man who lived in town and a block from the saloon, what else was he going to do in the evening?

“Yes, that,” he admitted with a smile.

“I will post a letter to her tomorrow and see what she thinks,” Colleen said.

“What is she like?” Ricky asked, curious about the girl whose name he was hearing for the first time.

“Maeve? She’s a wonderful girl. She’s trained as a midwife and lives and works at the local Catholic hospital.”

“Doc Murphy could probably use someone like her,” Paul said. He was married to Brianna, who was the most recent to move to Bozeman. Ricky knew that all the girls had grown up together at a Boston orphanage and had to support themselves from the age of eighteen onward. The orphanage had assisted in helping them to find placement in positions in the Boston area, but if things went wrong, they had no one to look to for help. Part of him hated the idea of sending for a mail-order bride, but he knew his options were limited and the closest he’d come to marriage was proposing to Colleen, and that hadn’t worked out. Maybe this would.

“Why don’t you write to her and see what she thinks?” he suggested.

Chapter 2

L
ater that evening
, Ricky was home and bored. He hadn’t eaten dinner because they’d had a big, leisurely meal after church, but he was starting to feel a bit hungry and although he had a perfectly nice kitchen, there wasn’t any food to speak of in it. If he wanted something to eat now, he had to go get it.

So, although he’d decided earlier that day to stop spending so much time at the saloon, it was off to the saloon he went, to have a bite to eat and a beer to be social.

The saloon was crowded, but it always was on a Sunday night. All those who had missed church or who had gone and felt badly for their sins were washing their guilt away with a beer or a shot. Ricky slid into his favorite chair at the bar and when Nick, the balding, pot-bellied bartender ambled over, he ordered a beer and the day’s special. They didn’t have much of a menu at the saloon, just a sandwich and soup of the day and as it often was, the soup was tomato and the sandwich a grilled cheese with bacon.

He sipped on his beer and wondered if he’d see Sarah, his favorite saloon girl. She was new there, recently relocated from Philadelphia and as he always did, he found himself looking forward to her warm smile.

He didn’t have to wait long. A few minutes later, Sarah came downstairs and when she saw him, she headed his way. He figured she’d probably gone up to check on her son. They both lived above the saloon along with most of the other saloon girls, in the small apartments.

“Nice to see you, Ricky.” She greeted him warmly and he suddenly felt like all was right in his world, and with that feeling came a realization that should have occurred to him earlier. Sarah might be the solution.

“I always look forward to seeing your smile,” he drawled.

“And I have to admit, I enjoy your flattery,” she teased back.

“How is your son?” He’d met him briefly a few weeks ago when he’d run into the two of them at the mercantile. He was a small boy, well behaved and looked just like his mother, with his blonde hair and blue eyes. Sarah’s hair was much longer, of course, and she wore it pinned up on the sides, the rest falling down her back. It was sleek with a little wave to it and when she turned and smiled, it caught the light and seemed even more golden.

She was a very pretty girl and from what she’d shared with him, she’d had a rough time of it before answering an ad to move to Bozeman and work as a saloon girl. The job included housing for her and her son, so she’d said it was the only acceptable option available to her. Her husband had died unexpectedly and she had no way to support the two of them and pay the mortgage on their house.

“Did you work in Philadelphia?” he asked her, curious about her background before her marriage. It was a given that once she’d had her son, she stayed home to raise him.

“I worked as a teacher, before I had Andrew, and before that, as a waitress. My parents owned a small restaurant and I loved working with them. They died suddenly, in a house fire. They lived above the restaurant and it all went up in flames.”

“That’s terrible. The restaurant was gone too?”

“Burned right to the ground.” Sarah sighed. “I thought I could go back to restaurant work when my husband died, but there were no jobs to be had. Philadelphia is facing its worst economy in years right now. It’s a sad thing.”

They were both quiet for a moment, and then Ricky spoke.

“So, I’ve been thinking,” he said. “And I have a proposal for you. Can you sit down for a few minutes and join me?”

Sarah looked around the saloon nervously, but no one else seemed to need her at the moment.

“You can suggest that I order another beer. That should buy us some time.” As a saloon girl, Sarah’s job was to mingle with the customers and to sell alcohol, to pay attention to when their drinks were low and suggest that they might do well to order another.

She slid into the chair next to Ricky as Nick made his way back over to them. Ricky still had about a quarter of his beer left, but he lifted his glass to indicate that he’d like another and when Nick set the full mug down in front of him he grinned and said, “This was all Sarah’s idea.”

“She’s a persuasive young lady,” Nick said with a smile.

“He knows you would have ordered another anyway, more than likely,” Sarah said as Nick walked away.

“True, but might as well give you credit for it.” He took a sip and then turned his attention fully on her.

“So, my proposal. This may seem a bit sudden, but please hear me out. I think it’s something that could benefit us both. I’d like you to be my wife. You’d have to stop working here, of course, and you and Andrew would move in with me. My house is right around the corner and Andrew would be able to walk to school.”

Sarah seemed stunned. “Why would you want to marry me?”

“I need a wife, fast. I’m not going to say it’s because I’m madly in love with you, because you know that’s not true. But, I do like you. I think you’re a beautiful girl and I don’t know why I didn’t think of courting you before, but I don’t have time for that now.”

Sarah had recovered from her initial shock and instead, she now looked amused. “What is the hurry?”

“I’m running for mayor, and quite frankly, my odds will be much better if I’m seen as a respectable family man. Marrying you will help me and it’s even better that you have a son.”

“It suits you better that I have a son?” The amusement was gone as her eyes narrowed. She was fiercely protective of her son, that much he already knew.

“Well, yes. Obviously. That gives me an instant family.” She was silent then, her expression wary as she seemed to realize he was serious.

S
arah stared
at the wickedly handsome man who was waiting for a response. In the past month, since she’d started working at the saloon, she’d often found herself watching for him and hoping he’d be in. When he was, she always enjoyed talking to him. Ricky was a charming devil and always made her laugh. She realized, though, that she knew very little about him.

“How could you be mayor? Aren’t you too young for that? Why would people vote for you? What do you do exactly?” The questions came out in a rush and Ricky chuckled.

“Well, if elected, at age thirty-three, I would be the youngest mayor on record, but quite a few people think I am qualified and have encouraged me to run. I’ve done well in business and I know a lot of people here and in other areas.”

“What is your business?” She was curious now. This was a side of Ricky she hadn’t seen before and it intrigued her just as much as his charm had. There was a sense of power and confidence about him.

“I’m a middleman of sorts, brokering deals between people and companies, buying and selling things people need.” His eyes lit up as he talked about his work and Sarah sensed that he was very good at it. She didn’t know anyone else who did the kind of work he did.

“Is it steady work?” She wondered if he worked for someone else or was on his own.

“It’s very steady. Sometimes, I can hardly keep up with it. I do very well,” he assured her. “And I work for myself.”

“But why me? Surely there’s someone else who is more appropriate for you?” She worried about what people might think if he married a saloon girl. It was respectable work, but it wasn’t always viewed in a positive light.

She’d had to be stern with more than one man who had the idea that saloon girl was a euphemism for prostitute. It wasn’t. Though she had heard that it wasn’t always the case everywhere, which was something she wished she’d known before she accepted the position. Prostitution was rampant in the west. The area was growing fast and there just weren’t enough women to go around. If Ricky was serious about his proposal, it really could be a wonderful thing for her and Andrew. But still, she wondered what his expectations were. As handsome as she found him, she certainly wasn’t prepared to take on all wifely duties right away, if ever. She’d assumed after taking this job in fact, that she probably wouldn’t ever marry again and had grown used to the idea. Being a mother to Andrew had seemed to be enough.

Marriage to Ricky offered a safer and more stable alternative and certainly a better option for her son than living above a saloon. But still, she needed to clarify what his intentions were.

“What will you expect of me?” she asked.

He seemed taken aback, unsure of himself for the first time. As he gathered his thoughts, Nick set his sandwich down in front of him.

“Well, I’d expect you to present yourself as my wife and partner, to attend social events with me as necessary to be visible and accepted in the community. I guess I’d expect you to take care of things at the house. Cooking and cleaning, if that would be acceptable?”

“That’s a given. I mean what are your expectations?” She looked at him intently and he realized what she was asking.

“Oh, of course. Well, we don’t really know each other that well, do we? I suppose it would be nice to just get to know each other, to court you in fact, until we do want to become more intimate?”

“If we want to,” she corrected.

“Right,” he agreed, and then an impish grin spread across his face. Clearly, he had no doubt about his abilities on that score. Sarah felt her stomach do a little flutter. Her day had certainly taken a very intriguing twist.

“So, what do you say? Shall we get married?”

Sarah smiled. It was the craziest and yet the most sensible decision she had ever made.

“Yes, I would be delighted to marry you.”

BOOK: RICKY: A Sweet Western Historical Romance (Mail-Order Brides Club Book 5)
12.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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