Authors: Tracey V. Bateman
© 2015 by Tracey Bateman
Something New ©
2015 by Joanne Bischof
© 2015 by Kim Vogel Sawyer
© 2015 by Mona Hodgson
Print ISBN 978-1-63409-479-5
Adobe Digital Edition (.epub) 978-1-63409-390-3
Kindle and MobiPocket Edition (.prc) 978-1-63409-391-0
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written permission of the publisher.
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
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.
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 Canada.
Tucker’s Creek, Kansas
he horses pulling Betsy Lowell’s wagon swayed toward the right side of the road as she tried to hang on to the reins with one hand and tightened her scarf about her neck with the other. The temperature had dropped at least ten degrees in the past hour since she and her grandpa left the cabin for town, and the morning’s steady rain had frozen to icy pellets, driven by a gusty wind. Why they had waited until the end of October to get their winter supplies in the first place was beyond Betsy. She’d been after her grandpa for a month to get it done, but Pops always said there was plenty of time before the weather set in. Much as she’d like to point out that she’d been right, she thought better of it. No need to get him up in arms when he was trying to keep his horse upright.
“Mercy, Pops,” she said, eyeing her grandfather, who rode his own horse next to the wagon. “You likely should’ve settled for the wagon instead of riding Job. Looks like we’re in for some nasty weather, and you know how crazy that horse gets.” But Pops never was one for wagon-sitting. He preferred the feel of the saddle, the strain of the bit. And Job, the four-year-old stallion, was about the strainingest-at-the-bit horse Betsy had ever seen. And ornery. You couldn’t feed the animal a peppermint candy without him taking a nip at your fingers.
Predictably, Pops gave a snort. “Ain’t never seen a horse yet I can’t handle.” He nodded at the two horses veering toward the woods. “You best worry about keeping the wagon on the road and don’t concern yourself about me.”
With a heavy sigh, Betsy added her other hand to the reins and righted the horses.
For once, Pops gave Job a yank, holding him back. “Now listen here, Betsy. There’s something I got to say to you before we get to town. I reckon I ought to have told you this awhile back.” He cleared his throat and paused for so long Betsy cut him a glance. He had a faraway look in his eyes that meant he was getting the words in his head, and she knew better than to press. He’d come out with it in his own good time. And from the way Job was pulling against the biting wind and stinging ice, Pops would need all of his concentration to keep the dumb animal from tossing him to the ground again.
They approached town in silence as the ice picked up in intensity. “Pops?”
“We’re almost to the general store now. No time to talk. We’ll get to it.”
A frown creased Betsy’s brow. The only time Pops had ever seemed this nervous about talking with her was the day he’d told her about her parents’ accident and that she was going to come live with him from now on. If the news he was clearly avoiding was even half as bad, she wasn’t sure she wanted to know.
Surprisingly, the weather hadn’t deterred the folks of Tucker’s Creek from getting out and about. She passed patrons going in and out of Miss Annie’s restaurant, noted the seamstress working at her machine through the window, and had to pass Fields’ General Store by a good six wagons down to find a place to stop.
“Careful getting down, Pops,” she said as she set the brake and carefully negotiated the slick road up to the boardwalk. She watched him and noted with some pride that, for a man his age, he got around pretty well. In front of folks, anyway. Back at the cabin was another story, but she and Pops kept their business to themselves. And hardly anyone ever came to visit, so no one needed to know the state of the place.
Warmth from the stove greeted them as they entered the store. She smiled at a few familiar faces. Rather than the friendly greetings she was accustomed to on their rare trips to town, folks gave her tentative smiles and looked away. Everyone just seemed nervous. Betsy chalked it up to the weather and didn’t take it personally.
The store was busier than usual, and Betsy loosened her scarf and unbuttoned her coat, figuring it might be awhile before Mrs. Fields or her high-and-mighty son, Stuart, was able to fill their order for new supplies. She retreated to a corner and watched as Pops beelined for the other side of the store, close to the stove where three other codgers sat jawing—more to keep warm, she figured, than adding to the Fieldses’ pockets. The old-timers greeted him loudly as he helped himself to the pot of coffee staying warm on top of the woodstove.
Mr. Mahoney, the former blacksmith and owner of the livery stable before his son took over the business, moved over and offered Pops a seat next to him on a roughly hewn wooden bench. “What are you doing bringing that little girl out on a day like this? Don’t you know it ain’t fit out there for the likes of her?”
“A little cold ain’t gonna hurt nobody,” Pops said, waving away the comment. “My Betsy might be little, but she’s as sturdy as old Job, out there.”
The pride in his voice brought a smile to Betsy’s lips. Pops might never admit she was a grown woman of nearly twenty years old, but he had never been one to coddle her just because she was a girl. She reckoned it was just too much for him to think about the day she would find a man and settle down. Of course, she’d never marry a man who didn’t understand she came as a pair. Her and Pops. He hadn’t abandoned her after her parents had died, and she’d never leave him on his own.
Their conversation faded into the background as Betsy roamed the aisles, looking over the ribbons and store-bought dresses she’d never have the courage to ask Pops for. Mama had taught her to sew as early as she could remember, and she’d always had a knack for it, so as young as she was when her parents died seven years ago, Betsy had the skills to make her own clothes and keep Pops’ trousers free of holes and his shirts with a full set of buttons.
Reaching out, she allowed herself a moment to indulge, fingering a silken, red ribbon between her thumb and forefinger. She imagined herself with the ribbon braided into her dark hair and twisted atop her head as she danced with a tall, handsome gentleman. A smile touched her lips at the thought.
“That would be lovely on you.”
Betsy jumped and dropped the ribbon. “Mrs. Fields,” she said, pressing her palm to her stomach. “I–I’m sorry. My hands are clean. I didn’t hurt it.”
The older woman smiled, her brown eyes filled with kindness. “Of course you didn’t hurt it.” She reached out and pulled the ribbon from the bin, then held it against Betsy’s cheek. “This is the perfect color for you. Shall I wrap it up?”
Betsy darted a gaze toward Pops, feeling guilty for coveting what he called “women’s foolishness.” “No, ma’am. Pops and I don’t go in for such things.”
At the disappointment in the storekeep’s eyes, Betsy reached out and touched Mrs. Fields’ arm. “But I thank you for your kind words. Perhaps I’ll look at the red when it’s time for next year’s dress.”
She knew that wouldn’t be possible. Pops wouldn’t stand for such a bold color on her. She would eye the beautiful blues and reds and even yellows, but ultimately, Pops would insist she pick up a sensible brown, perhaps a blue—if it was dark enough—but never, ever a red. And never any embellishments such as lace or a pretty scalloped collar. Pops wasn’t harsh; he just wanted her decent. And Betsy would never give him any reason to be ashamed of her.
“Well if I can’t interest you in a ribbon, what can I help you and your grandfather with today?”
With a last glance at the bin of ribbons, she reached into the reticule tied around her wrist and pulled out the list of supplies. “We’re out of just about everything. Pops said we best stock up before winter sets in or he won’t get his biscuits.” She smiled, but Mrs. Fields frowned.
“So, you’ve found a new place?”
“No, ma’am. It’s the same old cabin as always. Pops and I did put up a new fence by the barn last month. The calf kept getting out. He made Pops so mad I thought he was going to bust a vein.”
“That’s not what I—”
“About time you got around to waiting on us.” Pops’ voice filled the room. “Thought we was gonna have to head down to Rex’s store if you didn’t want our business.”
Stuart gave a loud snort from behind the counter. Betsy knew exactly what he was thinking. Their account was embarrassing and long past due, but he didn’t have to remind them in such a rude manner.
Heat seared Betsy’s neck and cheeks as all eyes turned toward them. “Pops, they have other customers.” She sent her grandfather a scowl that said everything she couldn’t say out loud about what she thought of his rudeness. “It doesn’t hurt us to wait our turn.”