Authors: Dorothy Wiley
AMERICAN WILDERNESS SERIES ROMANCE
WILDERNESS TRAIL OF LOVE
Copyright © 2014 Dorothy Wiley
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.
To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author via her website.
First Edition: 2014
Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill
Wilderness Trail of Love
is a work of fiction and is not presented as a precise account, but rather as a fictional novel inspired by history. Except for historically prominent personages, the characters are fictional and the names, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental. Each book in the series can be read independently.
For the sake of understanding, the author used language for her characters for the modern reader rather than strictly reflecting the far more formal speech and writing patterns of the 18
To “My Hero” whose courageous ancestors
inspired this novel.
New Hampshire, spring 1797
es, it would be dangerous, maybe even deadly.
But at least he could live his life as God intended and build a better future for his family. Wouldn’t it be far worse to hide from life—to end it doing nothing significant? To choose only what you will not do.
It isn’t death that a man should fear. It’s never living.
Nearly dark, Stephen Wyllie watched the boldest of the evening’s stars push their way through the regal purple of a cloudless sky. He resisted the urge to race home. He needed to think. Sometimes it was just easier to think clearly on the back of a horse. Could ‘two minds are better than one’ include a horse? Perhaps with a trusted steed like George it could. The black stallion was by far the best mount he had ever thrown his leg over—tall, strong, and even-tempered.
Passing dense stands of timber, he stared west toward the rugged darkening mountains. “It’s time to see the world beyond those peaks, George.”
He had just confided in his four brothers telling them what he had not discussed with anyone else, even Jane. Going west. Folly or glory? For months, his mind had spun the question around again and again—like some sort of top inside his head. But now he had his answer.
He wanted to move his family to Kentucky.
It didn’t surprise him that his middle brother Edward had mocked the idea. The man didn’t have an adventurous bone in his body. Stephen had laid his heart on the line only to be met with extreme negativity. It caused his temper to flare. This was a difficult enough decision without Edward making it more so. His cynical middle brother had snickered at the idea of going to Kentucky and predicted that their heads would be swinging from some savage’s hand like Daniel Boone’s decapitated brother.
But his other three brothers supported the idea. In fact, Sam’s feet were already itching to go. And John and William both wanted to leave New Hampshire for their own reasons.
Going west would be a chance to test himself—to see just what he was capable of facing. He welcomed the idea. The frontier would pit him and his brothers against countless dangers—mile upon mile of wilderness, the worst elements, vicious beasts, and savage men—all trying to steal their lives. They would leave civilization behind. Their lives would be in their own hands. The lives of his beloved wife Jane and four young daughters would be in
hands. The thought nearly stopped his heart. Could he keep them safe?
He could and he would. He had to.
He patted George’s neck, wanting to share his excitement with someone, even if it could only be his horse. The prospect of land opportunities that would enable him to raise fine horses and cattle
made his spirit soar. For the first time, he believed he might be able to go where his dreams had already taken him.
He swallowed the growing lump in his throat, realizing just how much this meant to him.
Pastureland in New Hampshire and the rest of the colonies was hard to come by and expensive. And, damn it, he paid taxes on almost everything, even his horse. And the amount collected rose every year without fail.
Granite mountains and hills, abundant forests of pine, spruce and hardwood, and numerous sparkling streams and silver rivers made the state picturesque, but discouraging for men who needed acreage for their livelihood. But the new frontier offered the colonists plentiful and rich grasslands. The only rub was getting there…well maybe not the only obstacle. He pressed his lips together and then wiped his grimaced brow.
What about Jane? Would she be willing to leave their cozy home? Most men did not overly concern themselves with what the women of their homes wanted. He didn’t think that way.
He needed Jane to share his dream.
He took a deep breath of the cool earthy evening air. How could he make her understand? Heaven knows she could be beyond obstinate and would not hesitate to challenge him. She’d be apprehensive about the girls and their welfare. He didn’t blame her. His stomach knotted with concern for his daughters’ safety as well.
But his oldest brother Sam had often said that danger has a way of finding us no matter our place. A former Captain in the Revolutionary War, danger had been, and often still was, a persistent part of Sam’s life. He never hesitated to face danger. Just that evening, Sam told their brother Edward that we can’t float
through life in pampered safety.
He agreed. But would Jane? He didn’t want to even bring up the idea of moving until he felt certain it was the right thing to do. That’s why he sought out the counsel of his four older brothers first. If he couldn’t convince them, he didn’t stand a chance of getting Jane to agree. She could be more hardheaded than all four put together.
One of the most beautiful women in New Hampshire, in his opinion, he never tired of telling his wife just that. She would laugh and say he only said that because New Hampshire was such a small state. Her Scots parentage gave her eyes as green as new spring leaves on Hickory trees and an abundance of lustrous red curls that he loved to weave his fingers through as he kissed her. Jane’s creamy complexion nearly glowed, unmarred except by the beginnings of well-earned laugh lines on either side of her luscious lips.
George lifted his head, then picked up his trot. Stephen chuckled. His farm lay just over the next hill and the anticipation of feed propelled the always hungry horse forward.
He soon stepped off the stirrup and led George toward the stable, all the while studying the full moon glowing though huge maple trees. Sam once said that Algonquian speaking tribes had a special name for each full moon. What was this one? Full Hunger Moon maybe, because food was so scarce by the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Winter food stores would be long gone, and it was time to plant new crops.
Jane’s mare whinnied a welcome to George, returning his thoughts to his wife. An excellent horsewoman, she insisted on having her own mount, not content to be limited to a wagon or buggy like most local women. It was just one of the many things he loved about her. She certainly wasn’t a coddled fragile woman, like
some he’d known. When they first met, her indomitable spirit had impressed him. Maybe that same temerity would make her want to go west as well. Or, maybe it wouldn’t. He frowned. It chafed him to admit that he couldn’t predict her reaction and realized that was the reason he hadn’t yet told her of his plan. But he would soon. He just had to find the right time.
He unsaddled George and scooped his feed into a wooden bucket. Chomping down on the grain, the horse gave a contented snort and relaxed his ears, a sign of his gratitude. “You’re welcome,” Stephen said. He stroked his steed’s long muscular neck, warm and moist from their ride.
As he proceeded toward his home, well lit with candles and firelight, the familiar mellow smell of smoke wafting from the chimney reminded him how much his family loved their comfortable house. The small two-story red brick dwelling, built with the help of his brothers and neighbors, rose above him like a welcoming sanctuary. Jane would have their daughters upstairs tucked into their beds and covered with colorful quilts, embroidered by both grandmothers, keeping the early spring evening chill away.
Each of the four girls held a distinct place in his heart. With the birth of each one, his heart seemed to grow. He wanted to give them the best in life. He could do that with more land.
But if he asked Jane to leave this fine home, would he regret it? Would she regret it? That would be worse. He could live with his own disappointments, but not hers. Yet, the thought of struggling to squeeze enough income for his family out of his meager farm made his heart clench and his stomach sour. He couldn’t provide for them as he should here. He
to make a change.
How was he going to tell her?
Jane came up the path to greet him. Her warm smile and twinkling eyes bridged the distance between them like a thousand words could not. As she met him, she slid her arms under his cloak and hugged his waist. The gesture of affection sent a warm pulse through him.
As he gazed into her emerald eyes, happiness shined back at him. He would do anything to keep her happy. He curled his arm around her shoulders and felt her shivering. He took off his cloak and draped the long heavy woolen cape, still warm from his body around her shoulders.
“There’s no need for that, we’re only a few steps from the front door,” she protested.
“We’re not there yet,” he said, with a grin.
Jane inclined her head, gazing skyward. The soft rays of the moon bathed her in a brilliant radiance, making the hair around her head glow like the halo of a candle.
A shadow suddenly passed over her upturned face. She seemed troubled.
He cupped her smooth cheek with his palm and she turned pensive eyes towards him.
“Is something wrong?” he asked.
“I just had a strange feeling when I looked at that full moon. Like something wasn’t right. Not with me, something out there somewhere.”
He wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. We’re together.”
Jane shook her head, as if to remove the feeling, and gazed up at him.
“You just need to be loved, that’s all.” Taking her hand, he brought it to his lips and then softly kissed each of her knuckles. They tasted delightful, and left him wanting to taste more of her.
They entered their home and he helped her out of his cloak, letting it fall to the floor. He pressed his mouth to hers. The chill of the night left his body in an instant as every inch of her responded. Warmth, both his and hers, penetrated his clothes. But that barrier didn’t last long.