Was It Fate Or Destiny? eBook #1
By Raymond Cook
© 2011 (All Rights Reserved)
Word Count: 84,000 words
Sam Bates was a ranch hand bunking at the Triple R ranch in the Crystal River Valley east of Marble, Colorado in 1899. Emily Brown was a widow making the best of raising her two children on a hundred and sixty-acre ranch. Sam had seen her a time or two at the general store. He’d even helped her put her goods in her wagon one day, as she smiled, and thanked him.
Neither of them knew if it was fate or destiny that made their paths cross that cool, April morning. But on that wind-driven day, he rode up to her and her two children. On his way back to the Triple R Ranch, Sam saw a buckboard up ahead with a broken wheel lying on the ground. He also saw a woman sitting on the ground next to her buckboard with her children beside her, unharmed, but crying.
Her provisions were scattered everywhere. Her two small children were trying to comfort their mother. Sam spurred his horse on. Then he pulled back the reins and jumped off his palomino. Carefully, he helped her up to her feet with his strong, calloused hands, making sure she wasn’t hurt. He gathered up cans, bags, and bundles, and placed them near the buckboard.
When her children saw him do that, they helped gather up the packages too. Emily wiped away her eyes feeling her heart skip a beat. Her heart skipped in a way she’d only felt with her late husband, Jess. He’d died in a crooked poker game at Kate’s Place Saloon three years earlier. Perhaps it was the whiskey talking the afternoon Jess called the big bearded miner a cheat.
In the harshness of Colorado, she knew life was balanced not only by fate but with the speed of one’s draw. Jess, she knew had never been quick with a gun. That day as she stood there with her hair a mess, she studied Sam’s frame. He was tall, handsome, had with broad shoulders, brown hair, and blue eyes. He was rugged looking but had a soft touch when he helped her to her feet. She sensed it.
Sam had never shown an interest in her, nor asked if he could stop by her ranch to visit her and her family. Her day started well before sunup. It didn’t end until her little ones, now nine, and ten were bathed, tucked in bed, and prayers were said. She always read them a bedtime story before she hugged each one and blew out the oil lamp. Sure, they fussed, but gosh they were good kids she told herself.
Sam looked at the axle, and then the wheel on the ground before he unbuckled his gun belt. Then he wrapped it around his Colt 45 Peacemaker. As he handed it to her, he looked into her green eyes. “I’ll be back from the livery stable with a new wheel ma’am, as quick as I can. Try not to worry,” he told her. He took a part of his rope and tied the wheel to his saddle horn.
Before he headed for town though, he leaned down and handed her his canteen. Emily felt herself blush as she whispered shyly, “Thank you.” He looked at her two frightened children, holding onto their momma’s dress. Sam asked them in an easy-going voice, “Your young’uns like peppermint sticks?” Their eyes suddenly lit up, and they smiled up at him and nodded. Quickly, they looked up at their momma.
Emily smiled as she looked up at Sam and nodded. He gave her a nod, tipped his hat to her, and turned his horse towards town. Time passed slowly, and it seemed like hours, as the April sun rose higher in the Colorado sky. Her children had their little hands on their brows, looking down the road for the first sign of dust from a horse, hoping it would be Sam with the bag of peppermint sticks.
It was amazing how the death of Jess had somehow made them stronger. Nary was there a complaint, no matter how many chores she heaped upon her children. As she watched her children look down the road, she knew they both had their pa’s eyes. Tommy, her oldest was the first one to see a line of dust in the distance. Tommy and Sarah looked back at their ma excitedly when they recognized Sam’s horse, and saw the wagon wheel tied to his saddle horn. The closer he rode towards them, the more Emily smiled.
When he climbed off his horse, he took out a small paper bag from his saddlebag. He tied his horse’s reins to the front wheel of her buckboard. He heard both kids giggling beside their momma. They met him halfway, but he held the bag just out of the reach of their hands until he stood in front of their ma. Emily handed Sam back his gun belt, and he handed her the bag of peppermint sticks. “Did you listen to your ma while I was gone?” Sam asked with a grin.
Emily laughed and said they’d been good. She opened the bag, and handed them each a peppermint stick, making sure they said thank you to Sam. He nodded, walked over to his horse, and took down the wagon wheel. He asked for Emily’s help as he rolled the wheel over to the buckboard. He bent over to lift the end of the buckboard up, so she could wiggle the new wheel on. Once he had lifted the end of the buckboard high enough, Emily wiggled and pushed the wheel back onto the axle.
She couldn’t help but admire how nice Sam filled out his britches and felt herself blush. Once the buckboard was upright, he tightened the nut onto the axle to hold the wheel on. Then he handed the nut to her. The buckboard looked good as new now. Sam put her goods in the back of the buckboard. He helped her up onto the seat and then helped her children up. Emily thanked Sam, again, and again.
She told him she didn’t know what she would’ve done without his help. She asked him what she owed him for the new wagon wheel as he climbed up onto his saddle. With a smile, he said, “No charge, ma’am, glad to be of help.” Then Emily said, “The least I can do is ask your name.” Sam smiled and said, “My name’s Sam Bates, and yours?” he asked in a friendly voice.
“I’m Emily Brown, Sam. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us. These are my children, Tommy and Sarah,” she said. Both children shyly waved at Sam as they kept licking their peppermint sticks. He was about to ride away when he heard her call to him. Looking back, he saw his canteen in her hand. “You forgot your canteen, Sam,” Emily called out with a giggle. Sam laughed, rode back, and hung his canteen over the saddle horn, before thanking her.
Hearing his laughter, Emily couldn’t help but think of how much it reminded her of Jess. Emily, Tommy, and Sarah waved goodbye as Sam turned his horse around and rode away. By the time she got back to her ranch, they’d lost over four hours to do chores, and her children were hungry. They unloaded the provisions she’d bought from the general store and brought them inside the cabin. Then she placed the bag of peppermint sticks on top of the fireplace, out of reach of her children.
She took the buckboard down to the barn, and felt herself smile, and giggle, thinking about Sam. Then she put the horse in a stall and tossed in some hay. After she made lunch, it was time for chores. Emily headed for the barn to feed and water her livestock. She was a strong woman; there was no mistaking that. Since the death of her husband, she was determined to keep her ranch.
-Amazon Reader’s Comment Section-
There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a well-written western romance story with a happy ending. If you enjoyed reading this eBook, would you consider writing an Amazon review? Reviews are important to readers who are considering reading an author’s newest book.
Amazon comment from Mary K. in Sebastian, FL. July 6, 2015 What a great story. This is what I would call a “comfort” read. This is a clean, lovely book that any historical western fan will love. I highly recommend it & I plan on reading all of the westerns offered by this author because he is great. He immediately involves the reader in the story & characters & events both good & bad that shaped our country.
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