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From the moment penniless Kathleen McKenna enters the Philadelphia home of her powerful and wealthy step uncle, Thomas Fitzgibbon, she senses his lascivious design on her. As she struggles to outwit his subtle sexual advances, she also struggles to win the friendship of his perverse and pampered daughter, Shana.
However, when both women fall in love with the handsome Dr. John Hayden, Shana's hostility escalates. She will go to any lengths to become his wife, even though just the thought of the marriage bed repels her.
It took John and Kathleen days to get used to traveling by wagon. Sadly the farther west they went, the more roadside graves they saw, and scatterings of cherished household goods that had been discarded by preceding emigrants to lessen the wagon loads.
Those grim and inescapable reminders of the hardships, sacrifices and hazards of overland travel kept them mindful of the need for extreme caution. And Kathleen was particularly cautious when she was preparing meals over the campfire, for the ever present winds whipped the flames dangerously close to her skirts. For John, caution was paramount when fording rivers and maneuvering through deep ravines. There had been plenty of both in the one hundred miles that now lay between them and Fort Laramie.
"We’ve been traveling for days," John muttered in disbelief one evening after reining in, "and we’re still in Wyoming." They made camp alongside an angrily foaming brook in a vast mountain meadow. In keeping with their customary routine, Kathleen prepared the campfire and unloaded the cookery while John, who had become left-handedly proficient with a rifle, went in search of wild game. As soon as the evening meal was over they, as usual, made quick work of the dishes, then wearily bedded down in the wagon.
Sleep was generally instantaneous, but on occasion one or the other would lay awake listening to the wolves in the distance and yearning to reach out for the other. As much as John longed to hold Kathleen near and make love to her, the deep and ever growing affection for the dark-haired beauty convinced him that such an intimacy would only add to the sorrow of their parting. When he considered their parting, as he often did, he wondered if she would miss him as much as he knew he was going to miss her.
Kathleen, on the other hand, was still too saddened by the passing of her daughter to really think beyond the daily needs and the strength and sense of security she’d gained from John. Instinctively, she’d come to know that in time there would be lovemaking between them. And when at last that moment came, it was as spontaneous and beautifully natural as she had dreamed.
They’d halted travel earlier than usual on that day to rest the horses, and had set up camp alongside a winding mountain stream. John had wandered up the bank of the sun-dappled water to the rapids to fish for trout. Kathleen had hauled out the laundry. For the first time in her life, she washed clothes in a stream, and on a rock. It was more of a backbreaking chore than she had anticipated. By the time she’d hung up the last of the laundry to dry, her hands were a sorry state and she was soaked to the skin. Those discomforts, added to the days of dust and grime from the trail, made her feel less than human.
Kathleen regarded the stream longingly, then returned to the wagon. She secured a towel, hairbrush, and the one luxury she’d brought from the Fitzgibbon home, a bar of fragrant lavender soap.
Back at the water’s edge, she shed her clothes. The sun, filtering through the abundant cottonwoods, was warm on her body and the gentle breeze caressing her flesh made her feel delightfully wicked. She laid her clothes over shrubbery to dry, then removed the pins from her luxuriant hair, letting it tumble about her shoulders. Kathleen inched her way into the water. How refreshing it was. She ducked under, immersing herself, then indulged in a brief but leisurely swim before lavishing on the lavender soap from head to toe.
Bath completed, Kathleen left the water. She wrapped the towel about her and sat down on a sun-warmed boulder at the stream’s edge. As she brushed her hair, she listened to the warbling of meadow larks and smiled from time to time at a pair of scampering squirrels. Heather would have loved them. Kathleen was so engrossed in the cherished memories of her daughter that she did not notice John return to camp.
Irene Pascoe lives near Seattle, Washington with her husband. She has three grown children and two grandsons. She enjoys the outdoors, tending her flower gardens, figuring out new computer programs, and having fun with family and friends.
Irene and her husband love to travel and have had the good fortune to see much of America as well as many distant countries. The majority of her books are set in places she and her husband have visited. Their next journey is a transatlantic cruise to Lisbon, Portugal.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 295
Paper Weight (lb): 11.9