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The house at Trail’s End held the key to Mara Marsden’s past, but a frightful apparition lurked in its shadows.
Could Mara evade its clutches and uncover the truth?
The day was perfect for a leisurely stroll. Since my arrival in Silver Springs, the weather had been ideal, with moderate temperatures, warm sunshine, and no heavy rainfall. I thought about Nicholas’ sister. This was the best possible climate for a woman who was in poor health, or for someone like me, looking for a new part of the country to call home.
I’d never intended to heed Emmett’s warning about venturing out alone in Silver Springs. Without the encumbrance of an escort, I could take any direction I chose and stop when I grew tired or desired a change of activity. Glorying in a heady sense of freedom, I walked on, more intent on seeing sights than memorizing directions. Gradually I wandered into a rougher part of town.
Coming to a standstill at a corner, I made an attempt to orient myself. From a saloon named the Lost Duchess, the merriest music imaginable spilled out into the air, along with laughter and shouting, all of these sounds mixing together to suggest that the people inside were having a rousing good time.
The Lost Duchess was a tempting destination, but I wasn’t reckless enough to venture inside unescorted. Turning to walk in a different direction, I almost stumbled over a bundle of fur blocking the middle of the sidewalk. The obstacle was a small black and white dog, a bony and filthy creature that whined and stared at me with a wary, yet beseeching look in its dark eyes. I reached down to touch it, but it rose awkwardly and limped down the street.
While I was occupied with the animal, two brightly dressed and bejeweled women emerged from the Lost Duchess. Entranced by their glittering attire, I watched as they approached two cowboys who were tying their horses to a post. After a few seconds of talking and laughter, the women went back inside, taking their new friends with them.
Wishing I could follow them into the light and the music, I took a step forward. At that moment, I saw Nicholas.
He came out of the Lost Duchess and paused to consult his pocket watch. Without looking around, he walked off briskly in the direction taken by the dog.
The man was definitely Nicholas. I, who had studied his features discreetly during the long hours on the train, could never mistake him for another. Obviously he hadn’t seen me, and something about him was different. He had changed his way of dressing. Now he wore the same kind of clothing as most of the other men in Silver Springs.
What was he doing here? Setting aside the axiom that a lady doesn’t pursue a gentleman unless she is in the profession of doing so, I set out to overtake him. He had a head start, however, and moved much faster than I could. Eventually, he turned down a narrow side street where the shabby dwellings were draped in shadows.
Pausing to catch my breath, I saw that I had wandered even farther away from the more populated area of town. The sounds of shouting coming from a building above me were more indicative of a brawl than revelry. I heard a woman’s scream, a burst of tipsy laughter, and a child’s wail. I couldn’t see Nicholas.
Slow down, I told myself. Think. Nicholas was emphatic about his two-week stay in Denver. Could he have changed his plans, his way of dressing, and, most important of all, his intention of contacting me when he arrived in Silver Springs? Was it possible that I was mistaken, that the man wasn’t Nicholas after all?
As I pondered my next move, I noticed two strangers approaching me. They were rougher in appearance than any of the men I’d seen thus far, with heavily bearded faces and malice in their manner. An Indian stood behind them.
According to Jeremiah, cowboys were respectful of women, but lonely men looking for female companionship were a force to be reckoned with. I, of course, had blithely ignored the warning.
My heart beat rapidly, and my thoughts spun around in a mad fashion. I wasn’t afraid of the cowboys, who now addressed me in a familiar manner, but the Indian terrified me.
Dorothy Bodoin lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, with her black collie, Holly, who appears in the Foxglove Corners cozy mysteries as Halley. After attending Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, where she earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in English, she taught secondary English for several years. Now she is a full-time writer of cozy mysteries and novels of romantic suspense. At present she is working on a novel of romantic suspense.
Book Publisher: Wings ePress
No. of Pages: 293
Paper Weight (lb): 12.3
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