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Wyoming Territory in 1869 is no place for a woman, but when Kate Murphy's husband dies of Cholera, she is stranded there with no money and no way to leave. At the end of her rope, she accepts a job as a saloon girl in the tiny town of Horse Creek. There she is discovered by the mysterious Jonathan Cantrell who hires her to keep house for him and his two unruly sons.
Jonathan has the face of an angel and the devil's own temper. But sweet Kate has a temper of her own and is more than a match for him. Living together in a small cabin on an isolated ranch their clash of wills gives way to an attraction neither of them expects nor wants. Then the past surfaces to tear them apart and create suspicions on both sides. Will their new-found love be strong enough to survive the secrets from the past?
Cholera! For Katharine Murphy, it had become a living, breathing entity, a dark creature of the night that sucked the life from Bryan’s body. It hardly mattered that the wagon train had gone on without them, or that the single candle burning near at hand was almost gone. Bryan Murphy was dying, and they both knew it.
“Katie?” Bryan’s voice was thin and raspy as he fought the painful cramps.
Folding his cold dry hand into hers, Katharine swallowed the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. “I’m here, Bry. Don’t try to talk. Just rest now.”
“I have eternity to rest.” His face was pinched and gray, the brilliant green eyes, once so full of life, now sunken and defeated. “Go to your Uncle Matthew in Denver.” He shook his head weakly as she started to protest. “I know, Katie. But he loves you, and he’ll keep you safe until you decide what to do with your life.”
“Without you, I have no life.”
“Here now. That doesn’t sound like the Katie McAnespie I married for her courage!” Bryan lifted his free hand and traced the line of her cheek. “Remember, every storm has a rainbow and—”
“And there’s a pot of gold at the end of it,” she finished for him. “There won’t be one this time, Bry.”
“You’re a fighter, Katie. You’ll find a way to go on, and you’ll find that pot of gold.” He gazed at her as though memorizing her features. “My beautiful Irish rose.” His hand slipped from her cheek and fell back to the bed. “I love you, Katie.”
“I love you, too,” Katharine whispered, but it was too late. She was alone.
* * * *
The sun was well up in the sky before Katharine finished digging the grave. The hole yawned at her feet, the raw earth stark against the green of the prairie. She lifted her head as a movement to the west caught her eye. It was single rider coming toward her at an easy lope. From the loose-limbed way he sat in the saddle, it could only be Sam Perkins, a scout from the wagon train.
When he reached her, he swung down from his horse and stared at the freshly-dug grave. At last he cleared his throat. “I’m right sorry about your husband, Mrs. Murphy. Reckon I can bury him for you.”
Not trusting herself to speak, Katharine merely nodded. She had already bathed Bryan and wrapped him in their wedding quilt. There was nothing more she could do. In silent agony, she watched as Sam placed the man she loved in his final resting place and began the grim task of filling in the grave. Wincing as the clods of dirt struck the body below, Katharine reminded herself repeatedly that Bryan could no longer feel, that he was beyond pain.
At last the job was finished, and Sam gave her a look of sympathy. “If you know some words to say, best do it now.”
Katharine stared numbly at the mound. From somewhere inside came a prayer: The Lord’s Prayer. Softly, she repeated the words adding a few of her own at the end. “And please take my Bryan into your heart and keep him safe.” With one last look, she turned away.
Avoiding her eyes, Sam twisted his hat in his hands. “If you want to collect a few things, I’ll take you to that little town I saw two or three miles back.”
Again Katharine nodded, unsurprised that he hadn’t offered to escort her west to the wagon train. Those so-called good people had already turned their backs on the Murphys. Other than Sam, only one man had shown any concern for them by offering Katharine a revolver for protection from the riffraff who roamed the prairie. Refusing to accept money from the contaminated wagon, he had taken the team of oxen as payment. At the time, Katharine had been too worried about Bryan to think of anything else. Now she wondered if greed rather than compassion might have been the man’s motivation.
Ms. Lampman has written the perfect western. You feel like you are living on the western frontier. Everything is described with great intensity. You will feel the cold of the blizzards and the very heated loving that warms them. This story is an emotional read that will have you laughing one minute and crying the next. _Reviewed by Sherry from CoffeeTime
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 382
Paper Weight (lb): 16.0
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