Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Lady and the Cowboy, Chapter One

Time for another sample, this time, The Lady and the Cowboy. Fingers crossed that it's my second best seller! (please God?)

Book Blurb: When Lady Ruth Adams inherits a share in a Texan horse ranch, she thinks it could be the beginning of a whole new life for her and ignoring her family’s misgivings, she sets sail for America. When she inadvertently argues with her new business partner on her first day though, things don’t look hopeful. 

Sam Wakefield doesn’t know what to make of the refined and timid woman who now shares his house along with his mother. What he does know, is that he much prefers the firebrand who confronted him the first time they met, and he can’t help antagonising Ruth in the hope that she’ll resurface.

Ruth is just about ready to give up on her dream when her beloved horse, Angel, arrives from England and Sam realises that they may have more in common that he thought. Angel could prove to be the key in reviving his dreams of one day breeding racehorses, while the one place that Ruth isn’t timid, is in the saddle.

As they come to trust each other, Sam teaches her about ranch life and love but someone else has their eye on the Wakefield Ranch, someone who could ruin everything for them.

Chapter One  ~  July 20th 1882, Wakefield Ranch near Midridge, Texas

 This had been the most miserable journey of Ruth’s life. The boat trip had been all right, if tedious but it had been downhill from then. First the train ride across America had been hot, humid and at times, cramped. The hotels she’d stayed at in between trains had been… well, she didn’t know how to describe them; she had never seen anything like them in England. Basic might be the best adjective.
Then, since this ranch was in the middle of nowhere, it necessitated an eight hour stagecoach ride from the railway station in Fort Worth, on some very rough roads. Her spine would probably never recover. Then the coach had dropped her in Midridge town’s Main Street and after seeing the lawyer, she’d had to hire another carriage, well more of a cart really, to take her out to the ranch and if possible, that ride had been even more jarring than the first.
As if that wasn’t enough, she had finally arrived, only to catch the heel of her boot on the loose carriage step and fall, rather ungracefully, onto the dirt driveway.
“Are you all right, Miss?” Earl, the cart driver called out, making his way around to help her to her feet. “Are you hurt?”
Ruth got to her feet and dusted off her hands. Some of the stones and pebbles had cut into her palms but it could have been a lot worse. She felt just about ready to scream, but she could hear her mother’s voice telling her that ‘a lady doesn’t scream’.
“Just my pride, Earl,” she said with a weary sigh, pushing some loosened strands of dark hair behind her ears.
“I’ll get the bags down, miss.”
“That was quite some fall,” said a deep voice, filled with mirth and she turned to see a cowboy, complete with horse, gun and Stetson hat, standing to the rear of the carriage. The sun was behind him, so she couldn’t see his features yet and shielded her eyes with her hand as she looked up at him.
“I’ve had worse,” she answered coolly, galled by the fact that this cowboy was laughing at her.
The cowboy chuckled which raised Ruth’s hackles even further. She straightened her spine.
“Look, I don’t know who you are but I am half owner of this place, so it might be a good idea to show me a little more respect.”
That wiped the smile off his face.
“Owner?” he asked.
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?”
The cowboy looked to the wagon that had brought her here, piled high with her belongings.
“You moving in or something?”
“And if I am?”
The cowboy shrugged. “The bunk house is right over there.” He pointed to a wooden structure, “but it doesn’t exactly have male and female areas, if you know what I’m saying.”
“And what’s wrong with that house?” she asked, pointing to the welcoming looking farmhouse behind her.
“There’s nothing wrong with it.”
She continued to stare at him for a moment, wondering if he was going to elaborate and when he didn’t, she gave up and went to help Earl unload her trunks from the carriage.
The cowboy stood watching them and when the last trunk was on the ground, Ruth turned back to him. From this angle she could see his features more clearly. He had a strong, square jaw with a hint of stubble, full lips and the lightest blue eyes that she had ever seen. It might even be an attractive face, if he ever bothered to smile.
“Well, are you going to stare at us all day or lend a hand?”
“Last time I checked, I wasn’t paid to wait on guests, be they owners or not.”
“Then get back to looking after the ranch, because I'm certain that you aren’t paid to stand around gawking at people.” She turned her back, picked up two of her lighter bags and headed towards the house, to which Earl was dragging her trunks.
She was determined not to look over her shoulder to see if he’d followed her instructions or not but once she reached the house, she couldn't help it. He was nowhere in sight.
She didn’t know if she was pleased that he’d listened to her, or upset that she wouldn’t get to continue their fight. She was hot, sweaty, her palms stung and her dress was filthy; she wasn’t usually argumentative, it wasn’t ladylike after all but right now, she felt that she would have welcomed an altercation.
She left Earl to bring the rest of her belongings over and walked up the wooden steps, across the veranda that spanned the front of the house and knocked on the door. Moments later it was answered by a homey looking woman, with kind eyes and simple dress. She was wiping her hands on a dish rag and smiled as she saw Ruth.
“Can I help you?” she asked. Her accent was unusual but not so strong that Ruth didn’t understand her.
“Hello. My name is Ruth Adams and I’d like to see Mr Wakefield, if I may?”
“You’re Ruth?”  Her smile widened. “We weren’t sure exactly when you were coming. Well don’t just stand there, come on in, you must be tired after your journey. I’m Mrs Wakefield, although most people around here call me Mamma,” she said as she led Ruth through a hallway.
There was a wide staircase leading to the floor above and Ruth could glimpse a parlour and a dining room leading off the hallway.
“Very pleased to meet you.” Ruth offered as they walked.
They went through a door at the rear of the hallway and into a large kitchen. A young black woman was chopping something on the side, but Ruth couldn’t see what.
“This is Cassy, she helps me in the house,” Mamma explained. “Cassy, this is Ruth.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Ruth smiled. Cassy nodded then returned to her work but Ruth thought that her brusque response was because she was shy, rather than rude.
“So, would you like something hot or something cool? You already look pretty hot, so how about some lemonade?” She was already bustling around the kitchen, getting glasses out. 
Mamma headed into what Ruth assumed was a pantry and came out moments later with two tall glasses of lemonade, and what looked like a mint leaf floating in the top of each.
“Let’s go through to the parlour where we can be more comfortable.” The parlour was nicely decorated and well cared for, although the furniture was all looking a little aged.
“Sit yourself down and take the weight off your feet.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Ruth said with a relieved sigh. “And I apologise for the state I'm in, I fell getting down from the carriage.”
“Don’t you worry, we don’t often stand on ceremony around here.” Mamma handed her a glass.
Unused to having foliage served with her beverages, Ruth look a tentative sip of the drink, then sighed with pleasure.
“That’s delicious,” she smiled at the other woman, who proudly beamed back at her.
“Old family recipe.” She took a sip from her own glass and sat back to observe her guest. “So, how was your journey?”
“Long and tiring,” Ruth gave her a weary smile. “But I really was hoping to speak with Mr Wakefield if I may? I’m afraid the lawyer didn’t tell me any details about my inheritance, so I don’t even know if Ivor had a house. It’s getting late so if I need to return to town, I’d rather be making a move, no offence.”
“None taken, child. I can’t say as I knew Ivor well, but I believe he rented rooms above Haskell’s Tavern.”
The letter from the lawyer had spoken of a 50% share in the ranch, both the business and properties, which she had hoped might mean he had a home there. Now she would have to spend more of her precious savings on accommodation.
“Perhaps I could take his rooms over. Is Haskell’s a nice kind of place?”
Mamma looked at her with sympathy. “I’m sorry, but Ivor owed four weeks on his rent. They threw most of his stuff out into the street. Besides, you’ll be staying here of course; we’ve got plenty of room.”
“Thank you, but I wouldn’t want to impose.”
“Nonsense. The closest town is eight miles away, that’s one long walk. Haskell's is all they have and if you don’t mind me saying, it’s no place for a lady.”
“One of my servants journeyed over with me, he’ll keep me safe.”
“I didn’t see a servant.”
“No, well he’ll be joining me soon.”
“And when he does, he can stay in the bunk house with the ranch hands.”
“No, honestly. I was hoping that I could store some trunks here though, just until I find something a little more permanent? I’m getting tired of hauling them around with me.”
“Now that’s just ridiculous. You don’t even have your own horse yet, do you? How’re you going to get out here?”
“Well Earl, he brought me here from town, he said he was local and offered his services any time I needed them.”
Mamma chuckled. “I wouldn’t trust Earl as far as I could throw him! No, child, you stay here with us, where I can keep my eye on you!” She winked.
Ruth was getting tired of arguing. “Well, as long as it really wouldn’t be an imposition.”
“It wouldn’t. It’s just me and Sam left now, rattling around in this big old house. It’ll be nice to have someone else around.”
“Then, thank you very much. As soon as my horse gets here, I promise I’ll find something in town.”
“We’ll see about that when the time comes. Who’s bringing your horse?”
“His name is Joe. He used to be a groom on my father’s estate. He offered to see Angel from the boat to the ranch, so I could go on ahead with my luggage on the train.”
“And will you be keeping him on?”
“Not for long.  I think he only volunteered to come with me so that he could see what life was like over here and whether or not he wants to stay. I think he likes the romanticism of the Wild West stories, although the reality might not live up to his expectations.”
“Well we’ve got plenty of room in the bunk house. Three square meals a day and company.”
“And what will his board be?”
“Long as he helps out a little around the ranch, free. I assume your horse won’t keep him that busy?”
“Oh, no, I take care of most of her needs.”
“And you’ll pay him a wage?”
“Only for three months. He’s a lovely man and he really cares for the horses but… Well, I don’t have a lot of money. I’ve been living off the charity of my brother-in-law since….” She wondered why she was telling Mrs Wakefield this; she wasn’t usually one to air her laundry in public. She supposed it must have something to do with how tired she was. “Well anyway, Joe and I agreed that I would keep him on for three months whilst he sees if he wants to stay in America and after that, I’ll pay his journey home or he’ll find employment.”
Mamma nodded. “Well, if he’s a good worker, Sam might agree to keep him on.”
“Speaking of Sam, is your husband around? I’d like to meet him.”
“My husband’s long dead, Ruth, can I call you Ruth?”
“Um, yes, I don’t see why not.” She was only used to family members using her Christian name, but she had already figured out that America was a lot less formal than England.
“Sam is my eldest son. He’ll usually gets back around five or six, you’ll meet him at dinner I'm sure.”
“Oh, all right.”
“Now, why don’t I show you to your room so you can wash up and refresh yourself a little.”
“Thank you, I’d like that. I’ll just go and pay Earl.”
“You leave Earl to me,” Mamma assured Ruth, a firm hand on her shoulder ensuring that she didn’t try to get up. “I won’t have him fleecing any of my guests.
Ruth didn’t want to disagree with her host again so she relented and held out her purse. “Please, take this. There should be enough in there to cover it.”
Most of her savings were kept in a purse that she tied around her waist, under her petticoats, so she didn’t have to worry about this woman running off with her life savings. Besides, she already felt at home with Mrs Wakefield and despite having known her only minutes, trusted her.
She waited patiently for Mrs Wakefield to return and examined her damaged palms. They were filmed in dust and although there were a few spots of blood, mostly the stones had just raised bloodless flaps of skin.
She was beginning to think that coming here had been a huge mistake, despite how friendly Mrs Wakefield had been.
Her family had all insisted that she would never be happy in a strange country, populated by ruffians and living on a ranch. They had told her to contact the lawyer and arrange for him to sell Ivor’s share, but she had known better. She had seen it as her big chance to escape her life, to start over, with no rumours and innuendo following her. Where she could earn her own living (she was sure there was something she could do, even on a ranch, to earn her keep) and not be forced to survive on the charity of others.
Now she was here though, she couldn’t help but wonder what the hell she was doing in Texas? In this hot, humid, dusty and barren land. She felt a pang of longing for England, for its leafy green vistas, lush streams and rich countryside. She was all alone here with no house, no friends, little money and miles from civilisation.
Plus, she’d already had one run-in with a cowboy and she couldn't help but feel that it didn’t bode well for the future. Was her life here going to be full of disrespect and being ignored?
She had felt that way ever since she married Ivor, so she knew that she could endure it, she just didn’t want to. This was supposed to be her big chance to break free, not to end up in the same rut she was in at home.
“There, Earl’s on his way now, so it looks like you’re stuck here,” Mamma said with some glee as she returned. “Now follow me, I’ll show you to your room.”
As Ruth went out into the hallway again, she saw that two men were hauling her trunks up the stairs.
“That’s Raoul and Ben, they work on the farm,” Mamma said as they walked. “Boys, this is Ruth.”
They both nodded at her and one (she wasn’t sure which) offered her a smile. They made their way upstairs behind the cowboys and from the upper landing, five doors led off. The one she was led into was very different from anything she’d seen before.
The floor was polished wood, in the middle of which sat a large rug and on top of that, sat a huge bed. So far, not so different, except that the walls were papered with a light, floral print, the curtains were a light yellow shade that would do little to keep the sun out and the bedspread was a cream shade, embroidered with dark beige thread.
Ruth was used to bold colours and dark, wood panelled walls, so this light and airy room was like a breath of fresh air.
“It’s lovely,” she gasped.
Mamma smiled and went over to the other door that led from the room. Beside the door and affixed to the wall stood a floor length mirror.  She could see that thanks to her fall, her hair was in much more of a mess than she had anticipated, almost down in some places and she had dirt streaked across one cheek. No wonder the cowboy had laughed at her. Her dress also had dark stains from where she had landed in her fall and the rest appeared dusty.
“This is your closet,” Mamma said, prompting Ruth to move her feet and look inside. “We don’t have running water inside yet but there’s a well just outside in the yard, just by the kitchen door and we keep hot water on the stove all day. I’ll bring you up a pitcher of cool water and a basin, so you can have a wash if you’d like.”
“Thank you.” Ruth smiled. She wanted nothing more than a wash in cool water right now. It had to be above 80 degrees today!
“All done.” In short order, the cowboys had brought all six of her trunks up, as well as her bags. She didn’t have the heart to tell them that one trunk held spare tack and one contained Joe’s belongings.
“Thank you,” Ruth told them and as she reached for her purse to tip them, saw that they disappeared without any fuss.
Ruth took the remaining pins out of her hair then, since she was hot and the dress was filthy, undressed to her chemise and petticoats. She finally felt cool for the first time all day as she began to unpack her trunks.
She was placing the few books she’d brought with her on to the dresser, when there was a tap on her door so she called for them to come in. Thankfully it was just Mrs Wakefield with the water jug and basin.
“Perhaps you had better ask 'who’s there' next time,” Mamma joked, giving Ruth’s undergarments a pointed look.
“Oh!” Ruth cringed. “I’m so sorry. I was hot and the dress was dirty-“
“No need to explain, I’ve done the same myself on occasion. You’re hair looks real pretty down, by the way. I wish I had curls like that.”
“Thank you.” She was used to the women in her family forever lamenting that her hair was too wild and untamed, so it was nice to hear a compliment, even if she didn’t believe it.
“I’ll just get you some towels then I’ll leave you be. I’m normally found in or around the kitchen, if you need anything.”
“Thank you so much, Mrs Wakefield, you really have been too kind.”
“Call me Mamma and don’t talk rubbish. It’s selfishness on my part really; Cassy and I are usually surrounded by men all day long! It’ll be nice to have another woman about the place. If you’re not down before, I’ll give you a call at seven; we usually eat sometime around then.”
“Thank you.”
Before she finished unpacking, Ruth disrobed and had a wash, taking her time and enjoying the cool water. Finally she pulled a night gown on as it was loose, and finished her unpacking.
Washed and clean, by the time she was finished, her mood was a thousand times improved. She smiled as she hung up her riding habit; she couldn’t wait for Joe and Angel to get here, it felt like weeks since she’d been on horseback and she missed it.

Sam Wakefield stayed out on the ranch for as long as he could that evening, unwilling to go home.
His men had told her that his mother had invited Lady Adams to stay in his house, and that they had carried her things inside for her, which most certainly wasn’t what he paid them for but they couldn’t say no to Mamma.
He really wasn’t looking forward to spending his free time with that blasted woman; the condescending little witch.
She wasn’t even anything to look at, so no wonder her husband had left her. Who would want to live with someone like that? Not him, that’s for damn sure.
Still, he couldn’t avoid the inevitable forever and he finished rubbing Murphy down, then turned him out into the field for the night. With a heavy heart, he walked back to the house.

I hope you enjoyed that. If you'd like to read more of Ruth and Sam's story, The Lady and the Cowboy is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

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