Noelle Colorado, 1876
A crowd of women filled La Maison’s front hall. One of them was Jack’s bride, Birdie Bell. A hard-working woman who’d started her own dressmaking business in Denver. A mature woman of thirty. A strong woman who wouldn’t break under life’s hardships.
Maybe his luck would change today. With time Miss Bell might come to respect or maybe even enjoy his company. He needed this marriage to last.
He should’ve looked for his grandfather first, but he couldn’t stop his gaze from scanning the women in search of his bride. Even wild-swept from the storm and huddled together shivering from the cold, the women were a fine-looking bunch. How had Mrs. Walters managed that?
A raven-haired, pale-skinned woman standing slightly apart from the rest snared his attention. Her beauty would’ve been enough to hold any man spellbound but her tiny size turned him rigid with concern. A woman so small wouldn’t last long in a town like Noelle.
His worry turned to anger. Whoever had asked her to come here should be horsewhipped!
A faint smile curved her mouth as if she was amused by the prospect of being housed in a location as scandalous as La Maison. He must be dreaming. She shouldn’t be here and she couldn’t be amused.
She surveyed the room, studying everything and everyone—until she saw him. Then she stared at him the way he felt he must be staring at her, as if mesmerized.
“I’ve come for a bride,” a voice proclaimed loudly, a familiar voice that made him cringe. “Which one of you is the future Mrs. Peregrine?”
The woman spun to face the speaker—his Grandpa Gus.
A wave of gasps and tittering laughter swept the crowd. Several of the women glanced at the tiny woman who’d captivated him. She was now staring at Gus with wide eyes.
Her gaze darted to him. When she caught him still staring at her, her expression turned blank and devoid of emotion. She straightened her shoulders, strode straight up to Gus, and said in a lyrical voice with a seductively foreign accent, “I am the bride you seek, Mr. Peregrine. My name is Birdie Bell.”
A surge of euphoria followed quickly by alarm made him stagger and lean heavily against the nearest wall. This tiny Frenchwoman couldn’t be Miss Bell. He’d asked for a strong woman. This one wouldn’t be able to hold up under his workload, the rough town, or the surrounding wilderness. She’d abandon Noelle and him.
Could he blame her if she did?
If she didn’t, she might die here.
“No!” His voice shot out louder than Gus’ a moment ago.
Complete silence descended around him. The chance to make a good impression was long gone. Everyone in the front hall stared at him including his tiny bride.
( The Fourth Day in the
12 Days of Christmas Mail-Order Brides series )
A wanted woman's flight,
a man in pursuit of honesty, not stolen gold...
...where the men are steadfast & the women are adventurous
Fall in Love with a NEW Old West