For widow Joanna Nelson, life presented constant hardships. Evicted from her home, she and her two children sought refuge, which led them to rancher Aidan McKaslin's property. The kind but embittered cowboy couldn't turn her away, and their agreement benefited them both. He sheltered her family, while she brought faith and a woman's touch back into his world. When outside forces threatened their blossoming friendship, Aidan decided to take action. Could he convince the special woman to bind herself to him permanently or would he drive her away forever?
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1 . great read
Posted January 07, 2010 by linda copeland , valdosta gai enjoyed reading jillian heart's novels she is by far an inspiring writer
July 07, 2008
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Excerpt from High Country Bride by Jillian Hart
Angel County, Montana Territory
It was a hot day for a wake. Joanna Nelson swiped the dampness from her forehead, closed the oven door with her foot and slid the sheet of biscuits onto the wooden cutting board. The kitchen window was open wide to let in the sweltering wind. It gave her a clear view of the horse and buggy lumbering along the road, kicking up chalky dust.
Few mourners had shown up for her pa's brief funeral in the graveyard behind the church. None had yet made their way to the house. Just this lone horse and buggy ambling tiredly through the heat waves on the dirt road. When the vehicle was near enough, she recognized the driver. Not a mourner, but one of the bankers from town, dressed up in his fancy work suit.
This was not a social call, she suspected. No, Edwin Wessox had been a regular visitor over the last year, because of the bank's worry over Pa's debt. With her father gone, this visit did not necessarily mean good news. Without a doubt, it concerned the mortgage on the farm. She knew, because this had happened to her once before--after her husband died, one year and three months ago. The banker had paid a visit to her not three hours after she'd laid her husband to rest.
Would they be allowed to continue on with the payments? Her stomach twisted in a nervous knot. Don't expect the worst, she told herself. She slid the biscuits from the baking sheet into a cloth-lined bowl. Her half brother had come to stay when the doctor had given Pa the diagnosis. Lee said he wanted to keep farming the land, although he didn't like farming.
It will be all right, Joanna. She took a deep breath and poked her head into the parlor. Lee sat by the open window with a hand to his forehead, looking as shocked as she felt. He didn't so much as blink an eye, much less look in her direction. He clearly had a lot on his mind.
"The banker's coming," she said, then went back to her kitchen work.
She didn't know if that news would make her brother stir. They were not close; he'd only come after she'd telegraphed him. As she hefted the pot of beans from the oven, she tried to keep hopeful. Heaven knew, hard times had rained down on her before like the worst kind of storm. Things had started to get a little easier, finally, while she'd been staying here with her pa.
Please, Lord, she prayed, don't let things get worse for us. Praying these days was more habit than belief. She set the bean pot down on the battered wooden table and feared the Lord and all his angels had forgotten her.
Upstairs, she heard the patter of her young son's bare feet, as if to remind her of all she had to protect. Her little girl trailed after him. The two of them sounded like a stampeding herd barreling down the steps.
"Ma! Ma!" James burst into the kitchen and ran straight to her skirts, burying his face in her waist.
Daisy raced after him. She was too young to remember the consequences of her father's death, but was upset because her older brother was. She fisted her hands in the extra material of Joanna's skirt and held on tight.
Since she was as good as hobbled, Joanna left the potatoes to their boiling and scooped her little girl into her arms. Poor baby. Joanna kissed her daughter's brow and snuggled her close. "Why are you crying, little one?"
"I don't wanna live in the wagon. James said."
"Is that true? Did you say that to your sister?"
James held on tighter and didn't answer.
Too many losses, too many upheavals, too much uncertainty. Joanna hated how it had marked her children. "I have dinner on the table. Let me take a look at you. However did you two get so dirty?"
"In the attic, Ma." James tipped his head back to look at her, his sweaty brown hair sticking straight up.
She smoothed it down, wishing she could smooth away bigger troubles as easily. "It will be all right. Now, go wash your hands and faces while I see to our company."
The worry did not leave James's features when he released his hold on her, or when he took his sister's hand and led her to the washbasin by the back door. Joanna straightened, her skirts sticking to her as she left the hot kitchen for the front door.
Mr. Wessox was tipping his hat to her on the other side of the screen. "Ma'am, I'm sorry for your loss."
"Thank you." Dread quickened her heartbeat and made her hand tremble as she unlatched the door. "Please, come in. Can I get you something to drink?"
"No, I've come to speak with Lee."
Of course. It was a man's world, and Lee was to inherit the ranch. She knew that. But the nerves jumped in her stomach like oil on a hot pan as she hurried back to the kitchen. Her gaze went first to her little ones in the sunny corner. James was holding the towel for his sister as she splashed her hands in the basin.
What is going to happen to us, Lord? To them? She tried to believe--she had to believe--that Lee would be able to stall the banker as handily as their father always had.