Linda Lael Miller's national bestselling novels of frontier life overflow with the passion and warmth of Springwater, a tiny stagecoach stop that blossoms into a bustling Montana town.
Rachel Springwater's first schoolteacher, she crosses paths with rough-hewn barkeep Trey Hargreaves -- who puts a slow burn on her proper Eastern ways.
Savannah Behind her rouge and bangles, the dance-hall girl has a sure and steady heart. Can her kind, gentle love help Dr. Prescott Parrish heal his wounded spirit?
Miranda An unwed mother in search of a place to call home, she finds her heart's desire in Springwater -- and in the arms of rancher Landry Kildare.
Jessica The sparks fly when she comes to take charge of her late brother's bankrupt newspaper -- and finds herself in a heated love match with town mayor Gage Calloway.
FOUR SPLENDID SPRINGWATER NOVELS -- TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST TIME!
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October 30, 2000
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Excerpt from Springwater Seasons by Linda Lael Miller
Trey Hargreaves had business to attend to that chill and misty day in early spring; he was dressed for courting and in a fair-to-middling hurry, so he very nearly rode right on by when he spotted the stagecoach bogged down square in the middle of Willow Creek. The driver, a strapping, ginger-haired young Irishman by the name of Guffy O'Hagan, was fighting the mules for all he was worth, but the critters had gotten the better of him and there was no denying it.
It wasn't that the creek was exactly dangerous, Trey thought, reluctantly drawing the black and white paint gelding to a halt on the bank to survey the scene proper-like. The water was fast-moving, what with the thaw and all, but it was no more than four feet deep, and a person would have to be downright stupid to drown in a trickle like that.
He sighed. The problem was, there were a surprising number of stupid people, even in these isolated parts, out beating the brush for a chance to get themselves killed. While he had no real worries about Guffy, the man being no sort of greenhorn, he wasn't so sure about the woman. First of all, she was wearing a blue feather on her hat, a bedraggled, plumelike thing, bent at one end -- by the ceiling of the stage, no doubt -- and second, she was halfway out the window, fluttering a handkerchief at him like some duchess summoning a servant.
He sighed again.
Her voice rang out over the rush of the stream, the infernal splashing and the bellows of the balking mules, not to mention Guffy's loud litany of forbidden Anglo-Saxon words. Clearly, he'd forgotten that his passenger, traveling alone as far as Trey could tell, was a lady.
"Sir!" she cried, with more waving of the handkerchief. "Pardon me, Sir? Are you an outlaw?"
Trey allowed himself a semblance of a smile; perhaps the woman was more perceptive than he'd first thought. Did they show, all those years when he'd been a wanderer and a scoundrel, making his living mostly by gambling and serving as a hired gun?
He ignored her question, sighed once more, and sent the paint wading into the icy water. His pant legs were soaked through by the time he reached the door of the marooned stagecoach, and his boots were full. He'd be lucky if he didn't lose a couple of toes to frostbite.
Close up, he could see that the stranded lady was young, barely out of her girlhood, probably, and more than passingly pretty. Her hair was auburn, a billow beneath that silly feathered hat, and her eyes were someplace between gray and green. She had good skin, long lashes, and a soft, full mouth that made Trey ponder on what it would be like to kiss her.
"As you can see," she said primly, in starched Eastern tones, "we are in need of assistance. First, though, I should like you to answer my question. Are you an outlaw, Sir?"
Trey wanted to laugh, but he didn't. He was afraid she'd stop being funny, out of sheer cussedness, if he gave in to the urge. "Well, Ma'am," he said, "I reckon that depends on who you ask." He touched the brim of his hat when he saw the flicker of alarm in her eyes. "Name's Trey Hargreaves and, for the most part, I've contrived to stay on the right side of the law. I reside at Springwater," he cocked a thumb over one shoulder, "back that way a few miles."
At the mention of Springwater -- he didn't flatter himself that his name had wrought the change -- her eyes lit up and some color came to her cheeks. "Thank heaven," she said. "It has seemed to me that we would never arrive. Especially since we've run aground here in the middle of this...this river." She nodded to indicate the roof of the coach, where a great deal of baggage was affixed with rope. "If we should overturn, the books would be lost, and I don't need to tell you, if you come from Springwater, what a dire event that would be. Without education, the children will be left to the influences of places like the" -- she lowered her voice confidentially here, and lent the words a dire note -- "like the Brimstone Saloon."
It was all Trey could do, and then some, not to laugh out loud when she said that. As it was, he felt the corners of his mouth twitching dangerously, but he managed to retain a somewhat sober expression. "God save us all," he said, with fervor, and laid one hand to his breast.
Her eyes narrowed for a moment; she was bright, that was clear enough, and she'd discerned that he was pulling her leg a little. She put her hand out to him. "My name is Rachel English," she said. "I've been engaged to teach at the new school in Springwater."
The coach swayed dangerously, nearly turning onto its side, and Miss English drew back the hand she'd offered to hold her hat in place. With the other, she clutched the window's edge, and the expression of thwarted fear in her face tugged at Trey, in the empty place where he'd once kept his heart.
"I can wade ashore," she said. "I can even swim a little, if need be. But those textbooks mustn't be ruined. Please, Mr....Mr. Hargreaves, lend us your assistance."