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Rosemary Stanton stood patiently on the train platform, sweat rolling down her back and between her ample breasts. Waiting. Sweating because it was an unusually hot day in late April. Waiting for her husband. A husband she wouldn’t recognize if he were standing right next to her.
She’d been desperate when she answered the advertisement for a mail order bride. Wanted: Single woman to cook, clean, and care for children on a cattle ranch in southwestern Colorado. Will marry upon arrival.
Well, she was twenty-six with no prospects. Her brother just got married and his new wife, Beatrice, didn’t want Rosie around. She could answer the advertisement or become a governess. Help someone else’s children grow up into adults. Live in someone else’s house. For the rest of her life, she’d have nothing she could call her own.
Rosie wanted a home. Her own home. She wanted a husband and children. All the things she’d never have if she stayed in Philadelphia. When she’d seen the ad in the morning paper, she’d nearly shouted with glee. However, she managed to restrain herself until she retired to her room before she giggled with delight as she pressed her back against the door. The advertisement was tailor-made for her needs. It got her away from Beatrice and got her her own home all in one fell swoop.
Her brother, Robert, though was not happy with the idea of his baby sister traveling across the country to marry a stranger. He grudgingly agreed to give her her dowry to take with her. Five thousand dollars. She’d take the draft to the bank as soon as she arrived in Creede, Colorado, and married Mr. Thomas Harris.
Cattle rancher. It was her “in case it doesn’t work out” money. Though she supposed it would belong to her husband once she married. Perhaps she just wouldn’t tell him about it.
Her conscience spoke up. That’s no way to start a marriage. With lies and secrets. Oh, all right. She’d tell him and have him take her to the bank. But not until after she’d taken his measure. She could tell by how he treated his animals what kind of man he was. A man who was cruel to his horses would also be cruel to his wife. If he was a cruel man, she would leave and she sure as heck wouldn’t tell him about her money.
Even the substantial size of her dowry couldn’t seem to provide marriage prospects for Rosie back in Philadelphia. She wasn’t pretty in the conventional sense. She thought her face with its big brown eyes and full lips was pleasing enough, but men apparently hadn’t. Her one beau told her that her eyes were the color of warm brandy. That was before he left her to marry another more suitable woman. More suitable, hah! Richer was more like it.
He’d had expensive tastes and had married a rabbit-faced girl, heir to a substantial fortune to which he’d have access. Well, good luck and good riddance.
She hoped her new husband wouldn’t be as snootish as Paul had been. As a cattle rancher she didn’t know what to expect but the idea of a more earthy, less frivoless man appealed to her.
Rosie did have one extraordinary feature. Her hair. Waist length, wavy and a clear, golden blonde. Right now, standing on the train platform in Creede it was bound up in a loose bun on top of her head under her hat. It, like the rest of her, was covered in white dirt and a nasty grayish soot from the train. Her suit would never be the same again.
She’d discovered on the second day of her trip, she could minimize the grime by sitting in the front of the car with the window closed. But sooner or later the heat and mugginess of the car would force her to open the window. The air came rushing in, cooling her, but bringing with it the dirt and ash from the train’s boilers and whatever the wind picked up along the way.
On the long trip, she’d told herself again and again she’d made the right decision. She was right to make the difficult trip. This was her life and she had to take her future into her own hands.
“Excuse me. Miss Stanton?”
Rosie shaded her eyes from the late afternoon sun and looked up at a tall man with dark hair. His hat was pulled low, hiding his eyes. He had a strong jaw covered with a shadow of whiskers.
“Yes. I’m Rosemary Stanton.”
He took off his hat and held out his hand. “I’m Tom Harris.”
Rosie took his hand. It engulfed hers with a shock of warmth. Her pale skin stood in stark contrast to his tanned one. Calluses rubbed against her soft palm though the touch was not unpleasant. She looked from their clasped hands up into the bluest eyes she’d ever seen.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Harris.”
“Tom. Call me, Tom.”
“And I’m Rosie.”
“Where are your trunks, Rosie?”
“Oh, I don’t have any trunks. I only brought what I thought I would need out here.”
He picked up the two valises at her feet. “Doesn’t seem like much for an Eastern woman. I’m glad to see you’re practical.”
Rosie felt the heat in her cheeks and knew she blushed at his praise, undeserving as it was. “Well, I didn’t think you’d have any balls.”
He cocked an eyebrow.