Hope on the Horizon by Cassie Hayes

Hope_on_the Horizon_2700Excerpt:
Cora’s green eyes sparkled at his words and it was all he could do to keep his gaze from drifting down to her plump, pink lips. They looked so soft and tender, and they were parted in the most inviting way…

Clearing his throat, he snatched his hand back, jumped up and went back to cleaning. Anything to keep his mind off what had just popped into his head. She was begging him to tell her what to do. It would be so easy to manipulate her, get her to stay on with him and cook him fine meals like that every night, among other things. But his heart rebelled at such a disgusting, selfish act.

Maybe his words would get through to her that she was finally the mistress of her own life. Still, he had a hard time believing that she never had any influence on what happened to her.

“You didn’t have a say about nothing on your trip out here? Didn’t your husband ask you what you thought about which route to take?”

“No, why would he?”

Jasper barked out a surprised laugh and shook his head. What kind of man didn’t consult his wife on important matters?

“Well, it’s your life, too. I know I woulda wanted more opinions than just my own.”

“He did have more opinions. We set out with four other wagons heading to Idaho, including his brothers, Rafe and Dale. When Rafe took sick back in Fort Laramie, Amos sent the rest of them on, including Dale. We’re a week or so behind them.”

“You musta missed having the extra company,” Jasper mused, studying her carefully. She dropped her gaze, almost like she was ashamed or something.

“Not really. I suppose I miss the company of the ladies. They were nice enough, but nothing really made up for having to put up with Dale. He was Amos’ brother, though, so there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”

Something in her tone made him bristle. “Why was he so bad?”

“He’s a brute. Amos was the oldest, Rafe the youngest, and Dale the meanest. He didn’t have a wife to cook for him, so he always ate with us. Made me mend his clothes and whatnot. He’d bully Rafe into taking care of pretty much everything else. Amos did his best to keep him in line, but it didn’t always work.”

Already Jasper didn’t like this Dale character. Her clipped tone and sudden stop made it clear there was more to the story. He had to know.

“You know, Cora, now that Amos is gone, you prolly won’t ever see him again. Ain’t no shame in telling a friend what he done.”

She looked as surprised as he felt at his use of the word “friend”. But if they weren’t friends, what were they? Her cheeks pinked up in the most fetching way, but she nodded her agreement.

“He would say things to me, vile things, when Amos was out of earshot. Things no man should say to any woman, much less his sister-in-law. Told me Amos would never believe me if I told, that he’d never believe a…I can’t say the word. Let’s just say, a lady of questionable morals.”

Whore. She means whore. Jasper clenched his jaw and wiped off the last of the dishes into the slop bucket.

“In the end, I didn’t want to rock the boat so I stayed silent. Besides, I’m only a laundress from Peoria. What do I know about surviving a journey into the wild west? I relied on Amos to make the right choices and he chose to partner up with Dale.” She paused, understanding truly dawning in her eyes. “And now it’s all up to me?”

With a grimace and a nod, Jasper said, “That it is.”

He grabbed the soup pot and dishes and headed out the door, wanting to give her a little space to think, not to mention give himself some time to clear his head. Something about her got him all turned around and backwards, and what he really needed to do was focus on his farm. If he wanted Mr. Finnegan to extend his contract, he’d have to bust his hump to catch up on almost two days of lost work.

When tragedy strikes, love blooms…

Jasper Eaton couldn’t be happier with his life. Despite having the deck stacked against him since the day he was born, he beat the odds and found himself a home in Morgan’s Crossing, Montana. He has friends, a farm and a future brighter than the stars in the night sky. Nope, he couldn’t be happier.

Or could he?

Cora Winters is a good girl who always does what she’s told. When she’s forced to marry an older man headed west, she never dreams she’ll end up widowed, injured and left for dead by the side of the road.

After Jasper rescues her, Cora proves to be a charming helpmate on his farm as she recovers. But it won’t last long. For the first time in her life, Cora must choose her own path. She could settle in Montana or continue on to her homestead in Hope Springs. But heading to Idaho would mean leaving Jasper behind because he would never give up his farm.

Or would he?

As their friendship blossoms, they each dare to dream of a better life together. When Cora’s past comes back to haunt them both, a gunman’s bullet threatens to kill their future before it even begins.

Hope on the Horizon is the prequel to the Western Sunset series, set in the fictional town of Hope Springs, Idaho. Look for the first book in the series in April, 2016.

Amazon buy link:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01BL0HKJ6/?tag=cassiefb-20

Bestselling author Cassie Hayes grew up pretending she was Laura Ingalls (before that pesky Almanzo arrived on the scene) in the middle of Oregon farm country. She lives with her husband and cat on the Pacific Ocean and loves to hear from her readers.

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