Laced by Love by Linda Carroll-Bradd



The empty space looked out onto a gentle incline down to a bend in the river. A variety of trees lined the moving water, and dried grasses waved along the ground.

“Park facing outward between the saloon here and those shops down there.” He pointed toward the fork in the road. “Flynn, the equipment wagon goes closest to the saloon. There’s a slope on the back side so don’t forget to set the blocks on the wheels.”

“Really?” Nola scoffed. “Doesn’t he realize we’ve done this enough times and in all types of terrain to know the routine?” She shook her head as she angled the wagon to the uphill side of the road.

Dorrie and Cinnia hopped to the ground to perform their roles as parking guides. They walked near the front wheel and shouted instructions as Nola cajoled the horses to back the showman’s wagon into position. Each driver repeated the action, making sure to allow walking space between the wagon wheels. Soon, the six wagons stood in a straight line, tongues facing the street. This time, their lavender wagon was positioned next to Mr. Thomas’s, who had parked close to a building that looked like a newly constructed shop of some type.

Within minutes, the area was a beehive of activity. Sturdy rope lines strung between the trees and square wooden posts the men hammered into the ground created a temporary corral. The horses were unharnessed and let loose into the grass-covered space.

With a long-legged stride, Nola walked Captain and Skipper down to the river to let them drink their fill after the day-long journey. Other drivers followed her path with their horses. Whistled notes of an unknown tune floated on the late afternoon air.

Arney, the juggler, joined them, rolling a wheelbarrow for collecting rocks to create the fire pit for cooking. Others opened windows to air out the wagons or set out folding stools for evening use.

Dorrie and Cinnia unclamped a roll of wire netting and poles from the underside of the wagon. Working together like they had many times in the past, they set the poles and then wrapped the netting around the outside. Simple cord ties secured the netting to the uprights, and when they finished, a rectangular pen for the dogs stood only a few feet away from the wagon’s filigreed metal steps.

Gigi and Queenie rolled in the grass and chased each other, happy for the freedom after being cooped up in the wagon or restrained by leashes for hours.

Tasks that were everyday and routine to the troupe seemed to be of interest to the townspeople. As Cinnia set out their three folding stools, she heard whispers from the front of the wagon. When she leaned over and looked underneath, she saw five or six sets of small-sized feet. Good. Children were often the best ambassadors of advertisement for the shows, because they pestered their parents to attend. Families always had an enjoyable time because of the variety of the acts—an entertainment for everyone.

What she hadn’t expected was the tall blond-haired man who leaned against a clapboard building just past Mr. Thomas’ wagon. Dressed in a buff-colored shirt and denim trousers held up with suspenders, he looked like a shopkeeper, rather than a miner. But, even from twenty feet away, she could feel the intensity of his gaze as he watched her movements. Different from the leers she often had to endure, she sensed this man’s scrutiny was more curious, like he wasn’t sure what he observed.

The long day of travel undoubtedly had taken a toll on her appearance. Being in the direct sunlight had probably increased the number of freckles dotting her cheeks. Encountering a steady breeze while traveling on the prairie was a given. She slipped a hand up her neck to check for any stray hairs coming loose from her bun. Maybe not too much fixing would be needed to make herself more presentable.

“Who are you primping for?” Nola nudged her with an elbow as she passed.

Cinnia stumbled off-balance then clamped her jaw tight. Leave it to her older sister to be obvious and obnoxious. She picked up a stool to relocate it, taking a peek over her shoulder, only to spy the bare plank wall of the building. Her shoulders slumped.

Her mystery man had disappeared.

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As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor from her home in the southern California mountains.

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