The day has finally come! I know I’ve been looking forward to telling Bonnie and Rupert’s story for a while, and now you get to read it! Man, these two have so much water under the bridge! Here’s your chance to enjoy it all. His Secret Bride (spicy)/Bonnie: The Secret Bride (sweet) is (are?) available now! (Links at the bottom)
Between Haskell and Everland, Wyoming – 1876
There was only a short distance between Haskell, Wyoming and Everland, but every inch of the journey, every second that the train chugged along through wild territory, filled Bonnie Horner with dread. She’d known this moment would come. Known for years. She knew that she couldn’t keep her head buried in the sand forever, pretending everything was as it seemed and there were no secrets creeping under the surface. She just hadn’t thought everything would come to a head so soon.
Everything had been fine, rambling along as steadily as the train, until Honoria Bonneville finally did what Bonnie had been wishing and hoping she would do for years. The brilliant young woman, her friend, had broken away from her family—the family that had bullied and belittled her for as long as Bonnie had known them. She’d followed her heart and married the man of her dreams, Haskell’s unique, black banker, Solomon Templesmith. Bonnie had cheered and helped the couple in every way she could, but all that help had come at a heavy price for her. The carefully constructed relationship she and Honoria’s father, Rex Bonneville, had developed—a relationship as artificial as it was beneficial to them both—had reached a crossroads. Honoria wasn’t the only one who had put her foot down. Rex had issued his ultimatum, and now Bonnie was stuck.
“Are you all right, Miss Bonnie?” Lyle, the porter who worked the Wyoming train line asked. He knew Bonnie well, knew her because whenever the train stopped over in Haskell for more than an hour or so, Lyle jumped off so he could visit her establishment and spend time with her girls. He paid them generously and treated them kindly, so Bonnie approved of him.
She sent him a weary smile. “I’m fine, Lyle. Thanks for asking.”
Kind, if not exactly gentlemanly, Lyle sniffed and pressed on. “Because you look a might peaked.”
Bonnie reached out to pat Lyle’s arm. “I’ll be fine.”
She expected Lyle to move on, and, in fact, he swayed forward with the motion of the train. Then he stopped, his expression pained. “Um, congratulations on your engagement to Rex Bonneville.” It came out as more of a question than genuine felicitations. Worry clouded Lyle’s eyes.
“I’ll be fine,” Bonnie repeated, softer, less convincing.
Lyle nodded and moved on. Bonnie watched his back as he moved down the train’s aisle, checking on passengers. Then she sighed and glanced out the window. Would she be fine? That was a question she had yet to answer for herself. On paper, life as Mrs. Rex Bonneville would be a good one. She’d never lack for anything—except affection, kindness, and human decency. She would be one of the most well-placed women in the state, in spite of her scandalous background. Most importantly, she would have all the funds she needed to continue her work at her Place. The young women under her care could continue to be safe, learn, and flourish. They could escape the fate life had handed them, make something more of themselves. As long as Bonnie was willing to sacrifice everything.
It all looked wonderful on paper.
It was a shame that paper was her biggest problem.
She let out another, painful sigh and smoothed her hand over the carpetbag on the seat beside her. The paper in question was tucked neatly inside, along with a couple of changes of clothes. Its corners were dog-eared, and it was beginning to yellow with age, even though the document was a scant four years old. She’d struggled to get the bloody thing—begged, bullied, and pushed it through all of the legal channels she could, expending more money than she should have in the process. And once the courts had granted her the blasted thing, what had she done with it? Nothing.
The train’s whistle sounded, jerking Bonnie out of her increasingly morbid thoughts. “Everland,” Lyle shouted from the front of the car. “We’re approaching Everland. Get yer things in order.”
The train began to slow. Outside, the wilderness gave way first to ranchland, then to the inexplicably lush farmland that had always mystified Bonnie. Wyoming, as far as she had traveled it, was mostly high prairie filled with scrubby bushes, grass, and rocks, but Everland was a different story. Things grew there. She’d even heard tell of a lake, Lake Enchantment. It was enchanted indeed if it was all the way out in the middle of the wilderness. Almost like a magical land in a fairy story.
Well, she thought as she scooted to the edge of her seat, fussing with her carpetbag so that she’d be ready to disembark as soon as the train stopped, she could use a little bit of fairy magic right now. Because the task that awaited her was right up there in the category of curses that couldn’t be broken. And if she was being honest, it was a curse she’d hexed herself with almost ten years ago.
Ten years ago, when she was nineteen, wide-eyed, stubborn as a mule, and as stupid as one too. When she’d thought the best way to spite her overbearing family was to answer Rupert Cole’s advertisement for a mail-order bride.
The train’s whistle blasted again, and its brakes screeched. Buildings now slid past the windows. Bonnie stood, gripped her bag firmly, and marched up the aisle to stand next to Lyle by the door, waiting for the train to come to a complete stop.
“So, uh, is it true that Honoria Bonneville up and married that negro…uh…” He cleared his throat, flushing. “That fine banker man, Mr. Templesmith?”
“It is.” Bonnie smiled. “And they’re very happy.” Honoria and Solomon were happy, and all signs pointed to them continuing to be happy. They had supportive friends who had rallied around them, and now they were expecting a baby.
Her smile dropped as she wondered whether friends would rally around her after she married Rex. No one liked the man, not even the people who walked around ready to lick his boots. And as for a baby? Well, Rex might need to come to Everland to have the town work its magic on him if he thought he was even slightly up to the task, as it were, all his demands for an heir aside.
With one final screech of the brakes and cry of the whistle, the train came to a stop. Bonnie sighed, spared one last, weak smile for Lyle as he opened the train’s door and hopped down onto the platform to help passengers disembark, and wondered once again how she’d managed to get herself tied up in this impossible knot.
You can purchase Bonnie: The Secret Bride (sweet) at Amazon or read it through Kindle Unlimited – http://amzn.to/2ev6g1k
His Secret Bride (spicy) is available wherever eBooks are sold:
Amazon – http://amzn.to/2ev8IF6