It’s release day for Book 10 in The Brides of Paradise Ranch series, His Magical Bride (or Talia: The Magical Bride, if you like the sweet version). I could sit here all day telling you about it, but why not get started reading Chapter One instead?
Haskell, Wyoming – 1877
Sheriff Trey Knighton had entertained some bad ideas in his day. Running away from the orphanage where he’d landed after cholera wiped out his family was one. Taking up with the Skunk Boys of Missouri was another. There were days when he felt like accepting the post of sheriff of Haskell, Wyoming was a bad idea too, but only when his jail cell was filled to bursting with men who’d drunk too much over at Sam’s saloon, The Silver Dollar.
On second thought, turning straight, coming clean, and taking the job in Haskell was the best decision he’d ever made, drunks harassing him on Saturday nights or not. But letting Howard Haskell twist his arm and convince him to send away for a mail-order bride? Definitely not one of his brighter ideas.
“I’m so excited,” Eden Chance told her friends, bouncing as much as her toddler, Winslow. At that moment, he and Wendy and Travis Montrose’s baby, Emanuel, were sitting in a buggy together, laughing and clapping over something that had the two little critters in hysterics.
“Lord knows how happy I am to have my friend Talia nearby again,” Wendy agreed.
“She always was such a sweet little thing,” Corva Haskell added, rocking a buggy of her own. Corva had two babies now, not just one, Howard Franklin Haskell and now a girl, Elizabeth, or Bitsy as people had started to call the poor thing.
Rounding out their group was Elspeth Strong, who hadn’t had any children of her own since coming out last year to marry Athos, the stationmaster. That hardly mattered, seeing as Athos already had eight of the little boogers. Five-year-old Thomas held Elspeth’s hand as he watched Winslow and Emanuel, giggling along with them.
Heck, Trey was surprised the ladies hadn’t decorated the train station with bunting and rosettes. They were treating the whole thing like a big party. True, all four of them had known his bride-to-be during their time at Hurst Home. Trey kicked the boards of the train platform and winced. He should probably take their involvement in welcoming Talia Lambert as an endorsement of her character. It should reassure him, help him to feel confident in his decision to be a husband. But land sakes, domesticity sure did make a man shake in his boots when he came face to face with it.
“No, no, Howard.” Corva jerked forward as her boy—nearly two now—stood in the buggy and tried to lean over the side.
“Down!” he declared, pointing at the ground.
“Don’t step on your sister,” Corva told him in turn. Bitsy let out an almighty wail, and kept screaming. Trey blanched.
“Let him run around a little,” Virginia Piedmont, baby Howard’s great-aunt, told Corva. “We’ll all keep an eye on him.”
“Well, if you think it’s safe,” Corva said, lifting the boy out of the buggy and setting him on his feet on the train platform.
“Of course, it’s safe.” Virginia dismissed her concerns with a wave.
To prove her wrong, little Howard tore straight for the tracks. Corva was too busy picking up and settling her girl to chase after Howard. Trey was closest, so he swept in and lifted the boy into the air before he could tumble off the platform and onto the tracks.
Of course, Trey didn’t know the first thing about how to hold a baby. He clamped the squirmy thing around his middle and held him at arm’s length. The boy kicked and screamed, whether in shock at being picked up by a stranger or in rage over being stopped on his way to certain death, Trey had no idea.
“Here, I’ll take him,” Virginia said.
“Please do.” Trey handed the boy over.
Little Howard continued to squirm in Virginia’s arms, but Virginia hardly blinked. She carried the boy to the back of the platform, set him down, and interested him in a pile of rocks right beside the stairs. The other two toddler boys sure as heck noticed their buddy’s freedom and began to fuss and wail to be let down too. Wendy and Eden were still chattering away in a tone of voice that rendered everything they said as incomprehensible background noise in Trey’s ears. They didn’t seem to miss a beat as they lifted their babies from the buggy and set them down on the platform.
The two toddlers proceeded to chase each other around the buggy, tripping a few times and occasionally hiding in their mothers’ skirts.
“I can’t wait to introduce Talia to Emma and Dean Meyers,” Eden said, managing to catch and steer her boy away from a nail sticking out of the platform without missing a beat in the conversation.
“Of course,” Wendy gasped. “With all her nursing experience, I’m sure Dr. Meyers could use Talia’s help in his clinic.”
“She might even be willing to travel out to the Indian camps with him,” Elspeth suggested.
“Can I go to the Indian camps, Mama?” Thomas asked her.
Elspeth laughed and ruffled his hair. “No, dear.”
“Why not?” Thomas frowned.
“It’s far too dangerous for a little boy.”
“I’m not little, I’m five now.” Thomas stomped his foot.
“But it’s still too dangerous.”
“But I’m brave.”
“It’s not fair,” Thomas shouted.
Trey flinched. Yep, this was definitely a terrible, terrible idea. Why hadn’t he considered it all before? A bride meant a wife, and a wife meant a family. And the only thing more terrifying than having a family, in his experience, was losing one.
A chuckle at Trey’s side drew his attention away from the whirlwind of children. “That right there is why I’ve avoided this whole mail-order bride craze,” Sam Standish, one of Trey’s closest friends, said.
The women weren’t the only ones who had come to meet Talia Lambert at the station. Trey’s friends had come to show their support too, although he didn’t know how supportive it was for Sam and George Pickering to stand there snickering behind their hands.
“Come on,” George argued. “It’s a wonderful thing for a man to have a family.”
“Says the man who only just got married,” Sam argued.
“That only means I’m a new convert to the beauty and wonder of marriage,” George said.
“Yeah, see if you’re still saying that in six months when your baby gets here,” Sam tossed back.
George shrugged. “I welcome my and Holly’s child. Because I, for one, am ready for the challenge of fatherhood.”
Trey swallowed. “Well, I’m not,” he muttered. “Why did I ever let myself get talked into this?”
His friends stared at him in surprise.
“You can’t be having second thoughts now,” George said.
“Second thoughts?” Virginia straightened from where she was playing with Howard at the other end of the platform. “Don’t you tell me you’re having second thoughts about sending for a wife, Trey Knighton.”
“How on earth did she hear me all the way over there?” Trey murmured, even quieter.
“Women are like that,” Sam said with a snigger. “You say something they don’t like and they’ll hear it from two territories away.”
Sam was right. All five of the women on the other side of the platform glared at him as though he’d declared he was done with not only their friend Talia, but the entire female of the species.
“So help me God, Sheriff Knighton,” Eden launched into him. “If you turn Talia away when she gets off that train, I will personally make sure whoever does your laundry washes your sheets with nettles from here on out.”
“How could you even think of not marrying her?” Wendy questioned, hands on her hips. Her stance only emphasized the bump of her and Travis’s next baby, which didn’t help the argument, in Trey’s eyes, at all.
Elspeth only shook her head, and Corva was too busy settling her wailing infant to add to the admonishment.
Trey held up his hands. “I’m not backing out of anything,” he said, though a large part of him wished he could.
“Good,” Eden, Wendy, and Elspeth answered at the same time.
“He couldn’t back out of it if he wanted to,” Virginia added. “Talia’s already on her way, and Trey knows as well as anyone what kind of life you girls from Hurst Home have known. He wouldn’t be snake enough to turn away a woman who has already had a hard time of it.”
The others nodded. Guilt gnawed at Trey’s gut. They were right, of course. He wasn’t low enough to send any woman back to an unfortunate life. But that didn’t mean he had to dive into marriage whole hog once Miss Lambert got there. Men and women had all sorts of marriages, ones that ended up with a parcel of kids and ones that involved separate rooms and separate lives.
“You would never catch me sending away for a bride,” Sam said.
At last, something Trey could latch onto that wouldn’t end with him getting in trouble. He turned to Sam. “You would too, and you know it.”
“Nuh-uh,” Sam protested. “I run a saloon. That’s no place for a good woman.”
“He never said you would marry a ‘good’ woman,” George chortled.
Sam sent a mock frown George’s way. “You sayin’ I should get hitched to one of Bonnie’s girls?”
George lost his smirk. Any mention of Bonnie’s girls inevitably touched a nerve with him, seeing as he and Bonnie were friends from way back. He’d unknowingly given Bonnie the money she’d used to start her cat-house too, although Trey knew as well as anyone in town—probably better—how Bonnie used her place to rescue the unrescuable, educate them, and send them on to new and better lives.
“Sam—” Trey thumped a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “—the day will come when you’ll find yourself wanting the comforts of a wife.”
Sam raised a brow. “What, like you do?”
Trey let his hand drop to his side. Sam had a point.
And where can you buy this awesome book, you ask? Why, right here:
His Magical Bride (Spicy Version)
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQP4WKB
B&N – Coming Soon
(Spicy version is not and, alas, will not be available in KU, because it’s available everywhere else)
Talia: The Magical Bride (Sweet Version)
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XQPCW7Y
(Only the sweet version is available in KU)