Have you wanted a chance to read my book The Gold Digger and haven’t yet? Today could be your lucky day. This is my “Heroine in peril, mail-order-bride, gone awry” story. Here’s a peek into the book:
Early spring, 1890
"Are you plumb crazy?" Jeremiah Dennison's loud retort bounced around the main room of the adobe house and returned to mock him. "Where did you get such a harebrained idea?"
Trying to control his anger, he shoved his clenched fists into his denim trousers' pockets, paced to the window, and stared out, paying scant attention to the piñon trees bending in the wind. He loved Philip Smith like a father, but the man could vex the weather. And this latest idea was the most farfetched yet.
Philip gave a snort. "Harebrained?" He put his rocking chair into motion that sent out a rhythmic squeaking. "Why'd ya say that? It's worked fer other men."
Jeremiah tried to calm down. He wanted to measure his words, season them with wisdom that would awaken his elderly friend to all the pitfalls he would face. "What would you do with a mail-order bride?"
The old miner stilled the chair and stared at Jeremiah, obsidian eyes piercing under his bushy white brows. "Somethin"—he smothered a hacking cough with his fist, then swiped a clean handkerchief across his face—"has a deadly grip on me."
"I know you're sick. I take care of you, don't I?" Jeremiah resented the fact that what he'd done wasn't enough. Otherwise, Philip wouldn't even consider such a preposterous proposition.
His old friend reached up to scratch the scraggly beard he'd worn all the years he was a miner, but it no longer covered his clean-shaven chin. Old habits died hard. "Jerry, I don't wanna be a burden on ya."
"You'd rather be a burden to a woman you don't even know?" Jeremiah regretted his cynical tone the moment the words flew from his lips. He softened his tone. "I've never considered you a burden any more than you thought I was a burden when I came to the gold fields as a greenhorn."
Philip clutched the arms of the rocking chair and slowly rose. He took a moment to steady himself before he ambled toward Jeremiah. "I ain't come to this decision easy." He squinted up into Jeremiah's face. "I done studied on it fer a while."
Jeremiah straightened the fingers he'd gripped into fists and relaxed his stiff spine. "What do you mean, 'studied'?"
"Well, I figure a woman who'd answer them ads in the newspaper must be purty needy, maybe even desperate to get out of a particular bad situation." He gave a vigorous nod that riffled his snowy hair. "Made me a fortune when I sold my mine. More money than any man can spend in his lifetime. What good is a fortune to an old-timer like me? Won't never have a family of my own. Maybe I'll git me a woman with children. She can take care a me, and my money can take care a her." Another nod punctuated his last statement. "And her young'uns, if she has any."
How could Jeremiah deny his mentor's request? Philip never asked for much. If he didn't do this, the stubborn old man would look for help from someone else. A lesser friend might have a wagging tongue and spread the story all around Golden. Philip didn't need people gossiping about him sending for a bride. And other miners might try to nab her for themselves when she arrived. If Jeremiah had his way, it would be fine with him if they did, but his friend would be too disappointed. He didn't want to break Philip's heart, just talk him out of making this mistake.
"Jerry, ya ain't mad 'cause I'm plannin' to give my money to someone else, are ya?"
The words stabbed Jeremiah's heart. How could Philip believe that about him? "I don't need your money. I have more than enough of my own, thanks to selling my own mine and starting the ranch like you told me to."
The hoary head nodded. "That's what I figured."
"Where you going to send the ad?" Jeremiah couldn't believe he was considering being a part of this crazy scheme. But what else could he do?
Philip limped toward the sturdy pine dining table where a stack of newspapers was piled haphazardly beside blank paper, an inkwell, and a pen. "I read all these, and I think I'll send it to the Boston Globe." He picked up the top newspaper and shoved the rumpled pages toward Jeremiah.
Taking the newsprint, Jeremiah glanced at the headlines on the front page. An unusually hard winter had left many people out in the cold. "Why
"Don't want jist anybody. Wanna help a lady in distress." Philip folded his scrawny arms across his bony chest. "Figure most a the women in
are ladies. My aunt Charlotte come
from Boston ,
and she was a lady." He stopped and cleared his throat, then wheezed out a
slow breath. "You do the writin', 'cause mine looks like hen
Judging from the stubborn tilt to the older man's chin, Jeremiah knew Philip's mind was made up. He dropped the newspaper back on the stack and pulled out the chair beside the stationery. "What do you want to say?"
He picked up the pen with the golden nib—another of the things the old miner had bought after he'd sold the mine. It had never been dipped into the inkwell until now.
Philip leaned both hands on the table, puffed out his chest, and wrinkled his forehead in concentration. "How about, Wanted, a . . . No. Makes it sound like she's an outlaw, or somethin'. Do it this way. A Christian man in Golden,
, is seekin'
. . ." He waited for Jeremiah to finish writing the phrase.
"Sound all right so far?" New Mexico
Wanting to laugh, Jeremiah kept his eyes trained on the words before him. Philip was so serious. "What are you seeking?"
The old miner scratched his head. "I want a lady. Done already told ya that."
"Maybe we could say, a Christian lady. That should cover it."
Jeremiah dipped the pen in the inkwell. When he held it poised over the paper, waiting for Philip to agree with his suggestion, a small drop fell and quickly spread into an unsightly blob. "I've messed up this sheet. Do you have a pencil? I could use it while we figure out the wording. Then I'll copy it in ink."
Philip made his way to the sideboard against the back wall of the large open room and pulled out a drawer. He shuffled through the contents before holding up the stub of a pencil. "Here's the onliest one I got."
"It'll do." Jeremiah reached for the pencil and continued, "A Christian man in Golden,
, seeks a
Christian lady . . . where do we go now?" New Mexico
Once again, Philip was deep in thought. ". . . who needs a chance at a new life."
Jeremiah nodded and added the words. "I like it. Do you want to say anything else, or should I just put your name and address?"
"That's enough, but put General Delivery as my address." A smile crept across the older man's face, bringing a twinkle to his rheumy eyes.
He returned to his rocking chair while Jeremiah copied the words with ink, folded the message, inserted the paper in an envelope, and wrote the address for the Boston Globe on the front.
If you want to know what happens, please leave a comment. I’m going to do something different this time. For every 10 reader comments, I’ll give 1 free print and 1 free audio book copy to 2 of the commenters. Tell your friends and post it on your social media. The more comments, the more free books.
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