Authors: Lori Wick
Tags: #Romance, #Christian, #Western Stories, #Westerns, #Fiction, #Christian Fiction, #Montana, #Western, #Women Tailors, #INSPIRATIONAL ROMANCE, #General, #Religious, #Love Stories
Cassidy (Big Sky Dreams, Book 1)
2For A. J. and Emily
How blessed we are to have you.
I love you both.
To the special people who added to this book in so many ways...
-s LaRae-What an amazing time we had with you on an amazing trip in an amazing state. As you said, it was like traveling with family, for you certainly are. Thank you so much, dear friend.
.s Helen Ann-"I don't want to go to bed; I want to be in bed." Thanks for a delightful quote. I love you, Mom.
-s Jack and Stella-It was wonderful to dine with you, Jack. You are a treasure. Thank you for the lovely hospitality, Stella. The story of the two of you and also of the moose are among my favorites.
-s Todd-Those reminders about gasping and yawning are amazing to my heart. Thanks for being someone who gasps at God's holiness and goodness.
-s Phil-Wonderful words on the life of Paul. Thanks for the encouragement to double our efforts. It gives us all hope.
1 Bob-Oh, the places we've been. I didn't know what kind of ride it would be, but it's certainly been fun. I'll keep riding shotgun if you'll stay at the wheel. It doesn't matter where we go, as long as it's together.
CASSIDY NORTON, THE PROPRIETRESS OfToken Creek Apparel,
adjusted the shoulder of the brightly patterned dress she'd been working on and then stepped back a little.
"How is that, Mrs. Potts?" she asked the woman wearing the dress.
Mrs. Potts frowned into the full-length mirror and said, "It's still crooked."
Cassidy could not see what the woman was talking about, but she stepped forward to make another adjustment. She pinned and shifted and stepped back again, her brows raised in question.
"That's better," Mrs. Potts conceded. Cassidy smiled. She hadn't moved it much, but she had learned early on that pleasing the customer was paramount to her business.
"How is the waist?"
"It's good," the woman said, but she was still frowning into the mirror. Her face cleared enough to ask, "When will it be done?" "In the morning."
"Not today?" she questioned, the frown returning.
5 "I thought you needed it Friday," Cassidy reminded her. "I do. I just hoped to have it a few days early."
"Wednesday morning is a few days early," Cassidy said sweetly. Mrs. Potts actually smiled. "It is, isn't it?"
Cassidy laughed a little, and the other woman shook her head. "If all of your customers are like me, Cassie, I don't know how you keep from losing your mind."
"I love my customers," Cassidy said sincerely, helping Mrs. Potts out of the dress. "You included."
"I'm glad to hear it. God was smiling on Token Creek the day you came to town."
Cassidy thanked her with a laugh, made a few notes about some mending the woman wanted done, and then saw her out to the front of the shop. She wasted no time settling back at the sewing machine, finishing Mrs. Potts' dress in less than an hour. Cassidy was happy with the results and thought Mrs. Potts would be as well. She knew the other woman would return in the morning and pay in full. Mrs. Potts was one of her best customers.
That dress done, Cassidy was free to work on the other projects waiting for her attention.
"Hi, Brad," Cassidy said, greeting Brad Holden, the tall cowboy who had just stepped into her shop an hour after lunch.
"Hey, Cass," he said quietly, looking a little uncomfortable. "Something I can do for you?"
"Maybe," he said cryptically, his eyes shifting around the rather feminine establishment with its small covered chairs, lacy curtains, and bolts of fabric.
Cassidy smiled and waited. Brad's eyes roamed the room a bit and then met hers. His own smile broke out when he saw the amusement in Cassidy's
6"All right," he chuckled, his voice resigned. "I knew I would catch it if I came in here."
Cassidy laughed but repeated her offer.
"Yes," Brad said this time. "I want something for Meg-something pretty and comfortable."
"Is she already uncomfortable in that dress we remade?" Cassidy asked, frowning a little. She had just helped her friend, who seemed to increase in size daily, open the waistline on one of her calico dresses.
"No, I want something soft and lightweight that she can sleep in. She's not getting much rest right now."
"I think I have just the thing," Cassidy offered, not mentioning that she slept in the same fabric she brought from the shelf to hold out for his inspection. "You have your choice of colors."
Brad looked down at the sheer, lightweight fabrics in white, pale yellow, blue, and green. He fingered the very fine cotton, noting its near transparency. His gaze shifted to Cassidy's eyes.
"Perfect?" she asked.
"Yes. Can you make something for her? I think you must know her size."
"Certainly. If I have time, I'll bring it out tomorrow."
"You can do it that fast?"
"Unless something unexpected comes up, it shouldn't be a problem. Do you want to surprise her?"
Brad smiled before saying yes. "Leave it in your buggy, and I'll find it."
Cassidy laughed a little. He looked a bit like a small, mischievous boy just then. Brad didn't linger. Cassidy walked him to the door and then stood on the boardwalk in front of her shop and watched him put his hat back on and head in the direction of his aunt's house.
Brad's long legs covered the distance to Jeanette Fulbright's house.
7Jeanette was his mother's sister and lived in one of Token Creek's finest homes. She was a widow with more energy than five women and one of the most generous people Brad knew.
Brad was in his aunt's yard when he realized his brother, Trace, was on the porch, meaning he'd just finished his own errands. Trace waited to go in until Brad joined him. Brad was older by twenty- one months, but they were often mistaken for twins. They were both WI, lean cowboys with dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, and mischievous smiles. They owned the Holden Ranch, a good-sized spread outside of town.
"You get done at the livery?" Brad asked.
"Yes. How's Cassie?"
"What did you need?" Trace asked.
"Something for Meg." Brad frowned a little. "She's not sleeping much."
Trace nodded, and the two men turned toward the door, not bothering to knock but slipping inside to greet Heather, one of the two women who worked for Jeanette.
"Well, boys," Heather said, smiling, a vase of flowers in her hands, "this is a nice surprise."
"Hello, Heather," Trace greeted. "Is our mother up?"
"She is. All settled on the porch. I'll tell your aunt you're here."
Brad thanked her and then followed his brother to the large sun- porch, technically a small conservatory but now "home" to Brad and Trace's mother.
Nine years earlier, Theta Holden had been severally beaten by her husband. Normally Brad and Trace's father was not a drinker, but one Saturday night Wes Holden came home very drunk and attacked his wife. The boys were still in their teens and woke to find their mother barely alive and their father hung over. It was obvious what had happened, and they had rushed her to town for help, leaving their father to fend for himself.
8It turned out to be the last day they saw him. By the time their mother had been seen to and made comfortable at her sister's, their father was gone from the ranch. Had she died, he would have been wanted for murder, but Theta clung to life for almost two weeks before seeming to make a full recovery, at least physically. What no one expected was the change in her mental state, the one that could be seen in her glazed-over eyes. Theta never soiled her clothing and would eat when fed, but Heather dressed her and saw to nearly every need. She didn't speak or show any interest in books or songs. Unless urged to do so, she never moved from her chair. Few could break through the stare that had become normal. Some days having her sons visit seemed to agitate her, and they could not stay. This morning, she was completely unaware of them, but the boys still sat down and spoke to her.
"Meg was tired and decided not to come, but she'll probably see you next week," Brad told his mother, always talking as though she'd been a part of their life when in fact he'd met Meg after his mother's attack and she'd not been at the wedding. Brad added, "The baby is due in about two months, and Meg isn't feeling sick anymore."
The brothers looked at each other. They were used to this, and although it was not what they wanted, they were both glad to see their mother.
"We branded all day yesterday," Trace put in, his voice soft and deep. "The herd is growing strong, doing well."
For a moment it looked as though she would turn to Trace, but she kept staring out the window. Trace, the brothers had figured out one day, sounded the most like their father, and that was not always a good thing.
"Good morning." Jeanette appeared, hugging the nephews who were more like sons and bending to kiss her sister's cheek.
"How are you, Theta?" she asked as she always did. "It's a beautiful day."
"How are you, Jeanette?" Trace asked. "Not working today?"
9"Since Cassie takes Wednesday afternoons off, and I'm at the shop all day, I take Tuesdays off."
"At that rate you'll be a woman of leisure in no time," Trace teased, and Jeanette laughed.
Jeanette's husband had been a very successful banker, and he'd left her in considerable comfort. Indeed, she still owned the bank. The part-time help she gave Cassidy with her sewing was not done for money but to get out more. For years she'd taken care of Theta on her own, but when it seemed obvious that her sister didn't know who was seeing to her needs, she hired Heather. It had been a good match.
"How's Meg?" Jeanette asked.
"Other than being a little tired, she's doing well."
"Why don't you come in for her birthday next week, and I'll put on a meal? Whom shall we invite?"
While Jeanette and Brad talked about this, Trace watched his mother. She didn't look bad-a little thin, but that wasn't the problem. It still hurt his heart that there was nothing left of the mother he had known. Her life had never been easy-his father had been a hard man to understand-but she had made a home for them. She had been constant, hardworking, and cheerful, and she'd loved her sons with every fiber of her being. She had taught them what the Bible said from Trace's earliest memory. Their father liked to go into town on Saturday night and not come home, so there wasn't always a wagon to get them to church. But that hadn't changed their mother's desire to teach them. And she didn't wait for Sunday. Any evening their father left them alone she would take out her Bible and share with them the way God had saved her and what He expected her to do with her life.
It was no surprise that both boys believed the Bible and what it said about salvation in God's Son. Their mother had not been a part of their daily lives for a long time, but they still felt her influence on them. Both men took their faith seriously, and when Brad met Meg,
10a woman who was serious about wanting a godly man in her life, it wasn't long before they fell in love.
"You ready to go?" Brad asked, surprising Trace.
"Sure," Trace agreed, dragging his mind back to the moment. "Are you all right?" Jeanette asked.
"Just missing my mother," Trace admitted honestly, and Jeanette hugged him again.
The men took their leave a short time later.
"Is there a problem, Mrs. Ferguson?" Cassidy asked the woman who had the shop next to her. Cassidy had found that lady standing out front, frowning into the sky.
"A hornet's nest," Mrs. Ferguson answered, drawing Cassidy's eyes to the corner of the building.
"I'll get my broom," Cassidy said without delay, and the women went to work.
Back at the ranch, Brad saw to the wagon and team, which meant Trace was the first one into the kitchen. He greeted his sister-in-law, who sounded completely normal, but Trace could see that all was not well.
"You've been crying," he said quietly.
"You can tell?" Meg asked.
"Not at all," Trace swiftly denied, his brows rising. "Just a wild guess."
Meg laughed, but it was short-lived.
"If you can tell, Brad will notice."
"Why don't you want Brad to know?"
"He'll know I didn't take a nap."
Trace smiled. It was an ongoing battle between husband and wife,
11and in truth he found it endearing. His brother was trying to take care of Meg and baby her a little while Meg was insistent that she couldn't get everything done if she slept during the day.
It looked as though Meg was going to say something else just then, but they both heard the door. Giving her an amused but compassionate smile, Trace slipped away. Brad was in the kitchen a moment later.
"Hi," Brad greeted his wife before he kissed her. He looked into her eyes and saw just what Trace had seen.