Read Constance: Bride of Florida (American Mail-Order Bride 27) Online

Authors: Patricia Pacjac Carroll

Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Forever Love, #Victorian Era, #Western, #Fifth In Series, #Saga, #Fifty-Books, #Forty-Five Authors, #Newspaper Ad, #Short Story, #American Mail-Order Bride, #Bachelor, #Single Woman, #Marriage Of Convenience, #Christian, #Religious, #Faith, #Inspirational, #Factory Burned, #Pioneer, #Florida, #Shadows, #Followed Rules, #Sailing Ships, #Sea Voyage, #Ultimatum, #Father, #Leaving, #Marriage, #Future Plans

Constance: Bride of Florida (American Mail-Order Bride 27)

BOOK: Constance: Bride of Florida (American Mail-Order Bride 27)
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Constance: Bride of Florida

(American Mail-Order Bride Series Book 27)

 

Author Patricia PacJac Carroll

 

Copyright © Dec. 2015

Published by Patricia PacJac Carroll @ PacJac Publishing

 

ALL rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, (except for inclusion in reviews), disseminated or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, or audio. Including photocopying, recording, or in any information storage and retrieval system, or the Internet/World Wide Web without written permission from the author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

 

Cover by Erin Dameron-Hill  ([email protected])

 

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***
Constance: Bride of Florida is the 27
th
book in the unprecedented 50-book American Mail-Order Brides Series. The books can be read in any order as each is a stand-alone offering. Read the Free prequel:

http://www.newwesternromance.com/

 

 

 

Constance: Bride of Florida

(American Mail-Order Bride Series Book 27)

 

 

Chapter 1

 

Peeking from under her umbrella, Constance Penny stopped in front of the old, red-bricked apartment. She swallowed hard, skirted around a large puddle, and knocked on Roberta’s door. Constance heard nothing. Once again, she was too late. Hiding in her room, she may well have lost her chance at happiness.

Roberta opened the door and put a hand on her hip. “I bet you’re here to get a copy of the
Grooms’ Gazette
. Oh, come in out of the cold. I tried to get you to take one at the meeting.” She pointed. “I’m busy packing. The papers are on the table by the door.”

A trickle of rain dripped down Constance’s back causing her to shudder. Words stuck in her throat, so she just stood, feeling awkward and unwelcome.

Roberta cocked her head and then rushed to give her a hug. “You’ll be fine, Constance. The Good Lord put a spark of courage in everyone. I hope you find yours.” She tapped on the
Grooms’ Gazette
. “Pick a man and go after him. Everyone else has scattered across the country looking for a husband and fortune. Go get yours. Now, I’ve got to get packed. I’m meeting my man in Wisconsin. Bye dear. And good luck.”

After another brief hug, Roberta left her.

Constance stood alone in the middle of the room, wondering if the Good Lord had forgotten to deal her a portion of courage. “I have got to get on with my life. If I don’t do something now, I’ll die an unknown pauper having known nothing of life. Today is the day.”

With a shaking hand, she took a paper, opened it and scanned the ads. All of them had pencil marks through them except for one in Florida and another from Georgia. Looking around, she grabbed another copy and stuffed it inside her coat. Her distant cousin, Mollie, in Georgia might be interested.

After a quick gaze to Roberta’s room, Constance put a hand to her chest to try to stop her pounding heart. No one would know she took more than one paper. A little excited and proud that she’d stepped out and broken a rule, she held her head high.

Until Roberta, carrying a satchel, walked out of her room. “So, did you finally decide to take one of the papers?”

Constance’s heart slammed against her chest. “Yes, I did.”
I took two.
Her brave thought disappeared in the event Roberta read minds.

“Great. Hope you find a good man. I’ve heard that the matchmaker in Beckham is the best and only picks good men. Good luck sweetie.”

With her throat constricted, Constance squeaked out a “thank you” and bolted for the door.

“Constance!”

She’d been caught. Fear like lightning shot through her, bringing her to a halt. Constance put her head down and turned back.

Roberta stood at the door holding her umbrella. “You might need this. It’s supposed to rain all day.”

Relief tumbled through her. “Yes, thank you.” She took her umbrella and walked down the street. She’d gotten away with taking an extra paper. Surprisingly, it felt good to have broken a rule.

Of course, Roberta had made no such rule, but even where there weren’t spoken rules, Constance made them up and restricted herself. If she constantly toed the imaginary lines, no one would notice her. She’d lived her life wanting to hide, content to live in the shadows. Yet, she always dreamed about being part of a family, but that was impossible without a husband.

She sighed as the burden and hope the paper held settled across her shoulders. This was her chance to find her dream of belonging. She scurried to the small room she’d rented after losing her apartment. Once inside, she shucked off her wet coat and shoes and sat on her cot. She opened the paper and stared at the two states. The one in Georgia would be perfect for Mollie. Though she’d had little contact with her cousin, the last she heard things were hard.

The last one was in Florida. An E. Ferris requested a wife. She tore out his name. He said in the ad to wire him and he would send the money for the right woman to come. Well, it was a good thing, because it was a long walk from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Apalachicola, Florida.

If only the infernal rain would stop, then she’d run right out and send a wire to him and one to her cousin. She stared out the window and longed for better days.

She and her family had come over from England. She was only five at the time and could barely remember the hard voyage on the big boat. Mother took sick and Father spent most of the time caring for her, leaving Constance to roam the big freighter on her own.

Constance paused in her recollections. When so young, she’d been free and brave, so what happened to make her so timid? Perhaps it was losing her mother soon after reaching America and then her father when she was fourteen.

Ten years ago
.

That was when she first shrank inside herself. She remembered standing all alone with her father’s body, and watching as the undertaker, a tall skinny man who looked all too much like a skeleton, took him away.

She’d been left with five dollars. The landlord put a hand on her shoulder, took her money, and told her she had two weeks left in the rundown tenement.

He started to walk off but turned. “They need help at the Brown Textile Factory. Good idea if you went down there and asked for a job.”

She remembered feeling as if she were stuck to the floor, unable to move or talk.

He huffed. “You go down First Street and follow it all the way to the end. Big brick building on the left is Brown’s. You better run. You’re going to need to make money to live, girl.”

She’d worked in the factory ever since. At least, until the fire. She and all the women who worked with her had lost their jobs. And then to find out that Bob, their evil boss, had burned it down on purpose. Roberta had taken over to help them find rooms and places to stay. Later, she let everyone know about the
Grooms’ Gazette
and offered them a chance at marriage.

Constance stared at the scrap of paper from Florida and wondered if this was her chance to find someone, a husband. She’d never had a man show her any interest. At least, not one she would want to marry.

She glanced out the window just as a stream of sunshine glistened like gold on the wet street. She glanced back at the ad. “A good sign, E. Ferris. Hope you’re not already married.”

After putting on her raincoat and shoes, she eased out the door. She flared out her umbrella, dodged puddles, and ran to reach the telegraph office. The sooner she got to Florida the better. Besides, if she sat and thought too long, she’d find a way to scurry into the shadows and not take this opportunity.

She set her umbrella down and went to one of the tables to compose the wires. After a few attempts, Constance decided it best to send Mollie a letter with the ad for the man in Georgia. But the urgency racing inside her, compelled her to send a wire to E. Ferris.

What to write? How do you tell a man you’d like to marry him, and ask him to please send the money for her travel expenses? Well, after balling up several attempts. That is what she put down. By the few words in the ad, E. Ferris must be a direct man and therefore would like direct inquiries.

Finished and feeling proud of herself, she paid the operator and left the office. Doubt wrapped its tentacles around her chest and made her breathing difficult. She didn’t know what kind of man he was, or what foolishness she’d let herself get involved in. What’s worse, she’d included Mollie in her folly.

Constance’s stomach rumbled and took some of the edge off her doubts. If she did nothing, she’d likely starve. She tried to ignore the gnawing feeling in her middle.

She shook her umbrella at a flock of pigeons and watched them scatter across her favorite park. “Perhaps E. Ferris will provide for me, and I won’t starve. I can’t stay here.”

She often talked to herself. An affliction of the severely lonely she supposed. Giving in to her hunger, she went to the soup kitchen where kind Christian men and woman fed hungry stragglers.

“Heya Constance. Any luck wid the jobs?” Toni filled her bowl to the brim.

“No, but I may go to Florida and get married.”

Wrinkling her nose, the spritely older woman nodded. “Married? And you know this man from where?”

“I don’t. It’s from an ad. Like a mail-order bride.”

“Thoughts they went to the Wild West to tame it down. Though, I think ’tis mostly tame by now. Time for the unruly east to get some of that taming now.” Toni laughed her full hearty laugh.

Constance squeaked out a chuckle. Truth was her own voice scared her. She admired Toni’s ability to laugh loudly and not care if others looked at her.

Toni pointed the dripping ladle at her. “You make sure he’s a good man before you let him put that ring on you. Rings be like a shackle if the man ain’t no good.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I be praying for ye. Poor thing. You’re nothing but skin and bones and so quiet. You need to get some backbone in ye, girl.”

Swallowing hard, Constance nodded. “I don’t know how.”

“Well, I’d be saying that going all the way to Florida to a man you don’t know is a good first step. Go now and eat your meal. Get some strength. Come here every day so’s I can fatten you up.”

Constance nodded.

Toni shook her head. “And for Pete’s sake and pity, speak up. You have a sweet voice if you’d use it. Little mouse is what you are. Time you changed that.”

She nodded and left to find an empty table. There was truth in Toni’s words, though. Constance was afraid to speak up around others, and when she did, it came out a mouse-like squeak. She’d work on that. She had to. This was her chance. She knew it.

  ###

Ethan “Drake” Ferris pulled the heavy rope to secure the
Morning Star
to her moorings. She was a beauty, sleek and seaworthy. “Thanks for the ride, Bill.”

The captain nodded at him. “Anytime. You’re a good sailor, Drake.”

Whistling, Drake made his way up the docks toward town. He’d only been gone a little over a week on a trip to deliver some goods to Cuba. He longed to be free and sail about the world. He stopped whistling.

Father had other ideas and wanted him to return to Ferris and Sons and drudgery. Being the oldest son of Evan Ferris was beginning to feel less and less advantageous. With his father’s affinity to names that begin with E, Drake always wondered why he’d not been named Evan Jr. That he and his father remained at odds on many things was an understatement.

Drake hated the name, Ethan. From the time he was a young boy and learned of Sir Francis Drake and his exploits, he let it be known his name was Drake. It took his family a few months to realize he was serious, but he’d gone by Drake since to all but Father, who stubbornly used his birth name.

While his brothers, Edgar, and Edwin, seemed to be born to work at the family store and put out supplies, Drake avoided the big building on the corner of Main and Second. His brothers didn’t mind helping little old ladies find the right shoes, or pretend bratty kids weren’t messing up the shelves they’d just organized while the parents picked out the right color of paint, but he couldn’t tolerate it.

BOOK: Constance: Bride of Florida (American Mail-Order Bride 27)
10.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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