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Authors: Stef Ann Holm

Forget Me Not

BOOK: Forget Me Not
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Praise for

STEF ANN HOLM

and Her Suspense-Filled

Tale of Love

PORTRAITS

“The last chapter gave me a tear-in-the-eye. The epilogue finished me off. Good thing I was alone.”

—Merry Cutler, Annie's Book Stop

“My favorite author has come through with another ‘keeper' book!”

—Roberta Kochinski, Bobbi's Books

“Can this impossible match ever work? Your heart knows it must in the end. This is a love story, but your mind keeps wanting to sneak a peek to find out how! Stef Ann Holm does it again! WOW!!”

—Mary Joy, Books to Enjoy

“One of the most powerful stories I have read in a long time. I wept and smiled as I read this. Wyatt and Leah deserved a happy end and I stayed up all night to make sure they had it!”

—Sharon Kosick, Annie's Book Stop

“Portraits
is a warm and wonderful book. Leah and Wyatt stepped right off the page and into my heart! I laughed and I cried and I loved this book.”

—Kim Ver Hage, Reading Books

“Stef Ann Holm's depth of character study is simply magnificent. I grew to love the residents of Eternity, Colorado. This is a love story that will make you laugh and make you cry. It deals with emotions, the power of forgiveness and the human spirit. I loved it.”

—Suzanne Coleburn, Belles & Beaux of Romance

“Stef Ann Holm goes through all of your emotions while you're reading one of her books.
Portraits
is a keeper in all categories.”

—Adene Beal, House of Books

“Read this book in one night. Couldn't put it down. One of the best I've ever read.”

—Bobbie Hamel, Trenton Book Store

“Stef Ann Holm is a master at her craft.
Portraits
shows how talented she is.”

—Donita Lawrence, Bell, Book, and Candle

“Rich in detail and emotion, reading
Portraits
is like gazing at a beautiful photograph. Leah and Wyatt's story is an experience you won't soon forget.”

—Lenore Howard, Old Book Barn Gazette

“This is a one-sitting read and should become a ‘keeper.' A fresh twist to the classic historical read! Great characters, strong conflicts, a heroine to reckon with! I loved it!”

—Lucy Morris, Lucy's Book Exchange Inc.

“A heartwarming book with unforgettable characters. I loved it. It is one that I will keep in my personal book collection. I cannot wait for her next one.”

—Rebecca Woods, The Bookmart

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For Rose Gonzales, friend and teacher, an honest-to-goodness cowgirl living the true spirit of the American West

C
HAPTER
1

E
verything that Josephine Whittaker owned was packed in the valise at her feet. As she stood on the hard earth platform, watching the Union Pacific No. 35 gain speed out of the ramshackle station, she had the strongest urge to chase after the hissing engine and its cramped string of cars and declare she'd changed her mind. But the notion to flee was a thought too late.

She turned her gaze toward the rutted street empty of a single carriage, not daring to step outside the crudely constructed fence that separated her from the Wyoming Territory town of Sienna. The pungent smell of cow dung permeated the air, and she glanced at a bawling group of the large animals crammed together in a crowded wooden pen next to the depot. Rickety buckboards drove past with rough-hewn men at the reins. A wind-tattered flag hung limply from a pole in front of a saloon called Walkingbars. Though the sun was high and full, the scenery was dull and gray.

The city resembled nothing from the grandiose descriptions she'd read in the Beadle's dime novel. That famed Sienna had elegant red brick hotels—some four stories tall—and boasted numerous fine
restaurants, even an opera house touting an extravagant playbill. Arnica Street had been the rendezvous place for Pearl Larimer and Rawhide Abilene, the fated lovers in the Beadle's Issue No. 639,
Rawhide's Wild Tales of Revenge in Sienna.
The couple had stayed at the Line House Hotel and dined at the Bar Grub restaurant, both of which had been—despite their less-than-affluent names—heralded as the finest establishments between San Francisco and Chicago.

From the train station, Josephine could see neither the restaurant nor the hotel, much less a brick building. The structures that greeted her were built out of wood, and not a one over two stories tall. It would seem the book's author had taken some creative liberties.

Josephine worried the decorative collar button at her throat with gloved fingers. The daring prospect of living in the wide-open West she'd read about had given her the strength she'd needed to leave New York. Thus far, she hadn't been disappointed. The train ride—though she'd suffered indignities—had been worth the discomfort as soon as she'd gotten her first glimpse of the Wyoming Territory. As the train had clacked beyond the jagged mountains, the dazzling waterfalls, and the spectacular gorges, chugging headlong into the open terrain, a host of prairie dogs had stood in welcome. Meadowlarks sprang from the newly budding trees, and herds of white-faced cattle had run whenever the train sped by.

Sienna was to be the best of all. A town that lived up to its pretty-sounding name and fictitious allure. This was to have been where she would start over. Where she would secure her first employment position. Though she'd been raised in an affluent family and never had to work a day in her life, she'd made a list of all her attributes on the tablet in her calf pocket book. The checklist was ready and waiting for her to
read to the glamorous owner of the Line House, who would be aptly impressed and hire her on the spot. Because Josephine Whittaker was willing to do as none of her female peers had ever done before her: travel to the West and seek her freedom.

Out here, she was no longer an extension of the gilded home that belonged to her husband. She wouldn't have to be under the gaze of watchful servants or have to acknowledge the perpetually renewed stack of cards and invitations on the hall table.

When she'd married, she'd been forced to bury her aspirations of spontaneity and daring beneath her husband's sudden single-mindedness. Being Hugh's wife had sucked her confidence and any hope of fledgling independence away from her. She'd lived with that grim truth for six years as a model of ladylike repression. But that was before she'd drawn a different conclusion from her wedding vows.
Thou shalt not be unfaithful—to thyself.
She realized she had to leave if she wanted to keep her dignity. So with the well-worn and reread copy of the Beadle's novel in her handbag, with its artist's rendition of a charming western city sketched across its cover, she'd decided on Sienna.

Giving the watering-hole town a grimace, Josephine picked up her wicker valise and decided to begin her new life in San Francisco instead.

She made an about-face and walked to the depot house. The door didn't readily open, and she gave it a slight shove with her elbow. The interior was poorly illuminated by a small rectangular window covered with a rotten roller shade. Furnishings were rudimentary. A single corner desk with pigeonholes and only one bench for passengers to sit. She recognized the elderly man who rose to his feet, hooked a pair of spectacles behind his ears, and squinted at her.

“How may I help you, ma'am?”

“You aided me from the train that just came in, but
it seems I've gotten off at the wrong stop. I'd like to purchase another ticket. To San Francisco. What is the departure schedule?”

“Thursdays.”

Today was Thursday. Thank goodness she wouldn't have to spend the night here. She set her valise on the bench. “How much is the ticket?”

“Eight dollars.”

Josephine nodded but didn't open her purse. She wasn't so ignorant as to keep all her cash in her handbag. She'd read enough of the Beadle's stories to know that ladies' purses and men's wallets were what robbers absconded with during a train holdup. She was thankful she hadn't encountered any. But just the same, she was glad she'd hidden the majority of her money in her silk underdrawers, safely tucked at the bottom of her valise. All she carried in the way of money in her handbag were some small coins so that she could purchase those open-to-suspicion meals served at the whistle-stops.

With her fingers on the luggage clasp, she asked, “What time does the train depart?”

“Two fifty-three,” he replied.

Josephine straightened and lifted the lid to her valise at the same time as she faced off with the depot manager. “Two fifty-three? Why, I just disembarked from the two fifty-three train.”

“Yes, ma'am. The Number Thirty-five is the connection to San Francisco. It only passes through here once a week.”

Josephine lowered her gaze, letting out a shaky breath of disappointment, only to have it solidify in her throat as she stared into the opened valise.

This wasn't her luggage!

There had to be a mistake. She wasn't seeing clearly. Closing her eyes for a few seconds to clear her vision, she reopened them and stared hard at the clothing. The garments still didn't belong to her. In disbelief, she rummaged through the layers of drab
cotton ladies' clothes, searching for silk underdrawers that had more than five hundred dollars hidden in them. She could find only muslin pantalets with plain eyelet trim on the hems. A full-blown panic sprang to life in her breast; her heartbeat quickened its rhythm.

“Is there a problem, ma'am?”

BOOK: Forget Me Not
12.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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