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Authors: Mary Fox

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Victorian, #Western, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Historical Romance, #Westerns

Journey of the Bride

BOOK: Journey of the Bride
10.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Copyright 2015 by Mary Fox - All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the author/publisher.

 

 

 
Journey of the Bride: A Mail Order Bride Historical Western Romance
 

 

 
Complete Series: Volumes 1 and 2
 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

Wave upon wave of heat drifted up from the sand and washed over his face. Dust clouded the air from under the hooves of dozens of cattle, braying into the air as they trod along the edge of the fence line.

 

Atop his bay gelding, Brandon slapped his lasso against his thigh and let out a loud, shrill whistle.

Get

up!

he yelled at the cattle, as if trying to urge them faster. They were moving at a good pace though, all things considered. Everything was going well

for now.

 

The sudden drum of a horse

s hooves turned his attention back behind him, and he spun the gelding around to look at the oncoming rider.

 

It was a man on a dazzling gray gelding. The horse looked too clean for the dusty lands it had just ridden across. The pasture was sparse in the way of grass now that the cattle had eaten most of it down to spare shoots. The rider too looked out of place in a smart black suit rather than jeans and plaid shirt. A large top hat completed the look of the man. Brandon knew the rider though.

 


Paul,

he said, a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye. It had been months since he

d seen his brother.

You

re looking good.

 


And you look like shit,

Paul replied, the grin on his clean-shaven face revealing the good nature of his words. He gave Brandon a glance-over, taking in the dusty clothes and the dirty beard on his face.

When was the last time you bathed?

 

Brandon shrugged, turning his attention back to the cattle he was trying to move to a new pasture. Usually, he had the help of five other men. This was the first season he

d attempted such a feat alone. He had been so busy lately. He hadn

t even had a chance to go to town and post wanted ads for ranch hands for the summer. Winter had been easy. Now, he would have to figure out a time to go to town and find help because there was no way he could move the herd out to the sales in time on his own. That was suicide.

 

His stomach growled, reminding him that it had been hours since he

d eaten, and even then it hadn

t been more than a few strips of dried meat left over from the winter.

 


When was the last time you ate?

Paul asked. There was a knowing tone in his voice.

 

Damn. He knew Brandon way too well. Was it that obvious how much work Brandon was trying to do on his own?

 


This morning,

he answered. It was the truth. Paul had asked when he last ate, not what he ate.

 


Who cooked breakfast with Ma now gone?

Paul asked.

 

Damn. Damn him.

No one,

Brandon replied. He tipped his hat down so he wouldn

t have to see the pity on his brother

s face.

 

Paul had been gone for years. He

d disappeared from the ranch as soon as he turned eighteen so he could attend college. Brandon couldn

t blame him. Paul hated the ranch. He

d escaped it to get his license in law. Last time Brandon had heard of his brother, he

d opened his own law firm in the city.

 

Before, it hadn

t been an issue. Pa had been able to handle the ranch on his own with the help of Brandon and the other ranch hands. However, with both Ma and Pa gone from the world

God rest their souls

the ranch had become more than Brandon could handle on his own, and most of the hands had been loyal to Pa, not Brandon. With Pa gone, they

d taken off to find work elsewhere.

 

Brandon had let them. What else could he do? He couldn

t force them to work for him. He wasn

t even certain he could pay them. He knew Pa had money and that they weren

t hurting, but the will had specified that Paul had first rights to that money, not Brandon, which made sense with Paul being older by five years.

 

If Brandon was honest, it didn

t bother him. He never cared for the family money, and Paul would be better at handling it. He was better at handling the ranch. He knew more about birthing calves than he

d ever know about finances.

 

He spat at the ground and frowned at Paul, daring him to say something about the lack of a cook. It was another thing he

d been meaning to get around to, but couldn

t really afford. Either way Brandon looked at it, things were getting bad at the ranch.

 

He hadn

t the money to hire hands to help with the cattle herds, and without the herds, there was no money coming into the ranch.

 


Shit.

Brandon looked up at Paul, surprised to hear the curse word slip from between his teeth. Paul had always been a purer one. At least better than Brandon in the sense.

How long are you going to wait before you get married, Brandon?

 


I don

t need a wife,

Brandon grumbled. He crushed down the feelings that threatened to bubble up with the admission. He

d heard this argument many times in the past, and he really wasn

t interested in hearing them again.

 

Paul had been married two years now, and his pretty little wife, Samantha, was a dear. She was good to Paul and helped him meet new clients in the city through all her connections. Paul was becoming a socialite among men thanks to her help. Brandon would have envied his brother that, but that was before

 


You need someone in your life, Brandon. You can

t do everything yourself. Look at yourself. You can barely feed yourself.

 

As if to add more fuel to Paul

s argument, Brandon

s stomach betrayed him and growled loudly. The gelding he rode snorted and shook his head.

 


I don

t need a woman, Paul,

Brandon said. There was a hard glint to his eyes as he looked up at his older brother again.

I

m doing fine on my own.

A cocky grin crossed his face.

Besides, what kind of woman would want a grizzled ol

man like myself? Look at me. It

s as you said, I can barely feed myself.

 

Paul frowned, but his glance did dart over Brandon once more. It was as he said. He looked like a rancher who worked too much, ate too little, and slept only enough to say he

d gotten sleep. It was frightening in a way.

 


Have you been sleeping outside?

he asked.

 


Someone

s gotta watch the cattle. Coyotes are getting brave.

Brandon shrugged again, a gesture that was starting to infuriate Paul. That was his brother though. He

d shrug off the bad business and ignore it as if it didn

t exist. He only handled what was a problem right then and there, letting the worst of the problems wait until they grew too large for him to handle on his own.

 

Paul growled under his breath, raising his hand to wipe his face as if that would wipe away all his worries with it. He worried for his brother. That was why he was there after all, to check on him. He hadn

t had a chance to come since Ma and Pa

s death except to attend their funeral, and even then he hadn

t really had a chance to speak with Brandon. Samantha had scheduled a meeting with the mayor, one he hadn

t been able to get out of.

 


How have you been doing lately?

he asked, softening his tone.

 

Brandon glanced up at him, his eyes full of suspicion. That wasn

t a surprise. It was hard for Brandon to trust anyway. Everyone around him seemed to be up to something.

 


Ride with me,

he said, his words gruff. He spun his bay around the slapped his lasso against his thigh again, yelling at the cattle to get on up. Ahead of them, the gate to the pasture he was herding them to was wide open. Already some of the cattle had made it inside and were milling toward the pond inside where they could drink or branching out to graze on the fresh grass before them.

 

Brandon corralled them inside and dismounted, dropping one of the bay

s reins to the ground before he strode over to the gate and closed it. Brandon spoke as he worked. Whether to inform Paul of everything that had been going on at the ranch or to just fill the air with words, he didn

t know.

 


Just finished fixing this fence yesterday. Course I

ll need to ride the lines every day to make sure the cattle don

t break through and to make sure coyotes don

t sneak in, but it

s fixed for now. There

s plenty of grass to last them a couple of months and water to last longer than that.

 

Paul nodded to show he understood. Even if he didn

t like the ranch and didn

t really care what happened to it, he did care about his brother, and he wanted him to be happy. The ranch made him happy for some reason Paul would never understand.

 


You need a wife, Brandon,

he said after his brother mounted again.

 

Brandon narrowed his eyes.

No.

His words were flat, making it known it was the end of the discussion.

 


Yes, you do.

 


No I don

t.

Brandon glowered at Paul.

You can

t make me change my mind.

BOOK: Journey of the Bride
10.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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