Authors: A Suitor for Jenny
A ROCKY CREEK ROMANCE
NASHVILLE DALLAS MEXICO CITY RIO DE JANEIRO
© 2010 by Margaret Brownley
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Publisher’s Note: This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. All characters are fictional, and any similarity to people living or dead is purely coincidental.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A suitor for Jenny : a Rocky Creek romance / Margaret Brownley.
p. cm. — (A Rocky Creek romance ; v 2)
ISBN 978-1-59554-810-8 (soft cover)
1. Women—Fiction. 2. Middle West—History—19th century—Fiction.
Printed in the United States of America
10 11 12 13 14 RRD 5 4 3 2 1
For Lee Duran
Friend, sister, mentor
The world is a brighter place because of you.
When looking for a husband, it’s best to go where the odds are in your favor.
The Compleat and Authoritative Manual for
Attracting and Procuring a Husband
A good man is like a good corset. He will always be supportive and never leave you hanging.
Rocky Creek, Texas
ld man Hank Applegate should have known trouble was brewing the moment the stagecoach thundered into town one week and two days late.
Not that anyone cared. Actually, no one but Hank so much as noticed the stagecoach, late or otherwise. He might not have noticed either, had it not been for the astounding amount of luggage tied to the roof and back of the coach. Few people of any importance or interest ever came to town on the Wells Fargo stagecoach anymore. Nowadays, most folks preferred to travel by train. And who in tarnation would travel with
A gust of wind followed the stage, kicking up a whirlwind as it traveled through town. Hats blew off like popping corks. Emma Hogg’s skirt flapped like the sails of a storm-tossed ship. Not that Hank was interested in the old spinster’s skirts or anything else about her for that matter.
The horses hitched in front of Jake’s Saloon pawed the ground, and the bat-wing doors swung to and fro.
The stage came to a halt in front of the weathered two-story Grand Hotel. Its driver scrambled to the ground like a man trying to escape an angry mob.
His curiosity stoked, Hank rose from his rocking chair for a closer look, his bony legs creaking like a dried-out saddle.
Squinting beneath the brim of his leather hat, he spat a dark stream of tobacco juice over the railing of Fairbanks General Merchandise and clamped down on his jaw, letting his toothless gums rub against each other.
The door of the stage flew open, and he caught a glimpse of a dainty slipper and a slim, feminine ankle. Thinking he was seeing things, he leaned forward until the rickety railing wobbled beneath his weight. Not that he noticed. He was too busy watching a pretty miss emerge from inside the coach.
By thunder! If she wasn’t a sight for sore eyes! Dressed in fancy blue garb trimmed with black lace, and a hat with feathers enough to tar a mountain, she tugged at her fitted jacket and gave her blue parasol a determined shake.
Still, he didn’t suspect a thing, not a thing. Any thought that the town and its male inhabitants were in mortal danger was the furthest thing from his mind. Then two
women stepped out of the coach behind her, all dressed in kind and chattering like nervous young hens.
The blonde woman in blue appeared to be the leader of the petticoat troop, and the others referred to her as Jenny. With skirts awhirl, she ordered the driver to unhitch the luggage. Pointing here and pointing there with the tip of her parasol, she issued one command after another, never so much as stopping for air.
“Be careful with this,” Jenny instructed. “Be careful with that.” At one point she grabbed a bandbox from the driver and carried it to the porch of the hotel herself, muttering under her breath.
Hank could hardly take his eyes off her. That Jenny woman was something, all right. Bold, brash, and as subtle as a grizzly with a sore backside. Even the wind knew not to mess with her, the air as still as an old battlefield.
She turned to scold one of her charges, who had done nothing but gripe since disembarking. “Hush up, Mary Lou. You haven’t stopped complaining since we left Haswell. How do you expect me to find you a husband when you never stop talking?”
Hank scratched his whiskered chin and inched his way down the warped wooden steps to make sure he’d heard right. Did she say
The girl called Mary Lou pushed out her lips in a childish pout, blew a wisp of blonde hair away from her face, and fanned herself furiously. “You think you’re going to find me a husband in this awful town?” She looked around with obvious distaste.
“Absolutely.” Jenny lifted her chin, her eyes bright with determination. “By the time I’m finished with this town, both of you will have kind and loving husbands.”
As the full implication of what the Jenny woman said took hold, his eyes nearly popped out of his head. It was no secret that from the day they were born, womenfolk devoted themselves to landing husbands. But never had he heard it stated so boldly. And when did the female population start searching for husbands in packs?
That’s when it hit him like a ton of spit. Only one conclusion could be drawn from such a flagrant female presence: the town was under siege.
Jenny gave her younger sisters a warning look. She was in no mood for their complaints. She was hot and tired, and every bone in her body ached from the journey.
Traveling to Rocky Creek had been a nightmare. The stagecoach had broken down not once but twice. The driver blamed Jenny’s unprecedented amount of baggage for their troubles, but she knew better. It was his reckless driving that caused the axle to break and the wheel to fall off. If only she’d used a little more tact in saying so. Maybe then they wouldn’t have had to sit on the side of the road for three days waiting for another stage while he pouted.
Mary Lou heaved an unladylike sigh. “This has got to be the sorriest-looking town I’ve ever set eyes on.”
“Watch what you say,” Jenny scolded. “Any man hearing you carry on so is likely to take off in the other direction.” She hiked up her skirts just above her ankles. “And Brenda, for goodness’ sake. What are you eating now?”
Brenda was almost twice as wide as Jenny. “Nothing. You laced up my corset so tight I
eat. I can’t even breathe. You didn’t lace up Mary Lou’s corset this tight.”
Mary Lou gave her head a jaunty toss. “That’s because I come by my figure
“You don’t have to act so superior,” Brenda said, straightening her shawl and scowling at Mary Lou. “Especially since you are wearing—”
“Oh, hush up,” Mary Lou said irritably.
Feeling sorry for Brenda, Jenny gave her youngest sister’s cheek a loving pat. Brenda loved to eat and it showed, no matter how tightly Jenny laced her corset. Poor Brenda had been so nervous about making this trip and the prospect of landing a husband, she had practically eaten nonstop during the planning stages and now had a double chin to show for it.
“Stand proud, my dear sister. You are blessed with a loving, generous nature and a sweet disposition,” Jenny said.
“What good is that?” Brenda patted the dark sausage curls that bounced beneath her hat. “Men don’t care a fiddle about dispositions.”
“Oh, they’ll care. I’ll make sure that they do,” Jenny said with a determined nod. She’d planned this trip with meticulous care, leaving nothing to chance. If necessary, she would use every last penny from the sale of the family farm to procure husbands for her sisters and secure their futures. Nothing or no one would be allowed to stand in her way.
“Maybe you’ll find a husband too,” Brenda said softly.
Mary Lou shook her head. “Jenny’s too independent to get married. Even Father said so. Besides, she’s too old.”
“She’s only twenty-two,” Brenda argued. “That’s only old if you’re a cow.”
“I don’t need a husband,” Jenny said, giving her sisters a stern look. “I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Now, come along. We have work to do before I can start interviewing the men of this town.”
Satisfied that the last of the luggage had been hauled down from the stagecoach, she handed the harried driver a coin, though the fool man didn’t deserve a pittance. Her parasol tucked beneath her arm, she clapped her hands twice. With quick, efficient steps, she herded the two younger women toward the double doors of the hotel, issuing orders all the way.
“Stand up tall. Head high. Take little steps. And whatever you do, act like ladies . . .”
At first, Marshal Rhett Armstrong couldn’t make heads or tails out of Hank’s ranting and ravings. The marshal lifted his booted feet from his desk and sat forward.
Had he heard right? Did Hank say something about the town being under siege?
“I’m a-tellin’ ya, Marshal, we got ourselves a peck o’ trouble.”