***Special thanks to Jon Wooten of Charisma House for sending me a review copy.***
Martha Rogers is the author of Becoming Lucy; Morning for Dove; Finding Becky; Caroline’s Choice; Not on the Menu, a part of a novella collection with DiAnn Mills, Janice Thompson, and Kathleen Y’Barbo; and River Walk Christmas, a novella collection with Beth Goddard, Lynette Sowell, and Kathleen Y’Barbo. A former schoolteacher and English instructor, she has a master’s degree in education and lives with her husband in Houston, Texas.
Until he meets Abigail.
Single, educated, and looking for a new start, Abigail Monroe decides to join her brother and his wife in Portersville, Texas. Near her twenty-fifth birthday and without a suitor, she fears she will become a spinster if she stays in Briar Ridge, Connecticut.
A sprained ankle sends Abigail to the new doctor in town, Elliot Jensen. He is smitten, but tragedy in his past has left him bitter, guilt ridden, and afraid to fall in love again.
When the town’s deputy sheriff rescues Abigail after a robbery, Elliot’s feelings for her get stronger. He is jealous of the attention Abigail is getting, but he fears he can’t compete with the handsome deputy sheriff and his heroic deeds.
Has he waited too long to share his feelings for her? Or will Christmas bring them both the gift they seek?
Set in the late 1800s, the Seasons of the Heart series follows the lives of four women and their families, weaving together their stories of faith, life, and love as they bond in friendship only God could orchestrate.
Porterfield, Texas, 1890
Porterfield, next stop in ten minutes.” The conductor’s announcement sent the butterflies to dancing again in Abigail Monroe’s stomach. Ever since they entered the state of Texas, her mind had flitted from one thing to the next in a series of images that blurred one into the other. What she remembered from her visit last spring had been enough to give her the desire to return as a permanent resident.
All around her passengers began gathering their belongings and preparing to leave the train. Mrs. Mabel Newton, who had accompanied her on the trip, adjusted her hat and picked up her handbag. “Well, your adventure will begin shortly.”
Abigail grinned at the elderly woman. If it had not been for Rachel’s aunt’s desire to come west to visit her daughter, this trip may have been delayed indefinitely. “Thank you so much for coming with me, Aunt Mabel. You know how Father worried and didn’t want me to travel alone.” Abigail had fallen into calling the woman “Aunt Mabel” due to her close friendship with Rachel.
“And well he should have been. It isn’t safe for a young woman of your standing to be crossing the country by train without an escort.” She tilted her head toward Abigail, and the feathers on the black hat covering her gray hair quivered with the movement.
Her parents had at first refused to even consider such a move for their only daughter, but as they began to realize that she was almost twenty-two years of age, their objections lessened.
They had been in Porterfield a few months earlier for the wedding of Daniel, Abigail’s brother who came to Porterfield a year ago as the town’s only attorney. Now he served as county attorney and prosecutor. When Mabel Newton had said she wanted to visit her daughter and niece, Father had finally agreed to let Abigail go.
Another factor in her decision to leave Briar Ridge had been Rachel Reed, her very best friend since childhood. Rachel’s husband, Nathan, had taken Daniel’s place as an attorney for the citizens of Porterfield, and now they too lived in the Texas town. As far as Abigail was concerned, God had orchestrated a great symphony of opportunities, and she had seized the score to become a part of the music.
“Aunt Mabel, do you think my plan for establishing a library is a sound one? Nathan and Daniel have found a building they think is suitable and will negotiate the purchase of it if I approve.” “Every town needs a library whether they know it or not. Your brother and Nathan have good judgment, so the place must be about perfect.”
A snicker escaped Abigail’s throat. Daniel had always been her protector, and if the building suited him, it most definitely would suit her. She’d been so angry with him for leaving her behind in Briar Ridge last year. Of course he thought it was because she’d miss him, but it was really because she’d been jealous of his new adventure.
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you and that young Wentworth. He seemed very interested in you when you and Rachel were in Boston.”
Abigail had been interested too at first, but when she realized what all would be expected of her as the wife of a Wentworth, her interest cooled, and so had his. Now she had this new adventure ahead of her.
“It worked out for the best, but life became so dull in Briar Ridge without Rachel or Daniel that I could hardly bear it. I’d grown tired of entertaining with Mother and taking part on church committees. I want to do something on my own for a change.”
“I see. So the fact that Porterfield has an overabundance of single men of all ages didn’t have anything to do with your decision.” Aunt Mabel’s blue eyes sparkled with merriment.
Abigail’s cheeks filled with heat. She truly wasn’t interested in finding a husband anytime soon, even if other people thought so. The train whistle screeched through the early
afternoon air. Abigail clutched her handbag and closed her eyes. Please, Lord. Don’t let this be a mistake. Help me to do the things I want to do for Porterfield with books and accept whatever else You have planned for me.
The train stopped with a jolt that sent her forward with a lurch. She assisted Aunt Mabel with her bag then followed the older woman down the aisle. Dozens of people lined the platform waving as the train emptied itself of its load of passengers.
As she stepped from the train car, Abigail scanned the crowd, and her heart leaped with joy when she spotted Rachel.
Rachel rushed forward and grabbed Abigail. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re finally here. I thought the last three months would never end.” Then she turned to hug her aunt. “I’m glad you’re here too. With Seth, Sarah, Abigail, and you, I won’t feel at all lonesome, not that I could the way the Muldoon clan has taken us in.”
“When I met them at Daniel’s wedding, I knew they would make all of you feel right at home. I’m anxious to talk with Mrs. Sullivan again.” Abigail had been impressed with the boardinghouse and looked forward to living there.
“You’ll get to see her soon enough. She’s waiting for you and has your room all ready. The Muldoons are having us all for dinner at the ranch tonight.”
That meant a quick study of the members of the Muldoon family would be in order before the trip out there. She hugged Rachel again and noted the glow in her eyes and face. “You must really be happy here with Nathan.”
Before she could answer, Aunt Mabel stepped back and eyed Rachel. “My dear, are you in the family way?”
Heat flooded Rachel’s cheeks, and she grinned. “Yes, I am, and so is . . . “ She clapped her hand over her mouth. “Oh, I almost slipped. She wants to tell everyone herself at dinner.”
Abigail ran through the list of possibilities. Kate? Erin? Sarah again? Whoever it was, the baby would be welcomed by many loving aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Arms wrapped around her shoulders from the back, and she craned her neck to see who it could be. “Daniel!” She turned and hugged her brother. “Isn’t this exciting? I’m here at last. We had a delightful train trip, and I can’t wait to see your new house. And where’s Kate?”
“Hey, slow down, little sister. No need to get it all out at once, but to answer your question, Doc Jensen and Elliot had an emergency at the infirmary, so she’s there. She said she’d meet us wherever we were when she finished.”
“I believe Aunt Mabel will be staying with Sarah and Donavan. At least that’s what she plans on. Mrs. Sullivan said she has a room for me at the boardinghouse, so that’s where I’m headed.”
Daniel frowned and peered at her. “But Kate is hoping you’ll live with us.”
“Oh, Daniel, you two are newly married. Besides, I’d rather be closer to town so I can take care of the library.” Kate and Daniel didn’t live far from town, but her staying at the boardinghouse would be less of an intrusion on their new marriage.
They headed toward the cart where the baggage had been unloaded. Aunt Mabel busied herself with telling Rachel all about the trip cross-country. Abigail gazed at the town beyond the depot. Porterfield, Texas, would be her home now, and it looked just as friendly and nice as it had when she’d been here in the spring. A little more primitive than Briar Ridge, it still had all the stores and businesses one could need, including a delightful bakery.
Daniel heaved down a trunk and headed to his surrey with it. Abigail walked along beside him and noted how the men stopped to stare. Her cheeks filled with heat. She may as well be on display in a store window.
“I didn’t realize . . . never mind.” She grinned and hopstepped to keep up with her brother.
He pushed the trunk onto the floor behind the front seat.
“By the way, the building Nathan and I have in mind for you is across the street from the infirmary. It’s where the land offices were until the new courthouse opened. Now it’s vacant, and it’s just about the size you’ll need for the library.”
“I’m sure it will be fine if you and Nathan think so.” She shook her head and giggled as they headed back for more of her things. “I still can’t believe he and Rachel moved away from Connecticut. I always figured that when they did move, it would be to North Carolina, his home.”
Another man had joined the group and helped unload Aunt Mabel’s bags. She recognized him as one of Kate’s older brothers she had met at the wedding. What was his name? Oh, yes, Cory, the lawman and only single male in the Muldoon family, as well as one of the most handsome men Abigail had ever met.
Daniel grabbed her arm and took her over to greet him. “You remember Cory, one of Kate’s brothers.”
Abigail smiled and extended her hand. “I certainly do. You and your brothers were quite the pranksters at the wedding.”
Red tinged Cory’s well-tanned face. His eyes, more green than blue, sparkled with humor. He pushed his white Stetson back on his head, revealing sandy red curls on his forehead, much like her brother’s dark ones. “Guilty as charged, but we had to make up for not doing anything at Erin’s. Didn’t want to play tricks on the reverend.”
Getting to know the Muldoon family would be fun, but getting to know Cory might be even more so. Perhaps she should reconsider her decision not to become involved with any of the eligible young men in Porterfield.
Elliot finished the stitches to close the wound on the balding head of Cyrus Fuller. He’d tripped coming out of the bank and fell, cutting his head on the edge of the boardwalk. Elliot used five stitches to close it. “There, now, Mr. Fuller. You’ll be right as rain. Come back to see me in a few days and let me check on the stitches. Don’t get it wet for a while.”
He pushed back his rolling stool and picked up a bottle. “If you experience any pain, take a few drops of this and it should be all right, but don’t take more than a few drops. Understand?”
The bank teller nodded and took the bottle. “I do, and I won’t take it unless I really need it.” He stood and grasped the edge of the bed for support.
Kate Monroe picked up the tray with the suturing supplies and equipment. “Aunt Mae will make certain you’re comfortable, Mr. Fuller. She’ll take good care of you.”
The man’s face, including his bald head fringed in gray, turned a bright red. “I’m sure she will, but I don’t want her to go to any trouble.”
Kate laughed. “It won’t be any trouble. You know that.”
Elliot turned to put the bandages back in the cabinet to hide his smile. Everyone in town knew Cyrus Fuller was sweet on Aunt Mae, and she didn’t spurn his attention either. This was one patient he wouldn’t have to worry about.
He walked with Mr. Fuller to the front door of the infirmary just to make sure the man was steady on his feet. At the door Cyrus shook Elliot’s hand. “Can’t thank you enough, Doctor Jensen. You did a fine job, and it hardly hurts at all. Tell your uncle I said hello.” He lifted his hat to set it on his head, felt the stitches, and promptly put his hand down, still holding the hat.
Mr. Fuller took off in the direction of the boardinghouse, a few blocks down the street. Elliot continued to observe the man as he made his way home. Satisfied that he was all right, Elliot turned to walk back inside when he spotted Daniel in a buggy with a young woman beside him. Her golden brown hair peeked from beneath a black hat trimmed with yellow flowers, which matched the yellow dress she wore. She shifted her gaze toward him and locked with his. Something inside Elliot clicked, and a feeling he hadn’t experienced in a long time came over him.
Elliot looked away and forced the emotion back into the deep recesses of his soul. He’d never let those feelings back into his life. They hurt too much.
A voice beside him caused him to blink his eyes and turn. “What did you say?”
Kate stood beside him. “I said that’s Abigail, Daniel’s sister. She was at his wedding, and she’s come to live here in Porterfield. Remember I told you about her coming to set up a library for the town?”
“I remember.” But he never expected her to be so pretty. He cleared his throat and hurried back into the infirmary. He needed to clean up the room where they’d just worked on Mr. Fuller, and it would help him forget the girl in yellow.
Kate’s voice followed him. “If you don’t have anything else for me, I’m going to run down to Aunt Mae’s and meet up with Daniel and Abigail. I’ll be there if you need me.”
He waved her out. Kate was a good assistant. He and his uncle had come to depend on her for so many things at the infirmary. Doc should be back shortly, that is if everything went well at the Blalocks’ place. Mrs. Blalock didn’t usually have trouble with her deliveries, and as this was the fifth one, no problems were anticipated today.
Cleaning up didn’t take long, and when he’d finished, Elliot went to the desk to fill out a report for Cyrus Fuller’s medical file. The image of Abigail Monroe swam before his eyes. Porterfield sadly lacked young women of marrying age, so Elliot had no trouble staying away from what social life existed in town. He’d left Ohio with the vow that he’d never become involved with a young woman again. Everything had been fine until today when that little spark had jumped in his chest.
“I hear Cyrus Fuller had an accident. Get him all taken care of?”
Elliot jumped and dropped his pen. He greeted his uncle. “When did you come in? Yes, he’s fine. How did things go at the Blalocks?”
His uncle grinned and set his bag on the desk. “Just like it should. This little boy decided to take longer than necessary, but he’s good and healthy.” He removed his hat and hung it on a hook then removed his coat. “I saw Daniel Monroe with a pretty young woman down at Mae’s. Must be his sister from back east.”
“It is. Kate was here to help with Cyrus, and then she left to go meet them.”
“She’s a pretty little thing from what I remember of last spring. It’ll be nice to have a young woman like her around her for a change. You, Cory, and Philip Dawes are about the most eligible young men in town, and one of you ought to set your sights on her.”
“There’s a lot of men over at the sawmill, and many more on the ranches. That’s why Frank Cahoon and Allen Dawes sent off for those brides. Remember?” So many other men in town would take an interest in Abigail and keep her busy. He’d managed to stay clear of any kind of relationship so far, and that was just the way he wanted it. Never again did he want to feel the pain he’d experienced in Cleveland.