She grew up in riches; he used to wear rags. How can they bridge the gap and realize that this unconventional love is all they need?
Lucile is a British noblewoman who has recently lost her dear mother. Devastated by this loss, she follows her father’s letters and travels to America. She hasn’t spoken to him in years, but it’s her only chance of survival. However, life in the West is so much different, and his ranch in Arkansas is in danger. Meeting an audacious westerner, Gordon, will add to her troubles, awakening a desire for love. How can she let go of her resentment towards her father and open her heart?
Gordon is a self-made man who works for the mayor. Being an orphan and poor when he was younger, he’s determined to become successful and feel accepted by the community. When he meets the beautiful Lucile though, his world is turned upside down. He never expected he’d fall in love with an aristocrat. She’s also the daughter of the man he’s supposed to sabotage. Is there a way he can protect the love of his life and his high status on the mayor’s side?
Lucile and Gordon come from different worlds, but this unconventional love is all they need. How can they defend their newfound feelings when Gordon’s betrayal might steal their happiness away?
Lucile’s heart pounded in her chest as she raced along the crooked creek through the dense forest. “Please, please, don’t let it be too late.”
Heavy gray clouds rumbled overhead as she drove her horse onward. Low hanging branches made the going slower than she would have liked as she navigated the treacherous terrain. The wind kicked up thrashing the leaves about the canopy. The birds perched in the trees all cried out as they took flight.
Fear seeped up from the depths of her being as she looked up to the canopy. Through the leaves and branches, Lucile spied the intimidating clouds. Each minute dragged on as the sky darkened over her head. She knew a storm was coming and by the angry crack of lightning flashing overhead, she couldn’t help but feel time was running out.
“Lucile, we can’t keep going.” The rumble of thunder drowned Gordon’s voice as he rode alongside her plunging through the brush.
“Once we get clear of this, it will be open terrain. We’ll be able to make up the time.”
“Not if that storm hits first,” Gordon answered.
“Then pray that it holds a bit longer,” Lucile answered as the two raced against the brewing storm. Large drops of water crashed against their faces as they broke free of the confining forest.
Suddenly, the trees opened revealing the lush plains. Lucile couldn’t help but gasp as the tall yellow grass whipped violently about reminding her of the sea on the open ocean. She had never seen the sky look so angry or so menacing before. The open plains that stretched out before them only added to her hope that they could reach Preston in time.
“We should seek shelter,” Gordon said.
Lucile shook her head and drove her heel into the horse’s flank. “No. We have to keep going.” Lucile’s shouts were masked by the wind whipping about her causing her hair to fly about her face. The horses drove on through the thick wild country between Arkansas and Tennessee.
“Lucile.” Gordon’s panic voice caught her by surprise. She twisted her head to glance over her shoulder. The clouds twisted and circled about over their heads. “It’s too dangerous!”
“No,” she shouted back as her ears popped under the pressure of the atmosphere dropping. Her heart pounded and skipped about in her chest as she kept her eyes locked on the sky. Every fiber in her body screamed at her to stop, but the open plains gave her no place to hole up. She knew right then and there that their only hope was to charge onward and pray the tornado passed.
Wind and rain swirled about her in wild torrents making it complicated to see the way ahead. There was no clear sight, no trail to follow, only a dark gray sky that blended into the horizon. Another shot of brilliant light flashed before them and she gasped as the funnel lowered from the heavens to the ground. The sound reminded her of a train plowing through the fields.
Lucile’s horse raced harder than ever. All Lucile could do was hold on and trust the steed to lead them through the storm. Glancing over her shoulder she could barely make out Gordon as he rode alongside her. Lucile knew there was more than their lives at stake now. If she couldn’t get to Tennessee in time, her life as well as her father’s would be in vain.
“There!” Lucile’s eyes shifted to the direction of Gordon’s outstretched hand. Her eyes widened with fright. A huge wall of clouds spun violently about the sky and pulled towards the earth. The size of the tornado struck terror in her as the wind drowned out her scream. The finger of the tornado plowed up the open field before them.
Turning her attention to the small mound of dirt, she knew it would provide little to no reprieve from the column of twisting clouds behind them. Lucile could feel the wind pulling her back. She felt as if they were running in place and would soon lose the battle. Releasing the reins, Lucile allowed her horse to take charge.
“What are you doing?” Gordon cried. Lucile noticed the panic and terror flashing through Gordon’s eyes as the lightning crackled above them. The reins whipped around the horse’s neck. Restraining from grabbing them, Lucile fought against her instinct to take control. She knew if there was any time to let go, now was the moment.
“Let go,” Lucile called back to him as she rode past him. “The horses will get us out of this.”
“You have lost your mind,” Gordon answered as Lucile’s horse darted to the left. The swift shift in direction nearly threw Lucile from the steed. She clamped her legs tightly around the horse’s body and tucked her body closer to the horse as she grabbed the horn of the saddle for support.
“Maybe,” she called back as adrenaline coursed through her. Desperate times called for desperate measures and she was out of options. She was going to get to Tennessee if it was the last thing she did. She closed her eyes and prayed as she waited for the tornado to swallow them whole.
Please God, don’t take us. Not now. Not this way. We just found each other. So help me, if he goes, I go.
Three Months Ago
Lucile tucked away the last of her belongings into her suitcase. She pulled in a long deep breath and was stunned by the air’s scent. There was a musky, earthy smell that flowed through her nose and tingled her senses. A comfort about it that nearly reminded her of the home she left behind.
Although she, like other passengers had called the ship home for the last three months, she was grateful to finally disembark. The sea had not been kind to them. Between the high waves that rocked the boat and the dreadful weather that postponed their arrival by weeks, she found herself overcome with emotions to be leaving. It was as if she has survived a great ordeal and come out all the better for it.
Taking her belongings, she filed out of the belly of the ship. She glanced around to take in the wooden interior one last time. The tight bunk beds that lined the belly of the ship that were merely separated by a thin wooden piece wouldn’t be missed. Nor would she miss the moldy scent of the rotting wood that she prayed wouldn’t break.
The echoes of the water slapping against the hull that kept her awake long into the night wasn’t something she was looking forward to experiencing again. The droning sound caused her heart to flutter and she was grateful as they reached dry land. Her eyes squinted as her hand rose to her brow to shield her eyes from the powerful light of the sun. Through the fog, she could barely see the port. The sound of seagulls flying overhead gave her hope that soon she wouldn’t be swaying to the rhythm of the ocean, but on steady ground once more.
The line moved painstakingly until her hands grasped the railing of the gangway. The bustle of the Alexandria harbor was electrifying. Although she knew she had just traveled across the Atlantic, Virginia didn’t seem all that different from the port she had left. Sure, the buildings were made out of red rusty bricks than of smooth gray stone, but the people were dressed the same with high hats, flowing skirts, and even a few smudged faces of the poor. She glanced about the port at all the smiling faces. There were people embracing, orders from the crew to unload cargo, and fishermen all about her.
Moving carefully down the ramp, she clasped her handbag. The air was saltier than it had been at sea presumably from the fish laid out on the dock. Lucile couldn’t help but smile as her feet finally touched the solid ground.
“Move along, Miss,” a passenger said trying to push her aside to get to shore.
“Oh, pardon me,” Lucile said moving to the side allowing the stranger to rush by her. She watched as the man rushed into the open arms of a ginger haired woman with three strapping boys clinging to their mother’s leg. The woman had tears streaming down her face as she pressed her lips to the man’s face over and over again.
“Anything to declare?”
Lucile turned her head from the happy reunion and stared at the stocky man with a clipboard in one hand and pencil in the other. His eyes drifted down her and a prick of insecurity jabbed at her. Lucile glanced down to her dirty skirt.
“Oh my,” she whispered realizing the state she appeared in. Her hair no doubt was dirty from the salty air. Her lilac-colored petty coat looked more like it was rusty blue and wrinkled. In the back of her mind she could hear her mother’s voice scolding her for looking so disheveled.
“Anything to declare?” the man asked again as Lucile ran her hand down her dress in an attempt to look presentable.
“No,” she said drawing her eyes back to the man with a faint smile. He nodded once, put a check mark on his clipboard, and moved on to the other passengers.
Exhaling, Lucile looked around. To her astonishment, the harbor wasn’t much different than the one she left out of. Big, stocky men were hauling their catch up to the dock, and several people were rushing up and down the dock with their hands raised calling out names. Within the depths of her heart, she wished there was someone to greet her in this foreign land. But to her dismay, she knew there would be no happy greetings for her.
Throwing her shoulders back and lifting her chin up, Lucile pushed her way through the mass of nameless faces. Some were clean shaven and had a regal scene about them. Others looked as if they didn’t even know that water could be used to clean, as their faces were dingy, caked with a thin layer of dirt.
Shoulder to shoulder she moved carefully through the crowd as she clutched her only possession: a small tote bag that was all that remained of her livelihood. How strange it was for her to realize no more than three short months ago, she was living in a fine estate with servants to help her dress. And now, she was nearly penniless, with only a handful of garments that where stuffed into the bag she clung desperately to.
Finally reaching the end of the dock, she stopped to stare at the large brick building towering over the harbor. In the distance she heard the chime of bells over the ruckus of the port. A sound that soothed her weary bones.
That cannot be the time.
Her eyes flickered about the harbor searching for the source of the chimes as they stopped at nine. In the distance a large clock struck fear into her very being. Lucile quickened her pace as she realized the boat had docked later than expected.
“Excuse me,” she said reaching for the man closest to her. The man turned slowly and stared at her. His eyes narrowed as if half expecting to find a beggar of sorts. The disdain that lingered over his gaze softened as Lucile nodded politely to him. “I’m looking for the train station. Do you happen to know where it might be located?”
“First time to the Americas?” the man asked as he cocked his head and looked her over once. Lucile could feel her nerves rattling as she knew the state in which she looked. It was appalling to be so dirty, but there was nothing Lucile could do about it at the moment.
“Is it obvious?” Lucile asked tucking a wild strand of hair behind her ear.
“A little,” the man said with a smirk. “As for the station, you’ll need to make a left at Callahan Drive. It will be a small wooden building on the left. Just look for the tracks.”
“Thank you,” Lucile said smiling. She dipped and took her leave swiftly with her bag in tow. Her heart raced as she moved swiftly down the row of wooden buildings scanning the street names as she went. Every minute that passed racked her nerves. There wasn’t enough time to make mistakes now. As the row of two-story brick buildings with wrought iron balconies that seemed as if the same person built them continued, Lucile couldn’t help but wonder if she took the wrong street. With no visible landmarks to guide her, she began to panic.
Rushing along the boardwalk, Lucile paused at the intersection and exhaled as she saw the name of the street. With no time to spare, she moved swiftly towards her destination. Her heels clacked and echoed on the cobblestone as she rushed towards the intersection.
“Thank goodness,” she gasped as she crossed the street and hurried into the wooden building. A long line snaked out from the ticket counter. She dropped her shoulders as she saw the clock above the counter.
Lucile’s tried not to tap her foot impatiently as she fiddled with the loose strand of her tattered black wool gloves. Slowly the line moved. Her eyes flickered to the clock every few seconds feeling the time ticking down. After several agonizing minutes, Lucile stepped up to the ticket counter. Iron rods separated her from the man behind the counter.
“Where to?” the thin man with bifocals asked without looking up at her.
“Arkansas if you please,” Lucile said reaching into her pocket to reveal a small pouch. The coins barely jingled as she sat the small bag on the counter causing her heart to pound. She could only pray she had enough to get to her destination.
“City?” the man said. Lucile’s heart sank as she pulled open the small purse and glimpsed inside.
“Hartstone,” Lucile answered swallowing hard. The man behind the counter looked up at her from his ledger with an arched eyebrow.
“Little Rock it is then,” he said as he rammed a stamp down hard onto a piece of paper.
“Twenty dollars please,” the man said.
Lucile swallowed the lump forming in her throat.
So much? I pray I have enough to get to my father’s ranch. I have to be frugal with this or I’ll be stranded.
She stared at the money in her purse as reality struck her. The trip to America had taken a larger toll on her finances than she had originally thought. Slowly, she pulled out the bank notes and sat it on the counter, counting slowly as the amount she was left with sank in. Staring at the coins that remained, she realized there was barely enough for the rest of her journey. Lucile swallowed hard contemplating on handing over the bank notes, but what else could she do? She had come so far already. Hesitant, she pushed the four notes to the teller.
A large group of children rushed through the line laughing and playing catching her attention.
“Stop them,” a man yelled pointing to the children weaving between the other patrons at the station.
“Train leaves in ten minutes, Miss,” the man behind the counter said as he slid the bank note to his drawer and pushed her ticket to her.
“Next,” he said pushing the ticket to Lucile. She quickly grabbed the ticket. Turning, she stumbled back and nearly tripped over a small girl behind her. The child looked up at her with big saucer eyes.
“Forgive me,” Lucile said catching herself. The child’s dolphin grin stunned her despite her dingy face. Laughing, the child scrambled away from her and disappeared into the crowd.
Sucking in a deep breath moved away from the counter as she scanned her ticket. Her eyes shifted to the clock above the counter. With ten minutes till ten, she bobbed and weaved through the crowd to the stalls. She pushed through the double doors and walked out onto the platform. Her eyes widened as she realized the train was much bigger than she expected. The long passenger cars stunned her. Smoke circled and blended into the fog that drifted through the city.
The machine was stunning as a long whistle blasted. Without anyone to say goodbye to, Lucile climbed the steps and embarked.
“Ticket please,” a heavy man in a navy-blue suit and a flat top hat smiled as she passed. Handing him the ticket he nodded and handed it back to her.
“You may take any seat that is available,” he said as he turned his attention to the next person climbing the stairs. Lucile made her way through the narrow walkway and pulled open the doors to the compartment. Her heart raced as she stopped to take in the exquisite seats lined with velvet. The outer wooden seats had been carved with flowers and vines that wound around the arm rest and back.
She glanced at her ticket to find her seat location then to the number posted at the top of the door. Realizing she was in the wrong car, she continued down the aisle of seats.
“Excuse me,” she said moving through the crowd of people as they settled into their seats.
Lucile continued forward and walked into the next car where there the seats were filling up fast. For a moment she wondered if there would be any seats left for her. Although she knew the train wouldn’t overfill the cars, after being cramped on the ship for so long, she secretly hoped for a bit of space.
Finally, she reached the last car where there was hardly anyone seated. She walked to the last seat and plopped down into the velvety seat. The cushion was firm, but comfortable and far better than the accommodations she had on the ship. At least here, she could stretch her legs out without fear of tripping another passenger.
With her legs aching, and feeling weary, she settled down and exhaled. A second blast from the train whistle caused her to turn to the window. Outside she noticed all sorts of people climbing on board but even more left behind. The people waving goodbye reminded her of her life back in London.
If only my friends could see me now.
Lucile cut her thought short as she glanced to her dingy skirt.
Then again, I’m glad they aren’t here. I wondered what they would think of me now and in this state? Would they turn their noses up at me?
Lucile paused and shook her head. Of course not. I would never allow myself to be in this state in front of them.
She knew that if even one of them would have told her where she would find herself now, she’d laugh. Never in a million years did she think she would be in America, let alone searching for her father. Yet, here she was, on a train headed into the heart of America.
Lucile’s heart sank as she tucked her bag under her feet. With nowhere to go, and nothing to do, Lucile allowed her mind to wander back to her home in London. Tears swelled in her eyes as her mother’s face came into her mind.
I miss you.
It had only been three months since the accident that was the catalyst for her new life. The memory of it all played back in her mind forcing Lucile to relive the horrible event. Closing her eyes, she could clearly see the lilies she was arranging in the vase in the sitting room of her mother’s estate. They were kissed with pink in the center and the green stems were vibrant against the white pedals.
The sound of the bell ringing startled her as she turned to watch Rebecca, the maid rushing to answer the door. Two men stepped into the house.
“Rebecca, is Edmund here to call again?” Lucile asked turning her head to the archway half expecting to see Rebecca’s blush. Instead, the maid came with wide, wild eyes. Rebecca shook her head.
“Miss,” Rebecca said. “I tink ye should come in here.”
“Oh what is it now?” Lucile asked leaving the flowers disheveled on the table. Straightening her blue pinstriped skirt and rolling her shoulders back as she checked the lace ruffles around her neck, Lucile moved to the entrance way. The two officers in black stood before the stained-glass front door that caught the afternoon light and flooded the entrance way with a cascade of colors that always stole Lucile’s breath. But even the light pouring through couldn’t cleanse the officer’s grave expressions.
“Miss Lucile Christensen?” the younger of the two asked. Instantly, Lucile’s blood ran cold as the life drained from her.
“Yes?” Lucile answered trying hard to push aside all dreadful thoughts that began stabbing her mind.
“Are ye the daughter of Elizabeth Christensen?”
“I am,” Lucile said stepping closer to them.
“We’re sorry to inform ye, Miss, but there’s been an accident,” the officer said removing his hat. His eyes shifted to the officer standing beside him before drawing them back to Lucile.
“Out with it then,” Lucile said trying to hold onto the sliver of hope that it wasn’t too terrible. “What has happened?”
“Mrs. Christensen has been in a terrible accident,” the younger officer said. Lucile’s blood ran cold. She felt as if she had been struck with a curse to turn her to stone. Nothing worked, not her arms or legs. All she could feel was the weight of the world crushing her. For a moment she thought she had been plowed over.
“Ye alright, Miss?” One of the officers asked, but Lucile couldn’t tell which one. Their voice sounded so far away from her that she couldn’t bring her senses back. After a long pause, their words finally took to her like a hook. Clearing her throat, she turned her head slowly to the maid. Rebecca’s eyes were red and swelling with tears.
“Rebecca, fetch my coat,” Lucile said before turning her attention to the officer’s. “What hospital is my mother at?”
“I’m afraid, Miss, a doctor is beyond her care now.”
The cold wet tears streaking down Lucile’s face snapped her from the memory as the third whistle blasted. Lucile opened her eyes and tried to focus on the smiling faces outside on the train platform waving goodbye. Quickly, she brushed the tears from her cheeks and cleared her throat. Pushing aside her emotions, she focused on the reason she was on the train heading out to Arkansas.
Well, father, it looks like you are my last hope.
A prick of doubt stabbed her like a needle. Panic washed over her like a flooded levy pouring in more and more doubt until she began to tremble. Her mind filled with thoughts that caused her plan to confront her father to crumble before her. Lucile knew this whole trip would be for not if her doubts turned out to be true. After all, she hadn’t heard or seen her father in three years. Yet, she put her faith in the idea that he would be alive in America.
But what if you are not alive anymore? What if, like mother, you are dead?
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