She is a free-spirited woman that isn’t afraid to speak her mind. He is a tough rancher who is determined to get what he wants in life. Will they be able to come to terms and let their hearts speak for them?
Rosa is a proud American belle who has a void in her heart after her mother’s tragic death. She can’t believe her eyes when the ranch next to her is run by Edgar, her childhood best friend. He’s turned into a taciturn man though without any manners but she can’t stop falling for him. How can she show him that she knows the way towards his heart?
Edgar grew up in a sheltered environment away from his free life in the West. Getting back to Colorado, makes him understand that this is where he belongs. Getting close to Rosa though is the hardest task of his life so far. They butt heads from the get-go but he just can’t stop admiring her feistiness. How can he finally let go of his fear of not being enough and admit his true feelings to her?
Edgar’s return to the West attracts the attention of a ruthless man who wants Rosa for his own. Are Rosa and Edgar’s passionate bond strong enough to resist evil plans against them?
Sunset Valley, Colorado
Rosa Dawson stretched out her little arm, a white daisy clutched in her palm, as Edgar Hawthorne looked at the flower with a curious squint.
“What is this?” Edgar asked, the noon sun shining bright overhead, balanced out by the cool breeze that blew through the sprawling daisy fields not far from his father’s ranch in the serene and vast expanse known as Sunset Valley.
Rosa smiled, her rosy cheeks reflecting a bashful quality in her expression as she wrung her tiny fingers. “I picked it for you.”
Edgar took the daisy, a hint of smile creeping into the corners of his mouth. “There are so many daisies here.” He appraised the small flower, rolling it around in his hand. “Why did you pick this one?”
Though Rosa was but a tender six years of age, her time with Edgar, four years her senior, had in turn leant her a precarious and mature demeanor that most children her age did not possess.
Rosa said, “That one is special.”
Edgar laughed. “Why is it special?”
Pointing to the petals on the daisy, Rosa said, “That one has an extra petal. See?”
Edgar saw an additional white blade on the daisy, unique compared to the thousands of daisies surrounding him in the field. “It is special,” he said.
Rosa held up a finger. “Do not lose that! You have to keep it forever.”
“But flowers don’t last forever.”
Shaking her head defiantly, Rosa said, “This one will. It will last forever.”
Edgar took the daisy and stuck it through the buttonhole in his blue cotton shirt. “See?” he said. “I will keep it on me. I’ll make sure I don’t lose it.”
Smiling wide, Rosa said, “Good.”
The breeze picked up. Edgar turned up his nose as he closed his eyes and drew a breath as the scent of blueberries and pie crust filled his senses.
“Rosa!” he said smiling. “Do you smell that?”
A cheerful and wide-eyed look spread across Rosa’s face. She stood up swiftly, her dress blowing in the breeze as she ran as fast as her little feet could carry her back toward the ranch.
“Miss Ditto is baking!” Rosa cried out. “Come on, Edgar!”
Following after her, Edgar ran beside Rosa as they burst through the shrubbery on the outskirts of his father’s ranch, the sun glinting off the snow-capped mountains to the west as they emerged onto a twenty-acre ranch nestled in a bowl-like valley. To those who did not know the Hawthorne clan—though the name was well-known through the town—a first glimpse of the property more than indicated that the family possessed endless means.
A crème-colored, two-story southern-style mansion with smoke billowing out the chimney sat in the center of the property. A barn, positioned a hundred yards to the left of the house with stables beside it, played home to a gaggle of ranchers hired by Edgar’s father, two of them corralling chickens. A pair of horse-handlers hauled out a pair of magnificent, high-priced steeds by the reins. They guided the animals to the fields cordoned off by wooden fencing tracing the entirety of the property for an early morning graze alongside the fleet of cattle that brought in revenue for the Hawthorne’s on the edge of the property. A guest house painted the same colors of the main house sat on the edge of the property, a home for Miss Ditto and Mr. Fredricks, the Hawthorne’s trusted housekeeper and groundskeeper, the two of them working to prepare the noon meal that Mr. Hawthorne, Edgar, Rosa, and Rosa’s father Mack would partake in as soon as the fathers of the two children returned from town.
Rosa and Edgar ran up to the windowsill of the guest house, both of them crouching low as they peeked their little eyes over the top of the ledge, looking into the kitchen.
Miss Ditto, wiping her hands on the apron over her prairie dress, grabbed the freshly baked pie from the wooden cutting board. Her auburn hair was tied back into a bun, a frantic look on her face as she shouted out to Mr. Fredericks to fetch the pepper for the meat she was about to season.
Edgar, lowering his voice to a whisper, held a finger up to his lips. “Stay down. We don’t want her to see us.”
Rosa nodded, biting her lip in anticipation as they crouched below the windowsill.
Miss Ditto, holding the steaming blueberry pie in her hands with a pair of red cooking mitts, rushed over to the sill and placed the pie down. She wiped her hands again on the apron, turning around swiftly and retreating to the next room.
Edgar peeked over the sill. “She’s gone!”
Reaching out her small pink hands with a confident squint, Rosa said, “I’ll take it!”
“Hold on, Rosa—”
A fiery glint was in Rosa’s eyes. “No,” she protested, forever eager and always wanting to win. “I can do it.”
Eyes wide as Rosa touched the sides of the pie, Edgar protested, “No, wait, Rosa! It’s too hot!”
The moment she touched the hot pie, she dropped it. She withdrew her hands, the pie falling from the sill and splattering on the ground, the blueberries and the crust peppering her shoes just as Miss Ditto poked her head back into the kitchen through the doorway.
Hands on her hips, Miss Ditto cried out, “Rosa! Edgar! What in the blazes are you two doing?”
Laughing to the point that it hurt her chest, Edgar grabbed Rosa by the hand and ran away from the sill. They retreated toward the area where the barn resided as Miss Ditto stuck her head out of the window, shook her head, and smiled. She informed Mr. Fredericks that there was a mess outside that needed to be cleaned up. The Hawthorne’s prized Great Dane, Buckley, already having picked up on the scent of the damaged pie, rushed onto the scene and devoured what was left as Miss Ditto went about retrieving the second pie she had baked in anticipation of Edgar and Rosa’s shenanigans.
Edgar and Rosa, still giggling as they rushed past the barn, heard the greetings of the two ranch hands as they headed for the oak tree in the center of the fields. It was a tall and strong symbol of nature, the first thing that Edgar’s father had seen on the property when he first arrived in Sunset Valley two years prior to find a winter home that he and his family could retreat to when they weren’t at their estate back in Essex, England.
Rosa began scaling the oak tree, the twisting branches curling toward the heavens as she climbed the limbs with Edgar following behind her. Rosa very much enjoyed ascending the tall oak any opportunity she could because of the magnificent view it offered of the mountains to the left and the town of Sunset Valley five miles off in the distance.
Seated on the second limb from the top, Rosa sighed as she plopped down and hugged the trunk next to her, resting her head against it as she looked out at the town with wonderous amazement.
Edgar followed suit, seated on the tree branch opposite Rosa, the two saying nothing for a few moments as they looked out at the town and heard the ranch hands breaking in the horses in the field.
“When do you think your father will return?” Rosa asked.
Edgar shrugged. “I’m not sure. He’s always on business.”
Looking concerned, Rosa said, “You’re not going back to England soon, are you?”
“I’m not sure.” Edgar’s gaze connected with Rosa’s. “Hopefully not too soon.”
Rosa sighed. “I wish you could stay all year.”
Knowing that the time to return back to England, whether it was the next day or three weeks after that, was set to come soon, Edgar frowned, and said, “Me too…”
“Edgar?” Rosa said, sounding scared.
Edgar looked up.
“Will you always be my friend?” she asked.
It wasn’t even a question to Edgar. Rosa was the greatest friend, perhaps his only friend, that he had ever had in his short life. With that, he said, “I will always be your friend.”
Holding out her pinky, Rosa said, “Promise?”
Edgar reached out, extending his pinky as he replied, “Promise.”
The two children curled their fingers and locked pinkies, the assurances they made to one another holding more weight in the world than most promises adults tended to make.
Not a word was passed between the two as they awaited the arrival of their fathers. Nothing but the cool breeze blew through, nothing on their minds save for the promises of tomorrow and the certainty that each subsequent day that passed would be just as fulfilling and comprised of joy as the last.
But the following week ended up bringing about a tragedy that changed the course of both of their lives forever.
Many were in attendance for the funeral of Rosa’s mother, Eva. To say that her life had been cut short was a pale statement. The preacher, standing at the head of the wooden casket and flanked on each side by Eva’s mother along with Rosa and her father, Mack, read a passage from the bible clutched between his weathered hands as the sea of black-clad attendants hung their heads and mourned.
“The Lord,” the preacher started, “is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” He closed the bible, held it firmly between his hands. “Though our beloved Eva is gone, let us not forget the beautiful mark she left on those nearest and dearest to her. Today, though we mourn, we take solace in remembering the impact she left on us all, and her memory will be one that warms our hearts when moments of discomfort seem to hold sway…”
The preacher continued on with his tidings, Rosa dabbing away the tears streaming down her face as she continued to play back the memory of watching her mother pass in front of her over and over again. She would never forget that day. She would always remember following her mother in the field, watching as the rattlesnake dashed at her through the tall blades of grass as her mother pushed her aside and out of harm’s way. She would always remember her mother sustaining the bite that was meant for her and being ushered by her mother back to the house as she slowly succumbed to the poison that ended up taking her life just two days later.
Mack, looking down at his daughter, said nothing as he forced a smile and held back the tears he shed in private. He clutched his Rosa’s hand, leaning over, kissing her on the cheek, and telling her everything would be alright as Rosa looked up and saw Edgar standing solemnly with his father on the other side of the casket.
Edgar, the daisy that Rosa had gifted him still pinned in the buttonhole on his black jacket, locked eyes with his friend. He waved at her sheepishly, Rosa returning the wave as the preacher continued on and the caretakers assigned to lower the coffin into the ground stood by and waited for the order to descend her into her final resting place.
It was no more than three days after the funeral that Edgar was informed by his father that they needed to return to Essex. Business needed to be tended to and being that he was always a man on the move, it was not even a discussion as the bags were packed and the orders were given to Miss Ditto and Mr. Fredericks to tend to the grounds until the day came that the Hawthorne’s returned.
Edgar tried in vain to visit Rosa one last time, but each attempt was met by Mack telling Edgar that Rosa was not ready to receive company. Though he was certain he would have the opportunity to spend some time with her, the moment that Edgar’s father informed him their native land was calling them back home, his hopes were shot down.
The train that would take them through the first leg of their journey was an hour away from departing. Edgar, a hand-written note wrapped around a rock with string tying it down, ran to the front porch of Rosa’s home, a one-story, cottage-inspired house in the middle of a small chicken ranch. Breathing heavily, he knocked on the front door several times, but upon receiving no response, he was certain that not a soul was home.
Edgar felt at a loss, his heart heavy as he realized he feared he would never see the face of his friend again. Arms at his sides and fighting the tears that were beginning to well in his eyes, Edgar placed the rock with the note down on the stoop, turned, and headed back to his father’s cattle ranch where the stagecoach waited with doors open for Edgar’s arrival.
Edgar climbed into the stagecoach, looking through the window in the direction of Rosa’s home, and said nothing during the entire journey as he and his father left Sunset Valley with only a question mark serving as the answer to when they would make their return.
The sun was setting in the distance as Rosa arrived with her father back to their ranch. Red and golden hues painted the expanse of sky in the west. A solemn feeling was shared between the two as Rosa walked hand-in-hand with her father toward the porch and Mack set about working with his ranch hand to unload the weeks’ worth of supplies from the cart that he had procured.
Rosa spotted the rock on the porch, looking at it curiously as she approached, leaned down, and picked it up. She pulled the string tying the note to the rock, unfolding the paper it as she read the words that had been penciled on the page:
I will always be your friend.
Now and forever,
Sadness, confusion, and despair coated every inch of Rosa’s heart as she held the note to her chest.
Why would he leave? she thought. Why would he not say goodbye?
Rosa walked into the house, headed slowly toward her room and sat on her bed. Rosa held the straw doll her mother had made for her the day before she passed and said nothing as a single tear fell down her cheek. Her heart weighed heavy, and the sun set in the distance as the voids her in soul vied for something to fill them as the stars began to twinkle in the night sky above.
Seventeen years later…
Rosa walked with her mother hand-in-hand through a field that seemed to stretch on for an endless number of miles. Clouds were rife and billowing overhead. The same breeze she remembered on the days she spent with her long-lost friend, Edgar, was accompanied by a sweet lavender scent, and an abundance of joy and elation as mother and daughter smiled and padded their way through the tall green grass that blew in the wind.
Rosa was an adult now, twenty-three-years of age, though her education and early life experiences would make one think she was much older. Standing beside her mother, one would have thought they were twins. Rosa, a virtual copy of her mother, had the same dark hair hanging down to her shoulders, the same aquamarine eyes, high cheekbones, pink lips, and perpetual tan that came as a result of always working outdoors. Both were tall, and both were dressed in baby blue dresses that flapped in the breeze as they meandered through the fields.
Neither said a word. Both of them simply wandered aimlessly with no final destination in mind, all that was exchanged between the two of them was smiles as they shared the time together and Rosa felt as though it would never end.
Rosa turned her head toward the sky, the sun shining bright as the clouds twisted and morphed into pleasant shapes—but then a gray cloud loomed overhead, overtaking the others and infecting it with a black-tinted hue that left Rosa with a sick and foreboding feeling.
“Mother,” Rosa said, “I think there’s a storm coming…”
Rosa looked ahead, her mother now far off in the distance and no longer clutching onto her hand. In that moment, Rosa knew what was going to happen and ran as fast as she could to catch up with her mother as Eva turned around and her smile melted into a frown.
Reaching out, Rosa shouted, “Mother!” as Eva’s hands dropped to her sides and her body collapsed onto the ground.
Rosa shook her head repeatedly, sweat beading on her brow as she rushed toward where her mother and fallen, and upon arriving, saw that she was nowhere to be seen. Looking around nervously, Rosa saw that the sun was concealed by the grey clouds overhead, thunder clapped in the distance, and darkness settled over the scene.
“Mommy! Mommy, I am so sorry! Mommy, please!” Rosa cried out as she frantically turned in circles, the clouds overhead completely consuming any trace of light as the thunder clapped once more and Rosa was startled awake…
Sitting up in her bed, Rosa panted and heaved. Her sleeping garments clung to her chest from the sweat she had produced. Rosa took a moment to realize she was awakening from a nightmare she experienced on more than one occasion.
Rosa held a hand to her chest. She drew a deep breath, slowing her rapid heartbeat as she swung her legs around the bed and sat up fully. It took a long moment for Rosa to gather her bearings, lighting the lamp on her nightstand and watching the flame grow and deduced it was still the wee hours of the morning based on the lack of light outside her window.
Rosa walked over to her chest of drawers, and carefully grabbed her mother’s light linen robe she now possessed and draped it over her shoulders. She grabbed the lamp from the nightstand, moving quietly through the house so as not to disturb her father as she made her way to the porch.
The hinges squeaked on the door as Rosa pushed it open, she walked out onto the steps, placed the lamp down at her feet, and crossed her arms as she closed her eyes. She drew a slow and methodical breath, reminding herself that it was all just as a dream as several minutes passed until the breeze cooled the perspiration on her body and her adrenaline finally settled.
Once Rosa felt she had gotten back to a place of relative tranquility, she held her head high, walked into the kitchen, and set about preparing the first meal of the day along with a steaming pot of coffee for her and her father. Pushing all thoughts of her mother out of mind, Rosa continued on with her day without mentioning a word of the nightmare she seemed to relive several nights of the week and went about her duties in the diligent and headstrong manner in which she always did.
A plate of bacon and eggs was set out on the plaid-covered linen on the table in the dining room. Rosa lingered near the window in the kitchen, watching the chickens in the coop nearby and taking a moment to sip her coffee before she set about collecting the fresh batch of eggs from outside.
“Good morning, my dear,” Mack said, pulling his suspenders over his shoulders as he approached the dinner table.
“Good morning, Poppa,” Rosa said smiling as he sat down and set about consuming his meal.
“This looks splendid, Rosa,” Mack said. “Thank you.”
Rosa said nothing. She simply blew on her coffee and kept her gaze fixated on the coop out the window.
“Rosa,” Mack said, “are you alright?”
It took Rosa a moment to answer. She was still trying to push away the lingering feelings that came as a result of her nightmare.
Forcing a smile, Rosa said, “Of course, Father.”
She nodded. “Yes, I’m sure.” She placed her coffee down. “I’m going to fetch the eggs from the coop. Are you heading into town today?”
“Yes,” Mack said. “I need to replace the shingles on the roof of the Hawthorne property before the winter months arrive. I won’t be long. Do you need anything while I am there?”
“No, Poppa. Not that I know of.”
“I can tell when you’re thinking about something, and you are clearly thinking about something,” Mack said as he rested his palms on her shoulders.
Rosa turned and looked at her father. Yes, she was thinking of something—but she knew telling him would simply bring up sour thoughts of the past.
“I’m just having a hard time waking up this morning,” she said. “I’m fine. I promise.”
Pecking a kiss on her forehead, Mack said, “Okay, then, my dear. I plan on heading to the Hawthorne ranch after I fetch my supplies. I will probably be there for the remainder of the day.”
Rosa said, “I’ll meet you there. You’ll forget to eat supper if you’re tending to that roof. I’ll scour some food from the kitchen and cook us something.”
“That will be delightful,” Mack said. “I don’t believe I’ve sat down in that kitchen for quite some time. I’ll meet you there shortly.” With those final words, Mack left.
Rosa went about her duties gathering the eggs in the coop, her mind dwelling for a few moments on the name “Hawthorne.”
How long has it been since I saw them? My God, I was merely a child.
It wasn’t planned that Edgar never returned. His family had simply had too many things keeping them in Essex that they were never able to make their return to Sunset Valley.
As Rosa gathered the eggs in the basket the sunlight outside filtered through the trees in the field. For a quick moment, Rosa felt that something about the day that laid ahead of her held some kind of mysterious occurrence she could not place her finger on, a feeling inside of her that felt like the presence of an old friend was returning.
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