When her mother’s legacy is threatened, will his fight for redemption be God’s means to save her?
Having recently lost her mother, Katherine Weyl is threatened with another loss. Being a determined and passionate woman, she will do anything to protect her mother’s lifework, even to accept help from a miner. How will she embrace the new feelings that accompany this Godsend help?
Michael McClay is a robust and introvert mining company owner. Even though he was only seeking financial stability, now that he has hit a line of gold, he could not but help out the children that now need him, given his painful experiences as an orphan himself. How will he realize that a loving family is what he truly needs?
When Anton – Michael’s childhood friend – returns for revenge, he will target the root of his wound, the town’s orphanage. Now, Katherine and Michael have to fight as one to protect what they love most. How will they overcome their past mistakes and create a devoted family as God intended?
Cedarbrook, Colorado, 1866
The explosion boomed around the foothills of the Elk Mountains, a dust cloud rising high in the sky above. Michael McClay watched in satisfaction, his hands over his ears to cover them against the blast that had just rocked the hillside and sent debris spewing from the rock face.
“That’s got to have done it,” he said, stepping out from behind the rock he’d been sheltering behind.
He’d lit the dynamite from two hundred yards away. But there were still fragments of rock lying close to his hiding place and he whistled to himself, not expecting to have caused such a large explosion.
I must have hit a vein, I must have done, he told himself, as several of his men emerged from their hiding places and approached the rock face.
“You should have set the dynamite over there. There’s nothing here,” one of them called out, shaking his head.
“Joe, if you’ve nothing better to do than be a naysayer, then I suggest you head back into Cedarbrook and stay there,” Michael said.
He was tired of hearing time and again that his mining efforts were futile. Wherever he went in the town, folks would tell him that his work was in vain and that the glory days of the past, when Cedarbrook was a booming mining town, were long gone.
But Michael was determined to find gold, and not just fool’s gold. Real gold. He knew it was out there and he’d invested every dollar he had in acquiring this so-far-unexplored rock face, some three miles outside of town. Now, he approached it with trepidation, offering up a silent prayer of hope.
“Well, you hired me, and I’ll work. But I told you from the start, there’s not an ounce of gold left in these hills. It’s gone,” Joe said, shaking his head.
He was an elderly miner with a long white beard and weather-beaten face. His hands were gnarled from years of work, his back bent almost in half. He liked to complain, always pointing out Michael’s faults and discouraging everything he did, despite Michael paying him handsomely for his trouble.
“Don’t say it until it’s true,” Michael replied, shaking his head and rubbing his eyes, for the dust was still hanging in the air around them.
As the cloud settled, Michael could see his best friend and business partner Emmitt Rigsby cautiously looking up at the rock face. The two of them had been friends for years, having met back in the east where Emmitt had been working as a geologist and searching out potential sites for mining. He, too, was convinced there was still gold in the hills around Cedarbrook, and he’d vowed to put his money into finding it. The two of them had gone into business when Michael had first heard of Cedarbrook’s glory days, but despite their best efforts, gold had still eluded them.
“How much explosive did you use in that? I nearly got a rock shower,” Emmitt said, laughing, as he wiped the dust from his face.
“I think we’ve hit a vein. This is it, Emmitt, this is it,” Michael said, hurrying forward.
“Woah, now, wait a moment. Those rocks might still be loose. Remember what happened last time you ran in without waiting?” Emmitt said, catching hold of Michael’s arm.
They’d blasted the rock face the previous week and, in his enthusiasm, Michael had rushed forward before the dust had settled. Several rocks had fallen, and he’d narrowly avoided being hit.
Now, he heeded his friend’s warning and held back, as Joe and the others muttered amongst themselves about this still being a monumental waste of time.
“It’s safe now,” Michael said, as the dust cloud finally settled.
They had a clear view of the rock face now, and the entrance to the mine. The blast had dislodged a large chunk of rock that lay split and cracked on the ground, a ledge now formed above—descending from which was a large crack, hitherto unseen.
“What’s that?” Emmitt said, pointing upwards.
Michael gazed up, squinting in the sunlight and holding his hand over his eyes. He could see a glint in the crack, as if…
“Oh, my goodness, you know what that is, don’t you?” Michael said, rushing forward.
He scrabbled over the rocks, tripping in his haste, and climbing up the rock face toward the crack above.
“Surely… is it?” Emmitt said, hurrying up behind him.
“It is, it is!” Michael cried, as he came to the first part of the crack.
There, shimmering in the sunlight and standing out in contrast to the dull, grey rock around it, was a vein of gold. Michael let out a whoop of joy as Emmitt clambered up next to him.
“Is it really? It’s not…” Emmitt said, but Michael shook his head.
“No, fool’s gold is duller, you know that, you’re the geologist. Look, this is the real deal. It has to be. We’ve done it, Emmitt, we’ve struck the big time,” Michael said, throwing his arms around his friend as the two of them celebrated on the rock face.
“What’s going on up there?” Joe called out. “Don’t say you’ve actually found something?”
“We sure have,” Michael called back. “Who’s laughing now?”
Joe and the others made no reply, still looking up skeptically, and Michael and Emmitt climbed further up into the crack in the rock, amazed at what they’d discovered.
“This is one of the richest veins I’ve ever seen,” Emmitt said, shaking his head in disbelief.
“We’ll need more men if we’re going to mine this properly,” Michael said, his head filled with ideas of what the future might now hold, for this discovery could make him richer than he’d ever dreamed.
“We need to blast it again. There’s more here, I know there is. We’ll get more dynamite, blast out on either side and see if we can’t find three full veins here. I’m willing to bet this whole hillside is covered in them. I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when we get back to Cedarbrook and tell them,” Emmitt said.
Michael nodded. He’d been told countless times that the only gold in the hills around Cedarbrook was fool’s gold and that the chances of finding anything other than that were long gone. When the first prospectors had come years ago, they’d found rich veins all around the county. But it hadn’t been long before more and more folks had arrived, seeking their fortunes, and the mines had been worked until they were dry.
All that was left now was the river winding its way to the east of the town, by which desperate folks would sit for hours panning in desperation for the tiniest little pieces of gold. But this was different, and Michael knew that they’d found what their hearts had so long desired.
“Come on, let’s climb back down,” he said, picking up a small nugget of gold that lay at his feet and putting it in his pocket.
“We need to celebrate,” Emmitt replied.
“Oh, we will. Let’s send the men home and have them back first thing tomorrow to start mining. We’ll ride into Cedarbrook ourselves and have a little celebration. What do you say?” Michael suggested, and Emmitt grinned at him.
“I say you’ve got yourself a deal,” he replied, slapping Michael on the back as the two men climbed down from the rock face.
“Well?” Joe asked, as the other others gathered around them.
Michael took the small nugget of gold from his pocket and handed it to the old miner. He took it, squinting at it and holding it up to his eye.
“My goodness, you… you’ve done it,” he cried, holding up the gold nugget. “This here is gold.”
A cheer went up from the others and Michael grinned broadly as Joe shook his head in astonishment.
“Well, I take my hat off to you, Mr. McClay,” Joe said, smiling at him. “I thought all the gold in these hills was gone and that you were only chasing after a foolish dream. But you’ve proved me wrong and I’m mighty pleased about that.”
“Well, men,” Michael said, putting the nugget back in his pocket, “I want you here first thing tomorrow morning, and I want to hire some more hands to help dig this out. We’re going to blast the rock face here and then over there.” He pointed up toward the hillside above.
“We think there’s more gold up there. I’ve never seen such a rich vein before, and it can’t be the only one,” Emmitt added.
“And that’s what we’re going to find. For now, though, let’s celebrate. We’ll see you men tomorrow. Right now, we’re off to the saloon. Come on, Emmitt,” Michael said, beckoning to his friend.
He couldn’t have felt happier in that moment, vindicated from the taunts and criticisms of those who had called him a fool or worse. Michael had been right to invest his money. It had been a huge risk, but one which now seemed to have paid off.
“I think our troubles are over,” Emmitt said as they rode off along the track and back into town.
“I hope so, Emmitt, I truly hope so,” Michael replied, looking up at the vein of gold above, “because we’ve risked a lot to make it so.”
Katherine Weyl looked up from weeding the orphanage vegetable garden, listening as the sound of a distant blast echoed over the hills.
The mining, she thought, shaking her head sadly.
“Miss Weyl, I can’t pull this one up,” one of the children called out, and Katherine straightened herself up and smiled.
“Oh, William, come on now, let’s see you be a big strong man. It’s only a carrot,” she said, laughing, as she stepped across to help him.
There were twenty children out in the vegetable garden that afternoon. It was warm and sunny, and Katherine was pleased that she’d got them outside in the fresh air rather than cooped up in the schoolhouse reading their lessons.
She’d run the orphanage alone these past few years, ever since her poor mother had died of a fever. Her father had passed away in a mining accident and her mother had opened the orphanage in the sad knowledge that it was not only Katherine who had lost a father to the mine, but many of the town’s other children, too.
Katherine looked around her at the children. They’d all lost their parents in one way or another, but most had died working in the mines during Cedarbrook’s boom time. Now, with the mines gone, money was tight, and the future of the orphanage was threatened. Katherine tried her best, but it seemed that every day was a struggle, though she always put a brave face on for the children.
“I’ve got an onion,” another child called out.
“Well done, Louisa, you’re doing great,” Katherine said, helping William with his carrot.
“What are we going to make with these?” the little boy asked.
“Oh, I think we’ll make a soup, would you children like that?” Katherine asked, and there was a chorus of delight.
The children loved Katherine and she loved them. The orphanage and schoolhouse were her life and she’d do anything to make sure they continued. She prayed each day for a miracle and for the strength to keep going for the sake of the children.
“What was that loud noise?” William asked, placing his carrot triumphantly in Katherine’s basket.
“Oh… don’t you worry about that. It was… it was the mining,” she replied. “When they mine, sometimes they have to… to set explosives.”
“My daddy died like that,” William said solemnly, putting his arms around Katherine’s waist.
“I know, William, and you know that mine did, too, but I need you to be a big brave boy for me and set an example to the others. Do you think you can do that?” she asked, kneeling down and putting her arms around him.
He nodded, clinging to her for a while as the other children worked happily around them. Katherine hated to hear the blasting, it brought back the same memories for her as it did William.
They carried on pulling vegetables for another hour or so until they had enough for a big pot of soup. Katherine had promised the children a story as a reward for their hard work, and she was just ushering them inside when the sound of horse’s hooves on the trail that led past the orphanage caused her to turn.
She blushed at the sight of the two familiar figures approaching and told William to get the others inside and settled. Stepping over to the fence, she watched as Michael McClay and Emmitt Rigsby rode up. They were prospectors out at Fools Rock and had ridden back and forth past the orphanage every day since arriving in Cedarbrook three months ago.
“Well, now, Mr. McClay, where are you going in such a hurry?” she called out as Michael reined in his horse.
He was a broad-shouldered man, with rusty brown hair and wide-set hazel green eyes—an attractive man, though with a quiet demeanor. She blushed a little under his gaze, just as Emmitt reined his horse in next to that of his friend.
“Miss Weyl, how good it is to see you on such a fine day and looking so very pretty,” he said, tipping his hat and smiling at her.
Katherine rolled her eyes and laughed. Ever since he’d first lain eyes on her, Emmitt had been keen to offer compliments and make it known he found her attractive. It had become somewhat tiresome of late and besides; it was Michael and not Emmitt who had caught her attention on that first day when they’d rode past the orphanage and wished her a good morning.
“Is it a fine day?” she asked, glancing back toward the dilapidated orphanage and schoolhouse.
Several of the buildings were close to ruin, and she needed money to fix the leaking roof and buy new books for the children. She barely made enough to feed them and keep them warm—everything else, including for herself, was a luxury.
Katherine hadn’t bought herself a new dress since her mother had died, and she often went without to ensure that children had at least the basics of what they needed. It was a hard life, but one she’d never change—she loved each of the children as if they were her own and the thought of losing the orphanage just didn’t bear thinking about.
“It is for us,” Emmitt said. “Show her, Michael.”
Katherine looked up with interest as Emmitt fished in his pocket and brought out a little nugget of gold. It glinted in the sunlight and she gasped when he held it out for her to see.
“Oh, my goodness,” she said, shaking her head, “did you just find that?”
“We did, didn’t you hear the blast?” Emmitt said, and Katherine nodded.
“I should think the whole town heard, but we’re used to it. You’ve been blasting for weeks, and you’ve not found a thing. Everyone thinks you’re fools for looking. Fools for fool’s, as they used to say,” Katherine said, for there were many men who had lost everything in thinking that what they held was real gold and not its worthless alternative.
“Well, they won’t be saying that now,” Michael replied. “This is real gold, and we’ve got a whole vein of it freshly blasted out.”
“Well, congratulations to you. I’m sure it’ll make you both wealthy men,” she replied.
“I’ve never seen such a rich vein before. And to think how many folks told us we were crazy,” Emmitt said, shaking his head.
“We’re just on our way to celebrate and tomorrow, we’ll get back to mining,” Michael said.
Katherine nodded, no doubt they’d be just like all the rest. Cedarbrook had once been filled with men like them, her father included—men who came to make their fortune and then returned to the east to spend it. She and her family would have been just the same, if it hadn’t been for the accident. She’d have enjoyed a comfortable life, living on the proceeds from nuggets just like the one which she now passed back to Emmitt.
“Well, congratulations,” she replied, glancing again at the run-down orphanage and schoolhouse.
She looked up at Michael, who nodded to her. He was certainly attractive, and no doubt would now draw the attentions of every eligible woman in town and likely even some of the less-than-eligible ones. To marry a successful miner had once been the dream of every woman in Cedarbrook, and many had succeeded.
But Katherine had been too busy for such things, the orphanage and the children coming before any possibility of romance. She was wedded to her work and the children were her priority just as much as if they’d been her own.
“Good day to you, Miss Weyl,” Emmitt said, tipping his hat to her.
“Good day to you gentlemen,” Katherine said, as Michael too tipped his hat.
She watched as they rode away down the dusty track before making her way back through the vegetable garden. She had a hundred jobs to do before she could even think about sitting down and she offered up a prayer of hope for the strength to carry on.
“Dear Lord, give me all I need to do your work,” she prayed, familiar words she often offered up.
Inside, William had sat the children in a circle around Katherine’s rocking chair and she smiled at them as she settled herself down.
“Can we have the one about the giants?” Louisa asked, and Katherine nodded.
“Oh, I think so, that’s a great one. Are you all listening?” she asked, and the children fell silent. “Once upon a time…”
Michael and Emmitt rode into Cedarbrook, tethering their horses up and making their way toward the saloon. The town was busy that afternoon, with folks coming and going, for Cedarbrook was a crossroads between trails to the east and west, north and south. It had once been one of the most important stop-off points in the west, but in recent years its importance had dwindled, and it now seemed somewhat sad and forlorn.
The central street was built around the town hall, with its squat clock tower and peeling yellow pain. At one end stood the small mission church, the first building to have been erected in Cedarbrook back in 1830, when settlers first arrived and staked their claims. There was a mercantile shop and a boarding house, Dingby’s saloon, and a collection of dwellings in varying states of repair.
It was certainly not the town it once had been, and Michael wondered what would happen when it became common knowledge that a fresh vein of gold had been found in the hills thereabouts. Would a new influx of prospectors appear, eager for their share? Or would Cedarbrook remain the tired old place it had become, a place for memories rather than hope?
“We should keep quiet about the gold for now,” Michael suggested, as he and Emmitt pushed through the swing doors of the saloon.
“Do you think Joe and the others will? Come on, Michael, the news is probably here already,” Emmitt replied.
“Just keep it to yourself,” Michael insisted, “I don’t want everyone knowing our business just yet.”
The saloon was busy, filled, as ever, with unfamiliar faces. The turnover of ranch hands and miners was frequent and there were always new folks passing through, often causing trouble. Michael and Emmitt made their way to the bar, where Mr. Dingby nodded to them as Emmitt pointed to the bourbon bottles behind him.
“Two whiskies please,” he said, and the proprietor nodded.
“Another successful day out at the mine,” Mr. Dingby said, sneering at them.
He’d been one of their main detractors in the business of decrying their attempts to find gold at Fools Rock. Several others close by also sneered, but Michael placed a warning hand on Emmitt’s arm, fearing that his friend was about to pull out the nugget once again.
“We keep looking, Mr. Dingby, and you keep serving. What difference does it make to you if we find gold or not? We still pay for our whisky, don’t we?” Michael said, and the saloon proprietor laughed.
“If you want to keep on chasing after a false dream, then you go right ahead, gentlemen,” he said, pushing the glasses across the bar.
“We will,” Michael replied, and Mr. Dingby went off to serve another customer.
“He’ll know by the end of the evening, you just watch,” Emmitt said, shaking his head.
“And by the morning, we’ll have a crowd up there all searching around for their own little piece and getting in our way,” Michael replied.
“The men won’t say anything. They know there’s a job in it for them for months to come. Especially if we find another vein,” Emmitt said, raising his glass.
“Well, here’s to future fortune,” Michael replied, clinking his glass to Emmitt’s in a toast.
The saloon’s singer, Deana La Roux, had just begun to perform and there were several games of cards going on around the room. Michael looked around with interest. Cedarbrook was certainly not a dull place, even if its past glories were somewhat faded. All of life seemed to be here, and he wondered what the discovery of new gold in the surrounding hills might mean for the town and its inhabitants.
He’d come to Cedarbrook with a head filled with ideals, hoping to leave his past firmly behind. Michael had been orphaned at an early age and had experienced all the tragedy and trauma which such sadness brings.
The memory of the orphanage was not a happy one and he tried to push it aside whenever it arose, but he couldn’t pass the town orphanage or see the pretty Miss Weyl without thinking of his past.
He slipped his hand into his pocket, feeling for his own nugget of gold. It represented everything he’d ever dreamt of, proof that despite his sad past, he could have a bright future ahead of him here in Cedarbrook.
“I think Miss Weyl was pleased for us,” Emmitt said, grinning, as he signaled to Mr. Dingby for another glass of whisky.
“She has enough of her own troubles by the looks of it,” Michael replied.
“Did you see how she bounded over to the fence as soon as we came along?” Emmitt continued, and Michael laughed.
“Oh, come on, Emmitt, don’t be so stupid. She hardly bounded, why do you make such an effort with her? She’s not interested in you and certainly not in the mine,” Michael said, as the saloon proprietor topped up their glasses.
“I know she’s not interested in me. I’m doing it for you, stupid,” Emmitt said, slapping Michael on the back and laughing.
“For me? I’ve told you before, there’s something more to her than she’s told us. She doesn’t like mining and we’re hardly going to make friends with her by flaunting our gold to her. You’ve seen that orphanage; it’s almost falling down. I’m willing to bet she’s not got two dimes to rub together,” Michael said.
“She keeps looking at you, I’ve seen it. You’re too shy to notice, you’re always lurking behind me. But I’m telling you, she likes you. That’s why I keep making an effort with her. Lord knows that you won’t,” Emmitt replied, shaking his head.
“Come off it, Emmitt,” Michael said, but his friend appeared insistent.
“You just said yourself that it looks like the orphanage is falling down around her. I’m sure she’d appreciate some help about the place. Think about it—you’re about to be a rich man, and a rich man could sure help a woman like that. She’d be grateful…” Emmitt said, winking at him.
Michael shook his head, the thought of it was ludicrous. She was far too outspoken for him, far too confident and a personality to be reckoned with. Besides, he’d never thought of Miss Weyl in such a way.
“It’s possible to be on friendly terms with a woman and not wish to get down on one knee,” he replied, shaking his head.
“Whoever said anything about getting down on one knee? Live a little, Michael. You’ve been so wrapped up in the in the mine that you’ve had no time for any fun. Why not get to know her a little? Spend some time with her and see what kind of woman she is,” Emmitt said.
“What’s brought all this on? She’s a nice person, I’m sure—she’d have to be run an orphanage like that—but I don’t need her companionship. Why don’t you try and court her if you’re so interested in her?” Michael said, but Emmitt just laughed.
“I’m sweet on a girl back home, you know that. She’s waiting for me. But you, on the other hand, have the chance to make it with a pretty girl like Miss Weyl. Think about it,” Emmitt replied.
Michael felt embarrassed to think about it. Surely it wasn’t appropriate to have such thoughts about a lady such as Miss Weyl. On the first day they’d met, she’d been digging over the vegetable garden at the orphanage and he’d been surprised to find a woman doing such back-breaking work alone. She seemed strong, willful and independent, and not the sort of woman to entertain romantic notions toward.
“She’s too feisty for me, too outspoken. You know how much she cares for those children, it’s obvious to anyone who sees her with them. The orphanage is her life, and I doubt she’d be interested in a man like me stepping in and offering my help. I’m certain she’s more than capable,” Michael said, finishing up his drink.
He wasn’t the sort of man to put himself forward. A natural introvert, he kept himself to himself most of the time—more interested in making money and keeping his business interests afloat than mixing with the opposite sex.
“Your loss, then,” Emmitt replied, signaling to Mr. Dingby for another whisky.
Michael was quiet, his thoughts returning to the mine and the days to follow. It was amazing to think he’d finally achieved his dream. He’d put everything he had into Fools Rock, and now it seemed that things had worked out just as he’d wanted.
It was a strange feeling, but one he relished for it had always been his ambition to own a mine and see his success secured. That was enough excitement for him, or so he told himself, and he was happy to keep Miss Weyl at a distance, his own memories of the orphanage far from happy and having no desire to be reminded of them further.
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