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The Wrong Letter for the Suitable Bride

One letter is about to change her life. A lie shakes his confidence. Is their love all they need to get over the threats and trust each other?

Christine is a woman with a tough past and desperately wants to get out of her current life. She receives two letters that are going to change her life. The one is from the banker chasing her to get his money, and the other is from a rancher, expressing his love to her. Christine is ready to take the opportunity and find the love of her life in the West, but is this letter really meant for her after all?

Shane thinks that getting a mail-order bride will solve his problems. Little did he know that the woman who ended up with him is a different one. His new wife is a spitfire who’s running from her past. When the truth comes out, will he choose the one he has fallen in love with or turn his back on his destiny?

Fate brings them together, but the reveal of a lie threatens to tear them apart. Is their love strong enough to hold them tight when Christine’s past comes knocking on their door?

Written by:

Western Historical Romance Author


4.4 / 5 (352 ratings)

Chapter One

Chicago, Illinois – 1850

“Christine, wait for me!”

Christine glanced over her shoulder to find her thin haggard friend, Beth, pushing through the steel door. Beth’s hand shot up as she waved her hand about frantically. Christine flashed a tired smile as she paused to wait for her. Turning her attention to the sky, Christine noticed the purple hues of twilight were starting to color the sky. Soon tiny speckles of starlight would begin to replace the last orange rays of the sun.

“So?” Beth said pausing next to Christine. “How did your day fare?”

Christine glanced at her throbbing fingers. Small little blotches of blood oozed through the makeshift cotton bandages. Although her day was just like any other, she couldn’t help but wish for a different life.

“Same as it always does,” Christine answered, waving her sore hands.

“At least you didn’t get one lobbed off,” Beth said scooping her arm through Christine’s. Beth leaned in as she tugged on Christine’s arm. “I heard a girl was sent home for losing a finger today.”

“When are you going to stop listening to the gossip in that place? You know it’s all false. The manager probably made it up to force us to pay attention to what we are doing.”

“How do you know? It could happen,” Beth said flashing a skeptical glare to Christine, who shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“You really are gullible; do you know that? Or does it come naturally?” Christine asked as she looked down the busy lane. Dust kicked up from the horde of workers making their way through the streets to get home. The distant sound of wooden wheels from the hooded horse- drawn buggies crunching over the rocks was muffled by the chitter chatter of voices around them.

Glancing from one side of the lane down to the other, Christine waited for an opening in the crowd before making a beeline to the other side with Beth in tow. The two slipped into the crowd as they began their long journey to the shacks they called home.

“Either way,” Beth said with a shrug, “is that if did happen, I would hate to be that girl. Can you imagine? And the company …” Beth continued on as Christine tried to block out her ramblings. Although she loved her friend dearly, Beth tended to chatter constantly.

Breathing in deeply, Christine’s nose crinkled. An odor of rotting fish filled the air about them as they made their way to the bridge that would bring them over the Chicago River and was the fastest route to their homes. Christine’s eyes shifted to watch the merchants that lined the banks of the Chicago River packing up for the day.

It always amazed her how many things one could find on any given day here. But with nearly bare pockets, she could never afford to spend money on the finer linens and things brought into the port from other parts. Granted, it was a place to get the latest news of the country. Like the goods that were sold along the banks, news often was spread from the shipmates to the townsfolk.

However, Christine was in no mood to stop and linger about to hear the news today. Her feet hurt and her hands were sore. She longed to get to her small quarters to kick off her shoes and soak her hands in cool water.

“Did you hear about Amanda?” Beth asked holding tighter to Christine’s arm to step over a thick slug. In the back of her mind, Christine had heard the name before, but it wasn’t someone she knew personally.

“What about her?” Christine asked, looking at her friend. Beth’s wild and unruly hair drifted in the breeze as they came to the bridge.

“Out of the way!”

Christine whipped her head to find two black steeds trotting behind them and fast approaching. Grabbing Beth, Christine pulled her friend to the edge of the road to get her out of the way before the horse’s trampled them both.

“Watch it,” Beth called out as she threw her hand up into the air. The driver looked back and shook his fist at them without stopping. Turning to Christine, Beth giggled as she shook her head.

“Now, what was I saying before I was so rudely interrupted?”

“You were talkin’ about Amanda,” Christine said as the smell of fish slowly gave way to fresher air.

“That’s right,” Beth said nodding. “She’s married now.” Christine’s eyebrows rose and her face looked ten times younger.

“What? To whom?” Christine asked as they strolled along the riverbank. Granted, Christine wasn’t all that interested in other’s people’s lives, but she knew Beth would ramble about something, so it might as well be about the other working girls in their circle.

“Don’t know, that’s the thing. Some say she’s found a rich man who sent for her,” Beth said as she wiggled her eyebrows. “If I wasn’t already married, I’d be doing the same thing.”

“What are you goin’ on about?” Christine said, barely paying any attention. Her eyes were locked on the dark waters that flowed between the factories and residential area. She longed for an adventure that took her far away from all her problems. A place where her weary soul could rest.

“Amanda,” Beth said shaking her head. “She’s gone out west. I believe California, can you imagine?”

“Why did she go there?” Christine asked arching an eyebrow. The idea of moving to a far-off place that was bustling with new life and new discoveries teased her. A pang of jealousy snapped at her as she looked about the gloomy unkept roads and log buildings around her. Although Chicago was still growing, she knew it would never be like California. There was no gold in Chicago for settlers to hunt for and no adventures to be had save for the Great Lakes that offered a chance for adventure on the open waters.

But Christine wasn’t interested in life on a ship. She wanted the freedom to move freely, to see the progress in San Francisco. The dresses and all the other wonders that weren’t available to her in Chicago. She pulled in a long, deep breath dreaming of fleeing to such a place.

“Turns out,” Beth said interrupting her reprieve, “Amanda answered an ad in the paper for a bride. Maybe she found one of the gold barons and settled with him.”

“That is remarkable. I could never marry someone I don’t know. I promised my father I’d marry for love,” Christine said.

“Come now,” Beth said. “You don’t want to be a seamstress the rest of your life.”

Christine shook her head, “No, but I can’t imagine falling in love through a letter.”

“Like I said, if I weren’t married already, I would put an advertisement out and see who I could hook,” Beth said as she pulled closer to Christine and giggled.

“You know, I really hate this part of town,” she muttered as Christine’s eyes shifted to the dark shadows. The buildings were few and far between, leaving them exposed to the elements and the random vagabonds that lurked there. Christine kept her eyes peeled as they walked. She held her fear down and put on a brave face for Beth. It wasn’t the prostitution that worried her so much as it was the men that lurked about in the dark corners.

Beth clung to Christine as she dropped her eyes to the ground. Christine glanced at her friend and squeezed her hand warmly.

“It’s all right,” she murmured trying to keep her voice steady as she noticed the shadows shifting as the sun drifted further down. They walked at a steady pace. Beth remained unusually quiet as they strolled. The crowd of people that once surrounded them grew thinner as they tapered off until only Christine and Beth were left walking by themselves.

“Are you working tomorrow?” Christine asked, trying to distract Beth from the growing darkness that seemed about to swallow them both.

“Heavens no,” Beth stammered. “But if they would have asked, you know I would have said yes. Every little bit helps.”

“What are you plans then?” Christine asked as her eyes shifted to the looming shadows that seemed to follow them. Her heart quickened and she swallowed the lump in her throat. Her mind raced to come up with scenarios of what she would do if they were attacked.

“I’ll be spending time with my boys, of course,” Beth said as she stumbled at the sound of whispers behind them.

“Don’t look,” Christine said, leaning in close so only Beth could hear her. “Keep walking.”

The whispers grew louder. Beth glanced to Christine with worry in her eyes. As Christine turned her head, a group of young children came rushing down the road kicking a ball before them.

“My word!” Beth scolded as the ball bounced off her ankle. Christine quickly leaned down and snatched the ball up as four boys and a young girl with soft springy curls rushed toward them.

“Sorry,” a young lad said stepping up to them.

“You gave me a fright,” Beth said holding her hand to her chest. Christine chuckled as she handed the ball back to the children.

A cool breeze flowed between the brick buildings. Immediately, Christine’s eyes shot to the sky. The purple hue was gone, replaced by the blanket of night. Her eyebrows knitted together as she noticed the twinkling lights of the stars had all but disappeared.

“You children should be getting back home don’t you think?” Christine said. “The weather is changing, and I’m sure your parents won’t be pleased if you come home soaked to the bone.”

“Not to mention you might catch a cold,” Beth said in her stern motherly tone. “Now off with you.”

The children glanced exchanged quick glances before dropping their heads. Christine waited till they turned their backs and trotted off toward the river.

“I swear!” Beth declared, finally exhaling.

“We should be going,” Christine said, averting her eyes to the sky. No sooner did she glance up than the sky opened. Water poured down as Beth jumped at the sound of thunder crackling through the sky.

They scurried across the street as their breath hung on the air. Chicago was always a bustling town, except when the rains came, and the streets turned to mud. It was the only time Christine felt free. All the people in the side shops were busy pulling in their goods as Christine and Beth strolled along. Even the street urchins had scampered away to find shelter from the storm.

“This is me,” Beth said slipping her hand out of Christine’s as they reached her doorway. “See you tomorrow?”

“Same time as always,” Christine said as she waved goodbye. She stood there, waiting till Beth disappeared into the small doorway of the three-story brick building.

Alone at last.

It wasn’t as if Christine didn’t appreciate Beth, but she enjoyed the quiet time alone, that was, when it wasn’t pouring cats and dogs. Christine rushed down the street as the sound of thunder drowned out all others sounds. The raindrops pelted her head and soaked her as she scurried to the last narrow house on the block with its gable roof and yellow paint.

Climbing up the three stairs, she could hear the owner scolding her children and exhaled sharply. Begrudgingly, she pulled the door open and looked about the entrance. Two children raced around the small table in the sitting room. A young girl with stubby legs was no match for her older brother who had taken the lead with her doll in his hand, teasing his sister.

“Jeffery, will you please stop antagonizing your sister,” Mrs. Ellis said as Christine shook off the water in the entrance.

“Good evening, Mrs. Ellis,” Christine mumbled, hoping the woman wouldn’t hear her as she walked to the narrow staircase. Jeffery and Anna paid her little mind as they did with all the boarding tenants under their mother’s roof. Although there was only a handful of rooms available, Christine was grateful to have a place to rest her head.

Christine moved up the narrow rickety stairs feeling the chill of night. She longed for fresh, dry clothes. As she reached the top, she turned and moved to the first door. Christine slipped the key from her glove and pushed it into the lock.

The door creaked as she opened it and investigated the small, humble space she was renting. Rain pelted the window as the dark clouds obscured the last bits of dusk. Exhaling, she wished for a bigger area to live in. But she knew she could never afford anything more than what she had now.

Stepping into the room, she closed the door behind her and bumped her head on the line hanging the length of the room where all her clean clothes swayed. Rubbing her head, she grumbled and moved to the bed that was tucked in the nook by the window. She had placed it there to give her a view of the sky on clear nights.

She pulled her scarf off her shoulders and draped it over the line to dry. No sooner had she settled a rapping startled her.

“Miss Parkson,” Ms. Ellis’s voice was muffled through the door. Christine dropped her shoulders, wondering if she should answer. In the back of her mind, she counted the days till the end of the month.

Rent isn’t due yet. What does that busybody want now?

Moving to the door, Christine cracked it. Mrs. Ellis, with her shaggy bun on top her head and round bifocals, peered at her.

“A letter has come for you,” she said with a hint of a smile. She, pushed the small envelope through the slim crack.

“Thank you,” Christine said a bit bewildered. After all, no one knew where she lived, for the place was not in her name. Taking the envelope, she inspected it a moment before turning her attention back to Miss Ellis.

“Dinner is at six,” the woman said, giving a sharp nod. “And next time it rains, if you would be so kind as to remove your boots at the door. Jeffery slipped on the puddle you left in the entrance way. You know the rules, Miss Parkson. I only took you in because my niece is a friend of yours. But I do have rules.”

“Yes, Mrs. Ellis,” Christine said. “I will clean my mess.”

“It’s already done. Just be sure to remember next time,” she said sternly. “There aren’t that many families in this city that would take someone like you into their home.”

“I understand,” Christine said wanting to close the door on her but waited for the woman to turn and leave before she did. Irritation rushed through her as she leaned against the door.

How I wish for a different life!

Christine glanced to her hand and glared at the envelope. She moved to the small vanity and pulled open the drawer. Her fingers drifted over the contents until she brushed against the box of matches in the back of the drawer.

“There you are,” she said pulling the box out as the last remnants of day faded. Striking the match across the box, a small orange light illuminated the room. She stared at the flame for a moment and watched the light dance on the wooden match before cradling the small flame with one hand. Slowly, she lit the lamp on the table and exhaled. The envelope stood out like a sore thumb as she eyed it.

Pulling the chair out, she sat down and unlaced her shoes. It seemed like forever since she had taken them off. Her eyes rolled back as she stretched her toes out. The crisp night air tingled her feet, but she didn’t care. Just being free of the tight shoes was enough to put her to sleep. Pulling in a deep breath, she slowly opened her eyes and glanced at the letter. She rubbed her hands a moment to ease the throbbing as she allowed her mind to drift to the sender.

Now who could be sending me a letter? Maybe it’s from Elizabeth? I haven’t heard from her in a while.

A smile played on her lips as she thought of her dear friend. It had been nearly five years since the last time she saw Elizabeth. They had such dreams back then when things were halfway decent for her. But Christine knew a lot could change in a blink of an eye.

Hope swelled in her as she kicked her shoes away from her and reached for the letter. Peeling back the flap, she pulled the note out. Her eyes widened as her heart quickened. Three little words were scribbled on the sheet of paper. Christine’s eyes drifted over the words again and again until they finally sank in. Her hands trembled as the sheet of paper slipped through her grip and floated to the floor. She shot to the window and pulled the curtains closed.

“Not again!” she gasped.

Darting to the bed, she wrapped her arms around her knees and stared at the darkness looming outside. Her mind raced with different scenarios as she tried to think of a way out of her predicament.

Think! Where can I go? There has to be someplace where he can’t find me. But I’ll need provisions.

Christine glanced about her small room. There was barely any food on the shelves that lined the back wall near the sink. She knew if she was going to go anywhere, she’d need something to eat and money. Shoving her hand into her skirt pocket, she hunted for the coins her boss had given her that day. It wasn’t much, but with the amount she had saved over the course of several months, she prayed it would be enough to get her out of Chicago.

The market is open tomorrow. I’ll need to go and buy food, then come back here and pack. I can’t stay here any longer.

She glanced at the paper resting on the floor. The three little words burned into her mind.

I’ve found you.

Chapter Two

Sunlight poured into the small window arousing Christine. Her eyes fluttered open as she licked her dry lips. She didn’t know when she had fallen asleep, but as she scanned the room, her eyes drifted to the note still on the floor. Immediately, her heart sank as she shot up. Her legs burned and her back ached from being curled up in a ball on the bed all night. Jumping off the mattress, she scooped the letter off the floor and crumpled it in her fist.

Chewing her lip, she looked around the room that she had stayed in for the last four years. She had grown fond of the little space. But she knew it wouldn’t last forever. Nodding, she flexed her jaw and snuffed the lamp that had been burning all night long.

“Maybe next time,” she muttered to the open room, “I’ll get to stay a little longer.”

Grabbing her shoes, she sat on the wooden chair by the vanity table. Sighing, she shoved one foot in and then the other. The shoes were uncomfortable and tight around her toes, but there wasn’t anything she could do about it now. The money she had saved to buy a new pair would now be needed to flee this city.

Go the market to buy whatever food I need. Come back and pack. Leave by noon.

In her mind, she ran over the list of things she had to do as she grabbed her bag out of the nook near the bed. Slinging it over her shoulder, she took one last look, realizing this would be the last time she would be going to the market in this city.

Scrambling out of the room, she locked up and rushed down the narrow steps. The children were already up and about playing quietly in the sitting room as Christine tried to slip by unnoticed.

“Miss Parkson,” Mrs. Ellis’s voice startled her as she reached for the doorknob. “Are you headed to the market today?”

Slowly, Christine turned. Rolling her shoulders back, she looked Mrs. Ellis in the eye and nodded without saying a word. The woman arched an eyebrow and gave her a sharp nod.

“Mister Ellis will be arriving today,” she said. “So if it is all the same to you, I’d advise you to keep quiet when you return. He’ll be wanting his rest.”

“Yes, Mrs. Ellis,” Christine said itching to get out of the house.

“As long as you are aware,” her landlady said, turning her attention to her children’s playtime.

Christine rolled her eyes as she turned to the door and pulled it open. The street was bustling with life. Children raced down the lane playing as families lingered on the stoops of their homes enjoying their day off. Still, they looked weary and worn down. She couldn’t help but wonder if she would find a place where people didn’t look so destitute. If there was such a place.

Although she had heard of ranches springing up in the distant states, she didn’t think she’d ever make it to one. It was much easier disappearing in a city than open country. At least in the city, people didn’t ask questions or get involved in each other’s business. In her mind, those folks living out in the middle of nowhere were much easier to track and she needed the crowd to shroud her.

Such a blessing that today is Sunday and so many people are free to linger about. The more faces around me, the less likely that he will spot me. Still, he’s out there somewhere; best be on guard today and get back quickly. The sooner I get away, the better off I’ll be.

Rushing down the steps, she hurried down the muddy street, dodging the children playing with their balls and toys. The salty air swirled about her as the fish market opened with the day’s catch. The streets were far busier during the daylight hours.

Christine moved with haste to the bridge. The fresh fish caught the night before wasn’t nearly as pungent as it was at night. The peddlers were already on their marks near the bank of the river offering all that they had to anyone willing to buy. But Christine couldn’t pay any attention to those things today. Nor could she stop to eavesdrop on the news from afar like she had done so many times before. She was on a mission.

As she scampered down the street, ignoring the calls for the newspaper and the whistles of men as she passed, she couldn’t help but sense a shadow following her. Turning her head, she glanced down the busy road. There were no familiar faces to greet her eye, no happy smiles for her to acknowledge. Still, a shadow lingered in the back of her mind as people came and went as they pleased.

Scanning the crowd, she noticed a man resting against a pole, paper in hand on the other side of the street. His black hat was pulled over his brow obscuring his face from her. Her heart quickened as she watched him a moment. Although he was too far away for her to get a good look, there was something about him that made her skin crawl.

Turning her back to the man, she continued along her way, breezing through the crowd until she reached the corner. She paused to glance over her shoulder. Glancing over the crowd of people behind her, she tried to find the man in the black hat. Her heart dropped as she spied him near the barbershop she had just passed.

Am I being paranoid? Is that the same man from the corner? Is he following me? Why does he keep his head down? Does he know I am watching him?

The market wasn’t far off, only a few more blocks down the way from where she was. In the back of her mind, she knew the fish market would be the safest place for her. Everyone from the east side came to the fisher’s market on Sunday. The crowds would be thick with heavy foot traffic. A part of her wanted to run, to flee from this avenue and cut through the alleyway. But that would give her away and she knew it. If the man was following her, he’d see her run and race after her.

Do I run? Or do I walk and pretend I don’t see him?

She couldn’t ignore the nagging in the back of her mind. She slowed her pace and glanced into the dress shop window. Granted, the new Victorian dresses with their lace and frills were stunning, but she wasn’t admiring any of them. Her eyes were focused on the reflection. Scanning the crowd, her heart sank as she noticed the same tall man with pepper gray hair across the street.

I’m out of time.

Christine knew Chicago like the back of her hand. But she didn’t know if she’d be able to lose the stranger following her. Pressing her lips into a tight line, she gritted her teeth, determined she wasn’t going down without a fight. She turned on her heels and started down the street once again.

Keeping her eyes on the windows as she walked down Lake Park Avenue, she appeared to be admiring the items for sale, although none of the fishing gear in the windows would do her much good it wasn’t the merchandise she was looking at. The window reflections made it easy to keep her eyes on the stalker as she made her way to the docks.

The vendors were out just as she knew they would be. The rotten stench of fish filled the air as people haggled over the price of fresh fish and bread. Her eyes darted to the right. A lonely alleyway filled with merchant boxes unloaded from the docks filled the tight area.

With her heart pounding in her chest, she scanned the area hoping for someplace to hide. A nook in the shop’s door, a store that would be suitable for a woman. But all she saw were the tackle shops for the sailors and management buildings that chartered the cargo ships that came into Chicago.

Down the way, she spotted a sliver of a shadow and knew instantly there would be a break between the buildings. As she got closer she kept an eye on the windows, trying to find the man in the black hat. As soon as the building stopped, she slipped around the corner into the alley.

Christine quickly slipped behind the crates that lined the alleyways. Inching her way around the boxes, she looked for a way out. The sound of footsteps echoed down the alley as her heart pounded in her ears. She knew it was the man she didn’t want to encounter, and she only had one shot at making it safely out of the alley. Moving carefully so as not to knock down any of the goods, Christine inched around slowly until the mouth of the alley appeared. soundlessly, she held her skirts and crept out of her hiding spot, making a beeline for the first shop.

A little bell rang as she opened the door and ducked behind shelves of hats and shoes. The smell of tanned leather filled her nose. It was pleasantly musky, and the shelves gave her the cover she needed.

“Can I help you?” A young man asked as he walked to the shelf. Christine noticed a polished black shoe tapping the ground. Slowly she drew her attention to the man standing before her. He was dressed in a sleek pinstriped vest over a crisp white shirt and black slacks. His appearance was polished and polite. She knew she wasn’t the shop’s typical upper crust customer, and she hoped the clerk wouldn’t dismiss her just for looking different from the normal clientele.

“I’m looking for a cravat for my father,” Christine lied as she flashed him a brilliant smile.

The man smiled. “And what type of cravat are you looking for?” he inquired as he gestured to a corner of the shop. “Silk, of course. White?”

Christine pretended to think as she craned her neck to look around the salesman. Through the glass window, she spied the thin man. His face was narrow with a beak-like nose. She watched as he pushed his bifocals up to the bridge of his nose and continued walking down the street. Christine exhaled and stood straighter. She dusted her skirt and tipped her head.

“A dark mustard yellow,” she decided, quickly settling on a color she hoped was not commonly requested.

“Yes, madam. Let me look in our back room to see what we have,” the clerk replied.

Christine dipped her head and smiled in thanks as she watched him walk into the back of the shop. When he was out of sight, she weaved through the shelves toward the front door. Opening the door slowly, Christine peered around the door and scanned the street. Her heart fluttered as she saw the cost was clear, and quickly exited.

That was too close. No time to shop for provisions. I need to get going now!

Christine raced back to the Ellis house constantly looking over her shoulder. Her heart didn’t stop racing until she climbed the three small steps and entered the house. Exhaling, she leaned against the door a moment to catch her breath before turning to pull the curtain back and peek out the window.

“Miss Parkson.”

Christine jumped at the sound of her name and spun around. Mr. Ellis sat in his reading chair next to the fireplace in his study as Mrs. Ellis scrambled out of the kitchen. The woman’s eyes narrowed in on her before shifting to her husband.

“Remember what I told you before?” Mrs. Ellis said, tilting her head towards the sitting room. “Today is a day of reflection and quiet.”

“Forgive me,” Christine said clinging to her small bag.

“Who’s at the door?” Mr. Ellis asked looking up from his book.

“Just Miss Parkson,” Mrs. Ellis answered as she leaned in closer to Christine. “And she was just heading up to her room. Weren’t you, dear?”

Christine nodded as she pursed her lips together.

“I hope you have made other arrangements for dinner,” Mrs. Ellis said trying to peer into Christine’s bag. “Sunday night is family night after all.”

“Of course, Mrs. Ellis,” Christine said forcing herself to smile. Mrs. Ellis waved her hand and shooed her to the stairs.

For a moment, Christine wondered if she should inform Mrs. Ellis of her intentions of leaving. But the last thing she needed was to get into a conversation with the woman.

I’ll leave money on the bed for the month and call it square.

Her heart sank as she realized that whatever she had bought today was all she would be bringing with her. She had hoped to be able to raid the pantry of her host, but with everyone home, that option was no longer viable.

Although she had traveled with less before, she shuddered to think she would have to do it again. But there was no other option. She couldn’t be caught outside again. After all, she was lucky the man didn’t pounce on her the first time. Christine knew her luck would only hold out for so long.

Racing to the stairs, she tried not to make too much noise going to her room. Every step she took, though, sounded like thunder in her ears. Pulling her key from her glove, she pushed breathlessly through her door and began clearing the line that held her clothes.

As she folded up her stockings and shoved them into her bag, she scanned the room for any last bits she might take. A sparkle of light caught her attention. Her head turned toward the bed. There, dangling on the bedpost, was a silver locket. It was the last thing her father had given her before his untimely passing. She rushed over and carefully drew it off the bedpost. Pausing, she let the light catch it before exhaling sharply. Pressing the locket to her lips, she kissed it once before gently placing it in the bag.

“I guess that’s it,” she said as she turned toward the door. She heard footsteps in the hall as she moved to the door. Just as she reached for the knob, a light rapping caused her to gasp and stop dead in her tracks. She covered her mouth, eyes wide and darting about wildly.

Now what does that woman want?

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