It’s Wednesday! And, of course, you know what that means. It’s time for an excerpt. So here it is, the exclusive first peek at Book Two in the Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Hope:
He stood by the edge of a small stream on the other side of the wagon train, watching his oxen drink. He may have been dressed in mourning, but his clothes were clean and well-made. His glasses reflected the sunlight and his expression was sad and distant, as though he was a thousand miles away. But he looked up when Callie drew near.
“Mr. Rye?” Her voice cracked.
“Yes, Miss Lewis?” he replied.
Two days. Her brother had died only two days ago, and here she was, making the biggest decision of her life.
“Would you be willing to marry me?” The words felt as though they came from someone else.
He took in a breath. The weary look in his eyes told her he’d seen the question coming, had been thinking about his answer already.
“I’m willing,” he told her in a soft, hesitant voice, mouth drawn up in a small line, “but I don’t know if I’ll be a good husband.”
Callie shook her head. “I don’t need you to be a ‘good husband,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean. I just want a peaceful life. If you can put a roof over my head and food on my plate and give me something to keep me busy in my days, that’s all I need.”
He considered her words for a moment. There was something reassuring in the way his brow knit in thought before he spoke. “Miss Lewis.” He paused and shifted his weight. “I suppose I should call you Callie.”
A thrill of hope combined with relief flooded through her. He was going to say yes. She wouldn’t have to go on alone.
“If you’d like,” she replied. “Although my given name is Callysta.”
His brow inched up. “Callysta. That’s a lovely name. Unusual.” He took a breath. “Callysta, are you certain this is what you want?”
A wry grin pulled at the corner of Callie’s mouth. “None of this is what I want,” she said rubbing her forehead. “But asking for your help is a decision I can live with.”
A splash of color touched his face and he lowered his eyes, looking almost guilty. It was the most curious look she had ever seen on anyone’s face, and for some reason it prompted a swirl of butterflies in her stomach. There was something more to John Rye, something he hadn’t mentioned and only barely hinted at in their one conversation. She caught herself wanting to know what that was, wanting to untangle the mystery of the unassuming, grief-stricken man in front of her. He was special, but she didn’t know how.
He cleared his throat and lifted his eyes to meet hers once more, studying her carefully. His large eyes were rimmed dark with grief, but also with intelligence and something latent, like a fire that had been all but put out. Callie could have sworn there were embers still burning in him.
At last, he let out a sigh and nodded. “All right. If you’re certain, I will marry you.”
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