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Summer of Promise: Westward Winds, Book 1

Wyoming Territory, June 1885

There were times when Abigail Harding wished she were an only child. This was one of them. If it hadn’t been for Charlotte, she would not be cooped up in a stagecoach, crossing land so barren that not even coyotes favored it, all the while accompanied by a woman who had never heard that silence was golden.

“It’s a mighty pretty day, ain’t it?”

Abigail winced as the coach swayed, tossing her against the side for what seemed like the hundredth time. Though Concord coaches were reputed to be the most comfortable ever made, nothing could smooth a rutted road. Ruts, she had been informed by her talkative companion, were preferable to mud, which could bog down the wheels, leaving passengers no alternative but to disembark into the muck.

Thankful for small mercies, Abigail nodded. “The sky is beautiful,” she admitted. That was the only positive thing she could say about this desolate countryside. She certainly wasn’t going to claim that she found Wyoming Territory beautiful when she most definitely did not, but she also saw no need to insult Mrs. Dunn, even if she wished the woman would stop talking. Abigail was no stranger to loneliness, and, judging from the stories she’d told, neither was the widow. That was probably why she had taken Abigail under her wing when she saw her waiting for the stagecoach in Cheyenne, ignoring Abigail’s protests that she could manage on her own and had in fact come all the way from Wesley, Vermont, without a companion. It would be most unseemly, Mrs. Dunn had claimed, for Abigail to continue to travel unaccompanied, particularly when one of the other passengers on the coach bound for Deadwood was a single man.

“He’s a soldier,” her self-appointed protector had hissed, as if Abigail was unable to recognize a uniform. “That oughta mean he’s honorable, but you cain’t be too careful.” Even the sight of a married couple purchasing tickets wasn’t enough to dissuade Mrs. Dunn. She kept a firm grip on Abigail’s arm.

“They’re rich folks,” she declared, pointing to the pile of finely tooled luggage that accompanied them. “They won’t want nothin’ to do with us.”

And so Abigail found herself on the backseat next to the woman who passed the hours knotting and unknotting her reticule strings, while the lieutenant lounged on the front seat next to the wealthy couple, one of his feet propped on the empty bench that formed the middle row of indoor seating, his cap tipped over his eyes. Propriety was clearly observed, for he and Abigail were separated by the entire length of the coach, and they spoke only when the stagecoach stopped and he helped Abigail and Mrs. Dunn descend the steep steps.

As Mrs. Dunn had predicted, the couple, who’d introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald of New York City, had said little beyond complaining that they were forced to ride facing backwards. When Abigail had offered them her spot and the unoccupied one between her and Mrs. Dunn, the widow had protested. “You cain’t sit with the man. It ain’t done.” She’d clutched Abigail’s arm and kept her pinned to the seat. The obviously disgruntled Fitzgeralds had resorted to talking quietly to each other and completely ignored Mrs. Dunn. Though Abigail couldn’t blame them, that had left her as the sole object of the overly proper widow’s conversation.

Excerpted from SUMMER OF PROMISE: Westward Winds, Book 1 © Copyright 2012 by Amanda Cabot. Reprinted with permission by Revell. All rights reserved.

Summer of Promise: Westward Winds, Book 1
by by Amanda Cabot