My good friend Misty Beller's novel, The Lady and the Mountain Man will be released on September 23. This is also Misty's birthday, so there'll be lots for her to celebrate, and I couldn't be happier for her. This is a great story, one I'm sure you won't want to miss.
Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.
When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains—his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.
But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?
And now, an excerpt from the book itself. Leah has just arrived in St. Louis:
Stepping from the train, Leah twisted her head to take in the sights, but what she saw brought her up short.
She stood in front of a vast lake. Not as large as the bay in Charleston had been, but close. On the other bank, far in the distance, a city rose from the murky depths like an Irish Sea monster.
“That’s a lot of water.” The baritone voice came from just behind her, and Leah whirled to find herself staring up into the emerald eyes of a man unlike any she’d ever seen. A full beard covered his face, making it hard to distinguish most of his features. Except those piercing green eyes. He looked to be a few years older than her, but probably not over thirty. His blue work shirt was clean and pressed, and accentuated the breadth of his shoulders.
The man didn’t meet her gaze, but stared out over the water as if he were seeing far beyond. Then his comment registered in Leah’s awareness.
“Yes, I suppose it is. Do you know what it’s called? I thought we were far away from an ocean or any of the Great Lakes.”
“The Missouri River.” His voice was rich, and he still didn’t look at her.
Leah arched a brow, then turned back to study the water before her. “It’s a river? I’ve not seen one so wide. Is that St. Louis on the far shore?”
“Yep. The ferry’s loading up now.” He took a step, then motioned for her to precede him. The other passengers were moving forward, too, pressing toward the flat boat at the edge of the water.
“This way to the Wiggins Ferry,” called a man with an official-sounding voice. “Only five cents to ride the ferry across to St. Louey.”
The strong presence of the tall, green-eyed man stayed close as the crowd swept them onto a wooden pier and forward, toward a mustached man collecting fares at the entrance to the boat.
Just then, she remembered her trunks, which she hadn’t seen in several days. “Excuse me, sir,” she said to the attendant. “Will my luggage be brought across on the ferry?”
“Yes’m. You can pick ’em up at the yonder dock.”
“Thank you.” She dipped a slight curtsey and was pushed forward by the crowd boarding the boat. The rocking of the craft in the water was like being on the train again. Leah turned back to mention it to the man with the emerald eyes, but he wasn’t behind her. Why did that make her feel even more alone?
She took up a crowded spot by the rail where she could see both banks, but her eyes drifted over the other passengers. There he was, standing in a quiet corner away from the swarm of passengers pushing toward the boat’s edge. The crowd pushed in on her, too, so Leah gathered her nerve and moved toward the empty space next to the man. It was a bold move on her part, approaching a stranger she’d only just met and didn’t even know the name of. But something about him intrigued her. Maybe he’d think she was just moving to a less congested part of the boat’s deck.
Leah stepped up to the rail in the empty space between the man and an elderly couple. He turned his green eyes toward her in a nod, then gazed back over the water. He certainly was quiet.
“Are you from St. Louis then?” She infused a casual air into her tone.
“No, ma’am. Montana Territory.”
That might explain the wild aura that surrounded him. Leah wanted another good look at him, but couldn’t risk being caught staring. “How interesting. And were you visiting the East for pleasure, sir, or for business?”
“Settling my wife’s affairs.”
Leah’s heart plunged at the words, but she forced herself not to examine the reason. “Is your wife traveling with you?” She turned a casual eye to his face as she spoke.
His focus stared straight ahead. “She died.” The richness was gone from his voice, leaving behind flat steel.
Leah swallowed, her chest tightening with the effort. “I…I’m sorry.”
She swallowed again. All other words fled her mind, leaving behind the desire to reach out and touch him. Offer some kind of comfort or support. She knew what it was like to lose a parent. But to lose a spouse, the pain must be unbearable.
Before she could think of something else to say, some way to ease the somber mood that had sunk over him, the official-sounding voice called over the crowd. “Make a line, folks. Make a line an’ we’ll have ya off the ferry in no time.”
The man with emerald eyes turned from the rail and touched a hand to his hat. “Good day, ma’am.” He never once looked at her as he strode toward the line gathering at the edge of the boat.
By the time Leah found her own place in line, he was twenty feet or so ahead. As she stepped onto firm land, she watched his hat disappear into the crowd. Something inside Leah wanted to run after him.
But she didn’t move. Just stood, watching the spot where he’d vanished.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon now.