I’m do glad to be coming home. It’s been so long. Six long years. Can you believe I’m twenty now? I so wanted to be with you on my birthday but Aunt Myrna’s illness was so grave and getting worse I didn’t feel that I could leave her. With her death and the lawyer tending to things I now feel I can return to the Chasing R.
I’ll be arriving on the 16th of August. I can’t believe the railroad has reached Denver and has a station at Stones Creek. It should make the journey much safer as well as shorter. Please note that I will have several trunks. I am surprised at the amount of things I have gathered since I have been here. I am also bringing articles such as yarns which I believe may still be in short supply out West. Yes Pa, I plan to keep from cluttering the house with my projects although I think Aunt Myrna will turn over in her grave if I actually achieve that particular goal.
In Donis’ last letter she said Spike has been keeping Magnus exercised. I hope he remembers me. It has been so many years. Will he still not let anyone but Spike ride him? Why I write that I have no idea since you won’t be able to answer as I will be in route before a reply could reach me.
I expect to find Stones Creek much changed since I left. Your description of the town now was welcome. I do wish we had a church building but it seems the Kansas Pacific Railroad provided a place to meet as they are letting worship service be conducted there.
I must close now so I can post this. I love you and am anxious to be home. Give my love to Donis and Spike. I still cannot believe he is no longer foreman of the ranch.
Your daughter Norie.
I try not to do it very often, but I lied or rather got ahead of myself. Last week I posted what I thought was the cover for Leah's Peace. Instead I've totally changed it. I also have been working on the cover for Chasing Norie and have it completed.
I love learning things and am pretty much self taught with most of what I do. Learning to make book covers is my latest adventure. Finding the right images, learning the many aspects of Photoshop Elements 10, putting it all together in descent covers is a challenge.
I have several friends on Facebook who are honest about what I need to do to make them better. So now they are finalized. I hope you like them.
I've finalized the cover of Leah's Peace and decided to use the first three chapters for this week's post.
The goal is to have the book ready to release by the first weekend in June. Stones Creek is a fictional town in Wyoming east of Cheyenne. It sits along the transcontinental railroad which was finished in 1869. I'm fudging a little with the time since the railway did not reach Cheyenne until November of 1867. Leah's Peace and Chasing Norie (2nd in the Stones Creek series) begin in August of 1867.
Leah's Peace Chapters 1-3
Leah Daniels stood on the step ready to disembark the train in Stones Creek, Colorado. Once she stepped down the past was behind and she would think of it no more. The last six years would be a memory forgotten. She would not think of them. They would be forever banished from her mind. Leah lifted her foot.
The word yelled with joy made her look toward the sound. A girl was wrapped in the arms of an older man. No, it was the young woman she’d seen on the train several times since Leah had boarded in Kansas City. Tiny but very pretty and about Leah’s age of twenty-one. They hadn’t spoken or even truly noticed each other. One tended to stay to one’s self on a train. Leah hadn’t wanted to talk to anyone, anyway. People asked questions and she didn’t want to answer them. It was too painful.
Her foot lowered to the platform. Then the other. Now, she thought, I’m starting a new life with no need to ever think about the past.
Standing in the center of the activity of people boarding the train and trunks and other baggage being loaded and unloaded, Leah looked around. Where were they? The reply to her telegram had said they would meet her at the station. Finding their general store wouldn’t be a problem. Stones Creek wasn’t that big. Besides, there would probably be a sign above the entrance saying Cuttler’s General Store. But it was still disquieting to be arriving in a strange town with no one greeting you.
“Leah, here we are.”
Suddenly she was wrapped in her cousin’s arms.
“I’m so sorry we’re late. Clay needed a diaper change very badly just as we were leaving.” Sara Cuttler, Leah’s cousin, waved a hand in front of her nose signaling the impetus for the badly needed change.
“It’s all right. I knew I could find the store, but I’m so glad you’re here now.” Leah hugged her cousin then looked at the tall man with sandy brown hair and grey smiling eyes. “Ben, you are just as handsome as the day I first met you.”
Ben hugged her and laughed. “You make me sound ancient.”
“So you seemed to me when you married Sara. I was only nine then. Now introduce me to these three young Cuttlers.” She looked at the two boys and girl, the youngest in Ben’s arms.
“Leah, these are Seth who’s nine, Abigail who’s seven and Clayton who’s one and a half.” Sara beamed with a mother’s pride as she introduced them. “Children, this is my cousin, Miss Daniels.”
“No, no. Let me be Cousin Leah, or Miss Leah, please. We are family and I want the children to think of me as such.”
“Miss Leah, I think would be proper enough. I want the children to have a proper respect for you. It will be easier for Clay to say, too.” Ben winked at Clay. “Now, let’s gather your belongings and get you to the store. I don’t want it closed too long, and I’m sure you are tired.”
“Yes, I am. It’s funny, all you do is sit all day and still you’re exhausted when the trip is done.”
Leah looked to where the luggage was being placed. The petite woman and her father were settling onto a buckboard seat, several trunks loaded into the back. With a ‘Get up’, they drove away from the station not looking back.
“Here are my trunks and over there is the sewing machine.” Leah pointed to the items, while Ben gave instructions to several teenage boys who would bring them to the general store for a few coins.
“Heavens, I knew you owned a general store, but this is much more than I thought you’d have here. This must be a destination for people who need just about anything.” Leah stood just inside the building looking at all the shelves, racks and walls which were covered with everything someone could possibly need.
“My uncle Nate helped me finance coming out to settle here. He didn’t want me to have a slip shod sort o’ a place. It gotta be a store ‘at’s got ever’thing a mountain man might be a needin’.”
Leah as well as Sara and the two older children laughed at the mountain man of Kentucky accent Ben used. Clay simply looked at them not knowing what was so funny.
“Well, it certainly is impressive. This could be a store in a pretty good sized town.”
“We had hoped to have our house built before now but the war delayed it. Sara and I are planning it and hope to start building next spring. We live upstairs. There’s our apartment and a small one for you just above the shop you’ll have.”
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you allowing me to come. It means so much to know I still have some family.”
They had walked to the counter at the back of the large room. Sara and the children had gone around and between off set shelf cases into the back of the building. The bell over the front door tinkled. Ben looked, and seeing a customer said, ”Excuse me while I tend to him.”
Leah nodded and began looking around the store more carefully. It was typical of the general stores she had been in before. Household good, canned food, clothing, fabrics, shoes, housewares, hardware, shovels, picks, chains, small and large iron stoves. Candy jars sat on one end of the counter. Near by was a cracker barrel and pickle barrel. Bins filled with cornmeal, flour, sugar, beans; staples needed for cooking on the range or for travelers in a wagon train.
Leah had always loved general stores. The variety, the odd items she had no clue what they were used for. The smells and always the jars of candy. Her mother would often get her a peppermint or sassafras candy when they went shopping.
Her eyes went to a display of medicine and medical supplies. She looked away. Those she would not look at. They were in the past. Not part of her new life here.
Sara came into the room from between the shelves. “The children are playing behind the store. How about I show you the apartment. I wish it was nicer, but it is very convenient to your shop. The stairs to it are same as the ones to our apartment.”
Leah followed Sara to the back room and saw a set of steps leading to the second floor against the left wall. They went up to a landing with a door on each side.
“This is to our apartment.” Sara pointed to the door on the right that would lead to the space above the general store. “This one is yours.” She opened the door and allowed Leah to enter first.
Looking left was the parlor with bay type windows looking out onto the street. Directly in front was the kitchen with a cast iron stove, dry sink and several cupboards, and a small table with two chairs. Turning right she walked into a good sized bedroom with a stove, washstand and bedstead.
“This is very nice. Much nicer than I thought it might be from your description. What did you say about it?” Leah tapped her chin, an amused grin on her face. “Barely big enough to turn around in?”
“I suppose I understated it a bit. The last person who lived here was Eli before he moved into the building across the street. All his equipment as well as his furniture were in here. It does look pretty empty now.”
“When my furniture gets here it won’t look so empty.”
They chatted for a few minutes about the shipment of her furniture; what pieces she had decided to keep when her father died and what colors she might might use to decorate the rooms. Sara left to tend the children and other duties.
Leah walked into the parlor. The room was bright from the three windows baying out over the boardwalk and one on either side of the fireplace in the middle of the outside wall. She hoped the shop directly below was as well lit. It would make her sewing much easier if it was as bright as this.
Eli Steele stepped from his office and watched the trunks and crates being unloaded and taken into the shop across the street. It had been his medical office when he first arrived in Stones Creek until he’d moved into the building next to the hotel.
“Hey Doc,” Mcilroy, the blacksmith, said coming to stand beside him. He was holding his left hand with his right. “What’s going on there? Ben usually gets deliveries in the back.”
“A cousin of Sara’s is moving to town. It’s her stuff. She’s going to open a dress shop I think.”
“Not much call for dresses around here. Maybe the girls in Curtis Fain’s saloon will have her make them clothes.”
Eli turned and looked at the shaggy black haired man. A gentle giant with long hair and untrimmed beard that covered part of the scar running across his left eye down his cheek, Mcilroy had preceded Eli by a few months. Both had been in the War of the Rebellion, Eli as a surgeon. Mcilroy never talked about his rank or what he did. No one knew his first name either. He was just Mcilroy.
“Burn yourself again?” Eli lifted the man’s hand looking at the red blistered patch on it’s back. “You need to learn how to do your job without burning yourself.”
Mcilroy laughed. “I suppose you’re right, Eli. But who’d keep you from starving to death? I’m your best customer.”
Now Eli laughed. “We call them patients, Mcilroy, not customers. Come on in and I’ll get that bandaged up.”
As Eli treated the wound Mcilroy asked, “You gonna try for the lady? You’re good friends with Ben. It gives you a head start over the others in town and around the area.”
“Hadn’t thought about it. What about you? You’re single.”
A shadow fell across the man’s face. “No, I’m not gonna. I’m too big and shaggy. Don’t like to clean up as much as the ladies want a man to.”
Eli laughed and finished tying the bandage covering the burn. “You know how to take care of this. I won’t repeat what I’ve told you… How many times has it been?”
“I don’t want to know. Someday I figure my skin’ll be tough enough not to burn when some tiny ember touches it. Then I won’t have to stop working and come to you for fixing.”
“But then I’ll starve,” Eli chuckled. “Come back tomorrow and I’ll change the dressing. You still have some of the salve I made you last time?”
“Yeah, works real good.” Mcilroy dug some coins out of his pocket. “Here you go. You’ll eat tonight at least.”
Laughing, Eli followed the large man out the door. The buckboard was gone, but Eli couldn’t see any movement in the shop. Maybe she was unpacking her personal belongings.
He went back in to record Mcilroy’s treatment. He decided to count the number of injuries the blacksmith had come to him for. Maybe he did keep him from starving.
Leah stood among the trunks and crates wondering where to start. She had spent yesterday getting her clothing and personal items as unpacked as she could. Until the furniture which was coming by wagon instead of train came she didn’t have many places to put things. She had measured for the draperies she’d make for the windows of the apartment.
“Getting the sewing machine uncrated might be the best place to start. I can be working on my curtains and be ready to sew if someone comes in while I’m still getting organized.” Leah assessed the long room. There was an exterior door next to the display window and one leading into the back room of the general store at the other end. The space was simply one room. She thought about how to divide it. Sewing rooms could be full of clutter and Leah didn’t want her customers to see that, but she wanted to be able to know when someone came in.
Deciding to get some opinions as well as a crowbar, she went into the other part of the building. Sara, she knew, was in the apartment with the children. Ben was chatting with a customer so she waited quietly behind him.
“It seems someone needs your help, Ben,” the customer said.
Ben turned around and saw Leah. “What can I help you with?”
I’m needing a crowbar to get my machine out of the crate. May I borrow one?”
“Sure, first though, let me introduce you to a friend of mine. This is Doc Eli Steele. Eli this is Sara’s cousin Leah Daniels.”
Leah looked at the doctor who turned to face her. She couldn’t breath, didn’t think she could move, but still found her hand shaking his. Forcing a smile onto her face she said, “Nice to meet you, sir.”
“Welcome to Stones Creek. I hope you’ll enjoy living here.”
“I’m sure I will.” Leah turned to Ben. “May I have the crowbar now, please?”
“Sure.” Ben grabbed one from high on the wall. “Here, keep it as long as you need.”
“Thank you.” Leah took the implement and held it before her like a shield. She glanced at both men then at the floor. As she turned to leave she said, “Nice to meet you, Doctor Steele.”
Once she was back in her shop Leah shut the door and leaned against it. “No, it’s all past, it’s all done and forgotten.” She lifted a hand to brush some hair from her face and noticed it was shaking. “I have work to do,” she declared and stood. Hands gripping the crowbar she marched to the crate containing her sewing machine and began pulling it apart.
“She seemed a little shy, almost nervous,” Eli said watching as Leah slipped behind the shelves.
“She may be. I don’t know her very well. I only met her at our wedding. That was a long time ago now. I think she was less than ten at the time. Is your scar hurting you?” Ben asked as Eli stroke the crooked white scar running from his temple past his eye and curving back toward his jaw next to his ear on the left side of his face.
Eli pulled his finger away from the scar. “Not a lot. There’s some pulling some and rubbing it seems to help.”
“How’s the arm and hand?”
Inhaling slowly Eli said, “The last two fingers won’t ever work. The arm, well, it hurts when the weather is changing or it’s cold, but since it’s summer not as much.”
“Glad to hear it.” Ben looked past Eli as the door opened and several men with tanned buckskin hides entered. “How about you come for Sunday dinner? You’ll be able to get to know Leah a little more, and Sara will be assured you get one good meal this week.”
“I live right next the the hotel. I can eat there if I need a good meal. Besides, you know we ate during the war. I can scrounge a meal out of just about anything.”
“Right my friend, but remember. We aren’t in the war any longer. We can eat better. Especially when my Sara’s cooking.”
“So what do you think?” Leah had just finished explaining how she planned to divide up the space for the sewing, fitting and display areas.
“I think you’ve figured it out well. Having the sewing area in the very back it keeps that mess from being seen. How much space do you plan to have for the sewing and fitting areas?” Sara asked.
They were still discussing the arrangement of the shop when Ben came in from the general store. “I suppose I’m going to have to build the dividers for this shop aren’t I?” His grin told them he was both teasing and willing to do whatever Leah needed for setting up her shop.
“Yes, my dear,” Sara said. “If you want to eat, you will.”
“You don’t need to Ben if there is someone who can build the shelves and walls I need.” Leah knew Ben was busy but he would take the time to built what she needed.
“Oh, I invited Eli to Sunday dinner. I thought it would be a good time for Leah to get to know him better. I introduced them when Eli was in the store today,” Ben said.
Leah didn’t hear Sara’s response. Instead she heard the sounds of cannon, the smell of blood and the cries of dying men. “Excuse me, I need to go out back.” Not waiting she left the couple discussing Sunday’s meal plans.
Instead of going to the outhouse Leah went up to her apartment. Entering she went to the bedroom and climbed onto the bed. She grabbed the pillow hugging it to her stomach. Then she lay face down with the pillow over her head trying to block everything from overwhelming her. “No, I won’t let it. I’m far away from there. Please God. Take it away.”
“Leah, Leah.” Sara opened the door to her apartment. “Are you all right?” She looked into the parlor. Finding it empty she went to the bedroom. Leah lay sleeping on the bed. She must be exhausted Sara thought. Leah had spent the last months caring for her father before he died. Then going through everything to decide what to keep and what to sell. With everything happening so fast the emotional weight must be hard to bear.
Sara left her sleeping and went to her apartment. Seth was down in the store with Ben and Clay was taking a nap.
“Can we make some cookies? I want to give them to Miss Leah. I saw her when she came upstairs and she seemed upset,” Abby said as Sara entered.
“I don’t know. Just, well, like she was sad and scared and worried all at the same time. I thought some cookies would help her feel better.”
Sara stroked her daughter’s light brown hair. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. You are very sweet to think of it.”
Evening was sending shadows across the floor when Leah woke up. Going to the kitchen she found a plate with a sandwich, pickles and cherry pie. There was also a tin with a folded note on it. Picking it up she read the childish writing. ‘Dear Miss Leah. I thought you might like some cookies. Mama and me(crossed out) I made them for you. They are otemeal. They are my favorite kind. I hope this makes you happy. Love Abby.’
Leah opened the tin, picked up a cookie and took a bite. It was good. She couldn’t remember the last time she had made cookies. It seemed a lifetime ago. Maybe Sara would let Abby and her make cookies together sometime. Leah would ask.
Children had been absent from her life for six years. She had been little more than a child six years ago. Pushing thoughts of how old she felt now aside, Leah sat down, said grace and ate the food Sara had so thoughtfully brought over.
With the washed dishes in hand, Leah crossed the landing and knocked on the Cuttler’s door. Seth, dressed in a nightshirt, opened the door.
“It’s Miss Leah,” he called over his shoulder. The other family members were in the kitchen.
Sara came saying, “Let her in son. Don’t make her stand on the doorstep.”
“There’s no step. She’s on the landing,” Seth said, but he pulled the door open and backed out of the way. Leah stepped into the room unsure of what else to do.
“I brought the plate back. Thank you for the meal. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
Sara looked at her. “Are you all right? When I came to find you, you were sound asleep. Abby told me you looked upset when you came upstairs.”
“I’m fine, but thank you for the concern. I think the journey here wore me out. I feel better now,” Leah said.
“Did you like my cookies?” Abby, in her nightgown, bounced into the room. “Oatmeal are my favorite kind. Seth likes ginger. Clay likes any kind.”
Leah knelt before the girl. “I liked them very much. They made me very happy.” Then she leaned close and whispered, “I ate one before I ate my supper, but don’t tell your mama. She might scold me.”
“Okay,” Abby whispered pressing a finger to her lips.
Seth had gone back into the kitchen and hollered, “You want to join us for devotions?”
“Seth,” Ben said. “I asked you to go ask her.”
“I did ask her.”
“But you didn’t go ask her. You yelled.”
“It was easier.”
Sara, Abby and Leah looked at each other and laughed.
“Men,” Abby said.
Leah felt much calmer after spending time with the Cuttler family and God. Ben had a great understanding of Scripture and made it fun for the children by having them act out the story.
She had gone back to her apartment carrying a candle to light the lamps with. After lighting them in the parlor she mentally arranged her furniture. Leah wanted to get started making the draperies as soon as possible. With the lamps lit, anyone could look up from the street and see her moving around the room. There was curtain fabric in one of the trunks which would work in the bedroom. Maybe in the morning she’d be able to find it.
Making a cup of tea and sitting at the kitchen table, Leah ate a couple of cookies while making a list of things she needed to get done before she could open the shop. Excited and dismayed at the length of the list she placed numbers to prioritize each task. Several things required construction. Those would have to be done by a man or men. She’d ask Ben who she could hire for the job.
The goal of opening the shop in two weeks seemed feasible. Not everything would be done, but if she could have the sewing room finished and at the least a curtained fitting room, opening for business would be possible.
With her plans for the next day made Leah went downstairs to the pump in the back room and brought up a large kettle of water. She could heat some in the morning for washing and for making breakfast.
Back home there was a pump in the kitchen. But back home were memories she didn’t want to think about. The inconvenience of having to bring water upstairs paled in comparison.
Carrying the lamp with her to the bedroom, Leah changed into her nightgown. She wound the clock and stood looking at the bed. Please Lord. Let me sleep without dreams.
“Sure is a dog day, ain’t it Ben?” Mcilroy said as the worship service goers gathered in the railroad station. It was the only place in town with a large enough space to hold those who attended.
“Sure is. Leah, I’d like you to meet Mcilroy. He’s our blacksmith.” Ben completed the introduction and then continued with others as people came to find out who the new woman in the area was.
There was a distinct difference in the number of men to women. Almost three to one. Single women were even more scarce. Leah definitely felt on display. When she saw the tiny woman from the train enter with her father, another older couple and several men following, Leah was relieved that the other woman took nearly all the attention from her.
“Come, let’s get you seated with Sara. Abby wants to sit by you. The other introductions can be made after worship.”
The benches in the building had been moved from next to the walls into rows in the center. Chairs filled the rest of the space. Children sat on parents’ laps or on the floor. A number of the men simply leaned against the walls. The number of people here to worship impressed Leah. They had come from miles around to hear a layman lead worship and preach. The circuit riding preacher only came every six weeks. Three men split the other weeks between them; Ben Cuttler, Wes Chase and Eli Steele.
This was Ben’s week. His Scripture was Romans 8:38-39. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ben was not only good with devotions he was also a gifted speaker. He explained that through everything God is always with us and victorious over whatever happens. His love will carry us when all else fails. That love is in his son, Jesus, who died so we might never be separated from the Father, Holy Spirit and Himself. If we have Christ we will never face that second death which is eternal separation from God.
Leah sat, with Abby on her lap, drinking in the assurance that those terrible memories could not come between her and her heavenly Father. She hadn’t realized how much attending worship services meant to her. When her father had become ill Leah had only been able to leave him for very short periods of time. Even going to the market had her nearly running in order to get back to him as soon as possible. Going to worship was out of the question.
After he died she had been flooded with all it took to finalize his affairs and prepare for her move. The uncertainty of what she would do and where she would live had ended with a letter from Sara and Ben urging her to come to Stones Creek.
As she sat listening to God’s comfort through Ben Cuttler’s words, peace settled on her soul. The Holy Spirit was always with her. The stress of her father’s illness and death, preparation and travel fell away. The weight of it all fell from her shoulders with relief, but the fatigue of those months burst forth leaving her exhausted. Leah nearly groaned remembering that Dr. Steele would be joining the Cuttler’s and her for dinner. That thought brought on the beginnings of a headache.
Leah was singing the closing hymn with the rest of the congregation when Clay, held in his mother’s arms, looked at her with intense seriousness. Then he reached out to her hymn book and flipped it closed. Leah, Sara and a number of people burst out laughing. Leah knew she struggled to carry a tune, but never had anyone so pointedly let her know that her joyful noise was not appreciated. With the song effectively ruined Ben called for the benediction to close the service.
“I guess he told you what he thought of your singing.” The voice came from behind Leah who turned around with a smile on her face. The petite young woman who had disembarked from the train was smiling back.
“Yes, he did. I can’t say I’m that surprised. I don’t sing well and usually either sing very softly or mouth the words. I guess I’ll have to do so from now on. I’m Leah Daniels.” She held out her hand.
“I’m Norie Chase. This is my father Wesley Chase.” Norie indicated an average size man with grey dusting the temples of his brown hair. “He owns the Chasing R ranch. This is Lincoln Pierce, the foreman.”
Something in Norie’s voice changed when she introduced the foreman. Leah wasn’t sure what, but she thought there might be some sort of enmity between them.
“I hear you’re going to be opening a dress shop. I’ll be by as soon as I hear it’s open.”
“Thank you, I’ll look forward to seeing you, but it isn’t just going to be a dress shop. I hope to able to sew and repair anything that is needed.”
“Even leather?” Lincoln entered the conversation.
“Well, not saddles or horse tack and such. I have some experience with leather but mostly buckskin.”
“That’s good to know. There might be some work coming your way from the ranchers and cowboys.”
Sara had taken the children and gone to visit with some friends. Ben came up and shook Lincoln’s and Wesley’s hands. “Morning Linc, Wes. I see you got your daughter back.”
“Yep and I’m mighty glad she’s home. She could have grown some while she was away, but I’ll take her back even though she’s still a mite of a thing.”
“So, Norie, how do you like being on the ranch again?”
“I love it. Being back in the saddle and able to roam the land has always been my favorite thing to do. Some don’t quite see it that way.”
Now Leah knew there was a problem between the ranch owner’s daughter and the foreman. Norie had shot him an angry glance as she’d said the last few words.
“Miss Chase, I hope to be open by the end of the week, not that the shop will be finished. I hope you’ll stop by. If the door is locked just go in the general store and let Ben or Sara know and they’ll let me know.”
“Call me Norie. I was Miss Chase while I was at boarding school.” Norie wrinkled up her nose in distaste.
“I will, thank you. Please call me Leah.”
The men had been chatting between themselves. Now Ben touched Leah’s elbow. “I’m getting the signal from Sara. She’s ready to leave. Do you want to stay and visit some more or come with us?”
“I’ll come with you. I can help Sara get dinner on the table. Norie, Mr. Chase, Mr. Pierce, it was a pleasure to meet you.”
“You’re preaching next week, aren’t you, Wes?” Ben asked.
“I thought so.”
They split up with Ben guiding Leah through the crowd now leaving the building.
“There are quite a lot of people who come. Are they all from nearby?”
“It depends on what you call nearby. The Chasing R is the nearest and largest ranch in the area. Many of the men are his men. Others are townspeople, of course. Some come from quite a ways. Peterson’s live three miles away. The Wilcox about four. They come in the good weather but in the winter the congregation gets pretty small.”
“Eli, come in,” Ben said as he opened the door to the apartment.
“Sure smells good in here. Thanks for inviting me.”
“You know you can come for a meal anytime. Sara has told you that often enough.”
They settled into their chairs and watched the boys playing on the floor. Shortly, Abby came in and announced, “Dinner is served.”
Ben and Eli exchanged amused glances at her attempt to be dignified. She had ruined the moment by rushing to add, “Miss Leah made the best rolls you ever put in your mouth.”
Once grace had been said and plates filled conversation centered on how good the meal was then moved to the service Ben had lead.
“You certainly know how to bring a song to an abrupt halt, Leah.” Ben forked a bite of pot roast into his mouth.
“I’m so sorry,” Leah laughed. I enjoyed being at church again so much I forgot to simply mouth the words.”
“So you enjoyed Ben’s miserable attempt at preaching God’s word?” Eli teased with a grin.
“Oh yes, I haven’t been to worship in a long time. I think if he’d have recited the book of Numbers I would have enjoyed it.”
Ben took laughing exception to her remark, but Eli paid only a little attention. Leah had looked at him as she spoke but hadn’t met his eye. Instead she focused just over his right shoulder.
As the meal went on he continued to notice the same behavior. She was friendly enough. She spoke whenever she was brought into the conversation but didn’t initiate any topics. Looking at her with the eyes of a physician, Eli noticed the fatigue she was trying to hide. There was something else too. Something that rested deep within. Well, it wasn’t any of his business unless she chose to come to him in a professional manner.
“You didn’t have to help me with the dishes, Leah. You’re a guest,” Sara said.
Leah laid the damp towel on the counter. “I hope you come to think of me as family and start to expect me to help.”
“Oh, I do think of you as family. It’s just this is your first Sunday dinner with us. Next week I’ll ask you to contribute. You didn’t have to make the rolls you know.”
“I know, but they are so good, aren’t they. It’s Mother Lee’s rolls. I’m not sure who Mother Lee was but I thank her for the recipe.”
They went into the parlor. Only the men were there. Clay was napping and Seth and Abby had gone outside to play.
“Ben, your sermon really touched me today. I’ve always known God is there for me, but the way you explained the verse, it comforted me so very much.”
“I’m glad you were blessed by it. It is one of my favorite verses. It helped me so much during the war. I’d run that verse through my head whenever I got to thinking about the situation I was in.” Ben took hold of Sara’s hand. It was hard when I was thinking about Sara and the children. That I might not come home to them. God would never leave them either. I had to cling to that at times.”
They were all silent as they thought about what Ben had said and how they could grasp that much security in those two verses.
I've been creating a new series which takes place in the fictional town of Stones Creek, Colorado beginning in 1867. The War of the Rebellion is over but the trauma and injuries remain. Leah Daniels is moving to the town after the death of her physician father. Sara Cuttler, Leah's cousin lives there with her husband Ben and their three children. If you recognize the last name you may realize a connection to Cottonwood. Ben is Aggie Cuttler's son.
Leah has written her cousin confirming her plans for the move. Sara has been generous enough to let us read it.
Leah's Peace is scheduled for release in late May or early June 2013.
I’ve finally finished settling Father’s estate and am making my plans to come to Stones Creek. I must thank you for your generous offer to let me stay in the apartment above the general store. Knowing I have a place to live and to set up my dress shop relieves some of my nervousness at the thought of moving from Kansas City. The recent years have been quite stressful and I’m longing for the peace which the move to Colorado seems to promise.
I’ve arranged for the furniture I chose not to sell to be brought to Stones Creek by wagon. It will not arrive until sometime after I do. If you can manage to have a pallet to sleep on until its arrival I would greatly appreciate it. Please do not go to any expense or trouble. I am more than willing to sleep on the floor but the comfort of some blankets or rugs would be welcome.
There will be a number of trunks coming with me on the train as well as my Singer treadle sewing machine. The trunks will contain a quantity of fabrics which I hope to create garments for both the women and men of the area. You’ve told me how difficult it is to get nice fabrics so I decided to come prepared.
How are you, Ben and the children? I look forward to becoming better acquainted with your spouse and meet your children. It is difficult to believe you are a mother of three.
Once again, dear Sara, thank you for requesting this lonely cousin to join you in Stones Creek. With your help and that of the Lord I hope to set aside the past and find peace in the present. I will be arriving on the mid-day train on the sixteenth day of August. If there is any change or delay I will sent you a wire.
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Sophie Dawson has made up stories in her head all her life. It wasn’t until 2011 that she began writing typing them out.
Her first books were all historical fiction romance. They’ve won multiple awards and garnered rave reviews. Now, Sophie is branching out into contemporary romance though she plans to continue writing historical and hopes to add more books in her popular Cottonwood and Stones Creek series.
Sophie lives with her husband and cat on a farm in western Illinois. She’s an avid seamstress and was a professional quilter for a number of years before the writing bug bit. She’s just thankful it’s not fatal.