Kate Alexander was certain it was the right thing, taking her papa to Oregon. But a series of unpredictable events along the way would change Kate's life forever. Taken hostage in a stage coach robbery, she was led to the edge of a bluff, where Kate would fall "head over heels" in love with cowboy, Max Reed.
Millie Thatcher, the winsome proprietress of the Inn at Thatcher Springs, welcomed travelers into an oasis of waxed floors and baking bread. Millie was the essence of Christian kindness. Who would ever guess the pain she bore; the loss she suffered? Her deep faith kept her ever hopeful that someday, somehow, she would find her Grace.
Lila Penrose, abandoned as a baby, grew up to be beautiful, inside and out. She loved God and music and poetry. It could only be Divine Intervention that would bring her to the love of her life, Cody Walton, a no-account hooligan, thief and trouble maker; a jailbird in his youth. This story, set against a backdrop of the Western Frontier, weaves the lives of an unlikely band of characters from many backgrounds, into a bond stronger than family. It's a story of hope and redemption of women who love their men, cherish their children and serve their God with passion. It's a story relevant to every era.
The shadows grew long as Kate struggled to make her way uphill, deeper into the forest, stopping from tree to tree to steady herself. Her head felt like it was splitting, and she had gone without water since early morning. Dizziness got hold of her; she closed her eyes, leaning into a huge pine. Lord, please point me in the right direction. Give me strength, let me –
What was that? It sounded to her like a horse whinnying. She thought it must be her head injury. Wait. She heard it again – a voice, almost inaudible. Is that someone talking? Laughing?
With fear and hope, she followed the sound to a ledge about thirty feet above a grassy meadow with a stream winding through it. Kate could barely see in the shade of cottonwood trees, but sure enough, tied there was a horse, grazing. Straining to hear hushed voices, she took another step. She knew they must be directly below her. One more step. Shale began sliding beneath her feet, and for the second time that day, Kate was hurling to the ground, clutching her travel bag as if it could save her.
At the sound of a yelp and shale flying in all directions, Max looked up to see a flurry of petticoats heading right toward him. He instinctively braced himself, arms outstretched, and caught her. The impact knocked him on his rump. When the dust settled, Max, with eyes wide, mouth open, and in a state of disbelief, was holding the prettiest little thing he'd ever laid eyes on.
Slowly her eyes opened – soft hazel eyes with long black lashes – her skin was like cream. Their faces were just inches apart. With a shaky voice, she said, "Please, sir. Please put me down. Please." Polite too, he thought as she wrestled out of his hold and tried to stand, which didn't go well. Max also stood and grasped her arm as she swayed, suddenly looking very pale.
Kate tried desperately to collect herself, and then she saw them. Two sets of brown eyes, two sets of shaggy blond hair. It was happening again. She was seeing double. And at that moment she collapsed, out cold, back into Max's arms.
Max directed the boys to lay out his bed roll and get a fire started. Kate was limp as a rag as he gently lay her down, careful of what appeared to be a head wound. Soon all three brothers were on their knees, staring down at her face.
"Is she gonna die?" Josh asked. "Her pulse is strong. I think she just needs rest," Max replied. "Thee thur ith purty, Maxth," Joey said. "Quit talkin' baby talk, Joey!" Josh chided.
With a stern look, Max admonished, "Let him be, Joshua." Whenever Max sad Joshua or Joseph, the boys knew he meant business. Each twin had taken the loss of their mother in different ways: Josh got tougher and Joey more melancholy. Max empathized with both.
The sky was growing rich with sunset colors, pinks and purples, fading into the gray of dusk. It was time for supper, such as it was. Their "guest" was still out, so Max sent the boys in search of a quilt he remembered might be in their mother's trunk. He could hear them chattering excitedly inside the cave, as if they had found a great treasure. And then, "Max! C'mere. We found it!"
"Yes but somethin else too. Somethin better!" Max ducked to enter the cave, just as they came charging out, shouting in unison, "Mama's Bible Max! We found her Bible! We thought it was long gone remember?" ***
Except for the glow of firelight, it was pitch dark. The boys seemed to be having a hard time settling down. Max couldn't quite decipher their whispers, but there was no mistaking the giggles. "Quiet now boys. Go to sleep. Tomorrow'll be a long day." Laughter continued, and their attempt to smother their voices in a shared pillow was a lost cause. "What you two talkin about, anyway?"
"Oh nothing" they said in unison, a little too quickly.
Max got up from where he was trying to read in the fire's glow. He lumbered to their side and stood tall above their bedroll. "C'mon. What's so funny?"
That question made them laugh all the more. Josh, trying to get himself together spoke first. "Remember Max, the time Pa said – giggle, giggle – you needed to be lookin' for a good wife?"
Then Joey jumped in. "And you thed – giggle, giggle, giggle – if God wanted you to have a wife, He'd have ta drop her in your lap. Well, guesth what?"
The boys were sitting up by then and together said, "He just did!" They fell back on their pillow, holding their sides for laughing so hard. Max couldn't help but laugh himself.
The commotion didn't disturb Kate one bit. She was still sleeping soundly. Something did awaken, however, in the deep place of Max's heart.
Doreen Rawlins has lived life to the full. She has served decades in women's ministry, as well as prison and sports ministries. Doreen retired from the business world to become full time caregiver, a journey that brought her to her love of writing. She has three grown sons, twelve grandchildren and two greats. A native Oregonian, she and her husband Jerry live in beautiful Bend, Oregon.