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Lorana Hoopes

An Unforgettable Love

An Unforgettable Love

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Can a scorned heart find love with someone new?

Spurned by love, Carl places an mail-order bride ad in hopes that he can find a companion, but when Elizabeth shows up, she's nothing like he expected. At first, he can't get her to engage in town events, but when she does, odd things begin happening. Is she the reason or simply a victim?

Elizabeth Parker never dreamed of a life out west, but when her father dies, she is left with little choice. She must either work in a saloon for a man she hates or leave everything she knows and move out west, but will she ever truly escape the life she left behind?

Find out in this thrilling, heart-warming Christian Historical Romance by USA Today Author Lorana Hoopes


First Chapter

Sage Creek, Texas 1884

Though the sun shone brightly in the clear Texas sky, it did nothing to calm the nerves constricting Carl Baxter’s stomach as he approached the homestead of Jesse Jennings. It wasn’t that he didn’t know the man, but they weren’t exactly close friends. Still, Jesse had information he needed. At least he hoped he did. Adjusting his hat, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves before lifting his hand and knocking at the door.

The door opened, but it was not Jesse on the other side. Instead his wife, Kate, stared at him, cradling a baby in her arms. “Can I help you?” she asked. Her tone was friendly but guarded which he understood. Though a local to the town, he hadn’t spent much time around her and as she was friends with Emma Cook, he was sure she had heard stories about him. Stories that were probably less than flattering due to his behavior. He still cringed when he thought of how pushy he’d been.

He cleared his throat and removed his hat, twisting it in his hands and stifling the urge to run his fingers through his matted hair. Kate wouldn’t care about his hair, but he also realized it was probably an unsightly mess after working all day, and he needed Kate to want to help him. “Yes, ma’am. I was hoping to speak to your husband. Is Jesse around?”

Kate tilted her head as she sized him up. The way her eyes raked over him made him feel as if she could see into the depths of his soul. Could she see his unease? She was a formidable woman for sure, and he understood more now how she had managed to escape the dangerous situation she found herself in when she first arrived in town. “He’s out at the barn. Is something the matter?”

“Oh no, ma’am.” His words spilled forth in a hurried tone to quell her fears. “I was just hoping to speak to him about a personal matter.”

She stared at him for another moment as if weighing his words and his honesty. Then she nodded. “Very well.” She pointed to a large red barn several yards away from the house. “You may find him there.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” He wished he knew Kate better so he could get a woman’s perspective on his questions too, but that would not be proper to ask now. Perhaps he could have had Emma ask her… if he hadn’t messed that situation up royally, and while she was conversing with him again, he wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to mend their relationship completely.

Replacing his hat, he walked across the yard and stepped into the stifling heat of the barn. Though he could not see him at first, Carl followed the shuffling sound and found Jesse mucking a stall. Though in peak physical condition, sweat darkened the armpits of his shirt and rolled in rivulets down the side of his face. Carl cleared his throat so as not to startle the man. “Jesse? Can I have a word?”

Jesse paused and wiped a hand across his forehead. “What can I do for you, Carl?”

Carl cleared his throat again. This time in an attempt to push the words out that seemed lodged there like a dry biscuit. “I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions.”

Jesse leaned against his rake and lifted a brow. It was clear he was curious what had brought Carl to his neck of the woods. “What about?”

Heat climbed up Carl’s face. He couldn’t believe he was about to ask this man he barely knew such intimate questions, but no one else had the insight he did. “About getting a mail-order bride. I know we don’t know each other well, but as far as I know, you’re the only one who has done it here, and I was hoping to get enough details to see if it’s something I should consider.”

Jesse’s posture instantly relaxed and his hesitant expression slid into a friendly smile. “Well, I am certainly no expert. I didn’t place the ad as I’m sure you know, but I did marry a woman I didn’t know which I imagine is more what you’re asking about. I’m happy to tell you what I can, but let’s step outside where there’s a little more air and a place to sit down.” He leaned the rake against the side of the stall and led the way out of the barn.

Carl followed Jesse outside to where a small bench stood in the shade. The two men sat and then Jesse turned to him. “What is it you want to know?”

That was a very good question. Carl had thought about the questions he wanted to ask for the last few days, ever since he had accepted the fact that Emma was not going to give him a second chance. He looked down at his weathered and calloused hands, wondering if he even had enough to offer a woman. “I have many, but let’s start with, is it worth it?”

Jesse nodded and ran a hand across his chin. “Well, I wasn’t looking for a wife when Kate fell into my lap, but marrying her has been worth it. She’s a wonderful woman.”

“Was it difficult at first? Marrying a stranger?”

Jesse chuckled. “Marriage is always difficult, but having married the first time for love and the second time for convenience at first, I can say this marriage brought different challenges. It took time to get to know each other. With my first wife, we had courted before marriage, so we had plenty of opportunities to learn about each other. With Kate, I only knew her a short time before we married so we had to do the learning while we lived under the same roof. That part is different. It takes time.”

Carl nodded. He had expected as much. It was one reason he had placed so much hope on marrying Emma. He’d known her forever. They’d grown up together. He knew they got along, and while he could tell she did not return the amorous feelings he had, he was sure they could have been happy. But he had no idea if he would get along with another woman and that was probably his biggest fear. “How long would you say it took?”

“A few weeks until we were comfortable. A few months before we realized love had sprouted. We were lucky in that area because I believe God blessed us.” Jesse turned a discerning eye on Carl and lifted his eyebrow in question. “Have you prayed about this? Made sure it’s His plan for you?”

Carl’s eyes slid to the ground. He hadn’t really prayed about this. Hadn’t prayed about anything lately to be truthful. He’d been too angry at God for bringing William into Emma’s life, but he knew Jesse was right and that he should pray about this. “Not as much as I should, but I will before I make a decision. I promise you.”

“That’s good. I understand the disappointment you must be feeling about Emma, but marriage is a lifelong commitment. Best not to jump into it lightly.”

Carl sighed and placed his hands on his thighs. “I understand. Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.”

“You’re welcome, but are you sure that is all you have?”

It wasn’t, but the other questions swirling around in Carl’s head were ones Jesse couldn’t answer. How long would it take to find a woman? What would it cost? And what if he paid for the woman to come but she didn’t? Or she did, but they couldn’t get along? He wanted a family and he longed for companionship, but what if bringing a woman he didn’t know into his life only brought misery and pain? With a sigh, he realized he better get right with God and begin praying because He was really the only one who could answer those questions.

“No, but you’re right. Most of my other questions require God’s answers.” He thanked Jesse and shook his hand and then made his way back to his homestead. It was time to do something he’d been putting off for a while.

The sun had fully set by the time he finished removing the saddle and brushing his horse down, but Carl didn’t mind. Evenings were generally his favorite time of the day as that was when his chores were done and he could sit and rest with his Bible in the evening. Of course, it had been a while since he’d been in the Bible. Lately, his evenings had been consumed with feeling sorry for himself and angry that William had come into Emma’s life. Then he would retire to bed only to toss and turn for hours. Now, he realized that was probably due to his lack of peace over both his actions and his distance from his maker. Both things he would be remedying tonight.

After lighting his lantern and heating up some beans and cornbread - he was definitely looking forward to having someone to share supper with - he sat down at his table and opened his Bible. Unsure exactly what he was looking for, he simply opened the Bible, unsurprised to find himself reading about Ruth. She had the kind of devotion that he’d been lacking lately.

Before he could even finish his reading, he closed his eyes and prayed for forgiveness and for the answer to his question. Should he place an ad for a mail-order bride or did God have something different in mind for him?

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Lorana Hoopes

Lorana Hoopes is a USA Today Best Selling Author and now an Award Winning Author as well. She's had two books earn a Page Turner Award Finalist badge and she recently won the Reader's Favorite Book Award for Romantic Suspense.