Home > To Tame a Cowboy (Colorado Cowboys #3)

To Tame a Cowboy (Colorado Cowboys #3)
Author: Jody Hedlund

 


The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger,

and plenteous in mercy.

Psalm 103:8

 

 

CHAPTER

1


FRONT RANGE, COLORADO TERRITORY

MAY 1867

Savannah Marshall’s heart pulled taut like a rope in a tug-of-war.

In the darkness of predawn, she paused inside the front door, glancing behind her at the winding grand staircase. She ought to march right up to her room, climb back under her covers, and stay.

But her feet seemed to tangle with the plush entryway rug, preventing her from spinning around. She couldn’t go through with the weddin’. She had to slip out, saddle up, and ride away today.

But could she really do this? Leave without saying any good-byes?

She gripped the door handle. She had to. If she didn’t, everyone would convince her to marry Chandler Saxton—just like they’d been doing for weeks already.

Pressing a hand to her chest, she tried to ease the battle inside. . . . She wasn’t saying no forever. Just not yet.

Hefting her bag over her shoulder, she took a steadying breath, opened the door, and stepped onto the wraparound veranda and into the frigid May air.

At her appearance, Mr. Pritchard rose from the rocking chair, taking a puff on his pipe. The amber glow illuminated the kindly veterinarian’s weatherworn face underneath the brim of his hat. “All set?”

Was she ready?

Pulling the door shut, she steeled herself against the need to retreat.

“Yes, sir.” A cold breeze blew across the Front Range from the northwest, from the Rockies still covered in snow at the highest elevations. Savannah tugged her canvas coat closer. Painted with linseed oil to make it wind and water resistant, the coat was lined with flannel for warmth. It wasn’t as heavy as her overcoat, which she wore on the coldest days, but it would hold her in good stead during the ride up into the high country. She’d already put on her calf-skin gloves and tucked her flyaway fair hair up into her hat—one that had once belonged to Hartley.

“You’re sure you want to tag along today?” Mr. Pritchard started down the veranda steps, his boots clomping. “I know you’re busy. What with getting ready for that fancy wedding of yours and all.”

The weddin’ was only three days away, and Momma was making a fuss over last-minute preparations. Actually Momma had been making a fuss ever since returning from their winter home in St. Louis earlier in the month, bringing with her a weddin’ gown, decorations, and a to-do list as long as a prairie fence.

Savannah hastened after Mr. Pritchard. “I could use a break from the planning.” Yes, her going away was a break. That’s what it was.

“Alright then.” His feet crunched in the hoarfrost that coated the grass. “So long as you’re sure.”

Was she sure?

She glanced behind her at the dark windows of the mansion, where everyone was still asleep. Daddy had built the beautiful home for Momma in order to entice her to live on the Colorado ranch, which she still only did for half the year. With the long colonnade spanning the full length of the front façade, the Greek-Revival style was similar to the Georgia plantation home they’d lived in before the war. The inside was just as beautifully decorated as the outside. Momma had made sure of it.

Savannah’s footsteps slowed. What would her parents do if she didn’t marry Chandler and his money? They needed the wealth the marriage would bring, allowing Daddy to invest in railroads again. But what would she do with her life if she became Mrs. Chandler Saxton? Especially since Chandler had made it clear that he didn’t want her doing menial labor as a southern gentleman’s wife. He’d agreed with Momma that she’d need to focus on their home and children and that her days as a veterinarian would have to come to an end.

Would she have nothing better to do with her days than decorate her house?

She didn’t want to end up unhappy, like Momma. Sure, her elegant and sweet-natured mother tried to hide her discontentment. But it was easy to see and was one of the reasons why Daddy was so anxious to go east, to Atlanta and civilization, where Momma would have more friendships and socializing.

Savannah shifted her attention to the large horse barn and to Silas, who’d roused to saddle their mounts and now stood by the wide door, yawning noisily. He held a lone lantern that illuminated her black Morgan, Molasses, although she normally rode Sugar, her Appaloosa.

The problem with Sugar was that she was unique. With her silvery white coat and dark leopard-like spots, the horse was sure to stand out. When Daddy and Chandler started searching for her, one mention of the horse’s description and they would be right on her trail.

Taking Molasses would give her more time. And she needed more time, didn’t she? A few weeks or even a month to gain perspective. Maybe after that, she’d be able to make herself go through with the marriage.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she whispered. “I know you’ll be disappointed.” Since coming west and helping manage the ranch, Chandler had become like a second son to him. After Daddy had experienced so much sadness with Hartley’s death, she didn’t want to cause him more grief in losing Chandler too.

Yet, agreeing to marry Chandler was different from actually going through with the deed. As the weddin’ inched nearer, she’d felt more and more like a corralled wild mustang. She’d circled and circled, going first one way and then the other. . . . Now that she was facing a saddle and halter, she needed an escape. To be free so she could decide what she wanted for herself first.

“Thank you, Silas.” Mr. Pritchard took his mount’s reins from the middle-aged groomsman.

Savannah handed Silas a haversack, hoping he wouldn’t question why she had the extra luggage. Of course, she always wore her leather satchel strapped diagonally over her shoulder whenever she went on calls with Mr. Pritchard. She was as prepared as the veterinarian for any animal ailment.

“Please tie the bag onto my saddle.” She hitched her foot in the stirrup and hefted herself up.

The groomsman stared from her to the haversack and back.

She pretended to ignore him, making a show of situating herself in the saddle.

Silas lifted the bag hesitantly.

“Hurry on up, Silas. Mr. Pritchard and I need to be on our way.” She arranged her split skirt on either side over the trousers she wore underneath and prayed Silas wouldn’t voice the question that filled his warm brown face.

He set to work looping a rope around her bag and securing it to the saddle. After cinching the last knot, he stood aside and hooked his fingers through his suspenders. “Sure are takin’ a lot with you, Miss Savannah.”

In the process of releasing a pent-up breath, her lungs tightened again, especially when Mr. Pritchard looked at the haversack and raised a brow.

She waved a hand to brush off the concern. “It’s just a few extra things. Nothing to worry about.”

Silas pursed his lips, the sure sign he didn’t believe her.

She nudged Molasses forward. Though the ranch hands would be awake and readying for the day in the predawn hour, their cabins and the livestock barns were located across the east pasture, well away from the main house. That meant she wouldn’t have to worry about running into Chandler or any of the other cowboys. But the house servants would be rousing soon enough, and she wanted to be on her way before anyone else saw her bag and wondered what she was up to.

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