A Waitress for Wade by Susan Horsnell

Wade Johnson is a man who runs a cattle ranch, five miles from the small town of Alexandar, Colorado. He’s struggling to raise three children alone after losing his wife in an influenza epidemic two years earlier.

Annalise Hudson is a woman happy in life. She works long hours in the family diner which she inherited when her mama and daddy were killed in a freak accident.

Wade’s eldest daughter thinks it’s about time he remarried, but he’s having none of her suggestion to advertise for a mail-order bride.

Annalise is forced to make a decision she wasn’t ready for when her world is tipped upside down.

𝐀 𝐖𝐀𝐈𝐓𝐑𝐄𝐒𝐒 𝐅𝐎𝐑 𝐖𝐀𝐃𝐄 𝐈𝐒 𝐋𝐈𝐕𝐄 𝐆𝐄𝐓 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑 𝐂𝐎𝐏𝐘 𝐍𝐎𝐖!!

𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 𝐔𝐒 – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PD4888S

𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 𝐔𝐊 – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08PD4888S

𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 𝐀𝐔 – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08PD4888S

𝐀𝐦𝐚𝐳𝐨𝐧 𝐂𝐀 – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08PD4888S

Chapter One

Alexandar, Colorado

WADE

The sun sank behind the horizon as I trudged across the yard from the barn, climbed the steps and pushed through the door into the house.

I was late for the fifth day in a row. It was cattle branding season, and I knew the woman I employed to take care of my kids–Sheila Watts, would not be happy about my tardiness. I suspected a tongue lashing about how she had a home to get back to before dark, and a meal to prepare for her husband, would be forthcoming.

As I stepped inside and closed the door, I heard screaming and shouting coming from the direction of the living room. The entry foyer was scattered with toys, some dangling in various places on the staircase. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

While hanging my hat and coat on pegs by the door, the screaming increased from roaring to downright thunderous. Who knew my beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Elinda, could scream like a banshee and give any fisherman’s wife announcing the day’s catch a run for their money?

When Boone, my eight-year-old son, let out a high-pitched squeal that resembled a pig in a slaughterhouse, I set off running.

The first thing I noticed when I slid to a stop in the doorway to the living room was the place looked like it had been caught in the eye of a powerful tornado.

The next thing I noted was my daughter had Boone sprawled on his stomach on the floor. Her skirts were hitched up high on her thighs as she sat on his behind and held firm to the hands she had twisted around to his back. Boone’s face was redder than a freshly pickled beet and I swear steam was coming from his ears. The boy was about to erupt like a volcano.

Glancing around, I found Carson, my six-year-old, sitting on the sofa. He flicked through a picture book, totally oblivious to what was happening around him. I had no idea how he managed to ignore his surroundings the way he did.

Placing two fingers between my lips, I let out an ear-piercing whistle which caused the windows to rattle. The sound startled the pair of out-of-control juvenile delinquents. Elinda released Boone, who took the opportunity to push her from his back. She landed on the floor on her bottom. He scrambled to his feet and plastered himself to my leg, clinging on as if his very survival depended on him being a part of me.

And yep, Carson, unphased by what was happening, continued reading his book. I was beginning to seriously wonder if his hearing may be impaired.

Elinda recovered, sprang to her feet and stood before me with her fists firmly planted on her hips. A pang of sadness caused my heart to stutter, she was so much like her mama had been at the same age.

Thoughts of my wife, Belle, arrived uninvited. We had met when her family had moved to town, her daddy having accepted the position of preacher at St. James Baptist Church when Preacher Davies retired. Belle had been the tender age of sixteen and still in school while I had been eighteen and working full time on the family ranch. From the moment I’d been drawn in by her wide emerald green eyes at the monthly church social, I was determined to make her mine.

Over the days that followed, I’d worked alongside Pa with my head stuck in the clouds. By the end of the third day, Pa had ordered me to get myself over to the church and ask the preacher’s permission to court his daughter. He was concerned my mind wasn’t on the job and I was an accident waiting to happen. He was right, so I’d slipped into town and done exactly as he’d suggested.

Once he’d consulted Belle, her daddy had given his approval, along with a string of rules. He also made it quite clear we would not have his blessing for marriage until his daughter turned eighteen.

I accepted his conditions and invited Belle out for our first meal at the diner on the following evening. The following–one year, four months and eleven days passed by all too slowly. The day she celebrated turning eighteen, I asked her daddy for his daughter’s hand in marriage. I have no idea what I would have done had he said no. Fortunately, Belle’s family loved me as much as my family loved her and a date was set for two weeks later.

Her daddy performed the ceremony, which the entire town’s population, and most of those from the surrounding district, had attended. My family was well-known, wealthy ranchers in the county, and Pa had hundreds of friends, or so it seemed. All were more than willing to help him celebrate his son getting hitched.

It had been a happy marriage, producing three beautiful children—my reason for living after Belle, her entire family and my parents had succumbed to influenza during an epidemic four years earlier. She had been just thirty years old.

“Pa, she was sitting on me,” Boone whined, breaking me from my thoughts and snapping me back to the disaster which had previously been my living room.

Elinda pushed her chest out as she drew herself taller, hands continued to stay fisted on her hips. “That’s because when I asked you to clean up your toys, you threatened to hit me.”

“You can’t tell me to do anything, you’re not my mama!”

My heart sank on knowing Boone had never really known what it was like to have the loving guidance of a mother.

“I hate you!” Elinda retorted.

Before Boone could spit out the same words, I roared out “enough”, bringing my belligerent children to a stop. The pair stood staring at me; it was rare I raised my voice.

“First of all, Boone, your sister’s name is Elinda. She is the cat’s mother.”

“Huh?” Boone gave me a quizzical look.

“I’ll explain later.” I fixed my eyes on my daughter. “Elinda, you don’t hate Boone and I don’t want to hear you saying that to him again.”

“But Daddy…” When she began protesting, I raised a hand in the air. Her jaw clamped shut.

“Tell me where Mrs. Watts has gone.”

“Home.” The pair answered in unison.

“What do you mean, home? When did she leave?”

Elinda answered my questions. “About an hour ago. She said she was tired of you coming home later and later, not respecting the time she needed to be in her own home. There’s a letter for you in the kitchen.”

“Fetch it for me, please.” I didn’t miss the pursed lips and glare she gave Boone as she passed, and I fought not to smile at her haughtiness.

“Right, you two can clean up this mess. Now! And in future, if your sister asks you to do something, you do it without question.”

“But Pa…”

I directed my best dad glare at Boone and he reluctantly released my leg to do as I’d asked. Meanwhile, the youngest of my boys hadn’t moved.

“Carson.”

No response.

“Carson!” When I raised my voice, his head shot up. Blue eyes so much as mine stared at me in confusion. “Help Boone clean up this mess.”

Without arguing, he closed the book he’d been reading and set it back on the bookcase before helping his brother. I suspected he’d had nothing to do with the mess, but he was a quiet soul and would always do whatever was asked of him.

“I’m going to wash up and sort something for supper. When I come back, this house had better be tidy and everything back in its place.

I accepted the envelope Elinda held toward me before striding to the washroom at the end of the hallway.

~*~

The house was finally quiet, both boys in bed sleeping soundly. I sat at the kitchen table sipping a coffee while working on the ranch accounts. I really needed to hire someone but didn’t know who I could trust to know my private business.

We were having an extremely good year, the third in a row, but I was well aware bad times could lay ahead. No business such as mine was safe when it was at the mercy of the weather, so I made a point of investing in other areas or saving most of the profits. My children never went without the necessities and enjoyed a few luxuries. I was fortunate, Pa had left me a wealthy man, but I never took good fortune for granted.

I had read the letter from Mrs. Watts which stated she was sorry, but taking care of children and running a household at the expense of her own, was no longer possible. She made it quite clear that she would not be returning. My young ranch hand, Colt, had ridden the ten minutes into town with a message for my sister. I’d begged her to come and stay, take care of my family until a replacement for Mrs. Watts could be appointed.

Millie had sent a message back that she would be arriving the following morning and would be happy to help, but for no longer than two weeks. I was hopeful that was enough time to find someone in the tiny town of Alexandar.

I closed the books I’d been working on and relaxed back in the chair to finish my coffee before taking care of one last check outside and heading upstairs to bed. My mind filled with tasks that would need to be done now the branding was over.

“Daddy.”

I lifted my head and gave my daughter a smile. She wore a white nightgown with pink and lemon embroidery on either side of the button placket. Her waist-length auburn-red hair, identical to her mama’s, was loose. Her emerald green eyes so much like Belle’s.

“Sweetpea.”

She pulled out a chair and sat opposite, and I could see she had something to say.

“Can I talk to you?” Her voice was quiet, unsure.

“Of course, what’s bothering that pretty little head of yours?”

“Please don’t get cross.”

I drew my eyebrows together in a frown, I rarely became angry with my children. Had my outburst earlier unsettled her?

“Why would I get cross with you?”

She fiddled with her fingers, watching them weave in and out of each other before lifting her head and looking me in the eyes.

“Daddy, Mama’s been gone for four years now. Boone barely remembers her and Carson only knows who she is from pictures.”

I wasn’t sure I liked where this conversation was headed. I suspected Elinda had been talking with my sister, who had been insisting for a while that it was time I moved on with my life.

Elinda swallowed hard. “I think it’s time you found another wife, Daddy. The boys need a mama-someone who can hold them when they’re upset and kiss their bumps and scrapes better. I know you loved Mama very much, Daddy, but we’re all unhappy. It’s time to bring someone into our lives to help us be happy like we were when Mama was alive.”

When had Elinda turned into a woman with adult thoughts and opinions? I dragged a work-roughened hand down the side of my face, the callouses snagging on the stubble which had grown back during the course of the day.

“Elinda, it’s not like I can go and purchase a wife at the general store. It takes time for people to get to know each other. To see if they can fall in love and make a life together.”

“Men are bringing mail-order brides into the county more and more, Daddy. Why don’t you get that paper they advertise in and see if there’s someone you like?”

“Elinda…”

My words were cut off when she pushed back her chair and stood. “Just think about it, please?”

I nodded, she kissed my cheek, I wished her goodnight and she headed upstairs. I was left with an awful lot to ponder. So much for getting a good night’s sleep.

𝐌𝐄𝐄𝐓 𝐒𝐔𝐒𝐀𝐍

I live in sunny Queensland, Australia and retired after 37 years of Nursing.

My husband of 45 years, together with our elderly Jack Russell Terrier and extremely opinionated 26-year-old Cockatiel, enjoy holidays and travelling.

When we are at home, which is a small rural village, we spend our time renovating our home.

I write a variety of stories including Western Historical Romance, Contemporary Romance, Male/Male, Ménage and Shapeshifter.

Each book has a strong focus on story line with romantic interest building throughout.

I explore real life issues from kids on the streets to motorcycle war and put my own twist on each one.

𝐅𝐎𝐋𝐋𝐎𝐖 𝐌𝐄

𝐁𝐥𝐨𝐠: http://susanhorsnell.com

𝐖𝐞𝐛: http://www.susanhorsnellromanceauthor.com/

𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫’𝐬 𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐩 https://www.facebook.com/groups/719979488517061/

𝐅𝐚𝐜𝐞𝐛𝐨𝐨𝐤: https://www.facebook.com/susanhorsnellromanceauthor/

𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐛𝐮𝐛: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/susan-horsnell

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