They survived the Oregon Trail, but claiming a legacy would be their biggest challenge yet…
Sometimes, the end justifies the means…
Kate Davis arrived into Oregon City transformed from a pampered daughter of fortune into a determined woman with a plan–fulfill her father’s dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory.
She quickly discovers a harsh truth–even thousands of miles from home, on an unsettled land America doesn’t yet own or govern, gender still takes precedence over ability. Refusing to be ruled once again by the stifling laws and societal norms she’d escaped by leaving Virginia, Kate begins creatively claiming what is rightfully hers.
Until a visit to the land office changes everything.
Jake Fitzpatrick guided Kate across the Oregon Trail, and fell in love with her along the way. Now he wants to marry her and build a life together, but a ruthless man from Jake’s past threatens to reveal a dark secret, and destroy everything he’s worked so hard to achieve.
Kate entered the hotel lobby and stood behind William and Margaret. While she waited for Jake to join her, she gazed around the spacious room.
Rag rugs dotted the gleaming pine board floor and a marble-topped oak desk sat in the back left corner. Navy plaid curtains on both windows—one overlooking the front steps and the other facing the alley—were pulled closed, yet the room was well lit by three oil lamps and warmed by flames flickering in the stone fireplace at the back wall.
Behind her, Jake shut the door and then stepped so close she felt the brim of her hat brush against his chest.
Jake—the man who’d hired on as her family’s guide across the Oregon Trail.
Jake—the man who’d supported her through the darkest time of her life.
Jake—the man she loved.
“William! You’re finally here!” The man Kate assumed to be William’s uncle rose to his feet and hurried around the desk and across the room. Though by the creases around his eyes he looked to be in his early forties, he had hair the color of coal, broad shoulders, and a trim waist. His clothing, while outdated by nearly a decade, was impeccable, and a brown silk cravat perfectly arranged at his neck and embellished with a gold pin completed the outfit.
This man was a welcome change from the other men she’d seen so far in the town.
“I’ve been waiting for you to walk through that door for weeks.” He grabbed William into a fierce hug, then pulled back to look at him again. “I was worried you’d run into trouble.”
“We did,” William replied.
“We?” William’s uncle finally took note of the others lingering at his door. His eyes scanned the ragged group, narrowed briefly when they reached Jake, and then returned to his nephew.
William removed his hat and beckoned Margaret a few steps forward to join him. “Uncle Theodore, I’m proud to introduce you to my wife, Margaret. We married the day before departing from Independence.”
Theodore took Margaret’s hand and bowed with a grace and confidence Kate hadn’t seen since the ballrooms of Virginia. “Please pardon my initial shock. My nephew is a lucky man to have a bride as lovely as you.”
“Thank you,” Margaret murmured, absently running her free hand along the curve of her waist.
“You’re welcome.” Theodore released her hand. “ʺI consider it a privilege to have you as a member of our family.” He straightened and eyed the lobby doorway, where Kate still waited with Jake at her back. His smile faded. “William, you mentioned trouble earlier, a fact that doesn’t surprise me now that I see who you kept company with on the trail.”
Kate’s mouth dropped open. What had she or Jake done to offend this man?
“The return to civilization can be a tough adjustment.” Theodore motioned to William’s bare head, then to his hat clutched against his leg. “I’m pleased to see you haven’t forgotten the formalities of polite society.”
Kate’s cheeks flamed. Propriety had been ingrained in her since birth, but she’d only been wearing a man’s hat since July—her father’s hat, willed to her on his deathbed. While she had no intention of replacing it with a bonnet any time soon, she did intend to do her best to act according to society’s conventions. She quickly pulled off the hat and ran her free hand from her forehead to her collar several times in a futile attempt to tame her wild curls.
Sighting Theodore’s slack-jawed astonishment, Kate bit her tongue to stifle a laugh. He likely regretted his pointed words; she didn’t need to further add to his embarrassment.
“Seems your companion has better manners than you.” Theodore nodded toward Jake, who, to Kate’s surprise, still hadn’t removed his hat.
“Seems so,” Jake replied, slowly pushing up the brim with one finger.
Kate kept quiet, but wondered what would possess Jake to purposely be so rude to someone he’d just met. Especially a prominent business owner, one that could potentially serve as an ally if she ran into trouble with her future plans.
“William,” Theodore said, smoothly turning to address his nephew again, “who is this beautiful creature hiding beneath those ill-fitting clothes?”
William glanced at Jake and gave a nearly imperceptible shrug of apology, then focused again on his uncle. “I’m pleased to introduce Katherine Davis—”
“And the infamous trail guide, Jake Fitzpatrick,” Theodore finished.
“You know each other?” William asked, his tone mirroring Kate’s own surprise.
Jake gave a curt nod. “We’ve met.”
“And then some.” Theodore’s laugh seemed more smug than jovial. “We came across the trail together a few years ago.”
Margaret clapped her hands together in delight. “Isn’t that something? Two friends meet again after all this time.”
“Friend isn’t a word I’d use to describe him,” Jake said, removing his hat and stepping beside Kate in one fluid move.
They lost everything but their dreams on the Oregon Trail…
Kate Davis is intrigued when her father reveals his dream of starting a horse ranch in Oregon Territory. Settlers out west value a strong woman, and though she manages the financials of her father’s mercantile her competence earns her ridicule, not respect, from Virginia’s elite society.
Jake Fitzpatrick, an experienced trail guide, wants land out west to raise cattle and crops. But dreams require money and he’s eating dandelion greens for dinner. So when a wealthy businessman offers double wages to guide his family across the Oregon Trail, Jake accepts with one stipulation–he is in complete control.
Departure day finds Kate clinging to her possessions as Jake demands she abandon all he deems frivolous, including her deceased mother’s heirlooms. Jake stands firm, refusing to let the whims of a headstrong woman jeopardize the wages he so desperately needs–even a beautiful one with fiery green eyes and a temper to match.
Trail life is a battle of wills between them until tragedy strikes, leaving Jake with an honor-bound promise to protect her from harm and Kate with a monumental choice–go back to everything she’s ever known or toward everything she’s ever wanted?
Christi Corbett, winner of the 2013 RONE Award for Best American Historical novel, lives in a small town in Oregon with her husband and their twin children. The home’s location holds a special place in her writing life; it stands just six hundred feet from the original Applegate Trail and the view from her back door is a hill travelers looked upon years ago as they explored the Oregon Territory and beyond.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Christi-Corbett/e/B00DC8H5CI/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1