Genre: Historical Romance
Loving a Wild Stranger
A woman running from her past… straight into the arms of an untamed man
In a moment of desperation, Kathleen Stanton flees her pampered life in Kingston, New York and ends up stranded in a small town in the Michigan Territory. Out of money and forced to rely on her instincts, she impersonates a handsome stranger’s mail-order bride.
Committed to her deception, Kathleen calls herself Michelle and starts her new life with Luther in an isolated cabin in the wilderness. Luther can’t believe his luck when his beautiful bride arrives, but something doesn’t feel right about his new wife. Michelle has terrifying nightmares involving a man named Roger and is reluctant to talk about where she came from.
Luther’s friend, Redfeather visits and tries to convince Luther to send Michelle back east. Distrusting Michelle, he warns Luther that his bride is not what she seems. But Luther is in love with Michelle, and he is harboring a secret of his own—one that might force Michelle to reject him when she learns the truth.
Michelle falls in love with Luther and adapts to her new way of life. Together, they face off against brutal townspeople and overcome harsh living conditions. When they finally give in to their desires and agree to become a proper man and wife, a dark figure from Michelle’s past resurfaces and threatens to destroy everything.
Kathleen’s knees shook as she strode down the sidewalk toward the livery. She had to get out of the store before there was trouble. She felt sorry for that man, Luther. He’d seemed nice enough when he gave her back her glove.
The coach waited near the livery, and her trunks still sat on the sidewalk. She had some time left. What should she do? She didn’t dare get back on the coach, but this town was awful and she didn’t want to stay here. Perhaps she could throw herself on the mercy of the church. There had to be one somewhere and the reverend would take her in. Or would he?
Kathleen crossed the street and entered the livery. A round-faced man slouching behind the counter straightened up.
“You must be from the stage,” he said, gazing at the front of her dress.
She folded her arms across her bosom and looked him square in the eye. “How did you know?” she asked, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Because I’ve been with all the women in town and you ain’t one of ’em. You Clyde’s new girl? I’d pay two dollars for a night with you.” He winked.
“How dare you! I’m looking for the church.”
The man spit a stream of tobacco juice on the floor next to her brown boots. “We ain’t got a church. If you ain’t the new whore, then what are you doin’ here?”
She spotted the newspaper the man had open on the counter in front of him. An advertisement for wedding lace gave her an idea. “I’m a mail-order bride.”
“That so?” He scowled. “Who’s the lucky man?”
Kathleen twisted her skirts and tried to stall for time. “There’s a problem with the papers you see…”
She glanced out the window. The driver stood near the coach, scratching his head. A second later, she heard the familiar clomp of boots on the sidewalk. This was her one chance. It had to work. She had always trusted her instincts, and now she could only think of one answer. Her gut told her to take the risk. “Luther’s his name and—”
“Luther?” The liveryman’s eyes widened. “Well, you’re in the right place.” He arched an eyebrow. “You sure it’s Luther?”
She nodded as the coach pulled away. All hope of escape left town in a swirl of dust. Her trunks lay abandoned on the sidewalk. There was no going back now. This man thought she was a mail-order bride. She tried to remember what she’d read about them. It sounded simple, a man sent money to a company and they sent a wife.
She tensed as the livery door opened.
“Hey, Karl. I pulled the wagon—” Luther stopped as he spotted her.
She averted her gaze and smoothed her skirts, suddenly ashamed of her appearance. What man would accept her unwashed and dusty?
The liveryman laughed. “Hell, Luther, looks like ya got more than you thought goin’ home with ya.”
“What’s that mean?”
Kathleen closed her eyes. What had she done? This wasn’t a game anymore.
“Seems your wife came special delivery on the coach.”
She heard the surprise in Luther’s voice. What if he hadn’t sent away for a bride like the men in the store had said? She had to think of a story, now. Luther’s boots clomped across the floor and stopped in front of her. When he cleared his throat, she opened her eyes.
Luther stood two feet away, holding his hat in his hands. His head was cocked to one side. “He foolin’? This a trick they paid ya for?”
“No,” she whispered. “No trick.”
As Luther’s shoulders relaxed, his face softened.
Kathleen clenched her hands behind her back, took a deep breath, and started her story. “I had paperwork for you to fill out, but there was a problem on the stage and some luggage got left behind, so there’s nothing for you to sign.” Her voice wavered, and she coughed lightly. “I sent the mail order place a wire. They said they’d send the papers as soon as they can, so…”
“That’s fine, ma’am.” He smiled. “My name is Luther Dubois, and you don’t know how long I’ve been waitin’ for you. Come with me. I’ll put the feed on the cart, and we’ll get settled.” Luther lifted a bulky sack from the floor and walked to the door, obviously expecting her to follow.
She hurried after Luther. A chestnut-colored horse and a wooden cart waited outside the livery. Luther headed to the cart with the sack slung over his shoulder like a dead body. He half-turned to her. “He give you any trouble?”
“Man inside, Karl. The men in this town ain’t known for their manners, especially when it comes to women.” Luther dropped the sack into the wagon.
“My trunks are over there.”
“I’ll fetch ’em. But I’m afraid I ain’t got room for you in back with all the supplies. You’ll ride behind me.”
She watched as Luther carried her trunks to the cart and tucked them in next to sacks of flour, grain, and other supplies.
“You ready, Miss…”
All of a sudden she realized that Luther had never asked her name. “Evans, I’m Michelle Evans,” she answered. After months on the run, she was smart enough never to give her real name.
“Me-chelle, that’s French.” Luther smiled. “Miss Me-chelle, we’ll be on our way.” He mounted the horse and reached down to her. “Give me your hand and swing your leg over.”
Kathleen bit her bottom lip, unsure. If she did this, there was no turning back.
“Now don’t tell me you ain’t never rode a horse before,” Luther joked.
Kathleen placed her hand in Luther’s palm and he hoisted her onto the horse. She sat behind him and adjusted her skirts. Where were the saddle and stirrups? Luther rode only with a blanket and reins.
“Wrap your arms around my middle and hold on. We’ll get home before dark.”
Home? She clutched Luther as the horse lurched forward, willing herself to stay strong. If she started to cry now, she’d never stop. What in heaven’s name had she done?
Kelli A. Wilkins is an award-winning author who has published more than 100 short stories, 19 romance novels, and 5 non-fiction books. Her romances span many genres and heat levels.
Loving a Wild Stranger was released in January 2017. This historical/pioneer romance is set in the wilds of the Michigan Territory and blends tender romance with adventure.
Kelli’s third Medallion Press romance, Lies, Love & Redemption was released in September 2016. This spicy historical western is set on the Nebraska prairie in 1877.
In 2016 Kelli began re-releasing her romances previously published by Amber Quill Press. Visit her website and blog for a full title list, book summaries, and other information.
Her writing book, You Can Write—Really! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is a fun and informative non-fiction guide based on her years of experience as a writer. It’s filled with writing exercises and helpful tips all authors can use.
Kelli posts on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKelliWilkins and Twitter: www.Twitter.com/KWilkinsauthor. She also writes a weekly blog: http://kelliwilkinsauthor.blogspot.com/.
Visit her website, www.KelliWilkins.com to learn more about all of her writings, read book excerpts, reviews, and more. Readers can sign up for her newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/HVQqb.