Tracie Peterson - [New Mexico Sunset 03]


ISBN 978-1-55748-764-3

Copyright © by Tracie Peterson. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 721, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.

All scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. niv®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

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Chapter 1

ngeline Monroe peeked out from behind her frilly parasol and giggled. At eighteen, she was clearly one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful girl in all of north-central New Mexico. The proof of this was the circle of young men that followed her around like a pack of lost pups, each one trying to outdo the other for her attention. Each one completely captivated with the charming wiles of the shapely young woman.

Her parents struggled to take their daughter’s popularity in stride. It was
n’t that they didn’t want Angeline to court and marry, but the attention that seemed to follow their youngest child was often a worrisome thing.

“You don’t suppose we could just put her in a convent?” Daniel Monroe asked his wife in mock seriousness.

Lillie Monroe was an older version of her daughter Angeline. Something in the way her daughter moved among the circle of suitors reminded her of herself. With a laugh she turned to her husband. “You’re too old-fashioned, Doctor.”

Daniel ran a hand through his hair as had been his habit for over fifty years. “She seems too young.”

“She is eighteen.”

Daniel winced. Where had the years gone?

Angeline was oblivious to her parent’s concern. She loved being court
ed, even if it was by the entire bachelor population of Bandelero, New Mexico. Even if they did it all at one time.

Church picnics were the best, Angeline decided, while demurely evaluating her companions. Everyone got to wear pretty clothes and look nice, because you’d just come from services. Then you’d spread out blankets down by the river, and everyone would eat and talk and laugh. Yes, church picnics were the very best way to get to know each other.

She put a hand up to brush back a tiny wisp of invisible hair. It made her appear quite innocent and positively feminine, she knew. She knew, of course, because she’d practiced doing this very thing in front of her bedroom mirror.

Angeline glanced coyly around her to make certain her audience was still captive to her cause. Causes were very important to Angeline. She’d joined one after the other and always threw herself into the working needs of each. She supposed the very first cause she’d ever joined was that of Christianity. To Angeline, going to church and participating in the various activities and committees was a prime cause, indeed. And, in this situation, the cause did her a great deal of good. Her parents often felt that she needed to take the matter of spirituality more seriously, but Angeline noted that she lived by the Good Book and was wholly devoted to the various missionary projects. It was hard to understand why her parents would even once question her devotion to spiritual matters.

Leaving the distastefulness of such thoughts behind, Angeline passed a glance over each young man, receiving in return looks that ran the range from shyly embarrassed to boldly inviting.
she thought to herself, nearly laughing out loud. How simpleminded they were.

Suddenly, as a mother might be aware of one child’s absence from her brood, Angeline realized that she did not command the attention of every bachelor at the picnic. One very stubborn man stood off under a tree and looked to Angeline to be quite bored with the entire day.

Gavin Lucas, oldest son of Maggie and Garrett Lucas, refused to join his four brothers in the pursuit of Angeline Monroe. He watched, however, very discreetly so as not to draw attention to himself. He saw his brothers Joseph, Jordy, and twins Dolan and Don while they seemed to dance on a puppet string that Angeline controlled. No, he wasn’t about to play that game.

And, it was because he wouldn’t play the game that Angeline even noticed him. She’d always liked the Lucas boys. Maybe it was because her parents and theirs were lifelong friends. Maybe it was because for so many years there had hardly been anyone else around. Then one day the railroad came to Bandelero, and the town began to boom, bringing new people, new businesses, and a whole new lifestyle. Overnight it seemed, the town had grown from twenty or thirty to five hundred, then a thousand. It was a little smaller now because interest seemed to pull people south to Santa Fe and Albuquerque or north to Denver and Colorado Springs. But no matter. Angeline knew how to make the most of what she had, and there was always a cause to be found to entertain herself with.

“Why won’t you take a walk with me down by the river?” Jordy Lucas was saying. A full year younger than herself, Angeline never seriously considered Jordy when thinking of husband material. And if she couldn’t consider him for that, why waste her time walking by the river?

“I’m having too much fun,” she said, beaming a broad smile upon all of them. “I want to stay right here and enjoy the day.”

It seemed as though everyone started talking at once then, but Angeline’s eyes were once again drawn to Gavin. He hadn’t moved in the last half hour and Angeline couldn’t help but wonder what he was so seriously considering.

Gavin smiled to himself, knowing that Angeline, or Angel as he had called her since she was a child, was disturbed by his aloofness. Up until the last year or so, he’d played her game just like the others. Now, Gavin was through playing. He’d made up his mind about Angel over two years ago and now he was just biding his time. Angeline Monroe was the woman he intended to marry. She just didn’t know it yet. Shoving his hands deep into his trouser pockets, Gavin pretended to study the leaves overhead.

“What are you doing here all by yourself?” Daughtry Dawson, Gavin’s married sister, asked thrusting a small boy into his arms. “You might as well watch over Kent for me while I help get the food on the table.”

Gavin’s serious expression changed into surprise, then honest pleasure. “How ya doin’, Partner?” Kent, barely a year old, looked up at his uncle and squealed.

“I guess that means good,” Daughtry replied, tucking a stray strand of copper hair back into place. “Do you mind keeping an eye on him for me?”

“Not at all,” Gavin said, burying his face against the baby’s stomach and growling. Kent began to chortle in his baby way. Gavin then held him high into the air, bouncing him up and down.

“Thanks, Gavin,” Daughtry said almost apologetically and slipped away while Kent was preoccupied.

Gavin looked past the baby nonchalantly.
he thought.
Now I real
ly have Angel’s attention.
He knew Angeline would come to him on the pretense of playing with Kent, but in truth it would be Gavin she was seeking out. That and the reason for why he was no longer playing her game. Turning his back to Angel and her crowd of suitors, Gavin began to count.

“One!” he said and lifted Kent high into the air. “Two!” he counted and swung the boy low to the ground. Kent giggled and clapped his hands, when he wasn’t gripping Gavin’s arm.

“Three!” Gavin had just brought Kent up even with his head, when Angeline’s voice sounded from behind him.

“Hello, Gavin,” she said, seeming to purr the words. “I saw that you were playing with Kent and I just had to come see him.”

Gavin stopped swinging Kent and turned to face Angeline. Meeting her eyes, a color somewhere between lavender and blue, he hid the effect she always had on him. “Hi, Angel.”

Angeline had his attention now, so she moved on to capture Kent’s. No man, no matter the age, was safe from her charms.

Holding her arms up to Kent, he immediately went to her from Gavin.

“You are just the sweetest thing.” Angeline’s voice rang out like a song. Kent reached for a handful of her long blond curls and laughingly pulled them to his mouth.

“Better not, Partner,” Gavin said, using the excuse to touch Angel’s hair. He gently removed the spun gold strands from Kent’s grubby hands and let the hair curl around his own fingers for just a moment. It was soft and fine like silk, and Gavin silently wished he could bury his hands in it as his nephew had.

Angeline smiled smugly at the exchange, knowing that Gavin was now hers to command. “You’re such a little darlin’,” Angeline drawled softly, kissing Kent on the forehead. Then without missing a beat, she looked up at Gavin and smiled. “How come you’re here by yourself? I missed you.”

Gavin let a slow lopsided grin overtake his normally serious expression. “I’m surprised you even noticed me. What happened to your choir?”

“My what?” Angeline questioned, feigning serious confusion.

“Your choir. I figured what with the moaning and groaning of that group, they must be warming up for a good song.”

Angeline laughed in spite of the fact that she’d planned not to respond to anything Gavin said. “Jealous?” she finally asked.

“Nope,” Gavin stated, quite serious, and took Kent from Angeline’s arms. “Never did like to sing.” With that he walked off to leave Angeline to stare after him. He wanted to laugh out loud at the stunned expression on her face, but he held it back. She’d come around in time.

Two days later, Angeline was still stinging from Gavin’s rejection. She’d played the scene over in her mind and saw no reason for his rudeness. She evaluated scenes from weeks, months, and even years gone by and wondered silently when Gavin had lost interest in her. Did it matter? she couldn’t help but ask herself. Then, deciding that it shouldn’t, Angeline went to work to find a new cause to occupy herself with.

At supper, Angeline had decided what she would request. She waited for just the exact moment when her mother put dessert and a fresh pot of coffee on the table. If her luck held, Angeline thought, no one would call for her father to come play doctor. If her luck held, she just might get her own way.

“Mother, Father,” Angeline began, and both of her parents looked up warily. “I have something to ask you.”

Daniel looked at Lillie as Lillie was looking to Daniel. They were searching each other for a clue as to what Angeline had planned. When both shrugged, they turned their attention to Angeline and collectively held their breath.

“I want to travel.” Angeline was never one to beat around an issue. She was well-known for coming right out with what she wanted. “I know I can’t go abroad what with that dreadful war in Europe.” She made the affair sound as if it were a party out of control, rather than a life and death battle of political issues.

Angeline smiled sweetly at both of her parents before continuing. “I know too, that you miss John and James since they’ve gone off to join the army.” She waited to see if they would say anything. She almost felt sorry for being the cause of the stunned expression on their faces. “Anyway, I would very much like to travel and see some of our other states. California, for instance, and New York. I’ve read so much about both places as well as Chicago and Kansas City. I really do want to see these cities.”

Daniel was the first to speak. “Angeline, you can’t very well go off by yourself and your mother and I can’t just pick up and leave. We have obligations and duties here.”

“Your father is right,” Lillie said, but her memory reminded her that she too had enjoyed traveling as a young lady. “We can’t very well take you on any extended trips.” Lillie glanced at Daniel, hoping he might soften the blow somehow. Neither one was very good at telling Angeline, “no.”

Angeline grew very serious. Her eyes seemed to plead from the softness of her heart-shaped face. “I feel so pressured here,” she said softly. “Everyone expects me to choose a man and get married, and I’m just not ready for that
yet.” It was the very thing to get Lillie’s and Daniel’s minds in line with
Angeline’s desires.

“Nobody says you have to get married,” Daniel stated firmly. “I certain
ly haven’t been pushing you to find a husband.”

“Nor I,” Lillie added.

“I know,” Angeline said in her manipulative way. “But nevertheless, it is expected. Why just the other day I heard, well, it wasn’t very nice and I shan’t repeat it in full.” Angeline paused as if it pained her greatly to continue.

“What did you hear?” Lillie and Daniel asked in unison.

“Well, there was some talk about how dreadfully old Daughtry Lucas was when she got married. She was nearly twenty-four, you know.”

Lillie and Daniel smiled at each other.

“Anyway, people just seem to naturally think I should be looking to marry right away. Of course, there are other obligations to consider since I’m the last one at home. You know how people are these days. Especially in regards to obligations.”

Lillie’s eyes narrowed just a bit. “What do you mean?”

Angeline smiled. “I suppose people just worry that I’ll stay here and take care of you and Father. Sometimes it’s just expected of unmarried women.”

“What is?” Daniel asked, completely baffled by Angeline’s line of discussion.

“That I remain unmarried in order to care for you and Mother, in your aging years.”

“What!?” Daniel and Lillie exclaimed at once.

“Not that I would mind all that much, but I would like to see at least a bit of the country before I did that.”

Daniel started laughing which in turn made Lillie giggle. Angeline pretended to be confused. But even so, it was hard to know what her parents were thinking and some of her confusion was genuine.

“Did I say something wrong?” she questioned respectfully.

“No, Sweetheart,” Daniel replied. “It’s just that your mother and I are far from ready to be cared for. I think we can surely find some way to stretch your mind a bit, if not your legs. What do you say you let us consider the matter of travel? Maybe we could find a suitable traveling companion for you or maybe I could spare your mother for a week or so.”

“Oh thank you!” Angeline squealed in delight and jumped up to hug her parents. “You’re both wonderful, and I love you so!”

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