Authors: Penny Zeller
Tags: #General Fiction
Penny Zeller writes with wit, brilliance, descriptive clarity, and gentle, inspirational prose. She provides a plentiful supply of intrigue, romance, and drama, truly enough to keep anyone reading during every spare moment. I am eager to watch the impact this book will make on Christian fiction as a whole, but especially on individual readers, as they clearly find a well-defined yet never preachy message of God’s unchanging, never-failing, ever-forgiving gospel. This book is intended for your keeper library shelf, with its beautiful cover, endearing story line, and gripping characters who will stay with you. Don’t delay in adding it to your to-be-read pile. Matter of fact, lay it on the top!
Award-winning, best-selling author,
the Little Hickman Creek and The Daughters of Jacob Kane series, Through Every Storm, and Long Journey Home
Penny Zeller’s McKenzie is a moving, compelling story that’s rich with panoramic beauty and characters you’ll identify with. You will laugh, you will weep, you will wish you had taken speed-reading in school so you could find out even faster what happens next! I’m definitely adding this one to my keepers list!
Award-winning author of seventy-five novels, including Beautiful Bandit (book one in the Lone Star Legends series)
McKenzie is a captivating tale weaved together masterfully with characters that quickly steal the reader’s heart. They certainly did mine.
—Shirley Kiger Connolly
Author, Flame from Within and the I See God series
McKenzie is a sweet love story that transcends the pages of time and brings a fresh, new voice to the historical genre.
Publisher, Christian Fiction Online Magazine
GPCWC Writer of the Year, 2009
With a gentle touch and warm style, Zeller pens a story that looks deep into the heart of love—the kind between sisters that her heroine would do anything to honor, and the unexpected romance that springs up in its pursuit. McKenzie is a novel that will lead you on an adventure along with the title character and touch your heart as Zach touches hers.
—Roseanna M. White
Author, A Stray Drop of Blood
Senior Reviewer, The Christian Review of Books
This novel is a work of fiction. References to real events, organizations, or places are used in a fictional context. Any resemblances to actual persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible. Scripture quotation in the Acknowledgments marked (niv) is from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, niv®, © 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Book One in the Montana Skies Series
Printed in the United States of America
© 2010 by Penny Zeller
1030 Hunt Valley Circle
New Kensington, PA 15068
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Zeller, Penny, 1973–
McKenzie / by Penny Zeller.
p. cm. — (Montana skies ; bk. 1)
Summary: “McKenzie Worthington heads west as a mail-order bride with plans to return to Boston as soon as she finds and rescues her sister, Kaydie, from an abusive marriage. What she didn’t count on was falling in love with her husband, a handsome, godly rancher named Zach Sawyer”—Provided by publisher.
ISBN 978-1-60374-216-0 (trade pbk.)
1. Single women—Fiction. 2. Sisters—Fiction. 3. Abused wives—Fiction
4. Adultery—Fiction. 5. Montana—Fiction. I. Title.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical—including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system—without permission in writing from the publisher. Please direct your inquiries to [email protected]
A special thanks to the following:
Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior—May my writing always glorify You and bring others to a knowledge of Your saving grace.
My husband, Lon—Thank you for your encouragement and support. This wouldn’t have been possible without you!
My children—You are such blessings in my life! I love you and thank God for you daily.
My grandmother, Ruth Brown—Thank you for your enthusiasm in reading each new manuscript I send your way.
Barbara Dafoe—Thank you for your wisdom, insight, and inspiration.
Fellow author, Sharlene MacLaren—Thank you for your encouragement. I want to be just like you when I grow up!
My editor at Whitaker House, Courtney Hartzel—You have been awesome to work with. Thank you for all you do.
Christine Whitaker and the staff at Whitaker House—What a blessing and a privilege to work with such an outstanding company!
My readers—May God bless you as you grow daily in your walk with Him.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
—Psalm 19:14 (niv)
September 18, 1881 • Boston, Massachusetts
Clutching the envelope that had just been delivered to her home, McKenzie Worthington walked into the parlor and closed the doors behind her. Sitting down, she ran her finger over the familiar, hasty penmanship on the outside of the envelope. There was no return address, but McKenzie already knew who had sent the letter. Bracing herself for the words on the pages within, she carefully opened the seal and unfolded the tattered, soiled piece of stationery.
My dearest sister McKenzie,
I write this letter with a heavy heart and a fearful spirit. I am convinced that Darius is not the man I thought him to be when I married him. He drinks almost continually, and when there is no more money to purchase his whiskey, he places the blame on me. He used all the money in my trousseau long ago, and we are constantly on the run to avoid the law. His threats are many if I dare turn him in to the local sheriff.
We are without food much of the time, but Darius always finds funds for his alcohol. All the money sent to me in the past, he has found a way to spend. I wish more than anything that I could find a way to leave this place and return home. However, he has threatened my life if I leave and has arranged for several of his friends at the saloon to keep an eye on me. One of his friends, Bulldog, lives nearby and watches my every move. He scares me to death, McKenzie.
Please, help me get away from my husband. He is such a mean man with a horrid temper. I fear for my life, at times. If he knew I was writing to you, I know he would kill me. I ask again that you please not tell Mother and Father the seriousness of my situation, since they will surely say that I deserve it for running away with Darius. But please come, and come quickly.
With much love,
When she had finished reading the letter, McKenzie clutched it to her chest. She could feel a tear threatening to fall, and she diverted her attention to the mantel above the fireplace. A large, three-foot-square oil painting hung proudly in the same place it had for the past ten years. McKenzie stared at the three people in the portrait and suddenly yearned for things to be as they had been then. Time had passed so quickly; the years of her childhood seemed barely a whisper in the conversation of life.
On the left-hand side of the painting, McKenzie’s younger sister, Kaydie, posed in her pink satin gown. Her long, blonde hair flowed over her shoulders, and her brown eyes seemed to hold a sparkle that McKenzie knew was long gone due to Kaydie’s present circumstances.
Sitting on a higher stool in the middle, McKenzie’s older sister, Peyton, emphasized her role as the eldest and most favored Worthington daughter. Beneath her dark, rolling locks, her large, green eyes held the look of arrogance and superiority that she continually flaunted over her less-preferred sisters.
On the right-hand side, her head tilted toward Kaydie’s, sat McKenzie, then fourteen years old. Her long, strawberry blonde hair was pinned up at the sides, and she wore her favorite turquoise gown. The smirk on McKenzie’s face had caused her mother great disturbance. “Proper ladies never smile in a portrait. Your father will be so disappointed,” her mother had scolded her. “We shall have to insist the painting be redone.”
The artist had been paid a reduced fee for failing to change McKenzie’s smile to a look of solemnity and had never been asked to paint any further portraits for the Worthington family. So, the portrait of Arthur and Florence Worthington’s daughters had never been repainted.
Once the servants had hung it above the mantel, there it had remained, serving as a memory in different ways to the different members of the Worthington household. To Peyton, it was a reminder that she was the eldest and the most obedient. To McKenzie and Kaydie, it was a reminder of enjoyable days past, when they would secretly embark on adventures that were considered unbecoming for young women from families of prestige and wealth. To McKenzie’s mother, the portrait was a disgrace because of McKenzie’s smirk, and to her father, it was the observance of a costly tradition that had been carried on from generation to generation.
McKenzie scanned the portrait again, her focus stopping on Kaydie’s face. Hang on, my dear Kaydie. I promise I will figure out a way to save you from Darius. Please don’t give up hope, she silently begged her sister. I don’t know how I will do it or when, only that I will. This much I promise you.
McKenzie sat for a moment longer in the quietness of the parlor. She recalled her parents’ disturbance when their youngest daughter had eloped with Darius Kraemer and moved West with him.
McKenzie’s mother had covered her mouth with her left hand and fanned herself with her right, clearly indicating her dismay at the situation. “I am so distraught by Kaydie’s marriage that I can barely manage day-to-day living,” she’d lamented.