The Drifter’s Mail-Order Bride (The Dalton Brides #4)

READER REVIEW

The characters really came alive and presented a story that so many of us can understand, that of being judged on looks alone. You will love Bonnie's story of finding love and finally seeing her true beauty.
~ChemE Lady (Amazon reviewer)

 

EXTENDED EXCERPT

The moment Bonnie and her sisters stepped off the train, she spotted two men who looked identical. The odds of there being a set of twins and a set of triplets meeting that particular train seemed low, so she assumed the third brother was simply out of sight.

Raising a tentative hand to the men, she started across the platform with Libby and a clueless Gwen, who was prattling on about the stagecoach ride they were supposed to be taking into Wiggieville to see Anne. The men met them halfway.

“Are you ladies the Blue sisters?” asked one of the men.

“Who are you?” Gwen said, as rude as ever.

“I’m Walton Dalton, and I pick you,” replied the man. Then he did the most amazing thing. He pulled Gwen into a kiss — right there on the platform in front of God and everyone!

Gwen took care of him, though, by stomping on his foot, but he didn’t seem deterred. In fact, he seemed more determined than ever, going so far as to say the preacher was standing by. And poor Gwen had no idea what was going on.

“Mr. Dalton,” Bonnie said, addressing Walton and trying to keep the panic from her voice, “I’m Bonnie. I’m the oldest sister.” He seemed completely nonplussed by this news so she elaborated further. “I believe I’m the one you’re supposed to marry.”

“I don’t care who’s oldest,” he said, gazing down at Gwen. “I’m marrying this one.”

He might just as well have punched Bonnie in the stomach. She’d come all this way expecting to marry the eldest brother and who had he gone for? Gwen, of course. She shouldn’t have been surprised, really, but it still stung.

“I believe your letter said there would be three of you,” she managed to squeak out.

“That’s my brother Nate,” Walton said, nodding at his brother before flicking his eyes around the platform. “Bart should be here by now but I’m sure he’ll be along.”

Bonnie didn’t really care about the inconsiderate brother Bart, who couldn’t be bothered to keep an appointment. She had higher expectations from her future husband.

She turned to look at Nate but he couldn’t seem to rip his gaze away from Libby, who was blushing furiously and peeking up at him from behind her dark lashes. This wouldn’t do at all. She refused to be the consolation prize for the one who didn’t show up on time.

“Libby’s the youngest!” she fairly shouted, drawing surprised looks from everyone. Surely he would do the right thing and choose Bonnie over her baby sister. But of course Nate had been just as surprised as Gwen at the situation he’d found himself in and he simply looked confused.

To his credit, he adapted much more quickly than Gwen did, as soon as Walton explained, but Bonnie once again found herself ignored and rejected in favor of her prettier sisters. Bitterness settled over her heart at the realization her life would be no different outside of Beckham.

And now…now she was leftovers. The discarded garbage the other two brothers didn’t want. She was table scraps! It was all she could do to choke back the tears as they waited for the tardy youngest brother.

What had she been thinking, bringing her sisters along? She’d registered with Elizabeth’s mail order bride agency to leave Beckham — including her family — behind. With nothing to compare her to, her future husband might have been pleased with her. She was extremely skilled at homemaking and, when not standing next to her beautiful sisters, she wasn’t altogether homely.

She’d ruined her entire life by putting the welfare of her sisters ahead of her own, just as she’d always done. Never once growing up had they shown her the same courtesy, so why did she feel so responsible for them? They certainly didn’t refuse the advances of Walt and Nate, even though Bonnie made it very clear she expected to be the first chosen.

For five full minutes, she sat on that bench and hated her sisters. She wished and prayed for a runaway train to jump the tracks and barrel across the platform, taking them all with it. She would be the lone survivor, and the only person to turn up at the group funeral. Of course, she would be draped in black but behind her dark veil, she would be smiling. Maybe even laughing.

Then Libby reached over and squeezed her hand. The poor child was trembling. Bonnie’s frozen heart melted, and she gave her youngest sister an encouraging smile. She couldn’t begrudge either sister happiness, nor would she wish misery on them. And marrying those lecherous old deacons would have been a life sentence of misery.

Well, if she couldn’t have love, she would at least do everything in her power to make sure her sisters were happy and cared for. If these two men, who were so entranced by their beauty, didn’t do right by them, they’d have Bonnie to answer to.

As for her, she had little choice but to accept the errant Dalton as her husband. What little money they had left after the train journey wouldn’t be enough for her to buy a meal, much less a ticket back home. The question was, would he accept her?

It looked like she was about to find out. Walton was striding across the platform to meet with a third man who looked just like him. As late as Bart was meeting them, Bonnie would have thought he’d have a little giddy-up in his get-along, but in fact he seemed quite unperturbed. Clearly the man was unreliable, inconsiderate and untrustworthy.

Wonderful.

Bonnie was just thinking that maybe marrying Deacon Smith would have been preferable to a layabout ne’er-do-well when Walt led his brother over to make introductions. Swallowing her pride — what was left of it, anyway — she stood and did her best to not glare at the man. Alienating him before he even found out they were to be married wouldn’t help matters.

But the moment Bart’s deeply tanned and calloused hand enveloped hers, the second his rich brown eyes met her own, all the words — every word she’d ever learned — flew right out of her head. A strange drumming roared in her ears, and she was surprised to discover it was her heart beating wildly. The palm he was holding so gently in his strong hand was suddenly wet with perspiration. Bonnie had never been left speechless in her life, and she didn’t understand her strange reaction to this man.

But the spell was broken when Walt introduced her as Bart’s bride. The look of sheer horror that flashed across his face was enough to bring her out of her stupor. Her brain was still trying to play catch-up but two words managed to rise to the surface. Two words that would show she was no one to be trifled with. Two words that would perfectly signify her disdain for him.

“You’re late.”