“If you have just a few minutes to spare and thiink to yourself, ‘I'm going to start reading Emmy‘… DON'T DO IT! You won't be able to put this book down! The next thing you know you will be swept into the storyline and refuse to put the book down! The characters are so endearing, you feel yourself bonding with them. You will enjoy all the twists & turns this story takes. Ms. Hayes has a way with words, you can actually picture the old west as it really was. Her attention to detail is amazing.” ~ Penny (Amazon reviewer)
Emmy woke early the next morning with butterflies flitting around in her belly. That was the pretty little saying, but these felt more like crows trying to peck their way out. As confident as she’d felt the night before, this morning she was a jumble of nerves.
What if Roy was disappointed when he saw her? What if she was disappointed? What if they weren’t compatible? What if he didn’t show up at all?
This last thought nearly crippled her. She would be settling her bill with the hotel on her way out, and then she would be nearly penniless. If Roy were to stand her up, she had no idea what she would do. Perhaps Mr. Portnoy would hire her as a maid, regardless of the fact that she’d never so much as made her own bed in New York.
Gnawing on her lower lip, she dressed carefully in the same lovely yellow dress she’d worn the night before, cinching her corset as tight as she could manage alone. Her wedding dress was packed in her trunk, on top of her undergarments, toiletries and woolen traveling dress, which needed a good washing.
When she’d arrived in San Francisco, Dell and Jack Dalton had met her ship and told her that normally grooms schedule the wedding for the day of the bride’s arrival, so no time is wasted. Having left New York so quickly after receiving Roy’s proposal, she’d barely had enough time to send him her answer, along with her travel itinerary, so she had no idea what he had planned for a ceremony. She only hoped she’d have time to change into her mother’s dress.
Emmy was in a daze as she paid her bill and left the hotel. Mr. Portnoy handled her account personally, and sent a porter to help with her trunk, but his words of encouragement were lost in a buzz of apprehension.
Walking along Broad Street’s boardwalk to the stagecoach station was like being inside a magic lantern show, all vapor and illusion. Every step seemed to push the platform farther away and the people streaming past and around her were mere phantoms. Her heart raced as she tried to speed up, but never seemed to get any closer. Then, before she realized it, she was there.
Two men were standing on the platform, looking in the opposite direction, waiting for the coach. One was tall and lanky, neatly dressed in crisp canvas trousers, a tan long-sleeved shirt and handsome leather vest. The other man towered over the first man, and was dressed in the same worn britches, blue flannel shirt and black leather vest he’d worn the day before. In an instant, she knew it was Sheriff Wilder, which meant the other man had to be Roy.
She never knew her heart could beat so fast. It felt like it might pound right out of her chest at any moment. And as much as she tried, she couldn’t will her feet to move another inch. She was a statue, simply watching the men waiting for her coach.
Roy — or the man she presumed to be Roy — leaned over and said something to the sheriff, who looked down and broke into a grin. He slapped Roy on the back a couple times and resumed his wait.
She couldn’t see Roy’s face, but Sheriff Wilder’s smile filled her with warmth. As rude as he was, there was no doubt in her mind that he was a good man. It occurred to her that somewhere along the line, she’d forgiven him for his churlish treatment of her — though after a good night’s sleep, she wondered if perhaps she hadn’t deserved it.
The fear that he might say something uncomplimentary about her to Roy got her feet moving again and, when she was a few steps away from the men, she cleared her throat loudly. Both men turned and both men’s eyes widened as they stared at her. She wasn’t sure how to proceed.
“Roy?” she squeaked softly.
The man continued to stare mutely at her, his mouth hanging open under a bushy mustache. Overall, he was a handsome man. Perhaps a little more weathered than she’d imagined, but it suited him. His blue eyes blazed out from his tanned skin like beacons, beckoning her to him.
Sheriff Wilder broke the spell by slapping the man on the back again, a grim smile on his lips. “Go on, man. Don’t leave the lady hanging!”
Roy lurched forward and shoved his hand out at her. “Roy Kirby. You’re…Emmy?”
The quaver in his voice was endearing, and much of the tension she’d been feeling all morning whooshed out of her in a great sigh.
“Yes,” she said, rushing up to take his hand. “I arrived a day early. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Yes, I mean, no, I mean…wait. You were on yesterday’s stagecoach?” He looked at the sheriff and back to her. “The one that was robbed?!”
She blushed and ducked her head. Sheriff Wilder stepped up and put a hand on Roy’s shoulder.
“Simmer down, she’s fine.”
“Are you? Were you hurt?” His concern was touching. Other than her father, she’d never had anyone really care about her well-being. Her new life, with this kind man as her husband, was about to begin. The fear that had plagued her for months started to fade.
“Honestly, I’m quite well,” she said, focusing on his mesmerizing eyes. If her gaze wavered, she might see Sheriff Wilder, and his presence was making her more and more uncomfortable.
They fell into an awkward silence for a moment before the sheriff gave Roy a small shove. “Well, whatchya waiting for?”
Roy hooked his arm out and Emmy gratefully snaked hers through it. As they walked away, she looked back at the sheriff, grateful that he hadn’t reported her bad behavior to Roy. He seemed sad, so she gave him a bright smile, hoping to cheer him up. It didn’t seem to, though. He just turned back around, rude as ever.