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Prairie Courtship

Язык: Английский
Год издания: 2018 год
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      Prairie Courtship
Dorothy Clark

No one could love a female doctor–Emma Allen knows that well. But her spinsterhood bothers her less than the lack of opportunity to use her medical training.In Missouri, no one trusts a female doctor, either. Then the opportunity arises to join a wagon train headed to the Oregon Trail. A new frontier offers a new hope for the life she wants to lead. But first she must deal with the hazards of the journey–including infuriating wagon master Zachary Thatcher. Zach riles Emma's temper until she's convinced no man could be more wrong for her. Yet when the treacherous trail challenges them, it takes his experience and her skill working together to bring them safely home.

“Why have you and your sister joined this wagon train?”

Thatcher’s eyes were hidden below his hat’s wide brim, but Emma was sure he was scowling. She gripped the lantern with both hands. “And how is that your concern, Mr. Thatcher?”

“I am responsible for getting this wagon train to Oregon before winter, Miss Allen. Everything that can endanger that mission is my concern.”

He called her an endangerment! Emma gave him her haughtiest look. “And how does our presence imperil your mission?”

“If you want me to name all the ways, you’d best let me light that lantern. We will be a while.” He held out his hand.

“I think it would be best for you if I continue to hold the lantern, Mr. Thatcher. At this moment, you would not want my hands to be free.”

Laughter burst from him, deep and full. Surprising. She had thought him quite without humor.

“Seems you might not need quite as much protecting as I figured you would.” He chuckled.


Critically acclaimed, award-winning author Dorothy Clark lives in rural New York, in a home she designed and helped her husband build (she swings a mean hammer!) with the able assistance of their three children. When she is not writing, she and her husband enjoy traveling throughout the United States doing research and gaining inspiration for future books. Dorothy believes in God, love, family and happy endings, which explains why she feels so at home writing stories for Steeple Hill. Dorothy enjoys hearing from her readers and may be contacted at dorothyjclark@hotmail.com.

Prairie Courtship

Dorothy Clark

www.millsandboon.co.uk (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk)

“Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto him; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

—Psalms 37:4–5

This book is dedicated to my sisters Jo and Marj.

My thanks to you both for being so understanding of my time constraints, and for praying me through these last two months. I wouldn’t have made it without your help. I love you both.

And to my critique partner, Sam. You stand tall, cowboy. Thank you again for your encouragement and prayers. And for sticking with me through the crunch. I will return the favor when your deadline hovers! And, yes, you may have Comanche—after the next book is written. Blessings.


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two


Letter to Reader

Questions for Discussion

Chapter One

Independence, Missouri

April, 1841

“Break camp!”

That was not Josiah Blake’s voice. Emma Allen turned in the direction of the barked order, stiffened at the sight of an imposing figure atop a roan with distinctive spots on its hindquarters. So the autocratic Mr. Thatcher had returned to take command. She had hoped his absence since their arrival at Independence had meant he would not be leading the wagon train after all.

Brass buttons on the front of the once dark blue tunic that stretched across the ex-soldier’s shoulders gleamed dully in the early morning light. Pants of lighter blue fabric skimmed over his long legs and disappeared into the knee-high, black boots jammed into his stirrups. He rode forward, began to wend his way through the wagons scattered over the field.

Emma frowned and stepped out of sight at the back of the wagon. Mr. Thatcher did not need to wear the faded blue cavalry uniform to remind people he had been a military officer. It was in his bearing. And in the penetrating gaze of the bright blue eyes that peered out from beneath his broad-brimmed hat. Eyes that looked straight at a person, noticed everything about her—including a lace-trimmed silk gown that was inappropriate garb for an emigrant. Eyes that had unfairly impaled her on their spike of disapproval at that first meeting in St. Louis when he had simply assumed she was William’s wife and would be accompanying him on the journey to Oregon country—and judged her accordingly. Had the man bothered to ask, she would have informed him William was her brother and that she was not traveling with the train.

Not then.

But that was before everything in their lives had turned upside down. Emma sighed and stroked Traveler’s arched neck. How she had hated telling William that the severe nausea Caroline had developed was not normal for a woman with child. That his wife and the baby she carried were in peril, and would, of a certainty, not survive the journey to Oregon country. Her face tightened. Another prayer unanswered. Another hope shattered. William had to give up his dream of teaching at his friend Mitchel Banning’s mission in Oregon country.

Emma glanced at the two wagons sitting side by side, lifted her hand and combed through Traveler’s mane with her fingers. How many hours had she sat watching William plan and design the two wagons’ interiors—one to hold their personal necessities and provide for Caroline’s comfort, the other to carry needed provisions, the teaching materials and provide shelter for Caroline’s mother? He had had such faith that things would turn out all right. Misplaced faith. William was, at this moment, aboard one of their uncle Justin’s luxury river steamboats taking his wife home to Philadelphia. And she and Annie—who should not be traveling at all in her injured condition—were—

Traveler tossed his head, snorted. The thud of a horse’s hoofs drew near. Stopped. Mr. Thatcher. Emma stood immobile, aware of a sudden tenseness in her breathing, a quickening of her pulse.

“Good morning, Mrs. Allen.”

Emma turned, looked up at Zachary Thatcher sitting so tall and handsome in his saddle and gave him a cool nod of greeting. He was a lean man, muscular and broad of shoulder. But it was not his size, rather the intensity, the firm, purposeful expression on his weather-darkened face, the aura of strength and authority that emanated from him that produced an antipathy in her. Autocratic men like Zachary Thatcher were the bane of her life, had caused the demise of her dream. She refused to feed this one’s vanity by exhibiting the slightest interest in him or what he had to say.

A frown tightened his face, drew his brows together into a V-shaped line. “I see your lead team is not hitched yet. Tell your husband from now on every wagon is to be ready to roll out by first light.”
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