Emily Sunberg has triumphed over rumor, made friends and lived in spite of feeling betrayed by Jake Edgerton so many years previously. When he appears in her life with a thud and knocks her literally to the ground, she finds the old familiar anger welling up within her.
This tale of Emily and Jake in the old west is a fun, romantic story. Her feisty friend Iris can keep you guessing throughout the book as Jake and Emily battle with their friendship throughout the story.
There were a few confusing elements in the book for me, that I was confused about, and wondering if I missed something, but they did not detract from the overall book.
This author is one that I seek out her historical fiction. She provides a good read for a rainy or hot summer day!
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar is a certified Christian life coach and speaks at writers’ conferences and for women’s groups. She has taught workshops at such conferences as Write-to-Publish, American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Oregon Christian Writers Conference, Mount Hermon Writers Conference, and many local writers conferences. Another of Andrea’s accomplishments is cofounder of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization. For many years she served on both its advisory board and as its CEO.
Emily Sundberg considers herself a proper young lady of the twentieth century. But a decade ago she behaved more like a tomboy. So when the neighbor’s grandson came to visit one summer when she was thirteen, they became fast friends. Emily even got her first kiss—quite by accident.
Unfortunately Jake Edgerton told all the boys something else. Rumors circulated, and Emily caved from embarrassment and guilt. Meanwhile Jake returned home to Fallon, Montana and she never saw or heard from him again.
Over the years Emily has worked hard to prove to her peers and the people of Manitowoc, Wisconsin that, despite past mistakes, she is an upstanding young woman, one worthy of being a schoolteacher—and possibly Andy Anderson’s wife. But even with the passing of time, Emily has never forgotten Jake and how he nearly ruined her life…
Manitowoc, WisconsinAn explosion of shattering glass sounded from directly behind Emily Sundberg, and a thunderous weight crashed into her. The world spun, and then she fell hard and facedown on the dirty Franklin Street plank walk.
Breathe! Breathe! She struggled to inhale.
“Are you all right, ma’am?” A male voice spoke close to her ear. “I’m terribly sorry about knocking you over.”
He helped her sit, and a moment later a rush of sweet, springtime air filled Emily’s lungs. She let out a breath of relief.
“Are you hurt?”
“I . . . I don’t know.” Emily spit dirt from her mouth. Her left cheek began to throb. Her vision swam.
He steadied her, his arm around her shoulders. “Easy there.”
She took several deep breaths.
“Allow me to help you up and over to the bench. Like I said, I’m sorry ’bout knocking you over the way I did.”
Emily wiggled her toes inside her ivory-colored boots. Nothing broken. She moved her jaw. Despite the pain around her cheekbone, she seemed all right. Her hand moved to the back of her head. Her fat braid had come out of its pinning and her hat—her hat!
She pointed to the paved street seconds before a set of buggy wheels rolled over it, grinding the lovely creation into the paved road. Not once. But twice!
“Careful, now.” The man helped her to stand. “There’re shards of glass everywhere.”
Emily thanked God she hadn’t slammed her head into the nearby hitching post.
“Hooligans!” A woman’s voice rang out amidst the strangely silent street. It sounded like Mrs. Hopper’s. “Hooligans, ever’ one of ’em!”
Definitely Mrs. Hopper’s.
The man held Emily securely by her upper arms, and Emily’s gaze fell on his walnut-colored waistcoat. “You sure you’re not hurt?
“I–I don’t think so.”
“Well, I hope you can forgive me, ma’am.”
Emily’s gaze finally reached the man’s tanned and goldenwhiskered face. Shaggy blond hair framed his face and blood stained the corner of his mouth. In his canvas duster and matching trousers, the stranger looked out of place for Manitowoc, Wisconsin. But odd costumes weren’t totally uncommon, given the city’s lively port.
And yet, he seemed a bit familiar too . . .
“Unhand that girl, you hooligan!” Mrs. Hopper rushed forward and whacked the man on the shoulder with her cane.
He winced and released Emily. “I meant her no harm.” As Emily staggered backward slightly, the man caught her elbow. His velvety-brown gaze bore into hers as if to ask yet again if she’d been injured.
Funny how she guessed at his thoughts.
“I’m just shaken.” Emily glimpsed the remorse in his eyes before he bent and picked up the dark blue capelet that her grandmother, Bestamor, had knit for her. He gave it a shake before handing it over.
“And what about my hat?” Sadly she pointed again to the street.
The man collected its colorful but irreparably flattened remains.
“A travesty!” Mrs. Hopper’s age-lined face contorted in rage. “A travesty, I say!”
Travesty indeed! It had taken months for Emily to save for that fine bit of millinery with its silk ribbons, Chantilly lace, and pink roses on a velvet bandeau. Now Andy Anderson would never see it. She took the mangled remnants from the stranger’s hand. “I certainly hope you plan to reimburse me for this. I paid one dollar and fifty cents for it.”
“A dollar and a half? For a hat? I could buy a shoulder holster, cartridge belt, and ammunition for that sum.”
Unimpressed, Emily extended one hand of her torn netted glove. Another casualty.
Resignation softened his gaze before the man reached into his inside pocket and then placed two dollar bills into Emily’s outstretched palm. “This should more than cover it. Again, I apologize.”
“Thank you.” Emily smiled. “Apology accepted.” She folded the money and put it in her reticule, still attached to her wrist.
Mrs. Sylvia Hopper sniffed indignantly, but Emily caught the approving light in the older woman’s eyes. She’d known the elderly woman for a long while, as she had been Bestamor’s best friend back in Norway. She’d come to America just before Poppa was born, and now her granddaughter, Iris, was Emily’s best friend.
A small crowd pressed in on the boardwalk to gawk. Emily’s gaze moved to the man who lay sprawled out and unmoving several feet away.
She quickly turned away. “Is he dead?”
“Probably not.” The stranger bent and grabbed his hat that lay nearby and gave it a whack against his thigh. “My compliments. You took that tumble a far sight better than he did.”
“Who is he?”
“Name’s Wilcox. He’s wanted in five counties.”
Emily glanced at the motionless figure again. He didn’t look familiar.
“It’s actually amazing that you’re not out cold yourself. For a moment I feared I’d killed you.”
“And you could have killed her, you low-life hooligan!”
“Please, Mrs. Hopper . . . ” She glanced around, hating to be the subject of such a scene. “I’m fine. No need to worry.”
Muttering, the elderly woman walked to where several women stood a ways down on the boardwalk, holding parasols and whispering behind gloved fingers.
Emily felt suddenly unnerved. “I guess I’m sturdy for a woman. Even so, I haven’t taken a hit like that since my brothers jumped me and I fell off my horse. Those rascals pretended they were US marshals and I was one of the James Gang.” Emily moistened her lips, her gaze fixed on the handsome stranger. “They flung themselves at me from a tree limb. It’s a miracle we didn’t all break our necks. ”
A moment passed, and Emily wondered why this moment seemed sealed in time.
The man narrowed his gaze.
“Forgive my prattling.” She hadn’t meant to go on like that. “The fall must have shaken my tongue loose.”
Despite the injury to his mouth he grinned, and Emily could swear she’d seen that smile before.
“Both you fellas are paying for this damage to my front window!” Mr. Fransmuller stomped out of his restaurant and saloon. Emily knew him and his family, as young Hans had been in her class just the year before. “Look at what your brawl has done!”
Emily took note of the gaping hole where the two men had crashed through the window.
Mrs. Hopper limped over to the tavern owner. “There ought to be a law against such barbaric behavior in our town. Someone’s going to get killed. Why, Mr. Fransmuller, you should be ashamed, serving strong drink on a Thursday afternoon. Women aren’t safe to do their shopping in broad daylight anymore!”
“Just for the record, I wasn’t drinking,” said the familiar stranger. “Just playing cards is all.”
“And gambling, most likely.” Mrs. Hopper hurled another angry glare at him. “Gambling is a dirty sin.”
Fransmuller frowned and wiped his beefy hands on the black apron tied around his rounded belly. “Now, Mrs. Hopper, don’t start in on one of your holier-than-thou rants.”
“I beg your pardon?” Mrs. Hopper brought herself up to her full height of four feet nine inches. “How dare you speak to me in such a way, Mr. Fransmuller!”
“I’ve got a business to run, and I pay my taxes.” He threw a thumb over his shoulder. “But just look at my front window!” He gave a wag of his nearly bald head. “And you should see the saloon! One big mess!” Mr. Fransmuller marched up and stood toe to toe with the man beside Emily. “Who are you? I want your name. You’re paying for half the damages to my business!”
Emily watched as the stranger moved his duster to one side. She glimpsed the gun, discreetly haltered across his chest, before he produced his billfold and a silver badge. “Deputy Marshal John Alexander Kirk Edgerton at your service.” After a courteous dip forward, he counted out several large-sum bills. “Will this cover my portion of the damages?”
Emily gasped. Jake? Could it be?
Mr. Fransmuller stared at the money. “Yes. This will do.” He gave a nod of appeasement before walking away.
Mrs. Hopper moved down the boardwalk and continued her conversation with the other ladies.
“Jake?” Emily eked out his nickname, scarcely believing it was him. He was several inches taller, filled out some, and had grown whiskers since she last saw him ten years ago. “Jake Edgerton?”
His gaze slid to her and he smiled. “Well, well . . . Emily Sundberg.” He didn’t look surprised. Obviously he’d recognized her before she’d figured out his identity. “Look at you, all grown up—you even turned out pretty.”
“Hmph! Well, I see you haven’t changed!”
“It was a compliment.”
She bristled. It didn’t sound like a compliment. What’s more, she suddenly recalled that Jake was part of that US marshal stunt her brothers pulled.
Jake Edgerton was trouble. Trouble from the time they were thirteen and fifteen.
“So what are you doing in Manitowoc?”
“Attending my granddad’s funeral.”
Emily felt a sting of rebuke. “Oh, I–I’m sorry. I didn’t know he’d passed. I mean, I knew Mr. Ollie had been ill for a long while, but . . . ”
“Happened just last night.” Jake eyed her speculatively.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Me too.” He glanced away for a moment. “So what about you?” His gaze returned. “Married? Working at your family’s shipping business?”
“Neither. I’m a schoolteacher here in town. I only get home on Sundays.”
“A schoolteacher, eh?”
She nodded as the realization of Mr. Ollie’s death sunk in. A sweeping sadness prevailed. “Again, I’m sorry for your loss. Your grandfather was a good neighbor to our family.” She eyed the rugged man standing before her. Mr. Ollie spoke of him often, and Jake had been especially close to the old man. Oliver Stout, fondly called Mr. Ollie by Emily and her brothers, had been a respected attorney, one who’d boasted many times over the years that his only grandson would one day take over his law practice.
But it didn’t look that way. Not if Jake was a deputy marshal.
“I appreciate the condolences, Em.”
Such familiarity galled her. “So you’re a gambler as well as a lawman?” Emily could only imagine Mr. Ollie, weeping in heaven.
“I partake in a game of cards on occasion.”
“Family funerals being one of them?” She couldn’t squelch the quip.
Jake inhaled, but then seemed to think better of a reply. Instead, he guided her the rest of the way to the bench.
Emily tugged her capelet around her shoulders and sat. She eyed the crowd, praying no one would recognize her as Maple Street School’s third grade teacher or Agnes Sundberg’s niece or Jacob Dunbar’s cousin . . . or Captain Daniel Sundberg’s daughter. With so much family surrounding her in this town, Emily knew the odds were against her anonymity.
“Once again, I am terribly sorry you got in the middle of this whole mess.”
He couldn’t be sorrier than she!
Mr. Fransmuller began sweeping up glass and shooing people away from the scene when shrieks from across the street pierced the air.
Iris. She turned in time to see her best friend making an unladylike sprint from the department store.
“Emily! Emily Sundberg!”
Standing, she cringed. So much for hiding her identity.
Emily lifted a hand in a tiny wave. Iris spotted her and crossed the street. She held her hat in place on her head with one of her slender hands. In the other she clutched her wrapped purchases.
“What’s happened? Oh, my stars!” A pale blue dress hugged Iris’s wispy frame as she hurried toward Emily, while her wire-rim glasses slipped down her long nose. “I heard there was some barroom fight and you got trampled half to death. What would I do if I’d lost my very best frie—”
Iris’s gaze lit on Jake, and she slowed her steps. Giving him a timid smile, she let go of her hat and pushed up her glasses.
He touched the brim of his hat. “Ma’am.”
Iris leaned toward Emily. “Is he the one who ran you over?”
“That about sums it up. But I’m fine, so let’s finish our shopping, shall we?”
Iris didn’t budge. “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” She nudged Emily, who felt a new soreness in her rib cage.
Jake spoke up before she could. “US Deputy Marshal Jake Edgerton, ma’am.”
“Deputy marshal? How impressive.” Iris’s smile grew. “I’m Miss Iris Hopper and Emily’s best friend, going on eight years now. Right, Em?”
“My parents were killed in a horrible mud slide in South America where we were missionaries. I’ve lived with my grandmother ever since.” She pointed to where Mrs. Hopper still stood, recounting the event to an accumulating cluster of women.
“Sorry to hear of your loss.” Jake’s gaze, the color of the brandy he denied drinking, shifted to Emily. “As for Em and me, we go way back too.” A slow grin spread across his mouth. “Ain’t that right? And I must admit it’s been a pleasure, um, running into you today.”
Shut up, Jake. She looked down the block, wondering if he had any idea how much heartache he’d caused her over the years. Because of him and his big mouth, she’d spent half her life repairing her blemished reputation in this town. Worse, Jake never wrote back to her when she’d attempted to apologize for her part in the wrongdoing.
“How’re your brothers?” He gave a nostalgic wag of his head. “That summer I visited Granddad and met all of you Sundbergs was the best in all my life.”
“Eden and Zeb are fine. Just fine.” She couldn’t get herself to say any more. “We’re all fine.”
“Glad to hear it.”
“Emily’s never mentioned you.” Iris’s pointed features soured with her deep frown. She leaned closer to Emily. “I thought we told each other everything.”
“No? You never mentioned me, Em?” Jake’s dark eyes glinted with mischief.
Tried half my life to forget you! She clenched her jaw to keep back the retort and realized that it hurt too.
His expression changed. “Maybe you ought to see a doctor, Emily.”
She wished he hadn’t picked up on her wince. “No, I’m fine.”
“She always says that,” Iris tattled. “She’s always ‘fine.’”
“How far’s the doctor’s office from here?”
“I don’t need a doctor, Jake. But thanks, anyway.”
“Well, goodness, Em, you certainly did take the worst of it.” Iris brushed off the back of Emily’s capelet. “And, oh, my stars! Just look at your hat. It’s ruined.”
“Yes, I know. But Jake reimbursed me.”
“How thoughtful.” After a smile his way, Iris examined Emily’s face like she was one of her fourth graders. “I’m not mistaken a bruise is already forming on your left cheek.” Iris clucked her tongue. “You’ll be a sight at the Memorial Day Dance tomorrow night. But if you need to stay home now, I will too.”
“No. We’re still going.” Emily knew her friend looked forward to this community event that honored war veterans as much as she did. In addition, Andy Anderson would be there. Maybe if he saw her in the new dress Momma and Bestamor had sewn especially for the occasion, he’d finally notice her, and not just as Eden’s sister either.
“Andy won’t give you the time of day if you’re all banged up. You might as well stay home.”
Iris had spoken her thoughts. Sadness descended like a fog rolling in from off Lake Michigan. Emily fingered her sore cheek. She’d decided months ago that Andy would make a perfectly suitable husband. Would this ruin her chances of finally catching his eye?
“Might help if you go home and put a cold compress on it,” Jake suggested. “I’ll bet no one will be the wiser by tomorrow night.”
“Sure, that’s right,” Iris’s gaze softened. “Perhaps Andy won’t see any bruising. And we can cake on some of Granny’s concealing cream wherever necessary.”
Glimpsing Jake’s amused grin, Emily blushed. How could Iris speak about such personal things in front of him?
“Excuse me, but are you speaking of Andy Anderson by any chance?” Jake hiked his hat farther back on his head.
“Yes.” Again, Iris seemed happy to provide all the information.
However, the last thing Emily wanted was Jake Edgerton to get involved in her life. “We should be on our way, Iris. Let’s catch up with your granny.”
“Well, I’ll be . . . ” Jake leaned against a hitching post. “Andy Anderson . . . what’s that rascal doing these days?”
“Andy works over at the aluminum factory.” Iris pointed just beyond Jake’s left shoulder and toward where the large, thriving business was located. “He’s quite the lady’s man, but Em hopes to change all that.”
“Iris, really!” Emily gave her friend a stern look.
“Interesting.” Jake gazed off into the distance, his lips pursed as he kneaded his jaw. He seemed to mull over the information before looking back at Emily. “I wondered if I’d see Andy while I was in town.” His gaze focused on Iris. “Andy and I go way back too.”
Every muscle in Emily’s body tensed. If only Mr. Ollie could have waited just a week longer to pass from this world to the next. Her hopes ran high for the Memorial Day Dance tomorrow night, and it vexed her that Jake might have the power to destroy her welllaid plans.
“Emily is counting on Andy to ask her for a dance tomorrow night, but—”
“Iris!” Aghast, she gave her friend’s arm a jerk. “I’m sure Deputy Edgerton doesn’t care about such things.”
“Sure I do.” He straightened, still grinning. “And I’ll tell you what, Em, if Andy doesn’t dance with you, I’d be happy to.”
“Thank you, but I can’t possibly accept.” She tamped down the urge to scowl.
“It’s the least I can do.” After another charming smirk, he arched a brow. “What time’s the grand affair?”
“Aren’t you in mourning?” He just couldn’t show up.
“Of course I am.” Jake rolled one of his broad shoulders. “But I know Granddad fought in the Civil War, and I think he’d want me to attend.”
Iris happily divulged the details, and Emily wanted to scream.
“I’ll be there,” Jake said.
“How grand!” Iris adjusted her colorfully decorative hat. “Then, of course, you must save a dance for me.”
“Iris!” How could her friend be so bold?
Jake didn’t seem offended. “It’d be my honor, ma’am.” He smiled rather sheepishly.
Enough! Emily turned on her heel and strode down the walk, passing Mrs. Hopper and the other women. Her heels clicked hard on the weathered planks. While she walked faster than a lady should, if she didn’t hurry, she’d lose her composure here and now— and right in front of the man who’d nearly ruined her life!