from Daughters of the HeartDAUGHTERS OF THE HEART, Historic Christian Romance, set in 1853-1854 Texas, Book Five of the Texas Romance series Main Characters : the Buckmeyer girls: Gwendolyn Belle (15), Cecelia Carol (17), and Bonnie Claire (12), and the men after their hearts Elijah Eversole - you met him in book four, Clay Briggs, and Braxton Hightower; Appearances by Henry and May Buckmeyer and Jewel, the cook, and the rest of the family. Premise : Stay true to God, His commandments, and good things will happen. Synopsis : Gwendolyn, Cecelia, and the youngest, Bonnie, make a pact never to break their father’s heart like their big sister did. Then their determination is sorely tried when suitors show up, and he gets so pigheaded with his rules. Read Chapter One: A sob preceded the slammed door. Cecelia’s heartbeat quickened, and she pushed herself up from her water closet’s floor. She covered her mouth for her sister’s sake then returned the glass to its hiding place behind the washcloths. “Poor Gwendolyn. Daddy’s such a….” Actually, no. He wasn’t. She straightened her dress and strolled into her room. Footfalls echoed up the stairs. Was that another sob? Her sister’s bedroom door banged against the jam, Hopefully, she didn’t break it, ’cause if she did, he’d for sure have her doing the fixin’, and poor ladyfingers Gwen could never be called handy—unless one needed sewing done. Though everything in her wanted to race over, she counted to ten, then hurried across the hall, tiptoeing wide steps. Swinging the door back and forth once on its hinges, satisfied her. Nothing broke, all in order, good. She eased in. Her older sister sprawled across her bed with her faced buried in a pile of pillows. No one slept on as many pillows as that girl. “Sister, what’s wrong? What’d he say?” Gwen shook her head, but didn’t look at her. “He’s so pigheaded.” A warm breeze fluttered the curtain, carrying the scent of fresh-cut hay. Cecelia sat on the bed and patted her sister’s back. “I’m so sorry.” She rolled over. “I hate him.” “No, you do not. We all love him, and you know it.” Gwen shook her head. “I hate her, too.” “Oh, don’t say that. What did Mama do anyway? She hardly ever gets involved.” “Well, that’s just it. She sat there the whole time and never said a word on my behalf. Didn’t even try to talk one bit of sense into him! She’s a female... you’d think –” The door opened. “Hey, you two. What happened? I saw Clay leaving.” She stepped inside. “Why’d he go?” Waving off her baby sister, Cecelia gave a relieved sigh it wasn’t Daddy. “Go away, Bonnie Claire. You wouldn’t understand.” Gwen sniffed then sat up. ”No, it’s alright. Let her come on in.” She patted the bed inviting the baby on. “Come up here by me. Close the door though.” The twelve-year-old climbed up next to her oldest sister—well, at home anyway…or if she didn’t count Rebecca or Mary Rachael—and snuggled in next to her. She put her hand on Gwen’s cheek. “Are you crying?” “Not anymore. I’ll be fine.” “What happened? Did you and Clay have a fight?” Cecelia looked to her big sister who shrugged then faced the baby. “No, Daddy just said he couldn’t come courtin’ anymore.” “Oh, no! Why would he?” “Because, supposedly, we’re not a good match. At least, that’s what he claims. And worse, May just sat there and let him talk.” “Don’t call her that. Really, she hasn’t done anything, Gwen, and that’s so rude.” “You weren’t in there, CeCe! She just sat there staring at the floor.” “Oh no.” Bonnie’s eyes grew wide. “What are you going to do?” “Nothing. What can I?” “I don’t know, but you love him, right? There must be something….” “I thought I did.” “So? If you love him –” “No! We cannot go against Daddy. No matter what or how pigheaded he gets.” Her heart broke over Gwen’s terrible situation. “But Mary Rachel –” “Exactly!” She rolled off the bed and walked to the window. “You were there, CeCe…when he got her telegram. It was almost like a part of him died. She broke his heart, then Caleb broke hers. Daddy was right all along.” “What about Jethro Risen, though? If she hadn’t of run off, then she never would have met him, and I like him a lot. Don’t you?” “But you cannot think like that, Bonnie! You and CeCe and me, we are true daughters. He loves us more than anything in the world.” “Even Mama?” “Yes, sweetie, he loves us even more than May. He’s known us longer.” “That’s right. We’ve got his blood. He loves us most.” Cecelia turned toward the window and her older sister. “So what are you saying? You’re just going to quit seeing him because Daddy said? Clay isn’t like Caleb, and you know it.” “But I have to. If Daddy says no, then that’s that. It only means there’s someone else out there for me.” “It’s just not right.” “It is, CeCe. And I want you to promise right now.” “Me? Promise what?” “And you, too, Bonnie Claire.” “I will. I promise.” “Promise what, Gwen?” She walked over to the bed and took both her sisters’ hands, making a circle. “I want you both to promise with me that you will never break Daddy’s heart. You have to agree, too, or you won’t be a true sister. He doesn’t deserve it. We can never break his heart like Mary Rachel did.” The baby dropped her hand and Cecelia’s then folded her arms across her chest. “I liked Clay.” “Bonnie, promise.” She wrinkled her nose. “But if Clay Briggs isn’t good enough, he’s never going to let any of us get married.” * * * * * Clarksville, seat of Red River County, Texas. Finally, the Belle skidded to a stop. Elijah shook his head. Jethro had not lied, couldn’t be a more bustling, quaint place tucked into the woods in all of the state. He kept to his bench until the other two passengers disembarked, a drummer never at a lack for words and a man about his age who appeared military by his bearing, but refused the salesman’s attempt at conversation. Good thing. If he’d been as big a talker as the drummer, Elijah would have had to ride with the driver. Once the stage’s dust settled, he climbed down, retrieved his carpetbag, glanced around the busy square, then strolled into the hotel. What was a Donoho? Had to be someone’s surname. Again, he hung back until the other two men booked rooms then bellied up to the front desk. “Henry Buckmeyer. Could you tell me how I get to his place? Do you know?” “Yeah, sure I know. You need a room?” “Not unless Mister Buckmeyer’s home is too far to get to by dark. It’s my understanding his ranch is near town.” “That’s right, only about five miles south as the crow flies.” The clerk nodded to his right. “Two blocks down is a livery. You can hire a buggy there and just tell your driver. Everyone knows the Buckmeyer place.” Half an hour later, with a map drawn with coal on a burlap seed sack and his new rig—a well-built surrey and a nice little mare—Elijah headed south out of town. The whole trip from California, he hadn’t let himself think about Mary’s sisters. But now, almost there, his heartbeat quickened, and he could hardly get enough breath for the anticipation. Jethro hadn’t stretched the truth about Clarksville. No reason to think he would varnish the reality of the abundance of Buckmeyer beauty. He could hardly wait to lay eyes on Gwendolyn or Cecelia. The baby girl, too, except she’d not be old enough to wed for a few more years. Each so beautiful, the sunsets were jealous. That’s what his partner had said. He’d take himself one for wife if they were half as pretty as their sister. And if cut from the same cloth as Mary Rachel. The only thing that surpassed her beauty was the size and sincerity of her sweet heart. * * * * * Cecelia handed her stepmother another split peg then chuckled. “A man may work from sun to sun –” “But a woman’s work is never done.” May smiled then leaned in close. “How is our Gwendolyn doing?” Cecelia did a slow three-sixty then shrugged. “She thought she loved Clay, but she won’t go against Daddy’s wishes. I don’t think she ever will.” “Good.” May held out her hand. Cecelia handed over another peg. “Have you asked him?” “No, I wanted to wait until after –” “Mother. Three-quarters of the girls my age in the county are already married. The rest are so…so…undesirable, no one wants them. I’m almost seventeen. What if all the good ones get taken in the next year?” “CeCe, I said I would talk to him. But you know how your father is.” She grinned. “If I can make it seem to be his idea, then your chances go up considerably.” Though she had to agree, she still hated that Mary Rachel had ruined it for her. Just because she ran off and married the wrong man, didn’t mean Cecelia would. Mercy—as the great Henry Buckmeyer would say—if he had his way, she might never marry and she and her sisters would grow up to be old maids. The thought broke her heart. Her bratty brother busted through the back door. “Rider coming! Pro’lly another suitor for Gwen.” Houston put his finger in his mouth and faked a gag. “Pro’lly another gold digger like all the rest. Why else would someone want her?” “Samuel Houston Buckmeyer! Watch your mouth, or I’ll hold you down and get Bonnie to give you what for.” May leaned in close. “Leave him be. He’s just trying to get your goat.” Well, the spoiled little terror already had, but ignoring him did make sense. He only craved attention. When he wasn’t the center of everyone’s, he acted up something awful. She helped finish pinning the wash, then decided she’d go see the new suitor. Wow, word surely spread like a late summer grassfire in Red River County. Clay hadn’t been gone but a few hours. “Where’s Crockett?” She handed the bag of clothespins to May. If that baby needed tending, she’d see to him. Couldn’t get enough of that little booger. “Need any help with him?” “No, Lacey Rose and Bart are playing blocks with him in the wash house.” “Guess I’ll go see this beau, then, before Daddy runs him off.” “Certainly, you go on. I’ve only got one more load boiling.” Cecelia winked. “You do know we have folks who will do the laundry.” “Of course silly, but I like doing your father’s and Crockett’s. And well, to tell the truth, I’m having a bit of trouble with my latest story. I should never have told Houston and Bonnie I’d pen them a children’s book.” Strolling through the kitchen, Cecelia snagged a gingersnap right under Mammy’s nose then eased on out into the hall. Hmmm. Empty and quiet. Plenty unusual. Her father’s office door closed in the middle of the afternoon? What was that about? She hurried upstairs and tapped on her sister’s door. “Come in.” She stuck her head through a narrow opening. “Who’s here?” “I don’t know. Someone to see Daddy, I guess.” “Houston said the guy came calling on you.” “That boy. Daddy needs to tan his hide. He’s all time spreading rumors. Maybe we ought to take things into our own hands and wash his mouth out with lye soap until he stops.” “Now there’s an idea.” She stepped in and waved the door toward shut but never let go of it. “Come on. Let’s go see who it is.” “No, I don’t much cotton to that idea. Not up to meeting someone new.” “Fine, but don’t be asking me any questions.” Gwen shook her head then waved her off. Cecelia had to smile. She couldn’t help it if she hated keeping news to herself. Mercy, holding stuff in would hurt a body. Everyone knew that. She eased on downstairs, loafed around the kitchen, keeping out of Mammy’s way and only slipping one more snap until her father’s library door swung open. She took two steps then froze. Lord above have mercy on her soul! The man’s sky blue eyes met hers. For a heartbeat, she stared into the windows of his soul. Such an awesome sight! The urge to dive in almost overwhelmed her, but what a good thing she didn’t. If she ever gave in, she may never come out again. Her father stepped toward her. “Cecelia! Come here, sweetness, this is Elijah Eversole, Jethro and Mary’s partner. He’s going to build me a steam engine for the mill.” She blinked, and the man looked away. “Good to meet you, sir.” She smiled, but not too big. Hopefully, her father had not seen her make a fool of herself. Him and his stupid no-courting-until-you-were-eighteen rule. And just that day, she’d promised to abide by it.
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