HOPE REBORN Historic Christian Romance, set in 1850-1851 Texas
Book Three of the Texas Romance series
Main Characters : Millicent May Meriwether (a New York City successful dime novelist bored with her life), Chester (May’s right-hand man, agent, manager, and confidant), Henry Buckmeyer (from Vow Unbroken and Hearts Stolen), and Mary Rachel Buckmeyer (Henry and Sue’s oldest daughter), with appearances from Levi and Rebecca Baylor (sibling-cousins from Vow Unbroken and Hearts Stolen) Wallace Rusk, Laura Langley, Charley Nightengale (Sassy/Rose’s son), Mammy and other children: Gwendolyn, Cecelia, Bonnie and Houston (Henry’s children by Sue), Bart (Levi and Sassy/Rose’s half-Comanche son) ; Other appearances by Sassy/Rose Baylor, Jean Paul, and introducing new beau Caleb (Mary Rachel’s fellow)
Premise : Prayer is heard and answered. Nothing’s too hard for God. Know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.
Synopsis : (Six years have passed since Hearts Stolen. Revisit the Buckmeyers and Baylors and meet the Meriwethers!)
Millicenet May Meriwether shines as a famed New York novelist bored with her east coast same-o-same heroes. When she sees an article in the Tribune of two Texas Rangers, Captain Levi Baylor and Sergeant Wallace Rusk, she decides to go to the Lone Star State and interview the men to get inspiration for her next heroes. There she discovers way more than she ever bargained for.
Read Chapter One:
May smiled at the Tribune’s headline, “Fillmore Says Pay Texas Off.” Even the President was thinking about the new state. She returned her gaze to the line close to the bottom of the front page.
Could it be that more than one Henry Buckmeyer lived in Texas? She seriously doubted it, and that settled the matter. She was going west.
“Chester, would you come in here, please?”
While she waited, she reread the article that lacked the prominence due—in her estimation. It hadn’t changed. The man’s name stared back at her in bold type.
“Chester.” She hated raising her voice. “Where are you?”
For a minute more, she tapped her nails in a rapid syncopation—little finger to index—on her desk. Finally, she stood. Where had he gotten off to? And what could he be doing?
Before she reached it, her parlor’s left side door opened. “Did you need me, ma’am?”
“Yes, I wanted to know if you read that article I gave you about the exploits of those two Texas Rangers.”
“Well? What did you think?”
“Interesting. Might be a novel there, but really, ma’am, not your sort of story. Is it?”
“Well, I don’t see why not.” She headed back to her chair with the man following then flopped into it. “Oh, Chester.” She massaged her face, thumbs on her jaws.
“I’m so sick of snooty-prude ladies doing whatever they can think of to trick stuffy-shirted men into marriage.” Her hands went high into the air in defiance then relaxed into a stretch. “Really. I can’t write another.”
He looked around the rather large room; it tickled her that the New York mansion’s grandeur still impressed him, always had. “But those stories do pay the bills.”
She hated that everything always boiled down to gold coins. “Ah, but certainly, there’s got to be more to life than money.”
“Well said, if you have plenty.”
The last thing she wanted this evening was to get into a debate over dollars. Besides, she didn’t like to think of herself as having plenty, as he put it.
“Fine. I’ll capitulate. Life requires filthy lucre. There. Now if you’re happy, how about you remove a handsome amount out of the safe for me? I’m going to Texas.”
“What?” He grinned, and his snowy teeth glistened as white as any of her heroes’. “No. Millicent May. Texas is unruly, primitive. And there are wild Indians. You cannot.”
She glared. “Do not call me that, you know better.” Clearing her throat, she smoothed her hair, pushing up a curl, and willed herself calm and reserved. “And do not presume to tell me what I can—or cannot—do. Please.”
He lifted his brows and tucked his chin a bit, but only looked at her, didn’t speak.
“So why not?”
“Texas came into the Union as a slave state, ma’am.”
“What does that matter? It has nothing to do with anything.”
“And, you have a deadline looming. A manuscript to finish?”
“Oh, pshaw, I can write anywhere.” She picked up the newspaper, turned it upside-down to her, then pushed it toward him, touching it halfway down. “See what it says?”
He leaned over her desk. “Fillmore’s definitely an advocate.”
“Yes, of course, but that isn’t what I was talking about. Look there by my finger.”
He read the copy where she pointed. “What about Henry Buckmeyer?”
“Don’t you remember your daddy’s last letter?”
“Yes, ma’am. Are you speaking of him mentioning a Patty Buckmeyer whom he ran into some place up on the Red River. Jonesboro, if I remember. Said he’d known the man during the war.”
He shook his head. “Bound to be lots of Buckmeyers.”
She smiled, loved knowing something he didn’t. For a few sweet seconds, she savored the moment then puckered and nodded.
“Well, one Patrick Henry Buckmeyer fought the bloody British with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. The exact same place your daddy won his freedom in 1814. This Henry has got to be the same man.”
“Maybe, but Texas is still a slave state, ma’am.”
“I could care less, doesn’t matter one iota. I want us to go.”
He leaned back and closed his eyes. She considered jumping up and shaking him until he agreed, but she wouldn’t. She was too much a lady for such shenanigans, and he didn’t like to be touched.
Finally, he opened his eyes then leaned his nappy head all the way back until he faced the ceiling. “May, May, May.”
When he came back level, locking his eyes onto hers, he spread his full lips in what vaguely passed as a crooked smile. “Is there any argument that I might use to talk you out of this crazy idea?’
“No, not one. I am going, whether you join me or not. Are you? Will you? Please come along. It would be so hard without you.”
He put one fist on his hip, shook his head again, and exhaled a long slow breath. “Alright then, yes, ma’am. Shall I make the travel arrangements?”
“Yes, please. I want to leave as soon as possible.” She rubbed her hands together. “Oh, this is going to be exciting. Isn’t it?”
In a totally bland tone and with a face as straight as a carpenter’s chalk line, he gazed intently. “Oh, yes, ma’am. Hoorah.” He turned and headed out.
He stopped, but didn’t turn around. “Yes, ma’am?”
“When it is only you and me, there’s no need for you to use your houseboy manners.”
“Yes, ma’am. I know.” He strolled out. Seemed to her a bit lighter on his feet, even if he acted like he didn’t want to go.
She loved needling him, almost as much as he loved playing the part of her faithful freedman. She’d expected more resistance. Why, he hadn’t put up much of a scrap at all.
Down deep, he was probably as excited as she. Past time to have a fine adventure, being cramped up in this gilded cage had gotten old.
The next two days passed in a flurry. To make her editor happy, she sat her high European-fashioned, bustled bottom in her chair and slung ink like a madwoman.
She hated the drivel she blabbered onto the pieces of innocent, pure white paper, but she’d taken the money, and so she scribbled. How many times had she written a crippled variation of the exact same tale?
The first four or five novels were fun, even exhilarating. But lately, boring wasn’t a strong enough word.
Midmorning of the third day, both parlor doors flung open. Chester nodded toward the front of the house. “Everything is loaded, ma’am; we need to leave in the next half hour.”
She laid her quill pen down, blotted the last page she’d been working on, then stood. “Excellent.”
She wiggled the page in the air and blew on it. After a credible time when the ink should be dry, she stuffed it in her leather grip. “I’m ready.”
Of course he hired a carriage with a matched pair of high-stepping steeds. Her Chester loved fancy horses and throwing her money around. No wonder he wanted her to keep scribing love stories.
The driver turned into Central Park then whipped the pair into a stiff trot; she leaned back against the well padded, velvet seats. Well, she certainly liked nice things, too.
And also, she supposed begrudgingly, possessed a certain persona to uphold. But then, at this time of day, no one would be at the train station anyway.
Past the park, the man turned the wrong way. She stuck her ankle-high, laced, way-too-expensive boot out and tapped Chester’s shin. “He’s going the wrong direction. Say something.”
He pushed her foot away then scooted from dead center of the opposite seat to the window, positioning himself athwart. “No, ma’am, he knows exactly where he’s going.”
“But, Chester, the train station is the other way. Have him turn around, or we’ll surely be late and miss our train. Is that your ploy?”
“I will not, ma’am. Our destination is not the train, you see. I booked us on the S.S. Georgia, we sail in –”
He pulled out his gold pocket watch, the one she’d given him, what? Twelve—no fifteen years before, right after that first big royalty check.
“Exactly fifty-seven minutes. More than adequate.” He replaced the timepiece and stared out the window.
She hated him having any upper hand. She studied his mirthless eyes, and his full lips betrayed nothing. “Exactly why, may I ask, are we sailing on the Georgia instead of taking the train west?”
“The Georgia, a magnificent side-wheel steamboat, will have us in New Orleans in ten days. Time we may actually enjoy, ma’am.”
“It sounds delightful, but….”
“From there Jefferson, Texas, is five days or less up the Red River by way of the Mississippi, and then a mere hundred miles by stagecoach on to Clarksville.” He lifted his chin in a rather arrogant, haughty, uppity manner.
She liked it, but hoped he wouldn’t use it too much. “But I love trains.”
“I know, but Texas by rail would take twice as long.”
“Why a steamboat? Wouldn’t a clipper be faster?”
“Well, why New Orleans? I thought you hated that city.”
“I do, but Pa loved the place. He might have gone back.”
A day or two in the French Quarter wouldn’t be so objectionable; especially if Chester could find his father. Most likely, he’d enjoy playing detective, asking around, and she could.… No.
She crumpled that notion and threw it in her mental wastebasket where it belonged along with so many unwritten scenes. “Do you honestly think he’s still alive? Could he be?”
“He’d only be sixty. It’s possible.”
Counting, she pressed her fingers then toes ever so slightly. He hated it when she did it openly, no need to antagonize him. Still, words were her forte, numbers raked her brain.
She shook her head. “I believe you might be mistaken. By my calculations, he’d be in his seventies, wouldn’t he?”
“He’s only fourteen years older than me. To think your mother made the mistake of educating him.”
“That was no mistake. Why would you say such a thing?”
“Maybe not a mistake. But definitely illegal, at least according to the State of Virginia. They have laws against it.”
“So? I guess that makes me a criminal, too?”
“Not so in New York, ma’am. But extradition agreements do exist between all the states.”
He seemed to want to say more, but fell silent. Probably thinking about New Orleans and how he’d go about discovering if his father had indeed gone back. She loved the town and its casinos.
Could she handle it though? Or five days on a Mississippi River Boat for that matter. Perhaps she should forget the whole idea. Call the trip off before she got any further.
The coach slowed then came to a stop. Shortly, the driver opened the door and stepped aside. Moored at the end of a rather long wharf, a side-wheel steamboat glistened in the late morning sun.
It looked brand new. White clouds of smoke belched from its double stacks. Ah, she was beautiful, such great fodder for a story.
A little tingle ran up her spine.
No, no, absolutely not would she end the trip before it began. A grand adventure awaited, and along her way, she’d gather enough material for at least two, maybe three novels.
Inside, she giggled like a little girl, but outwardly, gave Chester a demure, approving smile. No, indeed. She was going west.
The S.S. Georgia proved magnificent, beat the nines all to the devil and back. Perhaps she should ask how much he paid, but then what did it matter? It was done, and she assumed she could afford it.
The tickets had been purchased after all. If she ended bankrupt and in the poor house, at least she’d be in Texas; besides, it would be all Chester’s fault this time.
Her two-room suite on the third deck practically took her breath away, much fancier than her own bedroom and the parlor back home. Dinner, served almost as she boarded, tasted divine.
After putting away the rest of her things, he placed her valise on the writing table, took out the manuscript, ink well and quill pen. “Anything else, ma’am?”
“Yes, please. I need another forty thousand words. Have any idea where I might pick some up?”
“May I suggest the same place you obtained all the others?”
“Oh Chester, Chester, Chester. I was afraid you might say something completely and dreadfully useless like that. Why can’t you ever tell me what I want to hear?”
He grinned, bowed, then backed out like a real butler, and like she was a real lady.
“Where’s your room?”
He stopped at her door. “Directly across the hall. Supper’s at eight, ma’am. A warning bell will sound.” He bowed his head. “You should be able to cut that forty by a third before reclining for the night.”
She curled her lip. “Work, work, work. You’re such a slave driver.”
He smiled again and closed her door.
No way could she write that fast, much less think of that much for her arrogant, mindless heroes and her whiny coy heroines to do or say. That’s it.
She’d have them marry, say I do, and be done with the lot of them. Too bad the contract she’d signed clearly spelled out one hundred thousand hard-won words.
Why, oh why, had she accepted the advance?
She slipped out of her skirt and bustle then plopped into the chair. It didn’t even swivel, and the seat cushion wasn’t soft enough, and…now who was being whiny? She smiled.
After all, weren’t all the well-rounded characters she created at least a tad like her? She hefted her hiney to the back of the seat cushion and straightened the blank pages.
No time for complaining and whining.
She stared at the last page she’d worked on, reread it, and picked up the pen. She carefully opened the ink well then tickled her chin with the feather. The tickle never failed.
An idea emerged, and she dipped the quill in the offending black liquid. Soon flowing phrases filled the page. Like soldiers marching to a sure death, the letters formed their lines and hurried to their boring demise.
Doing what paid so well, she started mussing the next pristine white paper page.
Two wrong turns and five hundred decent words later, the supper bell rang and set her loose from the chains of her imagined dungeon. Shortly, Chester followed her down to the grand dining hall.
He located then held her chair out. Once seated, he scooted her closer to the table then backed away.
She nodded at the woman to her right. “Good evening, ma’am.” Then bent her wrist and extended her hand to the gentleman on her left. “Hello, May Meriwether, sir. Good evening.”
He took her fingers ever so gently. “The same May Meriwether who killed her husband last year?”