A willing spirit a ghost.., p.20
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       A Willing Spirit, A Ghostly Romance, p.20

           Cynthia Sterling
 
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EPILOGUE

  Tessa frowned at her reflection in the mirror and adjusted her veil. "Do I look all right?" she asked.

  "For the hundredth time, you look lovely.” Margery smiled and patted her shoulder. "Everything will be perfect."

  There was a knock on the door. "Is the bride ready?" Alan Finch asked.

  "I'm ready.” Tessa picked up her bouquet from the dresser, fighting butterflies in her stomach. Why was she so nervous? After all, she'd done this before.

  Alan smiled and took her arm. He looked handsome in his dress blue uniform. Together, he and Margery made a stunning, and a stunningly happy, couple. Margery collected her own bouquet, and led the way out the bedroom door and down the stairs.

  As they approached the first landing, Tessa could see the crowd gathered below. Ammie Smith smiled up at her, while Ada Drake nodded approvingly. Gabe Emerson, who'd recently taken a job as a cabinetmaker, looked uncomfortable in a shiny blue suit, but Emmett Hardy was quite dapper in his black coat. Mamie Tucker fussed with her two youngest children. Everywhere she looked, Tessa saw familiar faces, people she knew as neighbors and friends.

  And then Alan led her around the corner and she had her first look at Micah and Reverend Deering waiting in front of the parlor stove. She caught her breath at the sight of the man who a few minutes from now would be her husband. He wore his hair down, as she'd asked him to, and a new dark suit, enlivened by a beaded belt, a gift from Sun Bear. But even his everyday work clothes would have been made special by the smile with which he greeted her, a smile that spoke of all the love he had for her, and the love they would share in the future.

  Reverend Deering greeted her with a smile, too. Already he had grown tan from so much work out of doors. Instead of rebuilding the chapel, he had persuaded the townspeople to use their resources to construct the new library. He said he intended to conduct his services in the open, or in tepees, or wherever the Indians needed him to be.

  Alan handed Tessa over to Micah, then Reverend Deering began speaking. She scarcely heard the words of the ceremony. All her attention was focused on the man before her, the man she would cherish for the rest of their lives together. She hoped they'd grow old together.

  "I now pronounce you man and wife," Reverend Deering said. "You may kiss the bride."

  Micah bent and gave her a chaste peck on the cheek. "You'll have to do better than that," Gabe Emerson crowed.

  Smiling, he pulled her close and kissed her soundly, his lips lingering over hers long enough to draw cheers and catcalls from the guests. When he finally released her, she was flushed and smiling, a secret smile that told him she was looking forward to the time when they would be alone once more.

  Later, after the guests had toasted the happy couple over cake and coffee, Micah and Tessa walked up the hill behind the house. Already, the trees were beginning to brown, and the afternoon breeze hinted at autumn soon to come.

  With Micah at her side, Tessa knelt and placed her bouquet on Will's grave. She stepped back and surveyed the grave, filled with thankfulness that things had turned out the way they had -- not that Will had died, but that they'd all been allowed this second chance at happiness.

  Micah took her hand. "Do you think he's really resting in peace now?" he asked.

  She smiled up at her husband. "Yes."

  "How can you be sure?"

  She put her hand over her heart. "I feel it. His work here is done.” She glanced back at the grave, at the flowers and the simple stone. The marker was new. Reverend Deering had helped her select the words carved there, words that filled her with contentment: Here lies a man who followed his calling with a cheerful heart, and a willing spirit.

  "Amen," she whispered, and turned to walk back down the hill with Micah, to begin their new life together.

 

  Thank you for reading A Willing Spirit. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, please help other readers find this book. Consider writing a review, or recommending the book to your friends. Follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/CynthiaSterling , or on Twitter @CMyersTex. And thank you!

  You might also enjoy these books by Cynthia Sterling:

  Great Caesar’s Ghost A Ghostly Romance

  The Last Pirate A Ghostly Romance

  To Love a Lady –Titled Texans: Book One

  Educating Abbie – Titled Texans: Book Two

  The Runaway – Titled Texans: Book Three  

  Patchwork Hearts A Quilting Romance

  The Christmas Quilt A Quilting Romance novella

  San Antonio Rogue

  A Long, Sweet Ride

  Loving the Outlaw https://amzn.com/B00SC6RNK4

 

  Enjoy this Excerpt from Great Caesar’s Ghost, by Cynthia Sterling

  Caesar's Celebrated Curative was known to ease stomach discomfort, cure dyspepsia, silence snoring, stop coughs and congestion, and remove warts, but as far as Caesar Hawkins could determine, it had no effect whatsoever on bull-headedness. At least not where his son, Jedediah, was concerned. If anything, the young man had grown even more hard-headed in the months since the accident. Take right now, for instance. A half hour before showtime and the boy was digging in his heels.

  Jed folded his arms across his chest and glared at his father across the narrow confines of the caravan, the headquarters for Great Caesar's Medicine Show. "I intend to do the show by myself and that's that!"

  A more timid man might have shrank back from Jed's imposing height and broad shoulders. The boy took after his father, no doubt, with the same robust appearance and handsome profile. But this streak of obstinance -- well, that must have come from his mother's side of the family. "By thunder, if I could, I'd go out there and teach you how to really put on a show!" Caesar growled.

  "But you can't, can you?” Jed's shoulders sagged, and his voice softened. "You can't do things your way anymore, Papa, so what's wrong with giving my way a try?"

  Caesar sagged, too. He didn't like being reminded of his 'condition.' He hated having to watch from the wings while Jed preached the wonders of the formula he'd perfected -- Caesar's Celebrated Curative. But that didn't mean he couldn't offer the boy some badly needed direction. "You'll never draw a crowd without a pretty girl on stage," he said.

  "The floozies you bring around here aren't my idea of pretty. And they certainly aren't girls."

  There he went being uppity again. "People don't just want to be sold a product," Caesar huffed. "They want to be entertained."

  Jed scowled. "When you started out, you worked by yourself."

  "That was different. I'm the Great Caesar Hawkins. I have an instinct for this business."

  "And I don't, is that what you mean?"

  Caesar winced. That was exactly what he meant, but Jed didn't have to sound so offended. "Your showmanship is improving, my boy. You just haven't developed a. . . a stage presence yet. But you will. I know you will," he hastened to add.

  Jed drew himself up to his full height, his head almost grazing the curved ceiling of the caravan, and assumed an equally lofty tone of voice. "How are people supposed to have any respect for what we do if you have some scantily clad female parading around on stage?"

  "The people who come to see us want to have a good time, and maybe improve their health in the process," Caesar said. "Respect has nothing to do with it."

  "I intend to change all that."

  Caesar sighed. If Jed wasn't careful, his drive for respectability would put them out of business altogether. But there was no arguing with the boy. Best he take matters into his own hands. "Fine then. You go on and get ready for the show. I'll amuse myself visiting the rest of the fair."

  This announcement didn't seem to make Jed feel any more at ease. His scowl deepened. "Now Papa, remember what we talked about. You have to behave yourself."

  "I didn't lose my mind in the accident," Caesar snapped.

  Jed nodded. "Sorry, Papa. Just. . . be careful."

  After a moment, Jed turned and pluck
ed his jacket from a hook against the wall. Caesar drifted out of the wagon and into the alley behind the midway. Here was the real action at any fair. As he looked down the wide lane behind the show wagons, he spotted the Carrelli brothers rehearsing their tumbling act. Their patched trousers and undershirts would soon be replaced by the bright pantaloons and tunics of their stage costumes. Mrs. Ramirez walked by, carrying a kettle of her savory chili, followed by Pepita Thompson and her trio of trained dogs, out for a walk. The air rang with mingled voices in three languages, the lively music of the steam calliope from Wilson's carrousel, and the laughter of the crowds on the midway behind them. The smells of roasted peanuts, axle grease and horse manure mingled in a heady perfume that to him had always meant home.

  Or as close to home as a traveling man ever came. Except for the brief interval of his marriage to Jed's mother, over three decades ago, Caesar had spent almost fifty years on the road between small towns and carnivals and fairs across Texas and Louisiana.

  You'd think his own son would listen to that kind of experience, wouldn't you? But then, young people today, they never listened to anyone. He'd show the boy. He'd -- Oho, what was this?

  A veritable vision in pink and white stepped into view. She might have been the inspiration for one of Mr. Gibson's advertisements. Her high-piled blond hair gleamed in the sunlight, and the full sleeves and pinched-in waist of her candy-striped dress accented a very attractive figure. Caesar grinned. Obviously not a carnival worker, this town miss appeared lost. Lovely brow creased in a frown, she moved from wagon to wagon, peering up the steps of each, as if looking for something. Of course, from the back, most of the show wagons looked alike. Now there was a young woman customers would line up to look at. Nothing 'floozy' about her! His pretentious son might even approve of a woman like this. "Psst! Over here, Miss."

  The young woman looked up, startled.

  "May I help you?" Caesar asked.

  The woman peered at the shadows from which his voice emerged. "I. . . I'm looking for the Gospel Wagon," she said. She squared her shoulders. "I'm supposed to sing with the McKenna sisters at three o'clock."

  It was almost three now. Perfect. He opened the door at the top of the steps leading up into the wagon and held it wide. "Very good, Miss. We've been waiting for you.” If she wondered why he was hiding behind the door, it didn't matter to him. "Better hurry," he urged. "The show's about to start."

  As he'd hoped, the young woman took the bait. With a look of relief, she hurried up the steps and into the wagon. Chuckling at his own cleverness, Caesar slammed the door behind her and made his way toward the front of the wagon. This was one performance of Great Caesar's Medicine Show he didn't want to miss.

 
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