Big sky blue, p.1
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       Big Sky Blue, p.1

           Hildie McQueen
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Big Sky Blue
Big Sky Blue

  Hildie McQueen

  Pink Door Publishing, Augusta, Georgia 2013

  Shades of Blue Trilogy

  Big Sky Blue

  Amazon Bestselling Author

  Hildie McQueen

  Pink Door Publishing

  Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.

  Editor: Tina Winograd

  Copyright Hildie McQueen 2013

  ISBN: 978-1-939356079

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without written permission.

  This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

  This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader.

  If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it to your retailer and purchase your own copy.

  Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This Ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This Ebook may not be re-sold or given away to others. If you would like to share this book with others, please purchase an additional copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

  This Ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This Ebook may not be re-sold or given away to others. If you would like to share this book with others, please purchase an additional copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

  The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author

  Shades of Blue Series

  Big Sky Blue

  A Different Shade of Blue

  The Darkest Blue

  Every Blue Moon

  Montana Blue (Jan 2014)


  This book is dedicated to Cindy Boyer, who listens to my stories and always supports me with enthusiasm. Thank you for your encouragement and for your unrelenting support. I am blessed by your friendship.

  Chapter One

  Alder's Gulch, Montana 1838

  The lightning gave Hank Cole just enough light to see every corner of the empty room, and all doubt that perhaps Marjorie had returned vanished. When thunder boomed once again, his baby boy wailed with gusto, the hearty cries barely competing with the loud rainfall on the roof.

  It was best to move on to what was important. He took a deep fortifying breath and held the now red-faced child against his chest and patted the tiny back.

  Unwilling to allow any weakness to overtake, he trudged to the kitchen thankful the rocking of each footstep had a lulling affect on his son and the babe soon quieted.

  At the sight of the empty pot on the stovetop, his stomach growled. It was early yet, the clouds parted, the sun barely peeked up from the horizon. Grumbling sounds from his stomach reminded him that he'd not eaten much the night before. Instead spent hours searching the surrounding area for her, leaving his son in the empty house, hoping the baby would be all right.

  With one arm, Hank held his son’s head on his shoulder. The baby, Ashley, took shaky breaths, the tiny warm body but a slight weight.

  He lit a lantern and searched the shelves for something to cook for breakfast. Besides grains and a few canned items, brought by his sister who suspected Marjorie's lack of interest in anything remotely domestic, there was nothing suitable.

  It would have to be eggs and warm milk for Ashley. He'd have to venture outside leaving the baby alone once again.

  Thankfully the worst of the storm soon passed, leaving only the rhythmic pattering of rain. Hank circled the kitchen and rocked his son back and forth until finally the infant went limp, breathing even. With slow, careful steps Hank shuffled to his bedroom and hesitated to ensure the baby was asleep before lowering him onto the bed and packing blankets snugly around the small form. He added a new log to the waning fire in the hearth. The baby was safe, he couldn't crawl yet, and hopefully he had time to retrieve milk and eggs from the barn and hen house before Ashley woke.

  The sense of purpose pushed other thoughts away; Hank hurried to the front room and pulled his jacket, gloves, and hat from hooks behind the door.

  His herding dog's head lifted when he stepped onto the porch, the huge broad body following, tail wagging with enthusiasm. "Stay." He signaled the dog to remain, although its tail stopped moving, the animal obeyed and sat down on its haunches. Some protection for Ashley was better than none.

  Once inside the barn, the familiar smells of hay, beast, and rain spurred him into action. Hank retrieved a bucket from a hook on the wall and approached the cantankerous milk cow whose bored expression belied a quick temper. With a resigned sigh, Hank rubbed his hands together ensuring they were warm and milked the cow, grateful the animal was more interested in her breakfast than kicking him.

  Milk bucket in hand, he made his way toward the house but hesitated at the sight of sparkling snow covered mountains as a backdrop to his five-room cabin. The crisp winter air told the worst of the onslaught of winter; the harsh Montana glacial days would soon be over. Winter: the time of year families remained indoors most of the day, a time for closeness. He uttered a hoarse curse at the thought. Alone with a six month old, what kind of family did he have?

  In passing, he worried about Marjorie and how she fared in the cold. Was she outdoors? Exposed to the night cold? His worry was stupid really, as the woman did not care about him. Definitely did not have concerns as to whether her infant son was well taken care of.

  Immediately he mentally travelled back to the events of just two days earlier. The day he lost a bit of his soul and trust in his ability to be a good partner to a woman. His gut lurched.

  The sounds of laughter followed by rumblings of two muffled voices came from the small room in the back of the barn. Hank knew on some level what he'd find, but he trudged to the door anyway, his heart pounding and breath stilted. They'd not even bothered to close the door, it was cracked open enough for him to clearly view the small bunk where the two people lay, a tangle of limbs as they made hurried love. His first instinct was to rush in, to pound the drifter with his fists until the rage subsided. Realizing the baby was alone in the house, he'd turned and stalked.

  Much later, Marjorie sauntered in, clothing rumpled, hair a tangled mess.

  Biting back the instinct to raise his voice, he managed to speak in a level manner. "What's the matter with you, Marj?"

  Her eyes searched his face. Realization smacking her as she visibly sagged, her shoulders rounding. "Hank, I never promised...I would be faithful...or remain with you. I am not staying here. I need my freedom. You kept insisting I move in, and I did only because I feel you should be with your son. You're a good man, Hank, I wish I could be the kind of woman you want, but I can't." Her eyes implored him to understand and on a deep level he did.

  Brows drawn, she waited as if expecting some sort of reprieve. Hank only stared at her, words eluding him. If he talked, he'd loose his temper and that would do little to remedy the situation. "Ashley needs his mother. You should remain here at least until he's a year old," he finally uttered.

  Her expression told him nothing; she turned and stalked toward the bedroom where the baby slept. "I'll sleep in Ashley's room from now on."

  She left with the drifter, not waiting but a few days.

  A cold gust shook Hank out of his revelry; he took a breath and pulled his jacket collar closer with his free hand.

  Marjorie's statement was true. He had insisted on marrying her after she’d told him she carried his child. But the only thing she'd agreed
to, was to live with him until the baby came. Her callousness toward motherhood should have forewarned of the only possible outcome with her.

  He'd been a fool. Although he didn't love Marjorie, he cared for her and felt responsible for his child. Fatherhood was a responsibility he took seriously. So even after his sister and parents warned him against it, he still insisted Marjorie live with him. For months, Hank begged her to marry him, so his son would be legitimate, but she'd not relented, saying she didn't believe in marriage.

  Yet he did not consider the whole thing a mistake, Hank shuddered to think how Ashley would have fared if he’d not been there when Marjorie moved on. An innocent defenseless baby, without someone stable to nurture him, would have been raised by strangers in all probability, in an unstable life if he'd remained with Marjorie.

  No, it was not a mistake at all, it was meant to be. If he never accomplished anything else, Hank would ensure the boy grew up without any doubt that he was loved and raised to be a good man in spite of his mother’s lack of regard.

  A rooster’s call echoed behind him and Hank turned toward the hen house remembering the eggs for breakfast.

  Once collected, he returned to his warm kitchen and hurried to heat water for coffee and cook breakfast.

  Streaks of light from the morning sun cast shades of orange and yellow into the kitchen as he finished cleaning after breakfast. It was the start of a new day, a new life, and it scared the hell out of him.

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