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       Mail Order Bride: Blinded By Love (Brides Of The West: Book 1), p.1

           Leah Wyett
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Mail Order Bride: Blinded By Love (Brides Of The West: Book 1)


  LEAH WYETT

  Mail Order Bride: Blinded By Love

  Brides of the West: Book One

  ~~~

  Copyright

  © 2014 by Leah Wyett

  All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner and publisher of this book.

  This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.

  First Printing, 2014

  Dedication

  To YOU, The reader.

  Thank you for your support.

  Thank you for your emails.

  Thank you for your reviews.

  Thank you for reading and joining me on this road.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Recommended Reads

  Chapter One

  June 14th 1870

  Erie County, Ohio

  Hazel wandered across the docks, waiting for her father to finish loading the grain onto their wagon. She had been hoping to get a new book today but she didn’t see the Mighty Dragon anywhere. That was the name of the boat that shipped books from New York. The old captain always gave Hazel a book when he saw her and she was currently out of anything to read. There wasn’t a single bookstore in the town where she lived. Hazel often thought she must have been destined to be born in a different time, or in a different place at least. A place where there were more books….As she walked, her foot brushed across an old newspaper as it blew up on the pier. She bent down to pick it up, thinking that reading the news might be better than reading nothing at all.

  When she reached to pick it up, the paper blew away in her hands, leaving nothing behind but the classified advertisement section. She raised an eyebrow as she read the post at the top, which said:

  Matrimonial Ads: Cost to post as follows: Gentlemen pay $.25 for forty word advertisements. Ladies will be given forty words free of charge. Any advertisements over forty words will be charged at a rate of a penny per word.

  Hazel had never heard of anything like this. People advertise for marriage? Her curiosity was piqued. She sat down on a crate and read on:

  Although this periodical is not in any way responsible for the willful misrepresentation of one’s self for matrimonial purposes, if informed that is the case, your article will be stricken from publication and a refund will not be forthcoming.

  Hazel wasn’t sure what misrepresentation meant, but it didn’t sound good. She read the first article under the heading. It said:

  A young gentleman, 26 years of age. Handsome and responsible. Untarnished reputation. Possesses a loving heart. Recent passing of my dear father of only 46 years of age has left me sole owner of the largest cattle ranch in Texas. I am with much wealth and means. However, I am without a loving soul to share it with. I am hoping to find a woman of simple purity and devoted love. I prefer a girl between the ages of 18 and 24. Looks are not so important as long as she is not overly large or thin like a stick. I would like to correspond for an ample time to assure that, as husband and wife, we would be compatible and happy for life. Please do not inquire if you are in a hurry, I like to take things slow and steady. Please address in strictest confidence stating age and enclose cabinet card.

  Hazel was intrigued. She knew very little about love and marriage, having been somewhat sheltered by her parents, but as an avid reader and possessor of a fantastic imagination, she was afflicted by a malady her mother called “magical thinking”. She wondered now if fate had blown that paper under her feet, and placed this young man’s ad in a prominent position for her to see.

  “Hazel! Let’s git !” Her father was calling her. Hazel tucked the paper into her bosom and ran to where her father waited.

  ***********

  July 22nd

  “What are you reading?” Laura asked her sister, Hazel. Laura had been sitting peacefully in the porch swing before her sister had found her.

  Hazel flashed the cover of the book at Laura. She had gone back to the docks with her father the following week and the old Captain had given her a new book.

  “Twenty—Thousand—Leagues—Under—The—Sea…What’s it about?” Laura asked her. Laura just turned ten a few weeks before. She was the most curious person Hazel had ever met. Their mother told her all the time that she was so curious she should have been a cat.

  “It’s about a man named Captain Nemo and his submarine.” Hazel said.

  “What’s a submarine?” Laura said. Hazel sighed and put the book aside. She wasn’t going to get any more reading done today. Her little sister said “Who, What, and Why” more times a day than Hazel cared to count.

  “You can read the book when I’m finished and find out.” Hazel told her. She kept encouraging her little sister to read, telling her that it was the best way to satisfy a burning curiosity. “Do you want to go swimming?”

  “Yes!” Laura’s face lit up. She loved going down to the canal and swinging off the rope their daddy had tied to the big, old eucalyptus tree. “I’ll put on my bathing suit.” She took off running in the house before Hazel could reply.

  “Tell Mama where we’re going.” she yelled after her as the screen door slammed shut. Hazel heard the whinny of a horse then and looked down the long dirt road that led to their house. She could see her father riding in with a dust cloud rising behind him. Hazel got up and stood at the banister of the porch. She watched her father approach and she wondered if he had gone to the post office when he was in town, and if he did, if he had a letter for her…She also wondered if he had already read it.

  Hazel’s father, Hal Morgan, couldn’t just simply be described as a large man, or a big man, or even a giant man. A person needed to use words like humongous or gargantuan to describe him. He stood six foot seven in his stocking feet and one of his hands could hold four of a normal sized person’s. He wasn’t fat in any way, but he was kept from being thin by the muscles in his chest, back, and arms, which he had earned from years of hard work on their wheat farm. Hal was a simple man. He loved his land, his wife, his daughters, and God, not necessarily in that order. He had loved his country before it claimed the life of his son. Hazel wasn’t sure if he still did. Everything else that came along in life, he considered either a bonus or a luxury depending on whether or not he had to pay for it. Hazel watched him take the burlap grocery bag out of the leather saddlebag, and she continued to watch as he pulled a handful of mail out of the other flap. She held her breath as he tied the horse to the hitching post next to the water trough and then stepped up on the porch.

  “Hi, Pa.” she said.

  “Hazel,” he said. She knew she must have gotten a letter, and he must have read it. Pa had called her “Punkin’’ every day of her life…unless he was angry with her, or disappointed. “You got some mail.” he said.

  Hazel tried to keep the excitement off her face and out of her voice as she said, “Really?”

  Her father looked at her long and hard and then he said, “Does Ma know about this?”

  She thought briefly about saying, “About what?” but playing dumb would only serve to make him angrier. “Yes, sir.” she said, looking down at the ground. Her mother hadn’t been overjoyed about it when she had found out. Ma had picked up the f
irst letter and although she hadn’t read it as Pa had this one, she had a lot of questions. Hazel answered them as honestly as she could. She was grown, and she had no desire or intentions to stay in Erie County, Ohio for the rest of her life.

  She did understand Ma’s emotional response, however. She had lost Hazel’s older brother to the war six years earlier. When Hazel told her that she had answered an intriguing ad in the Matrimonial News from a man in Texas, she had cried and said,

  “I’m losing another child.” Hazel had thought. And she calls me dramatic.

  “You’re not losing me, Ma.” Hazel had told her. “Maybe he won’t even write back.”

  Harriett Morgan had looked at her daughter then and said, “If you send a photo of yourself, he’ll write back.” Hazel wasn’t as sold on her looks as her mother was. She found herself rather plain with dark hair that was so curly, the slightest moisture turned it to frizz and eyes that she thought were way too green. Hazel took that statement as permission, and her mother was right. The first letter she received from Heath had come back to her only three weeks after the first time she had written to answer his advertisement.

  She had written a simple letter, more of a note really, saying:

  Hello, my name is Hazel Lynn Morgan and I am seventeen years old. I am very close to eighteen. I live with my parents and my younger sister in Erie County, Ohio. I found your ad and was intrigued. I love to read, anything. Mostly adventure novels, but letters will do also. I enclosed a photograph so that you may decide if you find me attractive enough to continue correspondence.

  Thank you,

  Hazel

  “Look at me, Hazel.” her father said. Hazel looked up and he said, “Is this really what you want to do, Punkin’? Are you ready to leave your family and go almost two thousand miles away to start your own family with a complete stranger?”

  Hazel shrugged. “I’m not sure yet, Pa. That’s what the letters are for, so I can get to know him and him me. Neither of us are interested in rushing anything.”

  “I don’t think I care for it.” Pa said. He wasn’t much of a talker. He said what he needed to say when he needed to say it. Leaving it at that and not giving her the letter, he stepped around her and went into the house. Laura was running out as he went in. Luckily, she missed running into him, it would have been like hitting into a tree for the skinny, little ten year old.

  “Hello, Pa! Hazel’s takin’ me swimmin’” Laura said.

  “Okay, squirt. You watch for boats and the lake monster.” Pa said with a grin.

  “Oh, Pa! I’m too big now to believe in Lake Monsters.” she told him. It was a game he played with them all from the time they were big enough to swim in the lake until they got old enough to no longer believe in magical creatures. Pa looked at Hazel sadly as he held open the screen door and said, “I know, baby. You’ve both gotten so big lately.” Hazel felt a twinge of guilt as he turned and walked away.

  “Are you ready?” Laura asked her big sister. Hazel sighed. She would have liked to have taken the letter with her to read while Laura swam, but she wasn’t going to ask her father for it. Hopefully, he would give it to her after he talked it over with Ma. She wished that her mother had gone for the mail like she did last month.

  “Yeah, I’m ready.” she told her sister. Laura was off like a shot down the path that led to the lake and Hazel trudged after her.

  Hazel and her family lived along the Erie Canal on the outskirts of Erie County, Ohio. She hadn’t been born yet when the canal was built, but her father liked to tell stories about the big boat parade they had held from Ohio to New York the day it was opened. He told her that people called it “the eighth wonder of the world”. When she was little, she got to go with Pa on a boat to New York once. It had been a miserable trip because she had gotten seasick and it had been freezing cold, but the time alone with her father had been priceless. Hazel was the middle child and competing for her father’s attention was a constant battle growing up.

  She remembered the day Mama had read her brother, Billy’s, name on the death rolls. Her mother had howled like a wounded animal, and Hazel had cried for three days. She wasn’t the middle child any longer. She didn’t have a big brother anymore. Every time she would stop, she would remember the time she had told her father that they had “too many children”. When he’d asked her who she thought they should get rid of, she wanted to say Laura. The baby hadn’t been a year old yet though so fearing a whoopin’ she had said Billy. Now, Billy really was gone and she felt like it was her fault for being so selfish. As Laura swam, she sat under a tree and read her book for an hour or two until Laura got hungry. She tried to put the letter that Pa had taken out of her mind for now. There was pretty much nothing that Hazel loved to do more than read. When she was ten, her father had taken her down to the docks with him one day. She had been there when the boat from New York had come in with a whole shipment of new books. The captain of the boat had given her the first book she ever owned, it was called Five Weeks in a Balloon and it was about a hot air balloon trip across Africa. She had gotten her first taste for adventure and because she lived on a farm in Ohio, where nothing ever happened, she had to feed her growing desire for more with books.

  When the girls got back to the house, Hazel didn’t see her father anywhere. She found her mother in the kitchen making lunch and she sat down at the table.

  “Ma…, is Pa going to keep my letter?”

  Harriet turned around to look at her oldest daughter. She wiped her hands on her apron and then reached into the pocket of it and pulled out an envelope. Before sitting it in front of her daughter on the table, she said,

  “Your father is just afraid of losing you, and he’s afraid of you being hurt. He loves you very much.” Hazel wanted to snatch up the letter and run outside, but she didn’t.

  She looked at her mother and said, “This isn’t about wanting to leave you and Pa, and I love you both very much as well. It’s about growing old and dying before I ever get to see any part of this amazing land that we live in, Ma. Life here is so boring, it seems that time hardly progresses at all.”

  “You think this man can help you with that?” Harriett asked her. “You want to get married so that you can travel?

  “He says he will, Ma. He even said we can go to Africa someday. But, no, I want to be in love, too. Why can’t I have both?”

  Harriett wrinkled her nose. She wasn’t so sure that this man wasn’t feeding her pretty, young daughter a line of bull.

  She put her hand back on the letter and said, “Just be sure, Hazel. Be very sure before you change your whole life.”

  “I will, Mama.” Hazel said. When her mother took her hand off the letter, Hazel smiled and said, “Thank you, Mama.” Then she grabbed it and before she ran outside to read it, she gave her mother a kiss on the cheek.

  This was Hazel’s second letter from Heath. He was the twenty-six year old cattle rancher from Texas. She had written to him that same day she found the paper. She just hadn’t been able to get the idea that fate had sent her the paper out of her head. The next time she got to go to town, she mailed it and she hadn’t thought much about it again. She told herself that no matter what he said about taking his time, he was more likely to respond to a marriage-minded woman. She also thought that he would probably prefer a woman of at least a little means of her own. The day Mama had brought the first letter home from town, Hazel had been surprised and ecstatic. Ma, on the other hand, had been upset that Hazel hadn’t discussed it with her before doing it.

  When her mother had stopped crying, Hazel had told her, “I’m going to be eighteen in a couple of months, Ma. I have to start thinking about what I’ll do with my life. The thought of marrying Bobby Hayes and living in Ohio forever with a name like Hazel Hayes makes me want to kill myself.”

  “Hazel, don’t be so dramatic.” Her mother had told her. Now look who was talking drama. Bobby was their closest neighbor’s boy, born about two months before Hazel. Their parent
s were friends and had always assumed as their children grew up that they would end up together. Hazel had no interest in Bobby, however. He would be content to stay right here in Erie County the rest of his life, and that thought really did make her want to kill herself.

  Her mother had made her read Heath’s first letter in front of her. Like hers, it had been a simple note, an introduction:

  Dear Hazel,

  I was pleased to get your letter in response to my ad. I received several responses, but yours I must say was the most pleasant. Your cabinet card shows you also as a very attractive young lady, if you don’t mind my saying so. Like I said in my ad, I am twenty-six and the owner of a cattle ranch in Texas. I am hoping to find a woman who I feel a connection with and find myself to have a commonality with as well. I hope that woman might be you. I will eagerly await your response.

  Sincerely,

  Heath Key

  Hazel looked around for her father before she sat down on the porch with this newest letter. He was still nowhere in sight. She sat down and hurriedly pulled out the already open letter. The fact that Pa read it didn’t upset her. She knew he was only worried about protecting her. That was his job after all, as he had told her a thousand times. She took a deep breath and read the letter:

  Dear Hazel,

  I hope this letter finds you and your family well. I have found it difficult to do anything except wait impatiently for your next letter. I don’t know if I ever believed in fate or even true love before but each time I look at your picture, I feel like I’m looking at my future. I hope that doesn’t sound like too much for a second letter, but I would like to keep with being honest with you.

  I am leaving tomorrow for a trip to Mexico. I am trying to buy another thousand head of longhorn cattle from a man in Mexico who has to get rid of them. I may have to make two trips as they say they can only round up five hundred at a time. After we herd them back, it will then require months of active work from me and my ranch hand’s to get them branded and released out to graze. I wanted to let you know this, in case there was a longer delay between your next letter and mine. I didn’t want you to give up on me, thinking that I had lost interest. I can’t imagine that ever happening.

 
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