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From USA Today Bestselling Author Leigh Greenwood comes a historical Western romance filled with gritty cowboys, strong-willed women, and a whole lot of heart in the Wild West
From USA Today Bestselling Author Leigh Greenwood comes a historical Western romance filled with gritty cowboys, strong-willed women, and a whole lot of heart in the Wild West
Laurie Spencer should not feel relieved after burying her husband, but she does. But in order to truly gain her independence from the man who controlled her, Laurie must make an offer to a sexy rancher that she hopes he can't refuse.
Jared Smith's determined to make it in Texas, but with the local banker turned against him, it looks like his dream may be slipping through his fingers. When unconsciously sensual Laurie offers a partnership, his luck may be changing…but when she throws herself in as part of the deal, Jared's not sure he'll be able to respect the terms of their agreement and keep his eyes—and his hands—to himself.
There's something about Laurie that awakens every protective instinct Jared has…and when all hell breaks loose, there's nothing and no one who'll be able to keep this cowboy from her side.
Delightful and captivating, To Love and to Cherish is an emotional love story. Fans of Linda Lael Miller, Jodi Thomas, and Rosanne Bittner will be drawn to Laurie and Jared as they grow—together and apart—through heartbreak, anger, greed, and most of all, love.
Cactus Creek Cowboys Series:
To Have and to Hold (Book 1): Naomi Kessling is certainly grateful to Colby Blaine for saving her family and agreeing to lead their train to safety—but she doesn't trust him. Both plagued by a past they can't leave behind, will love be enough to save them both.
To Love and to Cherish (Book 2)
Forever and Always (Book 3): Logan Holstock's search for his long-lost brothers brings him to the quaint town of Cactus Creek and into the life of a beautiful young widow.
What readers are saying about To Love and to Cherish
"This is one of those stories that ends perfectly even though you never want it to end."
"The complexity of the characters and their struggles is what captivated me."
What reviewers are saying about To Love and to Cherish
"To Love and To Cherish is the type of Western romance I love; a smart heroine and a kind hero find love in a small town filled with lovable side characters and plausible villains. I look forward to the next installment." –Heroes and Heartbreakers
"Leigh Greenwood has once again proven he can write a compelling and romantic Western, and I recommend TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH to readers looking for a romantic and adventurous Western."—Fresh Fiction
What everyone is saying about RT Career Achievement Award Winner Leigh Greenwood
"Greenwood keeps your interest and makes you care about his characters."—Long and Short Reviews
"[Greenwood] writes a Texas romance like he's been there and lived it himself. His settings are vividly described, his characters drawn so effectively you're hooked after the first chapter and his story lines can keep you turning pages late into the night."
"Leigh Greenwood always writes an amazing western. Always."—Books Like Breathing
"You can't beat an historical Texas romance by Leigh Greenwood. He writes of Texas like no other author." –The Good, The Bad, and the Unread.
"If it's a Greenwood cowboy story, readers are guaranteed an emotional, rich, adventurous romance with strong heroes and courageous heroines"—RT Book Reviews
Cactus Corner, 1868
Laurie stared numbly as hard, dry lumps of dirt fell into the open grave and struck the pine casket with hollow thuds. Her husband’s death had bee...
Cactus Corner, 1868
Laurie stared numbly as hard, dry lumps of dirt fell into the open grave and struck the pine casket with hollow thuds. Her husband’s death had been sudden and unexpected—a shock to the whole town. The doctor said his heart just gave out, most likely brought on by stress. To everyone else, Noah had seemed like a calm, quiet, sensible man who led a calm, quiet, sensible life married to a calm, quiet, sensible wife. Not even his brother knew that Noah lived on the edge of a precipice, petrified that any moment he would be catapulted into the abyss beyond.
Only Laurie knew that she was the abyss.
Laurie was surrounded by her parents, her cousins and brother-in-law, and by neighbors she had known all her life, but she had never felt more alone. The ice-cold wind blowing in from the desert failed to drive away the lead-hued clouds that hung low on the horizon. Not since the day she arrived had this land of pines and sagebrush felt so little like home, so much like an alien world into which she’d been pitched against her will.
On either side, her cousins Naomi and Sibyl gripped her hands tightly in theirs. Both knew Laurie had been forced to marry a man she didn’t love, but neither knew how many times she’d prayed for his death. It had seemed the only means of escape from a life that was an impregnable prison despite the absence of walls. Guilt battled with relief. It was joined by fear of the future and a nearly mad need to escape the past. The conflict left Laurie weary, unsure of what to do, where to go, who to trust. For the first time since the day of her birth, her life was her own. The prospect thrilled and frightened her.
It had come too fast. She wasn’t expecting it. Despite years of aimless daydreams about possible escape, she had no plan for what to do if it should happen, no goal beyond freedom from a marriage that was slowly smothering her. Even now, she found herself breathing deeply, drinking in the dry air in great gulps and feeling the bonds loosening and falling away. Her chest expanded as the air sank deeper into her lungs, sending oxygen to clear the mists from her brain, energy to the muscles that had dragged her body through each day with wearying effort.
Everything before her stood out in sharper detail, the colors more luminous, the textures more luxurious. She might as well have spent the four years of her marriage in hibernation. She had gone to sleep at seventeen and had awakened at twenty-one to find she didn’t know who she was or who she wanted to become. Those years had left almost no trace—just a mist through which she’d wandered without a goal beyond escape.
“Noah would choose the coldest time of the year to die,” Norman Spencer grumbled.
“I don’t understand why he died at all,” Laurie’s father said for what had to be the twentieth time in the last two days.
“Doctor Kessling said his heart just gave out. It was most likely brought on by stress,” Laurie told him. “I don’t see why you can’t accept that.”
“But he was so young.”
“Lots of people die young,” Norman said, “but I never thought it would happen to Noah.”
Norman believed he and his brother had been born of a superior race, one that was immune to the mental and physical shortcomings that prevented other people from achieving their same level of success.
“They can finish filling in the grave without us standing here freezing,” Naomi Blaine said to her cousin. “Everything at Sibyl’s house will be ready by now.”
Laurie allowed Naomi to escort her from the cemetery despite Norman declaring that it was disrespectful for a wife to leave until the last bit of dirt had been piled on the grave. That didn’t stop him from leaving, too. The wake was being held at his home. He wouldn’t have considered allowing it to begin without his presence.
“I know you’ve been too grief-stricken to think about looking into the settlements Noah made in his will,” Norman said to Laurie as he walked alongside her. “If you feel up to it, come by the bank in the morning and I’ll go over everything with you.”
“What’s there to go over?” Naomi asked. “Laurie was Noah’s wife, and they had no children.”
“There is business to be discussed. I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
Norman refused to believe a woman could do anything beyond keep house and take care of children.
“I’ll be there.” Laurie was eager to have the will read and Noah’s estate settled. For the first time, she’d have money of her own and the freedom to decide what to do with the rest of her life. She was certain of only one thing—she would never marry again. Nothing could induce her to put herself under the control of any man.
The walk to Norman’s house was short. Cactus Corner was a small place in the Verde River Valley that had been formed three years earlier when twelve families from Kentucky chose it as the site of their new town. In that short time, homes had been built, businesses had opened, and new families had come to settle either in town or in the valley. As her cousin’s husband, Colby, said, the Arizona Territory was an empty place just waiting for people to fill it up. Noah had been excited about the arrival of new settlers. That meant more customers, more business, and more money. Laurie had been pleased because keeping Noah busy meant less time with him watching her like she was a small animal and he a hawk about to pounce.
She was relieved to arrive at Norman and Sibyl Spencer’s house because Norman was forced to pay attention to his guests rather than her.
“How are you holding up?” Sibyl whispered as soon as she could pull Laurie aside. “Are you sure you’re up to meeting all these people?”
“I see them every day,” Laurie said. “They didn’t like Noah any more than I did. Why should it be hard to see them?”
Sibyl looked uncomfortable with Laurie’s forthrightness. Naomi laughed, but that’s what Laurie expected her to do. Naomi was married to a man who loved her deeply and believed there was nothing she couldn’t do. Naomi had shocked many people when she’d insisted that they shouldn’t start building houses just anywhere—they had to organize a real town with a street for business and areas for private homes.
Despite opposition from Norman, she took on the job of laying out the town and selling lots to the newcomers. Most men still had trouble getting used to talking to a woman about business, but Naomi’s success had given Laurie hope that she might someday be equally independent. After four years of virtual imprisonment in a marriage that had been forced upon her, nothing but complete freedom would do.
Accepting condolences from people she’d known all her life and mouthing meaningless responses didn’t take much thought, but Laurie was relieved when everyone had spoken to her and transferred their attention to the food and each other. Norman was presiding over the gathering, which allowed Sibyl and Naomi to stay at Laurie’s side. No one would be surprised that Laurie’s parents weren’t standing with her. Her break with them was known to everyone. Laurie was only comfortable when she was with her two cousins, but there was little more that could be said today. So it was no surprise that, standing in silence with nothing more to do than watch people eat Norman’s food, she was instantly aware of a stranger the moment he entered the house. He didn’t look all that different on the outside, but she knew instantly he was unlike any man she’d ever seen before.
He was tall and so broad-shouldered he filled the doorway. He was handsome and eagle-eyed, with a presence so arresting that it penetrated even Norman’s sense of superiority. But that wasn’t what riveted Laurie’s attention and caused her stomach to tighten. There was a sensuality about him that reached out to her from across the room. It couldn’t have been any more powerful if he’d touched her. When his gaze found hers, she felt that he had.
“Who is that man?” she asked Sibyl.
It was Naomi who answered. “Don’t you remember? His name is Jared Smith. He was with the traders we followed into Santa Fe after Colby left us. He bought a ranch about five miles up the river.”
“I’ve never seen his wife in the store.” Laurie had worked there every day of her marriage. Noah had said he didn’t want to waste money hiring an extra clerk, but Laurie knew he required her to work alongside him because he was petrified she would run away if he let her out of his sight.
“He’s not married. He just got out of the army. He worked at the fort.”
“How do you know so much about him?”
“I met him when he was in town setting up an account at the bank. I tried to convince him to buy a lot in town, but he said he intended to live on his ranch.”
“Norman hasn’t said anything about him,” Sibyl said, “so he can’t be too prosperous. Norman can smell money faster than a coyote can smell a mouse.”
Norman was tight-fisted when it came to money, but he’d been openhanded in providing loans to people to build homes and start businesses. His uncharacteristic generosity and the source of the money was still a topic of whispered conversations.
Laurie thought Jared Smith looked quite prosperous, but she was probably confusing financial prosperity with his physical prowess. The man was a testament to Mother Nature’s ability to produce an exceptional being when she wanted. If he’d been a wild stallion, Laurie could visualize him sniffing the air and tossing his head in impatience, daring anyone to challenge his superiority. When he started toward Laurie, her whole body quivered.
The crowd that filled Norman’s parlor seemed to make way for this man, enabling him to approach Laurie on a path as arrow-straight as his gaze. When he came to a stop before her, she felt dwarfed by his size as well as the energy that radiated from him.
“My condolences, ma’am,” he said in a voice that was as deep as he was tall. “I didn’t know your husband, but he must have been a fine man to have the whole community turn out for his wake.”
How could a man who could make his presence be felt from across the room act so ordinary? She struggled to find words to respond, but none came.
“We’re a small community,” Naomi answered for her. “Many of us are related. We’ve known Noah all our lives.”
“That makes the loss all the greater. As you know, I was in the army. I’m well acquainted with death. It’s never easy no matter the time or the manner.” He turned back to Laurie. “I’m a stranger to everyone here, so I won’t stay.”
Laurie found her tongue. “You won’t find a better time to meet everyone outside of church.”
Mr. Smith smiled, and Laurie felt a response awaken inside her that she’d thought long dead. “Some other time. I don’t want to take time from your family and friends.”
Sibyl tried to protest, saying everyone would be glad to meet him, but Laurie knew he wouldn’t change his mind. He was a man who went his own way, chose his own goals, and required approval from no one. The odd thing was that she felt there was something familiar about him. That was ridiculous. Noah had done everything in his power to ensure that she never met a man, so she was certain she’d never seen him before today.
“Who is that man?”
Laurie turned to find Cassie approaching and smiled inwardly. If there was anyone who could sense the presence of a handsome man, it was Cassie Greene. The wonder was that Mr. Smith had left without being dazzled by the beautiful young widow.
“He’s a rancher,” Naomi told Cassie. “He’s unmarried, so he’s fair game.”
Cassie laughed. “Maybe, but he’s not for me. He couldn’t see any woman in this room but Laurie.”
Laurie didn’t think she’d ever get used to Cassie’s artlessness. There wasn’t a mean or jealous bone in her body, but she didn’t hesitate to put into words what another woman would hesitate to think.
“I’m sure that’s only because he came to offer his condolences on Noah’s death,” Naomi said.
Cassie’s look of wide-eyed innocence was as alarming as it was genuine. “I may have a prettier face, but Laurie has the kind of figure that keeps men awake at night.”
Heat suffused Laurie’s face. The person her figure kept awake had been Noah, but that hadn’t benefited either of them.
“You’ve got to stop saying things like that,” Naomi scolded Cassie.
“Why? It’s true.”
“I’ve told you a hundred times—”
“I know. I’ve got to stop uttering every thought that comes into my head. I wouldn’t have said it to anyone but you.” And anyone within hearing.
As a young girl, Laurie had been proud of her figure. She had confessed to her cousins that though she was careful to offer no encouragement, she enjoyed the looks the soldiers cast in her direction. Her husband hadn’t liked anything about her body, had said it was so grossly out of shape that he couldn’t bring himself to make love to her. He had complained that her breasts were so big they made her look top-heavy. He said her waist was so small in comparison to her hips that she looked deformed. He accused her of intentionally putting a swing into her step to attract the notice of any man who happened to walk by. She had become so paranoid she had done everything she could to disguise the shape of her body.
“I know this isn’t a nice thing to say”—Cassie cast a defiant glance at Naomi—“but I’m glad there’s another widow in town. I’m tired of being treated like a potential threat to every woman’s marriage.”
“We don’t feel like that,” Naomi assured her.
“You don’t because Colby can’t see any woman except you, but not every husband’s gaze stays so close to home.”
Laurie liked Cassie. The young woman’s candidness was a breath of fresh air in her stale life, but she didn’t intend to become a bosom friend. Once she had access to Noah’s estate, she intended to change her life completely. The fact that she didn’t know what those changes were going to be didn’t matter. She might even go away. She’d never been allowed to go anywhere without her parents before her marriage, or her husband afterward.
It was hard to imagine doing anything on her own, but she was excited about the possibility and intimidated by it as well. The future was unknown, the possibilities limitless. She had never faced anything unknown or without limits. She didn’t know if she could handle it. Maybe it would be better if she stayed in Cactus Corner and continued her life as it was. She would have her freedom. That’s all she’d ever wanted.
“Some of the guests are getting ready to leave,” Sibyl told her. “They’ll want to say good-bye.”
That seemed pointless since she’d see any number of them the moment she stepped outside, but she prepared to say all the proper things. After all, this was the last time she would have to do that. After she saw Norman tomorrow, she would be free. The thought buoyed her spirits so much that she had to caution herself to continue to appear grave. She wasn’t going to pretend to be grief-stricken. Too many people knew about the condition of her marriage, but it wouldn’t do to appear happy about Noah’s death. Even those who knew the state of her marriage wouldn’t accept that.
“I think everyone in town showed up,” Norman announced when the last guest had left. “But that was to be expected considering the esteem in which everyone held Noah.”
Norman found it impossible to believe anyone could think less of him and his brother than they did of themselves.
“Many said how much they appreciated the refreshments we provided,” Norman said with pride.
Sibyl had been responsible for every aspect of the food’s preparation and presentation, but Norman could never give his wife sole credit for anything. It was as though doing so would diminish his value.
“I have to get back to the bank. Noah would be the first to say I should never neglect business. Don’t forget to come by tomorrow,” he reminded Laurie. “We have a lot to talk about.”
“I’d better go, too,” Cassie said.
Laurie didn’t see why turning over Noah’s estate to her required more than a few sentences, but she was willing to let Norman talk as long as he wanted. Once she walked out of that bank, she would never have to listen to him again.
“Do you know how much money Noah left you?” Naomi asked.
“No, but Noah owned most of the store and part of the bank.”
“At least you won’t have to work in the bank like Cassie.”
Norman didn’t believe any woman was capable of understanding the simplest bank transaction, but he wasn’t above using Cassie’s looks to ensure every male within fifty miles used his bank.
“What will you do?” Sibyl asked.
“I don’t know. I haven’t had time to think about it.”
“You don’t have to decide right away,” Naomi said. “I, on the other hand, have to get home right away. Colby is so crazy about that baby, he’ll use any excuse to have him all to himself. That’s why he’s not here now. He said I could convey his sympathies better than he could. If I don’t get home soon, I’m afraid my own son will forget who I am. If it weren’t for Esther and Peter, I wouldn’t get any attention at all.”
Laurie tried not to be envious of Naomi’s happiness, but Colby was the kind of husband every woman wanted and only one in a thousand found. She was glad that one had been Naomi.
“Are you sure you want to stay in that house by yourself tonight?” Sibyl asked. “You’re welcome to stay here as long as you wish.”
“I only stayed with you and Norman these last two nights because he insisted I was too upset to be left alone. He has no idea how long I’ve dreamed of being alone. Noah was cruel. I would never have done anything to hurt him, but I’m glad he’s dead. Does that make me a bad person?” Her laugh sounded slightly hysterical even to her. “You don’t have to say anything, but don’t pretend you don’t understand. Now before I say anything else, I’ll leave. I have some shopping to do before I go home. I don’t know if I can stay in that house without feeling Noah’s presence in every room.”
“What will you do if you can’t?”
“Build another house. Or maybe I’ll move to Tucson. Noah had plenty of money.”
“You can’t do that. Your family is here.”
“Don’t call my parents my family! If they’d loved me even a little, they’d never have forced me to marry Noah.” Emotion choked off anything else she might have said. Before Noah’s death, she hadn’t spoken to either of her parents since her wedding day. She didn’t know if that would change now. “For the last four years, I’ve died a little each day,” she told Sibyl. “Now I actually feel alive, like I can take a deep breath, express an opinion, make a decision, do something as simple as get dressed without wondering if Noah will find some way to criticize me.” She stopped and took a long, slow breath to calm herself. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to say any of this. I’m more emotional than I thought. I should go.”
“Are you calm enough to face other people?”
“I’m used to pretending. It’s only with you and Naomi that I can let myself feel anything.” She kissed her cousin’s cheek. “Thanks for everything you’ve done, but I have to start getting used to living on my own.”
She experienced a moment of uncertainty when she stepped outside. She’d never been on her own. Either her parents or Noah had made every decision for her. The prospect was a little frightening, but it was also exciting.
Her life was about to start.
Jared told himself it was a waste of energy to lust after a woman he’d seen for barely more than a minute. It was downright uncivilized when that woman was a young widow who’d buried her husband only that afternoon. None of that stopped him from fantasizing about what it would be like to make love to her—something he’d been doing since he first saw her three years ago. When she left Santa Fe, he’d never expected to see her again.
He soon found himself very uncomfortable in the saddle, but even that didn’t succeed in driving the pleasant fantasy from his thoughts. He had been a sensual person as far back as he could remember. He expected his surroundings to nourish his senses. That was especially true with women. No one could appreciate their shapes or their softness more than he. Considering that, it was out of character that he had chosen to settle in the Arizona Territory, a land noted for its harshness and its lack of women.
The land around him was a far cry from southern Texas, but he was a far cry from the young man who’d gone off to war seven years earlier. Fighting his fellow countrymen in Virginia and Indians in Texas had deprived him of most of his idealism. Now all he wanted was to find his two brothers. Six months spent in Santa Fe following up every possible lead had turned up nothing.
The family that had adopted him had returned to Texas in less than a year. The same could have happened to his brothers. Or they could have gone farther west. He had nothing to go on, but he couldn’t rid himself of the conviction that he would find them west of Santa Fe. Consequently, he’d chosen to settle in the Arizona Territory. He had been able to buy a ranch that was already set up and running. At first, that had seemed like a good idea. Now he wasn’t so sure.
Even though the land below the Mogollon Rim was covered in trees and riddled with creeks, it could be a dry, harsh land that wasn’t hospitable to cattle. He had no intention of building a herd of the hardy Texas longhorns. They were lean and mean, fully capable of holding their own against most predators and surviving in harsh country, but he had set his heart on a herd of Herefords. They were equally hardy but carried more meat. He wanted a small herd that wouldn’t overgraze the range but would still turn a profit. He had his land and he had his crew. What he didn’t have was a herd of Herefords. He knew where to get them. He just had to find a way to pay for them.
He had to get a loan.
He didn’t look forward to sitting down with that long-nosed banker. The man looked the type who would enjoy turning him down. He’d much rather think about the young widow, Laurie. She was the banker’s sister-in-law, but she didn’t seem to be anything like him. Scared. Subdued. Sad. Confused. Maybe all of those, but she definitely wasn’t mourning her husband. He wondered why. He also wondered why she wore clothes that hung on her like moss on a tree.
He needed to stop thinking about Laurie Spencer, though seeing her flanked by two equally handsome women was a hard picture to forget. He was a man used to feeding his carnal appetite on a regular basis. Coming to Arizona had changed that. Women were few and far between. They were either respectable women married to respectable men, or they were women of no reputation who followed the mining camps and whose time and bodies were for sale. He’d never had any problem satisfying himself with the latter, but Laurie Spencer had instilled in him a desire for a woman of a different type.
Specifically, Laurie Spencer.
Hell, if she was like the women back home, she’d wear mourning for a full year. He could dry up and blow away before then. As he expected from the first moment he saw her, he’d have to settle for someone less likely to start him thinking of marriage.
Laurie looked at herself the mirror. She’d been taught that vanity was a sin, but she was pleased with the way she looked. Well, more than pleased. She was delighted. The weather had made an abrupt change, enabling her to dispense with the coat she’d planned to wear. She wore a plain wool skirt that hugged her hips and cinched tightly at her waist. A simple cotton blouse covered her bosom without clouding its outline. Her only concession to the weather and modesty was a jacket that was fitted at the waist.
She didn’t know if Noah had been right when he insisted that her body was an affront to female modesty and that she should do everything she could to disguise it, but she intended to find out. She tried on three hats before dispensing with all of them and pinning her hair atop her head. She liked the way it accented her neck. If she was going to be thought an immodest female, she wanted to provide plenty of ammunition.
She had no sooner placed her hand on the doorknob than she suffered a stab of doubt. What would Naomi or Sibyl say? What if Noah was right? Would any of the older women turn their backs on her?
Laurie’s spine stiffened. She didn’t care if no one liked the way she was dressed. They’d just have to get used to it. They didn’t complain about Cassie anymore, and she did everything she could to make herself more attractive.
She opened the door and stepped out.
When Naomi and Colby had laid out the town, they’d insisted that only businesses should be on the main street. They reasoned that the noise and dust caused by steady traffic would make it an unsuitable location for private homes where quiet and cleanliness were important. Norman and Noah had built their homes on the western end of town because it had a higher elevation that allowed them to look down on the town from their upper windows. There were no buildings on the main street in front of their two houses because the brothers had wanted everyone to see that they owned the most imposing houses in Cactus Corner. Thus Laurie was forced to walk nearly the length of the town along the main street. She hadn’t gone far before she got a partial answer to her question.
Two young men she didn’t know were coming toward her on their way out of town. They caught sight of her at the same time. The sight rattled them so thoroughly that they lost control of their horses and rode into each other. At first Laurie was afraid her appearance was so shockingly bad that the boys had been knocked senseless in horror. But Laurie hadn’t forgotten everything about being young, pretty, and single. It was quickly apparent that the men liked what they saw. Laurie was certain she was a sinful woman, but the reaction delighted her. It was hard to hide her smile of satisfaction, but she hadn’t the nerve to let them know she was aware of her effect on them. Noah was wrong about one thing—her appearance wasn’t an affront to young men. With that bit of encouragement, Laurie held her head a little higher and walked with more confidence.
That confidence ebbed when Mae Oliver, her mother’s second cousin, took one look at her, crossed the street, and marched straight up to her.
“Thank goodness you’ve stopped dressing like a nun. You must have gotten a good night’s sleep. You look wonderful.”
A tight knot of fear unraveled, and Laurie allowed herself to smile. “Are you sure? I’m not dressed too immodestly?”
“If I looked like you, I’d dress the same way. I used to wonder why you didn’t, but then I realized that Noah didn’t like it when other men looked at you.”
Laurie felt vulnerable, like her veil of secrecy had been stripped away. Did everyone in town know of the hell she’d lived through? She wondered how many of her other secrets weren’t secret.
“Don’t look so shocked, dear. There’s not a woman in Cactus Corner who hasn’t offered a prayer of thanks she wasn’t married to Noah. He was a fine man in many ways, but he was never the husband for a lively girl like you.”
Laurie thought of several things to say, yet said none of them. There didn’t seem to be a need.
“Now that you’re free, you can look around for a nice man. With your looks and the money Noah left you, there ought to be a line at your door by the time you get home. I know I’ve embarrassed you, but there’s no use pretending when the truth will serve a lot better. Now I have things to do, as I’m sure you do as well. I know you’ll feel more comfortable confiding in Naomi or Sibyl, but if you ever need to talk to someone else, Elsa or I will be glad to give you what advice we can.”
Laurie was relieved when Mae turned and crossed the street. Even though Mae and Elsa were her mother’s cousins, Laurie didn’t know what to say to Mae’s kind offer. She couldn’t imagine a situation that would have her going to either Mae or Elsa for advice. It took a few moments to recover her equilibrium, but she had regained her composure by the time she reached the bank.
Norman had insisted that his bank had to be the most impressive building in Cactus Corner. There was no need for a second floor, but he’d built one anyway. He said he found the idea of a false front insulting. How could his customers trust him if the front of his building wasn’t honest? Inside, a bench-filled lobby was big enough to accommodate up to a dozen customers. The tellers’ cages were made of dark mahogany and shone with a rich luster.
Cassie occupied the first cage. Ostensibly, her job was to direct each customer to the right person, but everybody knew Norman employed her to smile at the male customers, engage them in friendly conversation, and ensure that they would continue to do their business at his bank. Sibyl had told Laurie that Norman believed Cassie was worth every cent he paid her. Besides, providing a job for the young widow who had a small son to support made him look good in the eyes of the town.
“Are you here to see Norman?” Cassie asked when Laurie entered the bank.
“He told me to come by whenever I could.”
“There’s someone with him right now.” There were no customers in the bank at the moment, but Cassie beckoned Laurie to come closer. “It’s that man you spoke to at the wake yesterday.”
“Which one? I spoke to a lot of men.” She didn’t really have to ask. Cassie could be referring to only one man.
“It’s that Jared Smith,” Cassie whispered. “I don’t know what he wants, but I’ve heard him raise his voice a few times. I don’t think he’s going to be very happy when he comes out.”
“Naomi said he’s just arrived in the area. He’s probably just talking about setting up his business with the bank. Naomi said he bought a ranch.”
“I don’t know about any of that, but I can tell when a man is angry.”
Laurie didn’t doubt that. Cassie had an understanding of men that bordered on the supernatural. Fortunately, she was the most uncomplicated person Laurie knew. Cassie never said one thing and meant another, nor did she try to manipulate people. It was her open honesty that caused some people to avoid her.
A door in the back of the bank opened, and Laurie could hear Norman telling Mr. Smith that he was sorry that he couldn’t help him, that maybe he ought to reconsider his plan.
“Would you accept my advice if I told you how to run your bank?”
“Of course not.”
She could tell from the sound of Norman’s voice that the mere suggestion was an affront to him.
“Then you can’t expect me to accept your advice about how to run my ranch.”
“When someone asks to use my money, he has to expect to listen to my advice.”
The two men appeared around the far side of the clerks’ cages. Mr. Smith was walking ahead with long, angry strides. Norman had to practically run to keep up. Mr. Smith turned around so unexpectedly that Norman nearly collided with him.
“Since you’ve made it clear I’m not going to be using your money, let me make it clear that I’m not going to be taking your advice.”
“I hope this won’t prevent you from using the bank for your business,” Norman said.
“At the moment, I don’t have any business. When I do, I’ll think about it.”
With that, he turned and strode from the bank without appearing to notice either Cassie or Laurie. Norman looked after him in a kind of bemused surprise.
“I don’t think I can smile brightly enough to bring him back to the bank,” Cassie said.
“He’ll have to come back,” Norman said. “He can’t find another bank without riding all the way to Jerome.”
“Laurie is here to see you,” Cassie informed him.
“You don’t need to tell me. I can see her.”
“She could have been here to withdraw money. She’s got a lot of it now.”
“I employ you to entertain the customers,” Norman said, “not speculate on their business.”
“I can come back if this isn’t a good time.” Laurie had hoped to prevent Norman from being sharp with Cassie, but the look he gave her made her wish she’d kept silent. His disapproval didn’t need words to make itself known.
“Where did you get those clothes?” he demanded.
“At my own store. Where else could I have gotten them?”
“First, it’s not your store. And just because an item is sold there doesn’t mean you have to purchase it or wear it.”
“I think she looks wonderful,” Cassie said. “You could give her my job and you wouldn’t have to pay me.”
Laurie hoped some honest, upstanding man showed up soon to marry Cassie. She was too guileless for her own good.
“Your job would be unsuitable for my sister-in-law,” Norman said.
Fortunately for everyone, a customer entered the bank. Norman beckoned Laurie to follow him and headed for his office.
Even more than his home, Norman’s office reflected his opinion of himself. The room was furnished with heavy, dark furniture made of mahogany or covered in leather. Books he would never open lined the wall, and an oriental rug covered the space between his massive desk and the chair Laurie was to occupy. Sunshine flooding in a huge window lit the room.
“Mr. Smith seemed unusually upset when he left. I gather he didn’t get what he wanted.” Laurie didn’t know why she’d said that. Mr. Smith’s needs were none of her business. Besides, Norman never discussed business with women. There was no reason he would make an exception for Laurie. But he did.
“He wanted to borrow money to buy a herd of Hereford cattle. I told him longhorns would be better, but he insisted he wanted only Herefords.” He glared at Laurie. “I can’t understand why you would appear on the street dressed like that. Noah would never have allowed it.”
Laurie had been ready to listen to Norman’s criticism without comment, but that was too much. “Noah’s no longer my husband, so what he would or wouldn’t allow is beside the point.”
She might as well have slapped Norman. He sat up in his chair and gaped at her with wide eyes. “As long as you bear the Spencer name, anything you do will reflect on the family’s good name.”
Laurie hadn’t endured four years of marriage to Noah to allow his brother to dictate her taste in clothes. “There’s nothing amiss with any of the clothes I’m wearing. Just minutes ago Mae Oliver crossed the street to tell me how attractive she thought I looked.”
“A widow shouldn’t look attractive,” Norman insisted. “You might as well announce that you’d welcome male attention.”
“You can rest easy on that score. I will never marry again.” She was pleased to see her answer had surprised Norman.
“Certainly you wouldn’t marry again for several years. Noah deserves a suitable period of mourning, which your choice of attire fails to honor. You should wear only black for the next several months.”
“We’re not likely to agree on what’s suitable for me to wear, but if it will make you feel any better, I’ll be happy to consult Sibyl or Naomi when I go shopping again.”
“I hope you don’t intend to model your behavior on Naomi.”
“I don’t intend to model my behavior on anybody. I have enough intelligence to make my own decisions.” She needed to get to the reading of the will. She was becoming so annoyed it was hard to keep it out of her voice or her expression. “Why don’t you tell me what’s in Noah’s will? The sooner you hand over control of his estate to me, the sooner you can get back to work.”
Norman assumed the pompous attitude that always made Laurie long to slap him. “It’s not quite that simple.”
“Why not? I’m his only heir.”
“Noah left the house and its contents to you.”
“I know that. What I need to know is how much money I have.”
“You don’t have any money. He left the rest of his estate to me to administer for your benefit.”
For a moment, Laurie was afraid her heart would never beat again. She struggled to draw breath, but her body was paralyzed. She couldn’t move or speak. She felt weak, so dizzy she was afraid she would faint. Norman’s mouth opened. He must have been saying something, but it sounded like bees buzzing in her ears.
Then everything went blank.
This is one of those stories that ends perfectly even though you never want it to end. ” - Pure Jonel
“To Love and To Cherish is the ty...
This is one of those stories that ends perfectly even though you never want it to end. ” - Pure Jonel
“To Love and To Cherish is the type of Western romance I love; a smart heroine and a kind hero find love in a small town filled with lovable side characters and plausible villains. I look forward to the next installment. ” - Heroes and Heartbreakers
“Leigh Greenwood has once again proven he can write a compelling and romantic Western, and I recommend TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH to readers looking for a romantic and adventurous Western.” - Fresh Fiction
“TO LOVE AND TO CHERISH is a well written and endearing story and I hope to read more from Leigh Greenwood in the future.” - Book Obsessed Chicks Book Club
“ To Love and To Cherish is a well written and endearing story and I hope to read more from Leigh Greenwood in the future.” - Romance @ Random
“Greenwood’s talent for emotional inner conflict shines in the second book of the Cactus Creek Cowboys series... This is a solid, enjoyable western from a veteran storyteller.” - RT Book Reviews
Length: 6.875 in
Width: 4.1875 in
Weight: 0.00 oz
Page Count: 384 pages