The Wrangler's Mail Order Bride

Free The Wrangler's Mail Order Bride by Cindy Caldwell

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Authors: Cindy Caldwell
say. All she knew about Mr. Archer so far was that he was heavy-handed and didn’t include his son in important decisions—like his own marriage. So far, she didn’t feel like she had much use for him.
    “Well, here we are,” Hank said as he pulled up to the Occidental and stopped the buggy close to the hitching post. He pointed to a store on the corner. “That next door is James’s mercantile. That’s where I first met him.”
    She gazed at the big porch and lovely shutters, and the sign over the door announcing Tripp and Sadie’s restaurant.
    As Hank came and offered her his hand to help her step out of the buggy, she stood and turned around, marveling at the busy street. She gasped as her heel slipped off the buggy step and she fell backward, closing her eyes and hoping she didn’t hit the ground too hard.
    Perfect. My first ever evening out with a man and I …
    Her heart thudded in her chest as she awaited the impact with the dirt, but time stopped as she felt strong arms break her fall. She opened her eyes finally, gratefully looking up into those of Hank.
    Her mortification subsided as he laughed, and said, “Well, that was…not the most graceful thing I’ve ever seen.”
    She smiled as his eyes twinkled, and she held her hand to her forehead in mock horror and said, “What else is a princess to do when her foot slips out from under her. Thank you for saving me.”
    Hank set her down, taking her hand and bowing before her. “It was an honor, my lady.” He held his arm out for her, and she slipped hers in and let him guide her into the restaurant.
    “Clara. Hank,” she heard the minute they entered the beautiful dining room of the Occidental.
    Sadie rushed to them and grabbed Clara’s hand, pulling her to the best table in the house. “Here, I saved the table with the best view out the window for you.”
    Clara’s heart tugged at her friend’s excitement, grateful that everyone seemed to be cheering them on and hoping for the best.
    Hank pulled out her chair for her and scooted her in as he smiled at Sadie. “Is Tripp in the kitchen?” he asked, looking over toward the door.
    “Yes, and he’s busy right now, but I’m sure he’ll be out soon to say hello.” She smiled and offered them both menus, turning and pointing over to a beautiful, mahogany bar that spanned the length of the room. “And we have a bartender finally. We were able to open the bar for people to wait for an open table. Tripp says it’s someone you know, Hank. Name’s Samuel something.”
    “Samuel Ford? Really?” Hank stood and looked over to the bar. “Well, I’ll be. I haven’t seen him for years. Clara, mind if I say hello real quick?” he said as he placed his hat on the chair beside him.
    “Oh, no, please go ahead.” She unfolded her napkin and laid it in her lap as Sadie quickly sat in Hank’s chair.
    “So, how is everything?” she whispered as Hank walked toward the bar and extended his hand to the man behind it. He was greeted with a broad smile and sturdy handshake from the tall, lean man in a satin vest and white shirt, his sleeves rolled up.
    “I think all right, but I almost fell out of the buggy. Hank had to catch me,” Clara said, fanning herself with her menu.
    “How romantic,” Sadie said with a sigh. “You know, I think you two are perfect for each other, Beau Archer notwithstanding. Uh-oh, speak of the devil.” Sadie stood and turned as Beau Archer strode through the room, taking a quick glance at his son at the bar and heading straight for Clara.
    “Hello, Mr. Archer. Nice to see you,” Sadie said as she raised her eyebrows at Clara. “Are you here for supper?”
    “No, no, thank you, Sadie. I’ve just returned from Tucson with some news, and would like to speak with Miss Martin quickly for a moment, if you don’t mind.” He held Clara’s gaze and didn’t glance at Sadie.
    “Oh, well, if that’s okay with Clara…” Sadie stood for a moment, shifting her feet as Clara

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