For the remaining hour of her trip, Abigail tried to calm the butterflies in her stomach. She was a sensible woman, but her stomach was acting like that of a young girl. Smoothing a hand over that wayward part of her body, she willed it to settle down, but her thoughts just stirred the butterflies again. Perhaps she would regret her hasty decision to become a mail order bride when she met Mr. Samson. Maybe he'd be as homely as a toad and his children impossible. If so, she could catch the next stagecoach and return home. Home? What do you have waiting there besides endless days of loneliness? You've always dreamed of having a family of your own. So what if he's ugly? He certainly sounds intelligent. And children can be taught manners.
Mrs. Willowood spoke, "Abigail, dear, you shouldn't chew your nails. You'll have them down to the quick."
Abigail jerked her hand back into her lap like an errant schoolgirl.
"So, you said you're visiting family?" Mr. Willowood prodded.
Mrs. Willowood interjected, "My husband can sometimes be nosy. You don't have to answer his questions, if you don't want to."
Abigail wasn't sure how to respond and thankfully didn't have to. The driver called, "Twin Rivers!" and guided the team of horses to the front of a rundown hotel with hand painted lettering proclaiming, Mayflower Hotel. The lead driver jumped down and swiftly opened the stagecoach door to help the occupants out. Abigail waited for Mrs. Willowood to exit and then Mr. Willowood waited for her to exit.
Inhaling sharply, Abigail got her land legs and glanced around the dozen or so buildings. Pitiful looking town. Scanning the hotel porch, she saw a middle-aged man sitting on the railing. His smile showcased missing teeth. Remember, he's intelligent. Hesitantly, she smiled back. Another man exited the hotel with a gun holstered to his hip. He tipped his hat and reached to adjust his gun belt around his expanding waistline.
The second driver handed her trunk down to the first driver and it thunked to the ground. "Here ya go, ma'am."
"Thank you." Abigail looked past the driver and noticed a long-legged man across the street leaning against the side of the blacksmith's shop. He held his cowboy hat in one hand and lazily watched the stagecoach occupants. Even from a distance, she could see he was lean and muscular, with black hair that brushed the collar of his denim shirt. Too young, too handsome.
Abigail turned her attention to another man walking along the wooden planks from the general store next door. Maybe that's him. He looked distinguished in a countrified way and wore a suit that was a decade out of style. Although short, he carried himself well and had a pleasant boyish countenance for a man probably in his forties. Please God, let this be him and not the one with the missing teeth or the one with the gun.
A voice spoke from behind her, "Miz Vaughn?"
Abigail turned and stumbled backwards. The lean cowboy from across the street--with eyes she could now see were the color of a cloudless summer sky--reached out and caught her by the shoulders before she fell on her backside.
"Ma'am, I'm Brant Samson."
The butterflies in Abigail's stomach fluttered into her throat and she couldn't squeeze a word out.