The Goldsmith of her Dreams (Preview)


Sacramento, California – 1851

Leo never liked the idea of the circus. Too much like life – somebody gets to be the ring-master, and somebody else only gets to be the clown. Where is the fairness in that?

Even so, he knew from the moment he heard the circus was coming that he would be there; first day, front row, opening curtain. There was hardly anything else to do in Sacramento; a circus was simply too good to miss.         The town was bordered on the west by the Sacramanto river; a long snaking. The land sloped gently down to the east with farms, hedge-bordered fields, small ranches, saloons and gambling houses dotted across all the way to the American River. The land to the west was just as fertile, and the pastures there lush at even the worst of times, but only a handful of farms could be found west of the river.

Since news of the circus arriving in Coloma, Sacramento was in a frenzy. Bare-naked children and skittering chickens had their fun racing across the town and every moving cart was greeted with swarms of well-wishers. In the months before there had been little of excitement or laughter for the children. Most days the sun ran hot enough to fry eggs and the odd dog had been known to bite. It seemed the approach of the circus had taught everyone how to laugh again.

It even affected the adults. Broad windows were pushed all the way open, and in almost every house a great matriarch could be found with apron tied about her waist and hair twined in a bun looking alive. The smell of good cooking was always in the air and there was a distinct feeling that something special was about to happen.

It rained on the day the circus finally arrived. The only day in November with even a cloud in the sky. Leo should have known it was a bad omen. He woke to the clap of thunder and sat up in his bed with an eager smile.

At about nine o’clock in the morning, a long-awaited knock sounded at the door to Leo’s home and he took off at a sprint to open it. Theodore, a tall, scrawny boy with wide inquisitive eyes appeared in the doorway. His smile was even wider than Leo’s.

“It’s here,” Theodere yelped.

Leo formed a thin line with his lips. He knew the answer to his impending question long before, but he still asked.

“What is here?” Leo asked.

Theodore raised an eyebrow. “The circus. Don’t you dare say you aren’t coming. We’ve been planning this for so long.”

A slow smile spread across Leo’s face. “What took you so long?”

Theodore returned the grin. “You were teasing me.”

“Of course I was,” Leo said. “I have to tell my Ma, I’m leaving.”

Theodore shook his head vigorously as he grabbed Leo by the wrist. “You can’t, she’ll never let us go.”

“Never let you go where,” came a chirpy, even-pitched voice from behind.

Behind them, stood a girl of about seven years old wearing a cream of white muslin dress, stained down the side with grass. Her arms and legs had grown ahead of the rest of her body giving her a lean, athletic slant when she stood at full height.

“Go away Rowena,” Leo said, narrowing his eyes.

She grinned. “Tell me where you guys are going or I am telling Ma.”

Leo’s jaw tightened.

“We’re going to the circus,” said Theodore.

Leo gave him an accusing look but Theodore only had eyes for Rowena.

Rowena lowered her chin and smiled. “Can I come?”

Leo snapped his head towards Rowena, but before he could speak Theodore had already given his response.

“Yes you can,” Theodore said with an encouraging nod.

Leo slapped his forehead. Rowena and Theodore were always making things more difficult than they needed to be. Now there would be three of them to sneak out and if they got caught, Leo would take all the blame.

“Fine,” Leo hissed. “You can come.”

Rowena beamed. “I’ll get my shoes!”

She darted down the hall and returned with a pair of kitten-heeled leather slippers. A curious choice of footwear for a clandestine visit to the circus but what did Leo know about circus sneaking. He shrugged and held the door open for them.

They stepped outside and the excitement was palpable. Young children dragged unwilling adults along by the wrist and the low thrum of drums could be heard in the near distance.

They walked at an easy unhurried pace towards the edge of the town where the circus was almost certainly to be found. White tiered canopies appeared further ahead and for the first time Leo felt a twinge of excitement.

“There it is,” said Theodore, stating the obvious.

The closer they got to the circus, the farther away it seemed. The broad, gracious streets lined with trees and gated manses gave way slowly to narrower, winding streets. A gentleman rushing out of an unmarked establishment near to tripped over them and cursed.

“Watch yourselves!” His voice was rough as a coalmine and his eyes darker. He hurried down the street in the same direction. It made Leo wonder that such men would visit the circus too.

At last, the street opened onto a green, broad expanse of yellowing grass and they walked with the same careful urgency. A wagon passed briskly by, quickly followed by a platoon of waddling geese and Leo started to quicken his footsteps.

“I’ve heard there is a fortune teller at the circus,” Theodore said.

Leo raised an eyebrow. “A fortune teller?”

Theodore nodded. “A clairvoyant. She can tell you your future. Reads it from her tarot cards.”

Leo rolled his eyes. “I don’t believe in all that nonsense.”

“Why not?” Theodore asked.

Leo kicked a stone off down the path. “If she can tell the future, then why is she travelling with the circus? If I could tell the future, I would have a hundred gold mines. Everyone in my family would live and eat well. If she has all that mystical power then why does she use it to tell fortunes for pennies.”

Theodore shook his head. “Some powers are not meant to be used the same way as others. Maybe that’s the only way she can use it.”

Leo made a dismissive gesture with his hands. “It’s all nonsense and if you spend any of your money on getting your fortune told then you are the biggest dope in Sacramento.”

Theodore glanced at Rowena, then went florid-faced. “I’ll make you a wager then.”

Leo’s eyes widened. “Go on.”

“If you think its all the nonsense, I dare you to sneak into her tent and steal something from inside. A crystal ball or a tarot card or something. See if her wrath doesn’t come down on you.”

Rowena smiled and started to nod.

Leo narrowed his eyes. “Fine. I’ll do it. If it convinces you that it’s all a hoax, consider it done.”

A smile split Theodore’s baby round face. “Good, you’ll have your chance.”

They had arrived. The circus lay stretched out before them like some grand bazaar with tents and canopies arranged in huddles across a large expanse of dead grass. The centrepiece of the entire spectacle was a large white tent with a conical tip and flagged ropes running down the sides. It was everything Leo had ever imagined it would be.

The air was thick with the smell of food and the thrum of music. Though it was still early in the day, the place was alive with activity.

He passed by a food wagon, heavy with fruit and bread that made his mouth water.

“You’ve touched it now, you have to buy!” came an old man’s ragged voice.

Leo gave a start and glanced up. “I didn’t touch anything,” he protested.

“You did too!” cried the old man, “That pear and that bread. I saw it with my own two.”

Leo saw another stall keeper give him a mean, malicious look and realised that he had been swindled for the first time in the circus. Without another word he slid over a few coins and took the pear and bread.

“I hate the circus,” he muttered as he chewed at the loaf with more than a hint of disdain.

“There she is,” said Theodore pointing. “the fortune teller.”

Leo glanced up at the tent he was gesturing towards. It stood out like a wolf among sheep dogs. It was smaller than the rest and painted black on each side. Above the tent-flap was the sharp yellow imprint of a crescent moon and a beaded curtain prevented you from looking inside. His stomach stirred at the sight of it.

A woman stood at the front of the tent. Her hair was dark and shiny as oil, with eyes sunk in weary hollows. From her neck hung seven gold-linked chains which jingled with the breeze. Her ear lobe was pierced with a single golden earing which curled in the image of a snake.

Leo looked into her eyes and swallowed hard. It was like glancing into a dark, unending abyss. Eyes that seemed to pull him in.

He stiffened and glanced back at Theodore who wore a knowing smile.

“She doesn’t look like such a hoax now, does she?” Theodore said.

Theodore was right. She did not look like a hoax at all but Leo wasn’t about to get made to look the fool by Theodore trying to impress Rowena.

Theodore leaned in with a leery grin. “I take it you would like to forfeit?”

Leo’s jaw stiffened. “I didn’t say that.”

Rowena stepped forward. “It is alright Leo. You don’t have to do this.”

Leo gritted his teeth. “I am doing it.”

Strange as the woman looked, Leo knew it was all part of the act. If she didn’t look like a mystic then no one would pay to have their fortune told. She had to be a hoax.

“If she comes back into that tent, you give me a signal so I know to run,” Leo said.

“Leo-” Theodore warned.

“I’m going,” Leo said. “You’ll see it’s all a big swindle.”

Without another word, Leo sunk back behind a larger tent and made his way in a wide circle to approach the fortune teller’s tent from the rear.

Just as he had hoped, he found a small slit in the tent upholstery. Just long enough for him to crawl through without notice. He could get in, get out and prove to Rowena and Theodore once and for all that it was all a big sham.

Leo was no stranger to sneaking. He couldn’t count on both hands the amount of times he’d had to creep in his time. But for reasons he could not understand, his heart beat harder and faster than ever before.

He sucked in a large breath and slipped through the slit. It parted easily enough with only a small sound of the tent slipping, which easily would be discounted as a shift in the breeze.

It was empty inside. Painted on the ceiling was that slim crescent moon and at the centre was a table of ornamented gold with two matching golden stools.

His first thought was to snatch a crystal ball, but he couldn’t be sure if the design meant it was interconnected with some wiring or other such application beneath the table.

He opted instead for the large pack of cards, spread in a perfect circle around the ridge of the table. I only need one card.

He lunged forward and snatched a card from the table in a single motion and pivoted to slip back out through the tent slit. That was when the world came down on him.

Just as he swivelled to make his escape, he heard the sharp unmistakeable sound of Rowena and Theodore going into a violent coughing fit. A warning.

His eyes widened in alarm only a moment before he felt a cold, bony hand wrap around his wrist.

Her voice was cold and sharp as ice water. “You dare to steal from the house of Mystic Melania?”

Leo tried to speak but the words turned to powder on his lips. His mouth running dry as he looked into her dark, unending eyes.

A shadow ran across her face. “What is your name boy?”

Leo knew it was five way foolish to tell her, but under the weight of her terrible stare he could do nothing but obey. “Leo Jackman. It was all a silly dare. I am sorry! I shouldn’t have taken anything. I’ll return it I promise. Please Miss Melania.”

“Mystic Melania!” she snarled.

“Mystic Melania, Mystic Melania,” Leo pleaded.

But it was too late. Her eyes had narrowed to dark slits of ire and she had begun to mutter in a low, guttural drone that could only be the incantations of a witch. It was beginning to seem that Mystic Melania was not a hoax at all.

She pulled him up by the wrist until he could feel her mist cold breath on his face. “What you have stolen, will forever be stolen from you. That which you have tried to take, will be taken from you. Never, Leo Jackman will you find love, so long as though shall live. So says Mystic Melania!”

It must have been his imagination but Leo thought he heard a thunderclap outside at the sound of Mystic Melania’s voice. As soon as she let go of his bony wrist, he took off at a run, through the front tent flap this time. Running like a buck with a wolf at his heels.

“What happened?” Theodore called out, as he shot past. But this was not a time for explanation. It was a time to get gone.

He clattered into a fruit stall, sending a gaggle of pears rolling across the ground.

“You touch, you pay!” snarled the stall keeper.

But Leo paid him no mind. He scrambled madly across the fruit-strewn ground, feeling a seam part as he tore loose from someone’s grip on the back of his shirt. He thought his heart would burst as he shot forward as he came at last to the bottom of a hill and the image of the circus disappeared beyond the crest.

Only then did he stop running, slumping like a spent horse across the grass. The tarot card was still in his hand. It was the image of a man and woman standing in a garden with a large tree at the centre. They were staring at one another in the image and Leo did not need to read the inscription at the bottom of the card to know what they were. The Lovers.

Chapter One

Coloma, California – 1871

Gwendolyn’s tears were the very worst to weep. The tears of words left unsaid; deeds left undone. Promises never kept. She was dressed from head to toe in black staring at the face of a man who she had only ever seen smile.

Now his cheeks were flat and gaunt, robbed of all the colour he had in life. His eyes that had always carried an air of mischief were closed now. Never to open again.

A comforting hand touched her shoulder. “He loved you very much.”

Gwendolyn nodded, accepting the condolence. Her and her sisters had gotten used to accepting condolences in the days since their father died. Now the funeral day had finally come. Soon the well-wishers and condolence bearers would return to their own lives and start to forget that Thomas Patrick died in his own gold mine.

Gwendolyn turned to her sisters. They were both dressed in the same stark black. Both red-eyed with tears. You never expect such a day to come so soon.

Their father, whom they had all loved was dead. They were orphans now.

Once before they had donned all black to bury a parent. But they were younger then and had their father at their side to bear the grief with. This was different; an almost acute physical pain.

To their credit, all three Patrick sisters kept their grace throughout the ceremony. Even when his coffin was finally laid in the grave, they did not break to pieces. Outwardly, they were bearing up well. Inwardly it was another matter entirely.

They walked home together in complete silence. There was nothing at all to say. Not now.

Lunch too was a silent affair. Every bite of pork was tasteless. Potato was like parchment. The phantom of their father’s love still haunted the house. Gwendolyn kept expecting him to walk in through the door with a broad smile to take up his seat at the table. But of course, she knew, he wasn’t coming.

She glanced up at her sister May. A buoyant woman at the best of times but today she was sunken deep.

It was when she saw May at the house that Gwendolyn first realised that something was wrong. It had been a sunny day and Gwendolyn had picked the beautiful flowers in the yard.

She was all the way into the house before she realized that something was wrong. Her father’s horse was back in the stable, but she hadn’t seen him come in. It hit her when she walked into the house and found her sisters in the dining room. They were sat at the table with clasped hands. Not eating. There was no food on the table. No conversation. Nothing but eerie silence.

Only when she asked what brought May home so early in the year, did her sister let out a shuddering sob. “He’s gone.”

Her sister Leanne moved to put her arm around her and May kept repeating those words. He’s gone.

Gwendolyn pushed the memory away and picked noiselessly at her pork.

After a few more minutes of silent eating, Leanne brushed her plate to the centre of the table and pushed her chair back. She fixed Gwendolyn with a sad, concerned stare and sucked in an anticipatory breath.

“I am going to tell you something that you do not want to hear Gwendolyn.”

Gwendolyn looked up from her plate. “What is it Leanne?”

Leanne wet her lips. “We have to make preparations.”

Gwendolyn felt her stomach turn at the word ‘preparations’, eyes narrowing, she asked, “What sort of preparations?”

Leanne cleared her throat. “Our father is dead. Our cousin Arthur will soon be up from Louisiana to claim father’s estate. You are the only unmarried one Gwendolyn.”

Gwendolyn knew what her sister was getting at, but was too hurt to hear it. She lowered her head and closed her eyes. “So it is not that ‘we’ have to make preparations. More that ‘I’ need to make preparations.”

“You are the most at risk, Gwen.”

It was a hard, uncompromising truth. Even if their cousin Arthur turned out to be a generous and kind-hearted man, Gwendolyn would be vulnerable, so long as she as not married.

Gwendolyn gritted her teeth. “I know.”

Leanne lowered her voice almost to a whisper. “What are you going to do Gwendolyn?”

Her jaw tightened. “I am going to make preparations.”

That seemed to satisfy Leanne and she leaned back in her chair as though in accomplishment. “Do you promise me?”

Gwendolyn nodded. “I promise.”

Leanne gave an approximation of a smile and nodded. “Good. In the meantime, you can come and stay with me. You cannot stay here alone and our cousin will soon be here to claim this place.”

Gwendolyn looked around at the house. The place she had always called home; now to be taken up by a man who was essentially a stranger. “Thank you Leanne. I will come and stay with you.”

The silence resumed, punctuated in part by May’s soft sniffs of distress. Making preparations was the last thing Gwendolyn wanted to do, but she knew Leanne was right. Even despite the fact that Gwendolyn was still heavy with grief, the wheels of the world would continue to turn and she had to move quickly if she didn’t intend to get crushed beneath them.

It went unspoken, but everyone knew that there were very few options for a woman in Gwendolyn’s condition. It was either that she found employment at some establishment honourable enough to provide her a living wage or she got married to a man with the means to support a family. Neither one of the available options was attractive to Gwendolyn but her preference was to find employment.

She had never been a particularly marriage-minded woman, but she had always believed that when she did get married it should be for love with someone who cared about her. She dreaded the idea of marriage to a man who lacked the cleverness to make her laugh or the countenance to make her smile. She wanted to marry a man who was gentle and kind; one who found value in things money could not buy. In her estimation, such men were in markedly short supply. At least if she was to find work she would retain some control over her life and not be forced to subordinate herself to the whims of a man she could neither love nor like.

Leanne, she knew, was a different sort of woman. She had always been seriously practical. It was the subtle difference in their sisterhood. Leanne was a woman who saw things as they were, tethered to the world in a strong, unshakeable way; she did not bother herself with the abstractions of want, but instead surrounded herself with the surety of should. Leanne had married her own husband because it was what she should do – A quiet, diligent man who shared the same passion for propriety. Duty had always been the drive of Leanne’s desire and Gwendolyn could not fault her sister. She wished herself that she things in such a clear, unambiguous way. There had been suitors that she could have married in the past, perhaps should have married, but there had not been a single one that she wanted to marry. She wondered if she was a dreamer, searching for a thing that only existed in the mind. Perhaps that was what life was truly about for a young woman in the West. Perhaps with time, she would no longer see the difference between ‘want’ and ‘should’. She shook the thought from her mind. She had seen love and that was the reason she could not let the idea go. Her parents had shown her what it meant to love. How they would share their joy and pain. How every room felt their glow; their heat. How could she settle for less than love when she had seen it up close?

Her father had loved their mother with all the softness and affection any woman could want. The grief that came with her death never stopped haunting him. Even so many years after she was gone, his love remained – like a second shadow, following his every step. Was it too much to ask to be loved in that way? To know without doubt that your husband cared for you more than anything else? Gwendolyn had no crisis of faith about love – she had seen it. Even with all the pain she now felt, she knew deep down that she wanted to love too; like her father did.

Chapter Two

Sacramento, California – 1871

As Leo watched through the iron gate as his niece and nephew sprinted barefoot across the lawn he was reminded of something he had heard long ago – ‘Children are the evidence of God’s love in the world’. The sound of their laughter made him smile. He and Rowena had run around in much the same way so many times as children.

The iron gate gave a wheezy crackle as he pulled it open. The children jerked at the sound and turned immediately towards him.

“Uncle Leo!” they exclaimed as they took off at a dead run.

They flew into him, wrapping their arms around his legs as he bent down to hug them. “I have missed you both.”

Rosemary, the older of the two clutched his leg tighter. “We missed you too.”

She was tall for her age, as Rowena had been, with long skinny arms that had run ahead of the rest of her growth. Every time Leo saw her, it was as though he stepped back into some long forgotten time when Rowena was just a girl.

Teddy, the younger of the pair had an even more striking resemblance to Theodore than Rosemary did to her mother. Teddy was the facsimile of his father; already wide at the shoulders for his age and possessed of the same inquisitive eyes and easy smile.

“Where are your parents?” Leo asked.

“In the house,” said Teddy.

“Take me to them,” Leo said taking each child by the hand.

They led him into the house where his sister Rowena and his best friend Theodore, stood shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen.

“Uncle Leo is here,” Teddy announced, as they stepped inside.

Rowena turned and smiled. “I can see that Teddy.”

The boy gave a satisfied nod and walked to join his father.

“Would you like some milk?” Rosemary offered, holding out a glass of freshly squeezed milk.

“Thank you,” Leo said, accepting the offer.

Rosemary gave a subtle bow and smiled up at her mother.

Leo felt a sharp pang in her stomach and took a sip of milk. “You all seem very happy.”

Rowena gave a deep smile. “We really are.”

Leo swallowed. “That is wonderful.”

And truly it was. That ache in his stomach was not borne out of jealousy. He had always been happy to see that Theodore and Rowena’s love had grown to become something every bit as precious and impregnable in as a mountain. Even so, he could not help but to feel reminded of that solemn note at the back of his mind. The truth that he had spent so much of his life trying to avoid; he was completely alone in the world. Bereft of joy, fulfilment and companionship. Cursed.

He saw, in Theodore’s smile, a lived-in, anticipated joy. It was the sort of smile that Leo could only faintly remember having. Perhaps when he was a young boy, when he used to climb trees and jump fences. Will I ever have reason to smile like that?

“What brings the town’s most famous jeweller to our doorstep today?” Theodore asked, with the same daring grin he’d had since childhood.

Leo raised his chin. “I came to see my sister and the lucky man she happened to marry.”

Theodore’s smile deepened. “The very lucky man,” he said, offering Rowena a playful look.

Teddy tugged at Leo’s trouser leg. “Uncle Leo, do you have a wife like our Uncle Tom?”

Leo’s face soured. He swallowed and tried to muster a smile. “No I don’t Teddy, not yet.”

Teddy lowered his chin and nodded. “Alright.”

A strange silence passed and Theodore pointedly avoided Leo’s gaze.

Rowena made a sharp gesture with her chin and the children slipped out of the room. A crease of consternation formed at her forehead as she turned slowly to Leo. “Don’t you mind Teddy, he asks questions he doesn’t really understand.”

Leo gave a small smile. “It’s alright.”

“I always thought you would get married before I did,” said Theodore.

“That must have been before the jeweller’s curse,” Leo muttered.

They all laughed.

“You know I never believed in that silly curse, I have always said it was just a hoax. But somehow…”

Leo didn’t finish the sentence.

“Maybe you need to find her and ask her to reverse the curse. What was her name again?” Theodore asked.

“Mystic Melania,” Leo said without hesitation. “I could never forget.”

“You never should have tried to steal that tarot card,” Theodore said, laughing.

But Leo found he could not join in the laughter. Not today. There are some days it hurts a little too much to laugh at yourself.

In eleven months he would be thirty and not once had he ever come close to finding the sort of wondrous love that Theodore and Rowena had. It was sobering to imagine that he might spend the rest of his days alone and secluded. An accursed jeweller.

He spent an hour in the company of Theodore and Rowena. All the while, he couldn’t quite manage to shake that solemn fear that the jewellers curse might actually be real.  He could recall Mystic Melania’s words as though she had spoken them twenty seconds ago instead of twenty years. What you have stolen, will forever be stolen from you. That which you have tried to take, will be taken from you. Never, Leo Jackman will you find love, so long as though shall live. So says Mystic Melania.

He winced as he remembered that chilling voice. A voice like ice and sand.

“I should start heading back to the shop,” Leo announced as he rose to his feet.

Rowena looked disappointed, but did not complain.

Theodore put a comforting hand on Leo’s shoulder. “Come back to visit soon.”

Leo nodded. “I will.”

He turned to leave before Rowena’s imploring voice cut through the air.

“Oh, and Leo,” she said.

He froze and glanced over his shoulder at her. “Yes?”

“Don’t worry about all that jeweller’s curse nonsense. It is just a hoax. You will find someone when the time is right. I am sure of it.”

He frowned. “I hope you are right, Rowena.”

He stepped out and made his way back to the hitching post where his horse brayed with expectation as he stepped past the iron gate. The ride back to his shop was a short one when riding at speed, but Leo took the long way back. Staring up at the sky and wondering if he could really be doomed to a life of lovelessness.

He arrived at last. The Jackman Jewellers was a sturdy structure – built by hands, perseverance, will and ambition. On the ground floor was his jewellery shop, where he made and sold custom pieces for his obliging clients. Above the shop was his home; cosy, comfortable and clean.

“The Goldsmith of Her Dreams” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the aftermath of the sudden loss of her father, Gwendolyn Patrick leads a lonely life without any support. As she loses hope that love will ever come her way, it feels like her only path to escaping a miserable future is to marry a financially secure family friend. Her last expectation, though, was that the man who would make her wedding ring would also make her heart hum for the first time. Yet her impending marriage is only weeks away…

Could Gwendolyn’s unexpected encounter with this man spur her to take a step toward true happiness?

Leo is a talented goldsmith, renowned for making the very best wedding rings for young couples. Yet he is plagued by a curse from his mischievous past; although his rings bring joy to so many couples, he knows love will never be on the cards for him. The moment he stumbles upon a beautiful customer in his store though, Leo feels for the first time ever that he might be finally freed of his curse.

The problem is, this woman is set to marry another man…

As fate brings them together, Gwendolyn and Leo will soon discover their life-changing connection. Nevertheless, they will need to face traumas, disapproving family members, mysterious threats, and the overpowering fear that comes with pursuing a dream. In their quest to unravel their tangle of emotions, will they find the courage to restore love to its rightful place at the center of their lives?

“The Goldsmith of Her Dreams” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

3 thoughts on “The Goldsmith of her Dreams (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *