A Light in Her Gloomy Life (Preview)

Chapter One

Eliza stepped out onto the porch for a quick moment of air. She loved her six-year-old brothers, but sometimes it could be overwhelming handling everything in the house from sunup to sundown. She looked over the bustling street of activity a few feet away. New York was one of the most populated places in the United States, as far as she knew. It would be 1871 next year, and every single month, there were new changes. Sometimes Eliza wondered if she would even recognize the place in the coming year.

The door opened, and David poked his head out of the house.

“Eliza, I’m hungry. Is there something to eat?”

Eliza smiled and nodded. She’d never imagined she would be the mother to twin boys at nineteen. No one expected her mother to pass away three weeks after giving birth. Everything had gone from perfect to devastating in a single moment. In the tiny kitchen, Eliza prepared some bread, cheese, and water for the boys.

“Eliza, Aunt Jane is here!” Louis came rushing into the kitchen from the parlor. His cheeks were flushed bright pink, and his brown hair was tousled.

“Are you sure?” She had been there just the day before, but Eliza wasn’t complaining. She loved her aunt and everything that she did for them. When their mother died, her Aunt Jane offered to adopt Lewis and David to give them a family and take some of the difficulty off Eliza and her father. Even though life would have been easier that way, Eliza was unwilling to let her brothers go. She wanted to keep their family together and couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to her two little brothers, the babies her mother adored before passing away.

The doctor said that her mother’s passing was due to some complication after birth, even though it had taken several weeks to present itself.

“I’m sure. Aunt Jane was carrying a basket. “I hope she made pastries,” David said.

“Or perhaps a pound cake.” Lewis was practically licking his lips.

“Now, now, let’s not ask for anything. Let’s just politely say hello.” Eliza led the way to the door and reached it just as her aunt knocked from the outside. She opened the door without hesitation. Her aunt looked a lot like her mother. So much so that Eliza often felt as if she were seeing a ghost.

“Eliza, I’m sorry to come by so soon, but I made pound cake and prepared an extra one in case the boys wanted a piece. Can I come in?”

Eliza smiled warmly. She would never turn her aunt away. Her aunt was an integral part of their life. Even if she hadn’t adopted the boys and taken them to live with her, Eliza knew how much she cared for them and her. She showed that love and care with her frequent visits, incessant compliments, and constant offers to help with anything that needed doing. Her own children were grown and had already moved out, married, or started their own ventures. Eliza could often tell that Aunt Jane was lonely. It was one of the reasons that she came over so often.

Eliza almost felt as if she were their second mother somehow, and that was not a bad thing.

“Is your father back yet?” Jane asked, pulling Eliza’s attention back to her.

“No, he hasn’t come home yet. He’s running late like he has been quite often lately. I think they keep him very busy at the bank. According to him, he’s become invaluable to the business.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me. Your father was always skilled with numbers, people, and pretty much anything you put in front of him. The man he works for would be a fool not to take advantage of that.” Jane led the way into the kitchen and pulled out a pound cake. She started cutting slices and handing them to the boys. Eliza discreetly put the bread and cheese away. They could have it for dinner or after her aunt left. The boys would much rather eat pound cake anyway.

“How are you and Uncle Vince? Anything new since yesterday?” Eliza smiled. She always enjoyed hearing what was happening with Jane, her husband, and her children. There always seemed to be some new development in one of her children’s lives, and Jane never left out a single detail. She very much enjoyed talking, especially when it was about something she had heavy opinions on.

“They’re all doing fine. There’s nothing new, except that Ollie got in some sort of trouble at work. I’m not sure what happened yet, Mrs. Weathers told me the other day, and he hasn’t said a word to me about it, even though he was just over for breakfast this morning. I plan to ask his sister what is going on. I’m having her over for dinner. Ollie always did tell her everything. They are twins, just like the boys, you know. Twins are always close. I am so glad they did run in the family.”

Eliza smiled. Twins were a bit of a tradition in her family, it seemed. Her mother had always talked about how she would have a set of twins one day, just like her sister, her mother, and her grandmother. In the end, she had gotten her wish, but it had also been the end of her. Eliza shook the dreary thoughts away.

“I am glad everyone is doing well. Pa says his boss mentioned a big job that he specifically needs Pa for. I think they may be giving him some sort of a promotion. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Perhaps that way he would work a bit less and spend more time at home.” Eliza hated to admit how much she wished that to happen. She didn’t mean to complain, but the four of them getting on all alone often meant that she was busy with household things, caring for her brothers, or making meals all day long every single day. She couldn’t remember the last time that she’d spoken to one of her friends from church or even enjoyed a quiet stroll on her own.

She didn’t mean to complain, but sometimes it was hard doing a job meant for two all alone every day. She knew other women had it much worse and handled it so much better than her, so she didn’t dare tell anyone how she was feeling. It felt like she would be disrespecting those with more difficult positions in life.

“That would be splendid, though I am afraid that promotions come with more work, not less.” Jane sighed. “Your father really should be back by now; it’s practically dusk.”

Eliza shook her head. Her aunt was exaggerating. There were at least four hours till dinner time. “I’m sure he is probably on his way. You can wait for him to return if you like.”

“No, no. I had better not.” Aunt Jane waved her suggestion away like a pesky fly. “I have too many things to prepare for this evening. I really should be going. I just wanted to come and say hello and make sure that these boys had something in their stomachs.” Aunt Jane gave a bright smile to David and Lewis, whose faces were covered in crumbs and whose grins were begging for more. They loved it when their aunt brought special treats.

Eliza smiled. Sometimes she was tempted to be jealous of her aunt’s fondness for her brothers, but she always tried to keep those feelings at bay. She wanted the best for her brothers, which included her aunt hovering over them as if they were the center of the universe. Aunt Jane stood and gathered up her basket and the now-empty towel. The half-eaten lemon pound cake sat on the counter. Eliza hadn’t tasted it yet, but it did look delicious.

“Tell me when you know about your father and that new thing he has going on with his job. I can’t wait to hear of his good fortune. Remember, if you need anything, I am only a few doors away.” Aunt Jane hugged her. Her apron smelled of spices and her hug felt almost just like Eliza’s mother’s hugs used to, only a tiny bit different. A sad feeling pricked the back of Eliza’s throat. She missed those hugs, the ones her mother gave her every night before she went to sleep.

Eliza walked Jane to the front door, letting her out. “Thank you for the pound cake.”

“Of course. You know I always think of you when I make something special.” Her aunt smiled, then hurried down the porch with a little wave. Eliza watched her go until she disappeared down the street. Sometimes she wished her aunt lived with them. She liked the energy her aunt brought with her. She liked the way that she was there for them, and when her aunt was around, it didn’t feel so lonely or as if everything was on her shoulders.

She turned back to her little brothers, who were already heading back to the kitchen, most likely with hopes for a second piece of cake in mind. Eliza smiled. She couldn’t blame David and Lewis. They loved sweets. She glanced back toward the parlor window, hoping there was a good reason her father was late back from work. Sometimes she worried about him, but she knew he knew how to take care of himself, so she pushed the worry aside.

If he was late, he most likely had a reason to be. He was a good father, and he always did what he could to be present for her and her little brothers. If it weren’t for her father’s efforts, their family probably would have been split up a long time ago. Eliza sighed. Hopefully, he would be back soon.

Chapter Two

Max pulled his hat down a little lower to shelter him from the hot Colorado sun. It was one of the rare days he had decided to head into town. He needed a few things from the mercantile, and a visit to Tom was in order. His friend of more than ten years was one of the only people he still bothered to talk to or check in on.

When he reached the town’s entrance, he paused for a moment. He knew plenty of people in town, but he kept his distance. He knew that everyone liked to gossip about what happened to his stepfather, Carlyle, and what he had to do with it. But they didn’t really know the true story, and if they had a chance, they would try to get answers out of him. It had been five years since his mentor died, and it was still fresh in his mind as if it had been only a few days.

Max swallowed hard and forced his feet to keep going. The only person he trusted not to dig into the past and the only person that he didn’t mind talking about the past with was Tom, his best friend and the town’s blacksmith. He decided to drop by Tom’s shop first. Just as he expected, his friend was bent over his latest project, bringing his hammer down with blow after blow to red hot metal. Max stood off to the sidelines until Tom paused his work and looked up, spotting him.

His friend’s face lit up with a boyish grin. He was covered in soot and stains from working with the steaming hot metal, his black hair flopping over his forehead in its unruly way.

“Max! What are you doing in town? It’s a rare sight, amigo.” Tom’s mother’s native language was Spanish, and he sprinkled words from it throughout his sentences, not seeming to care who understood what they meant. Over the years, Max had picked up enough Spanish to understand most of what he said, including amigo, which meant friend.

“I had to come down and get a few things from the mercantile but figured I would stop by here first. How is business going?”

Tom set down his hammer and leaned back against his workbench, pushing his hair back from his forehead. “Bien, Bien. It’s going all right. New people are moving to town every single day, and everyone needs work done by a blacksmith, be it repairing their wagon wheels, putting shoes on their horses, or making them a new lamp. So much to do. I’m not complaining, though. Work is a blessing.”

“I’m glad things are going well for you. How is your family?”

Tom nodded. “Well enough. Marco and Jorge are growing fast and Selena, she’s intelligente. She has good marks in school. She says she wants to study in a big city one day, no matter how often my parents have told her to leave the studying to the boys. Mi mami is incessant about trying to find me a senorita to marry. She’s introduced me to a new young lady every single week for who knows how long. My brothers are lucky they aren’t quite old enough to be looking for a match.”

Max chuckled. “That sounds like your mother. It’s been a while since I’ve seen your family.”

“You should stop by. They always ask about you. You know that my family is yours too, Tio.”

Max nodded at the reference to uncle in Spanish. He thought of Tom as family too. When he’d been left alone, Tom had been insistent about inviting him over and making him feel welcome in his own family.

“Maybe I will have to stop by sometime. Tell them all hello for me in the meantime. I just … have been very busy.” Max had made himself busy, planting a garden and taking care of the cow Carlyle had left behind. He was able to produce most of what he ate up in his little cabin on the mountain, and he had gotten used to the busy yet solitary lifestyle in the past five years.

“Speaking of busy, maybe you should make time for an introduction or two yourself. You don’t want to live alone forever, do you? My mother would be more than happy to find someone for you to meet. I know I complain about her introductions, but she’s actually got an eye for that sort of thing. Perhaps you should give it a chance, or at least come to town a bit more often and meet new people. It is not healthy to stay up in your cabin on the hill all the time and avoid civilization.”

Max shook his head. “I like my privacy up on the hill. You know I don’t mind being alone.”

“Carlyle would not have wanted you to be alone on that hill. He took time out of his life to teach you everything you know. Shouldn’t you honor him by using that knowledge?” Tom’s tone was soft as if he knew he was treading on dangerous waters. “You threw away everything you had going for you after … what happened, and I understand that. But hasn’t it been long enough? Shouldn’t you get back to what you were meant to be doing? You used to help a lot of people, Max.”

Max looked off into the distance, refusing to meet his friend’s gaze. He didn’t want to admit how right his friend was or how much a part of him missed the old life.

“I used to help people when Carlyle was alive. I tried to continue the work after he passed away, remember? But I don’t want to do that ever again. That life … it wasn’t for me.”

Tom sighed. “If you insist on being a simple farmer, you should at least consider becoming a bit more friendly with the community. A lot of your old connections are still there and most likely would be happy to start up where you left off.” Tom picked up his hammer again. “I worry about you keeping everyone at arm’s length.”

“There is no need to worry.” Max knew his friend had good intentions, but even good intentions could lead to bad things sometimes. He had tried to keep the business going after Carlyle died. He was so confident and naïve back then. He thought that he could do anything by himself and had learned everything he needed to from his experiences working as a bounty hunter with Carlyle. He couldn’t have possibly been more wrong. “My life is under control now. I do need to go to the mercantile, but if you have time later, maybe you should swing by the house, and we can catch up.” Even though Max communicated more often with Tom than anyone else, it had still been almost a month since he’d seen him.

“Sure, I have some time this afternoon. I’ll see you then.” Tom slapped him on the shoulder and smiled again before going back to work, leaving Max to go to the mercantile. Even though he had no intention of following Tom’s advice, he couldn’t help thinking about what his friend had said. There were days when the loneliness got to him. There were days when he wondered if he did want to be alone until the day he died, with no one to talk to or share his wins and losses with at the end of the day. Then he would remember Katerina. Because of him, she would never have a family or the opportunity to have children or friends.

It was his fault that her life had been cut short, all because of his confidence. He had believed that everything would go right, and he had acted rashly. He took in a deep breath. Living the way he did was his punishment for what he had done, or more like what he had failed to do. He didn’t deserve a happy and full life, surrounded by love and people who cared for him when he’d failed to give the same to Katerina.

He went through the motions of purchasing the things he needed at the mercantile, avoiding conversation and dawdling as much as he could. He did know there were people in town that he used to know, used even to be friends with, who would most likely welcome him back into their lives, but that would come with questions he was not willing or ready to answer. He gathered his packages, put them into a sack, and headed back up to his cabin. The walk was a decently long one. It took him a little more than half an hour to get back to the place that had become his home nearly sixteen years ago.

As a child, on the orphan train, he’d never expected to find a home. He heard so many stories about bad people who only gave children a place to stay to get free labor that he had been certain this would be his fate. When Carlyle brought him up this very path and showed him the cabin and his new room, he’d been skeptical at best. It had taken him months to realize that Carlyle meant well and wanted to give him a proper home and family like he hadn’t had back then.

When he came to that realization, he had seen Carlyle as his father. As Max stepped through the cabin door, he couldn’t help feeling the emptiness of the place wash over him. After five years, he would have thought the feeling would have diminished by now, but it hadn’t. He still missed Carlyle every time he saw the little farm the old man had left to him or spent a moment in the cabin they used to share with each other.

He put his purchases on the small kitchen table and began to put them away. When everything was in its place, he heated himself some tea and settled down in the parlor, where the fire was burning low. He needed to put a few more logs on it to make enough coals to last him the nighttime. He had perfected the routine that kept his fire going constantly and all of his needs met. It was somewhat mundane doing the same thing every day but knowing what to expect was the one comfort he relied on.

When he knew exactly what he would do and what would happen each day, there were no variables that could go wrong, like what went wrong with Katerina. He could be sure that everything would run smoothly, and he could control every moment. When he was done with his tea, he headed back into the kitchen, washed his cup, and started dinner. He never cooked big meals for himself, just the basics. Beans, salted meat, eggs, and sometimes a bit of bread he brought from the bakery in town. After his meal, it was time for chores. When Max spotted Tom coming up the path from town, he smiled. He could always use a visit from Tom.

For all his talk about enjoying his solitude, he did enjoy Tom’s company. He reminded Max that he wasn’t completely alone in the world, and if something should ever happen to him, there was at least one person who would notice his absence.

Chapter Three

“Papa! Papa’s home!” David went racing through the house, his little feet pounding against the cabin’s wooden floors.

“Papa, Papa!” Lewis echoed his cries. The two of them practically attacked Eliza’s father as he stepped through the door, wrapping their arms around his big waist.

“Whoa, slow down there.” Eliza’s father picked them both up. “The two of you are growing so much, I barely recognize you.”

David and Lewis giggled, and Eliza smiled. Her father always had been good with children. He knew exactly what to say and do with them to make them listen and have fun at the same time.

“How was your day? You both look happy enough, it seems.”

“Aunt Jane came and brought pound cake. We saved you two pieces. Do you want to eat it now?” David asked.

“I’ll wait until after dinner. I wouldn’t want to spoil my appetite. Why don’t the two of you go wash up while I talk with your sister, all right?” Eliza watched as her father set the boys down and shooed them toward the kitchen. She frowned. Her father wanting to talk meant there was news that was out of the ordinary and might be more life-changing than the normal type of news that her father brought home. Lewis and David scampered down the hall, disappearing into the kitchen.

Eliza could hear the sound of water being poured into the washbasin as they scrubbed their hands.

“What happened at work? Is everything all right?” Eliza asked.

“It’s fine … though there is some news. Conner needs my help with a special sort of job.” Her father frowned. “I wanted to tell you first, so you can decide what the best way to tell the boys is. He wants me to travel down to Colorado to oversee the sale of his bank down there. Apparently, he doesn’t have the time to make the trip himself or continue overseeing it from afar, so he’s arranged for a client there to take over ownership for a price.”

“Colorado? That’s west, I mean, I’ve heard stories about the west and … are you sure it is safe?” Eliza didn’t mean to question her father’s judgment, but she was scared. She’d heard about the bandits and the other dangers out west. She didn’t want to lose her father too. And if she was left alone with her little brothers with no one else to help her, she wasn’t sure how she would manage.

“It’s not nearly as dangerous as they make it out to be. Besides, I wouldn’t be spending long out there. Conner assures me that the sale will take a day or two. It would take me around four days to get there on the train, then a few days there, and four days to get back. I would be gone less than two weeks. I am sure your Aunt Jane would be willing to help out with the boys while I am gone. The pay for this job is quite good, and there is a possibility that I would become more like a partner to Conner when I get back. Conner trusts me enough with this job, and that means he will trust me for bigger and better work in the future if I do a good job.”

Eliza nodded. What her father was saying made sense, but that didn’t make her any less worried about his safety. She didn’t want to lose another parent.

“All right. We should tell the boys. They will be worried and confused otherwise. I mean, you are going to come back, right?” She hated even thinking about the possibility that he might not.

“Of course, I’m coming back! You and the boys are my whole world, Eliza. Ever since your mother died, we are all each other has. Don’t you ever doubt that.” Her father looked down at her with an almost stern expression filled with love and care. He rarely spoke of her mother, but Eliza knew that he missed her so much, and it was hard for him to talk about her. Eliza shared that sentiment. Every time she spoke to her little brothers about their mother, it made her heart ache with longing and sadness.

“Okay. I’ll tell the boys tonight after supper. When do you leave?”

“Next week. When the train comes into New York on Tuesday. Conner will pay for the entire trip, and he will pay half my salary up front, which should be more than enough to keep you and the boys going until I get back. If you do need more, there is some money in the bank, and Aunt Jane is a few houses down. Eliza, hopefully, you see this as the opportunity I do.”

Eliza forced a smile and gave him a nod of agreement, then motioned for her father to come to the kitchen for dinner. The truth was she felt as if it was not a risk worth taking. She didn’t want her father to put himself in danger just for the possibility of better job opportunities in the future. Also, if Conner thought it worked to send him on this trip, who knew how many trips his future would hold? She knew that Conner Mclean was the owner of several banks and businesses all over the place. Despite her feelings about the news, she held her opinion back. She knew that if she begged her father not to go, he would stay, but anything that came of that decision would be on her shoulders.

Her father would never blame her out loud, of course. He was not that sort of man, but she would know that it was her fault. Her father would be disappointed he did not follow through with the opportunity, and she would have cost him that. She needed to trust his judgment, something her mother had taught her. Her mother had been the perfect example of such a thing. When Eliza was young, she had seen many a scenario play out just like this one. She could tell that her mother wanted to protest but didn’t, and when Eliza asked her about it later, she would say, “Sometimes, you have to stand behind those you love and trust they will make the right decision. If they do not, you help them deal with the consequences instead of demanding they recognize you were right. That is what family does for each other.”

Eliza tried to remember that advice every time she was presented with a situation like this one. It was important for her to be supportive of her father and their family and what he thought was best for them all. The dinner table was a joyful one, but Eliza couldn’t stop thinking about what her father had told her and the trip he would be taking. She couldn’t stop thinking about what would happen if something went wrong. She would have to trust that he was going to be all right and knew what he was doing.


“Why does Pa have to go?” David asked.

Eliza was sitting on the edge of David and Lewis’s bed. They all slept in the same room, and her father slept in the one down the hall. Eliza tucked them in every night before taking an hour to check the house and prepare things for the next day. She enjoyed that hour in the evening, the quiet solitude she was able to work in before she went to bed and started another hectic day the next morning.

“He has to go on a trip because there is a very important job that only he can do, and he needs to help his boss get it done. Then he will come back and be here every evening again, just like he is now.”

David looked thoughtful for a moment. “What if he doesn’t come back?” For a six-year-old, he was very observant, and it seemed he had the same worries that Eliza did.

“He is going to come back. Don’t worry. He will only be gone for a week, or possibly two. More like ten days. We will probably be having so much fun with Aunt Jane and keeping up with all our chores that we will barely notice he is gone.” Eliza hoped her words were convincing. Despite her reassurances, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible would happen and that it was a horrible idea for her father to go on this trip. Maybe this was all good for Conner, but she doubted that the great Conner Mclean was thinking much about her father’s safety when it came to all this. She couldn’t help feeling that he should be going himself if it was so confidential and important.

David shook his head. “You don’t know that he is going to come back. Something might happen, and we might not see him ever again.”

Eliza pulled the blanket up to the boys’ chin. Lewis was watching her with wide, frightened eyes.

“Is what David says true? Could Pa really not come back?”

“A Light in Her Gloomy Life” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Eliza Lane is a bright young woman burdened with the loss of her beloved mother. When her father travels West for business and never comes back, she feels devastated. With her heart as a compass, she embarks on a challenging journey to find him. Will Eliza finally understand what lies behind his disappearance?

Eliza’s only wish was to reunite with her father; finding love never even crossed her mind…

After a tragedy broke his heart into a thousand pieces, Max Spencer decided to give up bounty hunting and isolate himself. When Eliza shows up at his doorstep asking for help, even though he intends to turn her down, he is humbled by her kindness. Little did he know that this woman would make him realize that shutting the world out isn’t the best way to live…

Will Max finally allow Eliza to break down the walls he has built up around himself?

In spite of meeting under unusual circumstances, feelings begin to bloom between Max and Eliza. However, while searching for Eliza’s father, they will become unwitting victims of a situation they could never have imagined. Will they become each other’s shelter amidst the raging storm?

“A Light in Her Gloomy Life” 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!

7 thoughts on “A Light in Her Gloomy Life (Preview)”

  1. A very engrossing preview of of Eliza a young lady with two brothers searching for her father in Colorado and Max a bounty hunter who is now settled in Colorado. Will Eliza find her father and will Eliza and Max fall in love and have a happy ending. Enjoyed the preview. Eagerly awaiting the arrival of the book.

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