Sheltering an Uninvited Love (Preview)

Chapter One

Grace Hooper straightened her shoulders and tried to ease the aching from being bent over her work for the past hour without stopping. She loved the work she did as a seamstress, but sometimes it was hard to remember to move around and keep from letting her shoulders cramp up.

“Are you almost done with that shirt?” Mrs. Tarren walked into the room. She was the woman who gave Grace the job at the seamstress shop.

“Almost. I just have one little seam left.”

“All right, you know you work too hard. You should have gone home an hour ago.” Mrs. Tarren had worry on her face. Grace knew that she was often worried about how much work Grace did. Grace always told her not to worry. The truth was she liked working in the little shop. She got paid per project, and while the money was nice, it wasn’t the main reason that she worked at the shop.

She enjoyed the quiet atmosphere and getting lost in her thoughts. She didn’t like the bustling city of New York or hanging around friends. The only friend she really considered that she had was her sister, Rosie.

“I just wanted to finish this shirt so I can start something new tomorrow.” Grace had been working on the little shirt all day, and she was looking forward to folding up the final project and setting it out for their customer.

“Okay. You know I love having you here, but too much work isn’t good for anyone.” Mrs. Tarren patted her shoulder. “I have to head home early today. Just make sure everything gets closed up properly.”

“Of course, you don’t have to worry about a thing.” Grace realized she was closing up the seamstress shop on more evenings than not now. She was usually the one who was last out of the shop. She didn’t mind taking the extra time to close and pick up everything before she headed home.

“Have a good evening, Mrs. Tarren,” Grace called out as her boss left the shop. The place felt empty in a way without Mrs. Tarren. Even though she was a quiet woman and didn’t often make conversation while they worked, she filled the shop with a big presence.

Once Mrs. Tarren left, Grace focused extra hard on the little shirt. It was for one of the Miller boys. The Millers were one of the rancher families that lived on the edge of town. They weren’t exactly wealthy, but with seven children and a ranch to manage, they often needed clothes for their little ones.

Grace didn’t mind making children’s clothes. In fact, she quite enjoyed it. She loved seeing her completed work when the children wore their new clothes in town. When her family went to church on Sunday, she often got to see the owners of the clothing wearing the items proudly and it made her feel good about her work.

When she was done with the shirt, she folded it neatly and left it on the workbench by the window of the shop with the six other little shirts she had finished. Mrs. Miller was going to be by the next day to pick everything up. Grace was excited about starting some new projects.

She gathered up her things, then took the time to tidy the shop and make sure that the door was closed properly. The sun was already starting to set, and dusk was settling down on the horizon. She closed her eyes and took in a few deep breaths of cool evening air as she stepped outside. She loved sunsets and sunrises. She was going to need to walk quickly if she was going to make it home to watch the sunset from the porch.

She smiled as she thought of what Rosie would say if Grace were to remind her that what she looked forward to about getting home was seeing the sunset. Her sister was such an opposite character to her. She was outgoing and social and had friends.

Those things were all good things, but they weren’t things that Grace was interested in. She’d tried having friends, and there were some girls that she talked to at church, but she found that she didn’t really need anyone but Rosie. She quickened her pace. The walk home took her a good fifteen minutes, even at a brisk pace. She and her family lived in a modest home on the edge of town. They didn’t have a farm or property as some families did. It was New York, after all. In fact, the Millers’ owned one of the only big ranches within walking distance of the city.

Grace smiled when she saw Rosie walking up the porch steps. Her sister had managed to get home before her, yet again. Rosie was standing on the porch waiting for her as she walked up.

“There you are. You know, your job technically finishes almost three hours before mine, and yet you always get home after me. How is that possible?”

“I actually like what I do.” Grace smirked.

“I like what I do.” Rosie shook her head with a mischievous smile. They both knew that Rosie had more adventurous plans for her life. “Okay, I like it most days, just not enough to stick around for three extra hours. How do you not become bored in that stuffy shop all alone sewing clothes?”

“Because I really enjoy making clothes and helping out. How was your day?” Grace sunk onto the long bench pushed up against the house and watched as the sun ducked deeper below the horizon, scattering long tendrils of orange and red against the backdrop of grey and fluffy, rolling clouds.

“Okay, okay, I get it. Speaking of which, I was thinking I need a new dress. I have enough to buy the fabric. Could you help me with it?”

“Of course.” Grace thought about reminding Rosie that she’d just made her a new dress a couple of months ago but kept her words to herself. Her sister loved clothes, and she loved to spend her money on making new dresses and other clothing. Her father made enough for the family to live off of and let both of them decide how they wanted to spend the money they earned working.

While Rosie often spent every cent of her earnings on things that attracted her attention in the shops on Main street, or on new dresses and things for her room, Grace had a tiny wooden box which she kept under her bed, where her money went as soon as she received it.

She could hardly remember the last thing she’d purchased. She was frugal with every penny. Maybe she didn’t have a plan for her future or what she wanted to do, but she was going to be prepared when she figured it out.

She had a good percentage of all the money she’d earned in the last three years saved in that small box. She always gave a bit of her earnings to her father, despite his insistence that he didn’t need it. She liked feeling as if she were helping, even if it was in some tiny, almost insignificant way.

“I know what you are thinking.” Rosie’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Really? What am I thinking?” Grace wasn’t sure that Rosie could tell what she was thinking. The two of them had grown up so closely, they were practically like twins.

“That I don’t need more dresses.”

Grace laughed because Rosie was so right. “Fine, that is exactly what I was thinking. But I will still make it for you because I love making things for you and seeing you wear them. Besides, it’s your money, and you have every right to spend it on whatever you’d like and whatever makes you happy.”

Rosie shrugged. “I would like to be like you. I would love to feel happy putting my money away, and sometimes I have tried it. I feel like it is calling my name and begging me to spend it when I do. I just can’t help myself. I think that we each just got too much of one personality, you know?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you got all of the tendency to save and to be prudent, and I got all the tendency to spend. You got all of the traits of shyness and keeping to yourself, and I got all of the outgoing and adventurous traits. Don’t you think that it would have been better for us to have an equal amount of both things so that we would be a bit more balanced?”

Grace thought about it for a moment, then shook her head. “Actually, I think that would have been terrible. We would have been exactly the same, and it would have been impossible for anyone to tell us apart. Imagine how awful that would have been. At least this way, we are both very different, and no one could struggle with telling us apart. And we do balance well. We just balance each other out instead of ourselves.”

Rosie leaned her head against Grace’s shoulder. “You’re right. You always say the smartest things. Probably because of all those books you read, yet another thing we do not have in common.”

Grace smiled softly. She did wish that Rosie shared her love for reading. When she was younger, she used to try and find a book that would make it past Rosie’s criticisms and her lack of attention but hadn’t been unsuccessful. Eventually, she had given up and decided to let Rosie avoid books for the rest of her life. She seemed so determined to do so that it didn’t seem to be a problem.

Eventually, she’d come to appreciate that Rosie preferred to hear the short version of the stories from the books Grace read rather than spend several days reading through all of the little bits that Grace loved.

“I actually just finished that new book that Pa sent for from Chicago. Do you want to hear the story? It was quite good.”

“I’d love to. And we can talk about it while you watch the rest of the sunset.” Rosie elbowed her gently in the ribs. “I know that is why you hurry home after staying so late.”

Grace laughed. Hiding things from her sister had never really been possible. Rosie seemed to automatically know everything about her.

She leaned back against the seat and started recounting the story that she’d recently enjoyed. She loved telling her sister about the books she’d read. It made them that much more real to her and made her feel as if she were retelling a story of a close friend.

Chapter Two

Sun streamed through Grace’s window, landing on her face, and blinding her eyes. Despite the inconvenience and slight discomfort of it, she loved being woken up by the sun on Saturdays. It was the one day that she didn’t rise before the sun. She liked getting up early, but there was something that was hard about getting up when everyone and everything else was still sleeping, and it was still dark. The bright spot of the other six days of the week was that she did get to see the sunrise.

Grace figured it was worth it to miss one sunrise and be woken up in a different way one day of the week. She rushed through, getting ready and brushing back her blonde hair. Her father said that she and Rosie got their mother’s hair. His was dark brown, almost black, so different from the light, pale blonde color that both she and Rosie had.

Grace rushed downstairs, barely managing to make it down to the first floor without stumbling. There was no sign of her sister, but her father was reading his paper in the parlor. He said that he couldn’t get up early for six days of the week and sleep in on the seventh. His body simply wouldn’t let him.

“There you are. I was wondering when you or Rosie would show up.” Her father gave her an amused smile.

“We both knew it would be me who showed up first. Rosie never gets up early.” Grace went over and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, then headed into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. It was over thirty minutes before Rosie finally made an appearance and helped her put the finishing touches on their meal, then place everything on the table.

Even though it was just the three of them, they’d come up with systems and routines that made them into a family as normal as any other. Of course, their mother was always missed. Even though neither Grace nor Rosie really knew her before she passed away, her role was missed.

They’d noticed from a young age how every other household had a mother to tell everyone what to do, to mend the clothes in the evenings, and open the curtains in the mornings. They’d had to take over those jobs and roles and figure out that they were missing a link in their family and how to live without that person.

“Is that everything?” Rosie asked, setting out a jam on the table with the other fixings for breakfast.

“I think so. Can you get Pa? I’ll grab the biscuits from the oven.”

Rosie nodded and left the kitchen, returning a few minutes later with their father. The three of them sat down at the table and in front of the large spread of food. Even though there were only three of them, they always ate a very hearty breakfast.

“This looks wonderful. Shall we say grace?” Her father extended his hands to both of them. They closed their eyes, and her father offered up the blessing.

“Heavenly Father, we ask that you please bless our home and bless our endeavors. Thank you for providing this food for our table and bless it for our bodies. Provide for those who have nothing to eat tonight and give us the opportunity to help them when possible. We ask this in your son’s name, Amen.”

“Amen,” resonated around the table.

“So, how was work yesterday? Neither of you tells me much about it anymore.” Her father started the conversation as he took a bite of his food.

“Mine was good. I finished three different shirts.” Grace smiled as she caught Rosie’s small smile. “I know it isn’t exciting, but it was a good day for me.”

Her father nodded approvingly. “I know that you work hard at that shop. They are lucky to have you.”

“I took the children down to the creek. They took off their shoes, and they got soaking wet. It was a huge mess to clean up.” Rosie scrunched her nose up to show her disgust.

Grace and her father laughed. It had surprised them when Rosie took a job caring for children and a home. While she pulled her weight enough around the house, it was clear she didn’t enjoy the domestic duties as much as she should sometimes. In fact, she often talked about how she wouldn’t need to worry about cleaning and caring for children because she was going to be an adventurous traveler. Yet at the same time, she’d started writing to a rancher out west and planned to go marry him. Rosie said that it was the natural progression of her life and that she would convince her new husband to travel with her.

Grace was worried that Rosie wanted to be a mail-order bride because she wanted to travel. The bad thing was, once she arrived, the traveling part would be over, and she had no way to know if her new husband would be interested in traveling or leaving his ranch. Plus, he would be a complete stranger.

“Have you heard from Shawn recently?” their father asked, his tone pointed. Grace turned to Rosie. She was curious too. Her sister had proudly announced the beginning of the correspondence almost six weeks ago.

“I did. He sent me a letter yesterday, or rather I received it yesterday.”

“What did it say?” Grace couldn’t contain her curiosity. From what she knew of mail-order bride correspondence, Rosie should be getting a proposal soon, and that was when she would have to make a definite decision. Uneasiness settled in Grace’s stomach. She couldn’t imagine what her life would be like here without Rosie. The two of them talked together and did things together all the time. It would feel like half of herself was missing if Rosie really did move to Colorado. It was so far away.

Even though it only took a few days to get there by train, it still was a huge distance, and visiting often would not be an option. Grace kept hoping that Rosie would find some young man that stole her heart here in New York so she would stay close to the house and her family.

“He asked me to come and marry him.” Rosie’s tone was strange, and Grace could tell that she wasn’t exactly on board with the idea.

“Well then, isn’t that what you wanted all along? I mean, you should be happy.” Their father’s tone was gentle but stern. He had warned Rosie that if she were to answer a mail-order bride ad, it was because she actually meant to follow through. It wasn’t right to lead someone along when they were looking for a solid commitment.

“It is…I just…I need to think about it. Now that I am considering going soon, Colorado feels so far away.”

An uncomfortable silence settled over the table, and Grace suddenly lost her appetite. She didn’t want to see her family split apart. She wished there was some way for Rosie to stay. She knew it was wrong to hope that for some reason, the marriage would not work out at the last minute. It could be that the man Rosie was corresponding with would be a wonderful partner for her sister, and the two of them would be happy. She wanted her sister to be happy, but she didn’t want to lose her and have her not be a part of her life anymore.

“Well, we should really get going.” Grace stood from the table and gathered up the empty plates. “I want to get an early start.” She and Rosie had planned to take a long walk today in the woods by the river. They’d invited their father to come with them, but he’d declined, stating that he would rather rest on his Saturday in the house.

Rosie and Grace picked up the kitchen in record time, then left through the front door and headed out toward the woods. Grace had her hand looped through her sister’s arm.

“Are you really going to move away to Colorado?” Grace asked.

“I don’t know. When I first started writing Shawn, I was so excited about it. I thought I would see so much on the way out there, and then I would meet this mysterious man who would be the love of my life. I would convince him that we needed to travel and see the world….”

“So, if you had such a big plan, what is wrong with that idea now?” Grace could tell something was terribly wrong. Her sister looked worried and uncertain, and that was so not like Rosie. She was never uncertain about anything or hesitant in the least.

“I don’t know. He asked me to marry him, and now I feel frozen. All these doubts that I had never considered before are filling my head. Like what if he doesn’t want to leave his ranch and travel? What if he is actually awful and hasn’t been himself in the letters we exchanged? What if we don’t get along, and I am terribly homesick in Colorado? It’s not going to be like New York. Colorado is a ranching place. There are lots of woods and plains and cattle.”

Grace giggled. “What’s wrong with cattle?”

“Nothing, it’s just not what I imagine myself doing….” Rosie sighed. “I don’t know. I just need some more time to think. I will write him by the end of the week for sure. I think I’ll go. I mean, that is the right thing to do.”

“It probably is. I don’t want you to go, though. I love the life we have here together. It won’t be the same without you. It’s going to be terrible.”

“I know, that’s one of the reasons I’m hesitating too. I’m going to leave you and Pa behind. When I started all of this correspondence, I didn’t really think that it would be that bad. I figured we would write, and it would still be sort of the same. Now I keep thinking about how I won’t see you every day. We won’t be able to make breakfast together, and we won’t watch the sunsets when we come home from work.”

Grace swallowed hard. “We don’t have to think about that right now. Come on, the river is just ahead.” Grace sped up her pace and pulled Rosie along with her. Right around the next bend was the river. It was rushing strong, still full of all the rain they’d gotten the day before.

They sat down on the edge of the river and pulled off their shoes. The weather was still warm enough that they were able to enjoy dipping their feet into the water. They dangled their legs over the edge, and Grace watched as the water bubbled and flowed over her bare feet.

“Isn’t it strange we can’t hear the city from here? New York is so huge, and we only live in a tiny part of it. Yet you walk away for a good half hour, and it feels as if there isn’t a city for days all around.”

Rosie laughed. “You say the strangest things sometimes.”

Grace shrugged. “You would too, if you wanted to read more.”

“No, thank you. I don’t have time to sit around staring at words.”

The two of them sat in silence for the longest time.

“Do you remember Ma?” Grace asked at long last. She rarely spoke of her mother. It brought back a lot of tumultuous feelings that she’d had to deal with since she was young. Rosie rarely mentioned her either, though Grace had a feeling that it was because she felt guilty that she had some memories that Grace did not.

“I….” Rosie hesitated.

“Tell me, Rosie. I promise. I want to know.”

“I remember a few things,” Rosie said softly.

“What do you remember?” Grace felt like she had to ask now because as much as Rosie was hesitating, she was afraid that she wasn’t going to be seeing her sister as much soon, and then she would never have the opportunity to ask the things she wanted to know.

“I don’t remember as much as I used to. I was only four when she died, you know. I remember the color of her hair and the soft feeling of it tickling my face when she would give me a kiss goodnight. I remember the sound of her voice when she used to sing to us at night.” Rosie looked sad.

“Do you think it was my fault she died?” Grace knew her mother had passed away less than a month after she was born. Her sister had turned four three weeks before she’d passed.

“No, of course not. Why would you even say that?”

Grace shrugged, fighting tears. “I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.” To her relief, Rosie didn’t press. Grace thought she was ready to talk about her insecurities and her worries out loud with her sister, but now she was seeing that she had been wrong. There were many things that she kept to herself and didn’t discuss with anyone, and her guilt about her mother was one of those things.

Rosie splashed her foot in the water. “We need to promise to remember this moment forever,” she said suddenly.

“Really? Why?” Grace gave a little splash of her own.

“Well, we don’t know when we will do it again. If you think about it, we never know when the last moment that we’ll have together will be.”

Grace frowned. She knew that all too well. Thomas was a stark reminder of that. She pushed his memory to the back of her mind. It was another painful moment that she kept hidden because she was too weak to deal with it.

“I promise. I will remember this moment forever.” Grace gave her sister’s hand a squeeze. Even if Rosie did move halfway across the country, she would find a way to be there for her sister and maintain this bond that they had with each other.

If Rosie went to Colorado, she would write her every day. She would find a way to visit, or perhaps, if she and her father missed Rosie for long enough, they would go and live near her. Family was the most important thing. That was what their father had taught them from a young age.

Grace didn’t understand Rosie’s initial desire to marry someone so far away or why she had ever considered such a thing as a good idea, but if she chose to do that, there would be nothing left to do but be supportive.

Chapter Three

Shawn Harrington picked up a large crate of apples and put them up on the shelf in the storage room. Restocking the general store was something he enjoyed. It was one of the aspects of caring for his family’s general store in Colorado where he didn’t have to interact with anyone, answer difficult questions, or pretend he was happy.

He made trip after trip to the outside of the back of the store for the rest of the supplies. He’d gotten them from the train station early that morning, then made the four-hour drive in the wagon back to town.

“Shawn, are you in here?” a voice called from the front of the store. Shawn immediately recognized Ethan’s voice. Ethan was his younger brother and one of the people that Shawn still had in his life. He was family, so cutting him out of his life was not an option.

“I’m back here,” Shawn called. Ethan appeared in the storeroom a few seconds later.

“Ma sent me to find you. She wanted to make sure you were coming to the house to eat.” Ethan looked worried. That was part of the reason Shawn avoided everyone, because of the worry that they always wore on their faces around him. He would prefer if people pretended that things were fine.

“It’s time to eat already? I guess the time got away from me.” Shawn took a step back and surveyed his work with his hands on his waist.

“Yeah, you do that a lot these days. Ma and Pa worry about you spending so much time in the store these days. You know you could spend some time on the ranch or even around the house. You can’t stay a recluse forever.”

Shawn shook his head. “I am not a recluse. I just like keeping to myself. Besides, how does watching out for the general store qualify me as avoiding things? I mean, I am dealing with customers all day long. Today has just been a slow day.” Weekdays could either be the busiest or some of the slowest.

“Regardless of what you think, we are worried about you. Ever since Joyce….” Ethan paused for a moment, clearly realizing he mentioned something he shouldn’t have. “We just want you to find a way to move on and be happy.”

“I am happy, or at least as happy as I need to be. Nothing is ever going to go back to the way it was before what happened, so it’s pointless for everyone to keep hoping for that. I am not going to be able to just forget and move on like everyone seems to want.” Shawn had been telling his family, and everyone who would listen, the same thing for years, but no one really listened. They all thought he needed to be fixed or just needed to meet a new person or figure out how to turn his life around. What he really needed was for people to accept him for who he was now and the decisions he was making. Then he would finally be able to move on to the new life that awaited him.

“Sheltering an Uninvited Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Grace Hooper’s quiet life in New York takes an unexpected turn when she witnesses something no one was supposed to see. In a moment of panic, she takes her sister’s place as a mail-order bride and gets on the train to Colorado. Desperate to buy some time until it is safe to return home, Grace tries to win over the man her sister was meant to marry. This will prove to be easier said than done though, as he seems to be colder than stone. Yet she is determined to endure anything to get her life back…

All Grace was looking for was a place to hide; falling in love was never part of the plan…

Three years after the loss of his first love, Shawn Harrington still refuses to so much as look in the direction of another woman. Worried about his future, his family keeps urging him to move on and live his life, despite the tragedy that changed it. So when they present him with a surprise mail-order bride Shawn is anything but excited. Despite his stubborn resistance though, he soon realizes that being around this woman has his heart fluttering for the first time in years…

Can past hurts truly be overcome in the face of a newfound love?

When Grace’s secrets come back to haunt her, everything she has built with Shawn starts to fall apart. Can they find a way to defeat evil together? Will they manage to finally make peace with their pasts and find a happily-ever-after with each other?

“Sheltering an Uninvited Love” 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!

4 thoughts on “Sheltering an Uninvited Love (Preview)”

  1. I can’t wait to read your new book! I enjoyed the preview and was grieved when it came to an end… Looking forward to the day I hear it is published!

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