MAIL-ORDER MARRIAGES with the Novella HER ALASKAN GROOM

Mail-Order MarriagesLove Western Romances Nominee for Best Western of the Year!

#7 on Borders National Bestseller List – May 2010!

Newly trained midwife Sophie Grant had hoped marrying respectable John Colburne would be easy as pie. But he’s tough, stubborn and cynical – except in bed with her at night! How can Sophie turn her passionate nighttime lover into a daytime husband who isn’t afraid to show he loves his mail-order bride?

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“In this short story, Ms. Bridges shows her mastery in creating realistic characters, honest emotions and stirring attraction.” Love Western Romances

“…charming, sensual…” RT Book Reviews


Excerpt from HER ALASKAN GROOM

Copyright © Kate Bridges. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Skagway, District of Alaska, May 1899

“Your bride has changed her mind, sir.” Sophie Mead Grant practiced saying it aloud, but the words still choked in her throat. How would he accept the news? With an anxious look at the crowds ahead, she hopped off the platform of the swaying ship onto the busy banks of Alaska.

Sophie set down her bags in the hot May sun. Clutching the torn advertisement, Seattle Mail-Order Brides, she peered at the scrawled name she’d stared at for the last twenty-two days at sea.

John Colburne.

Swarms of passengers bumped her shoulders as they passed her on the docks. When she looked up again, a man the size of a statue was staring at her from twenty yards away. Fringed suede jacket, cowboy hat, shoulders the breadth of a doorway.

It was him. Heat seeped up her neck.

“I’ve got shocking news,” she whispered under her breath. “Sorry Mr. Colburne.” Her lips moved incoherently as his dark eyes held hers.

How disheartened would he be? Or…maybe this course of events would turn out in his best interests.

And hers. At one time, Sophie had let her father make her decisions for her. But no longer. Stepping onto Alaskan soil was her new breath of freedom. She’d be living her life for herself from now on.

“Your weakness is – ” the harsh words of her father rushed through her ears – “you’re much too sympathetic. You must pull up your spine and do what needs to be done. Clearly, you’re not suited to being a midwife.”

Yes she was. She straightened her posture in the blazing sunshine. She’d prove it to her father. She’d prove it to all the doubters. That she was stronger and braver than he ever gave her credit for.

She had to muster her nerve and simply tell John Colburne the truth. With a fresh wave of resolve, Sophie picked up her satchel in one hand, her obstetrical bag in the other, and pressed toward him through the sea of bodies.

Her long skirts swirled about her ankles. The sun’s rays singed her face. The ocean mist lashed at her tucked-up hair. Flies no bigger than flecks darted up her nose. With a yelp, she tossed her bags to the ground and shooed the bugs.

“First thing,” he said, stepping to her side, “we’ve got to get you a proper hat. Bonnets aren’t enough to shield you from the flies and sun.”

Sophie lifted her face upward to get a good look at him. Sand-colored blond hair, blue eyes, and the rippling of muscles beneath his white shirt. My, he was a lot of man to handle. She flushed just thinking about a night alone with him.

Surprising her, he lowered his face, pressed his warm lips to her cheek, pulled away, then kissed her other.

The lump in her throat solidified. Paulette Trundle didn’t know what she was missing.

“Pleased to meet you, Paulette,” he said incorrectly. “I’m John.” The fringes on his jacket swayed as he moved forward and crushed Sophie in a hug. When he stepped back again, he gave her a handsome smile. “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

He believed her to be his bride, Paulette, but she was an imposter. She fought for something coherent to say. “You’re much taller than I expected.”

He let out a soft laugh, and she rolled her eyes at her silly comment about his physical traits. Taller? Why not add more powerful and primal and brawny?

He had an easy way about him, a rhythm of speaking. She averted her gaze, pretended to swat at the flies, and opened her lips to confess.

“Colburne,” shouted a deckhand from a lower gangplank who was leading a horse from the bow of the ship. “John Colburne!”

Mr. Colburne wheeled around, like a tornado gathering thunder, and whistled in pleasure. “My mare!”

Hoisting both of Sophie’s bags with one hand, he leaped down the docks and motioned for her to follow. The deckhand with the horse nabbed him, while she was stopped on the docks by other disembarking passengers.

“So wonderful to have traveled with you, my dear.” Mrs. Rutledge, a woman Sophie had gotten to know on the ship, patted Sophie’s face. Her husband nodded. Carrying a small barrel of rum, he eagerly looked over to his other kegs to ensure they  were being properly unloaded, next to the livestock.

Behind them, an old sailor also waited to say goodbye to her, followed by the two middle-aged sisters who were here as seamstresses. Then the bearded Captain Waycott himself.

“Skagway Arms Hotel.” The captain pointed to her right, reminding her of the hotel he’d recommended earlier, that she’d asked about in case her secret plans with Mr. Colburne didn’t turn out. “Straight down the main street.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, then hustled to catch up to Mr. Colburne, who was admiring his new mare by the lower banks.

She gulped a breath of fresh air, unable to get enough. She was finally here. The icy mountains and the power of the ocean were much more magical than she’d anticipated.

The high peaks bore ice halfway down their slopes. Ocean waters swirled in a dozen hues of blue and green. The town itself looked charming – docks lined with sailors, fisherman, rich gold miners, shacks, shops, and arriving throngs of European immigrants who spoke in languages she didn’t understand.

She hadn’t told anyone onboard the ship the private message she had to deliver to Mr. Colburne. Or why she had come to Alaska. Some things were confidential. Some things were easier to bear alone. Her whole life so far had been a testament to that philosophy.

Two more paces and she reached his side. Thankfully, they had a bit of privacy with the ship behind them, and the horse in front that blocked the view of passersby.

“Isn’t she a beaut?” He patted the mare’s flanks as the deckhand spoke with another passenger on the other side of the animal. The mare was a little lean from the rough voyage, but her coat was a glossy reddish brown.

“A Thoroughbred,” he announced with pride.

“For your line of work?”

He frowned. “Well, yes…I mentioned it in my letter.”

Perhaps he’d mentioned it in his letters to Paulette, but not to her. Sophie crossed her arms over her jacket front and opened her mouth to finally, finally spill all.

“You’re more lovely than I expected.” He stepped closer, surprising the sweet Moses out of her. She swallowed hard at the daring look in his eyes. Her stomach contracted. Before she could resist, he swooped down and kissed her.

His kiss was magic. She hadn’t been kissed like this in…she’d never been kissed like this. The kind of kiss where a man didn’t give a damn who was watching, just rolled her up in his arms and kissed her with all the longing he’d been building for months. Untamed. Wild. Free. Like Alaska itself.

Lord, it had been so long since she’d been kissed at all.

But this kiss wasn’t meant for her. Her conscience flared.

When they parted, she had a feeling her eyes had been closed longer than his had. When she opened, he was looking at her with the side of his lips turned up in good humor, and his head tilted as if trying to read what was going through her mind.

The brim of his hat put his dark eyes in shadow. “Now what’ve you got to say for yourself?”

“I’m not Paulette.” Her lips were so dry they hooked on her teeth. “My name is Sophie Grant.”

His smile receded as her stomach turned inside out and sideways.

(…continued…)

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