Night times were scary.
Especially when a storm was rolling in, with lightning that zipped and zapped across the black sky and left volleys of thunder in its wake.
Especially when the accompanying wind sent tree branches shaking and writhing like some terrible monster and rattled every windowpane from top to bottom.
Especially when interspersed between blinding bolts of white-hot energy overhead and the rattle-bang of things being slammed around on the ground below, angry voices upraised in a terrifying argument in the family parlor could be heard.
Even more so, when all of these occurrences combined to render a four-year-old child nearly numb with fear.
Rich red hair tumbling in rebellious curls down her nightgowned back, green eyes welling up with tears, little Florence crouched on the stairs to the second-floor bedrooms with her face pressed to the banister and her small fingers twisted like a raven’s claws around the rails. She trembled. She listened. She watched.
The tempest outside had awakened her, and instinctively she had raced toward the shelter of her mama and papa, seeking the love and reassurance both had always instantly provided, without a second’s hesitation.
But not tonight. Not now.
Tonight, something much worse than a squall of rain and gale was happening down below, in the parlor, and the menacing sense of it had drifted through the hall to bring her to a hard stop halfway down.
Two dark figures were pacing furiously back and forth, the shape and size of their shadows magnified–and thus made more frightening–by the flickering light cast by candles and lamps. Someone’s footsteps thumped from one side of the room to the other, someone shouted, someone else hurled something made of glass, that crashed against another something–no doubt the wall–to shatter into little glittering shards that lay scattered across the floor as if by a giant’s uncaring hand.
Florence frantically covered her ears as the argument escalated and the yells became bellows.
She only wanted her mother. She wanted her father to tell her that this was nothing, just a minor kerfuffle, that everything would be all right and she could go back to bed. And, more than anything, she wanted all this noise to stop, and the fighting to be finished.
Still, consumed by a mixture of fear and curiosity, she edged farther down the stairs. What was happening? Why was everybody so mad? Where had that man come from, and who was he, and why couldn’t he just go away and leave all of them alone?
Another jolt of white lightning tore down from a sky just as much in turmoil as the inside of the house, followed immediately by a boom of thunder that seemed to shake every wall and actually clinked pieces of porcelain together in the china cabinet.
And still, the loud and increasingly vicious quarrel went on.
Despite an overwhelming need to weep, to cry out in abandonment, for some instinctive reason she held back. Hadn’t her papa always called her his big girl and praised her for her grown-up ways? Hadn’t her mama always raved about her to their friends and pointed out all the features deserving accolades?
She couldn’t disappoint them now, when such terrible things were going on, and act like some baby who couldn’t control herself. Why, at this rate, soon she’d have an accident, right here on these smooth wooden stairs, and bring shame upon her family!
There. That stranger crossed in front of the light, still shouting nasty words that she hardly ever heard anyone use, calling both her parents bad names, snarling like a wounded bear. She saw his form, in some raggedy gray suit. She saw his face, all twisted up with fury.
She saw the gun he suddenly pulled out of his belt.
She heard her mother’s scream.
She smelled the sudden burst of powder and smoke as a bullet was fired.
And three more.
Then Florence got her wish. The noise stopped, and the fighting was finished.
Rain had begun to fall in a light spatter, running down the window glass to form tiny pools. The only other things audible were one broken sob, a rustle of fabric, and the clunk of a hard object–that sidearm, like her papa frequently carried?–hitting the floor.
Then, wisely and intuitively, Florence gathered up the folds of her nightgown and prepared to flee.
Even a child as small as this one understood she must hide, and she must find a place on the first floor–to escape whatever terrible monster still lurked in the parlor–rather than on the second.
Slipping and scrambling, she slid down the stairs, hitting the bottom one with a thump.
The muffled but unexpected sound raised an alarm for the intruder.
The sudden silence from the parlor felt almost palpable. A waiting silence, a listening silence, that seemed to drift out through the open doorway and into the hall to envelope the tiny crumpled-up heap too frightened to move.
Florence curled up like a shrimp and covered her head with both arms as if that might render her invisible.
“Answer me! Where are you?”
Stomping away from the scene of carnage, past the newel post and staircase where the child huddled in a darkened corner against the wall, and into several other chambers–the dining room, the sitting room, her papa’s library, the large echoing kitchen–danger breathed its foul breath upon her and then receded.
In that split second, she made her move.
She crept to the French doors, turned the handle with utmost care, and slipped out.
Out of the house and into the rain. To asylum. Somewhere.
* * * * *
“Well, this is a nasty night,” said Agnes Quinn from her relative shelter under the surrey’s roof. “At least we haven’t had to deal with a lot of rain so far.”
“Only a few sprinkles, luckily,” agreed her easy-going husband, Caleb. He flicked the reins to encourage their mare to greater speed. No fool she, Sunshine gladly picked up her hooves into a trot. She no more wanted to be out in bad weather than her owners did.
“I will be that much relieved to get to your sister’s house. Why an anniversary party with such a wicked storm rolling in, I’ll never know.”
“Well, now, Aggie, she could hardly forecast what was takin’ place a hundred miles to the west of us, now, could she?” he said mildly.
Agnes, a pouty, portly woman of middle age, settled herself with a little “Hmmph” like some broody mama hen. “I guess we’re just lucky she asked us to stay over till morning. At least we don’t have to drive back home with a hurricane coming in.”
“There you go, exaggeratin’ again. Ain’t hardly a hurricane. But I must admit, I will be glad to arrive and pull our rig into their barn. We won’t be the only ones lookin’ for safe harbor.”
With a sniff, she unwrapped and re-wrapped her black wool shawl. “Oh, Caleb. Sometimes I swear you care more for that dratted horse than you do for me.”
Her husband’s temperate blue eyes acquired a slightly lascivious gleam, and he grinned as he turned toward her. “Oh, you think so, do you?” Taking firm hold of her arm, he hastily snatched a kiss before she could pull away. “There you are, Aggie. That had oughta prove my feelins. I sure don’t go around smoochin’ on my horse.”
“Oh, you–” With the familiarity of a long-term marriage, she punched him lightly on the shoulder. Still, it was a satisfactory little exchange, and she was now prepared to deal with her sister-in-law’s many inadequacies in a more positive frame of mind.
They rode along the wide, much-used main road toward Greentree, enjoying the early evening air that smelled heavily of rain while keeping a weather eye out on the dark clouds overhead. Rain was certainly a necessary element here in the Hill Country of Texas, especially since the winter season had not brought its usual moisture to the area.
But why must a downpour threaten when Agnes was wearing her best Sunday dress?
For a few minutes, the couple engaged in easy silences as each pursued their own thoughts or in comfortable small talk. The main topic of conversation was, of course, the weather; others included the sense of umbrage Agnes felt toward her unesteemed kinswoman by marriage and the current status of their two sons, grown-up and out on their own.
“I declare,” she finally commented, “I am so proud of the way Davy is taking hold in life.”
“Yup. Doin’ quite well on that little farm. And purty darn smart pullin’ in his brother as a partner.”
“And I appreciate that they live only twenty miles away. Now,” her voice deepened with longing, “if each of them would just find a nice girl to wed and both settle down…”
Her husband laughed. “Give ’em time, Aggie. They’re young yet. Gotta sow their wild oats and play the field b’fore they start makin’ grandbabies for you to cuddle.”
In an automatic reflex, Agnes flung out one arm across his chest, and startled, he immediately pulled on the reins. The confused mare came to an abrupt halt, snorting with surprise.
“Ag, what in tarnation–?”
“Caleb, there’s something over there. See? In those bushes off the side of the road. Something small and white. And it’s moving. Something hurt?”
Her tender heart would no sooner allow her to pass by without taking action. She couldn’t pass by any entity needing help any more than she would toss aside her beloved husband and family.
“Do go look, Caleb. I feel in my bones that there’s something terribly wrong.”
“No, I mean it. See what’s out there.” She poked him in the side with her elbow for good measure.
With a heavy sigh and a grunt–because, due to this damp air, his sciatica was acting up–he handed over the reins to her control, set the brake, and climbed down. “Where’d ya say this was?” Deprived of his spectacles, he was squinting into the semi-darkness, where wind-ravaged shrubs and undergrowth were assuming strange forms.
“Over that way. No, Caleb, wrong direction. To your left. Tangled in those buckeye and yucca thickets.”
Silence, other than the sound of labored breathing that came as more of a pant and the occasional mumble that was probably one of his favorite cuss words, as he swished through wet grass, breaking off small branches and limbs in the process.
“Anything?” called Agnes. Much more, and she’d be down there herself, searching for whatever might be hiding itself amongst overgrowth.
A scream. A thin, childish, high-pitched scream that raised goose flesh on Agnes’s arms.
“For heaven’s sake, Caleb! What is it?”
Another brief silence.
“It’s a girl, Aggie. A little girl, wet to the skin, and she’s scared to death of me. Wanna c’mere and help?”
Together, using language and movement both soft and slow enough to soothe, the couple retrieved the child from her hidey-hole and pulled her free. Immediately Agnes wrapped the small muddy form in her own shawl and cradled her on the surrey’s front seat.
“Where in the world?” Agnes murmured, cuddling the little girl with all the warmth in her maternal heart. “Caleb, where do you think she came from? Honey, what is your name? Can you tell us why you’re lost out here, far away from everyone?”
The big green eyes, looking like drowned Irish shamrocks, were overflowing with tears and fears. The poor little thing seemed to be shaking herself to bits with shivers, trembles, and head shakes. It was enough to wring every vestige of emotion from any onlooker.
Agnes held her closer, attempting to share her own heat with that tiny cold body. “Sweetheart, can you tell us your name? Please? We need to find your family, so you’ll be safe. But we don’t know who they are.”
Sobs. Nothing but sobs that piteously racked the child’s frame.
Husband and wife exchanged a worried look just as a bolt of lightning flashed overhead, from the top of the heavens to the hills beyond.
“What do you think?” she silently mouthed to him.
First a shrug, then a tug at the earlobe in perplexity. ”Dunno. Sheriff’s office, I reckon. Somebody’s gotta find out who this nipper is, so’s we can get her home.”
“A-A-Asleep…” came from between the girl’s quivering lips.
Agnes, jarred by the motion of the surrey moving quickly along, leaned down in an attempt to catch whatever might be revealed. “What’s that, dearie?”
“Not–n-n-not awake… Asleep–”
Before Agnes could try for anything else, the child began shuddering and sobbing, as if under some great stress. Some terrible trauma.
“You’re right, Caleb,” she finally admitted. “We must take her to Sheriff Malone. Maybe he can solve the mystery. All I know is that this youngster needs more than you and I can give her.”
“I truly am so sorry, Florrie. You know I’d do anything I could to keep you here. But the new owners have already complained that I’ve overstepped the rules as to age requirement, and they’ve informed me in no uncertain terms that you will have to leave.”
Have to leave. Have to leave. Have to leave.
The terrible death knell resounded in Florrie’s ears until she longed to throw up her hands in despair. In all the possible scenarios concerning her future, she had never imagined one where she would be literally thrown out of the Galveston Seabright Orphanage to fend for herself.
“But Miss Goodnight.” Clamping down on the sudden spurt of fear that erupted from her middle to shoot through her veins, she offered a mild protest. “I have been living here for sixteen years. Where am I to go? What am I to do?”
The headmistress, seated behind her desk as usual for this private consultation, was busy rearranging papers and pens into neat rows. “Now, my dear, I’m sure we can find a placement for you without the slightest of problems. After all, the staff here has provided you with an excellent education to prepare you for just this moment. Your second graduation, as it were.”
“I don’t consider serving as a teacher’s assistant or an unlicensed medical aide or a cook in the kitchen to be very prepared,” she said crisply. Regaining some of her spunk now that the announcement’s shock was beginning to wear off, she named only three of the duties regularly assigned to her at the Home. There were many more.
“Oh, nonsense, Florrie. That but proves you’ve been trained not only in the finer arts of book-learning, but also that you’ve been grounded in skills necessary to discharge the duties of chatelaine of some well-managed household. I do believe I have done my best all these years…” Voice trailing off, her gaze sought the room’s opposite window, barred with golden gleams of sunlight, while she viewed almost forgotten scenes in memory.
“Forgive me, Miss Goodnight,” the girl said quietly. “My ire was inappropriate and certainly undeserved.”
Her past history–so full of holes and missing all vital information–related to the headmistress so long ago and repeated to Florrie only when she was of an age to understand, had left everyone with questions and wanting more. One Gilfred Malone, sheriff of a small town far to the west and north, had been pressed by the Greentree Council to bring the tiny child known only as Florence to the nearest orphanage of good repute.
Florrie herself had requested further details about her existence–her parents, her home, her place in life. However, once she finally realized that Miss Phoebe Goodnight was telling her the truth about having no more facts to share, she had desisted. According to what little she had been able to ascertain, Florrie had been found one rainy spring night on the plains outside of Greentree, hysterical and almost incoherent, possessing neither identity nor dwelling place.
Since then, she had been living at the Seabright, growing into a beautiful and capable young woman with curly hair that had darkened from bright red to rich mahogany auburn, eyes as green as the mossy sod of Éire, and a figure which, were such a thing allowed at the establishment which she called home, would have turned male heads.
Infrequent consultations with a physician on call for the orphanage had garnered no results as far as discovering this quiet child’s history. Dr. Partridge had eventually decided that whatever trauma little Florrie had suffered, the resulting terror had wiped away all her memory of the event.
“Or,” he had finished up with explaining to Miss Goodnight, “she has deliberately suppressed the very idea of what happened because it is far too painful for her to recall.”
The headmistress had never given up hope that her charge–one of her most favored, due simply to those circumstances (although many other little ones left orphaned had come to her with similarly sad stories)–might someday regain her recollection and make peace with her past.
For the time being, as bright and outgoing and good-humored as she was, it seemed a large part of her personality was missing. Like several puzzle pieces gone from the whole, leaving the final arrangement incomplete. Without a personal and family background with which to be grounded, what are we? Bereft, with no particular place in the world, as Florence often felt.
“All is not lost, my dear,” Miss Goodnight assured her, this child of her heart if not of her body. “I have no doubt that, with your splendid qualifications, we shall easily find a place for you in some household. With orders from above incumbent upon me, I shall begin to pursue the classified section of every newspaper hereabouts.”
Florrie squirmed just a little on her perch on the straight wooden chair. “I realize you have my best interests at heart, Miss Goodnight. However, since I would be the one who must fulfill any employment contract decided upon, I wonder if I might also search the advertisements.”
“Well, I–” This was such a novel idea that the lady paused to consider. “Actually, Florrie, I believe that is the most sensible way to proceed. Certainly. I shall put together what we have and this afternoon, before you must begin supper preparations, you and I shall work on that very project. Shall we say two o’clock?”
“Of course. Thank you.” Smoothing her apron, tingling with anticipation, Florrie rose. “I shall come back then.”
Returning to her kitchen duties, Florrie sidestepped two of the older boys wielding wide brushes full of whitewash to carefully paint onto the walls of the dim-lit hallway. A common chore in this older three-storied building. It was Miss Goodnight’s firm belief that whitewash not only improved illumination (which it did) but also reduced bacteria and a few of the creepy-crawlies in the bug-prone seacoast town (also effective).
Too, there was the added benefit of teaching foundlings responsibility and satisfaction in a job well done. Every child was required to dispatch tasks normally relegated to one sex or the other. Thus, boys learned how to cook, clean up, and deal with laundry; girls learned out to mix mortar and set bricks, to trim wood and make simple repairs, and to saddle and harness horses. Just as importantly, both learned how to do simple bookkeeping and manage household accounts.
“Marcus, I do believe you missed a spot,” teased Florrie with a smile, as she passed by.
Marcus, a tall and muscular sixteen-year-old, gave her a flirtatious grin. “This here wall is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Better get yourself a pair of specs, Flossie, gal.”
The rest of the gang must have been feeling on top of the world today, she reflected, since so few of them used that particular nickname otherwise. She had learned to answer to any of the three: “Florrie,” “Flossie,” and “Floss.” Anything but Florence.
Chuckling, Florrie proceeded along the tile floor, down several steps, and into the kitchen, dappled with sun and shadow at this time of the day. There, she tied on a fresh apron and began gathering together the ingredients for a big pan of something vaguely Mexicano, with chopped tomatoes and green chilis and onions.
“I’ve got the rice cooked and cooled, Floss,” said one of her helpers, “whenever you’re ready.”
“That’s fine, Betsy, thank you. I appreciate that you and Rosa went on working without me while I was away.”
Upon its inception, the orphanage had appropriated an abandoned Spanish mission on the outskirts of Galveston. The adobe building, with its thick plastered walls and deep windows, kept the heat out during sticky summer months and the heat inside during a cooler winter season. The place seemed perfectly suited to the few children rescued from either a terrible existence or an even more terrible demise, and then more children until Seabright was running at full capacity, and then some. Now it was next to overflowing.
“Bets, would you be so kind as to refill the large salt shaker from our pantry supply?”
“Of course, Floss. Need more sugar, too?”
It was a mark of her own lack of control, Florrie supposed, that she could remember so little of the first four years of her life. Just a few indistinct details, and those faded with time.
Plucked from thin air came the flash of a mental picture of two important people.
A lovely woman–her mother–who always smelled of flowers and spoke in a sweet, gentle tone, who was quick to give hugs and praise and very slow to offer judgment. A tall, dark man, whose presence filled her with laughter, who made her feel safe and secure even when balanced upon his broad shoulders.
But their names had escaped her. Or had been buried, for some reason.
The family had only just moved from some other place to the beautiful house in the country.
Was that why not a single person in Greentree had ever come forward with information as to who that family was, or where they had come from?
Her parents had been brutally killed, of that, she was positive.
When had anyone actually discovered that a crime had been committed? What had happened to their bodies? Had the sheriff investigated to seek out the murderer? Was he aware that she was the only living witness to what had happened, that she was the only person in the world who could identify the killer? Who had decided that this orphanage, so far away, was the solution to her problem, and who had brought her here?
So many questions, which had plagued her from her teen years, when she was old enough to understand the reason, into young adulthood.
Oh, not regularly, of course. Too many other particulars claimed her attention.
Just now and then, infrequently disturbing her sleep.
She remembered weeping off and on for a very long time. Even cradled in the sympathetic Phoebe Goodnight’s arms, she could only lie limply, like a beached starfish, and sob. Months drifted by before she would even be able to timidly join other girls and grow familiar with the routine and the building and a new unfamiliar existence.
Equally frustrated, Miss Goodnight had done what she could to reinforce the idea that Florrie Hicks, with the surname given to her upon admission, would be safe here. That she would acquire the skills she needed to exist in a cold and uncaring world and would someday emerge from Seabright as a beautiful butterfly from the confinement of its chrysalis.
“And you will be good and wise and strong,” she would murmur to the girl, providing support after Florrie had awakened in a frenzy from infrequent nightmares, “as well as a lovely young woman.”
The headmistress might well have been reciting a list of the gifts bestowed upon some fortunate princess by her fairy godmother. Except that she didn’t believe in fairy tales, with their simplistic finales and their happily-ever-afters. Phoebe was far too practical and pragmatic for that.
* * * * *
At exactly two minutes before the two o’clock hour chimed, Florrie washed and dried her hands, removed the apron, picked up the tray she had prepared, and slipped down the hall to where Phoebe was waiting. A series of newspapers were already spread out upon a table, with two sheets of onionskin and two pencils at the ready for use.
“Right on time,” Phoebe said, looking up with a smile. “And with lemonade for both of us, as well. Florrie, you are a dear. I shall miss you so very much when you move on to the next part of your life.”
“Oh, Miss Goodnight, you have no idea,” agreed Florrie fervently. “I don’t suppose I could just stay on here as your assistant?”
“Now, now. One step forward, not two steps back. Sit down here and let’s begin our search.”
Half an hour passed by, during which could be heard the scratching of graphite on paper and a murmur of denial in answer to a murmur of question. Phoebe had acquired a list of three names and addresses of men seeking a mail order bride, Florrie none. Dissatisfaction tinged the air.
“Not very promising, I must admit.” With a sigh, the woman put down her pencil and shifted her achy shoulders to stretch the muscles.
“I don’t want to go off marrying that one hopeful widower with six children to care for.” That was a gloomy understatement of possibilities. “Nor yet travel to some place out in California to help a husband work in the goldfields. Nor the coal miner in West Virginia who admits he hasn’t two cents to rub together. None of these appeal to me. Am I being too much a perfectionist?”
“Not at all. One needs little imagination to realize that any one of those would be nothing more than slave labor. Have you found any other offers?”
With a sigh, the girl folded away one periodical to replace it with another. “Not right now.”
Miss Goodnight, fine blue eyes a little distressed and her too-slender frame held tense and erect, paused to study her charge. “That means you’ve explored the possibility at a time in the past?”
“Yes. Because I understood that, at some point, when I’d reached a certain age, I would probably have to leave Seabright.” Florrie smoothed out the flimsy newsprint, spongy with use and slightly smeared by cheap ink. “So, I did write to a couple.”
“Ah. But clearly, things didn’t work out.”
“No. After two or three letters in response to mine, I realized we had no real connection. So, I stopped.” Her expression suddenly tightened with worry and resignation. “Was I so wrong, Miss Goodnight? Did I fail somehow in hoping that I might find some wonderful man, that we might make a happy marriage together?”
Touched, the headmistress cleared her throat. “You were neither wrong nor a failure, my dear. You have every right to achieve what you’re seeking. And I have no doubt you shall. Just, perhaps–not here, at this place, in this town.”
Phoebe gently patted Florrie’s shoulder. “Keep your dreams alive, Florence. We all must always keep our dreams. Now, then.” That moment passed, she briskly continued. “If not wedded bliss, then we must at least find you some suitable employment. Here, try looking through this stack.”
For the most part, these entries were similar. Barmaid at some saloon up in St. Louis? Hardly. Housemaid at some Chicago stockyard magnate’s palatial home? Florrie shivered. Not on your life. Washerwoman for some high-class laundry in the great state of Pennsylvania?
“Do you suppose that, if the laundry really were high-class, they would need to mention the fact?” Florrie pondered aloud.
A chuckle. “There is that to consider. Here, Florrie, look at this.”
She bent forward to peruse the particular advertisement Phoebe pointed out and since her superior seemed so intrigued, read the text aloud.
“Ranch owner in need of full-time cook/housekeeper and part-time childcare for two younger siblings. Immediate hire. Please write to Zachariah Adams, Esperanza Ranch, Greentree, Texas.”
Florrie sucked in a breath and looked up, eyes shining like one of Ireland’s hilly tarns. “Greentree?”
“Yes, I thought that might pique your interest. Should you decide to apply for this position, and should you be hired, you would be returning to your old home area, would you not? Do you believe this might be a good thing?”
Considering, the girl used her pencil to trace idle circles on the paper. “Well…I thought so. Couldn’t my return there, to a place I hardly remember, help me to open the door on my past?”
“And perhaps solve the mystery, you mean?”
“Well, it would be beneficial if I were right in the area. On the scene, you know.” Florrie’s broad grin displayed a deep dimple in each cheek and the charm of an upper tooth grown just faintly crooked.
Miss Goodnight laughed. “I cannot argue that point. Very well, my dear. You go on and write to this gentleman. I should certainly be happy to provide references for you to include, whenever you’re ready to post your letter.”
This would not be an easy first step. It would take every ounce of courage Florrie possessed to begin a journey that would take her from this safe, predictable world she had known for sixteen years into a world in which she had once walked but could not recall.
Into possible danger.
“Captivated by Her True Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
At the age of four, Florrie Hicks witnesses the murder of her parents by a stranger in the middle of a violent Texas rainstorm. Growing up in an orphanage, she can’t wait to make her own way in the world. Hoping to find a better future, she answers an ad from a rancher who needs help caring for his siblings and ailing mother. Florrie proves to be an ideal housekeeper and finds herself responding to this guarded man with admiration and affection. After meeting his best friend though she feels the earth slip beneath her feet, suddenly flooded with painful memories… With her feelings for her employer growing stronger by the day, can she trust him with hard truths about the past that could tear them apart?
After the sudden death of his father, Zachariah Adams is having a tough time managing his ranch and family issues, while also nursing a broken heart. Putting up an ad for help seems to be the only solution to his problems. Meeting Florrie leaves Zach not only charmed by her kindness but also intrigued by her enigmatic nature. Although he is determined to protect his heart from falling in love, before he knows it he becomes increasingly close to Florrie. Yet the peculiarly tense relationship she has with his best friend leaves him feeling worried. With his heart on the line and troubling questions about his friend being raised, will Zach ever be able to imagine a life with Florrie?
The relationship between Florrie and Zach grows stronger and soon a beautiful connection between them is formed. Florrie wants to trust Zach with her secret, but she is unsure whether he will believe her… Much as each yearns toward the other, a painful past will need to be faced before a future can even be possible. Will their relationship survive everything that stands between them and threatens their blossoming love?
“Captivated by Her True Heart” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.