“That was hard work today,” Helen said as she found a seat on the back steps of the hotel. She had a plate of food and started to eat.
“It seems to be busy all of the time these days. I suppose it is good for business and we get to keep the jobs,” Jenny replied and started to eat as well. “The chef is really good at this chicken pie.”
“We deserve the left-overs after a day like that,” Helen added. “Be good to clear up and go home though. I have some sewing to finish for Missus Janus. She is wanting the dress to wear to the dance next week.”
“Are you going to the dance?” Jenny asked.
“Calvin wants to go, but to be honest, I am not really that keen.”
“On Calvin, or the dance?” Jenny smiled and shrewdly popped in a question that was clearly on her mind.
Mmm,” Helen sighed. “I wish I could give you an answer, but I am still uncertain.”
“Your family want you to marry the man, don’t they? They think he will be the sheriff one day.”
Helen nodded. “I know it sounds good and reasonable, but Dad just sees it as a way of making sure someone is there to pay the bills for me.” She paused. “I wish I had a dad like yours.”
“My dad is one in a million, I have to admit,” Jenny said with a small smile. “Maybe it is because he is the minister, but he always wants people to be happy. He says money should be the last thing you consider.”
“And that is the right sort of attitude,” Helen replied, sighing. “He tries to tell people to help each other in his sermons. I do enjoy them. He adds little jokes and funny stories to make people get the message without being miserable. It works much better than telling everyone they will burn in the eternal fires if they mess up.”
“I am not sure that sermons are meant to be enjoyed,” Jenny laughed, “but I’ll tell him you are a fan.” She stood up. “Better wash those dishes.”
The two girls took their own plates into the kitchen alongside all the other crockery that was to be washed. They chattered cheerfully as they worked. The manager let them have their little gossip; the two girls were good workers and the customers liked them. He let them go as soon as the place was tidy. Helen and Jenny left together, as was their custom, and went window shopping down the main street before parting company at the little wooden church.
As she started towards her home, someone caught Jenny’s eye.
“Here comes the future sheriff,” she quipped to herself, waving at Calvin. He waved back.
“I can walk you home, Helen,” the deputy sheriff of Railington Town said as she approached, offering her an arm. She took it with a wordless smile.
“Been a quiet day, thank goodness,” Calvin Hayes said as they strolled down the main street together.
Helen knew that he always enjoyed having her on his arm. She was a pretty girl, especially with her glossy dark brown hair and those intriguing green eyes. Her skill at being a seamstress was well known in town and her own clothes always looked nice and up to the minute. Helen understood that appearance was important to Calvin. She felt certain that he thought himself a smartly-dressed person, and did so to emphasize that he be seen as the law in the place.
“Not been quiet at the hotel,” Helen replied. “Worked off our feet we were. Lots of new folk in town.”
“Not sure about some of them.” Calvin took on his lawman persona. “We will have to keep an eye out for trouble. I think there is a big game brewing at one of the saloons.”
“Gamblers don’t usually cause trouble for the rest of the town.”
“And the deputies are checking around.” He gave her hand a squeeze. “So, shall we go out for a walk tonight?”
“I am really sorry, Calvin but I promised Missus Janus that I would finish her dress. She wants it for Saturday.” She looked at the man beside her. There was a little warning in her head that he could lose his temper quite easily. It made her feel just a little bit uncomfortable. She smiled up at him. “You are welcome to come and watch me work if you like.”
“And the dance?” he pushed his advantage and they stopped walking.
“Okay,” she accepted that he really did want to go to the dance and gave in. “I have a new dress of my own to try out. I can be an advert for my little business.”
“That sounds good. What is this new dress like?” he asked. “Maybe I can wear a shirt that will match up with it?”
Helen laughed. The man could be charming when he wanted to, and it was a good idea.
“I’ll show it to you tonight and you can decide on which shirt to wear.”
“That’s a date,” he agreed. “I’ll come over later.”
They had walked a little way out of town by that time and he left her at the gates to her dad’s farm. It was not a big farm but it gave the family a reasonable living. There were several barns as her father stored vegetables to keep them over the winter. The farmhouse was well looked after and quite large. Her parents had worked hard over the years to build the house and the farm. She reached up and kissed Calvin’s cheek.
“Thanks for walking me home.” She let him go at the gate and walked away up the track to the farmhouse.
Inside the house, her mom was serving dinner.
“I’ll just have a piece of fruit pie, Mom,” Helen said after bidding the family hello. “I had food at work. You sit and have yours and I will serve it up.”
Marian French smiled at her daughter. They looked very alike.
“That would be a real treat,” she said and took a seat. Her husband had washed his hands and sat beside her. The other children of the family came in together and suddenly the place felt like it was bursting at the seams.
“I am starving,” Bart declared and picked up his fork. Helen laughed and served him first. His twin brother held up a plate next and she filled that. Benjy tucked in with gusto and Helen served the rest of the family. Her sister, Glenda, asked if Helen was going to the dance.
“If you are going, dad will let me go,” she said.
“Calvin and I just agreed that we would go on Saturday,” Helen said, and then asked her mother if it was fine for Calvin to come by later.
“Of course it is,” her mom said.
“I have to finish the dress for Missus Janus. I told him that he was welcome to come and chat as I did it.”
“I think that you make a good match, you two,” her dad joined in the conversation.
“I’m not ready to get that serious just now, Dad,” Helen said and went for the dessert.
“He would be a welcome addition to the family,” her dad went on as if she hadn’t spoken. “It would be good to be related to the sheriff, and women need to be married.”
She put his plate in front of him and kissed the top of his head.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said. “You can give him a beer and talk men talk to him later.” That was enough to put her dad off pushing the marriage issue.
Helen ate her own dessert. It was looking as if she would marry Calvin in the end, and it was not what she would choose to do. There was just something that stopped her being enthusiastic about it. The man was a prize catch. Lots of the girls would have walked out with a man who kept law in town. He was not quite good looking but made up for it with a style and swagger.
Helen excused herself and went into the other room to find the sewing things. The dress for Missus Janus was on a hanger and was complete, but it needed some final decoration. She could sit and finish the hem as Calvin drank his beer. That would not take any concentration. She sat and worked on the collar and cuffs first as that was tricky.
Glenda came and sat at the table.
“Thanks, Helen,” she said.
“I know, Martin Mills will be there,” Helen smiled. Glenda was nineteen and Helen knew her sister was falling in love for the first time. “He is a nice man.”
“I think…” Glenda hesitated.
“That you are falling in love?” Helen picked up for her, pausing mid-stitch to see her sister’s radiant smile. Glenda nodded.
“Enjoy it,” Helen said, remembering that it was possible to fall for someone and feel on top of the world.
“You are not in love with Calvin though,” Glenda said quietly.
“He says he loves me and we should marry,” Helen replied in the same, almost whispered voice. The sisters were close and often talked to each other. Glenda reached out a hand and touched her sister’s arm.
“You still love Max,” she said.
“It’s been three years since he vanished,” Helen replied. “I have to move on somehow.”
“I know lots of women marry because it is the wisest thing to do and you need a home and a man,” she began. “But I think that would be hard if there is no love there.”
“Some women say that you fall in love over the years. If it were up to me, I would rather be a seamstress and try and make my own money,” Helen told her. “But Dad really wants me to be married and not his responsibility anymore.”
“You cannot marry just to keep Dad happy,” Glenda pointed out.
Helen nodded. “In the meantime, I will finish this dress, chat to Calvin, and we will go to the dance.”
Glenda left her to the work. Helen stared into the past with her mind and pictured Max Connor. He was tall with striking good looks, black hair and bright blue eyes. The two had felt an instant attraction and she well knew what it was like to fall head over heels in love. She had been certain that he had felt the same and the shock of his disappearance had been unbearable.
“Bounty hunting is dangerous work,” she whispered to herself. “He could have been killed and I would never know.” That was a ghastly notion. She shivered and put the thought aside. “I cannot believe that he walked away from me. There must have been a reason.”
Helen brought herself back to the present and the work at hand.
“Finish the dress and stop daydreaming,” she told herself. “Three years is a long time. The man left me.” It was a bitter thing to tell herself that he had walked away, but she had learned to face that over the three hard years of keeping the heartbreak to herself. She made herself think only about the finishing touches to the dress and then decided that Calvin at least deserved that she look as if she had made an effort. She left the dress and went to change and brush her hair.
The deputy had taken off the star he wore in full view all of the time he was working. He too, had changed and stood at the door looking a bit embarrassed with a bunch of flowers in his hand. It made Helen smile and she kissed his cheek. The man was always trying to prove that she was special to him, and she reminded herself that lots of women never had that at all.
He came inside and shook hands with her dad, who offered him a beer. Helen found a glass jar and popped the little flowers into water. The family talked about things in general. Marian French sent the twins off to bed when they had told Calvin that they would be his deputies when they grew up. He told them the jobs were theirs. The two boys ran upstairs pretending to shoot each other.
“What about the color of this dress?” Calvin asked Helen and she went to find it. She brought down a dress in a pretty, pale blue and he smiled.
“You will look a million dollars,” he said, but his eyes were not telling her that he loved her. They were hungry, possessive. There was a flatness in the look that seemed to deny what his lips were saying. Helen felt a sudden shiver run across her skin and hoped that nobody had noticed it.
“I have a dark blue shirt,” Calvin said. “We will look like a matching couple.”
“That sounds good to me,” her father added and raised his glass of beer. The two men clinked glasses and Helen said that she should work on the dress in the next room.
“I’ll sit and talk as you work,” Calvin added and followed her through the door.
He drank his beer and sat back in an armchair. “You know Sheriff Lee is going to retire soon. I hope that I will be the next sheriff.”
Helen nodded and went on stitching. Then she glanced up.
“If I was sheriff,” he continued, “ I would have more money and we could find a lovely house. You could still do your stitching and make extra money for yourself.”
She went across and sat on the arm of the chair. “You do really want to settle down and make a home.” When he nodded, she went on. “Let us wait and see how the job goes and plan to marry after that is decided.”
“You mean that, Helen? That is, you are saying yes to the wedding?”
Helen smiled at him and stroked his cheek. He caught her hand and then stood up, pulling her to her feet. He sealed the agreement with a kiss, and though Helen returned it, her mind was still on the dress waiting to be finished. Calvin seemed not to notice and sat back down with his drink as she went back to sewing the hem.
“Can we tell everyone at the dance?” he asked.
“I guess so. You had better ask Dad first,” she said. Calvin shot off to the next room to do just that. Helen stopped sewing and sat thinking about what she had just agreed to do. Before many minutes had passed her mom, dad and sister all came into where she was sewing with drinks and handed one to Helen.
“To a great wedding and a happy future,” her dad toasted.
She joined in with a smile that was just a little bit strained.
“I really do have to finish this if I am to deliver it on the way to work,” Helen said, and the family left the two engaged folk together. She pushed to one side the thought that maybe she was making the wrong decision. Her dad said it was the sensible thing to do and she reasoned that he was probably right.
“We will have lots of great evenings together, Helen,” Calvin said.
“We will,” she agreed. She finished the dress and held it up against herself to ask if it looked professional.
“It looks wonderful but put that Missus Janus inside of it and it might not look so good.” That made Helen laugh.
“As long as she pays me, I am happy.”
She walked with him to the gate. He kissed her goodnight and walked away to the town humming a little tune. Helen stood at the gate for quite a little while wondering if she had just made the biggest mistake of her life.
Her mother and father were full of plans when she returned to the house. Helen left them to it and went to her bedroom. After a while, Glenda knocked and came to sit on the bed beside her. She took her sister’s hand.
“It will work out,” Glenda said with a gentle smile.
“Oh, Glenda, why did Max have to go away?” Helen exclaimed, a feeling of loneliness suddenly washing over. “I can never be that happy again.”
The tears rolled down Helen’s cheeks and her sister held her close until the crying finished.
“All the girls will be jealous. You will be such a pretty bride. Jenny’s dad will make a lovely service and you will have your own house and start your business as a married woman.”
Helen gave a watery smile and said that she had said all the right things.
“I feel better. Thank you.”
“And you will have customers coming for miles for your seamstress skills.”
It went on like that for quite a while, with Glenda offering as much encouragement as she could likely muster, while Helen tried to find the courage to smile back at her sister. Eventually, Glenda said goodnight and went to her own room.
Helen stood up and looked in the mirror.
“I will have to look better than this,” she said to herself. “And I will be a successful dressmaker. I will plan to have a room just for that.” She slipped into a night dress and lay thinking about the wedding to Calvin, but it was Max Connor’s face that was still in her head as she drifted off to sleep.
In the morning, Helen packed the work for Missus Janus carefully and set off early for work to deliver the dress. The woman opened the door and beamed at her.
“Come in. Come in. I am dying to see this.” Helen unpacked the garment and was pleased at the look on Carrie Janus’ face. “It is wonderful,” she said and held it against herself. “Have you got time to see me try it on?”
“Of course. I want to make sure it is what you wanted.” Helen perched on a seat as Carrie Janus ran up the stairs and came down again wearing the dark red creation. It did pass through Helen’s mind that maybe Calvin had a point but the woman was so happy with the dress that it was the happiness you noticed. Carrie was quite a large lady.
“It is perfect, my dear. Thank you so much.”
“It is just exactly right for you. Your choice of material was inspired,” Helen said. Carrie went to a box on the mantelshelf and took out the money to pay for the work.
“I will tell all of my friends,” she told Helen.
“Please do. One day I might have a proper business. I will see you at the dance tomorrow night.”
Helen tucked away the payment and walked to the hotel. Jenny was already there and the two swung into their usual morning routine as the cook made breakfast. It was the main hotel in town with lots of business. The cook was excellent and drew in customers. The manager kept an eye on everything but the staff did not complain.
When the girls had a chance to take a break, Helen told Jenny about the wedding plans.
“And is it what you want?” Jenny queried with a look of concern in her eyes. Helen shook her head.
“Not ideal but I have to do something. I have to put the past behind me and try and build some sort of life. If I can make the dressmaking business work from my own house, that would be a start. Calvin seems to be happy for me to do that.”
“My mom and Dad would listen to you if you wanted to talk about it,” Jenny suggested.
Helen shook her head. “I will have to come with Calvin and arrange the wedding eventually but we are waiting to see if he becomes the sheriff before we plan anything.”
“That sounds like a good idea and gives you time to plan properly.”
“We are going to the dance tomorrow night. Calvin wants to tell everyone.”
Jenny put her arms around her best friend. “Oh, Helen. I wish I could see you really happy.”
“I have to build a life and Calvin really does seem to love me.”
“Then we will try and have a good time at the dance and see how it all turns out,” Jenny said.
“And I have two more dresses to make now that Missus Janus’ is finished. She is wearing it tomorrow night. I will concentrate on starting a proper business.”
For the next two days, the hotel kept the girls busy.
“I don’t know if my legs will get around the dance floor,” Helen sighed as she sank into a chair at home. “We seem to have more customers than ever.” She handed over her wages to her mother to help with the household bills.
Her mother put the money in the box on the mantelshelf and kissed her daughter. “I have boiled hot water so that you can have a lovely bath. It will help your aches and pains and make you feel better.” Helen smiled and helped her mother carry the hot water to the bathroom.
It was good to soak for a little while and then the excitement of a good barn dance affected her and she went to brush her hair and find the pretty blue dress that she had made. It was a copy of a style she had seen in a journal and the skirt draped rather elegantly into the hint of a bustle at the back. It was not overdone and not too old for her. She twirled in front of the mirror and was pleased with the effect.
The dance was at a ranch not too far out of town and Calvin arrived with a buggy to take both sisters out in style.
“You both look wonderful,” he said and helped the girls climb aboard.
“You look pretty good yourself,” Helen smiled at him and he pulled himself up straight and gave her a mock salute.
“Had to live up to having the prettiest girl in town.”
“Enjoy yourselves,” her mom called as he drove away.
The ranch was not far and there was a large barbecue fire burning with a hog roasting over it. Lots of folk were already there and the big barn doors were open wide with hay bales for seats and trestle tables covered in white cloths. There was a bar already doing lots of good business and the cheerful sound of the band already playing.
Calvin helped both sisters down then disappeared to take the horse and trap to the corral to be put aside for them. Helen spied him wandering back and waved him over to the corner Jenny had managed to keep for them. Martin Mills had also joined them and was sitting close to Glenda. Helen watched as Calvin strode across to take the seat beside her, his now-fiancée.
There was an air of great excitement. Some keen folk were already dancing in the middle area left for that and the caller was building up the atmosphere with jokes and encouragement. Even Helen was caught up in this great mood. It was a long time since there had been a barn dance. More and more people arrived and the noise of chatter was enormous. The men went and brought over beer for themselves and soft drinks for the girls but in the end, the lure of the dance floor had them on their feet.
Calvin grabbed Helen by the hand. Martin followed with Glenda and a young man called Karl pulled Jenny to her feet. The caller had everyone throwing themselves into it. The band stepped up the speed and Helen was whirled around from one partner to another until she met up with Calvin again to sidestep down the middle and run up the outside of the circle. Calvin grabbed her hands and they watched the next couple do the same.
It was just what everyone needed and the caller judged when enough was enough and slowed the tempo down.
“Oh, Lord,” Helen said and sank onto the hay bale seat. “I must be getting old.”
“Never,” Calvin told her and held onto her hand. As the music paused and there was going to be a singer to allow the dancers to get back their breath, the caller told them he had an announcement and folk wondered what was coming. He grinned and said it was his pleasure to announce the engagement of Helen French to the deputy sheriff, Calvin Hayes. The barn erupted into shouts and applause and the couple were inundated with people racing across to wish them well.
Calvin took her hand and pulled her into the middle of the floor and everyone clapped hands and shouted out congratulations. He took the opportunity to give her a kiss to wild applause and the band struck up an introduction to a young woman singer with a great voice. Everyone found seats or stood and listened as she sang a well-known love song. Calvin kept his arm around Helen and suddenly she felt that life might even be good again.
The band started another lively dance and Helen asked if she could sit this one out. Calvin put an arm around her shoulders and said they would watch the others. She nudged him and asked why the two men at the door were looking so miserable. They were not there to join in the fun and they did keep glancing at Calvin.
“They hate me,” he said simply.
“Destined to Fall in Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Helen French gives in to marry the deputy sheriff after being profoundly pressured by her father. However, she continues to long for Max, the man who promised her the world but vanished without a trace. While still trying to come to terms with his sudden disappearance, her desperate need for independence leads her to start her own business. Unexpectedly a ghost of her past appears before her own eyes, a ghost that reminds her of a man she loved beyond reason…
Will she put her trust in him to pave the way to the brighter future she always dreamed of?
After leaving, Max Connor suffered being separated from the woman he loved for all those years. When he decided to return, he sets off a chain of events that puts him in the middle of a terrible crime that he is trying to solve with Helen… Max’s reputation must survive the rumors threatening to ruin the love he found in Helen’s eyes. Can he earn back her devotion, win her heart again, and finally find the home he’s always needed?
Her gentle nature calls to him after all, and awakens a long-forgotten yearning for love…
As the investigation unfolds, shocking information forces Max and Helen to uncover their secrets, which sparks a rekindling of their relationship. The two of them will have to abandon their fears and trust their hearts… But can they really fall in love again while a criminal is endangering everyone’s lives?
“Destined to Fall in Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.