Finding her first smile since she read the telegram, Isabelle let out a soft sigh. “I sometimes wonder if you’re even real, Mr. Gallagher.”
He smiled in reply. “Oh I’m real, Isabelle. I promise you that.”
Excerpt from Gallagher's HopeBriarwood, Montana—October 1883
(From Chapter Two)
Gabriel slipped his brother’s telegram into the pocket of his brown duster and smiled. Ethan said he’d finally be coming home next week and bringing along a couple of surprises. Gabriel had received Ethan’s letter about marrying Brenna, but he found himself a little curious as to what the other surprise could be. He was just happy that his big brother finally made peace with the fact that he’d fallen in love. Ethan and Brenna had an unusual beginning, but Gabriel supposed that was to be expected when a woman from Scotland accepted help from a Montana rancher. Their determination brought them together, and their stubbornness had kept them apart. Luckily, Ethan had come to his senses and followed Brenna to Scotland.
With a light heart and long, efficient steps, Gabriel stepped away from the telegraph office and into the dirt street. He still needed to pick up the supplies on Mabel’s list and a few things for Eliza. With list in hand, Gabriel headed for the general store after a quick detour at the livery.
“Hello, Loren.” Gabriel sauntered into the store, as comfortable there as he was at home. “Anything new off the stage today?” Gabriel set his list down on the wood counter and narrowed his deep-blue eyes at the other man. “What has you smiling so big?”
“New schoolteacher finally came.”
“How about that.” Gabriel glanced outside the store windows to the schoolhouse. “It’s been too long since we’ve had a proper teacher for the kids.”
“Ain’t that the truth?” Loren rubbed his chin. “You ought to head on over to Tilly’s for a look. Sent her over just a short bit ago for a meal. Introduce yourself.”
“I don’t have any kids going to school, Loren.”
“You’re the most prominent family here. I’m thinkin’ it wouldn’t hurt to make her feel welcome.”
Curious, Gabriel considered the storekeeper. What is he up to? “I guess I’m going to meet the new teacher.”
“You do that, and I’ll take care of this here list of supplies for you.” Loren’s enthusiasm might have worried Gabriel if he thought the man was capable of manipulation. “Your wagon out front?”
“I’ll just have one of the boys help me load it up, then.”
What the hell just happened here? Gabriel set his hat on his thick brown hair and made his way to Tilly’s Café. When he rounded the corner of the telegraph office, he stepped up to the boardwalk in front of the small restaurant. His eyes scanned over the few patrons sampling Tilly’s amazing food. He found the woman at one of the tables next to the window.
He took a moment to admire the beautiful woman with her golden hair partially hidden under a dark-blue hat. The morning sunlight shined directly on her face and revealed features as clear as a painting: smooth, alabaster skin; a small, pink smile; and light-colored almond-shaped eyes.
His eyes darted to the boy sitting next to her, and one look told him they were related, for the youngster had the same golden hair. Gabriel wondered about the boy’s relationship to her. Both woman and child were smartly dressed. She wore a deep-blue dress of fine wool and a long, black cape that fastened just below her chin while the child wore a tailored, gray suit that he appeared to be comfortable in. As they ate, the woman glanced up from her plate of Tilly’s hotcakes and met his eyes.
Loren Baker isn’t as old a fool as people think.
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Gallagher's Hope excerpt ©MK McClintock