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For my husband Bryan, who is a stickler for historical accuracy and helped make sure all of the details were correct.




Chapter 1



1882



Three days on a train bound for Chicago had taxed Annabelle’s nerves and her senses. She had thought the odors from the train were bad enough, but the small room she rented for the night was situated downwind of the stockyards. With a small atomizer from her travel case, she sprayed perfume around the iron cot that took up most of the space. The bed creaked when she sat down and removed a creased envelope from her purse. She unfolded the paper and reread her aunt’s letter.


Dearest Annabelle,

Ruth wrote to me of your engagement, and I’m sure that by the time you receive this wedding gift, you will already be a blushing bride. Mail doesn’t move too swiftly out here.

To make a long story short, I sunk my life’s savings into a gold mine, and I’m now the richest woman in this part of the Dakota Territory.

If you and your new husband ever decide to venture out west, it would please me very much if you would visit me in Red Gorge.

All my love and best wishes,

Aunt Julia


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