Thanks for having me as your guest, Anna. In the mid-1800s, people needed determination and patience to travel from one side of Texas to the other. Stagecoaches ran on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule. A trip from St Louis to San Francisco involved about 25 days of travel. The coaches were drawn by six horses and stops were made every 12 miles for fresh teams. Depending on the terrain, coaches covered between 5 and 12 miles per day—running day and night. Passengers were grateful to get hot coffee, biscuits and jerky at these stops; on rare occasions, hot meals were available.
The suggested items would have filled a large satchel, or three. In addition to clothing, passengers were admonished to pack 6 pair of thick socks, woolen underdrawers, blankets—one in summer and two in winter, 3-4 towels, heavy overcoat, light coat, hat and their choice of pistol or knife for personal protection. A lady such as Jessamay Morgan from San Antonio reading that list and traveling in summer would probably not worry about the woolens or blankets.
Once Jessamay got inside the stagecoach, she could choose a window or middle position (approximately 15” in width was the allowance) on either a forward or backward-facing bench seat. No one wanted to be the last to board because that earned a place on the middle bench with no backrest. As she set out on her journey, she could read the rules about men forgoing swearing and smoking in a lady’s presence, but tobacco chewing was allowed, as long as the chewer spat downwind. I would hope so. Or if the person (presumed to be a male) couldn’t refrain from drinking alcohol, then he must pass the bottle around. Yum. Snoring loudly or using another passenger’s shoulder as a pillow was frowned upon. Improper advances toward a woman could get the male kicked off the stagecoach in the middle of nowhere. Nothing about a woman making a pass was mentioned. Forbidden topics of conversation were stagecoach robberies and Indian uprisings. Sounds like a smart rule. Passengers were encouraged not to jump from the stage in case of runaway horses so as not to be left victim to the weather, hostile Indians or hungry coyotes. Ouch.
Jessamay had a purpose and she looked at all these strictures as part of her great adventure. She was done with the life at Miss Veronica’s Pleasure Palace and wanted to see mountains—at least until she set her gaze on a handsome stage passenger, Slade Thomas. But nothing every goes as planned. The “excitement” of her first trip is interrupted by a holdup, and she and Slade fight the clock to outwit the bandits.
Miss Morgan leaned back against the cushion and let out a groan. “The air is stiflin’ and I just can’t breathe. If you won’t let me open the shade, I’ll just get cool another way.” Her pale hand rose to the buttons at her neck.
In fascination, Slade watched as she undid her collar and then the first two buttons on her blouse, exposing a regal neck and creamy skin. Awareness of this woman hit him in the gut and his body reacted. Damnation! He shifted on the seat to ease the strain on his trousers and accidentally bumped Miss Morgan’s knee.
She shot him a questioning look and slowly pressed her leg the length of his. From her reticule, she pulled out and flourished a fan painted with red roses. Waving her left hand, the fan moved quickly in front of her face and she sighed. “That’s better.”
Slade detected a look of envy from the quiet woman across from him. On this point, he agreed with the outspoken Miss Morgan. The coach was unbearably hot, enough so that he planned to remove his waistcoat at the next stop. Keeping up the image of a traveling rancher be hanged.
Mrs. Harrington sniffed. “Proper young ladies don’t use fans in public. That’s vulgar.”
Miss Morgan pinched the front of her blouse between two fingers and pulled it several inches away from her chest.
Without realizing he’d even moved, Slade eased his head sideways and spied a glimpse of her cleavage. Abundant curves. He froze, suddenly aware of how disrespectful his action must appear. What the hell was he doing?
After flashing the complainer a syrupy smile, Miss Morgan aimed the fan directly over the blouse opening and flicked her hand back and forth. “There’s times when a body’s comfort comes afore all else.” She sighed, lolled her head to look directly at him, and batted her eyelashes. “Don’t you agree, sir?”
Blood pounded in his ears and his hands fisted on his thighs. Too many months had passed since his last visit to a parlor house. That had to be why he was misinterpreting the casual bumps and touches caused by the jostling stagecoach. No other explanation made sense.
The saucy gal turned toward the middle of the coach. “I surely don’t know how you ladies wear all these layers of clothes in this heat.”
What had she just said? Slade scrutinized every detail about Miss Morgan. From the wisps of light brown hair framing her face to the green jacket hugging narrow shoulders and rounded curves to the skirt that revealed a tantalizing flash of booted ankle.
Who was this woman?
Mrs. Harrington clapped her hands over the ears of the small boy at her knee. “Miss, you are most assuredly a disgrace.”
Miss Morgan lifted her head, gazed at the woman, and shrugged. “Maybe so, but I bet I’m cooler.”
Capturing The Marshal’s Heart is FREE in Kindle Unlimited. http://amzn.com/B00EKS4OHS
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BIO: As a young girl, I spent lots of time lying on my bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, I discovered and devoured romances. At a certain point, I grew cocky enough to think I could write one of these stories. Twelve years later, my first fiction sale was achieved–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, I now write heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from my home in the southern California mountains.