A Mail-Order Hope

By: Janelle Daniels

(Miners to Millionaires Book 3)

Chapter 1

Isabelle Sweeney didn’t care if she had to come back here every day for a year. Asher Walker would talk to her. It wasn’t right that he was holed up in that tiny cabin in the woods, and she refused to let him continue doing it.

She swiped one of the lower hanging pine branches out of her way, the pokey needles abrading her skin. A small drop of sap lingered on her palm and she kept touching the sticky substance.

She hefted the basket higher up her arm, ignoring the ache in her bicep. She didn’t care about her discomfort. At this point, she’d haul a whale up the trail if it would tempt Asher to join the ranks of the living.

Oh, she’d heard the tales. Bandits had kidnapped his fiancée, eventually tying her to a tree. Asher had looked for her, but the search had ended tragically.

Bear attack.

She felt for the man. No one could go on easily after that. But the fact was, he was still living. Belle intended on reminding him of that.

Just as soon as he opened the door and spoke to her.

Seven baskets. Seven! That’s how many she had delivered to his cabin, and that’s how many times she’d been turned away.

She frowned. Well, not exactly turned away. The man would actually have to speak to her to tell her to go away. But he’d never opened his door, he’d never come out. She’d been left standing on the porch practically talking to herself.

But she knew he had been inside. He’d heard every word.

It was high time someone gave that man a kick in the backside. She only hoped it would jar him out of his grieving.

She paused once she reached his clearing. The structure wasn’t much, but she couldn’t deny that he’d chosen a glorious spot. The air was crisp, clean, and she could smell the lingering flowers that had wilted in the meadow.

For a man who shunned the world, he had certainly chosen a little piece of heaven to imprison himself in.

With deep breath, she entered his little patch of perfection, weaving around on a thin path through the grass until she was in front of the cabin. “Hello, Mr. Walker,” she called out. “It’s Isabelle Sweeney. I’ve come for another visit.” She waited a moment for his reply, but other than the floorboards shifting inside, it was silent. In fact, it was as if the meadow followed his lead and even the birds and insects quieted.

Harrumph. Well, then.

“Why, yes! I’d love to stay.” She took a few more steps and placed the basket on his porch before heading back to sit on a stump in the meadow. If the man had a chair on his porch, she’d sit there, but alas, he didn’t want company.

Too bad for him.

Her smile widened. She’d just have to change his mind.

“I hope you enjoy the basket,” she called out a little louder to make sure her words carried through the cracks in the closed door. “I packed some strawberry jam I made yesterday, along with a fresh loaf of bread. There are books too. Why, I didn’t realize it until this moment,” she said with false surprise, “but those items are perfect for a picnic. Why don’t you come out here and join me? The weather is very fine.”

A soft breeze rustled through the trees, and the warm sun shined on her upturned face. It really was a perfect day.

Still no reply. Sigh.

She ran her hands through the tall grass. What was he interested in? What would he want to know?

Her hand paused. She didn’t know much about his past, but she did know it involved one person. “I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but Olivia married Ronan Briggs.” The floorboards stopped squeaking.

“It’s true,” she continued quickly. “They went to Atlanta on their honeymoon and returned a few weeks ago. At least, that’s when Ronan finally made it back.” If the mystery sparked his curiosity and he managed to bring himself to ask why Ronan returned at a different date than Olivia, she might give him information. Something had to make him want to come out.

She’d seen him in town a time or two getting supplies at the mercantile, but he’d always been in a hurry, so she hadn’t bothered him. The whole reason she’d started visiting Asher was because of the assistance he’d given Sawyer Morrison, the sheriff, when Clara had been kidnapped. Both Ronan and Asher had helped locate her.

It seemed like forever ago, but in truth, Ivan’s almost brides, the nine women whom Ivan Pavlova wrote to and intended on marrying, had only been there a short time. So much had already happened, Clara’s kidnapping was only one incident.

Asher and Ronan most definitely had a history. Whether it was pleasant or not wasn’t known to her, but by his reaction, she’d guess the latter.

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