Better Than Gold
Laurie Alice Eakes
Series: Iowas Historical
Ever since a deadly fever robbed her of her family and left her alone on her family’s farm for a year, Lily Reese wants nothing more than to leave her small Iowa town and head for the crowds of the city. She saves every penny she can from her wages as a telegraph operator and keeps applying for work someplace besides the middle of the prairie. She won’t let herself fall in love with anyone who doesn’t have the same ambition as she–until Ben Purcell steps off the train and into Lily’s heart.
Ben Purcell will have his stable home at last. Raised by an itinerant salesman father, Ben has longed for land and a home. To gain that end, he takes a job managing a livery in Browning City, Iowa, where he hopes to earn enough money to buy a farm. A wife isn’t in the picture, but then he meets Lily and begins to change his mind–until someone seems bent on killing him.
Rumors that a train robber left gold somewhere around the livery have circulated since the Civil War ten years earlier. Most people dismiss them as nonsense. Others take them seriously. Someone takes them seriously enough to want Ben gone, even dead. Learning the identity of the culprit draws Ben and Lily together until her chance to head for the city finally comes through, and she must choose among the golden lights of the city, the train robber’s gold, or something even better.
Lily had to push with all her strength to open the door so she could fetch more firewood. Wind caught her hat and sent it sailing into the darkness then tore her hair from its pins and flung it across her face in heavy, wet strands.
“I hate this place!” She cried the words into the night, where she knew no one could hear her. “I want to run away.”
The kitchen door slammed behind her. She staggered to the woodpile and grabbed up as many logs as she could hold. Fighting the wind like a beast caught in a locomotive’s cowcatcher, she stumbled back to the door and reached for the handle with near-frozen fingers.
Another hand reached it first.
“Let me help you,” Ben Purcell shouted over the blizzard’s roar.
He opened the door. She toppled inside, dropping logs and gasping for breath. A moment later, he entered with more logs and his own bare head white with snow.
She wanted to hug him. She hadn’t felt like hugging a man ever in her life. But the sight of Ben, tall and broad shouldered, sturdy and full of life, sent such a wave of joy through her that she knew she should run as fast and as far away from him as she could.
Except she couldn’t run anywhere. The weather held her captive.
Ben’s gaze held her captive.
“You—you shouldn’t have come out in this,” she said through a dry throat.
“I couldn’t leave you ladies on your own once the storm grew worse.” He set his load of logs in the wood box and stooped to gather up the ones she had dropped. “I think if I hadn’t come along, you’d be in Kansas by now.”
“The wind is from the north. It would send me to Missouri.”
“Right.” He laughed up at her.
Lily wrapped her arms around herself. She fell the rest of the way in love with Ben Purcell.