Read Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona Online

Authors: Miralee Ferrell

Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance

Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona

 

BY MIRALEE FERRELL
S
umme
RSI
de
PRESS

 

 

Summerside Press, Inc.
Minneapolis 55438
www.summersidepress.com

Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona
© 2011 by Miralee Ferrell

ISBN 978-1-60936-104-4

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Scripture references are from The Holy Bible, King James Version (
KJV
).

The town depicted in this book is a real place, but all characters, other than known historical figures addressed in the Author’s Note, are fictional. Any resemblances to actual people or events are purely coincidental.

Cover design by Lookout Design |
www.lookoutdesign.com

Interior design by Müllerhaus Publishing Group |
www.mullerhaus.net

Photos of Tombstone provided by Miralee Ferrell.

Summerside Press

is an inspirational publisher offering fresh, irresistible books to uplift the heart and engage the mind.

Printed in USA.

Dedication

My mother’s loving influence and support have helped shape
me into the woman I am today. She remains one of my closest
friends and is among the first people I turn to when I have
a problem or want to celebrate an answer to prayer. Thanks,
Mom, for always being there for me, and for the many
times you’ve gone beyond what I could hope or expect.

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to my readers who wrote e-mails wanting to know more about Christy Grey. We first met her in the book
Love Finds You in Last Chance, California,
and she gripped readers’ hearts. I’m happy to present Christy’s story, as well as return briefly to the town of Last Chance and the friends made there.

If you haven’t read
Love Finds You in Last Chance, California,
don’t worry; it won’t spoil the story to read this one first. But you’ll definitely want to go back and pick up a copy of the book to learn where Christy’s journey began.

My desire in writing
Love Finds You in Tombstone, Arizona,
is to show the redemptive power of God’s love. I hope you’ll find little nuggets of truth scattered throughout that will encourage you along the way.

So many people have contributed to making this story what it is today. Family, friends, editors, agent, critique partners, and prayer partners who offer an ongoing covering have all been such a help and blessing during the writing and editing process.

Special thanks go to my critique group. Kimberly Johnson, Sherry Kyle, and Karen O’Connor made suggestions that helped strengthen my book from start to finish. Each one is a talented writer, and I’m blessed to be on the same team. And to Kristy Gamet and Tammy Marks, who have both read my books in advance. I so appreciate your input on my stories and characters. Also, my heartfelt gratitude goes to Debbie, Barb, and Kay for their prayer covering. You are each such a blessing to me.

I can’t forget to mention Rachel Meisel, senior editor at Summerside Press—thank you many times over. Your brainstorming sessions and willingness to allow me to use a character from another book as my heroine were such an encouragement—as well as permitting Ramona Tucker (I love that woman—she’s a joy to work with!) to do the edits.

Susan Lorher did a preread and targeted areas needing to be expanded. Susan, you’re an amazing editor and friend, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You took an interest in my work early on and have been my champion ever since.

Tamela Hancock Murray, I’m so grateful to have you as my agent. You’ve believed in me from the beginning and stood behind me on every project. Bless you.

Marnee, my daughter, and Steven, my son, along with their spouses, Brian and Hannah: you’ve all been encouragers—cheering me on, asking questions about my work, and truly caring. And to my husband, Allen, who without fail asks how many words I’ve written each day, lets me ramble on about my characters, plot, and writing, even when he doesn’t always have a clue what I’m talking about. Thank you; I’m honored to be your wife.

More than anything I give all the glory to God. I pray each of my books will in some way impact lives for the Lord and draw readers to Him. I wouldn’t be writing if it hadn’t been for His hand on my life, and direction to do so. I’ll write for as long as He asks me to and give Him the honor for any success I might have.

And to my readers, whom I choose to think of as my friends, thank you. If it weren’t for you, there would be no more books. I love hearing from you and enjoy knowing what you think, feel, and experience as you read my stories. Bless each and every one of you as you follow my career and the stories God lays on my heart. Drop me a note, or visit my website (
www.miraleeferrell.com
) or my Face-book page. I’d love to meet you there!

I
N THE
1870s E
D
S
CHIEFFELIN SPENT A GOOD DEAL OF TIME PICKING
up rocks in Arizona Territory while serving as part of a scouting expedition aimed against the Chiricahua Apaches. On a number of occasions the soldiers told him that if he stayed after they departed, the only stone he’d find would be his own tombstone. When Schieffelin finally discovered silver in 1879, he remembered those words and named his first mine The Tombstone.

Within two years the small mining town of Tombstone, Arizona, exploded into a booming city of more than twenty thousand souls, bringing with it a wide variety of characters, including Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, Big Nose Kate, Curly Bill, and the Earp clan. The gunfight at the OK Corral is only one of the wild episodes that make up the history of this colorful town. Saloons and gambling halls outnumbered every other business, and it was almost two years after the city’s birth before the first church building, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, was completed. Eventually families arrived, bringing schools and respectability, but the early years were rife with outlaws, shootings, and violent deaths.

When the miners tunneled six hundred feet and deeper, water began flooding the depths of the mines, and eventually they were forced to close. Tombstone, often called “the town too tough to die,” dwindled to about 150 people. In the 1900s a surge of fascination with the Old West brought new life to the area, and it now boasts approximately fifteen hundred people. Four blocks of the old downtown section were preserved, containing some of the original buildings dating back to the early 1880s. The residents pride themselves in keeping alive the history and heritage of their ancestors and bringing the Old West to life for the thousands of visitors who flock there each year.

Miralee Ferrell

Chapter One

Late March 1881

Last Chance, California

Ma needed her. Christy Grey mouthed the words, just to see how they tasted. She stood on the boardwalk in front of the telegraph office in Last Chance, California, staring at the slip of paper clutched in her trembling fingers. Once again she read the words from her younger brother, Joshua.

Ma sick. Stop. Can’t care for her alone. Stop. Come soon. Stop. Joshua

Hope sprouted a tender shoot and quickly withered as the bright heat of reality settled around her. Christy almost laughed. She’d allowed herself to be fooled. Joshua, not Ma, needed her. Ivy Malone’s life revolved around her husband at the time—number three being the most recent. Thankfully, Christy had had a stable stepfather while she grew up, following her own father’s death. But after burying two husbands, Ma had foolishly married a man named Logan Malone, and Christy had little use for him.

She sighed and drew her double-breasted wool cloak tighter around her. It was past time to head to Miss Alice’s. The older woman would be disappointed at her impending departure, but it couldn’t be helped. Joshua wouldn’t have written if their mother wasn’t in danger. Ma wouldn’t allow it.

A blast of cold air blew snow under the overhanging roof and lifted the hem of her skirt. That was one thing she’d never gotten used to—the deep snow and cold winters of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When her fiancé, Ralph, was alive, she’d figured she’d live here forever, but after he died three years ago, her life had floundered more than once. If it weren’t for the fact her seven-year-old nephew Toby lived here, she might have moved on long ago. Of course, her friendship with his stepmother, Alexia—or Alex, as she liked to be called—and his father, Justin, had been a factor in her decision, as well.

This might be the change she’d been seeking, though. She loved the small hamlet of Last Chance, but maybe it was time for a new place and a more promising future. She appreciated all her close friends had done when they’d drawn her in and accepted her in spite of her past as a saloon girl. But so often she felt like someone on the outside looking in. While many of the townspeople were kind, her past always hovered in the background. Some had never forgiven the poor choices she’d made.

The last three years had seen her float about with no purpose or sense of direction. Nothing in her life had turned out as she’d dreamed when only a young girl. So many
if onlys
followed by one disappointment and wrong choice after another. She’d hoped to start her own business here in Last Chance but had drifted down the easier path of working for Miss Alice at her boardinghouse. She desperately needed to figure out where she belonged—where she could make a difference.

A sense of excitement combined with dread warred inside her. She’d miss her young nephew terribly, and dealing with Ma’s querulous attitude would be difficult, but the thought of starting over where no one but family knew her brought a definite exhilaration.

The two days since the telegram arrived had been a whirlwind of activity, saying good-bye to friends and packing for the trip. Christy stood in front of the general store choking back the emotion threatening to swamp her. She hadn’t realized how hard it would be to leave these people she’d grown to love.

Alex leaned against her husband, Justin, who held their two-year-old daughter, Grace, in his arms while seven-year-old Toby clung to her skirts. So many bittersweet memories centered on this family. Like the time she’d ridden down the hill and gotten her first glimpse of Justin and Alexia’s ranch. The two had been outside giving three-year-old Toby a riding lesson. The child’s shriek of joy carried across the meadow, and his delight in “widing the horsey” had almost turned her from her less-than-honorable pursuit of snatching the boy from his father. Thankfully, all had ended well and she’d grown closer to these three people than she’d ever hoped or imagined.

Christy reached for Alex and gave her a hug. “You’ve been like a sister to me.” She choked out the words. “I wish I could take you all with me.”

Alex squeezed her back and took a half step away. “Me too. Are you sure you need to go? You can’t bring your mother here to live?”

“No.” Christy shook her head as a deep certainty swelled in her heart. “My younger brother needs someone in his life, as well. I want to make a difference, Alex. I haven’t been able to do that here.”

“But you have! Toby adores you and so do we.”

“I know, and I love you all. But that’s not what I mean. I want my life to matter in some deeper way. I feel like I’ve wasted so much of it in the past. Maybe caring for my mother will fill the longing in my heart. I’m hoping things will have changed between her and me, now that she’s ill. And Joshua’s not had the best of influences with Logan, Ma’s recent husband. Joshua is only nineteen, and I’m afraid he’s making poor choices. My presence might help turn him around.”

“I understand.” Alex glanced at Justin and smiled. “I know my life changed after meeting Justin and Toby. I hope and pray something equally wonderful will happen for you.”

Christy turned to Justin and raised her face to his. “I need to talk to you about something personal. I hope you’ll hear me out.”

He shifted his daughter to his other arm. Alex reached out and Grace went willingly to her mother, wrapping her small arms around her neck. “What is it, Christy?”

Alex grasped Toby’s hand and drew him aside while cradling the little girl on her hip. “Let’s go look in the shop. Maybe we’ll find something you can take home after Aunt Christy leaves.”

Toby gave a shout of glee and rushed to the door. “Thank you, Mama. I’d like some lollipops.”

“All right, but we’ll hurry so we can come back and say good-bye to your aunt.” The bell on the door tinkled as they made their way inside.

Christy smiled as the boy disappeared from sight.

She sucked in a sharp breath and blew it out through her nostrils, trying to form the words that needed to be said. Why did it feel like she was about to betray her sister? That didn’t make sense, since Molly had been dead almost five years. “I want to thank you.” Her voice choked.

Justin patted her shoulder. “Nothing to thank me for.”

She gripped his hand and held on tight. “Yes, there is. Molly…” She forced herself to continue. “Molly didn’t deserve you.” She suddenly felt the need to release the pent-up dam that had been growing higher the past few months and now must come toppling down. So much had accumulated over the past five years. The loss of her sister, the discovery of her nephew, Toby, Ralph’s untimely death, and her need to discover where she belonged. The words came in a rush. “She had everything. A husband who cared enough to stay with her, even when he knew her child wasn’t his. A son should have been enough reason for her to get up every morning with joy, instead of drinking herself deeper into sorrow over a no-good man who didn’t deserve her love.”

Justin shook his head. “No, Christy. You don’t have to do this. She was your sister.”

“Yes, and I loved her in spite of all the wrong choices she made, but that doesn’t excuse what she did. I want you to know I honor and respect you for loving Toby and being such a wonderful father. What Molly did was wrong, but she taught me so much about what’s really important. Because of her, I decided to leave the life I’d been living. Because of her, I knew I’d never again allow a man to trample on my freedom or take advantage of me. Because of her, I know how valuable family really is.” A sob cut her off, and Justin wrapped his long arms around her and drew her close. She hadn’t cried when she’d heard Molly had walked in front of a fast-moving team and died under the wheels of the wagon—she’d been too numb.

Justin hugged and released her, then withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it into her hand. “But he’s my son, no matter who fathered him. Nothing will ever change that. At one time I loved his mother, even if she never loved me, and Toby contains all the good things in Molly.”

“I know.” She whispered the words.

“Remember her when she was young, Christy. Think about the good times, not who she became. That’s what I do.”

“Thank you.” She gave him one last hug and swiped the tears from her cheeks.

Justin stepped to the door of the store and called inside, “Hey, you three, hurry on out here. Christy needs to leave soon.”

Toby raced out the door waving a fistful of lollipops, and Alex followed with Grace sucking on one.

Toby’s face blazed with delight; he pressed all of the candy into her hand. “I got some for you, Aunt Christy.”

“No, honey. I can’t take all of it. Just one, okay?” She handed him back the rest, then leaned down for one last hug, wrapping her arms around the brown-haired boy. “Make sure your Papa and Mama bring you to visit me.”

“Why do you have to go, Aunt Christy?” The little boy’s lament nearly tore her heart in two.

“My mama is sick and needs me. If your mama were sick, you’d want to take care of her, wouldn’t you?”

Toby turned a watery smile on Alex. “But Mama is fine. I want you to stay here with us.”

“I know, sweetheart, but I have to go. We’ll see each other again, I promise.” She placed a firm kiss on his cheek and straightened.

“Alex.” Christy had promised herself she wouldn’t cry, but as the other woman’s slender arms wrapped around her, the renegade tears rolled. “I’ll miss you so much.” She whispered the words, not wanting to upset Toby further.

Alex nodded against her hair. “Me too. You’ve become one of my closest friends, and I hate to see you go.” She pulled back but retained her grip on Christy’s upper arms. “Do you think you’ll come back here to live?”

“I can’t say. Joshua didn’t give me any details about Ma’s condition, so I won’t know more until I arrive in Tombstone.”

“I understand. We’ll come visit when we can. Maybe after roundup is done, and the horses are shipped to market.” She gave Christy one last hug. “Remember, God is in control. Trust Him with your future, and you’ll come out all right.”

Christy smiled but didn’t reply. She’d never quite accepted the religion that brought such comfort to so many in this small town but didn’t want to hurt her friend by saying so. Besides, she didn’t need God to be in control. The past four years she’d made good decisions for her life and turned things around pretty much on her own. She doubted moving to Tombstone to tend to Ma would require God’s involvement.

A burly man with long whiskers, rough clothing, and leading a string of pack mules motioned at Christy. “Miss, it’s time to go.”

Alex grimaced. “I wish you didn’t have to take the mule train to Foresthill.”

Christy forced a smile. “I’ll be able to ride the stage from Foresthill to Auburn, and get on the train there until well past Tucson, so this will be the worst part.”

The mule driver stepped closer. “We got to leave, Miss. Don’t want to be caught in a canyon after dark. We’ll make it to Michigan Bluff tonight.” He took Christy’s arm and guided her to a mule standing head to the ground. “You mind sittin’ astride?”

“I’m quite capable.” She set a foot in the stirrup, holding her skirt out of the way as she swung into the saddle. “I made this trip a few years ago and did fine.”

Justin raised a hand in farewell. “You’re always welcome in our home, Christy. If things don’t work out in Tombstone, we want you to come back here.”

“Thank you.” Christy swallowed a lump in her throat. “I love you all.”

She picked up her reins and nudged her mule forward as the teamster led the string down the main street of Last Chance.

Good things would happen in her future; she was sure of it.

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