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Authors: Lori Copeland

Yellow Rose Bride

BOOK: Yellow Rose Bride
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Praise for CBA bestselling author
L
ORI
C
OPELAND

“Copeland's latest historical is a fun Western romance in the vein of Linda Lael Miller and Rosanne Bittner, with colorful characters and a spirited plot.”

—
Library Journal
on
Yellow Rose Bride

“As always, Lori Copeland manages to find something new and fresh to bring to her ‘love and laughter' Western romances. The wild ostriches, the cast of delightful, endearing characters and the added mystery all lend themselves to making
Bridal Lace and Buckskin
a delight!”

—
Romantic Times BOOKreviews

“Copeland scores big with her latest historical about a woman and a doctor who argue about the best way to handle women's health concerns. The characters are strong, and the issue will resonate with contemporary readers.”

—
Romantic Times BOOKreviews
on
Bluebonnet Belle

“A riveting adventure in page-turning mystery and laugh-out-loud humor. Lori Copeland at her best!”

—Karen Kingsbury, bestselling author of
Sunrise
on
A Case of Bad Taste

Yellow Rose
BRIDE
L
ORI
C
OPELAND

Refreshed version of
BRIDAL LACE AND BUCKSKIN,
newly revised by the author.

To Cheryl Hodde, Brenda Minton and Barbara Warren;
gal pals that keep me laughing through the ups and
downs of publishing.

Dear Reader,

Often an author gets the privilege to revise older novels—to go back and say all she meant to say, but didn't.
Yellow Rose Bride
is such a book. Originally published in 1996 in the secular market as
Bridal Lace and Buckskin,
Vonnie's and Adam's story quickly became a favorite with readers.

In 1998, I moved to the Christian market, where I now write exclusively, but my older work lives on. I was asked to rewrite
Buckskin
for the Christian market, a God-given opportunity to portray the characters and their values in a new light. I hope you'll enjoy the story—laugh and cry with a couple destined to be together both here and in eternity.

Warmly,

Prologue

Louisiana/Texas Border, 1865

A
beleaguered set of riders topped a rise. Shoulders rounded and heads bobbing with fatigue, the weary band rode slowly toward home.

Heat rose from the rutted surface in shimmering mirages; the horses' heavy hooves left puffs of dry dust in the air. The backs and underarms of the men's uniforms showed dark sweat pouring from bodies so thin that bones poked through their pale skin.

The soldiers were young, mere boys. War had aged them far beyond their years, stripped their faces of innocence, toughened their hearts and attitudes. Fatigue and bitterness marked their features now; their eyes darted warily to every bush and ditch.

Could it have been only three short years since they
had ridden away from their families, filled with idealism, confident of victory?

“Let the Yanks come!” they'd shouted. The South would give them what-for and send them packing, tails tucked in shame.

With fear in their hearts and prayers on their lips, mothers had watched their sons ride into battle.

Fathers had stood by, grim faced, throats working against painful knots that choked the very life from their hearts. A man didn't cry, but he hurt. Hurt real bad.

Reaching the crossroad, the soldiers paused to shake hands.

Removing his hat, the oldest, El Johnson, spoke first, his voice dry and void of emotion. “Guess this is where we split up.” Horses shied, tails switching flies.

The men nodded briefly before reining their horses in opposite directions.

They had ridden only a few yards before El turned to shout over his shoulder. “No need to let this ruin our lives. War is war. A man ought not be judged for doing what he's called to do.”

Now they were forced to relive the past few hours. There wasn't a one who would say they had intended it to happen. Coming up on that family—

Nerves frayed, tempers short. The war was over, but apparently the family hadn't heard the news.

Each rider searched his conscience for some explanation, a straw to grasp to alleviate his own guilt. Had he believed his life to be at stake? Was that why it happened?

There was no way of knowing now whether the family meant them harm. But if the farmer hadn't pulled his rifle…if El hadn't panicked and fired first…

If.

If.

It had all happened so fast. One minute they were warily eyeing each other, the next, violence erupted.

Brutal, unflinching violence.

Shots rang out. Screams filled the air.

Why? God, why?

Heat wrapped around the men like a wet blanket, stifling and oppressive. The air smelled of sweat and blood. Time had stood still.

Afterward, the riders stared transfixed at the lifeless bodies slumped on the blood-soaked ground, horrified by the unexpected brutality. The old man, his wife, two sons and a daughter stared sightlessly up at them.

No matter how many times the men had witnessed death, it made them sick to their stomachs. How did such injustice happen? They weren't bent on vengeance. They were going home.

Home!

The war was over—there wasn't going to be any more killing in the name of glory.

The tangible smell of death had hung thick in the air. Teague Taylor finally spoke, his voice a harsh whisper. “Let's get out of here.”

The men had stood paralyzed, hats in hand, tears rolling from the corners of their eyes as they viewed the carnage.
Franz began to recite The Lord's Prayer in a hushed, heavy German accent. P.K. suddenly bolted toward the bushes to be sick.

Finally, Teague spoke. “We can't just leave them here. We have to bury them.”

They studied the young girl, maybe three, four years old, a rag doll still clutched tightly to the front of her bloody dress.

“Somebody's
got
to bury them. It's not fittin' to leave them here like this,” Teague demanded.

P.K. and Franz quietly moved toward their horses for shovels.

As the sound of steel bit into earth, El said that he was going to search the wagon for valuables.

The others stayed back, trying to distance themselves.

Jumping down from the wagon a while later, El grinned, holding up a black velvet pouch for inspection. “Look at this.”

Teague eyed the sack warily. His filthy uniform was ragged, his shoes worn through at the soles and toes. “What is it?”

“Jewels. Priceless jewels.” El lowered his voice. “Rubies, sapphires, diamonds—there's a king's ransom here!”

The boy turned away. “Put it back. We can't take it. It's not ours.”

“Are you crazy? And leave it for someone else?” El's eyes darted to Franz and P.K., then back to Teague. Thrusting the pouch into the boy's clenched fist, he
growled, “Look, I'm not proud of what happened, either, but it happened. Keep your mouth shut—I'm going to search the bodies.”

Teague watched as El rolled the farmer's lifeless form onto its back and searched the coveralls. Removing a gold pocket watch, he tossed it to Teague.

Teague stared at the ill-gotten gain, fighting back a wave of sickness.

When he looked up again, P.K. had stopped short to lean on his shovel, his eyes fastened on Teague. His gaze hardened. Disgust was evident in his strained features.

Teague swallowed. He wanted to shout that it wasn't his pouch or watch, that El had forced it on him, but his horror at what he had seen stilled his tongue. Words failed him. Loathing burned hot in P.K.'s eyes as he spun on his heel and walked off.

As the last spadeful of dirt covered the graves, P.K. Baldwin averted his eyes. A muscle worked tightly in his jaw, and condemnation burned brightly in his eyes.

The soldiers stood motionless, staring at the five fresh graves. They turned and walked back to the horses.

As El passed Teague, he grinned. “Keep your mouth shut.”

Teague winced. “Those jewels have blood on them!”

El's features hardened. “Don't be a
fool.
You've got a family to think of. We all do.”

Swinging into his saddle, El motioned the small party to move out.

Teague stared at the pouch, bile rising to his throat. Spiraling out of the saddle, he stumbled to the bushes and lost the little bit of food they'd scavenged that day.

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