Coming Up Roses
From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Anderson comes the emotionally gripping story of a woman who must overcome her painful past before she can accept a good man’s love...
1890, Oregon. Recently widowed Kate Blakely is struggling to make ends meet on her small farm while trying to heal from the scars of her late husband’s cruelty. When her handsome, brawny neighbor, Zachariah McGovern, almost dies while saving her four-year-old daughter from a near fatal accident, Kate is deeply wary of the man she brings into her home to nurse back to health.
Gradually Kate realizes that underneath Zach’s rough exterior is a gentle, loving soul who is fiercely protective of her and her daughter. But as much as Zach longs for Kate’s love, she knows she can’t open her heart without revealing her darkest secret—a shocking truth that, if discovered, could destroy them both.
Compliments of an overcast sky, a shaft of anemic afternoon sunshine came through the window of the otherwise cheerless kitchen. Even on fair-weather days, the unpainted plank walls, floor, and ceiling made the room seem bleak.
Leaning sideways to avoid getting smoke in her eyes, Kate Blakely shoved another chunk of laurel into the fire and settled the range lid back into place. Strings of pitch ignited, sizzling and snapping inside the belly of the stove. The merry crackling had always brightened Kate’s mood, and, despite everything, she still loved the sound.
As she walked back across the kitchen, Kate craned her neck to look out the window at the old willow in the yard. The tree’s dense canopy of trailing branches swayed in the light breeze, an indication that it would probably be dark before the storm blew in. From the looks of the clouds hovering over the mountains, they would bring thunder and lightning, too, unless the wind picked up. A real sky ripper.
The thought made the back of Kate’s throat prickle.
She forced the tension from her shoulders. There was nothing to do but put a bright face on it and pretend the darkening sky didn’t worry her. Her little girl, Miranda, became agitated enough during thunderstorms without Kate adding spice to the stew.
Darned weather, anyway. Southwestern Oregon always got a lot of rain, but this year beat all. Here it was mid-June already.
She glanced at the lantern that hung from a ceiling beam above her. During the storm tonight, she would have to light the lamps to keep Miranda calm, and that would deplete their weekly ration of fuel. If she expected to save enough from her egg and milk money to make Miranda some school dresses and buy paint for the kitchen, she couldn’t use a lamp every time the mood struck.
With a sigh, Kate picked up the dog-eared journal and carried it to the trickle of feeble sunlight over the sink. As she circled the slop bucket, used to collect food scraps for the hogs, the swirl of her black cotton twill skirt disturbed a fly. The insect, sluggish from the unseasonably chill weather, buzzed around her head and then swooped down to land on the open pages.
She waved the fly away and leaned into the light but still couldn’t tell how many tablespoons of rolled sugar the recipe called for. By all rights, she should know the recipe for her grandma’s crullers by heart, but her husband had never allowed her to make them. Joseph claimed sweets were as addicting and bad for the moral character as alcohol, especially for females who were feebleminded and more easily led astray than men.
Since Joseph’s death, the one luxury Kate spent money on was sugar. Other children had sweets several times a week, and Kate was determined Miranda’s childhood, from here on out, was going to be as normal as she could make it. As far as Kate could tell, neither she nor Miranda had been led astray by their frequent consumption of sugar, or suffered any other ill effects. Unless, of course, one counted the weight each of them had gained. Kate didn’t. Miranda needed meat on her bones, and her own figure was no longer of great importance. If her waist became too thick to be spanned by a man’s hands, so be it. The only time a man would have call to grasp her waist would be to help her out of her wagon when she went to town, and not then if she could avoid it.
“Ma, you’re squintin’ again. If you don’t stop, we’ll need another milk cow to keep you stocked with wrinkle remedy.”
“The devil take wrinkles. What worries me is that I must need spectacles.” Kate held the journal out as far as her arm would reach. “If I don’t stop reading by candlelight, I’ll be blind as a mole before I’m thirty.”
Just the thought of having to give up her nightly reading time made Kate feel anxious. For five endless years, her husband Joseph had never allowed her to open a book, save the Bible, and now that she could read whenever she wished, she couldn’t get enough of it. Two-month-old newspapers. Outdated catalogs. Yellowed issues of Harper’s Bazaar.
If her eyes failed, she’d have to give up those moments she set aside for herself every evening. She didn’t know why, but over the last few months, she had come to need that solitary time even more than she needed sleep, which was saying something.
Selfish, selfish. What if she truly did need spectacles? She had more important uses for her eyes than reading. Sewing, for instance. She couldn’t afford to dress Miranda in ready-made. She shifted her gaze to the crockery bowl on the icebox where she kept her meager savings. Nearly every penny in the bowl was targeted for other expenditures, and she had hoped to save those that weren’t to buy prune trees to start a small orchard next year. Prunes were proving to be a very profitable crop in the Umpqua valley, and since they didn’t require the back muscle that so many other crops did, Kate felt she could raise them.
If she had to buy spectacles, how much would they cost? Unless she missed her guess, they were frightfully expensive. It was yet another worry to add to her list. Feeling overwhelmed, Kate forced her mind back to the moment. Without a husband to provide the necessities, getting by had become enough of a struggle without thinking ahead to disasters that hadn’t even happened yet. Besides, she had to think of Miranda. The child had seen long faces aplenty in her short lifetime.
Giving up on the recipe, she laid down the journal and narrowed an eye at her daughter, who sat atop a stack of books on a chair at the table. It took her a moment to recall what Miranda had been talking about. No small wonder. The child chattered like a squirrel gathering winter nuts. “Where did you hear that milk was a remedy for wrinkles?”
too short to see into the array of green baking canisters before her, Miranda was engaged in a touch-and taste exploration of the ingredients Kate had set out on the table. Having just sampled the sugar, the child licked her finger again, stuck it in the baking soda, tasted, and shuddered. Kate hadn’t the heart to scold. Not long ago, Miranda wouldn’t have dared do such a thing. The change in her was nothing short of a miracle.
Her small face still contorted with distaste, Miranda shuddered again before she answered Kate’s question. “When we was in the general store, I heard Mrs. Raimer talkin’. She says Abigail snipes, the dairyman’s wife, has the purdiest confection in town ’cause her man has so many cows.”
“Complexion, not confection,” Kate corrected. “And keep your fingers out of that saleratus. I don’t mind you sneaking sugar, but the saleratus isn’t to eat.”
“Pa ate it.”
“Only for indigestion.” feeling a little apprehensive at the mention of Joseph because she was never quite sure how Miranda might handle the memories, Kate approached the table with a brisk step and added eight tablespoons of sugar to the ingredients in her bowl. “The recipe be hanged. The sweeter, the better, right?” flicking her daughter a teasing glance, she added, “and I’ll remind you not to contradict your elders, young lady. You’re only four years old, and I guess I know better than you if saleratus is good to eat.”
Miranda swiped at a streak of flour on her cheek. “Do birthdays make people smarter?”
“So they say, which means I’m seventeen birthdays smarter than you, so mind what I say.”
With a dubious glance at the baking soda tin, Mi
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