Work is coming along nicely on Victoria’s Promise, the second book in my Brides of Serenity series. I am aiming for a Valentine’s Day release, but nothing is set in stone just yet.
Victoria’s Promise is the story of a grieving young widow who comes to Serenity to start a new life as the town rebuilds after the tragic fire that swept through the state the previous fall. She meets Will Baxter, the shopkeeper who is appalled to discover that the new schoolteacher is not at all what he was expecting.
If you’ve read Letters to Caroline, you’ll be happy to know that Caroline, Adam, and the others will be back for more adventures this time around. And if you haven’t read it yet, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon. (Hint, hint.)
Just to whet your appetite for my next book, here is a little preview of the opening chapter of Victoria’s Promise. I hope you all enjoy it!
“Promise, Victoria,” the man wheezed.
Victoria Dawson brushed her fingers across his warm face. “Shh, Matthew, I’m here. Everything is going to be all right. Just rest.”
Matthew turned his face toward her. His blue eyes were bright with fever, but she saw awareness in his gaze. For the moment, at least, he knew what was happening.
“Promise me,” he repeated.
“Anything,” she whispered. “What do you need, my love?”
“Marry again . . . after. Find a man who will love you as much . . . as I did.”
“Don’t be silly, Matthew.” She laughed without a trace a humor in her voice. “You’re going to be just fine in a few days.”
“Stop it!” Victoria rose from her chair beside their bed and stalked to the window. The St. Clair River sparkled in the rising sun on what promised to be another hot, steamy day, and she ached for the touch of a cool breeze on her skin. She wondered idly if autumn was drawing near; she had lost count of how many days and weeks she had spent in this bedroom tending to her husband in his illness.
Dr. Winslow had told her that it was only a matter of days at this point. The disease that ravaged Matthew’s body was slowly taking his life, and there was nothing anyone could do to save him.
“I want you to leave Port Huron . . . start a new life away from . . . memories of me.”
She whirled and stared at him. Surely he was delirious again. No sane man would suggest that she leave the cozy little home they had made for themselves here.
But his eyes were still clear as he stared at her. “I wrote . . . letters,” he said, and began coughing.
She hurried back to his side and held him as the coughs racked his body. When the spasms finally eased, she wiped the flecks of blood from his lips and helped him take small sips of water. “Rest,” she whispered, kissing his cheek.
“I wrote letters,” he said again. “Forgive me.”
“What – what kind of letters, Matthew?”
“They need a teacher in Serenity,” he told her. “I said you’d . . . take the job. When I – when I am gone . . . sell the house and go. Start over.”
She gasped. She hadn’t taught since she married him nearly two years ago, and even then she’d been one of a handful of teachers at a big-city school. Serenity was a backwoods lumber town on the other side of the state. She wasn’t prepared to teach at under those conditions. Besides . . .
“But I want to stay and take care of you,” she protested.
“I’ll be gone soon,” her husband said. “Promise me, Victoria. . . you’ll start over in Serenity . . . you’ll marry again. Please. Give me your word.”
She opened her mouth to protest again, but stopped when she saw the haunted look in his eyes. In that moment, she realized that it was time to believe both her husband and the doctor. Matthew was not long for this world. He needed peace of mind in his final moments.
“I promise,” she said slowly, choking back tears.
He smiled and closed his eyes, drifting into a fitful sleep. Victoria stayed with him through the night, holding his hand and wiping his face with a damp cloth from time to time. And when he slipped away sometime near morning, she kissed his forehead one more time.
“I promise,” she told him again. “I promise to make a fresh start, and I promise to marry again. But I will never love anyone again, Matthew. Never.”