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The Cattleman's Bride

The Cattleman's Bride

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Cora Hatch thought she could raise a family and grow old with her husband, but when she finds herself a young widow with nothing to her name, she answers an advertisement to become a cook, housekeeper, and farm help to a stranger out west. Now all she has to do is take a train across the country and marry a cattleman she’s only communicated with through letters, though that sounds like a monumental feat.

Levi Finch is tired of hearing his father complain about his cooking and since the old man won’t remarry, Levi decides it’s up to him to find a woman to help out at the ranch. Placing an advertisement for someone to help them seems to be the only logical answer. When Cora, a widow from back east, responds to his advertisement, he’s certain the woman can slip into the role that had been taken care of by his mother.

But when Cora arrives, sparks start to fly between him and his new wife. Will they be able to get past their plan to just be partners in life and not in love? Or will they spend the rest of their lives, longing for each other?

Intro into Chapter One

Levi would need to leave soon if he wanted to get to Birch Creek’s train station before she arrived. It had been more than a month since he’d first received a response from his advertisement. He’d almost given up hope that someone would answer it. When he’d first been told about the option of placing an advertisement for a wife, it had seemed almost unbelievable that a woman would choose to come marry a man she’d never met.
He had hoped he could find a good woman that would be happy at the idea of having a husband and an eventual family in exchange for helping him run his homestead. But he hadn’t actually expected to get a response, even with the results Michael Clark, the blacksmith in Birch Creek, had gotten.
Michael had been the first one to send for a bride. When he’d suggested it to Levi about eight months ago while he’d been in town for some ironwork, Levi hadn’t given it much merit.
But the more Levi’s father complained about the lack of upkeep at the house as well as the requirement to cook their own food, Levi had started thinking it might be good to hire a cook. Yet he’d have to pay for one, and right now, things were tight. Until they could get the herd fattened then transferred to Boise and sold, there would be nothing he could pay another person with.
Besides, since they lived twelve miles from Birch Creek, a cook or housekeeper would need to live there with them, and unless she was married to one of the farm hands, there was bound to be some issues arise.
So Levi had placed an advertisement for a mail order bride thinking it might be possible for himself, or even his father to convince some woman to move out west. Pa had flat-out refused to even consider remarrying. And when Levi had brought up the concept to his cow hands, none of his employees seemed willing to marry. William kept insisting he was too old and too ornery for such nonsense, Tucker had said he didn’t want to consider a wife until he had a home to bring her to, and Jake claimed he was still too young to be tied down to a wife. Besides, the two cowhands usually spent their time with the herd and no woman in her right mind would put up with that.
When he’d read Cora’s letter informing him that she was a widow, but would be able to do all things related to caring for his home and cooking as well as the animals on the farm, he’d been thrilled. Since she’d already been married, she wouldn’t have any issues with being married again. He wouldn’t have to teach her how to take care of a home or a farm. That would free Levi up to focus on the work of caring for his herd and making sure the fences and grazing land was monitored.
They had sent two letters each, explaining things and coming to an agreement before he had sent her a train ticket to bring her to Birch Creek. And now, the day had finally arrived.
Levi took the horse they used for pulling the wagon and led her over to it then hooked her up. It wouldn’t do any good to get his hopes up. There had been a few other men in Birch Creek that had sent for wives, and each of them had had good luck. The odds of him receiving a similar type woman wasn’t great. And since she was a widow, she would be bringing all that heartache with her. Levi had seen how hard his pa had taken Ma’s death. If this Cora had the same kind of feelings about her late husband, Levi might have difficulty trying to convince her to care for him.
“Pa, I’m about to leave for Birch Creek. You sure you don’t want to come along?”
“I’m sure,” Elmer Finch replied gruffly. “I already told you I’d promised Jake I’d help him with that back stretch by the creek.”
Levi nodded. It would make things easier on him to not have his father come with. He’d hashed out his reasoning for placing the advertisement over and over with the old man, but his pa only complained about the waste of money that had been required to pay for this bride’s train ticket out here.
It would take most of the morning and even into the early afternoon before Levi reached Birch Creek. And if this Cora Hatch turned out to be suitable for a wife after they’d met, they would have to make sure the preacher in Birch Creek would marry them. Unless they wanted to travel to Oakley to find the judge who could oversee the vows.
Knowing it wouldn’t do him any good to make plans until he knew for sure this Cora would work out, Levi tried to focus his thoughts on the things he would need to do around the ranch in the next few weeks.


Cora watched the other passengers as they prepared to leave the train. The train would be stopped there for a short time while the passengers were allowed to get off and move around for a few minutes as supplies were taken from the cargo carts. They’d arrived in Birch Creek and for Cora it was the end of her travels. Or so she hoped. If things didn’t turn out well with Levi, maybe she’d find herself heading to California. She knew there were lots of opportunities to find employment out there. But she did hope Levi would be a good man. She wanted to have a home, and she knew how to care for a house, a garden, and work a farm.
Trying to find another option again didn’t sound pleasant at all. Besides, she had no money to purchase a ticket and move on to anywhere else. It had been Levi’s funds that allowed her to make the trip out here to Birch Creek in the first place. No, this would be where she ended up staying. Cora closed her eyes and prayed fervently that this would be a good situation. That she would be treated well and that she could help Levi and make him happy.
The passengers in the car with her had all stepped outside and Cora finally stood. It was time. She picked up the small bag she’d held nearby her and walked down the aisle between the seats toward the end of the train car. The trunk would be a completely different problem.
When she stood at the doorway to exit the train, the conductor approached her.
“This is your stop, is it not?”
Cora nodded. “It is.”
“I’ll unload your trunk then.” He moved over to the side where the cases and trunks were placed and manhandled her only property until it was in a place he could then lift it out of the train car.
Cora stepped down the tight ladder onto the stool that had been placed on the platform. She gave a quick look around at the people waiting on the station platform in hopes of seeing the man who would become her husband.
There were too many people milling around, and none of them looking at her specifically. How was she supposed to determine which one was Levi? They hadn’t gone into a lot of details about what they looked like besides his comment that he was a tall man with a beard and nearly black hair.
There were a few men that had beards, though only one had black hair, and he wasn’t overly tall.
Where was Levi?
And what would she do if he took one look at her and changed his mind?


Levi flicked the reins of the horse pulling the wagon. He’d seen the train in the distance traveling along the base of the far hill while Levi was still more than two miles away from Birch Creek. He’d had problem after problem on the journey to pick up his bride and he had begun to wonder if he’d ever make it.
Levi hoped Cora Hatch had made it safely. Had she gotten off the train when he wasn’t there to meet her? She knew the name of the town. She would have had to get off here if her ticket was only paid this far. That was if she had even gotten on the train. If he had to return to his father and admit he’d been a fool to send a ticket to a strange woman with the hope that she’d agree to come out to Idaho to be his wife, he would never live it down.
She had seemed honest enough in the letters. He could only pray she’d done as she’d agreed. He couldn’t afford to come back on another trip if she had missed the train back in New York State. The best he could hope for was that things had gone smoothly, and they could be married today and then be on their way back to his ranch immediately.
In his eagerness to reach the town, he’d probably pushed his horse a little too hard. Levi watched the horse more closely. That back leg seemed to be causing it some difficulty. He slowed down and the horse didn’t limp or struggle as much so he pulled the wagon to a stop.
After hopping down, Levi looked at the leg, then lifted it to check for rocks or sticks that might be irritating the hoof. He could see nothing obvious and needed to get back on his way. Levi would have to examine it better when he reached town. Hopefully it was something simple like a shoe issue. Michael could help him with the fit of the shoe if that was the case.
If there was an injury, it would be a difficult return trip back to his homestead, especially if he got the supplies he planned to pick up from the Howard’s mercantile. If he didn’t make it home tonight, his father would be an ornery bear when he finally did arrive home.
Levi took a slow, deep breath to try calming the mounting frustration building in his chest.
When Levi reached the town’s edge, he looked at the blacksmith’s shop. No one was inside currently so he continued on to the local store. He pulled the horse and wagon up near the mercantile’s steps and handed the list to Mr. Howard who stepped outside to meet him.
“Mind getting a start on this?” Levi asked. “I’ve got to run meet someone.”
“Sure thing, Mr. Finch. Want it loaded in the wagon as well?”
“Yes please, Mr. Howard. I’d appreciate it.”
Mr. Howard nodded and turned to reenter the store as Levi set off at a rapid pace toward the train station in the near distance.
There were a few people on the platform, but not many. Most were looking through the few boxes and crates still lined up along the edge of the platform with tags and labels on them.
A plump woman with an odd hat and a few trunks stood by the far side of the building as she looked at the schedule for when the stage coaches would be coming through. He looked around but could see no sign of another woman. Maybe this was his bride to be. He climbed the stairs to the platform and approached the woman, his heart pounding with nerves. Hopefully she had a pleasant face and disposition. And if he was lucky, she wouldn’t be too fond of that hat.
“Are you Mrs. Hatch?” Levi asked.
The woman turned around and met his eyes. “No. Sorry.”
Levi tilted his hat. “I apologize for interrupting you, ma’am. Have a nice day.” He stepped away as the woman turned her attention back to the board. Levi walked to the other side of the platform, looking for any sign of the woman he was supposed to meet. Had she not arrived? The frustration of the journey here, the loss of a good work day, and the possibility of more travel was bad enough. But the thought of losing the money he’d sent her and then the subsequent argument with his father about it increased his annoyance.
Levi walked to the station’s ticket office and opened the door. Bending slightly to get through the door without hitting his head, he stepped inside and looked around but saw only one person.
“How are you today, Mr. Finch?” the man behind the counter asked.
“Doing all right,” Levi said. “I was supposed to meet someone who was to be on this train. Had some trouble with my horse and I’m late and don’t see any sign of her. Do you know if there were any other passengers who got off to stay?”
“I do recall seeing a woman with a trunk who waited here for close to half an hour. I don’t know where she went though. What does this woman look like?”
Levi ran his hand through his hair then scratched his chin under his scruffy beard. He didn’t want to get into any details about her, especially since he knew so very little. “Never mind, I’ll find her. Thanks.” Levi turned around and left the building quickly before the clerk could ask anything else.
He took another look around the station in case he had missed something before, but there was no other woman. He walked over to the crates and trunks on the platform, hoping to see something labeled with her name.
Nothing to indicate any of the boxes belonged to Cora Hatch.
Had he been cheated?
Levi clomped down the stairs of the platform and headed to the mercantile. At least he could get the supplies they needed for back home. And maybe the Howards knew something. Being the center of town, and the place most people stopped by at least once a day if they were out and about, the Howards would be the most likely people to have some information.
Levi nodded to the folks in the area who called out greetings to him. He didn’t feel like talking to anyone, especially if it became known that he had been cheated by a woman he hadn’t even met. The less everyone knew and remembered about seeing him here, the better.
He took the few stairs to the mercantile in one bound and ducked to enter inside the building. His height had always been an issue when he went to places he hadn’t had part in building himself.
“Got most everything on your list,” Mr. Howard said. “Though we are out of dried beans.”
Levi nodded. “Will you be getting some in?”
“Next time the train comes through we should have some. We put in an order.”
“Thanks, Mr. Howard.” Levi glanced around the store to see if anyone else was inside. When he was certain they were alone, he asked. “The person I was supposed to meet at the train station wasn’t there. Have you heard anything about a passenger?”
“Oh,” Mr. Howard said. “The missus said something about a woman looking lost when she and Annabelle went to the station to pick up Annabelle’s order. Let me see if either of them know something.”
Mr. Howard walked into the back room and called for his wife, but Levi didn’t hear any response. After a moment, Mr. Howard returned to the store front.
“She’s not back there. My guess is she’s over next door at Annabelle’s shop. Did you ever meet my daughter-in-law? She’s a seamstress. Son married her a while back when she came out here to be a mail-order-bride. Annabelle almost ended up married to Lester. Can you believe it?”
“She picked someone else?” Levi said, not knowing who this Lester guy was.
“When Lester showed up drunk at the station and nearly accosted the poor girl, Colten stepped up and made sure she was safe.”
Levi relaxed a little at the news. “I suppose that makes sense. Haven’t had the pleasure of meeting this Lester. But if he was a danger to the girl, it’s a good thing she had someone else to call on for assistance.”
“Lester took off with a few of the more unsavory men of the area. Haven’t seen him for a while now. Here’s hoping he’s moved on far away so he won’t cause any more trouble with anyone.”
Mr. Howard nodded at another customer who entered in the front door then he looked back at Levi. “Maybe go next door and see if you can find your friend you were supposed to meet.”
Levi stepped toward the door and glanced back at Mr. Howard who was studying him with speculation. Let him wonder, Levi thought. Unless he found Cora, there wouldn’t be anything for him to know anyway. And if Mrs. Howard had found a lost looking woman, it might be the one he needed to find.
The building right next door to the mercantile was still new enough that the wood was a lighter color than the other buildings. The large front window had a display case and inside he could see some dresses as well as some quilts. Past the display area, he could see four women. One was Mrs. Howard, and another was heavy with child. Levi thought she might be the blacksmith’s wife, Mrs. Clark. He couldn’t tell who the other two were.
Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and hoped he would discover that one of these women was supposed to be his wife.


Cora laughed at the easy banter between the women she’d just met. Mrs. Howard was the kind of woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer, so Cora had found herself bustled away from the train station with Mrs. Howard and her daughter-in-law. They’d come to the station with Mr. Colten Howard to pick up their order of sewing supplies and fabric to restock Annabelle’s materials. When they learned that Cora was here to meet Levi Finch who hadn’t yet arrived, they brought her here.
Cora had been assured they would find Mr. Finch and deliver her safely to him. As they left the train station, another woman joined them, introducing herself as Susan Clark, the owner of the boarding house at the edge of town. Cora listened in fascination at how the girl had found herself in Birch Creek ready to marry the town’s blacksmith and then came up with the idea to build a place for others to stay who might find themselves in need of a temporary residence. If Levi Finch didn’t arrive, then Cora might have to take advantage of that. She was grateful to know there was something she could do if things turned out wrong.
“We didn’t have the boarding house finished by the time Annabelle arrived though. Good thing Colten came to the rescue.” Susan gave Annabelle a warm smile and Annabelle blushed.
“I can’t thank him enough for what he did for me,” Annabelle said.
“What happened?” Cora looked at the woman and then back to Susan and Mrs. Howard.
Annabelle sighed. “I had agreed to come here to Birch Creek to marry one man only to find him lacking in any husbandly or even gentlemanly qualities. Luckily Colten was at the train station at the same time Lester arrived and helped put things to right.”
Cora listened with rapt attention as Annabelle explained what had happened making Cora send a prayer heavenward that Levi would really be a good man. She doubted there would be another man around that could rescue her like that.
The fact that he hadn’t shown up at the train station worried her. Had he changed his mind? Did he not want her? Would she be stranded here and forced to do something else? But he had been the one to send the money for her ticket. He wouldn’t just leave her. Before she could bring up her concerns, the door opened, hitting the bell that hung just above it and all the women turned around. Annabelle spoke up to welcome her customer and although the three women with her hid most of him from Cora’s view at first, the height and sheer magnitude of the man couldn’t be hidden long.
“Hello, sir. How can I help you?” Annabelle asked.
“Ah, Mr. Finch. You made it,” Mrs. Howard said.
Mr. Finch wasn’t smiling and Cora’s heart clenched in worry. Was he angry? She should have stayed at the train station, but it had been so hot and when Mrs. Howard had insisted she come get some refreshment and meet a few of the people in town, she had eagerly agreed. Cora needed other women, and if she was going to marry some stranger and be taken away to his ranch, she wanted a chance to make some connections before she disappeared. Hopefully there would be times she could return to Birch Creek for some social interactions.
“Had some trouble on the journey,” Mr. Finch grumbled. “I’m guessing this is her?”
Cora stared up at the face partially hidden behind a scruffy, dark beard. Her eyes widened at the intensity of his own gaze. He was all man. So different than the gentle ways of her dear Matthew. What had she been thinking?
Mrs. Howard turned to Cora. “If you mean you’re looking for Mrs. Cora Hatch, then yes, this is she.”
“You ready?” Levi asked.
“For what?” Susan asked, glancing at Cora with an assuring smile. Cora returned the smile, feeling peace that she had support right here, even from these virtual strangers.
“For the marriage ceremony.” Levi looked at Susan only briefly as he answered then stared at Cora again.
“Oh goodness, Mr. Finch,” Susan said with exasperation. “You can’t expect to just drag her to the preacher’s house and demand to marry her without having a chance to talk for a bit. What will the poor woman think?”
Susan glanced at Cora and smiled, then gave her a wink.
“Besides,” Mrs. Howard said. “If there is to be a wedding today, or any day, I need to know about it so I can get everyone gathered together to celebrate.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Levi said. “A celebration would take too much time, and I’ve got to get back home as soon as possible.”
“But—,” Susan began before Cora spoke up.
“It’s all right,” Cora said, patting Susan’s arm. She turned to look at Mr. Finch. “I’m ready.”
Levi nodded and turned to the door. He opened it up and paused a moment to see that she was walking forward before he stepped outside.
“Cora,” Susan said. “If you need anything, ever. We are here for you. If you are worried about him at all, my place will be your home if you want it.”
Mrs. Howard took her hand and joined her as she walked to the door. They paused at the entrance and Mrs. Howard said, “Levi Finch is a good man. He’s a little gruff, but he’ll treat you right, I’m certain of it. I knew his mother, and she was a good woman who taught him right. Of course, if he forgets any of his manners and makes you unhappy or scared at all, then you come back here.”
Cora felt the weight of worry lift. At least she wouldn’t be helpless. She gave them each a heartfelt embrace and thanked them for their kindness.
The three women left the shop with her and followed her down the sidewalk as she walked behind Levi who poked his head into the mercantile. “I found her. I’ll be back to settle the bill in a bit.”
Levi turned to look back at Cora and seemed surprised the other women were there as well.
“We’re coming to the wedding,” Susan said with a smile.
“Suit yourselves,” Levi said. He took a few more steps, then paused and turned around. “Wait a moment, please. I’d like to talk with Mrs. Hatch alone.”
Cora nodded as the other women looked at her. She took a few steps away from them until she was standing next to Levi. He walked a few more feet away from where the women had stopped to give them a little more privacy.
“I’m sorry. I’m new at this.” He placed his hand on the back of his neck as if working out the tension in the muscles there. “I suppose I should officially introduce myself. I’m Levi Finch.”
Cora smiled at the obvious show of nerves. She wanted to do something to ease his worries, but she had no idea what to do. And part of her just wanted to get the wedding over with and head to his homestead so she could get right to work on being a wife, cook, and housekeeper. The things she knew.
“Cora.” She reached for his hand to shake it, and when his giant hand engulfed hers, she was once again stunned at the size of the man.
“You are still willing?” Levi asked.
“To marry you?” Cora asked after a moment.
He nodded.
“Yes,” Cora said. “You didn’t change your mind when you saw me, or when I wasn’t at the train station?”
“No,” Levi said, looking her over again, this time with more intensity. “You are a mite smaller than I expected. You look strong enough though. Healthy too. You’ll do.”
Cora blinked in surprise. Of course he would be looking for a healthy person, but she had never really been studied like she was just another form of live-stock.
Levi turned to walk again. “Let’s go find the preacher.”

A widow without a penny to her name. A cattleman needing a woman's gentle ways.

Main Tropes

  • Marriage of Convenience
  • Mail Order Bride
  • Second Chance at Love
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