Copyright © 2007, Barbara
Reviews For SILVER RIVER LOVE by Barbara Baldwin
"Silver River Love is a contest of wills between Smith and Sloan, Samantha and the Sheriff, and ultimately between good and evil. With humor woven throughout the story, Barbara Baldwin has written an interesting and entertaining story of the Wild West and those who chose to make it their home." – Gail, Night Owl Romance Reviews
“Silver River has all the elements of the untamed West—saloon, brothel, livery stable, merchantile, boarding house and jail. Each of these plays a part in the unraveling of the intriguing events that propel the heroine and hero toward their destiny.
The reader sees hate, greed, loyalty, and love in the many secondary characters as the story unfolds. But most of all the reader is offered an emotional high with the love scenes that warm the heart and the body.
Oh, yes! SILVER RIVER LOVE is good reading.” - Reviewed by Camellia, The Long And Short Of It Reviews
Sample Chapter For SILVER RIVER LOVE by Barbara Baldwin
To know where your destiny lies,
The key to a room,
Samantha Delaney wiggled uncomfortably as perspiration trickled between her breasts to soak her already damp camisole. She dabbed ineffectively at her brow, but knew she only smeared the grit she had accumulated during the miserably long journey. Thick dust, churned up by the spinning wheels, filtered through the canvas flaps that covered the open windows. No breeze stirred the stale air within the stage as they bounced along a deeply rutted road.
The Pioneer Stage, declared to be the most luxurious ride through the Nevada Territory, remained a far cry from the carriages of Boston. Jabbed rudely in the ribs by a fellow passenger, Samantha wondered for the hundredth time if there might have been another choice.
“We are doing the right thing, aren’t we, Roger?” She reached across the stage to touch his arm. He looked equally uncomfortable, crushed between the pots and pans salesman and a large man dressed in flannel shirt and canvas trousers.
Roger opened his eyes, but didn’t smile. “Yes, my dear, though I am beginning to regret your talking me into this insufferable trip.”
Her devoted escort for the past year, Roger Smith had been a bookkeeper at the firm of Boswick & Chadwell, until she decided to travel out west. Sweet, dependable Roger proclaimed that being a lady she couldn’t travel alone, so he would have to accompany her to offer his protection. Thinking back on it, he had seemed rather reluctant, but Samantha credited that to his reticent nature.
“I did not talk you into anything. You volunteered.”
“Even so, it would have been better to remain in civilized Boston and await word from your father.”
“But the book.” She clutched her reticule tighter.
“A small, clothbound book of poems from your father, none of which make any sense, is not sufficient reason for all we have endured. Even Paul Cameron became extremely agitated when you informed him of your plans. He only reluctantly agreed when I told him I would escort you.”
“Just because he’s my banker, and was one of Father’s former partners, does not mean he has any say over what I do.” Samantha lowered her voice, though the other passengers appeared uninterested in their conversation. “I am certain Father is in trouble. The poems are word games, like we played when I was a child. I fully intend to find him and help him out of any difficulties in which he is embroiled.” She leaned back against the hard seat, confident once more.
“Yes, my dear, if you say so.”
Roger crossed his arms and closed his eyes, and Samantha took some time to study him. He wore a flat-crowned straw hat and a high-collared, serge suit which fit rather loosely over his medium frame. His skin was pale and soft, in fashion with other gentleman of his time who found indoor pursuits much more pleasurable than sunshine. Personally, Samantha would rather ride a horse than embroider her samplers.
Roger had patiently tried to impress on her the fact that ladies weren’t physical, but she ignored him when she chose, and he allowed it. She was comfortable with him and felt she could, given enough time, mold him into the kind of husband she desired. After all, it was 1863, and if a girl of her independent nature even contemplated marriage, it would be to a man pliable to her wishes.
The fact remained, she didn’t have a problem with Roger. The problem was her father. Well, that wasn’t exactly true, either. Oh, she knew her father was alive—quarterly deposits were still made to the bank. Mr. Cameron regularly gave her a reckoning of her account, very impressed with her holdings.
Samantha wasn’t. She would rather
be with her father than have all his money.
“If you do the last first, and the first last, and mix up the middle real good, nobody will know what you’re up to.” She opened to the back of the book and scanned the short verse:
To know where your destiny lies,
Soon, she would arrive at Silver River, in the Nevada Territory, where she just knew her father waited.
Samantha barely managed to replace the book when the stage jerked. Thrown forward, her hands momentarily came to rest on Roger’s thighs. Hearing his strangled cry, a blush warmed her cheeks as she struggled to remain seated. The stage swung hard to the right, the passengers on either side grunting as their weight shifted, allowing her no room to lean back.
Before she managed to elbow her way to an upright position, her body pitched across the distance as the driver set the brake to bring the stage to a grinding halt. This time Roger let out a howl, his knees clutching and jerking upward as her elbow landed near a very private place.
She slid to an unladylike heap on the floor, petticoats flying, her hat knocked askew. She furiously tried to find the words to apologize. When she glimpsed Roger’s watering eyes and lips compressed in a very thin line, she kept quiet and scrambled to untangle herself from a most embarrassing situation.
Unfortunately, the other passengers jostled her in their haste to bail out of the restrictive quarters. Their complete lack of manners caused her to crumple once more, but at least this time she kept her hands to herself.
She finally managed to reseat herself, then allowed Roger to help her from the stage. She felt a moment’s panic at her first glimpse of Silver River. Most of the buildings, made of weathered wood, were devoid of color. Only a very few had even been whitewashed.
“It’s so desolate,” she whispered. She lifted a gloved hand to her mouth, for the dust still hovered around the wheels of the stage to clog her nose and irritate her eyes.
Oppressive heat stuck her clothes to her skin. The one saving grace was a gentle breeze that seemed to spring from nowhere, causing hand-painted signs to sway erratically above the doors to the few businesses the town boasted. From where she stood, not a single tree, bush or flower could be seen. Nor many people, for that matter.
When she turned her face into the breeze, she noticed a man rapidly closing the distance between them. His long legs were encased in faded black trousers. He wore a beige shirt that stretched tight across his chest and his hair curled about his ears beneath his hat.
Samantha sensed the power coiled within his lean frame as he came to a stop near the stage. When she noticed the star pinned to his shirt, her legs trembled and her heart hammered in her chest. She hoped he had come for someone else, and not to give her bad news about her father. Her stomach knotted unexpectedly at the deep timbre of his voice.
“Ma’am.” He touched the wide black brim of his hat then addressed his remarks to Roger. “If you and the lady are looking for a refreshing drink before you continue your journey, I’d suggest the restaurant right behind you. Old Joe doesn’t like to linger, so you’ll want to be back out here as soon as possible.”
Roger glanced nervously at Samantha, as though gauging her reaction. She shrugged her shoulders, having no idea why the man had commented on their trip.
Her attention turned to the wiry driver, now on top of the stagecoach. Flabbergasted, she stared as he tossed parcels and luggage down to the ground with incredible speed. Reminded of the way he drove, Samantha wondered if he received his pay based on how fast he went, regardless of whether his passengers, and their luggage, arrived alive. When her trunk came under attack, she could remain quiet no longer.
“Sir, do not throw my trunk down. I would like it to remain unbroken.” She lowered her voice and flashed him a smile. “If you please.”
The driver looked at her, then at Roger, who stood silently by her side. Before she could repeat her request, he grinned, then spat a stream of tobacco juice within an inch of Roger’s shoes.
“Good thing yer friend there din’t jump, ma’am. Else he mighta got marked!” The man roared with laughter as Roger sputtered in outrage.
Samantha glared up at the driver. He shifted the plug of tobacco from cheek to cheek, as though he actually considered spitting again. Before she could think of a ladylike comment, he shouted at someone behind her.
“Hey, there, Sloan! ‘If’n you please’, catch this here trunk so it don’t get broke.” The stage driver mimicked her request.
“No need tossing it down, Joe. The lady won’t be staying.” Apparently it was the sheriff who answered to the name Sloan.
Samantha whirled around to pin him with a stare. “Excuse me, but just because you wear a badge, I don’t believe you should tell people what to do. I am sure the law—”
“Ma’am, I am the law, and I’m trying to be congenial. This town is just no place for a lady.”
She brushed at the wayward strands of hair that escaped her bonnet as she tipped her head back to glare up at the sheriff. She tried to hold her temper, but it had only taken seconds for this giant to antagonize her to the point where she did not sound like a lady.
“There is no law that says we cannot stay in this town. I assure you I have business here and intend to stay as long as need be.” Hot and tired, she just wanted to get settled and find her father.
“Look, ma’am, out of the four men who exited that stage, perhaps one, then again maybe not, is an honest, hard-working person looking to strike it rich in the Sierras that border Silver River.” His gaze raked her small frame as he continued, “I’m positive the others have been sent by the very devil himself just to cause me trouble.”
“Are you implying…how dare you! Roger, do something!” Samantha felt her face redden.
“Now, Samantha. I’m sure the sheriff doesn’t mean us.” Roger slid a finger between his neck and shirt collar, a weak shrug lifting his shoulders.
Samantha’s mouth dropped open at Roger’s rebuff, gentle though it had been. And here she thought he was becoming properly malleable. Even though he might be right, it irked her that he hadn’t immediately stepped forward to defend her.
“I beg your pardon, Samantha.” The sheriff’s words rolled off his tongue in a drawl, his deep voice lingering over her name. His eyes flickered with gold sparks as he smiled.
The sheriff’s words caused Samantha to pause. His speech was articulate and smooth. Something in his manner—some nuance—spoke of gentlemanly values and honor. But no matter his background, this man, with his predatory gaze and gun strapped low to his hip, definitely belonged to the wild and untamed frontier. Samantha shivered slightly as her gaze traveled back up his frame to find him perusing her just as intently. To cover her embarrassment, she responded in anger.
“My name is Miss Delaney.” She tried to look down her nose in the haughty manner of Boston’s society belles. It was not easily managed since he towered over her by a good foot. All she got was a scowl for her efforts.
“I’ll give you one day. Another stage will be here tomorrow. Until then, Nel has some rooms over her restaurant.” He nodded in the general direction of the eatery across the way. Samantha watched him glance down the street the opposite way. “Or Desiree may have a room or two.”
“Desiree?” Samantha pounced on the name. Desiree—Desire—the name from her father’s poem. She surveyed the town with renewed interest, excited with the prospect of deciphering the poems, which she felt certain would lead her to her father. During the years in Boston as she tried to become a lady, she had forgotten how much she adored a challenge.
She picked up one valise, ignored the sheriff and spoke directly to Roger. “I shall take a room at Desiree’s. You may check into the hotel. I will see you in one hour and we shall commence our investigation.”
“But, Samantha, dear. I think it might be best if I went with you.”
“Surely you don’t propose rooming with me, Roger? That wouldn’t be at all proper.” Roger’s face turned beet red, and Samantha realized he had misconstrued her remarks. She softened her tone. “If you would be kind enough to see my things to the boarding house, then we will meet.”
She glanced again at the sheriff standing less than an arm’s length away. His arms were crossed, legs braced, and an incredible scowl etched his features. Undaunted, she decided she had as much right as anyone to be in Silver River.
At her look, he shifted his gaze to the pile of trunks, bags and hatboxes that littered the dusty street.
“Lady, I told you, you aren’t staying. What you can do is reserve yourselves seats on the next stage going east.”
She raised her pert nose in the air, determined not to give him the upper hand. “The only thing you have right in that whole speech is lady, and I’ll thank you to remember it.” Lifting her skirts, she hurried down the street toward Desiree’s, knowing Roger would take care of her things. Sweet, dependable Roger.
She stepped onto the porch but before she could knock, the door to the whitewashed house opened. She was grabbed by one wrist and hauled into the shadowy entryway. The door clicked shut behind her to cast the room in semi-darkness. Her eyes strained to adjust rapidly from the bright sunlight.
“You came.” A woman’s voice and the strong scent of perfume allowed Samantha to breathe easier. She turned her head to the sound, her eyes finally focusing on a short, rather rounded, female person. The word lady didn’t enter her mind, considering this particular female had red lacquered nails and dyed black hair. She wore a garishly loud, purple satin dress edged in black lace. If she were somewhat more subdued, she probably would have been considered handsome for her age.
“Who are you?” Samantha didn’t feel fear, just a sense of disbelief.
“Desiree. Didn’t you see the right fine, hand-painted sign hangin’ off the porch proclaiming this to be ‘Desiree’s House for Boarders’? And you must be Sam.”
Samantha gasped. No one but her father ever called her that.
“Your daddy said you’d be a looker, like his wife. I just didn’t expect you so soon. Fact of the matter is, I wasn’t sure you would even come. I couldn’t make heads or tails of that gibberish he wrote, but he said you would. Right he was too, from the looks of it.”
“Excuse me...please.” Samantha hated to interrupt. She considered it rude, but Desiree apparently didn’t take offense. She merely blinked her kohl-lined eyes and pursed her painted lips.
“You know my father? Is he here?” She couldn’t believe her luck, finding her father the very day she arrived.
“No, he ain’t here. Haven’t seen him in months. See, they was trying to do him in, so he had to go into hiding.”
“Do him in?” Fear made her voice quiver.
“Yeah, you know, kill him.”
Samantha gasped, reaching for the back of a chair to keep upright. Her father was in trouble. She had been right to come. Now she had to decipher the poems, and quickly.
“I suppose you’ll be wanting your room?”
“Of course. When your daddy got me this house, he said I was to keep one room empty for you. Seems he knew you’d be back someday.”
Samantha watched as she reached for the silver chain that circled her neck and disappeared into her cleavage, amply displayed above the neckline of her gaudy dress. Mesmerized at the sight of a key dangling from the end of the chain, her father’s poem came back to her in a rush:
The key to a room,
If she ever had doubts as to whether Silver River was the right town, she had them no longer.