Fleeing Boston, mail order bride Madeline Barstow hopes that her husband-to-be will provide her a comfortable, respectable life, far away from the prying eyes and gossip of her socialite peers. But when she steps off the train in Helena, Montana, she is disheartened to find a stranger waiting for her instead of her fiancé.
Widower Clay Porter is tired of the constant attempts of his family and friends to match him up. He wants only to be left alone, and spends his days off transporting cargo and passengers to earn money so he can someday buy the butcher shop he works in. But when he realizes the woman he's transporting to Croft Ranch is completely in the dark about her fiancé's character, he finds himself risking his own dream—and even his life—to persuade the uppity woman that she's making a mistake.
Note: Mail Order Regrets is a sweet romance novel of 74,739 words, but is not a Christian inspirational romance. There is no religious theme, and while there are also no sex scenes, there are kissing scenes, and some allusions to sexual tension.
The sky was obscured by the clouds, and the last bit of light was fading as Clay guided the sleigh off the main road and down a long trail to a small cabin nestled in the foothills.
“We’ll rest here a while before we go on?” Madeline asked, pulling down the furs and blankets from her face.
He brought the horses to a stop in front of the door. "No. We’re not going to make it tonight. We’ll have to stay here.”
“You can’t mean that.” She clutched the furs to her bosom. “You said we’d take shelter—not sleep here!”
He hopped out and started unhitching the horses. “I do. It’s another two hours to my sister’s place, and the visibility is only getting worse. There’s nowhere decent between here and my sister’s house to take shelter. This is it. We’re lucky I found it—I almost missed the turn-off.”
“But—but—” she stammered, “there’s no one else here.”
“And we’re lucky for that. There are only accommodations for two here. Assuming someone hasn’t made off with one of the two chairs that were here last time, that is.”
“You are not funny, Mr. Porter.” She stood up in the sleigh and stomped her foot. “I insist you take me to a proper place to stay.”
The horses whinnied and stomped in place, jostling the sleigh. Madeline slipped fell back into her seat with a hard thump. The driver took the horses by their bridles and spoke in soothing tones until they quieted. Then he stalked back to the sleigh.
“If you insist on throwing a childish fit,” he snarled, “please do it outside the sleigh, before you provoke my horses into bolting, simply because you are indulging in a tantrum over not having a soft, fancy place to lay your head tonight.”
She swallowed her rage at being spoken to with such disrespect, only because she realized he was right—she could have caused a dreadful accident. “I’m sorry. I am. But it has nothing to do with a fancy place to lay my head. That—” she pointed at the ramshackle habitation, “is a very small cabin which, according to you, can only sleep two. Two! There is no one here to act as chaperone. What is my future husband to think when he finds out I spent the night alone with the sleigh driver?”
“If he had any sense, he’d be glad that I made a level-headed decision that kept his bride-to-be safe and alive! Not that I’d accuse Croft of having any sense.” He muttered the last part as he walked back to his horses, but Madeline caught it.
“What is your problem with Mr. Croft? Clearly you don’t like him. What has he done to you?”
He kept his eyes on the horse’s harness, heaving a sigh. “Nothing. He has always paid me what I earned. He hasn't mistreated me. I have no reason not to like him.”
“And yet you don’t.” She tilted her head, waiting for an answer.
“Get back under your covers, before you let out all the heat.”
“What heat?” she grumbled. “You let the coal burn out ages ago."