Home > Forged in Love(7)

Forged in Love(7)
Author: Mary Connealy

Nell was older than Mariah, nearly thirty, while Mariah, twenty-one—was just a year older than Becky.

Mariah and Becky were already friends when Nell moved to town. But they’d all three become close friends right away. Mariah was only a few dozen paces from her home. But instead of heading there, she headed for her family’s blacksmith shop.

Becky said, “I think you should settle in at home for a day or two before you think about the smithy. You’ve been lying down more than standing up for over a week.”

“Mariah, you’re going to be surprised how quickly you get tired.” Clint was trailing behind her.

The sheriff muttered something she couldn’t quite hear, but she figured she knew what he said. Some version of, You’re an idiot and you should run for your life.

“I’m sure you’re right, all of you. I just . . . I just need to see the shop. Spend a few minutes thinking about Pa and Theo before I face our home, alone.” She led the way into her pa’s blacksmith shop. The barn-like building stood empty. No horses in the pens waiting to be shod. No fire in the forge. The tools all lined up in neat rows. Pa and Theo, along with Mariah, had set the building to rights before riding away from it for three days.

When Pa had gotten word his brother, who lived in Laramie, had died, Pa had decided he wanted to go to the funeral. Mariah had known Pa’s family when they’d lived in Dubuque, Iowa. Pa had grown up there after his family had moved from Illinois, then Pa had started his family there. A wagon train and the itchy desire to explore a new land had taken him here to Pine Valley, along with Ma, Theo, and Mariah.

The beautiful mountains had stopped him. He’d found his home. Mariah had never had a single doubt God had led him to this beautiful place and those magnificent mountains they called the Cirque of the Towers.

Now she stood quietly studying the empty barn, the cold forge, the resting bellows, the anvil used to shape the iron, the tongs and hammers, both in all shapes for different purposes. This was a world she knew. A world that would take all her strength to manage, but she could do it.

As she stood there, Henry came running in, breathing hard. “I saw you head over here, Miss Mariah. I hitched up my team and found a broken wagon wheel. Can you fix it? I need to make the run to . . .”

Mariah bit back a smile while Henry Wainwright told his story of urgent need. For a blacksmith, it was always an emergency. Pa had forged horseshoes and nails, pots and pans, wagon wheels, most anything to stay ahead—the walls were lined with them. But the heart of what made a blacksmith so sought after was the emergency work. A hole in your bucket. A horse threw a shoe. A broken wheel. And no one wanted to buy a new anything if they could avoid it.

“When do you need it?” But she knew the answer.

“Today. I was packing to leave right now, hoping to get to South Pass City before dark. I’m mighty glad you survived unharmed, miss.”

Mariah, unconscious for a week. Another week getting the worst of her headache to fade and her ribs to stop aching. Not exactly unharmed.

“I was wondering if the blacksmithing was over for Pine Valley. We’d surely be in trouble if it was, and I know your pa taught you the way of smithing work. I saw you often enough, shoeing a horse or repairing a wheel.”

Repairing a wheel was not the hardest job she would have to do. But it required long hours at the forge and banging on red-hot iron with a stout sledgehammer, plus heavy lifting. She needed another day of rest, and then she’d start small.

“I’ll tell you what, Mr. Wainwright.” Mariah gestured toward the wall of the blacksmith shop. “Use one of those wheels.”

“Oh, I’d prefer not to buy a new one.”

Not having much money to spend, few people around Pine Valley preferred a new one. Yet Henry Wainwright was a reasonably prosperous man. He owned the general store with his brother Pete, and they took many trips running a supply wagon.

“I’m just up from my injuries and I don’t have my strength back just yet. But if you’d take a new wheel and bring in the old one, I’ll try to have it repaired by the time you return. Then we can trade wheels. If you put a lot of wear on the wheel you’ve borrowed, maybe we can come to some agreement about what that’s worth to you, and I’d accept payment in supplies.” Mariah well remembered that Pa had done a lot of bartering in his job, as cash money was usually tight. “Sorry, I don’t have the strength for repairs today.”

She was deadly serious about that, too. Just standing here, she felt her knees weakening. She needed to sit down or soon she’d fall down. “Take the new wheel or find another way to repair the old. I do apologize, but even now I’m heading home. The head injury from that stagecoach landing on me has wiped out my memory of the whole day. I am still fighting bruising headaches.”

Mr. Wainwright had been standing outside his store. He’d come over and spoken to her outside the diner. He’d already heard this. But he saw everyone in town over a few weeks’ time. He was a good man to spread the story of her missing memory.

He was grumbling but nodding when Mariah’s knees buckled.

“Mariah!” Nell’s sweet voice calling her name was the only word she recognized. Others shouted.

She never hit the ground, and when she blinked open her eyes, she saw Clint had caught her. It felt familiar somehow, though she couldn’t say how. She’d certainly never been in his arms before this moment.

“I told you,” Clint said while looking down at her, worried and cranky, “you need to go home.”

“Everyone likes hearing ‘I told you so.’”

Becky laughed. Nell gasped. Clint shook his head.

From behind her, Mr. Wainwright said, “I’ll get the wheel off the wall and switch it with my old one.”

Mariah rested her head against Clint’s chest and snuck in a nap.





Mariah woke up to see Clint sitting in a chair. She saw the candle lighting the room and knew it was night. Then she recognized the room. It was her own.

“What are you doing in my room at night?”

There was a silence that went on far too long.

Finally, almost sheepishly, Clint said, “I’m staying in your house with you.”

With a gasp so loud it was almost a scream, she lurched up in bed. Pain threatened to knock her flat on her back, but she grimly stayed sitting upright with her blankets clutched to her chest.

“You are not!” Another near scream.

Nell rushed into the room. She slammed the door open. She had on a nightgown and a robe over it, which she clutched to hold closed even though it was buttoned and tied. She gave Clint a rather frantic look as he turned to watch her come crashing in.

“You’d better step out, Clint.”

“Wait! No, tell me what’s going on.” Mariah looked from one to the other.

Clint spoke first. “We can’t let you stay here alone. Nell is here to guard you, but she’s not much help.”

Nell quit holding her perfectly secure robe closed and plopped her fists on her hips. “I’m tougher than I look.”

“I believe you.”

“You do?” Nell smiled and let her arms fall to her sides.

“Yep, but only because it would be next to impossible to be less tough than you look.” Clint smiled.

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