A Mail-Order Heart

By: Janelle Daniels
Miners to Millionaires - Book 1

Chapter 1

There came a time when a person had to admit they were insane. Clara reached that point yesterday.

Dusting off her new traveling skirt, more brown in color than gray thanks to the dirt and grime that had accumulated on the fabric over the past week and a half of travel, she stepped onto the train platform in Promise Creek.

She might be crazy for traveling so far to marry a man she'd never met, but she wanted to look good for Ivan, her mail-order groom. It was the least she could do after he'd helped her out of a bad situation. Besides, he would be her husband, and while she didn't see herself as a breathtaking beauty, she was passably pretty, and she hoped her future husband would find her rich chestnut hair and sparking brown eyes appealing, regardless of her state of dress.

She curved her cupid-bow lips at the corners, glancing around for a man equally as unsure of who he was looking for. No doubt they'd be the only two left on the platform in a few moments once the other passengers left in search of a quick lunch.

Her hand shook, but she stilled it. She would not show any nerves when her future husband first saw her. She wanted him to know that she felt confident, secure in her decision to marry him. Besides, she wasn’t some timid woman who feared the future. She embraced it.

And she would embrace him as soon as she saw him. It was best to start things off warmly between them.

The Promise Creek Station was small compared to others they'd stopped at, but there was still a thirty-minute layover where travelers could alight and stretch their legs while the train took on new cargo and passengers.

Clara handed the porter a ticket to claim her baggage and waited until he brought her trunk to her. She wouldn't leave it in case someone decided to steal it. She didn't have much, but she refused to part with the few items she'd brought from home to remember her parents and siblings by.

Ivan would have to come to her.

As the minutes passed, Clara's shoulders slouched, and she went from perfect posture, to leaning against her trunk, to finally, using it as a seat.

Where was Ivan? Had he changed his mind or forgotten her?

Of course not. She was his bride. No man would forget to pick up his bride, would he? And there was no reason he’d change his mind. In his letters, he’d expressed how much he wanted her to come.

But she didn’t know the man well. She'd only received two letters from him before her mother urged her to accept his proposal. In a family with twelve children, she the eldest, and not enough food to feed them all, her choices had been limited to two—take a position as a factory worker, knowing her life would be shortened from the strenuous labor, or take her chances out west as a mail-order bride since no men in town had chosen to make her their wife.

After her mother's urging, she'd chosen marriage.

But oh, how she missed the babies back home. Her twin sisters, the youngest of the brood, used to climb into her bed as she told them stories that filled their little two-year-old minds with wonder.

She bit her lip, swallowing the lump forming in her throat. She would not cry here. She'd held it together the entire trip, and she would not break down moments before she met her future husband.

The train whistled as the locomotive pulled from the deserted station. Large tufts of smoke shot from the engine, and she could almost taste the sooty granules on her tongue.

Sweat slicked her neck at its departure.

What would she do if he didn't come for her? She'd have to make arrangements for lodging that night. Mentally counting what was left in her purse, she hesitated spending any of it until she knew how long she'd need to make it last. One night in an upper-crust hotel would take half of what she possessed.

"Is there someone you're waiting for, ma'am?" An elderly gentleman asked, clutching a faded grey cap in his hands.

Relief pumped through her. She wasn't completely alone now. "Yes. I'm waiting for my fiancé."

The man gulped, wringing his hat. "You're here for Crazy Ivan, aren't you?"

"Crazy Ivan?" Heavens. "I don't think we're thinking of the same man. I'm Ivan Pavlova's fiancée."

The man winced. "I was afraid you'd say that. Come on. I'll bring you to the others."

"What others?"

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