Writer’s Desk with Mary Connealy
Mary Connealy writes “romantic comedies with cowboys” and is celebrated for her fun, zany, action-packed style. She has sold more than 1.5 million books and is the author of the popular series Wyoming Sunrise, The Lumber Baron’s Daughters, and many other books. Mary lives on a ranch in eastern Nebraska with her very own romantic cowboy hero.
More about Chasing the Horizon
Her only chance at freedom waits across the horizon
Upon uncovering her tyrannical father’s malevolent plot to commit her to an asylum, Beth Rutledge fabricates a plan of her own. She will rescue her mother, who had already been sent to the asylum, and escape together on a wagon train heading west. Posing as sisters, Beth and her mother travel with the pioneers in hopes of making it to Idaho before the others start asking too many questions.
Wagon-train scout Jake Holt senses that the mysterious women in his caravan are running from something. When rumors begin to spread of Pinkerton agents searching relentlessly for wanted criminals who match the description of those on his wagon train, including Beth, she begins to open up to him, and he learns something more sinister is at hand. Can they risk trusting each other with their lives–and their hearts–when danger threatens their every step?
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Excerpt from Chasing the Horizon
Elizabeth Rutledge crept out of the alley when she heard the creaking of wagon wheels. The man driving the garbage cart, the same route every night, slowed to a near stop as he turned onto the last lane to take the trash and dump it in an ugly pile that would soon be added to by the garbage created by Horecroft Asylum.
“Sir, can you help me?” Beth was dressed in what looked like mere rags, clothing even the servants in her father’s home would disdain to wear.
Her voice was laced with fear, and she put a tone of begging into it. The fear was easy to come by. The thought of what she was doing made her heart pound until she felt it in her ears.
If this failed, she’d almost certainly end up locked away with Mama.
“I’ve dropped a nickel in a crevice between the cobblestones, and I can’t get it out. I need it, sir, to feed my children.”
The garbage man pulled his reeking cart to a stop and jumped down. He rounded the dapple-gray nag and crouched beside Beth. She saw evil in his eyes, even in the nearly pitch-dark of the street, which was lined with crumbling brick buildings.
She’d studied this man and knew far more about him than he’d ever suspect.
He’d help her all right, yet she’d never regain possession of her coin. She felt the weight of the gun in her pocket and hoped the man was just a thief and not something much worse.
While the two of them struggled with a little stick to lift out the coin that Beth had lodged thoroughly in a tight crack, Beth heard a faint rustling coming from behind her.
It was nighttime near a garbage dump. Any rustling sounds were usually made by rats, and this man didn’t strike her as very smart.
He didn’t see Mama as she climbed out of the back of the wagon and slipped into the night. Beth thought Mama had made a bit more noise than would be expected, but she didn’t dare turn to look. That was all it would take
for Mama to be discovered, then taken and locked away. Again.
Swallowing hard to make her dry throat work, she saw the garbage man finally dislodge the coin. He held it up with a smirk.
“Oh, thank you—”
His laugh cut her off as he closed his hand around the nickel. “It’s mine now.”
“No! Please . . .” She had to make a fuss or the man might become suspicious. “If you take it, my children won’t have anything to eat. Please!”
He ignored her, clambered onto the wagon seat, and slapped the reins on the swaybacked horse. He laughed as he rolled away.
When his laughter had faded in the distance, Beth whispered, “Mama?”
A shadow shifted in the narrow alley across the street. Beth hurried over.
“Elizabeth.” Eugenia Rutledge flung her arms around Beth. Mama smelled just like the man’s garbage wagon.
Beth only hugged her tighter. The feel of Mama hugging her thickened Beth’s throat with tears. She fought them until Mama burst into tears herself.
Beth clung tightly as she wept. Several minutes passed before she was able to regain her composure.
“Elizabeth, my darling girl—”
“Shh. It’s Beth now, Mama. And from this moment on, you’re Ginny. My older sister, Ginny Collins.”
Father had never called either of them by a nickname. In truth, they’d never called each other using one. Yet no one would think twice of them if they went by Beth and Ginny, or so Beth sincerely hoped.
Even after three years in an insane asylum, Mama was youthful-looking, her hair still fully brunette with no sign of graying. She was far too thin, though, and Beth had to wonder what the food was like in that house of horrors, Horecroft.
The plan was for them to pass as sisters. Beth prayed for a lack of curiosity among those who encountered them.
“You’ve given us Oscar’s surname? Beth and Ginny Collins . . . Yes, of course we need new names.” Something fell off Mama’s head. Beth thought it might be a cabbage leaf.
Another shadow emerged, and Beth grabbed for her six-gun.
“I-I brought someone with me,” Mama explained. “She’s a friend. I couldn’t leave her behind. She helped me find my way out of the asylum. I’d have been hard-pressed to make it without her.”
A woman so frail that she looked breakable came to Mama’s side.
Beth was speechless. She’d made plans, detailed plans. For two.
“Let’s go. I’ve held us up too long as it is. There’s no time to waste.” Mama didn’t know the plan, but she did know their situation was urgent.
“I’ll go by Kat,” the delicate blond woman said. She was so small, she looked more child than adult. “I’ll do whatever I need to do to stay out of that horrible place.” Her determination rang out in her voice, even at a whisper.
Beth didn’t have much choice in the matter. Time was limited. She’d plan their next steps on the walk to the wharf. “Let me get my satchel. It has everything I believed I’d need for two women—sisters down on their luck, working their way downriver to Independence, Missouri.” She’d have to find additional clothing for Kat that might fit the woman, who was slender to the point of starvation, and not raise suspicion. “And I’ve got two bonnets that will pull forward to mostly conceal our faces. Kat, you can wear mine.” Beth would think of something before Kat needed a change of clothing. She had until they reached Independence, where the wagon train should be heading out of town right about now.
Their transportation to the West.
They’d go and find a place beyond Thaddeus Rutledge’s reach, and they’d hide for the rest of their lives. She’d told Oscar not to wait for them. She and Mama, and now Kat, would have to catch up sometime later. And to get there, they’d be working their way westward.
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