Chapter 1

"But Mama I don't even know who he is." Alora said as her mother fussed with bonnet.

"You use to play together as children." She woman said as she checked to make sure all of her daughter's many trunks and boxes were being carefully loaded onto the train.

"Why do I have to go?" Alora asked her mother.

"It was a deal we made with Mr. Adams." Her mother told her. "When he loaned your father the money to start up the newspaper, your hand was promised to his youngest son Danial."

"I don't see what right you had to make such a deal!" Alora fumed. She had only been told about this arranged marriage a year ago and had tried everything she could to get out of it.

"You watch your tongue!" Her mother scolded her. "Besides, you're better off there than here. You will be well taken care of, more servants than you can count, you can plan parties and stay up to date with the latest fashions… and all you'll have to do is give him a couple children."

"Miss Alora," Jessy said to her, "All of your stuff is packed safely in the train car provided." Jessy was Alora's maid, she never went anywhere without her. The train let out a warning whistle that it was almost time to leave.

"Here." Her mother said handing Alora a purse and a folded up letter. "I love you and I'll miss you."

"I love you to Mama." Alora said before climbing onto her private car, moments later the car leached forward as the train left the station. Alora sat in the soft chair next to the window, watching as her mother faded from view, then not long after the whole station, and finally the whole city of Boston.

Alora unfolded the letter and read over it.

The time has come for Alora to travel to Texas and wed my son Danial, as per our agreement. We have paid for a private car to accommodate her and all her belongings. We will send a telegraph when the car will arrive in Boston for her.

When she arrives in Texas we will have someone there to greet her and bring her and her belongings to our ranch. Danial will not be around to meet her for a few weeks, her arrival will be coinciding with one of our biggest Cattle drives of the year.

We wish her a safe and speedy trip.

Arnold Adams

Alora placed the letter down on the table next to her seat then opened the telegram.

Train to arrive in Boston on the tenth day of March. STOP

Punctuation is required. STOP

Train leaves to come back on the twelfth day of March. STOP

Braking the deal will result in dire consequence. STOP

She will be met at the train station by a ranch hand. STOP

Danial will be away on a cattle drive. STOP

The length of the telegram practically screamed 'RICH'

"My parents basically sold me Jessy!" Alora said as she crumpled the telegram.

"Miss Alora, this is a mighty fine train car they sent." Jessy always tried to make Alora feel better when she was upset.

"Yeah it is." Alora said looking at her surroundings for the first time since she boarded. "It's hot in here." She and Jessy began cracking the windows of their car. After they were done Alora began unbuttoning her jacket, beneath it was a perfectly pressed and pleated white button down shirt with ruffled cuffs that had protruded from the cuffs of her jacket. The jacket matched her light blue hoopskirt that bounced and swayed as she walked around her new home for the next few weeks as they headed west into the wilds of the newly expanded territories.

"Miss Alora, they say this family is rich… like super rich!" Jessy told her. Jessy was black, but she wasn't a slave, she was a paid Lady's maid and most of all she was a best friend to Alora. She grew up with Alora, her mother was the family's cook and Jessie always went everywhere with her mother. "Your Mama is right anyways, I hear talk of war. My daddy said that the people in the south don't think like us, they think all Negros should be slaves."

"Jessy, you know I think all people should be free to choose their own path in life… My mother must not think so." Arura flopped backwards onto the large bed near the rear of their private car. "Giving me to some… some man that…. What if he's ugly? What if he's mean or funny?" There was a knock on the door causing Alora to stand back up, she brushed the wrinkles out of her skirt as Jessy answered the door.

"Hello Ma'am." The man said as he stepped into the car. "I'm Tobias Phillips and I will be your travel liaison, if you need anything just let me know and I'll get it for you. I was hired by the Adam's family to make sure you have a pleasant and comfortable trip. I will be bringing you lunch in just a little while."

"Thank you Mr. Philips." Alora said to him with a small curtsy. And with that the man turned and left the car, Jessy closing the door behind him.

"See we don't have to worry about anything." Jessy smiled.

"Jessy, I want to lay down for a little bit, could you help me out of this… this thing." As beautiful as hoopskirts are Alora often felt uncomfortable in them.

...

"Hey Danial." A ranch hand called out to a tall, handsome, young man. "Your father said that the girl is on her way."

"Thanks Jim." Danial rolled his eyes. He had known that for a long time about the arrangement with the McMullen family.

"Who is this girl?" Jim asked him. Danial was in the barn giving his horse a good brushing after their long day of preparing the cattle for their move to the summer grazing land.

"About twelve years ago my father loaned this family the money they needed to set up a newspaper in Boston, and instead of a high interest rate they decided that this girl and I would be perfect for each other and signed an agreement that said when the girl turned 18 she would become my bride."

"Do you know anything about her?" The ranch hand said as he spit out a glob of brown spit.

"All I know is that her name is Alora… I have a vague memory of her as a kid though. She had buckteeth and was always falling all over the place." Danial told him.

"No wonder they chose to arrange a marriage for her, she's probably so goofy looking that she couldn't have found a husband for herself." Jim said.

"Why do you ask?" Danial asked.

"Because I'm supposed to pick her up from the train station in a couple of weeks while you and a few other guys do the Cattle drive, your father already told them a ranch hand will be picking her up from the station." Jim told him, spitting again. Danial pursed his lips for a few moments, deep in thought.

"Hey…" A wicked smile crept across Danial's face. "You don't want to go pick her up do you?"

"I don't think a prissy rich city girl is worth my time," Jim said "so no, I really don't want to…" Jim caught what Danial was about to say.

"You go on the drive, I'll go pick her up." Danial told him.

"I was right there with ya Dan!" Jim said happily. "That sure does make me happy." Jim was more than just a ranch hand, he was the Adams' ranch manager.

"Miss Alora, Mr. Phillips said we will be arriving at out stop today." Jessy told her as she brought breakfast cart, which had just been delivered, over to Alora who was sitting on the bed the two had to share the entire trip west. She was still in her pajamas, as beautiful as her dresses were, she preferred comfort and spent most of the time in her chemise and pantaloons. Jessy removed the lid revealing a delicious plate of sausage and pancakes for both of them; there was a beautiful tea set on the cart as well.

"That means I have to get dressed like a proper young woman." Alora didn't sound happy about it. This was the first time ever that she got to be who she wanted to be, nobody constantly telling her how to act, what to say, how to dress, or remind her of proper posture. "After lunch we will to the 'ritual'." And with that she began to nibble at the food.

After she finished eating, still somewhat hungry but didn't want the torture to be any worse. She called it a ritual because it started by sliding on her girdle, holding on to one of the bed posts while Jessy pulled the strings so tight she could barely breath. Next came the skirt form, unfortunately it wouldn't tie closed so off it went and Jessy pulled her strings tighter. After a couple more pulls the skirt form finally tied closed and on went a very modest purple skirt and jacket over one of her many lace cuff blouses. Once she dressed next came her hair; Jessy combed her auburn locks back tight, putting it up into a ponytail with tight spiral curls that framed her heart shaped face.

The train was already starting to slow down, dread felt like a heavy brick in her stomach, the dressing ritual had just finished and they were almost there.

Danial drove the ranch's carriage to the train station. He knew the girl would be bringing all her belongings so he had decided the enclosed carriage had plenty of room on its roof and on the back for all her stuff. He hopped off the driver's seat as soon as he saw the train come into view. When the train finally came to a stop he stepped up onto the platform and waited for the bucktoothed girl to exit the train. As he waited he saw the employees start unloading trunk after trunk all matching, and all with a beautifully painted Yellow 'A' on them. He watched as so many different kinds of people stepped off the train, young old, fat, thin, and ugly. He raised his hand and called out "Miss. Alora McKinnon!" Nobody turned to him so he called again. "Miss. Alora McKinnon!"

"Yes?" A Beautiful young woman said as she stepped of the train. "I'm Alora McKinnon. Are you my escort?"

"Ummmm… Aaaaaaaa…" His mouth went dry and his mind went blank. "Uuummm Yes, to the ranch." He had a quirky half smile as he stared at his beautiful bride; she was nothing like he had expected.

"Let… let me load up your possessions, I'll be only a few moments." Danial felt like a stupid boy telling her everything he was doing.

"Thank you very much, Sir. Do… Do you have a name that I may call you?" She asked him as she pulled out a hand fan from her drawstring purse, waving cool air at herself.

"You can call me D-Jim." He told her.

"D-Jim? That's unique." She smiled, her smile and the way her blue eyes sparkled when she did practically melted his brain and he loved it.

"Just Jim." He opened the door to the carnage. "Why don't wait inside, out of the sun."

"Thank you very much sir." She told him as she took the hand held out to help her up into the carriage and was followed by Jessy. After he closed the door he could finally think a bit clearer, and went to start loading up her belongings.

"Bucktooth and awkward…" He stalked to himself quietly. "I wanted a look at her, but I never expected this… this Boston beauty." She was so much more than he had ever expected.

(A/N Happy Birthday to my best friend! I hope you loved the first chapter! It's the gift that keeps coming! More soon!)