My name is Robyn Echols. Zina Abbott is the pen I use for my historical novels. I’m a member of Women Writing the West and Western Writers of America. I currently live with my husband in California’s central valley near the “Gateway to Yosemite.”I love to read, quilt, work with digital images on my photo editing program, and work on my own family history.
I am a blogger. In addition to my own blog, I blog for several group blogs including the Sweet Americana Sweethearts blog, which I started and administer.
A widow with two small children, Nissa Stillwell was forced out of the mining supervisor’s house after her husband died in the mine disaster in Wildcat Ridge, Utah. She quickly learns before his death, he went heavily into debt. She leaves what few possessions remain behind and contracts with the Ridge Hotel to do their laundry and live in the laundry shed and drying yard next to the hotel. She is able to make ends meet—barely.
Being left with only the furnishings and personal items that make up James Stillwell’s estate, Mortimer Crane goes after Nissa to pay the balance owed. She refuses, but he insists she work off the debt in his Gentlemen Only Salon.
Rancher Dallin Walsh has been too busy building up his spread in the isolated mountains of western Colorado to look for a wife. He comes to Wildcat Ridge for a big horse auction. Between Crane and three drifters, he comes to Nissa’s defense more than once. Desperate to leave Wildcat Ridge, Nissa asks him to hire her as a housekeeper. Does Dallin want a housekeeper—or does he have something else in mind?
Hal and Buck, two wranglers who work for Dallin, soon find most women in town are as eager to find husbands to move to Wildcat Ridge so they can keep their homes as they are to sell horses. A woman in difficulty captures Hal’s attention. Another woman finds Buck, but he definitely is not interested in a wife.
Who will go to Colorado, and who will stay in Wildcat Ridge?
“You never answered my question, Nissa. We missed you at the widows’ meeting today. If you were worried about finishing these sheets, you could have asked me to help you with them so you could have gone.”
“I appreciate that, Diantha, but I didn’t want to go. You know I’m not welcome by most of those women. Besides, I had no one to watch the children. I’m sure they didn’t need my two underfoot.”
“I would have helped you with the children, Nissa. Besides, why ever would you think the ladies would not have been welcoming? You are also one of the widows affected by this disaster.”
Nissa eyed the wash tub, now empty of sheets and towels. She wiggled her fingers in the diminished suds. She decided the water still felt warm enough to wash Dinky Moon’s clothes, especially since she might need to give them a double wash. She clapped her hat back on her head, gathered together the light-colored articles, and dumped them into the tub.
“My situation isn’t the same as you other women, Diantha. Most of you live in town. Your husbands worked in businesses in town. You have homes you want to keep. On the other hand, my husband was a mine supervisor. We lived in a house closer to the mine—one that Mr. Crane provided us as part of my husband’s compensation.”
Nissa grabbed a wooden paddle which she plunged into the water to dampen all the clothes. She stepped back as the foul miasma that drifted up from the tub hit her in the face. She turned to Diantha with a wry smile. “You don’t see that fine, two-story house up on the hill near the mine anymore, do you? My husband was barely cold in the ground, and I had not yet started seeing where our finances stood when Mr. Crane showed up on my doorstep to tell me I needed to be out by the end of that week. He claimed he needed to dismantle the house and move it up to his mine by Clear Creek for his mine supervisor up there.”