Amanda's Beau (Excerpt)

Amanda’s Beau
by Shirley Raye Redmond

Now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Astraea Press

The year is 1905. It is autumn in the village of Aztec in New Mexico territory. Amanda Dale is burdened with the responsibility of caring for her widowed sister—an invalid--and Ella’s two children—one a premature infant. Schoolteacher Gil Gladney is handsome, intelligent, and God-fearing. He is drawn to Amanda, but feels he cannot propose marriage until he is able to purchase the ranch he has been saving for. When Gil and his pupils discover the relics of an ancient culture among the ruins outside the village, Gil contacts an old college friend. The possibility of an archeological excavation excites the community of cash-strapped farmers, eager to earn extra money working on the site. When a rabid skunk reels through the excavation site, threatening the lives of Amanda and her nephew Rex, Gil realizes that life is short and the possibility of true happiness can be fleeting. In the end, Amanda learns to trust God to provide the happily-ever-after ending she’s been praying for.

Excerpt from Amanda's Beau:

Chapter 1
Village of Aztec,
New Mexico Territory--1905

      The baby was nestled snugly inside the large roasting pan. Wrapped in a bit of blue flannel blanket, she reminded Amanda Dale of an oversized tamale. The pan had been set upon the open door of the hot oven so that the premature infant could absorb the life-saving heat. She is so little, Amanda thought with a clutch of fear. She bent over the pan to peer into her niece’s tiny face—a face not much larger than a silver dollar.
     “Do you think she’ll die?” 10-year-old Rex asked. Bonita, the large red dog, stood beside him, her long tongue hanging out of her open mouth. Amanda noted the anxiety in her nephew’s voice. She didn’t answer at first. Born almost two months early, the baby had been quite small and barely strong enough to suckle. Tufts of dark hair now sprang from the top of her little head like scraggly sprouts. Her tiny limbs appeared so fragile that Amanda was reluctant to carry the infant without first placing her on a pillow. Ella hadn’t even bothered to name the child yet. When Rex started calling the baby Minnie, Amanda did too. After all, the tiny girl was no bigger than a minute, Gil Gladney had declared the first time he’d seen her.
     With a heavy sigh, Amanda shoved thoughts of the handsome schoolteacher, out of her mind and filled the medicine dropper with warm milk. She couldn’t afford to indulge in romantic daydreams. Not this busy September morning. Perhaps not ever.
     “Aunt Mandy, is she going to die?” Rex repeated.
     “Not if I can help it,” Amanda replied. She gently pressed the tip of the medicine dropper into the baby’s small rosebud mouth. Minnie puckered a bit, trying to suck. Small and feeble, the infant made frail, pitiful sounds like a mewling kitten.
     “How is Mama this morning?” Rex asked.
     “As well as can be expected,” Amanda replied, shrugging. Glancing at him, she noted the anxiety etched on his young face. Her heart ached for him. He’d endured a lot of grief for one so young. “Your mother is sick in her heart and in her mind. It takes a lot of time to heal in those places.” She did wish Ella would make more of an effort though. Sometimes she had to resist the urge to go in there and shake some sense into her younger sister. Of course, she’d never tell Rex that. Changing the subject, she asked, “Did you feed the chickens?”
     “That’s all I ever do--take care of those stupid chickens!” he snapped.
     “Watch your tone with me, young man!” Amanda warned.
     Rex sighed. “Yes, ma’am. I didn’t mean nothing by it. I fed the chickens and filled the pans with fresh water too.”
     “Anything, you didn’t mean anything by it,” she said, correcting his grammar.
     He shrugged a shoulder. “ I spend so much time out there, I should move my cot into the chicken house.” With another shrug, he added, “Ozzie Lancaster calls me Chicken Boy.”
     Amanda bit her lip and tried not to laugh.
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