Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sneak Peek at When Doves Fly

An excerpt from Chapter One of When Doves Fly, a new historical fiction novel set in 1870s Colorado, coming September 30, 2015:

Lily Wright departed the train before the other passengers, gripping her carpet bag tight, eager to disappear. The bell clanged their arrival as the train rumbled to a stop, and voices rose over the hiss of steam engines as travelers greeted family and friends. Lily had no one to greet, yet every face resembled her husband’s and filled her with cold dread. Throwing peeks over her shoulder, she dodged and weaved until she found the station agent.

“Where’s the nearest hotel and stagecoach, sir?”

“Welcome to Denver, miss.” He jerked his thumb to the east, beyond the depot. “Plenty hotels within a few blocks, they can get you to a coach.”

She nodded and proceeded inside. People, suitcases, and trunks littered the station. She ducked her head and wound around them. Hair prickled on her neck. Convinced eyes had followed her, she turned, but no one seemed interested. Her heart pounded faster as she skirted the ticket line and burst through the doors to the street.

Wagons lumbered past in the waning evening light. A river of people flowed around her—men in work clothes or suits and bowlers, women in walking dresses with pert bustles—while she stood in front of the depot and searched building signs.

She wanted a smaller place, inexpensive and inconspicuous. She’d thought she would feel safe once she reached Denver, but her anxiety had grown stronger with every mile as the train chugged across the prairie.

Lily negotiated the wide, muddy road with a stream of pedestrians toward a cross-street lined with tall brick and clapboard buildings. When the group reached the other side and went their separate ways, she started up the narrower street, scanning the buildings and stopping at each corner to survey the side roads. After several blocks, a squat, wooden structure with a large sign on the roof drew her attention: The Broadwell House. Her pace picked up.

The noise and chaos fell behind as the traffic and crowds thinned. The buildings cast long shadows over the road, and the mountain sunset blared bright color on the facing side.

Her apprehension dimmed outside the crush of people, and exhaustion weighed her shoulders down. The hotel beckoned. Her hand ached, and she shifted the small suitcase to her other hand as she passed an alley.

An arm shot from the narrow void between buildings and snatched the bag from her fingers. She gasped, but shock throttled a scream in her throat. She swung toward the breach but caught only a glimpse of a darker shadow darting away. Her feet moved a few yards into the alley, but the gloom stopped her.

Wait, what if I catch up with him? Who knows what he might do.

She spun and darted into the road.

“Thief! Help!”              

The street had emptied. The nearest figure, a block away, kept moving in the opposite direction. She opened her mouth to shout again but closed it with a snap.

Heavens, what am I thinking? I can’t get involved with the law here. But my bag ….

She turned back to the alley, but nothing moved, the shadow gone.


She stomped her foot and flapped her arms. The bag. Everything. The money! This cannot be happening.

Paralyzed by frustration, Lily couldn’t fathom what to do next. The sun dropped below the skyline. Fear overcame shock. When full dark hit, the street would only present more danger.

She scuttled toward the Broadwell House, where she walked to the clerk’s desk and pulled a purse from her skirt pocket.

“One night, please.”

The clerk flicked her eyes up from a newspaper. “$3.00. No visitors.” She returned her attention to her paper.

Lily dug the money from her purse. The remaining paltry bills and coins worsened the roiling in her stomach. She tucked the pouch back in her pocket and laid three gold coins in the woman’s outstretched hand.

“Up the stairs, on the left.” The clerk slid a key across the desk.

Relieved the woman hadn’t indicated a guest log, Lily snagged the key and hurried to the second floor. She let herself in, slammed the door, and turned the lock.

Minimal furniture filled the modest, tidy room. She bypassed a table with an oil lamp and matches and fell onto the bed. Burying her face in the pillow, she sobbed.

I can’t stay here. He’ll find me here, I just know it. I have to make it to a more remote place. But what will I do when I get there? I can’t start a store with no money. She pummeled the mattress. It’s not fair. All I want is freedom to do as I wish, independence with no one deciding where I can go or how I must live, the chance to be my own. Is that so much to ask?

Dark settled, but she didn’t drift off for hours.

© 2015 Lauren Gregory All Rights Reserved.