Prairie Madness is a story about a young woman traveling to California on the Cherokee Trail with her husband and parents. When Indians ambush their caravan, she is injured, affecting her memory. She wakes to find the bodies of strangers all around her, not knowing that her husband and parents are among the dead. Setting out on her own across the prairie, she braves the elements and endures a lack of food and water. When she is at her lowest point, she is mercifully rescued by a passing wagon train.
Charming and attentive Patrick Walker offers her food and shelter, wanting to help the mysterious woman who is now a part of his convoy. A relationship that began out of necessity soon blossoms into something deeper, and, after Patrick proposes, Mena agrees to marry him, hoping that one day her memory would return. But… the discovery of another survivor threatens her peace, and this stranger might ruin her happiness with the truth.
Here is a preview of Prairie Madness
After Ellie left, I traded places with Ester, sitting in the wagon, while she walked. An hour later, I was on my feet again, although I strolled slowly, until Patrick’s wagon appeared. He grinned when he saw me.
“Making the rounds this morning, eh?”
“I’m hoping the time will go by faster this way.”
“Is it working?”
He patted the wooden seat next to him. “You can sit with me for a bit, if you want.”
For having only met this person a day ago, I felt perplexingly inclined towards him. As a result, a heady warmth crept up my neck, flushing my face. This was more than likely due to sun exposure, or so I told myself. Grasping the seat, I hauled myself up, while the wagon continued to move. This was a dangerous maneuver, as I could have easily fallen and been run over by the front wheel, but I’d accomplished it effortlessly.
“How are the Carters?”
I tried to suppress a smile. “Oh, just fine.”
“I suspect Ester will appear any second now to snatch you away.”
“She’s concerned about my…reputation.”
“You’re in grave danger of having it ruined, sitting with me.” He was teasing.
“Is that all it would take?”
“According to her, yes.”
“Last I saw, she was napping with the children.”
“And you chose that moment to take a walk?”
“I did.” My smile broke free, unable to be restrained.
“Wandering in my direction.”
“You’ve been so kind…and you have…food.”
He barked with laughter. “The truth comes out now.”
“I should be nice to you. It’s your tent I’m sleeping in.” Those words held shocking connotations. “I mean, it’s the tent I’m using for…my…my particular use.” Now I blushed in earnest.
His gaze was on me; his look was thoughtful. “It sounded right the first time around.”
“Oh, goodness. Let’s find something else to talk about.”
“Talking about sleeping and tents isn’t safe?” He teased me again.
“Are you hungry?”
“I’m always hungry.” The conversation I had with Ellie was a concern. What if I were with child?
“I’ve a bag of jerky here. You’re welcome to have some.”
“Are you certain? I don’t want to eat you out of house and home.”
“I doubt you will.” He reached behind him, grasping a leather pouch. “Here.”
“Thank you.” I took a bite, chewing. “I better keep this down.”
“Are you ill?”
“I don’t know.”
“You were without water for days. You might still be dehydrated.”
“I don’t think that’s what the problem is.”
His hands gripped the reins, although the oxen were well-trained, lumbering forward without prompting. They followed the wagon before us, as the one before that followed the one before it.
“You got a baby in there?”
“I don’t know.” I glanced at him. “It’s possible. I am married. I…was married.” Then I had a thought. “Do you think he survived?”
“I don’t know. They had all passed on. You were the only survivor.”
“I was by the river when it happened. Maybe he lived and set out on foot. Maybe he’s looking for me right now.”
“We didn’t see anyone walking.”
“I’d prefer that my memory would return. I’m finding this tedious. I need to know things, starting with my name.”
“You don’t like Sarah?”
“It’s fine, but it’s not mine. It feels strange to hear it.”
“I understand. If I were in your shoes, I’d be the same.”
“What if I’m with child? I’ve no money. No family. How will I take care of the baby?” I’d been in good spirits, but the reality of the situation had a sobering effect. I should have kept those thoughts to myself, but I had spoken without thinking.
“You’ll need a husband.”
“What man would want to raise another man’s child?”
“Plenty of men.”
“Really?” That was a surprise. “Would you raise another man’s child?”
“If I loved the mother, yes.” I could feel the weight of his appraisal, and it wasn’t unpleasant in the least. “There are a lot of young widows out west. It’s a hazardous world we live in.”
“I hate to be forced into something out of desperation. That leaves me with no choice.”
“Do you know what you’re going to do?”
“No, but I have to think of something. If I had family, I could go to them, but where are they? Who are they?”
“You’ll have to decide soon. We’re separating in a few days. People are continuing on to California or Utah. I’m stopping before the foothills.”
“I don’t know if I want to go to California. I can’t imagine being on the trail that long, especially if I’m…pregnant.”
“It doesn’t sound good.”
“What’s in Cherry Creek? Is there a town there?”
“A small one, but it’s growing. It’s mostly miners and trappers. I’ve never been, but my sister says there are a few businesses and such. People are building cabins and farming. Betsy and I had talked about coming west.” His expression flattened. “It’s a shame she couldn’t see this. There’s real beauty here. It’s desolate, but breathtaking.”
“It is.” I’d been staring at him, not the scenery.
He sensed my attention. “You could come with me. You could stay with us, until you decide what you want to do. That might give your memory time to return. Then you could maybe…either stay or leave.”
There was no other option, and I knew it. “I think I’d like that.”
He hadn’t expected such an affirmative response so quickly. “Truly?”
“I couldn’t do it, though. I’d be a burden. It’s unfair to your sister.”
“We wouldn’t have to burden them at all. I’m building my own cabin. They’ve been collecting wood for me. It won’t take long to erect.”
A strange tingle went down my backbone. “It would be scandalous, if I stayed with you alone.”
“Not if we were married.”