Kim D. Taylor
And it is very sweet that Kim put me in some excellent company with this from her Press Kit:
Who are some of Kim D. Taylor’s favorite writers?
· Tamara Alexander
· Laura Frantz
· Carrie Fancett Pagels
· Tracie Peterson
He had a gun and the guts to use it. Running away was the only hope she had. He’d taken everything. Ruined her…and threatened worse. She had to get out of Chicago. Stay alive for her family.
Title: Runaway River
Author: Kim D. Taylor
Publisher: Trilogy Christian Publishing
· Genre: Historical Fiction
· Series Title: The Bitterroot Mountains
· Collection Title: The Mountains of Montana
May 1, 1897 Chicago, Illinois
The children were finally asleep. All fifty-six of them. Holding her breath, Beth Yates took several careful steps and then paused to steady the tea tray in her hands. She smiled at her success. All of them into bed in forty-five minutes, ten minutes less than the night before. Floorboards creaked overhead, pulling her attention upward. She listened for the pitter-patter of tiny feet but heard nothing.
Peace at last, a moment all to herself.
But a sudden tug on the back of her skirt told her one little boy wasn’t asleep. Understandably. Tomorrow, he would finally have a family.
She turned around. “Freddy, you should be in bed.”
Freddy’s eyes threatened tears. “What if they don’t like me, Miss Beth?”
What would Mother say? Something sweet, she thought. “They won’t like you. They’ll love you.” She smiled down at him, thinking of all of the undeserved beatings this small, redheaded, freckle-nosed boy had endured.
“Will they hit me and call me bad names?” His words voiced the fear his five-year-old emotions couldn’t.
She hurried to one knee, smoothing his hair. “Of course, not. These are good, kind folks.” Seeing the doubt and confusion on his tiny face, she added, “They’ve been wanting a little boy just like you for a long time.”
He smiled, accepting her words. “Will I get my own room?”
She nodded hesitantly. She didn’t know for sure. Surely, the couple from Wisconsin had some means since they had traveled by train several times to meet with Father. Of course, they would have a room for him, a room filled with toys.
Beth had a room of her own once, but that was before Father had to leave the university. Before he spoke his mind. She lacked the details but knew it ended badly.
Thinking of Freddy’s drunken uncle, she decided to lower his expectations.
“Most children don’t have their own room. Be thankful for a new family,” She reminded gently, glancing upward in hopes Freddy hadn’t woken any of the other children. “Some children are still hoping for a family.”
“Can’t I take Opy and Nixon with me? They been wanting a family awful bad.”
Let him down easy, she reminded herself. “God has a specific family picked out for them.”
In all honesty, she didn’t know if God had anything to do with finding these children families and a home. Why had He abandoned them in the first place? But she hoped quoting Mother would suffice.
It could work out for Freddy, as dreams should.
“I don’t want to go.” Tears filled his eyes.
“Now, now.” She pulled a handkerchief from her apron pocket. “Don’t you worry. It will be wonderful. You’ll see.” She hoped it would be true for him, unlike her family’s move from a glorious home in uptown to follow Father and Mother’s dream.
Their dream, not hers. She chastised her thoughts even as she thought them. It was right to care for orphans. She stiffened with a renewed sense of duty, rallied her spirits in thought of the cup of tea to come, and covered Freddy’s runny nose.
“No, blow. Don’t suck.”
When blowing became impossible, he wiped his nose with his shirtsleeve.
She sent him back to bed with a sigh and the promise of a bright and happy tomorrow. It would be a bright and happy day, the first she’d had in years. She was to deliver Freddy to his new family at Union Station first thing. After that, a glorious day, free of duty and responsibility. She’d enjoy a café, visit the dress shops on the avenue, perhaps even buy a new dress.
Thinking of the days back at the university, she smiled. Father, a distinguished professor. Mother, head of various committees. She shrugged at the memories, considering the tiny amount Father had sacrificed for her to go downtown. I’ll buy a new hair comb instead.
Hearing no movement overhead, she organized the tea tray with Mother’s finest china in the old butler’s pan- try, complete with the strawberry patch teapot, matching creamer and sugar bowl, and a single teacup. The set was the one luxury that had followed them in the move. Moving toward the kitchen, the tea tray wobbled and tilted in time with the sway of her hips, forcing the lovely teacup to rattle in its saucer.
Hot tea was a necessity on a cold night like this. “Might even snow,” Father had said.
Snow? At this time of year? She shook her head.
She slowed to a snail’s pace, desperate to calm the hot tea from swishing side to side. Should’ve waited to pour the tea, but the ambiance of such finery got the better of her.
A tea party for one.
She sighed and decided to endure it as best as she could. At twenty-three years of age, friends were long gone. They doted over husbands and raised well-behaved children now. And she was here. Stuck. Imprisoned by her parents’ dying devotion to save the world, one orphan at a time.
If only she’d spoken her mind when she had the chance. Maybe she’d be married and raising children of her own. She could’ve stayed behind. Worked as a nanny or a tutor to one of the university families. She wasn’t so bad looking. Society would forgive her height for good behavior.
I possess a few qualities that might entice a—
Hot tea erupted from the mouth of the teapot and splashed onto her skin. Beth writhed at the burn on her hand and then shrugged. I possess a few qualities that might humor a man, she corrected. She stared at the tray, and the pool of tea accumulated in the saucer and tightened her grip to continue.
The moment she emerged from the kitchen, her brother Michael came barreling down the banister, feet first, sixteen- year-old frame second. It took less than half a wink to wipe her legs out from underneath her, upset the tray, and send Mother’s favorite china into the air. Beth gasped, and her shoulders tensed as the tray hit the floor, followed by each piece of china, and then silence.
The rug hadn’t softened the blow, shards of porcelain strewn about. Suddenly, it hit her, not the teapot, and she raced to the rescue.
But it was too late.
Tightening her fists, she glared at the ceiling. She had little patience when it came to Michael’s thoughtlessness. If he woke the children. Her eyes lowered to meet his careless expression. She was still a couple of inches taller. Grow up, Michael. I had to, but the sleeping children kept her mouth closed.
“Sorry. My fault.” Michael said as he slid Father’s copy of The Relations of Science and Religion: The Morse Lecture to his side and behind his back.
Did he really think her a nitwit? That she wouldn’t notice? Maybe words weren’t necessary. Michael knew how she merely tolerated his fascination of books, his obsession with reading. His hunger for information kept him from get- ting chores done and made more work for her.
Sorry? An apology wouldn’t bring Mother’s precious china back to life.
Staring at the disaster at her feet, she frowned. Nothing could.
Muttering a rebuke under her breath, she bent down to gather the broken pieces. Will nothing ever go right?
She could hear Mother now, “My wedding china isn’t meant for everyday use.” How could they possibly afford to replace it? Father had recently taken a second job, what with donations low and the extra mouths to feed. On her hands and knees, she began to rehearse words of apology.
Michael knelt beside her and swept the porcelain shards into a pile with his hand.
“Stop” Beth put her hand over his. “You’re going to cut yourself. I’ll do it,” she ordered.
He stopped short, smirked, and then continued.
“I said, I’ll take care—”
A knock at the door made them both look up.
“Who could that be? At this hour?” Beth glanced at the mantle clock. Eight o’clock. Mother should’ve been home by now, but why would she knock?
Michael pushed himself off the floor. “Mother forgot her key again.”
His overly confident answers annoyed Beth. She tossed the broken pieces onto the tray and slid the evidence under- neath Father’s tattered “thinking” chair. She’d work out the words of apology later.
At the window, Michael pressed his cheek against the glass. “It isn’t Mother. It’s Vance Carney.” A hint of disbelief crowded his words.
Beth smiled secretly. She enjoyed Michael’s miscalculations. He was too smart for his own good.
Another knock, a louder one.
She huffed, not wanting anything to wake the children, and she really wasn’t in the mood for company tonight. “Coming.” That gave her a few more seconds, enough time to scoot the last visible piece of porcelain under the ragbag coats hanging on the wall. She looked at Michael, his face still pressed against the window. Beth smoothed her apron and opened the door.
“Mr. Carney,” she gasped. “Sir, you’re bleed—”
Carney held up a large hand. “I need to speak with Mrs. Yates, your mother.” His breathing skipped and heaved as he rubbed the back of his neck. He looked exhausted. “Please. Right away.”
“She...she’s taken Father his dinner—” Beth cut her explanation short, seeing more blood on the man’s clothes. “Sir, are you all right?”
Carney nodded, but the red gash across his left cheek said otherwise. Michael joined Beth at the door.
“There’s been an accident...a fire at the factory,” he stuttered and then wiped his face, pausing to stare at the fresh blood on the back of his hand. He pulled his hat from atop his head and rolled it up like a scroll. “Your father is...” he trailed off, clearing his throat before shifting his gaze.
“Hurt!” Beth exclaimed, finishing his sentence.
“No.” Carney swallowed hard. “Please.” He lowered his head. “Your father is dead, miss. I’m sorry.”
Beth blinked, and her body faltered even as Michael reached to steady her. The heat in her cheeks chilled as she fell against the door. No. Her breathing turned to gasping. A voice cried out inside her head. It’s not true. It can’t be. Her hand crept along the flat of one of the door’s mahogany panels, and she held herself upright as she tried to gain control.
Behind Vance, a gust of wind rushed through the street. Specks of nature carried with it.
“Are you sure it was Father?” Michael asked, his eyes narrowing at Mr. Carney. “How?” He shot a look at Beth, muscles tensed on his neck. “Perhaps it isn’t him,” he stated, but not as confidently as Beth was accustomed to.
Carney assured them that it was.
Michael reached for Carney’s forearm. “Take me to him.” But Beth couldn’t move. Michael pulled his coat from the wall hook. It rebelled the first time. His jaw twitched, pushing back emotion. After this, nothing would happen as it should. Don’t leave me, Beth would’ve shouted it if she could.
Something always seized her thoughts, held them captive, like the air she breathed now. Don’t leave me alone.
With one boot on and still wriggling into the second, Michael pushed passed them, forcing Carney down a step.
“Wait. I’m coming too,” Beth finally cried out.
“No, you stay here, in case...” Michael shook his head low then looked up, “...for when Mother returns.”
Beth nodded. That’s right. She had to stay here—must be here when Mother returns. Mother might have taken another route. And the children needed her. Her seven-year- old sister, Maggie, needed her. She choked back the painful lump in her throat and stared beyond Carney and Michael to the flickering streetlamp. Its candlelight snapped and sparked as she watched until it eventually went out.
“I’m very sorry, miss.” Carney hesitated for a moment, and her gaze slowly returned to him as he joined Michael in the street. Wind gusts whipped at Michael’s coat and hair as their eyes locked. Beth nodded, permitting him to run. The wind pushed against the door as Beth tightened her grip on the cold knob to close it.
With her face in her hands, she slid down the backside of the door to the floor. Tears stung her cheeks as fear seized her heart.
Kim D. Taylor has almost made it to every state in the United States (five to go). As a former Miss Idaho and current resident of the great state of Washington, she has a particular love for the Pacific Northwest. However, it is the beauty of Montana that captivated her gaze and focus for her first historical fiction novel series, “The Mountains of Montana Collection.”
Kim is also the founder of the online platform, “Environments – A wholistic approach to the home.” Twenty plus years in real estate, pastoral ministry, and small business have given Kim a deep understanding of people and a great appreciation for deep and dynamic character development. RUNAWAY RIVER is the first book of The Bitterroot Mountains Series in The Mountains of Montana Collection. The second book, Stubborn Creek, is right around the corner.
Gourmet cooking, table settings, and entertaining are at the top of Kim’s love-list, and she will always make time for a great cup of tea with family and friends. Find out more @ www.kimdtaylor.com.
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Availability: Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million