This is based on the characters in the book Meant To Be.
Tired of being alone, Penelope decides to leave her isolated cabin. In the North Dakota prairie she encouners a wounded man and takes him home to nurse him back to health. Will he stay when he's recovered?
Penelope and Cole share a meal...
He smiled at her. "I like to help. This way, I get to pay you back for all you've done for me. You know, saving my life and all."
She returned his smile. "I like the fact that you're here." Her heart thumped loudly in her chest. Did she just say that? It was such a bold thing to do. And yet, losing a husband after being married for only a year had taught her that she couldn't spend her life waiting. She had to make the most of the moment, and though she understood she couldn't come right out and ask him to stay with her, she could be subtle and let him know he was more than welcome if he wished to leave everything he'd known behind to be with her.
Forcing her attention back to the food, she finally bit into the biscuit.
"I like being here too,"he softly confessed, not making eye contact with her.
Her heart leapt. There was hope then. She was sure of it. Maybe he was considering it. She certainly hoped so. He was, by far, the most wonderful man she'd ever met. Randy was dear to her of course. He'd always have a special place in her heart. But there was no denying her feelings for Cole. Maybe, he'd come to feel the same way for her.
Late spring 1899
Loneliness. It was a constant companion out in the middle of a vacant North Dakota prairie. Vacant, that is, except for a woman. A woman who ventured out west as a mail-order bride only to have her husband die shortly after they built their home. A woman who spent a year alone with nothing for company except two horses and the howls of coyotes in the middle of the night. Their howls echoed the resounding emptiness in her heart, in her life.
Penelope Jordan packed her things. Today she'd return to civilization. She had enough of being isolated from other people. God, after all, did not create man to be alone, and after spending endless hours by herself, she learned how true that lesson was.
Loading her belongings into the wagon didn't take long. The two geldings obeyed her command to move forward. At long last, she was leaving. She didn't look back at the one room cabin. It was a cruel reminder of all that she'd hoped for but lost. A lifetime with someone who was to be her lover and friend.
But she wouldn't dwell on the past. Things that could have been were better left untended to. And so she guided the geldings northeast where the nearest town was. She'd take a job. She didn't care what that job was as long as it involved being near other people.
Twenty minutes passed before she found him. He was lying down, on his stomach, in the tall grass. She pulled the horses to a stop and set the brake before she stepped down from the wagon. She rushed over to him. He was badly burned from spending a good length of time in the sun. Blisters had formed on his hands and face. How lucky he was that his clothes covered the rest of him.
She tucked a rebellious strand of hair back under her bonnet and knelt beside him. "Mister." She nudged him in the arm.
Still, no response. His blond hair ruffled from the wind's activity, and thankfully, his beard had protected most of his face. The poor man. What he must have gone through to end up like this.
She took a deep breath to settle her sudden anxiety. What if he was dead? She glanced at the miles of grass that spanned in all directions. If he was dead, should she carry his corpse to town? He should have a proper burial, shouldn't he? Or should she leave him to the elements and let nature take care of him?
Startled, she turned her attention back to him. "Mister?" She shook his shoulder. "Can you hear me?"
Instead of giving her any answers, he grew silent.
She touched his face and realized his skin was hot. Maybe it was from the sunburn...or maybe it was a fever. He really didn't look well. She stood up and ran to her wagon where she picked up the canteen that had been resting next to her seat.
When she returned to him, she realized he was having trouble breathing. She turned him over, hoping the change in position would help.
He moved his lips as if to speak but no sound came out. She gently lifted his head and tucked it into the crook of her arm before letting the cool liquid seep into his mouth. She watched him swallow. His eyelids fluttered until they opened. He had light blue eyes, but they were unfocused. He most likely didn't even see her.
"Can you hear me?" she asked.
He gave a slight nod, winced and then closed his eyes again.
She couldn't help but feel sorry for him. She'd never seen
a man who looked worse off than he did, except for her husband as he struggled for his last breath through fluid-filled lungs. The reminder struck a cord of panic through her. Not this time. She wasn't going to let another man die if she could help it!
She let him sip on the water until he passed out. Setting the canteen by his side, she felt his forehead again. It was too hot. There was no way she could blame this on his sunburn, even if it was severe. How many days had he been wandering through the vast wilderness? What was he doing out here? He didn't even have a horse...or if he did, the horse was long gone. She shook her head. Such things didn't matter right now. She needed to get him to the cabin where he could rest.