“If there is anyone here who can show just cause why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
When Reverend Butterfield uttered those words, Val Crawford found himself biting the inside of his cheek so hard that he drew blood. Swallowing thickly, he dropped his gaze to the floor and remained silent as vows were made and rings exchanged.
Val had carried a torch for the pretty, young schoolteacher from the moment she’d arrived in the valley but in his heart of hearts he knew it would never amount to anything. There was no way she would ever go for a crusty old cowpoke like him. He was rough and coarse and his manners were terrible. He’d never had any schooling beyond the eighth grade and he had to be at least ten years older than her.
And as for her? Why, she was as young and fresh and pretty as a spring day. She was smart and sweet and had a real genteel way about her. She was a refined lady who deserved nothing but the best.
So when Scott Lancer – one of the most eligible bachelors in all of the San Joaquin - started courting her, Val knew he didn’t stand a chance. The Easterner was handsome, rich, educated and had a fancy way with words.
Sure, Val did okay when it came to facing down a gunfighter or rounding a bunch of bush-whackin’ cattle rustlers. Heck, he could do that with one arm tied behind his back! But put him in front a pretty gal and he became nothing more than a big ol’ clumsy ox, all fidgety and tongue-tied. And it wasn’t as if he was rollin’ in dough, neither. That being the case, he’d never even bothered to approach her. What was the point?
Still, it had been nice to imagine that she was sweet on him. That she was his gal and not someone else’s.
But today Scott Lancer had taken Delia Abbott as his wife and all of Val’s daydreams became nothing more than ashes in his mouth. The shiny band of gold that now resided on Delia’s left hand had put her forever out of reach.