Unpublished, Unedited Epilogue

When writing for Harlequin Love Inspired/Heartsong Presents, an author has to be mindful of the word count. Let's just say I tend to be wordy. Thank God for editors! The pre-edited version of The Marshal's Pursuit was 50,319. My Heartsong editor whittled the story down to 49,480. What did she cut? A few words here and there and . . . my epilogue! I hadn't intended on writing an epilogue. A couple critique partners asked me why I hadn't included one because "Heartsongs are supposed to end with a wedding." 


On the ferry to
U.S. Penitentiary, McNeil Island, WA
June, 1902

Frank dropped his hat on the bench next to him. He leaned forward, elbow on knee, and rested his head in his palm,  pinching his nose. His stomach lurched lurching with each crest of the wave. “This wasn’t a good idea.”

“You like being in water,” came Malia’s cheerful voice from somewhere to his left. He’d look but then he’d see her body rising and falling with the swaying of the boat. The woman had insides of steal. “Although I do see that on the water is a bit different.”


Frank grunted a response. No woman, not even one as loving and gracious as his wife was, should endure a man's weak stomach. Flat land. Think nice flat grassy land. Sprawling meadows and rolling—


He groaned. Not rolling hills.  Sidewalk flat.

She scooped his hat of the bench and slid next to him. “You look green. Real green.”


He focused on the nails in the deck. Nice flat nail head. Level. Even. He liked even.


Her stomach growled.


“Seriously, Malia,” he groaned.


“Well, I’m hungry, which is your fault, might I add. You didn’t feed me before we left.”


“Every time I’ve stepped on the ferry with a full stomach, I never got off with one.”


“Yes,” she said with a sigh. “I suppose that’s true.”


“You need not sound so forlorn.”


She chuckled and kissed his temple. “You’re a good man, Frank Louden, enduring this in order that I may see Giovanni.”


“For the twelfth time, don’t forget. Twelve,” he repeated. “I deserve some reward.”


The ferry’s whistle blew. It slowed and eased to the dock. Footsteps pounded across the deck as people moved to debark.


Frank lifted his gaze and focused on the guard tower until the dizziness lightened.


Malia placed his hat snugly on his head. She helped him stand.


He took no shame wrapping his arm around her shoulders and using her as his crutch as they made their way off the ferry and onto solid land. “Mrs. Louden, about that reward . . . ”


Her lips curved with lethal charm. “You have to feed me first.”