“Be careful,” Gwen yelled to her mother as the snowflakes fell around them. She shrugged, thinking about how these wet flakes had to come as they headed for this boring inaugural. Stepping onto the boardwalk, she planted her feet firmly on the wooden planks dusted with snow before pressing forward. The biting air stung her face and hands. She thrust her cold-gloved hands further inside the fox muff. Glancing at her ma, who wore a blue coat trimmed with fur sleeves, she asked, “Am I going too fast?”
Her mother took a deep breath. “No. I’m able to keep up. I’m more concerned about being late.”
Gwen gazed ahead of her. “I don’t know why the mayor decided to have his ceremony at the train station.”
“Pa said it’s because it’s the city hub of business activity, and the mayor wants to highlight that.”
“But it’s on the other side of town,” Gwen said with disgust. She jerked her hand from
the muff to brush the snow off her shoulders. She shivered. Horses hoofs pounded the brick pavement. Gwen turned and stared at the yellow-wheeled carriage approaching. What a beauty. She sighed, wishing her father owned one like that.
“Whoa!” shouted the driver to his horses as he stopped the vehicle beside the women. Peeking his head from outside the covered carriage, he called out to the duo, “May I offer you a ride?”
“Is it proper to accept a ride from someone we don’t know?” Gwen whispered to her mother.
“We’re not going to make it in time if we don’t, and Pa won’t like that,” Ma said in a hushed voice.
Gwen waved at him and they proceeded toward the carriage.
He stepped down from the vehicle.
Gwen looked up at him, taking in his strong chin, his twinkling-blue eyes and black-wavy hair sweeping around his brow. Her heart fluttered. She turned her face from him, not wanting him to notice her intense gaze.
Ma adjusted her hat and smiled at the young man. “I’ll sit in the back.”
“You sure, Mrs …”
“Not the newspaper publisher’s wife?”
“Why, yes,” she responded as her glove clasped his hand.
“Well, glad to make your acquaintance. I’m the mayor’s son, Nolan Bradford.” He settled the mother in the seat behind him.
“You’re the mayor’s son? Shouldn’t you already be on stage with your pa?”
“No, he’ll do fine without me.” His gaze met hers and he extended his hand to Gwen. “May I help you in, my lady?”
She nodded. My lady. Her heart warmed at this handsome man and his gentlemanly manners.
Grasping her gloved hand, he assisted her into the passenger seat before he hurried to the driver’s side to grab the reins. He shifted his head to Gwen. “Now, let’s go watch this — this — ”
He laughed. “Yes, you’re right.”
She liked this man. Her hands trembled. Not from the cold air since the carriage’s top prevented her from the biting flakes but instead from his alluring personality. She had never been around someone so elegant and refined. Gwen wished the ride would never end, but soon they pulled up to the train station.
Nolan stopped his vehicle and helped the women down. Turning to Mrs. Ward, he asked, “Would you mind if I joined you after I tie up the horses? I don’t know if your husband would approve, though. He doesn’t like us much.”
Gwen swallowed the lump in her throat, glancing over at her mother.
Her mother began,“Your father will be too busy to care, having to cover the inaugural and all.” Nolan smiled then went to his phaeton to urge the steeds forward.
Pa detested the mayor and anything to do with him. He believed the mayor’s family corrupt. Political matters, however, did not interest her although her mother participated in the
women’s suffrage movement. She inserted her hands into the muff then repeated the motion
several times to await Nolan’s return. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw him approach. She released a long breath.
He grinned at Gwen as he stood beside them.
A surge of pleasure mixed with anxiety filled her being. She smiled, no longer dreading today’s pomp and circumstance. Instead, she relished standing in the bitter cold as long as she stood beside such a gallant gentleman.