A Chance in Time

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.
***
A Chance In Time

A
Chance in
Time
A novella based on the characters in Meant to Be
and Restoring Hope
Ruth Ann Nordin
Ruth Ann Nordin‘s Books
Springfield, NE 68059

A Chance in Time
Chapter One
Late spring 1899
L
oneliness. 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 and 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.
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Ruth Ann Nordin
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.
Mister? she called.
No response.
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?
He groaned.
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.
2

A Chance in Time
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.
The task of bringing one of the geldings to him and
pulling his dead weight onto it was daunting, to say the least. He
must have been a head taller than her. But she managed it. The
journey back to her solitary home took longer than normal, but
she wanted to be careful so she didn‘t cause the stranger more
damage than he‘d already endured. By the time she dragged him
onto her bed, she was out of breath and sweating so badly that her
clothes stuck to her like a second layer of skin. Still, she ignored
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Ruth Ann Nordin
her aching back and arms and checked his pulse. His breathing
was shallow but steady. He was still alive. That‘s what mattered.
The sunlight drifting through the small window hit
something shiny in his shirt pocket. She squinted and took the
object. She stood and examined it. Cool, metal, silver. A thin
line traced it‘s sides, so she dug a fingernail into it and it opened.
At least, she assumed it opened. She saw numbers and months
and symbols she didn‘t recognize. What in the world was this
thing? A small blue pulsing light startled her.
She quickly shut the thing and threw it in the small dresser
drawer by the bed. Rubbing her hands on her dress, she
wondered what that thing was. She glanced at the man who lay
silent on her bed.
Who are you?
Maybe he was dangerous. Maybe
she shouldn‘t have brought him here.
As soon as the thought came to mind, she dismissed it.
He was in no shape to harm her. But…just in case. She searched
his clothes and found a wallet in his back pocket. It had some
money, though not much. He didn‘t have any weapons on him.
She had a gun. Her husband had taught her how to shoot. She
had a knife she used for skinning rabbits and deer. She decided
she‘d hide her gun and knife. If she needed to, she could defend
herself.
Finding comfort in the reminder, she decided to turn her
attention to putting her things away so she could tend to the ill
man.
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A Chance in Time
Chapter Two
C
ole Hunter drifted in and out of awareness. At moments, he
thought he was running. Then at other times, he knew it was an
illusion. He hadn‘t moved at all. Instead, he was lying on his back
somewhere. Images of a man pursuing him haunted him. He
knew the man, but for some reason, he couldn‘t recall the name.
He moved his legs. At least he tried to. Was he running or not?
Was the man still chasing him? What did the man want?
He gulped. His mouth felt dry. Hot. Hot like fire.
Wincing, he tried to touch his face, but his arms wouldn‘t budge.
He couldn‘t be on fire, and yet, that‘s what the heat reminded him
of.
He took a deep breath. The air around him was warm.
But there was no smoke. Relief set his mind at ease. Still, there
was a question lingering in his mind. Where in the world was he?
He struggled to open his eyes, and for a moment, he thought he
did. A light struck his vision. He wanted to turn his head but
couldn‘t. It was as if he were paralyzed.
His heart sped up. He could feel the frantic beating of it.
He didn‘t like being helpless.
5

Ruth Ann Nordin
Relax, Cole. The sooner you relax, the sooner you can figure out
what’s going on.
He inhaled and exhaled, counting to ten each time. It
worked. His heart slowed. Good. Now he could focus. Since all
he managed to catch were glimpses of light, he decided to let his
other senses give him clues.
The place was silent. No. That wasn‘t exactly true. There
was a faint humming. It faded in and out like a radio station that
wouldn‘t give him a clear signal. He ordered his fingers to move
and they finally inched forward. Paper. What was he doing on
paper? His head was inclined on something soft. A pillow? Then
what was he on? A bed made of paper? That didn‘t make sense.
Ignoring the oddity of it, he turned his attention to the smell. He
already knew there was no smoke. The last thing he remembered,
he was walking along an endless stretch of flat land that never
seemed to end. But he didn‘t smell the tall grass or the fresh air as
the wind refreshed him from the sun‘s intense heat.
The sun. That could be the source of light. It also
explained the heat. But no. That couldn‘t be right. He knew it
wasn‘t right. He wasn‘t walking. He couldn‘t even move his legs
though he tried. He groaned in aggravation.
You‘ll be alright, someone said in a soft tone. Here.
Whatever he was lying on shifted and something cool and
damp covered his forehead. It reminded him of cold water. He
had been swimming. The man swam after him. Why?
Try to drink, the voice instructed.
Whoever tended to him pressed a wet cloth to his lips. He
tried to suck the water out of it but his mouth wouldn‘t comply,
so he allowed the water to trickle on his tongue.
He had gulped water during that cold moonlight swim.
He recalled the splashing, the man shouting at him to
return…something. What was it? Then he remembered what he
had been holding in one hand, making sure it didn‘t get wet. Time
travel. He had stolen a time machine the size of a cell phone, and
6

A Chance in Time
the man was trying to get it back. Blake. The man‘s name was
Blake.
But Cole had escaped. Or was he still in the water? No.
He wasn‘t. His mind became jumbled as he tried to focus on the
water someone was giving him. Tall grass. Sun. Heat.
Unbearable heat.
Cole, come back!
Cole knew the voice was in his mind. It was Blake calling
out to him, still pursuing him. He knew he wasn‘ t really out in the
prairie, but he ran anyway. His feet were sore, his chest hurting
from the exertion of the chase, and his hand clenching the time
travel device.
The chase seemed so real. The further the soft voice
drifted, the deeper he fell back into his mind and before long, he
lost consciousness.
***
Penelope checked her food supply in the underground cellar. She
could probably make it another two months before she needed to
go to town for more. At that time, the man she‘d brought home
would either be well enough to travel with her or dead. She
sighed as she gathered some potatoes into her arms. She hoped
he‘d make it. She didn‘t ever want to watch another man die.
Once was bad enough.
She walked up the steps and shut the door, making sure it
was secure. Her husband had built everything, but working with
his hands wasn‘t his gift. Still, she felt a smile tug at her lips as she
recalled how proud he‘d been to make the buildings on their
property. He was a good man. Sometimes she missed him. A
part of her would always love him. She glanced up at the clear sky
wondering if he could look down at her. What he must think of
her bringing a stranger home!
7

Ruth Ann Nordin
She shrugged off the thought and turned to the cabin. As
soon as she crossed the threshold, she saw that the stranger had
finally woken up. He tried to sit up but fell back onto the thin
mattress which squeaked in protest. Quickly putting the potatoes
on the table, she rushed over to him.
You mustn‘t get up before you‘re ready, she softly
warned him.
She picked up the towel on the dresser. and dipped it into
the bowl of water and pressed it to his forehead. Sitting beside
him on the bed, she pressed her hand against his cheek. Good.
His skin felt cool. When she realized he was studying her, she
grinned. Naturally, he was wondering where he was.
You‘ve been unconscious for four days, she informed
him.
Four days? He gasped and tried to sit up but groaned
and laid back down.
She wished he wouldn‘t press himself so hard. He wasn‘t
ready to get up yet. She forced aside the admonition and said, I
found you in the fields up north that way. She pointed out the
small window. I feared you wouldn‘t survive.
Four days? he asked, looking bewildered. Then his eyes
drifted down the length of his naked body. Where are my pants?
Where‘s my…? He hesitated. Where‘s the thing I had in my
pocket?
Everything you had is in the dresser drawer. She wanted
to ask him what that odd silver thing was but refrained. Maybe
she didn‘t want to know. Maybe he was an outlaw or something.
Maybe the less she knew, the better. She cleared her throat and
continued to smile at him. You have no need to worry. I had a
husband. I know what a man looks like when he doesn‘t have
clothes on.
You
had
a husband?
He passed away a year ago. We came out here to build a
home and to farm, but he got sick our first winter here. It had
8

A Chance in Time
been a long time since she said those words aloud. The last time
she said them, it was to the preacher who buried him. She shoved
the memory back into the corner of her mind where it belonged.
It wasn‘t meant to be, I guess.
Then what are you doing here? Don‘t you have relatives
to go to?
No. I didn‘t have any family. I was a mail-order bride,
and he lived out here, far from anywhere.
So how have you managed all by yourself?
I learned to grow a good-sized garden. I make it to town
a couple times a year and I have a cellar to keep foods from
rotting. It‘s nothing fancy, mind you, but it works.
You came from back east?
Rhode Island.
That‘s a lot different from here.
She laughed. Was it ever! But in a way, being out here
made her self-sufficient, and she liked that. It‘s another world
out there.
His gaze fell to his body. Raising an eyebrow, he asked,
Do you make it a habit of taking men into your home and
undressing them?
She found his humor appealing. Things had a tendency to
be too serious with no one to talk to. Believe it or not, you‘re
the first person I‘ve come across in eight months. I found you
lying face down in the fields.
And you carried me here?
Still grinning, she shook her head. You are an odd man.
How do you think I‘d manage a feat like that when you‘re a foot
taller than me? I put you on my steed and brought you here. I
was on my way to town. I‘ll make another attempt when you‘re
well enough.
He finally smiled. A gorgeous smile. You still haven‘t
explained why I‘m naked.
9

Ruth Ann Nordin
That‘s simple. You had a fever, so I had to keep you
cool. Your fever broke last night. I hoped it meant you would
wake up today. She removed the cloth from his forehead. His
color had returned. Yes, he looked much better. Now she could
stop worrying that she‘d ha ve to arrange for his funeral. Turning
her attention to more practical matters, she asked, Do you need
to use the privy?
His eyebrows furrowed. The what?
Do you need to urinate? If you are too ill, you may use
this container. She picked up an empty jug by the bed.
No. I can go outside.
She nodded and stood up to help him, but he shooed her
away and eased himself up from the bed. When he stumbled
forward, she dropped the empty jug and caught him. Placing his
arm around her shoulders, she said, I can help you. I might be a
woman, but I‘m not useless.
He glanced at her. Of that, I have no doubt.
He meant that, and she appreciated the compliment. Back
in Rhode Island, she‘d been a helpless creature. Out here, such
was not the case, and it was nice to have that acknowledged by
someone who didn‘t know her past. She helped him to the front
door and out of the house.
She pointed to the small wood barn, the well, and the
cellar. If he was going to stay here to heal, then he‘d need to
know where everything was. The cabin itself was self-explanatory.
A couple of chairs, a table, a cook stove, a bed and a dresser. It
didn‘t get any fancier than that. She hoped he wouldn‘t mind the
meager accommodations. If he was used to what she had in
Rhode Island, he was bound to be eager to return to civilization.
But he didn‘t show any outward signs of disgust or dismay, so that
was a good sign.
As soon as they reached the outhouse, she waited by the
door while he did his business. It felt strange to do something
this familiar with someone she hardly knew. And what did she
10

A Chance in Time
know about him? Nothing really. Though she suspected she
could trust him. Something in his expression told her that deep
down, he had a good heart.
The door to the outhouse opened. Can I get dressed?
he asked.
Of course. I‘ll help you back to the house and then you
can get your clothes. Then I‘ll make you some soup.
Will you take me to town? I need to get on a train to
Fargo.
Oh. So he had some place to go. Well, of course, he had
some place to go. He wasn‘t seeking her house out as he walked
across the prairie. I‘ll take you but I need you to rest up first.
You‘re in no shape to travel for two days.
Two days?
That‘s how long it takes me to get to town. That‘s why I
don‘t make the trip very often.
He sighed, looking disappointed.
She didn‘t know what else to say, so she let him wrap his
arm around her shoulders and helped him back to the house
where he got dressed. He spent the rest of the day in bed and let
his body heal.
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Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Three
C
ole watched Penelope as she cut up potatoes for the soup. He
wondered what she thought of the time travel device. She saw it.
That was the only explanation for it ending up in the drawer. He
had slipped it into his pocket while he dressed. Thankfully, she
allowed him privacy to do that. But she had returned before he
had a chance to check the location of the missing chip. Without
it, he was stuck back in this time.
Is there anything I can do to help? he asked.
She glanced over her shoulder. Stray strands of her blond
hair fell over her blue eyes.
He had the urge to go up to her and brush them away but
didn‘t dare.
You need to rest. You‘re still not well, she said in a soft
voice that he likened to an angel. You‘ll need your strength
before you‘re up to doing anything.
She was right, of course, but he didn‘t like feeling helpless.
He wanted to contribute something. I think I‘ll walk around for
a bit. I need to stretch my legs.
12

A Chance in Time
Even as he said the words, he wondered if his body was
up for the task. As it was, he was doing good to stand. But he
couldn‘t rest until he checked that location of the chip. Was it still
in Fargo? If he didn‘t get the chip, he‘d never get back to the 21
s t
century where he belonged.
Alright, she replied, but I‘m going to get you
something first. She put her knife down and went out the door.
He wondered what she had in mind. Considering the fact
that she saved him from an early grave, he knew she wouldn‘t do
him any harm. His gaze drifted to the open window and he saw
her enter the barn. That meant he just bought some time. Well,
he wasn‘t about to waste this opportunity. He quickly dug the
time machine out of his pocket and flipped it open. The energy
signature revealed that the chip was still in Fargo. Breathing a sigh
of relief, he closed it. Good. It hadn‘t budged. That had to mean
that no one else had it. If someone was in possession of it, then it
would be changing locations.
His body felt weak as he limped forward. He sat in one of
the two kitchen chairs and wiped his forehead. He couldn‘t
believe the simple walk across the room made him break into a
sweat. Yes, he was bad off.
She returned a minute later with a tall branch that reached
up to her nose. This might help you. If you get weak, you can
lean on this.
His heart warmed at her thoughtfulness. I‘ve decided
you‘re right. I‘m not up for it yet.
She nodded and placed it next to the table. If you need
it, it‘s here.
He considered his next words with great care. He didn‘t
wish to upset her, but he wanted to know why a lone woman out
in the middle of nowhere would dare nurse a stranger back to
health. For all she knew, he could be a cold blooded killer.
But are
you that much better? You are a thief. The time machine isn’t yours.
He
shoved the self-accusation aside. He‘d deal with his sin later.
13

Ruth Ann Nordin
May I ask why you brought me here? he finally asked.
She didn‘t make eye contact as she returned to the small
table by the cook stove and resumed her work on the potatoes. I
saw you and knew that you‘d die if I didn‘t help. There‘s nothing
close by, and I couldn‘t risk the journey to town.
What could he say to that? She didn‘t know his past.
Here she was, a good Samaritan, someone who saw someone in
need and didn‘t hesitate to help. He decided against telling her
that she would have been better off leaving him for dead. Instead,
he said, Thank you.
She smiled in his direction, and he sensed that, in some
way, she was actually glad he was there. My name is Penelope.
Cole.
He couldn‘t help but be struck by her beauty. Women in
his day didn‘t usually pull their hair back into buns like she did,
but even so, she was much more pleasing to look at. He looked
away from her, ashamed that such thoughts would come to him.
Surely, she‘d be better off with a more respectable man, one who
didn‘t lie and steal to get what he wanted.
So, he began, wishing to break the awkward silence that
hung between them, you‘ve lived here all by yourself for how
long?
About a year now.
You mentioned that you had a husband. Wha t happened
to him?
He got sick. It was a hard winter, and neither of us were
prepared for it.
But she‘d survived and carried on in this place. It must
get lonely out here.
She simply nodded as she stirred the potatoes in the pot.
Are you able to keep track of the days?
I have a calendar. At the end of each day, I make a mark
on the day.
What is today?
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A Chance in Time
June 2.
He slowly exhaled. It had been April 23 when he went
back into the past, and he was no closer to returning to the future
than when he started searching for that missing chip. Time. Time
wasted running from Blake, time wasted arguing with lawyers over
alimony checks, time wasted with a woman who made him
miserable, time wasted in believing that tomorrow would be better
than today. He shook of his mental check through his past. Or
his future…depending on how one decided to look at it.
Do you make it to town often? he asked, recalling that
she mentioned it being a two day journey.
I go about twice a year.
By yourself?
Her lips curved in amusement. Who else would
accompany me?
He returned her smile. Of course. But you must know
someone in town, someone you can visit while there.
There is my husband‘s sister . I don‘t know her very well
though. As soon as I came off the train, he married me and took
me out here.
His ears perked up. There‘s a train station in town?
Yes. New Rockford is a good-sized place. At least, it is
compared to here.
New Rockford? He‘d never heard of that place before.
He wondered how far it was from Fargo.
You don‘t have much money, she said. You‘ll need
new clothes. The ones you have on are torn.
He glanced at his ripped jeans and shirt. You‘re right.
Clothes were the least of his concerns, but he couldn‘t tell her
that.
I have some money saved. You can use that to purchase
some.
He blinked in surprise. Why in the world would she do
that? That‘s not necessary.
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Ruth Ann Nordin
I know. But I want to do it. Before he could reply, she
motioned to the large trunk in the corner of the cabin. My
husband‘s clothes are in there. You can wear those for the time
being.
In a way, it felt odd to be granted a dead man‘s clothes,
but he could see her logic. They weren‘t doing her husband any
good. Thank you. Again.
It seemed the list of things to thank her for was a mile
long, but he‘d find a way to repay her for her kindness.
Are you hungry? she asked as she added salt to the
soup.
A little but not much. Actually, I‘m more thirsty than
anything else.
She set the ladle aside and grabbed a cup from the shelf.
She picked up a pitcher and poured water into the cup.
I could have done that, he told her. He hadn‘t expected
her to run to fetch him some water. He‘d just been making
conversation.
You need to rest up. When you feel like you can move
around without getting dizzy, then I won‘t baby you so much.
If that‘s the case, I may be dizzy for a long time, he
joked. It wasn‘t every day a man got treated like royalty.
Well, if I catch on that you‘re fibbing, then I‘ll have to
stop.
He liked the twinkle in her eye as she handed him his cup.
Thanks. Yet again.
She sighed. I should thank you.
He raised an eyebrow. And what have I done?
You gave me someone to talk to other than myself. And
with that, she turned back to the soup, signaling that this
particular conversation was at an end.
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A Chance in Time
Chapter Four
T
wo days later Penelope was in the barn feeding the two horses
when it started to rain. She had just finished filling the trough
when something wet hit her arm. Glancing up, she was rewarded
with two fat raindrops that nearly hit her eyes. She quickly backed
up so she could get a good view of the hole in the roof. It wasn‘t
a big one, but it could become a problem if she didn‘t do
something about it right away.
She hastened to the nearest wall and retrieved the ladder
that her husband had left there. She feared that Randy had rushed
through building this barn, and now she was proven right. Never
mind that he hadn‘t listened to her. She was a woman. What did
she know? Rolling her eyes at his joke, she strode out of the
building. As much as she had loved him, she had to admit the
man wasn‘t perfect. But then, what man was? Men, after all, were
human.
Sighing, she examined the structure and estimated where
the hole was on the roof. The rain came down harder. It was as if
someone had dumped a bucket of water on her. Had she been
alone out here, she‘d take this opportunity to actually bathe. She
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Ruth Ann Nordin
did that when it rained like this. It was easier than dragging water
from the well and heating it up for the tub. But she didn‘t dare
bathe this time. Not with Cole in the cabin, resting up after nearly
passing out that morning.
She found the right spot along the edge of the barn and
set the ladder against it. Testing it to make sure it was sturdy, she
decided it would work. She hurried back into the barn and found
the material her husband had used to make the roof. She dug out
some nails and a hammer. Fortunately, she had taken the time to
watch him. As she headed out the door, she noticed the growing
puddle on the floor. If she didn‘t take care of this roof
immediately, there‘d be further damage, and who knew if she
could handle that much repair?
After she put her supplies in a bag, she swung it over her
shoulder and made her way to the ladder. She was halfway up
when someone called out to her.
What are you doing? Cole demanded.
She stopped and looked down at where he stood at the
foot of the ladder. There‘s a leak in the roof. I have to fix it.
He looked appalled. You‘ll do no such thing. Get down
here. I‘ll take care of it.
She hesitated. Fixing it wasn‘t something she wanted to
do, and if he could…If he knew how…
I use to work in construction when I went to college, he
informed her, as if he could read her mind. I know how to do
this.
His offer was tempting. She wouldn‘t lie. But… But
you‘re still sick.
It‘s better for me to be sick than for you to be dead.
Now, please get down before you fall and break your neck or
something.
Relieved, she obeyed. She didn‘t realize her body was
shaking until her feet landed safely on the ground and she handed
him the bag. Everything you need is in here.
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A Chance in Time
Good. Go to the house and dry up. There‘s no sense in
both of us being sick.
Alright. And I‘ll make some coffee so you can warm up
when you‘re done.
He nodded and didn‘t look back as he climbed the ladder.
She waited until she was back in the cabin before she
peered out the window to see what progress he was making. He
was already on the roof, looking as if it was perfectly natural for a
person to climb up on a roof and start patching it up.
I hope he doesn‘t get worse, she whispered.
She shrugged off her wet clothes and dumped them in the
corner of the room. She‘d wash those later. Right now she had
other matters to tend to. She went to the dresser and pulled out
dry clothes. At one time her yellow dress had been vibrant and
decorated in finely sewn flowers. Now it was faded and some of
the flowers had fallen off. It was slightly tattered along the
hemline. She realized it was proof of how different her life was
on the prairie. Back in Rhode Island, she‘d never put on anything
so shabby.
She finished buttoning the top button of her dress and
stood still for a moment, wondering if she should entertain foolish
notions of looking attractive for a man she hardly knew. Her
husband got to see her at her best when he met her at the train
station. She‘d worn a brand new pink dress and had her hair
nicely done for him. That dress had since become rags.
Her hand settled on the knob on the drawer next to her
undergarments. It‘d been a long time since she gave any concern
to her appearance. She slowly opened the drawer and studied her
brush, hand mirror, ribbons, barrettes, and her two necklaces.
Diamond necklaces. They were expensive. They had no use out
here. She realized she could sell them but hated the thought of
giving up a part of her past. The gold and diamonds would last
her a lifetime of memories while the clothes wouldn‘t. She needed
something tangible to connect with the person she once was. Had
19

Ruth Ann Nordin
her parents not threatened to marry her to that awful Don
Fergeson, she wouldn‘t have become a mail-order bride.
Closing her eyes, she recalled the morning she told her
parents the news:
Her father bolted from the breakfast table, nearly
upsetting the orange juice. You what?
I answered an ad to be a mail-order bride. I can‘t marry
Don, she replied in a shaky voice. He keeps a mistress. I don‘t
want to be married to a man like that.
Her mother sighed and settled back in her chair. It‘s
common. Your father has had several over the course of our
marriage.
And that doesn‘t bother you? she demanded, appalled to
find this out…and like this!
Her mother shrugged. It is the way it is. Marriage is a
contract binding wealth. Don‘s financial standing will make you
one of the richest women in the country.
I don‘t want to be rich. I want to be happy.
Her father laughed. Happy? You think struggling to
make ends meet will make you happy? You‘re nothing but a
dreamer, Penelope. Dreams were fine when you were a little girl,
but now it‘s time to be a woman. You are marrying Don and that
is that.
No. I‘ve already packed. I‘m leaving today.
He stopped laughing and stormed over to her. You
ungrateful brat. Your mother and I have raised you in the best
schools and given you everything you‘ve ever wanted. And this is
how you repay us?
Her mother quickly stood up and ran over to them.
Penelope, don‘t go, she pleaded. If you wish for love, then
find a lover. Just be discreet about it.
Penelope took a step back. She blinked back the tears
from her eyes. That sounds like a miserable existence.
20

A Chance in Time
Do we look miserable? her mother asked.
She took a good look at them. Her mother offered her
usual charming smile. Her father glared at her. It suddenly
occurred to her that her mother‘s smiles had been faked. Her
laughter had an undertone of sorrow to it. Her father was
perpetually angry. Yes, she decided. They looked like the most
miserable people she‘d ever seen, and if she married Don, she‘d
end up the same way.
I‘m sorry but I can‘t marry him, she softly replied. She
turned around and stiffly made her way to her luggage.
Randy warned her not to bring more than one bag. He‘d
warned her that life out west was completely different from what
she was used to. In fact, he‘d tried to talk her out of going when
he found out she came from money and would have to give it all
up to be with him. But she loved the way he wrote and thought
they would do well together. At least his plan of being out on the
prairie involved no one but her. He‘d be too far from town to
take a mistress. And that appealed to her more than anything else
he‘d said.
She picked her travel bag, wondering just how different
her life was about to become. She took one more look at her
parents. I love you both.
Her mother pressed a hand to her mouth to hold back a
sob.
Her father‘s face grew bright red. If you walk out that
door, don‘t you dare come back.
She almost tripped as she crossed the threshold. Tears
stung her eyes and her body trembled. Never did she think the
day would come when she‘d have to leave everything she ever
knew behind. Deep in her heart, she knew she was doing the
right thing. There was a peace that she couldn‘t explain.
The last thing she heard her father yell as she walked down
the porch steps was, Don‘t come back!
21

Ruth Ann Nordin
She opened her eyes, her body slightly shaking from the
memory of that day over two years ago. There was no going back.
But she didn‘t want to return either. She learned to love the
prairie, even if it did come with its moments of loneliness.
Her fingers brushed her wedding ring. The small gold
band was not as fancy as her necklaces, but it was the best he
could afford. Randy had been a good husband to her. She didn‘t
regret coming out here to meet him. She‘d loved him and he‘d
loved her in return.
And now for the first time, she was beginning to care for
someone else.
It’s foolishness, Penelope. You don’t know Cole. But you
didn’t know Randy either and look how that turned out.
She finally
closed the drawer. Maybe another day she‘d worry about how she
looked. For now, she‘d take it one day at a time and see what
happened.
22

A Chance in Time
Chapter Five
C
ole went through another round of coughing. The phlegm
finally came up into the handkerchief that Penelope had given
him. He gagged at the sight of it. Being sick…again…was not his
idea of a good time. He laid back on the bed and took a deep
breath, his lungs thrilled with the temporary reprieve from the
congestion. Even if he did feel like he‘d been pulled through the
wringer, he was glad the roof was repaired. He vowed to fix the
whole thing once he was well enough.
He stared at the ceiling. He needed to rest if he wanted to
get out of here. He had to get to Fargo, and the sooner he did
that, the better. Who knew where Blake was? For all Cole knew,
he was making his way to Fargo right now. But there was no way
Blake could know the location of the chip. That simple logic
reassured Cole enough so that he didn‘t do something stupid…like
take off right away.
Rest. Yes. He needed rest. He closed his eyes and
breathed in and out, letting the action calm him.
At least the rain had finally stopped. It had rained the
entire day and then most of that morning.
23

Ruth Ann Nordin
The door opened so he opened his eyes and turned his
head in Penelope‘s direction. He smiled at the concern in her
eyes.
It looks worse than it is, he assured her before he went
into another coughing fit.
She quickly placed the bucket of water on the table and
dipped a cup into it. When he stopped coughing, she held the cup
out to him. This will help.
He tried to say thanks but the tickle in his throat made
him think better of it. Accepting the cup, he sat up and drank the
cool liquid and handed it back to her. Thank you.
To his surprise, she leaned forward and touched his
forehead. Good. Your fever hasn‘t returned.
He liked the feel of her hand on his skin. He liked it too
much. Clearing his throat, he said, I‘ll be fine. This is just a
common cold.
As long as you keep getting better, I won‘t complain.
She removed her hand and went to the table where she set the cup
down. I never should have let you fix the roof while it rained.
You would have been better off to wait until now.
If I had waited, you‘d be looking at a hole the size of my
hand instead of the small crack. That roof was falling apart fast.
Maybe so but a roof can be repaired. Life is much more
fragile.
She meant her husband, he realized. He guessed that
being a bride for only a year had taught her that lesson. At least
you two were happy.
It was better than he and Evelyn had done. Five years he
stayed married to her, only to find out she and his brother had
been playing him for a fool. Why didn‘t he notice the uncanny
resemblance between the boy he thought was his son and his
brother?
Because my brother and I share the same genes. How was I
supposed to put two and two together until I dug out that birth certificate and
24

A Chance in Time
confronted them?
And what a way to confront them—while they
were in bed together.
He forced the memories aside. That was all in the past.
Well, in
his
past anyway. Tonight, I‘m going to sleep on the
floor. You need to get your bed back.
She glanced his way as she crossed the room to a trunk.
I‘m fine on the floor.
Maybe. But you‘re a woman. It‘s not right for me to
take the bed.
You‘re sick.
I‘m well enough to sleep on the floor now.
She sighed as she opened the trunk. Alright. I‘m too
relieved you‘re alive to argue with you.
A smile crossed his lips. She was probably the only person
who cared about that, and it made him feel good. It made him
feel like he actually mattered.
She pulled out a rifle.
What‘s that for?
We need meat. I‘m going to hunt.
You hunt?
My husband taught me shortly before he got sick. He
insisted that I needed to know how to take care of myself if
something were to ever happen to him.
Smart man. I‘m sorry he died.
She stared at the rifle in her hands and took a deep breath.
I am too. She looked up at him. But I can‘t bring him back. I
have to move on.
He nodded. What else could she do? All of life was about
adapting to whatever crap came someone‘s way. Whether it was
him and his crummy marriage that ended in a divorce or her
happy marriage that ended in death, they had their own difficulties
to overcome.
25

Ruth Ann Nordin
Good luck hunting, he said as he settled back onto the
bed, suddenly feeling tired. And I promise to spend my time
resting.
She smiled before she left.
A beautiful smile. Much too beautiful for a thief.
26

A Chance in Time
Chapter Six
T
wo weeks passed and, to Penelope‘s relief, Cole returned to full
health. She wouldn‘t lose him like she‘d lost Randy. She blinked.
Lose him? That was an odd thought for someone she hardly
knew. She forced the observation aside and finished making
breakfast.
Cole returned from feeding the horses, looking silly in
clothes that were much too tight on him. His steps halted and he
raised an eyebrow. Something funny?
Clearing her throat so her chuckle would cease, she said,
You‘re taller than my husband was. His clothes don‘t fit you
very well.
He grinned and shrugged. Who am I to complain? At
least they stay on.
She set the biscuits and pancakes on the plates before
turning to the small table where she placed them. I hope you
brought your appetite.
I did. You better watch out though. It seems like I‘m
hungry all the time now.
27

Ruth Ann Nordin
That‘s because you need to get your strength back. I
have extra food prepared.
He sat at his place at the table. I‘ll try not to eat you out
of house and home.
Eat as much as you want. I‘m just glad you‘re alright.
You may not be saying that when you realize how much
I‘m capable of wolfing down.
She smiled at his joke and joined him at the table. He sat
in front of her, which she privately enjoyed since it gave her
liberty to look at him without being obvious. Now that his
sunburn had healed and he had shaved, she could see his face
clearly. He was a handsome man with his dark blond hair with
bangs that fell over his forehead. He pushed them back, but they
usually ended up falling forward again. He had kind eyes, a nice
nose, and full lips. His shoulders were broad and his body strong.
Yes, she did enjoy looking at him.
She touched her bun. What did she look like? She knew
she‘d let herself go since her husband died. Did she let herself go
too far? Randy used to like her hair when it was down. Maybe
she should do that again.
He picked up a biscuit and put butter on it. Do you
make your own butter?
She nodded and took her hand off her hair.
Isn‘t it a lot of work? Don‘t get me wrong. This stuff
tastes better than anything I bought from the store, but it can‘t be
easy. Don‘t you have to churn this stuff?
He had an odd way of talking, but she liked it. Smiling,
she replied, I don‘t notice how much work it is. I did when I
first came here. But I don‘t anymore. I guess I got used to it.
That‘s only natural. He took a bite and swallowed.
This is really good. I‘m glad I have enough of an appetite to
enjoy it.
Thank you. I‘m glad you‘re well enough to enjoy it too.
She picked up her biscuit and decided to butter it as well.
28

A Chance in Time
Today I want to teach you how to repair a roof.
Why?
Because you might need to know how to do it in the
future.
She glanced at her uneaten biscuit. Suddenly, she had lost
her appetite. That meant he planned to leave, didn‘t it? Of
course, he‘d leave. He had a life somewhere. Fiddling with the
napkin in her lap, she asked, May I ask what your life is like? I
mean, before you came here?
He frowned for a moment then shrugged. There‘s not
much to tell. I worked hard. I rarely slept in. I was just there.
Just getting by.
That was such a vague answer that she didn‘t know what
to make of it.
It‘s peaceful out here, he continued before he put the
rest of the biscuit in his mouth and chewed.
Yes, it is. I enjoy it.
I do too. I feel as if everything is right with the world. I
would like to build a fence for the horses, if that‘s alright with
you.
My husband never got around to that. I would like it.
The horses need a place to roam.
I‘ll do that after I replace the roof. I forgot to ask. Do
you have enough supplies to make a roof?
I‘m not sure. I‘ll take you down to the cellar and show
you everything. Then you can decide what you can and can‘t do.
I know my husband wasn‘t the greatest builder around, and some
of the things around here need fixing.
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
29

Ruth Ann Nordin
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, she could 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 ma king
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 pla ce in her heart. But there
was no denying her feelings for Cole. Maybe he‘d come to feel
the same way for her.
But what if he wants children?
A flicker of apprehension
made her lose her appetite again. She couldn‘t give him any.
What if he decided to leave because of that? She would have to
tell him. But not today. Today, she‘d simply enjoy the time they
did have together.
She took a deep breath and forced herself to finish the
meal.
30

A Chance in Time
Chapter Seven
T
wo weeks later, Cole checked the time travel device. He sighed
and put the device in the drawer under his clean shirt. For the
time being, he wore the clothes that Penelope‘s deceased husband
wore. The man had been shorter than Cole, but the clothes and
pants fit well enough. He sighed and shut the drawer. He had to
get to Fargo.
Penelope entered the cabin, carrying a jar of pickles. I
remember you said you liked these. She motioned to the jar and
placed it on the table. I will be going to town in a couple weeks.
I‘m running out of supplies.
He nodded. He knew the time was nearing when he‘d
leave. He‘d been anticipating it for the past month, but now that
it was close to coming, he didn‘t experience the relief he expected.
Which was ridiculous, of course. He had no reason to stay. He
certainly had no business staying, not with a woman as good as
Penelope.
31

Ruth Ann Nordin
She grabbed a pot from the shelf and set it on the cook
stove. I thought I‘d make stew. We still have rabbit meat to
eat.
That sounds good. I‘ll take care of the horses. It was
the least he could do, especially for everything she‘d done for him.
I‘ll be back.
She smiled as he left.
He pushed aside the twinge of guilt. He didn‘t deserve
one of her smiles. Penelope was much too trusting of strangers.
A woman who could bear the harsh winters of this land should
have been more careful when selecting a man to heal, feed and
clothe. Someone like Blake would have been a better choice.
He made it to the well and released the rope, watching as
the bucket descended into the dark hole. Where was Blake
anyway? His eyes swept his surroundings and not a single person
could be seen for miles in any direction. For the moment, he was
safe. But he had to get to Fargo. There was no doubt about it.
The sooner he left this homestead, the better both he and
Penelope would be.
As long as Blake didn‘t find him before he found the chip,
everything could be set back in order. He could dig for gold out
in California in 1848 and strike it rich. He‘d never have to worry
about money ever again. He could even come to this time and
give Penelope money to make sure she‘d never have to work hard
another day in her life. There were many things money could buy,
many things it could provide, and he‘d make sure to return her
kindness when he could.
He retrieved the bucket full of cool water and carried it to
the barn where the horses waited in the stalls he reinforced. He
poured the water into the trough where the horses quickly
approached. He turned to the straw that he‘d brought up from
the cellar and put it in another trough for them to eat.
Penelope could use another barn. As it was, the weather
had beaten the roof down, and if he hadn‘t repaired it, it would‘ve
32

A Chance in Time
fallen within the year. There was no doubt about it. The woman
needed money to build things that would last. Her husband might
have been a good man, but he didn‘t know much about building
or maintaining his things.
Yes, Cole would get that gold and come back to give her
some of it. But he wouldn‘t tell her it was from hi m. She seemed
to think he was a good man, the kind she could take home to
meet her mother, and as foolish as it was, he liked her version of
him. The last thing he wanted to do was destroy it. That was
when he made his decision. He would place the gold near the
well. If he buried it but let a piece of it stick out of the ground
where she usually stood, then she‘d find it and dig it up. She‘d
assumed she discovered it and all would be well. Yes, that‘s what
he‘d do.
When he returned to the house, she was stirring the pot.
He took a moment to study her. She had her back turned to him.
The blue dress she wore had faded flowers on it and was frayed at
the edges. He sighed. Not only did she need a better house and
barn, the poor woman needed clothes that could sustain the
elements of life out here, in the middle of nowhere. Her mattress
was thin, and despite the discomfort, she didn‘t voice a single
complaint. He actually preferred his blanket on the floor. She
needed a good quality bed. It didn‘t have to be fancy. Then his
eyes took in the single pot. What woman wouldn‘t want more
cooking supplies? He examined the whole cabin and shook his
head. There seemed to be no end to the things she needed. But
with enough gold, her problems would be solved.
She peered over her shoulder and frowned. Are you
feeling ill?
No. I feel fine. But, in a way, that was a lie. He did get
sick to his stomach when he thought of how she‘d been living
over the past year. He lumbered to the chair at the table and sat
down. Penelope, can I ask you something?
Yes.
33

Ruth Ann Nordin
When your husband died, didn‘t any men come by to see
you? It seemed to him that as soon as the bachelors discovered
her availability, they would have been beating down the door to
marry her.
She shrugged and kept her eyes on the stew. M en wish
to have children to carry on their name. I had an accident when I
was a girl. I can‘t have children.
He noted the sadness in her voice and the slumping of her
shoulders. Even so, I‘m sure you ha d some who were
interested, he softly said.
She shook her head.
Then why did your husband marry you?
She didn‘t respond. Instead, she continued to stir the pot.
Penelope?
Sighing, she touched her cheeks with her free hand, and he
wondered if she was crying. She took a deep breath. I didn‘t tell
him. She spoke so low that he could barely hear her.
But you told the other men?
I hated myself for lying. I couldn‘t do it again.
And when none of them came to see you, did you wish
you hadn‘t told the truth?
She softly laughed. No. I felt better having been honest.
It was hard keeping it from Randy.
So that was her husband‘s name. Not that he cared. He
rather preferred to think of Randy as the unnamed man who‘d
long since been removed from her life. He chastised himself for
such thinking. Shifting in his chair, he cleared his throat. You
never know. One of the men might come to see you someday.
Not all men value a woman based on whether or not she can give
him children.
She looked at him, and he quickly lowered his eyes. A
moment of tense silence passed before she spoke. I can‘t open
the jar. Will you do it? She motioned to the sealed jar of pickles
on the table in front of him.
34

A Chance in Time
More than happy to do anything for her, he nodded and
did as she asked.
35

Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Eight
P
enelope had some time alone in the cabin while Cole worked
on the fence, so she closed the door to the cabin and took a bath.
Stepping out of the tub, she wrapped the towel around her body
and walked over to the dresser. She noted the trembling of her
hands as she pulled the drawer open and pulled out her brush,
mirror and barrette. It‘d been over a year since she gave any care
to her appearance.
Cole‘s words gave her hope. She confessed that she
couldn‘t have children, and he didn‘t seem to mind. Other men
had. But he hadn‘t. Ma ybe he wanted to stay with her after all.
The thought made her heart skip a beat. She could think of
nothing better than to have him stay.
After she towel dried her long blond hair, she ran the
brush through it. It fell softly past her shoulders and down to the
middle of her back. When it completely dried, it would be wavy.
She recalled how Randy liked that. Maybe Cole would too. She
picked up the mirror. Living on the prairie had made her skin
tougher than it used to be. The sun had done that to her. She
rarely wore a bonnet or hat unless it was too bright outside and
36

A Chance in Time
she wanted protection for her eyes. Most of the time, she
exposed her fair skin. That wouldn‘t have happened back east.
Her hands weren‘t as smooth either. But she thought she was still
pretty. Hopefully, Cole would agree.
She set the mirror down and pulled her hair back with a
barrette so that the wind wouldn‘t blow it in her eyes. That part
of living on the prairie bothered her, which was why she started
putting her hair in buns.
She placed the mirror and brush back in the drawer and
shut it before she turned to get dressed. There was nothing she
could do about her attire. If he decided to stay, she‘d buy a better
dress. If he didn‘t…She sighed. If he didn‘t, then what would be
the point?
Gathering her courage, she opened the front door and
dragged the metal tub so she could empty it on the grass. Then
she placed it out in the sun to dry. Wiping her hands on her dress,
she went to see where Cole was. She decided she would ask him
what he wanted for lunch. That was innocent enough, and it gave
her an excuse to see him. And let him see her.
She found him hammering a wood post into the ground
with a sledgehammer. Examining the distance between him and
the barn and the erected posts, she said, You are making a long
fence.
I want the horses to have plenty of room to roam, he
replied. He tested the post, seeming to be satisfied, and turned to
her. His eyes widened, and he took a moment before he spoke.
I see you finally got that bath you‘ve been wanting.
Yes. Despite the cooling wind, her face felt hot. If she
could calm the racing of her heart, it‘d help. I feel better.
Cleaner.
He smiled. You look nice.
She returned his smile despite the nervous flutter in her
stomach. Thank you.
Did you come out to watch me build the fence?
37

Ruth Ann Nordin
Actually, I came to find out what you want to eat at
lunch.
Anything you make will be fine.
She nodded. This wasn‘t exactly conducive to a
conversation. Glancing at the stack of fence posts six yards away
from them, she asked, Do you want to teach me how to do this,
like you did with the roof?
He wiped the sweat off his forehead. I can teach you
how to repair this fence, but that should wait until I‘m done.
There‘s no sense in you knowing how to do this part.
Are you thirsty?
A little.
I‘ll get you something to drink. She turned to go back to
the house when he stopped her.
I found a canteen in the cellar. It‘s never been used, so I
filled it up with water and brought it with me.
She sighed. She didn‘t know what else to talk about, and
she had no reason to come back before lunch was ready. But she
didn‘t want to be alone. Maybe she‘d be fine with it if she knew
he‘d stay. She didn‘t know though. She watched him as he went
to retrieve several posts and brought them beside them.
There‘s no sense in running back and forth for each
one, he explained as he picked one up. He found a place for it
and pressed it into the ground. It‘s been ten years since I did
anything like this.
Finally, something to go on! What did you do for those
ten years?
He took the sledgehammer and pounded the top of the
post. I think you could say I was a scientist. I tried to figure out
if some things were possible or not.
Really? Like what?
He hesitated for a moment. You know Thomas
Edison?
You worked with him?
38

A Chance in Time
No. I do things similar to what he does. I invent
things.
What kind of things?
He finished pounding the post into the ground and took a
deep breath before he faced her. I don‘t know how to explain it.
I mean, it‘s nothing you would be familiar with.
Can you describe it?
He glanced at the sky before he exhaled and shook his
head. No. I can‘t.
Are you going back to it?
As soon as she asked the question, she cut off the eye
contact with him. Instead, she focused on the post and mentally
noted the precision with which he had managed to set it up. He
obviously was better trained for this kind of thing than Randy had
been.
No, I‘m not, Cole replied.
She dared a look in his direction. Should she even ask him
what he was planning? Deciding to hedge on the topic, she said,
You‘ve done a lot to help me out here. I appreciate it.
It‘s the least I can do. He smiled and grabbed another
post. This is actually fun. I didn‘t enjoy construction as much as
I enjoy this.
Maybe you can keep doing this. This time she didn‘t
look away, even though her heart raced and cheeks grew warm.
She fiddled with the fabric on her dress.
He glanced her way, and she wished she could decipher
the message in his eyes but she had no idea what he was thinking
or what he meant when he answered with a vague Maybe. Then
he returned to his task.
Deciding against bringing up more of this topic than she
already had, she said, I‘ll get started on lunch, and strolled back
to the house.
39

Ruth Ann Nordin
Maybe. Why did he tell her Maybe ? Cole chastised
himself for saying that word. But then, one could reason that he
didn‘t mean that he‘d do this kind of work here…with her. No.
He knew what Maybe implied, and it was wrong for him to hint
that he might stay here. It wasn‘t fair to her. A woman who spent
a year of her life alone didn‘t need to believe that she‘d never be
lonely again.
Cole knew all too well the bitter sting of loneliness.
Marriage didn‘t guard against the emotion. After all, he‘d been
married and felt more alone during that disaster than he had after
the divorce when he was physically alone. In some ways, being
married to a woman who committed adultery was a worse kind of
loneliness. It meant outright rejection. Yes, there were times
when one was better off staying single.
Being married to Penelope wouldn‘t be like that. It‘d
actually be everything he hoped his first marriage would have
been. He sighed. Penelope was a good woman. Why hadn‘t
anyone married her yet? It couldn‘t be because she couldn‘t have
children. That was the stupidest reason he‘d ever heard for a man
not to marry a woman.
He shook his head and returned to setting up the fence
posts. Just as he didn‘t understand some women, he guessed it
was fair to say he didn‘t understand some men either. Maybe
some people, in general, were dumb.
40

A Chance in Time
Chapter Nine
T
he day came when Penelope had exhausted all of her supplies
and needed more. She‘d delayed the trip for as long as she could.
Cole hooked up the horses, and he had the clothes he‘d been
wearing when she found him. There was no reason to believe he
was coming back with her. He‘d given her no indication he was.
Though she did her best to look pleasing to him, he hadn‘t said
anything more than that she looked nice…and that was the day
when he started putting up the fence.
She didn‘t know whether to scr eam or cry. Or she could
slap him. What was wrong with him anyway? Couldn‘t he tell she
loved him and would do what she could to make him happy?
Wasn‘t she pretty enough for him? Or was the place he came
from so important that he couldn‘t stay? Or maybe he planned to
come back with her. Just because he wore his clothes instead of
Randy‘s, it didn‘t mean he was leaving.
She groaned. There was only one way she‘d know. She
was going to have to ask him. Then she‘d know and be prepared
for it if he was leaving. Taking a deep breath, she left the cabin
and shut the door behind her.
41

Ruth Ann Nordin
Are you ready? he called out to her.
She nodded and walked over to him. She waited until he
faced her before she spoke. Will you stay in town? There. She
couldn‘t get any more blunt than that. Exhaling, she anxiously
waited for his response.
But he didn‘t answer her. Instead, he held his hand out
toward her. He wouldn‘t even look her in the eye.
couldn’t
This wasn‘t good. It
be good. But she needed
those supplies, so she had to go to town. She accepted his hand,
even though a part of her wanted to stand still and demand an
answer. If he was leaving, why wouldn‘t he just say it? Why make
And when did he ever give you hope? Really, he didn’t give a n
her hope?
indication that he was going to stay.
Knowing that didn‘t make the
sting any less painful.
He walked to the other side of the wagon and hopped in
beside her.
She gathered the reins and released the brake. He had
every right to go. She wished she knew where he was going to.
What was more important than her? It wasn‘t his job. It had to
be something. Maybe…Could he be married? The thought hadn‘t
occurred to her before.
She clenched the reins in her hands as she urged the
horses forward. She didn‘t want to think it. But what if it was
true? Dare she even ask? No. She couldn‘t. She didn‘t want to
know. She didn‘t want to think she might have fallen in love with
someone she had no right to love.
But if he was married, then he needed to go home to his
wife. It was only right. And that would explain everything,
wouldn‘t it? What other reason could there possibly be?
She glanced in his direction for a moment. He looked
unhappy but didn‘t speak. Perhaps this hurt him as much as it
hurt her. Still, if he was married, then they had to do the right
thing. Settling into the silence that hovered between them, she
turned her gaze forward.
42

A Chance in Time
***
Cole studied Penelope‘s profile as she steered the wagon into
town. He wanted to remember her, to sear her beauty into his
memory forever. He‘d miss her when he left. It was a real shame
that they weren‘t allotted more time together. Had she been born
in his time, or he born in hers, perhaps things would have ended
differently.
He decided that he could at least load her wagon full of
supplies before he left. She stopped the horses in front of the
general store, and he got out first so he could help her down.
She took his hand and thanked him.
When they entered the store, she gave the owner a list of
supplies she needed, and Cole helped the owner fill her wagon.
Once Cole loaded the last box, he glanced at the train station.
When is the next train due to leave for Fargo? he asked
the owner.
About an hour from now.
Thanks.
Cole stood by the wagon, watching Penelope fiddle with
her long sleeves as she waited for him. She looked at him and he
sensed the unspoken question in her eyes. She‘d asked him if he‘d
be returning with her, but he hadn‘t said. He couldn‘t. His future
wasn‘t here with her, and if she knew what kind of man he was,
she wouldn‘t have him.
He‘d anticipated getting back on the train, but now he
dreaded it. Taking a deep breath, he approached her. Would
you like to get something to eat? It‘s been a long time since
you‘ve been to a restaurant.
It wasn‘t what she wanted to hear, he knew, but she
nodded and strolled with him to the restaurant. During their
meal, they didn‘t say much to each other. He couldn‘t think of
anything to talk about. How did a man say, I think I‘m falling in
43

Ruth Ann Nordin
love with you but I can‘t stay to the most wonderful woman in
the world? He couldn‘t, so he didn‘t. He lingered for as long as
he dared, but the hour came to a close and he needed to get on
the train. This was where they were meant to part. She‘d go her
way. He‘d go his. And he‘d dream of her every night for the rest
of his life, wondering if she would think of him and wondering if
she found a good man, a decent man, to marry.
He walked her back to the wagon, and she turned to him.
The wind blew the stray strands of her hair around her head. Her
blue eyes looked up at him. He tried to stop himself, wanted to
stop, but he couldn‘t. He closed his eyes and kissed her. Her lips
were soft, the softest he‘d ever felt on a woman. And despite the
fact that they were in public in the late 1800s, he took her in his
arms and deepened the kiss. She responded to him, matching his
passion with hers, and he marveled that he could mean so much
to her in the short time they‘d known each other.
He reluctantly let her go, aware of the stares from
onlookers.
She smiled at him. Cole, we can find a preacher and get
married. I hoped you loved me, and I love you too.
He almost said yes and took her to the first preacher they
could find but then he caught sight of his reflection in the store
window and remembered who he was.
I can‘t, he softly said, hating the words even as he spoke
them. He saw the hurt in her eyes and quickly looked away.
You‘ll do better without me.
You‘re wrong. She moved close to him and rested her
hand on his arm. Please stay.
He winced. I have to go. I don‘t belong here. I‘m
sorry.
Before she could further protest, he strode away from her.
He knew she watched him, but he refused to look back because he
knew if he did, he‘d end up running back to her. His hand
wrapped around the time travel device in his pocket. Fargo. He
44

A Chance in Time
had to get to Fargo. He entered the train station. It was small but
Blake was nowhere in sight, and the train came to a stop.
He glanced out the window and clenched his jaw, refusing
to let the image of Penelope still watching him change his mind.
He‘d come too far to turn back now. He‘d find a way to make it
up to her. He‘d bury the gold where she could find it. Her future
would be secure. He‘d do one thing right in life before he died.
***
He must be married.
That was the only reason why he would leave.
Penelope knew the intensity in his kiss meant he loved her. There
was no mistaking it. She‘d been kissed by the man her parents
wanted her to marry, and she‘d been kissed by Randy. She knew
the difference between a kiss given out of obligation and one
given out of love. And Cole loved her.
She stared out the window of her sister-in-law‘s house.
The train had left a good hour ago. Cole was on it, heading off to
who knew where…and probably to his wife.
You haven‘t moved from that spot since you got here,
her sister-in-law softly spoke.
Penelope turned from the window that faced the train
tracks. I‘m sorry, Sandra.
The older woman smiled and motioned to the couch in
the parlor. We have the house to ourselves at the moment.
Once Lawrence brings the children back from his parents‘, we
won‘t have any peace.
She accepted the invitation and sat down. What point was
there in looking out the window? Cole wasn‘t coming back.
Maybe if she said that to herself long enough, she‘d believe it.
Sandra settled next to her. How have you been doing?
Fine.
Penelope, I know that we don‘t know each other well.
My brother took you out to the middle of nowhere right after you
45

Ruth Ann Nordin
two married. Granted, we see each other the few times you come
to town, but you haven‘t looked this sad since he died.
She took a deep breath, wishing Randy‘s sister hadn‘t been
the type that was so perceptive. I met someone.
And?
And nothing. He just left on the train.
Tell me about it.
Penelope hesitated but realized that she needed someone
to talk to. Sandra was Randy‘s sister, and it almost felt like a
sacrilege to admit she loved another man…despite the fact that
Randy was no longer alive. To her relief, Sandra didn‘t balk at the
thought of her falling in love with someone else.
Sandra took her hand in hers. If Cole is married, then
this is for the best.
I know. But if he isn‘t…
If he isn‘t?
Then why didn‘t he stay?
She offered a sympathetic smile. I‘m afraid that‘s
something you‘ll never know.
It was true…and obvious.
Will you stay here a couple of days? The kids would like
to see you.
Penelope nodded. Yes, I can do that. And if Cole
returned, then she‘d be close by. She chided herself on such
thinking.
He’s not coming back and no amount of wishing or praying will
make that happen.
Turning back to the conversation, she asked,
How old are my two nieces and nephew now?
Would you believe they are ten, seven and three?
Already? She sighed. Time goes fast. Though out in
the middle of the prairie where her little home stood, it seemed to
stand still. It seemed as if the world moved on without her.
Oh, you‘ll have to meet Martha.
Who‘s Martha?
46

A Chance in Time
She‘s an Indian. We don‘t know what tribe she‘s from or
her real name. She doesn‘t speak English, and we don‘t speak her
language either. She arrived in town off one of the train cars, and
not the one you pay to be on.
She hopped a train?
Sandra nodded. The men found her when they were
unloading crates of supplies for the general store. They brought
her to the church and the preacher and his wife took her in.
I wonder why she would leave her tribe?
I suspect the fact that she‘s expecting had something to
do with it. Of course, it‘s all speculation on our part. No one will
know the truth until she learns our language. Anyway, this
Sunday, you‘ll get a chance to meet her.
Alright.
Sandra stood and smoothed her skirt. The kids will be
home any minute. Let‘s get your things put away. I‘m sure they‘ll
want to talk your ear off.
Penelope joined her in walking up the narrow stairs. She
welcomed the chance to be surrounded by children who weren‘t
old enough to ask her questions about her love life…or a lack
thereof. It might be the thing she needed to take her mind off
Cole and what could‘ve been.
47

Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Ten
P
enelope knelt in front of Randy‘s tombstone and let her tears
fall. She‘d spent a week with Sandra, and now it was time to leave.
This was her last stop before heading back to her home. The
home she and Randy planned to stay at…where they were
supposed to grow old together. She placed the flowers down and
leaned against the tombstone. She didn‘t know why it made her
feel close to him when she did that.
You should have taken me with him, she prayed. Why
did you separate us?
It seemed like a cruel twist of fate to escape a life of
misery with a man who wouldn‘t love her to find one that did–
one that died before his time. But even as she mourned Randy‘s
passing, her thoughts were on Cole. Twice she had loved…twice
she had been loved…and both men were taken from her. One she
buried. The other she watched board a train to never see again.
She hadn‘t slept well. Each night, she rolled over in the
bed in Sandra‘s house to either see Randy lying beside her or Cole
lying on the floor. Visiting Randy‘s sister brought back his
memories with surprising force. A part of her would always love
48

A Chance in Time
him. Cole hadn‘t replaced him. But Cole had another part of her
now. And even though he was alive, she couldn‘t have him.
After a fitful sleep, she woke each morning and watched
the passengers as they left the train station, always hoping that
Cole would be one of them. But he never was.
And she was tired. Tired of fighting the inevitable.
She touched the cool surface of the tombstone. You
would have liked him, Randy. I know you don‘t want me to
spend the rest of my life alone, but I don‘t think there‘s any other
future for me.
She closed her eyes and recalled the last time she‘d spoken
to her husband. She placed the cool, damp cloth on his forehead
and tried not to cry. She couldn‘t remember a time when she‘d
been more terrified. He didn‘t look good. His face was pale, and
his breathing was rough. She‘d prayed for him and read to him.
But she could tell he wasn‘t getting better.
The bitter wind pounded against the cabin and she pulled
the shawl tighter around her shoulders. She hastened to the cook
stove and threw in more wood, mentally calculating how much
they had left. In the morning, if the snow let up, she‘d go to the
cellar and bring more up to the barn.
Penelope.
She turned to the raspy voice. She rushed over to him and
grabbed his hand. I‘m here. What do you need?
Opening his eyes, he looked at her. I love you,
sweetheart. You –he coughed– you know that. Don‘t you?
Yes. I love you too. Can I get you something to drink?
Are you hungry?
No.
Can‘t you try? He hadn‘t had anything to eat or drink in
three days and nothing she tried made him want to have anything.
Please?
My time is coming, sweetheart. I‘m going home.
49

Ruth Ann Nordin
She shook her head and tightened her grip. No! Fight,
Randy. Don‘t give up. Her body trembled at the thought of
letting him go. Why would God do this to her? To him?
He cupped her face in his hands. I‘m so glad you came
to me. You were the best thing that‘s ever happened to me. He
brushed the tears that fell down her cheeks. Promise me you‘ll
marry again. I don‘t want you to be alone.
I don‘t want anyone else! Her voice choked and she
could no longer control her sobbing. She embraced him and let
her head settle on his chest. Fight. Just hold on. If you can get
through another night…
I‘m sorry. She felt his lips on the top of her head as he
wrapped his arms around her. I‘m so sorry.
Then his hold loosened and his arms fell back to his sides.
She didn‘t want to look up but knew she had to. When she saw
his lifeless eyes staring ahead, she broke down and continued to
cry on his chest. No more raspy breathing. No more heartbeat.
No more smiles. No more laughter. No more kisses and
hugs. No more stupid fights over things that didn‘t matter. No
more working on the land together. No more friendship. No
more love. In one moment, their marriage had become null and
void, and all that was left was a piercing agony that wouldn‘t let
her go.
But in time, it did let her go. After she brought his body
into town and watched the men lower his casket into the ground,
she could never imagine loving anyone ever again. She knew he
wanted her to. When the men came by for her while she stayed
with Sandra for a month after the funeral, she quickly told each
one she couldn‘t have children and that was enough to get rid of
them. Originally, that had been her intention. She didn‘t want to
marry again. Then she returned to her lone cabin and spent
months trying to sort out why a loving God would allow such a
thing to happen.
50

A Chance in Time
She didn‘t have the answer. All she could do was trust in
Him and carry on with her life. Everything had been mechanical
and empty. Until she found Cole. Then there was a reason to live
again. Maybe there would be a reason to live yet. If she couldn‘t
have the man she loved by her side, then maybe she could make
someone else‘s life easier.
She wiped her tears and took a deep breath to settle the
emotions raging through her. I‘ll never forget you, Randy.
Thank you for the year we had together.
She stood and walked back to the wagon. She climbed
into her seat and picked up a canister. She held it to the woman in
the passenger seat. Water?
The young Indian turned her eyes to her. W-ater, she
slowly pronounced.
Penelope pretended to drink from it to show her what she
meant.
Martha nodded. Water. She took the canister and drank
from it.
Penelope wasn‘t sure what made her offer to take Martha
back with her. The poor thing was younger than her, but she
wasn‘t a child either. The growing child in her womb was so large
that Penelope guessed she was within a month of giving birth.
And though Martha couldn‘t speak her language, Penelope saw a
fear in her eyes. For some reason, Martha didn‘t feel safe. As
soon as she learned that a group of Indians was searching for her
in town, Penelope understood that Martha had run from them.
Why? She might not ever know. But she wouldn‘t allow the
young woman to go where she didn‘t want to be.
After Penelope took the time to draw out a map to her
cabin, Martha agreed to come with her, and Martha looked so
relieved that Penelope somehow knew she was doing the right
thing.
Martha finished drinking and pointed to the grave.
Husband. My husband. He‘s dead, she whispered.
51

Ruth Ann Nordin
She pointed to herself. My husband dead.
Penelope gave her new friend a closer look. Your
husband is dead? Like that? She motioned to the grave.
He dead. She made a swinging motion, letting her hand
stop at her neck.
Though she couldn‘t be sure, Penelope thought Martha
was telling her that her husband had been beheaded. And white
men were more likely to use guns than something that swung.
Something that swung? An axe? Indians used axes. If she put
the pieces together well enough, the Indians killed Martha‘s
husband, which explained her fear.
Penelope took a deep breath and eyed the rifle the peaked
from under their seat. If they ran into trouble, she‘d need to be
prepared. She reached out and touched Martha‘s arm. Friend.
Then she pointed to herself. Friend.
Martha smiled. Fr…end.
Penelope nodded. Friend. Then she picked up the
reins, released the brake, and let the horses take them home.
52

A Chance in Time
Chapter Eleven
P
enelope pointed to the horse and looked at Martha.
Orse, Martha said.
Horse, Penelope corrected.
H…horse.
Good. You‘re doing good. She smiled and pointed to
the hay.
Martha shook her head.
Hay. Horse eats hay.
Hay food.
Yes. For horses.
Penelope decided that Martha had learned enough for
now, so she led the younger woman back to the house. She
grabbed four potatoes and set them on the table.
Potato cut? Martha asked.
Oh, yes. Thank you. Penelope hastened to grab the
knife from the shelf and gave it to Martha. I‘m going to get the
meat from the cellar. I‘ll be right back.
Martha shook her head.
53

Ruth Ann Nordin
Penelope thought over her words. Me get meat. Food.
To eat.
Yes. Eat.
Penelope smiled and went to grab the meat from the deer
that Cole had shot before she helped him cut the deer and
preserve the meat. The sight of it shouldn‘t have brought tears to
her eyes but it did. When would she be able to go about her
business around her home and not be haunted by his memory?
She should recall Randy since he built it. But she didn‘t. She
thought of Cole.
Sighing, she wiped the tears and grabbed the slab of meat
to take back to the cabin. When she saw Martha gasping in pain,
she ran over to her. Martha? She threw the meat on the table
and sat her in a chair.
Baby, Martha said, holding her stomach.
Baby is coming?
Baby. Hurt.
There was no doubt about it. Martha was probably in the
early stages of labor. Penelope took the knife from Martha and
set it on the table.
Martha relaxed and looked at her. Happy…to
be…friend.
She smiled and squeezed her hand. I‘m happy to be your
friend too. Baby is coming. That‘s good.
` Good.
Maybe painful but good. Penelope pointed to her.
Mother. Then she pointed to her belly. Baby. Penelope
decided to get things ready for the birth.
As the day passed into night, Penelope did everything she
could to make Martha comfortable. It was around one in the
morning when Martha gave her last push and Penelope caught the
baby in her hands. After a moment, the baby gave out its first cry.
Penelope laughed and gave the little girl to her mother.
54

A Chance in Time
Martha held her child and cried. The pain of labor had
been replaced with tears of joy, and Penelope was glad to see a
person born in this place after there‘d been death and sorrow over
the past year. It was time for happiness.
Girl, Penelope told Martha.
Girl. Baby girl.
Penelope nodded before she set to the task of cleaning
things up.
***
Two weeks passed with the two women taking turns staying
awake to care for the baby. Penelope found that both Martha and
her baby brought a sense of comfort in her life. Even with the
heartache still fresh, at least she wasn‘t alone in the world
anymore.
The late morning brought a clear blue sky and enough
wind to cool the summer heat, so Penelope decided she‘d weed
the garden before it got too hot in the day. She glanced at Martha
who slept with her baby before she slipped on Randy‘s gloves and
tied her hat around her head. She didn‘t often wear a hat but
thought she should to avoid burning her skin.
As she stepped out of the house, she caught sight of a
familiar figure. She stood still, not believing her eyes. He came
back in her dreams but not in real life. And yet here she was, wide
awake, and he was here. She blinked to make sure she wasn‘t
imagining things. Cole. It
was
Cole. He had returned!
She wanted to run to him but shock held her in place, so
she waited as he approached her, his steps slow as if he wasn‘t
sure she‘d welcome him back. But how could she not when she
loved him?
He stopped a short distance from her and cleared his
throat. I‘m sorry. I shouldn‘t have left you. I love you,
Penelope. I don‘t deserve you. You‘re a good woman, but I‘ve
55

Ruth Ann Nordin
made a real mess of my life. I‘ve done things I‘m not proud of,
and after I tell you what they are, you may not want to be with me.
You see, I-
Are you married? she interrupted. That was the only
reason she could think of that would not make her want to be
with him. She prayed that wasn‘t what he meant.
He shook his head. No.
The sense of relief she felt at knowing for sure
overwhelmed her. She exhaled. I thought when you left me, it
was because you were already married. I thought you had a wife
to go back to.
No. I was married, but I got a divorce two years ago. I
caught her sleeping with my brother. But there are other things,
things you should know.
She stepped forward, bridging the gap between them.
Other things? What did they matter? He wasn‘t married. He was
free to be with her! Cole, I don‘t care what you‘ve done. I just
care about who you are. The past doesn‘t matter. You can‘t
change it.
He bent his head, but she caught the tear that trickled
down his cheek.
No more tears.
She‘d seen enough of them to last a lifetime.
Smiling, she reached up and brushed it away.
He took her hand in his and kissed it. His lips were warm.
His actions gentle. I love you. I want to make a life here with
you. Will you come to town with me? We‘ll leave right away and
find that preacher you mentioned.
She laughed. I‘ll marry you, Cole. But we should have
something to eat first. Then we need to get ready for the trip.
Alright, but let‘s be quick about it. I‘ve waited too long
to meet someone like you, and I don‘t want to waste any more
time.
She didn‘t want to waste any more time either. She
stepped up on her toes and kissed him, glad she was finally free to
56

A Chance in Time
express her love to him. And as strange as it was, she felt a s if
Randy was happy for her. When the kiss ended, she leaned
against him and closed her eyes, enjoying the way he held her.
This isn‘t getting things done to go to town, he said.
She chuckled. Are you impatient?
I just want to make sure you don‘t change your mind.
You have no need to worry about that. Reluctant, she
pulled away from him. Cole, there‘s something that happened
while you were gone. When I was in town, I was visiting Randy‘s
sister and she introduced me to Martha. I don‘t know anything
about her except that she‘s an Indian who is hiding from
someone. She gave birth a couple weeks ago here, and her child is
lighter than her.
You think a white man is the father?
There‘s no doubt about it. I don‘t know exactly what
happened, and she doesn‘t know enough English words to tell me.
I just know that she‘s afraid, so I brought her here to keep her
safe.
Do you plan to keep her here?
I thought it would be best.
He caressed her cheek. You have a good heart. As much
as I admire that about you, I want you all to myself so I‘m going
to build her a cabin. That should be a good spot. He motioned
to a section of land that was half an acre from where they stood.
I want to do some things with you that wouldn‘t be appropriate
for others to see.
Blushing, she playfully shoved him away. Not until we‘re
married.
Why do you think I‘m anxious to get to town?
Well, if you‘re that anxious, then you won‘t mind getting
the horses and wagon ready?
It‘d be my pleasure to do anything for you. He kissed
her before he headed for the barn.
Heart light, she went to the house.
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Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Twelve
C
ole rode the steed while Penelope, Martha and the baby took
the wagon. He wanted to be close to Penelope so he could touch
her, but he reminded himself that later that day when they reached
town, they‘d be married and then he could stay in the same room
with her at the inn. Then he‘d be able to kiss and hold her at his
leisure. He smiled at the thought of finally being able to enjoy a
woman who loved him back.
He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn‘t realize
Penelope had stopped the wagon until she called his name.
Stopping the horse, he glanced back. Is something wrong with
the wagon?
Penelope pointed to the south.
He turned his gaze in that direction and frowned. What
were the chances that someone would be this far out from town at
the same time they were? He‘d only traveled this path three times
now but he never saw anyone an hour outside of town. Squinting,
he barely made out the fact that the three riders weren‘t white. He
looked over at Penelope and saw that she had grabbed a rifle fr om
under her seat. She motioned for Martha to hide in the wagon.
58

A Chance in Time
This didn‘t seem promising. Cole drew closer to the
women just as Penelope covered Martha and the baby with a
blanket. Who are they? he asked, his body primed to fight.
Martha can‘t tell from here, but she thinks they are
Sioux. Penelope turned to him. What do you think we should
do?
Get under that blanket with her. I‘ll take care of this.
Do you know how to shoot a gun?
Yes. Okay, so it was a BB gun, but he did manage a
good shot at the cans when he was younger. The real thing
couldn‘t be much different. Give me the gun.
She did as he ordered and, to his shock, she pulled out
another one.
What are you doing?
Two of us stand a better chance against them.
No. I won‘t let you risk your life like this. Now, get
under the blanket. He glanced at the approaching riders. Three
men. Indian. He‘d seen a couple of Native Americans in Devils
Lake, but they had been wearing white man‘s clothes. These
looked like they came right out of a movie. He took a deep breath
to stabilize his nerves. If they weren‘t heading toward them at
breakneck speed, he might have had time to think of a good plan.
Penelope had already jumped off the wagon and hid
behind a wheel. She peered around the side of it before she
waved him over. They have arrows. You better get behind the
wagon before one of them shoots you.
Partly annoyed because she was able to keep a clear head
when all he could think of was Run! , he tied the horse‘s reins to
the wagon and obeyed her. The horse stayed by him but shifted,
He’s not the only one.
as if uncertain about what to do.
Cole knelt
behind the other wheel and tried to get rid of the ringing in his
ears so he could focus. He was a scientist, not a gunfighter, for
goodness‘ sakes!
59

Ruth Ann Nordin
You shouldn‘t be out here, he whispered to Penelope.
You should be hiding.
But I‘m good at shooting. I can help you.
Well, that was probably true. Okay. Just stay out of
sight. If anyone has to run out there, it‘s going to be me. He
prayed it wouldn‘t come to that.
Woape! one of the Indians called out.
Cole turned to Penelope.
That must be her real name, she whispered.
Cole peered around the side of the wheel and saw the
three men on their horses. He gulped when he realized they had
their arrows pointed at the wagon. Terrific. All he wanted to do
was get married, and now that might not be happening. At this
point, he didn‘t even mind not getting married. He just wanted all
of them to get out of this alive.
Woape!
The Indian continued to speak in a language that Cole
didn‘t understand. Then, to his shock, Penelope replied. Her
words came out stilted and slow, but she spoke the same language
that the Indian did.
When Penelope stood up, he grabbed her hand. What
are you doing? he asked in a whisper.
I think it‘s alright. I‘m going to talk to them.
But… He glanced ar ound the wheel and saw that the
Indians were still holding their bows and arrows. But they have
weapons.
I don‘t think they mean us any harm.
He didn‘t feel good about this. Things could get ugly…and
fast. But Penelope looked determined, so he knew this was going
to happen whether he liked it or not. He nodded and stood up.
Fine. But I‘m going with you.
He followed her as she approached the three men on
horseback who had stern looks on their faces. He forced aside the
urge to shove her back behind the wagon when he saw that she
60

A Chance in Time
had lowered her rifle. What was she doing? He decided that one
of them needed to show common sense, so he held his gun at eye
level. Never mind that his knees were shaking and he had a hard
time holding the gun steady. The important thing was that he
looked
like he knew what he was doing.
She stopped in front of the Indian in the middle of the
group and slowly said something. It sounded like a question.
The man who she directed the question to pointed to the
south and spoke to her. Then he waved his arm through the air,
said Woape , and made a sweeping motion with his hand before
he beat his chest and let out a long howl.
This was worse than watching a movie in a foreign
language, Cole decided. At least in movies, they had subtitles…and
he‘d be safe in the theater instead of out here.
Penelope set her gun down.
What the- Cole began.
She shook her head at him. Before he could protest, she
directed her attention to the man, said,
Woape, and made a
cradling motion.
The man‘s eyes widened and asked a question.
She nodded.
He pointed to Cole.
Cole‘s jaw dropped. Was the Indian suggesting that he got
Woape pregnant?
Penelope nodded and said two words.
Are you kidding me? I didn‘t do anything to her, he
replied.
She glanced at him. Not you. We‘re talking about a
white man. You represent white men.
He relaxed, but only slightly. What‘s going on?
I‘m not exactly sure but it sounds like their village was
raided after Woape was kidnapped. The Indians here have been
searching all over for her. They didn‘t know she got with child
61

Ruth Ann Nordin
until I told them. I don‘t think they want to hurt her. I heard him
say =daughter‘. He must be her father.
As soon as Penelope headed back for the wagon, Cole
joined her. What are you doing?
I need to talk to Woape.
Cole was torn between keeping the gun aimed at the
Indians and going with her to find out what was going on, but he
finally decided to stay where he was. If one of the men put an
arrow in his bow, he‘d need to shoot.
He glanced at Penelope as she talked to Martha, also
known as Woape. Cole wasn‘t sure what to call her anymore.
The young woman handed Penelope the baby and slowly got out
of the wagon. Cole directed his attention back to the men and
noticed that the man in the middle, her father, had a caring look in
his eyes. That was when Cole realized he could relax. The man
wasn‘t there to harm her. If what Penelope said was true, then he
was happy to see his daughter again.
Woape lumbered toward the men, her head bowed and
seeming unusually small. That was when Cole realized that she
couldn‘t be older than seventeen. In his time, she‘d be in high
school, not out on the prairie with a newborn. She was much too
young to have gone thr ough everything she had—whatever the
details of her life were. He knew he‘d never know the full story.
As he listened to her father talk to her in a soothing tone
and her hesitant reply, he understood that everything was going to
be alright for her. He relaxed and let the gun rest at his side.
Woape turned to Penelope and said, I go.
Penelope nodded and handed the baby to her mother.
Penelope, Woape said, looking down at the baby.
Name of baby. Penelope.
Penelope smiled and wiped the tears fr om her eyes.
Thank you, Woape. Friend.
Friend.
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A Chance in Time
Penelope hugged her before they walked over to the men.
Penelope helped her on the horse. The father wrapped an arm
around his daughter‘s shoulder. Woape held onto her child and
settled her head on his chest.
Friend, her father told Penelope.
Friend, Penelope replied.
The three men nodded to Cole and turned their horses.
Cole watched as they trotted off. If it had been a movie, he
couldn‘t think of a better ending. He gave himself permission to
relax.
Do you usually have run-ins with Indians? Cole asked as
they strolled back to the wagon.
No. That was the first time that‘s ever happened.
He put his arm around her waist and pulled her close to
him. I‘m glad it‘s not an everyday thing. I don‘t need that much
drama in my life.
She laughed and kissed him. I‘m looking forward to
being your wife, Cole. She frowned.
What‘s wrong?
It just occurred to me that I don‘t know your last name.
He smiled. I guess you‘re right. I never told you.
Hunter.
Penelope Hunter. I like it.
Then we‘d better get to town and make that official. He
gave her one more kiss before she climbed into the wagon and he
hopped on the horse.
63

Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Thirteen
“A
nd now I pronounce you man and wife, the preacher said.
You may kiss the bride.
Penelope turned to Cole and caught his proud smile
before he leaned down to kiss her. She closed her eyes and
savored the moment that solidified the rest of their lives together.
Mrs. Penelope Hunter. She swore she could repeat that name
forever without getting tired of it. When the kiss ended, they
faced the preacher and thanked him for performing the small
ceremony on short notice.
It was my pleasure, the preacher said, shaking Cole‘s
hand.
Thank you for the flowers, Penelope told the preacher‘s
wife.
Oh, it was nothing, the preacher‘s wife said. It‘s nice
to see you get a second chance, Penelope. I remember the day of
Randy‘s funeral. He grew up here, you know. We all felt a great
loss, but you more so than us. She reached out and patted
Penelope on the arm. You deserve to be happy.
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A Chance in Time
Thank you. Penelope wiped the tears from her eyes at
the woman‘s kind words and hugged her. You‘ve always been a
source of comfort and encouragement to me.
When I see you, I think of my daughter. It comes
naturally. Glancing at Cole, she continued, Now, you two kids
go on and start your new life together.
Yep, don‘t let us old folk stop you, the preacher added,
laughing.
After Penelope and Cole said their farewells, they left the
small house and stepped into the bright sunlight. He looked at
her and smiled.
You are a beautiful bride, he said, brushing her wavy
hair off her shoulder. Being with you almost seems like a
dream.
It doesn‘t seem quite real to me either. She‘d rarely
known such moments of happiness where her heart felt as if it
might burst at any moment, but this was such a moment now and
she loved it.
We should get something to eat before we find a hotel.
There‘s no sense in getting hungry during the night.
Her face flushed. She was no longer an untried woman,
and knowing what would happen in the hotel room caused her
pulse to quicken with excitement. It‘d been a long time since she
experienced the intimate touch of a man, and there was no
denying how she missed it. But for now, her stomach rumbled,
and she‘d have to tend to more important matters first.
She slipped her arm around the crook of his arm and
strolled with him down the dirt road in the direction of the
businesses that marked the center of town.
It‘s getting too late today, he began, but tomorrow, I‘d
like to pick up more lumber, a better bed, some pots and pans,
and clothes. At least, it‘ll get us started on our life together.
What do you want lumber for?
I plan to build you a bigger house.
65

Ruth Ann Nordin
A bigger house?
Didn‘t expect that, huh?
Well…no.
He gave her a wry grin as they reached the restaurant. I
can build houses. I‘m also going to expand the barn and acquire
some more animals. He opened the door for her. Things are
going to be better for you.
You‘re right. It will be because you‘ll be with me.
With a smile, he followed her into the restaurant.
As they ate their meal, they discussed the young Indian
woman. She knew Woape would be safe with her people. There
was no denying the love in her father‘s eyes. Penelope prayed
many good things would find Woape in the future.
Maybe one day, we‘ll see her again, Cole said as they
finished their meal.
Maybe, she replied.
What a good feeling it was, Penelope thought, to know
that Cole wouldn‘t be leaving her this time. Now he was going to
be with her for the rest of her life. She glanced at her simple gold
band and smiled. No amount of money had given her the love
she craved. The man her father had picked for her would have
made her miserable. Randy had made her happy during their
short time together, and he‘d wanted her to move on and love
again. She turned her gaze to Cole, somehow knowing that their
time together would be a true lifetime instead of a short year
together.
Cole stood up and pulled out her chair before he paid for
their supper. Then they left the restaurant and went to the hotel.
Once he set the travel bag down on the wood floor of their small
room, his expression turned serious.
I need to tell you why I left last time we came to this
town, he said as he lit the kerosene lamp.
She took off her hat and placed it on the small table by the
door. I already said I don‘t care.
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A Chance in Time
But I need to tell you. Maybe I need to do it for
myself—so that I know we started this marriage off with a clean
slate.
With a nod, she took his hand and sat next to him on the
bed. What is it, Cole?
Well…I… He chuckled. It‘s funny how, now that I
can, I don‘t know the right words to say.
Stroking the top of his hand with her thumb, she asked,
What brought you onto my land?
Yes. That‘s a good place to start. He cleared his throat.
You see, I come from the future, a little over a hundred years to
be exact.
Her eyebrows furrowed.
I know. It sounds like fiction, but it‘s true. I told you I
was an inventor, and one of the projects I worked on with two
people was a time machine. At the time, I was in a financial mess
and thought if I took the device, I could go back in time to the
California Gold Rush and get some money. You saw it. It was in
my pocket when you found me.
She nodded. She hadn‘t given that strange thing anymore
thought. Her main concern had been whether or not he‘d live and
stay with her .
Anyway, he continued, wiping his free hand on his
pants, the plan was to get the gold and return to my time before
anyone knew I was gone. Only, one of my partners, Blake,
figured out what I was up to and tracked me down. Through an
accident on the train, I pushed some buttons on the device and
came to this time. I spent a long time running from him, and I
spent most of it walking on foot. The last thing I remembered
before you found me was wishing for some water.
He cleared his throat. Anyway, you asked if I had a wife.
I did have one, but then I caught her having an affair with my
brother and got a divorce. So no, I didn‘t have a wife to go back
to. But I didn‘t think I deserved you, Penelope. My life was a
67

Ruth Ann Nordin
mess before I met you. I was barely getting by, and I stole the
time travel device that belonged to my employer. I thought I‘d
leave so you didn‘t have to get involved with a liar and a thief. I
was going to get some gold and bring some back for you so you
would have some money to fix up your place. I was going to hide
the gold and let you discover it by the well. You know, an ounce
of gold goes a whole lot further in this time than it does in mine.
Shaking her head, she said, But I don‘t need gold.
Sure you do. That place you got is going to fall apart
unless it‘s tended to. I might have fixed up the barn, but you have
other things that need tending.
No, that‘s not what I meant. I meant that I already have
some gold jewelry. Cole, money isn‘t what I need or even want. I
left my family to marry Randy because my rich father wanted me
to marry a man who didn‘t love me. I wasn‘t sure Randy would
love me either, but I knew Randy didn‘t believe in having a
mistress on the side. There are things more important than
money.
Wow. He exhaled and laughed. And here I thought
you were destitute.
She smiled and squeezed his hand. I could sell the
jewelry if I wanted, but it‘s the only part of my past I have left. I
don‘t want gold. I‘d rather have you. Surely, you knew that?
I did, but like I said, I didn‘t feel I deserved you. That
kiss we shared before I got on the train was the best kiss I ever
had. Well, besides the one that made us husband and wife. My
first wife never kissed me that way. You really do care for me.
He stroked her cheek his with his fingers and then traced her
lower lip. After I got to Fargo, I realized I‘d be stupid to give up
a chance to be with you. I gave the device to Blake so I could
return to you. I had to see if you‘d forgive me and take me back.
I know I don‘t deserve you, Penelope, but I‘ll do everything I can
to be the kind of husband you can be proud of. I love you.
She edged closer to him. And I love you.
68

A Chance in Time
Reaching up, she cupped the side of his face and brought
his face to hers so she could kiss him. He returned her kiss, and
pulled her into his arms. She missed this. Being held by a man
who promised himself only to her—a man who wouldn‘t run off
to another woman.
Once they removed their clothes, he pulled back the
sheets and waited until she settled onto the bed before joining her.
He wrapped her in his arms and kissed her again, this time tracing
his tongue along her lower lip until she opened to him. She
caressed the back of his neck and deepened the kiss, relishing the
thrill of tingles that traveled up and down her spine as their
tongues met.
It‘d been a long time since she felt the intimate caress of a
man as he ran his hand along her skin, and every part of her
relished this moment. Cole cupped one breast in his hand while
he slid his thigh between her legs. She shivered with delight and
shifted so that the area between her legs was rubbing against him.
Having been so long since that part of her body had been
stimulated, she rocked her hips in gentle rhythm, slowly building
the tension in her core. His fingers teased her nipple, first rubbing
it and then giving a gentle pinch so that it hardened beneath his
touch. The whole thing felt heavenly, and she groaned her
pleasure.
His lips left hers and went down to her neck, his breath
hot on her flesh. She wr apped him tightly in her arms and willed
their lovemaking to last as much as her body ached to be satisfied.
She hadn‘t expected every nerve ending in her body to tingle, nor
did she expect the growing need between her legs to intensify as
suddenly as it had.
He rolled her fully onto her back and lowered his head
until he was kissing her breasts. His hand descended from her
breasts to the patch of dark blond curls that marked her entrance.
Her legs fell apart for him, inviting him to explore all of her.
69

Ruth Ann Nordin
While his tongue caressed her nipple in lazy circular motions, two
of his fingers slid into her body.
She grasped his arms and moaned. She was afraid she
wouldn‘t last long. The wonderful torment of his thumb as it
worked over her sensitive nub was going to be her undoing. And
she was encouraging him further by moving her hips and begging
him to continue.
Reaching down between them, she wrapped her hand
around his erection and ran her thumb along his tip. He let out a
slight groan, making her smile from the simple action of arousing
him further. As he continued to stroke her core, she slid her hand
up and down his erection, loving the give and take of pleasure that
was happening between them.
Her breathing came faster as her body got closer to the
moment of her climax. Yes, faster, she rasped, forgetting to
keep stroking him while her focus came solely on the mounting
tension between her legs.
He obeyed and sped up his rubbing until she cried out.
Her release came hard and fast over her, surprising her in an all
consuming force of pleasure that had her riding wave after wave
of bliss. She had no idea it could be this demanding, this intense,
and all she could do was lay there and absorb every sensation as it
crashed into her.
When she could finally form a coherent thought, he
moved so that he was over her. Still lightheaded, she received him
into her body, her hands gripping his butt to pull him deeper into
her. He moaned and began thrusting into her, filling her core and
making her feel complete. If it was up to her, this would go on
forever, and she noted he must have felt the same way for he
slowed and stopped, his body straining as he held off on the
inevitable.
He lowered his head and kissed her. She eagerly
responded to him and moved with him as his thrusting resumed in
a slow, purposeful pace. Then he gained momentum and she
70

A Chance in Time
encouraged him along, working with him. When he stilled and
gave a muffled groan, she pressed him deeper into her. She
enjoyed the way he throbbed inside her as he spilled his seed. She
opened her eyes in time to see his expression of pleasure at finally
reaching his climax.
After he was done, he fell on top of her. She wrapped
him in her arms and inhaled the musky scent of him. It spoke of
masculine strength, and she loved it. But it wasn‘t just any man
who held her after making love to her; it was Cole.
They remained entangled in each other‘s arms for a long
time, neither wishing to let the moment end. When he lifted
himself on his elbows, he smiled and kissed her, this time taking it
slow. Then, once their bodies became fully aroused, they
proceeded to make love again.
71

Ruth Ann Nordin
Chapter Fourteen
A year later
“I
t was nice seeing you, Penelope told Sandra as she gave her a
big hug.
Cole stood in the parlor and waited for the two women to
stop gushing over each other. He‘d already said his good-bye to
Sandra‘s family. It still felt awkward to be with Randy‘s family,
but they had welcomed him, and he figured that they were
Penelope‘s family. At least, that is how she talked about them.
Next time you‘re in town, we‘ll have to have a picnic out
in the park. Come in early spring. That‘s when the flowers are in
full bloom, Sandra said.
We will, Penelope promised.
After they left the house, Cole took her arm and stopped
her in front of the wagon. Have you given any thought to what
we discussed before we came to town?
Penelope nodded. Are you sure, Cole?
He smiled. Yes.
You won‘t have me all to yourself anymore.
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A Chance in Time
I don‘t mind. Not for this.
A smile spread across her face. Let‘s go. Sandra said the
train will be arriving in a half hour.
Your wish is my command.
She giggled. That is the funniest expression I‘ve ever
heard.
He shrugged. It‘s a common one from where I come
from. He put his arms around her and whispered, But I admit
that in all the places I‘ve ever been, you are still the most
wonderful woman I‘ve ever met.
You keep talking like that and I‘ll have to kiss you as
soon we get out of town.
Who says we have to wait? Before she could respond,
he let his lips caress hers.
A chorus of giggles turned their attention to Sandra‘s
children who watched them through the window.
We‘d better go, he said, chuckling.
Once they got into the wagon, he directed the horses to
the train station where the orphan train was expected to arrive.
He helped her down from the wagon, sensing her excitement.
He did want a child, and he knew Penelope wanted one
too. This seemed like the logical thing to do, especially since the
children coming in on the train didn‘t have parents to care for
them. He hated the thought of children not having someone to
care for and love them, and he couldn‘t think of a better mother
than Penelope.
When the train pulled into the station, they waited as the
children were brought forward. A few farmers seemed to be
particularly interested in the strongest boys and took them. That
left a lot of the girls or weaker boys. Two children, in particular,
seemed to draw Penelope‘s interest, and it didn‘t take a genius to
figure out why. They were Indian children. One girl and one boy.
Both looked sad and malnourished, making Cole wonder what
73

Ruth Ann Nordin
had brought them here. The boy looked to be five and the girl
was probably two.
What about them? Penelope whispered.
Can you communicate with them?
Let me see. She walked over to them and asked, Can
you understand me?
The boy and girl clung to each other, visibly trembling.
They must be brother and sister, Cole softly stated.
I think so too. They remind me of Martha. I wonder if
they come from her tribe?
Turning to them, she spoke to them in the Indian
language that Cole hadn‘t taken the time to learn. Now, he wished
he had. But how was he to know that these children would be
coming off the train?
The boy answered her.
Penelope glanced at Cole. He speaks the same language
that Martha did. I want to take them home.
He nodded. He doubted that the other people would be
willing to take Indian children into their homes. Tell them we‘d
like to be their parents.
Smiling, she did as he requested.
Though the boy looked uncertain and the girl looked
terrified, the boy nodded.
It would take time for the children to get used to him and
Penelope, Cole realized. But they had time. Time to get to know
each other…time to be a family. In his heart, he felt that this was
right, and with the way Penelope‘s face glowed, he couldn‘t help
but smile. Yes. A family. Maybe not a typical one, but then
again, his life was far from typical. A man who‘d come out of the
future to make a life here in the past wasn‘t exactly one who had
an ordinary life.
We need to get them some better things to wear, he told
Penelope. Then we can head out.
Thank you, Cole.
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A Chance in Time
He leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
The boy scrunched his nose in disgust.
Tell him that he better get used to it because there‘s
going to be nothing but hugs and kisses in our family.
Penelope laughed and talked to the boy.
The boy shook his head but gave a slight smile as the girl
looked up at Penelope and Cole and also smiled.
Everything would be alright. Satisfied, Cole made
arrangements to make the adoption official.
75

After I wrote this book, I often wondered about Woape. So I
decided to write her story in…
cover made by Bonnie Steffens
Fleeing from a marriage she didn’t want, Woape is caught by a
male Sioux Indian who abuses her. One night, she manages to
escape and nearly loses her life when Gary Milton shows up and
rescues her. Not knowing where else to go, she follows him home.
In their time together, she falls in love with him and is determined
that he will be her husband.
But the Sioux Indian is not far behind, and he’s going to claim her
as his, even if he has to kill Gary to get her.
Now Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Sony,
Kobo, Apple, and other stores where books are sold.

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