Smoke River Family(67)

By: Lynna Banning



 He stuffed down his frustration. “Shall I proceed?”

 Her smile flickered. “Oh, yes, Zane. Please do.”

 He drew in a deep breath and steeled himself to get his heart broken.

 “Winifred, I do know that your music career at the conservatory is important to you. But I can’t lose you. Ever. I’m asking you to marry me. To stay here in Smoke River and be my wife.”

 He held his breath while she smoothed her hand across his cheek. “Yes, my career at the conservatory is important to me. Very important. I have worked for it all my life. But...”

 She brushed her thumb over his lower lip. “But it is not as important to me as you are.”

 “What?” He wasn’t sure he’d heard right. “What do you mean?”

 “It’s simple, Zane. I love you. I want to be here, with you. And Rosemarie. The cost would be too high to miss this during my lifetime.”

 “Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”

 “I told you I sent a telegram to the conservatory director.”

 “Yes, I remember. You didn’t tell me what you said in that telegram, however.”

 “I wired my resignation. I knew the minute I saw you lying in that hospital bed that I’d never be able to leave you again.”

 “I asked you to marry me the last time you were here,” he reminded her.

 “I remember. But I wasn’t ready then. Then I didn’t think I could give up my conservatory career. Now I know it is you I cannot give up.”

 With a shaky sigh he gathered her close, and after a number of kisses they made love again. And again.

 In the morning, a smiling Sam and Yan Li moved quietly about the house, careful not to disturb the couple sleeping behind Zane’s bedroom door.

 * * *

 Zane stood quietly at Celeste’s grave, Rosemarie’s tiny hand clasped in his. Very deliberately he knelt and laid a bouquet of yellow roses on the soft earth.

 Someone had planted flowers of some kind, daisies he guessed; they spilled over the site and twined up the gray headstone. Perhaps Winifred had thought to do this.

 He plucked a single golden bloom and nestled it behind his daughter’s ear. Then he lifted her into his arms and turned toward the small, peaceful town and the road that led home.





                       Epilogue

 Smoke River Sentinel

 December 24th, 1873

 BELOVED PHYSICIAN MARRIES!

 Dr. Nathaniel (Zane) Dougherty was joined in matrimony on Sunday with the former Winifred Von Dannen of St. Louis at a candlelight ceremony at the doctor’s Smoke River residence.

 The bride wore a simply cut gown of yellow peau de soie and carried a bouquet of honeysuckle and yellow damask roses. She was given away by Rooney Cloudman and preceded to the altar by her niece, Rosemarie Winifred Dougherty. Dr. Samuel Graham stood up with the groom, and Reverend Anthony Pollock conducted the service.

 Dr. Dougherty is cofounder of the Samuel Graham Hospital and a respected physician and surgeon in private practice, serving both the Smoke River and Gillette Springs communities. The new Mrs. Dougherty was a respected concert pianist and professor of music at the Adamson Conservatory in St. Louis, Missouri.

 Following the ceremony, a spectacular seven-layer wedding cake, created by Ming Cha, owner of Uncle Charlie’s Bakery, was served along with lemonade and champagne punch.

 The couple will reside in Smoke River, where Mrs. Dougherty intends to open a music school.

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