|When Love Comes Calling
Working as a waitress at a Harvey House Restaurant out West has been a life saver for homeless Callie Rhinehart. After the death of her parents and sister, the position has provided a roof over her head, the security of decent pay, and a future with a reputable company. When handsome widow Frank Sutton sits at her counter with a sweet little boy in need of a mother, Callie’s carefully laid plans are threatened. But despite her growing feelings for the rancher, should she give up the security and independence afforded by the Harvey Company and risk a marriage of mere convenience to a temptingly handsome stranger?
It’s true that Frank originally pursued Callie because he needed a mother for his child, but he’s fallen in love with her independent spirit. Competing with another man for her affections is one thing, competing with the Harvey Company is proving to be quite another.
This novella was also featured in the eBook anthology, Journeys of the Heart, no longer available. New scenes have been added.
At the sound of the gong, Callie May Rhinehart squared her shoulders and prepared for battle. Four days into her month-long training at the Topeka Harvey House, and the customer onslaught from the lunchtime train still sent her stomach into a tumble. If she didn’t make it through this month and land a place at one of the Harvey Houses down the rail line, she had nowhere else to go.
“Ready?” asked Louisa Millstone, the young woman wringing her hands next to her. Wearing black dresses still stiff from being new, and white aprons starched so they almost stood on their own, the two women stood behind the polished mahogany counter awaiting the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe passengers like soldiers awaiting an enemy’s charge.
“Doesn’t matter if I am or not. They are coming either way,” Callie said, her shaky hand smoothing out her apron as the thunder of boots on wood filled the air.
Within seconds, men piled through the door. The hungry passengers came in all shape and sizes, polished, brash, young, and old. Like dominoes falling, they settled onto the stool chairs that lined the counter, each place set with a dish of salad for every customer who had provided their order earlier on the train.
Callie took a deep breath and brushed back a strand of blond hair that had escaped her bun, the required hairstyle of every Harvey Girl.
You can do this, Callie.
Customer satisfaction had been drilled into her during the past few days, regardless of the customer’s appearance or manners. And, under no circumstances, should a Harvey Girl’s lack of service cause a passenger to miss the train, scheduled to depart exactly twenty-minutes later. That meant fast and courteous service, come hell or high water.
She scanned the faces of the eager passengers, taking note of those who were dressed for the elegant dining room, and those in dusty and soiled clothes, like the three young bucks who pushed past the crowd and headed to her section at the lower end of the counter.
As an older man in pressed shirt and work pants, the first customer in her area, settled in his seat, Callie began taking drink requests and asking each person what meal they had ordered on the train so she could marry it with the meals the cook had prepared.
The way she set the customer’s cup signaled Gertrude, a more senior Harvey Girl poised by the drink station, whether the customer wanted coffee, tea, milk, or water… and Callie hoped she got it right. So far so good, she thought as she neared the half-way mark, but then the noise at the end of the counter drew her attention. Those three dusty cowboys were laughing and staring at her.
It was happening just like Mrs. Harris, the woman who’d been in charge of Callie’s training, had warned her and the other new girls. The men in Kansas did seem to be starved for the sight of a woman if those boys’ antics were anything to go by. Mrs. Harris had also predicted that most of the girls would receive at least one proposal before their contract expired. Given that her late sister hadn’t had the best experience with marriage, Callie was determined to make her home at the Harvey House. Now all she had to do was remember the rules…and follow them.
Excerpt from When Love Comes Calling ©2020 These are works of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues in this book are of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is completely coincidental.