An Improper Derailment: Chapter 19

Where Mary faces down beasts far hairier than the gentle
sauran she’s come to accept as gentle as the butterfly she is named for.

cows (1)

Catch up with Chapter 18…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary picked her way through the tall grass.

Kim, a fair distance to her left grazed and occasionally would cavort. There was really no other word for it. The sauran would bounce and spring, and practically dance in circles. It was rather charming, even if it did make the ground jump.

It was the primary reason Mary was keeping a safe distance from the animal as they continued to travel in a southwestern direction. She didn’t want to accidentally be pranced upon.

Mary stayed near the sauran while the men were out foraging. She was as safe as she could be near the beast. A thought that came naturally to her now. A thought that would have been so foreign a few days earlier.

Kim made a mournful lowing, and Mary glanced up. Kim nosed into the dirt, either complaining that the bug she was chasing had gone to ground, or maybe she had spied one of those prairie dogs.

Mary cast about looking for Marshall or Hanska. Neither man was visible. Clouds gathered low on the horizon to the east, and Mary could make out the faint rumble of thunder. There didn’t seem to be any wind, but she was learning that didn’t mean anything. The air could be still as a statue one minute, and the next it could be roaring so fiercely it could sweep whatever it wanted away with it, people, animals, buildings.

As a precaution, she meandered closer to the sauran. She too seemed to sense something building to the east.

Mary reached out her hand and made the soft cooing sounds Hanska had taught her. The large tric settled and Mary ran her hand over the warm rough skin of the beast’s neck.

The tric lowed and shifted, almost nervously.

“Me too, me too,” Mary said. She didn’t like the atmosphere suddenly.

“Adi, adi,” she said the command for Kim to lower and bend her leg so she could be climbed.
Mary climbed with carefully practiced foot placements.

About halfway up, Kim shifted with a loud grunt.

“No, you infernal beast!” Mary cried as she fell back, landing on her less than her normally padded backside. She had discarded the bustle early on, once their travels left the sophistication of the rail car.

Kim nosed at her.

Mary took advantage of the beast, and wrapped her hands around the nose horn, and allowed Kim’s momentum to lift her to her feet. Once upright, Mary began scolding the animal and brushing down her skirts. She wasn’t exactly sure why she bothered. Everything was already covered in dust. Another layer wouldn’t change that.

The roll of thunder seemed even closer. The impending storm must have upset the animal.

“Adi, adi,” Mary tried again.

She successfully made all the way up Kim’s back, and was just settling herself on the saddle blanket when she heard shouting. Looking up, she saw Hanska running toward them, waving his arms frantically. Mary couldn’t make out what he was saying.
“Well, go on,” she tried to coax Kim to move. It seemed silly to make the man run all the way to them, when with a few steps Kim could cover yards.
Whatever he was yelling, Kim seemed to understand. She bowed so that in a few agile Steps Hanska was crouched on the beast’s back, next to Mary.

“Hold tight,” he directed.

“Where’s Marshall? What’s happening?”

“Marshall is coming. He needs to run faster.”

The rumble of thunder grew louder, and this time the sound was constant and heading toward them. Thunder didn’t stay constant.
Mary stood and held onto Kim’s frill, so she could see what was approaching.
First, she saw Marshall, running like Hanska had been. And then she saw it, them. The cloud masked their shapes, but Mary knew it was cattle.

Hanska barked a command and Kim lowered her head. Mary squealed as the frill lowered, and the surface she stood on lowered. Hanska placed an arm around her middle.

“Brace,” he said.

“But Marshall?”

“He will…”

Hanska’s words were lost to the pounding of hooves as they were surrounded by cattle. Mary had thought the smell of a sauran was offensive. The mass of bovine bodies smelled less like grass and fresh air, as she had come to associate with Kim, but of the reek and stink of manure. But amplified.

Kim bellowed as she faced into the mass of steak dinners on legs, but she did not move.

As suddenly as they were set upon, the onslaught was over.

Mary coughed to clear her lungs of stirred-up dust. She couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of her.

“Marshall!” She yelled.

She couldn’t fathom having lost him beneath the hooves of that running hoard.

Coughing came from somewhere below Mary’s perch on the sauran’s back.

“Down here,” Marshall said between coughs.

Mary slid off the sauran’s back, and tackled Marshall in a hug.

“Hey, take it easy. I made it to safety between Kim’s legs just in time.”

Mary blinked back unexpected tears, but she didn’t let go of Marshall. “She’s a good tric isn’t she?”

“Good girl Kim,” Marshall laughed, and kissed the beast on the side of her leg, and then kissed Mary on the temple.

What perils will Mary face next on her journey to regaining the railway? Find out in the next installment… 

©2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 18

Where Mary learns that a lady needs more than manners and social graces to survive.
camp fire for ID 18
Catch up with Chapter 17…

Start the series from the beginning…

The fire danced into the sky.

Marshal crouched on the far side of the fire from Mary as he did something more substantial than just poke at it. With his attention on the flames and the meal he tended, Mary let her eyes rest on his form.

She had watched Janey’s husband poke at a fire a time or two, it never did anything, and he always had to call in the parlor-maid to deal with it. The flames seemed to have spread out under Marshall’s knowledgeable ministrations.
He sat back on his heels. He was a big man, built for action. Yet he had put up with her impertinent attitude much longer than Mary would have. His focus was on the flames, and then on the gutted rabbit speared on a spit.

She admired how deftly he checked and turned the meat with long practically graceful fingers. Had he been born into a family of means they most certainly would have had him musically trained. He would have played the piano most beautifully.


He would be a lovely singer with the tones of his voice. She particularity found herself enjoying the way her name sounded when he said it.


Oh, Marshall was saying her name. “What?”

“Shh,” he lifted his finger to his lips. “Your humming was getting louder.”

“I wasn’t…” She hadn’t been humming. Had she?

He pointed behind her.

Several yards away, Kim let out a rumbling sound that Mary had learned was a content noise that beasts of her ilk made. After several days of travel and camping Mary, while still wary of the beast, grew accustomed to the dusty earth and grass smell.

Hanska slept peacefully tucked up next to his sauran. He worked tirelessly, hunting, and keeping Kim under control. He deserved his well-earned rest, especially after bringing in such a feast for their dinner. Not only had he snared a nice big hare, but he found a tree full of plumbs.

“Don’t eat all of these tonight, save some for our breakfast,” he said when he had displayed the bounty.

“Can’t we just go pick more?” Mary had asked.

She realized it had been a stupid question by the expression on Hanska’s face. He had probably walked for miles before he had found the fruit.

“Right,” she said chagrinned.

Both men had kept her safe, fed her, and were making sure she would get to her destination. And all she managed to do was sit around admiring their skills and fortitude. She couldn’t even claim to be halfway attractive at this point. She needed a bath. She tentatively touched her hair, probably permanently tied into a knot on the top of her head. She flinched and began rubbing at her nose, not certain if she cleared away the smudge of soot she was certain was there, or if she was making it worse. She wasn’t even decorative.

Marshall crooked his fingers at her, beckoning her to his side of the fire.

She crawled over the rock she had perched upon and sat in the dirt next to him.

“What’s with the frown? One second you were happy and humming, the next you looked like you want to cry.”

At the sound of his words, Mary did want to cry. She looked at him for a long moment, composing her words.

“I’ve come to the realization that I am completely useless. Without a society to be out in, I have nothing of value. If anything the past few days have helped me to realize society is tenuous at best. How quickly we went from social order to chaos and survival when those bandits attacked the train. And here I am, the woman in this small party, and I have no skills.”

“I was just thinking about how well you’ve been putting up with all of this. And now you go and impress me.”

He wiped a handkerchief across his brow. Smearing more dirt into the sweat on his brow. Mary plucked the square of fabric from his hands and reaching up, wiped his brow clean.

Her breathing stopped and her pulse raced as realization of her actions crashed into her as she placed the handkerchief back into Marshall’s large hand.

His thumb folded over the back of her had, holding it in place. She couldn’t take her eyes from their hands.

With a clearing of his throat, Marshall let go of her. “What do you mean you have no skills?”

“Well, I don’t know how to hunt or fish. I’m sure I could pick fruit or berries, but I have actually never done so. I certainly don’t know how to start or tend a fire. Or cook. I am useless. I have no skills. I can’t even ride a horse.”

“Oh, that can’t be Mary. I’m sure you were raised with the more refined skills that a lady needs to possess. I’d wager you play the piano quite well, and that your needlework is as delicate as the eyelash on a hummingbird.”

Mary didn’t think she had heard anything so poetic in all of her days. She had to blink a moment to clear her thoughts.

“My needlework is atrocious. I’m always stabbing myself and bleeding on the floss, ruining everything. And I’m embarrassed to admit, that while I do enjoy listening to fine musicians I never developed an ear or talent for creating music myself. I cannot play.”

“Not even the piano? Shame, even I can coax a recognizable tune from a piano.”

“I’m sure you can. After all your fingers are so long and skill full. My hands are small with stumps of fingers.” Mary had her hands up, fingers splayed before she realized in her prattling she admitted to noticing Marshall’s long fine fingers. She stared at the backs of her own hands and prayed that he had not noticed her indelicate speech.

He spread his own hands, palms up, and placed them against Mary’s.

“I’d agree your hands are mighty small. But I think I’d use the term delicate before I ever considered stumpy.”

Mary panicked at the touch. She pulled her hands back quickly instead of enjoying his touch as she wanted so desperately to do.

“I think I’d rather have capable hands over delicate ones.”

Marshall didn’t seem affronted by her sudden movement. He lifted the long stick he had tended to the fire with before and handed it to Mary.

“How about we start now,” he said.

“Start what?”

“Turning those delicate hands of yours into capable ones. Have you ever tended a fire?”

“Oh no, that’s not appropriate. That’s what the help is for.”

“Sounds like you’re saying you don’t want this?”

“Sorry,” she gulped. “I was merely attempting to coney my utter lack of knowledge on the subject. I’ve seen the maid poke at a fire and it seems to come back to life. And I’ve seen my dear sister’s husband to the same to no avail. It all simply looks like poking.”

Marshall chuckled. “In a way it is. But you want to poke with purpose. You see fire needs oxygen to burn. It’s like us, it needs air to live. But too much and it goes out.”

As he spoke he directed Mary’s hand to fat stick in the fire. Together they poked and lifted exposing the burning wood.

“What you want to do is find the places the fire is being smothered by ash, and lift it back into the air. Shift things around a bit so that air can get in.”

As they poked, the fire jumped higher. Startled Mary fell back with a small exclamation of surprise.

“There, you got it. Now get back up here.” Marshall held the stick out to Mary.

Showing her how to balance on her feet, so she could scurry away from the flames if need be.

“Don’t stoke the flames too high, we want to roast this hare, not burn it.” Marshall released his guiding hold on the stick and eased back while Mary continued to identify areas that were in need of air.

The work was hot, and smoke got in her face. The feeling of accomplishment was almost as giddy as the feeling she got when she looked over her shoulder to see Marshall grinning at her.

Will Mary dispose of her learned manners and adapt to the ways of living off the land? Find out in the next installment… 

©2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 17

A properly mannered Mary makes a new friend.


Catch up with Chapter 16…

Start the series from the beginning…

Mary woke to the comforting sensation of gentle rocking.

Fresh clean air, heavy with the scent of dried grass filled her senses. She was cradled in firm, contoured familiarity. A memory from being a child, held by her mother; but her mother was gone, taken before the blush of youth and beauty had left her cheeks. She nestled in against the… pillows? Too firm for pillows, too perfect to be a couch. She paid the mystery no never-mind and let herself sink back into the nothing of sleep.

A bellowing whine jolted Mary awake. The smell, the rocking, the noise. A sauran! She screamed and tried to scramble out of the cocoon of cozy she had created on the couch. She intended on screaming a second time as she realized she had been sleeping in Marshall Hunt’s arms.

Suddenly she found herself short of breath. The audacity, the arrogance, the complete and total lack of social decorum! What would Janey say? How would her grandfather react? Surely the impropriety would send him to an early grave.

“Hey, hey, you’re safe,” he said with a gentle smile.

How dare he smile at her like that!

“Calm your woman, Hunt. She’s scaring my tric.”

Mary swiveled her head to look at the man who spoke. Behind Marshall stood a painted Native man, from one of the plains tribes, a…

She gulped. She would not resort to the scare tactics of sensationalist journalism. She would form her own opinions. Besides, Marshall seemed perfectly at ease. He was ridiculously relaxed considering their perilous predicament.

“I think she’s more afraid of me than the tric,” he said with a wry chuckle. “Mary, Miss Dyer,” Marshall’s tone was commanding. “You are perfectly safe. There are no bandits; this beast has no interest in eating you. And if you insist on continuing to thrash about, I may accidentally let go, and drop you.”

Mary’s eyes went wide at the threat, all while her insides felt like molten honey, all hot and gooey from the tone of his voice.

“I… I… I’m not a personal fanatic when it comes to large animals. I can barely tolerate horses.” She managed to squeak out. She trembled in her attempt to hold still while allowing Marshall’s arm to drape around her middle like some safety strap.

She cast her gaze back to the Native man behind Marshall. “I apologize for scaring your triceratops, sir.”

“My name’s Hanska.” The man nodded. “And the tric, her name is Kim.”

“Kim?” Mary blinked in surprise. “I was expecting something more…”

She bit her tongue before she could say something offensive. She was uncertain how to ask things without sounding foolish, or worse rude. She may have grown up in the company of a certain class of people, people who frequently let their manners slip when dealing with anyone different from themselves. She did not doubt that Pythagoras would be such a flagrant snob. And to think she had been thrilled when he was courting her.

Mary believed that everyone deserved manners, no matter where they came from.

Hanska laughed. “Something more native?”

Mary felt the blush of embarrassment burn her cheeks. “I’m sorry, I did not mean to offend. But I always considered Kim to be…” she paused searching for the least offensive, least ignorant way to phrase her question. “I wasn’t aware that Kim was also a native name,” she ended up blurting out.

Marshall gently chuckled around her. His shifting motion reminded her of her predicament.

“Her name is Kimimela, Kim for short,” Hanska explained.

“Kimimela,” Mary repeated, mostly to feel the way the name rolled off her tongue in a delightful tripping of sound.

The triceratops made a huffing, almost purring sound as if she recognized her name being bandied about.

“It’s a beautiful name,” she said.

“She’s a beautiful sauran,” Marshall added.

“I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that,” Mary admitted.

The beast made her nervous. Unfortunately, she wasn’t exactly certain which beast she meant at the moment. Marshall or the triceratops.

What’s in store for Mary? How will she get to San Francisco now?
Find out in the next installment… 

©2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 16

Overwhelmed by everything, Mary decides the most reasonable course of action is to pass out.


Catch up with Chapter 15…

Start the series from the beginning…

Reality came back with a slamming jolt as they landed.

There was an initial impact accompanied by a loud cursing grunt, but they continued to fall. The next impact came a split second later, and then the pain of a crushing roll as the wind was knocked from Mary’s lungs without the chance to recover as she was rolled under Marshall’s weight.

Every joint in her body felt weak, and her limbs went numb with the initial jolt. Now the crushing pressure repeated, again and again, made holding on a struggle she couldn’t maintain. Her feet and legs slipped as their rolling slowed. Finally they stopped.

Marshall lay collapsed on top of her. Mary tried to regain her breath. It was a fight to get her chest to lift to take in air. She wriggled to get out from under the trap of his weight.

His arms slammed to the ground on either side of her head, trapping her in. “Hold still, damn it!” Marshall growled in low tones.

She could not help but notice how her skirts were flung up high, and her legs now wrapped around Marshall’s hips, and not his waist. With a gasp of realization that there was not a gun being pressed between them. She stilled.

“Bandits?” she whispered.

“Yeah, but… that’s not…” Marshall pushed up and away from Mary. He reached forward grabbing her arm to bring her to an upright position with him. He brushed down her skirts, and with a firm hand in the middle of her back he propelled her into the tall grass away from the tracks.

Mary could hear the thunder of the engine, the yells of the men attempting to rob them, and— she froze in her tracks— the bellows of saurans. That explained how they were going to derail the train. She slowly turned to look where the train and the beasts were. It felt as if they should be a million miles away, but in fact the train had barely travelled fifty more yards from where she and Marshall had landed. The noise seemed so distant and muffled.

Large quadrupedal saurans with teams of riders on their backs, driving them with what appeared to be sharp prodding sticks at their legs butted the train cars. The beasts raised up on their hind quarters and lunged forward using their heads to ram the sides of the train cars.

She staggered back against Marshall. Her knees went weak, and even after surviving the jump from the train the thing, things, that were going to cause her to lose her composure were the giant prehistoric beasts.

“You all right?” Marshall’s voice sounded muffled behind a layer of cotton.

She shivered. “I… I can’t stand saurans. There is something about giant lizards, I just can’t stand them.”

Marshall left a steadying hand under her elbow. Her hearing cleared with a soundless pop, more of a release of pressure. A roar of sound assaulted her restored hearing. She clapped her hands over her ears as a shriek of bending and tearing metal combined with the screaming bellows of the saurans.

Train cars tipped past the point of no return, and one after the other, cars fell to the side and twisted. The engine continued to pull as the reality of the destruction dawned on Mary. She felt sick in her stomach. She turned and buried her face against Marshall’s chest.

“Come on, let’s get out of here.”

Mary nodded, too numb to do anything else, she followed his guidance. She felt blind, not seeing the ground in front of them, the image of the train crash replayed over and over in her head. They could have been on that train. They could be injured or worse.

“Hunt, what the hell are you doing out here?” A soft lilting male voice asked from somewhere above her.

She blinked to clear her vision. Immediately in front of her stood a sauran. It whiffled a huff of breath in her face. She looked up and perched behind the frill of the beast, a plains man in deer hides and feathers grinned down at her.

She remembered thinking how she hadn’t heard the giant beast as her vision faded to black…


From travel by train to travel by beast, click here to find out what happens next in chapter 17!


©2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 15

Where Mary doesn’t expect to disembark the train in quite that fashion…


Catch up with Chapter 14…

Start the series from the beginning…

The train car continued to rock, each new motion now with an accompanying rumble and crash.

Mary struggled into her coat as Marshall pushed her down the aisle to the front of the car.

“Hurry before they hit—”

The entire car quaked and tilted at an extreme angle before crashing back down. The impact drove Mary to her hands and knees.

Before she had time to gasp in a shocked breath Marshall had a firm hand under her arm and hauled her back to her feet.


“What was that?”

“Bandits. They’re going to derail us if the engineer doesn’t stop. Damn it!” Marshall pulled Mary up short before they reached the door that would open between cars. “Get ready to jump. When I say go, you go. Do not hesitate. Understand?”

“But Marshall?”

“Do. You. Understand?” he asked again with clipped barks of words.

Mary sucked in a resolved breath, clenched her jaw and nodded. Her focus was through the window and out on the platform she knew Marshall expected her to leap across.

In a split second, the door crashed open, the train car rocked off a set of wheels, Marsha pushed and yelled, “Jump, Now!”

Mary didn’t hesitate. She bolted through the door and jumped straight into the car opposite.

She skidded and fell among a clutter of downed packages and screaming passengers.

She was up and running the second she felt Marshall behind her. His touch lifting her to her feet and propelling her forward.

This car didn’t rock with as much force, she could tell they were farther away from whatever force these bandits were using to batter the train to a stop.

At the end of the second train car Marshall stopped Mary. He turned her so she faced him.

His grip tightened on her upper arms. “This next time we jump together.”

Mary could barely comprehend his words. Jump together. Did he mean holding hands? She nodded as the car jostled with violence that suggested the engineer was not going to stop and the bandits would have to knock the train off the rails if they really wanted to rob it.

Marshall let go of her arms and leaned over. He hiked up her skirts and handed her a handful of fabric.

“Mr. Hunt!”

“Seriously woman, now is not the time. You can berate me after I get you off this cursed train.”

With that he lifted her up as if she were a bundle, positioning her legs around his waist.

“Lock your ankles together and hold on tight,” he directed.

He tucked her head close down to his chest as she tried to turn and watch where he was headed.

“Hold tight. I’ve got you. But I need you to hold on with everything you have.”

Mary clenched Marshal as close as she could. His movements felt strong and forceful under her hold. He ran. The breath caught in her throat, and her heart stopped as Marshall launched them into the air. For a moment, she felt like she was flying. She wanted to see what the world looked like from flight, but fear kept her head down, eyes closed, and face buried into Marshall’s chest.


Find out how they get off the train in the next chapter!

©2020,2021 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 14

Where Mary discovers just how bad the situation really is…
Untitled design
Catch up with Chapter 13…

Start the series from the beginning…

With a delighted giggle Mary spread out her cards. Ace, King, Queen, and a pair of nines, all hearts.

Marshall nodded, that irresistible half-grin across his face.

“Looks like you won again,” he said as he slid a penny across the table to Mary’s side. She had a collection of pennies gathered near her elbow, a testament to her winning streak.

“This game is easy. I don’t know why Grandfather objected so strenuously to it.”

“Maybe he didn’t win with the same ease.” He folded his cards, and reached for the stack of cards.

Mary’s hand shot out and grabbed his wrist, stopping his motion.

“What did you have? How badly did I beat you?”

“You thoroughly whipped me.” He continued to pull the cards together.

Mary tugged against his wrist, unrelenting in her desire to see how wide of a spread she won by.

One of Marshall’s cards slipped. She snatched it.

A ten of spades. A decent card to have, but it wouldn’t do him any good if the rest were mix-matched suits and low numbers.

Mary grabbed at his cards again.

He yanked his arm away from her, and held his cards high out of her reach.

With and huff and a determined set to her chin Mary stood up and leaned far over the table, struggling to get to the cards in his outstretched hand.

“Why won’t you let me see the cards?” she asked with a frustrated grunt.

“Why do you need to see them so badly?”

Mary sat with a thump. She crossed her arms and pushed her lower lip out in a curled pout.

“A little bird’s gonna come in here and sit on that lip,” he said with a wink.

His wink flustered her. She sucked her lip back into her mouth and anchored it in place with a bite.

“Damn, if you’re gonna look at me with your eyes all big like that.” Marshall sighed heavily and slid the cards, face down across the table.

Mary squirmed in delight, she had won another battle against the intimidating Marshall Hunt. She grabbed at the cards.

The train rocked with more aggressive force than when it had been buffeted by gale winds of the night before. The passenger compartment went silent. Another hard rock, and several passengers gasped in fear.

“Never mind the cards,” Marshall yelled. “Get your coat.”

“What? But…” Mary looked at the cards in her hands. Spades a royal flush. “You let me win,” she said in a small voice.

Her heavy coat hit her in the face. She looked up at Marshall, his Stetson already rammed down onto his head.

“Put your coat on woman, we’ve got to get out of here before this train comes off its rails!”

Find out how they get off the train in the next chapter…

©2020 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 13

Where Mary learns when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em…
Catch up with Chapter 12…

Start the series from the beginning…

The bed rocked something fierce. Mary pushed up to see whatever was happening. Chicago didn’t have earthquakes. Or did it?

“Whoa now little lady, you don’t want to—”

Several things happened in quick succession. Mary realized she was on a train. She attempted to sit up, only to bump her head on the ceiling of her birth. Startled, she jumped and rolled out of the pull-down bed, and landed in Marshall Hunt’s arms.


She stared up into the blue eyes she had dreamed about. The blue eyes that meant she was safe. The blue eyes that meant she was on a train, in an open car, and other people could see the inappropriate actions of this brute of a man.

She smiled and let out a nervous giggle. This man who caught her.

He lowered her to the floor, bracing her against his body with one arm, while he braced the other against the bunk. The train rocked fiercely.

“Did the storm wake you?” Marshall asked in lowered tones.

With a few vision clearing blinks, Mary realized the car was dimly lit. Other passengers rested in pull-down births, similar to the one she had so suddenly exited, or they slept with their heads flung back, and mouths open.

“I’m sorry, did I disturb your rest?” She knew she should push away from him. She shouldn’t allow herself to be held so close to him this way.

To her disappointment, Marshall eased her away and onto the rear-facing couch.

“Not at all. You were restless, so I was already up and checking on you. Are you feeling much better?”

Mary pressed her fingers to her face, wanting to grind her fists into her sleep-filled eyes, but knowing that was not lady-like. Taking quick stock of her predicament, she discovered that she no longer wore her overcoat, hat, or shoes. But the rest of her wardrobe was in place, if not wrinkled.

“Yes, I think I’m better. No. I know I’m better.” She reached forward for his hand and gave it a quick squeeze. She no longer cared about polite displays of affection. He saved her. “You saved me.”

“I was in the right place at the right time to catch you. You wouldn’t have fallen far,”

“That’s not what I meant. I have never been so concerned for my person as those painfully long moments between being pulled onto the train and seeing you once more.”

Marshall chuckled, “It was all of three minutes tops.”

“No, it was infinite and ever-expanding. In that time I saw my entire life destroyed. My future was bleak and meaningless. I realized my past has been frivolous and superficial. I wouldn’t know how to survive on my own.”

“Mary…” Marshall cut in.

She leaned forward again, pressing her fingers to his mouth. “You say it was moments, but to me, it was a vast and expansive as the Pacific Ocean. Time stopped and I came face to face with an ugly reality. I am not cut out for this life of adventure. My quiet life has not prepared me for anything. I don’t even know how to play cards.” Mary sat back with a sniffle and clapped her hand across her own mouth. How could she even utter such words? A lady of polite society would never play more than a game of bridge with like-minded ladies. But Mary didn’t even know that. Cards were a sign of gambling and wantonness. At least in her grandfather’s house, they were.

Marshall eased back against the cushions of his own couch with a smirk and a glint in his eyes. “I guess we’d better take advantage of this time together and teach you how to play cards.”

Read the next installment, Chapter 14…

©2020 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 12

Where Mary forgoes decorum in her relief…

Crying woman is holding onto the derailment locomotive.

Catch up with Chapter 11…

Start the series from the beginning…

With a cry Mary dropped the hat she clutched tight to her bosom. She flung herself at the man who lounged so carelessly on the couch the conductor had indicated as hers.

She pressed her face into his chest and clutched hand fulls of the rough fabric of his clothing. The sobs she could barely contain on the interminable walk from boarding to here escaped on a hard gasp for air.

She drowned in fear and relief. Unable to manage unfamiliar emotions. Emotions she had never experienced in her over-protected life.

A comforting pressure anchored her in place as she cried. She was safe. She was saved, and that’s all she knew. The horrors of abandonment flickered through her mind like a racing zoetrope, only to be replaced with one still calm image. The image of Marshall Hunt. But not the image of him lounging and smirking, or of him glowering at her as he was want to do. But the image that was carved into her mind was of him smiling down at her, blue eyes twinkling with mirth.

Everything bad she could imagine, and she could imagine quite a few perils, was stopped in their tracks by the smiling face of Marshall Hunt.

Mary’s crying subsided to a stream of constant sniffs and quavery lip. The tears continued to flow, but she no longer sobbed. She slowly came to the realization of her predicament. The firm comfort she felt belonged to the strong arms that held her securely in place against Marshall’s chest.
Her breathing quavered as she assessed her situation. She was safe, but the car was open, and the other passengers could see. She knew in their politeness they would pretend not to notice. She also knew that pretense was a thin veneer of a façade that hid judgmental glares, gossip, and two-faced false friendships. She knew this well because she and Janey had been like that. Sweet as pie at face value, and shallow and undependable when it came right down to it.

If she stayed wrapped in Marshall’s embrace, she would be protected from the oblique glances and sneers hidden behind the masks of propriety. He would stare the false niceties down, and his glare would silence any busy-body gossip. For once in her life, she understood what it felt like to be truly protected, and not merely hidden behind a barrier of money and manners.
She held still. Not loosening her grip on him in any form. She should move, but she didn’t want to. If she let go she would have to return to the world of prying eyes and arranged marriages.

“You all right there Mary?” His voice was softer and soothing than she ever imagined it could be.

A soft kerchief fluttered in front of her nose. She braved releasing the grip of one hand to snatch at the fabric and wipe at her face with it. With as much decorum as she could muster she blew her nose.

The chest under her face rocked with a soft chuckle and the arms around her adjusted and shifted her position.

Oh dear lord. How long had she been sitting on him? Did it matter? Would he allow her to sit here for the rest of the journey? Here she could pretend there was no one else on board the train. Here she could let the motion of the train and the warmth of Marshall’s body lull her to sleep.

Within second of thinking about sleep, Mary’s soft hiccuping snores reached Marshall’s ears.

He shifted again, getting the small woman in his embrace into a more comfortable position as it looked as if she would be here in his arms for a might bit longer than he had ever expected.

After he managed to get her successfully onboard, he knew there was no way he could catch up. He slowed ever so slightly allowing the locomotive to move ahead. With ease, he caught the railing between the next set of cars and swung himself on board.

Surprised not to see Mary with her little nose wrinkled in disdain waiting for him in their seats, he made himself comfortable in the way that would boil her tea kettle the most. But she didn’t stare at him like some lowly cockroach. No, she was ashen pale, and clutched his Stetson as if it were the only thing keeping her alive. He didn’t question his good luck when she landed on him with the force of a broken heart and fear. He knew the sound of those sobs entirely too well.

She was safe. He would protect her.

A clap of thunder rumbled through his chest, and he realized a week in her presence would never be enough, but it was all he had. He wasn’t going to put her down while she slept. Not when he knew it was probably the only time in his life she would allow him to hold her.


Tune in to the next installment…
©2020 Lulu M Sylvian

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 11

Where Mary has to face she may be alone for the first time in her life…

old train station

catch up with chapter 10

start from the beginning

Steam filled Mary’s view. Marshall Hunt was gone.

She didn’t remember crying out, she barely remembered clutching at the thing that hurled toward her from the blinding white.

A conductor held her arm and she realized she had been reaching out, trying to get off the train. She couldn’t be here, not without her escort, as gruff and inappropriate as he was.

Words were murmured behind her, and hands grasped her upper arms preventing her from slipping into a faint. Someone propelled her down a row of open couches.

One step in front of another. How was she to do this? She didn’t even have her ticket. That man had all of her documents, all of her money. What was she to do?

She tried to turn and make her way back to the front of the car, back to the little platform where she had entered the car. Maybe he was there, maybe he had caught the train.
“Miss, please.” The conductor turned her around and continued her in a forward motion.

“But…” Mary couldn’t form words; she didn’t know what to say. Her guardian, her travel companion, her deliverer was gone. How was she to prove her ticket?

Her brain froze on the thought, no matter how she tried to work her way around it, they were going to put her off the train at the next stop.
What was the next stop? They would leave her in the middle of the wild west, bandit country, restless natives, whore houses! Oh her reputation would never recover.

“I need…” She tried to turn again, only to be directed through the car with a firm grasp on her arms.

Other passengers looked at her with expressions of horror and pity. A young woman traveling alone, how completely untoward. She tried to swallow and compose herself.

“I… I’m fine,” she stammered out.

She was not fine. Her knees buckled and threatened to leave her on the floor, but the resourceful conductor caught her in a timely fashion.
The conductor guided Mary through the car, out the other end, and into another car. More faces judged Mary as she clutched the thing in her hands. What was it? She looked down and realized she crushed Marshall’s unfashionable Stetson to her breast in her despair and grief. She barely had the wherewithal not to break down in tears.

“Almost there Miss,” the conductor said as he led her between rows of couches.

“But I have a private sleeper,” she whined, trying her best not to wail out her terror at being alone, and being parked in such a public space as this. No. She was certain, there had to be a mistake.

“This is the sleeper car Miss. There are no private compartments unless you have an entire train car, which you don’t.”

Everything was wrong. Marshall was gone. She had no ticket. This car was wide open. There were no private births. Her trunks were away in some baggage car. And she was… alone.

“Here you are Miss.”

Mary had to blink to clear her vision. No privacy at all, and the unmitigated uncoothness of boots resting on her couch!

“I know you don’t care much for me Mary, but you don’t have to take it out on my hat. Hand it over before you crush all shape out of it.”

©2020 Lulu M Sylvian

Read on with the next installment!

An Improper Derailment: Chapter 10

Where Marshall touches Mary in a manner that she considers inappropriate…

steam engine

catch up with chapter 9

start from the beginning

Mary ignored Mr. Hunt as he loomed over her. She was writing to Janey, he would have to wait.

“Are you done?’’ His voice was a menacing rumble.

It blended with the cries of the saurians and tumbled in her gut as something to fear.

She would not be afraid of this man or his uncouth gruff ways. She looked up at him through her lashes, her mouth set in a firm and resolved pucker.

She would show him.

With deliberately slow motions she folded her letter and placed it in the envelope. She had to lick and seal the envelope next. Terrified of getting a paper cut on her tongue, Mary steeled her resolve, and squinted at Mr. Marshall Hunt. Her disdain of the man overpowered her revolution of the taste of the gummed envelope—which typically left her making terrible faces.

“Gimme that.” He snatched the sealed letter from her.

“You will post that immediately!” Outrage colored her cheeks as she thrust to her feet. Her diminutive stature barely put her at eye level with his chest, even in her modest and appropriately sized heeled boots.

How dare the man.

She noticed his own anger was barely contained in his heaving chest.

He let out a long exacerbated breath. “Miss Mary, we must leave.”

She stood glaring at him.

The train whistle blew, and she jumped letting out a startled scream.

Saurians joined her in their cacophonous complaint at the piercing noise.

He grabbed her upper arm. “Now, woman, or we’ll miss the damned train.”

Mary didn’t have time to protest as Mr. Hunt rushed her along. He thrust the letter, now slightly crumpled, she couldn’t help but notice, and a passing porter. And practically carried her by her arm to the closest open carriage door.

“That letter must reach my sister in Chicago. She must learn of my unfortunate situation. You will post it immediately please.” She tried to let the porter know to post the letter immediately.

“Mr. Hunt, I would appreciate you not using language of such a nature in my presence. Will you unhand me, I am capable of walking by myself. My grandfather will hear of your boorish behavior. I cannot believe you are subjugating me to such atrocious behaviors. Mr. Hunt, are you even listening to me?”

“I’m trying real hard not too at the moment.”

There was a loud roar, not from the saurians pulling loaded carts of luggage on the other platforms, or pushing empty train cars on to other tracks in the train yard, no this roar was from the train as the wheels ground against steel and the train began rolling.

“Mr. Hunt, I believe the train is leaving and we are not aboard.”

His only reply was a grunt.

With a squeal, Mary found her feet completely off the ground. Mr. Hunt’s hands were on her waist and pushing against her skirts at her derriere.

She gasped as that firm hand was definitely on her bottom— albeit there were several layers of skirt separating their flesh, but how dare he— and pushing her up and into the moving train. She windmilled her arms wildly attempting to grab hold of anything to stabilize her rapid ascent into the train.

A coachman grabbed her by the wrist and unceremoniously hauled her into the train. Flummoxed and jangling with nerves she looked nervously to the coachman. She was on board the train without a chaperone. She hadn’t thought her situation could get any worse, and yet, it had. How could she, a woman, travel to San Francisco alone? She had no access to funds, her belongings were in the baggage car. This was the most dreadful thing that could have happened.

Why hadn’t that man, Marshall Hunt said something about the train imminent departure?

She stood shaking as she watched the departing station through clouds of billowing steam.

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©2020 Lulu M Sylvian