Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. It’s a great time to read romance. To celebrate the holiday, here’s an excerpt from my novella Worth Her Weight in Gold, set in Juneau, territory of Alaska, in 1886. Ada sings with her family act at the Juneau Opera House. Tom is a miner working at a nearby gold mine.
Excerpt from Worth Her Weight in Gold:
Ada Weiss practiced “Home Sweet Home” on the piano, enjoying the smooth touch of the keys on her fingers, lingering on the high notes to strike a more poignant tone. She sighed in satisfaction as the last note echoed in the theater.
“That was beautiful, Miss Weiss.” A man’s voice made her jump. “I apologize for not saying anything, but I didn’t want to interrupt.”
Mr. Tom Hickok stood in the aisle, hands in his pockets. His gentle smile let her know there was no cause for alarm, and she smiled in return.
“Thank you, Mr. Hickok, but you startled me.”
“Again, I apologize. I’m on a day off, walking around town, and I heard your music. You’re an excellent pianist.”
She saw Irish Mike watching from stage left. The expression on his wrinkled face shot a question at her, so she nodded to show he didn’t have to run off their visitor. He returned to sweeping the floor.
“Thank you, Mr. Hickok. Do you play as well? You’re welcome to.” She stood and indicated the piano bench.
“Not if you need the practice time.”
“No, no, I’ve been practicing all morning. Please.” She pointed again to the bench. “I’d like to hear you play something.”
Mr. Hickok swiftly stepped on the stage and stood beside her.
“I’m not that good. I just like the piano.” A blush darkened Mr. Hickok’s features, highlighting his high cheekbones and brown eyes.
“Now, now,” she teased. “You heard me already. Don’t I get a turn to listen to you?”
He shook his head and sat down. “You have me there, Miss Weiss.” He ran his fingers tentatively up and down the keyboard. He smiled, and then launched into “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” as Ada listened at his side.
The melody started slowly, reverently, then built to a cheerful peak. Ada found herself waving her hand to the beat, carried away by the joy of the music. He ended the song with a flourish.
“I skipped a couple notes near the end.” “But you captured the feeling of the piece beautifully. It was lovely.” His blush deepened. “You’re very kind.” “I’m just being honest. Now play another one, please.” “I shouldn’t take your practice time, but this piano has such a pure tone. I can’t help myself.”
He coaxed one of Chopin’s preludes from the instrument, softly caressing the keys for the soft parts, drawing such bittersweet notes that Ada remembered every sad thing that ever happened to her, and her eyes filled with tears.
“I’m sorry, maybe I shouldn’t have done that one,” he said. “Did I upset you?” He stood and handed her his handkerchief.
Ada dabbed at her tears. “No, no, it was beautiful. Mr. Hickok, you have more heart than most professional pianists.”
“From you, that is a huge compliment. Thank you.”
“No, I mean it. The latest fashion is to play everything very fast and technical, and that destroys the tone or feeling, which is the real purpose of it all.” She shrugged at her forwardness. “At least I think so, but I’m just a silly girl.”
“I have only known you a short time, but I see no signs of you being a silly girl.” She thought back to how they met, when a cad propositioned her after the show and Mr. Hickock punched him. His smile crinkled the corners of his eyes, which seemed to turn even deeper brown. She thought she could see his soul there, a kindness that went beyond polite talk.
Interested in learning more about the story? Here’s the blurb:
Ada Weiss finds joy singing with her family at the new Juneau Opera House. But when she meets miner Tom Hickok, she questions if there’s more to life than the stage. For Tom, Ada is more precious than all the gold in the Treadwell Mine, but he doubts a regular guy has a chance with a beautiful singer. When an angry mob threatens to run their friend China Joe out of town, Ada and Tom work together and learn the value of standing up for what they believe in.
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