Indie Book Spotlight: The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley (Darby's Quest Book One), by Nina Romano
A brutal killing shackles Cayo Bradley more than his captivity by Apaches until his
salvation—falling obsessively in love with Darby McPhee.
Can a deathbed promise ever be broken? This dilemma confronts Darby McPhee, an untutored
farm girl caught in a tedious routine of caring for her father, brothers, and working in a
mercantile since her mother’s death. Darby falls in love with Cayo Bradley, a high-spirited
cowboy from a nearby ranch, struggling to settle back into White Society after his captivity by
the Jicarilla Apache in northeastern New Mexico.
Darby is torn between her love for Cayo and the vow at her mother’s side to seek an education.
This choice stands in the way of her heart’s desire to belong to the untamed ranch hand. If she
maintains her promise it will cleave apart her world, despite knowing she’s Cayo’s redemption.
In this haunting tale of stunning love and loss, Darby learns regardless of what transpires she’ll
always be THE GIRL WHO LOVED CAYO BRADLEY . . .
From Chapter Two: Coyote Bradley
He knew people saw him as part Apache. Others claimed he was left for dead by bandoleros,
and because of his aloof and stealth disposition, and the fact that he was shy and non-
confrontational like the animal, people believed that’s how he came to be named Coyote.
Somewhere along the way, Coyote’s nickname became Cayo. He didn’t care what people called
him as long as they did, and for sure he knew his name didn’t matter because he’d never fit in
anywhere. Once you’ve lived wild and free, it’s near impossible to return wholly capable of
fitting into refined society. He knew others like himself, children who had been taken and lived
with Kiowa or other tribes, and what he saw in them he knew was the same for him. They were the same outcast breed he was, not a trace of Indian blood, but Indian in the way they thought. He’d never completely forgotten his own language, English, so when he finally decided to go back to living the white folks’ way, he listened to speech, carefully repeated words, and held himself close, like a gambler in a poker game, keeping his cards to his chest. He shouldered these thoughts about himself and that other life he lived before as a yolk on an ox. It weighed on him, but he could do nothing to shirk it.
Nobody in town knew him by any other name. Whatever his component parts were, it was
for certain he was known as a man quick with a Bowie knife, swifter with a whip. That was
because nobody had ever seen him shoot a deadly arrow. He wore chaps every day but Saturday when he drove the buckboard. Cayo carried two Colt pistols in his holsters and never rode his horse without a Winchester 1873 rifle strapped to his saddle. He was a man people respected, a man who kept his mouth shut and eyes peeled, even the eyes they said he had in the back of his head.
On Main Street, Cayo stopped to talk a spell with Sheriff Bob Jones. Cayo had ridden with a
posse for Bob when the train had been held up the year before. Bob didn’t care if Cayo was a
man with a past or not. All Bob knew for certain was that Cayo could draw fast, shoot sure, ride
and rope better than any damn cowhand he’d seen since his own father died, and he could
track—keen as any Apache. Cayo had also ridden with Bob Jones to apprehend several
renegades from justice. And because Cayo joined last year’s posse, Jones was able to apprehend Rick McAlister and his brother Greer. But Cayo wanted no part of the lynching, and, afterward, when he was offered Rick’s new, tooled boots, he refused. He’d owned dead men’s boots before—not only did they hurt, they carried with them a piece of the ghost.
Being it a Saturday and all, Cayo strolled to the bathhouse for a shave and bath, paying his
two bits, with a thumb snap underneath, flipping the coin in the air for the owner Sarah Beach.
An hour later, trim and tidy, he meandered over to Miller’s General Store flanked by a telegraph- assay office on one side and a bank on the other.
When Cayo opened the door to the general store and stepped inside he was surprised at the
cool dank air that hit him. Like a cellar. Rich and loamy. Smells recalled from a youth he could
not conjure entirely. The next thing he sensed was the autumn smell of dried apples. When his
eyes became accustomed to the dark, he noticed, almost tripped on, a keg of dried fruit. He
began to make out clear images. Not in the least was the tall, straight young body of Darby
McPhee in a blue gingham dress and white collar standing behind the counter. The shelves and
woodwork behind her were beautiful intricate patterns of flowers, deer, and mountain goats. The carvings were graceful patterns straight out of the mountains of Bavaria designed by the capable chipping and scaling of the carpenter Heinz Schroeder. The shelves were lined with Mason jars of peaches preserved in thick syrup, and glasses of homemade raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry jams, covered with wax. There were tins of black strap molasses, hurricane lanterns with extra-long wicks, boxes of four inch wooden sulfur matches and bottles of tomatoes.
On the counter were burlap sacks of strange dried spices marked with names like parsley,
peppercorns, bay leaf, sage, rosemary, thyme and dill. On the floor in front of the counter were
larger gunnysacks of white beans and Jacob’s Cattle beans, rice, lentils, cane sugar, flour, and
cornmeal. He stepped around wooden crates filled with potatoes, onions, butternut and acorn
squash and one with pumpkins.
Darby said, “Say, Cayo.”
Cayo tipped his hat. “How do?”
“Good,” she said, and smiled her father’s smile.
Cayo looked about and seeing the owner absent asked after her. “Miss Fern?”
“Over to the tinsmith. You needing something besides your shirt? Need tobacco? Special
blend costs a three-cent piece a pouch, but this here one’s just as sweet” she sniffed it. “And it’s just a penny.”
It was like there were no other customers in the place the way she looked at him. Not yet
sixteen, but a woman made.
“Make it a penny worth.” He walked up to the counter and extended his beaded doeskin
pouch with fringes, and a small covering flap of rabbit fur.
Cayo looked at her, drew in the scent of her freshly washed hair and skin. She deals with all
these cackling hens, boisterous drunks. Cooks and cleans for her Pa and four nasty suckers she
calls brothers. She cares for me. More than cares for me. I feel it. Know it. But then, I thought
that a lot of women cared for me: Red Willow, Barbara, Utahna. But Darby does take extra care
of me and she does have an intense look in her eye. He watched Darby as she folded his ironed
shirt and started wrapping it in brown paper.
“Hold on,” Darby said, “Let me tend this first so’s it don’t smell like tobacco.”
Cayo put a nickel and an Indian head penny on the counter.
“Too much,” she said. “Only one cent for work shirts. Five’s for dress ones, if they got
ruffles. None of yours have.”
Was she saving me money here, too? She could charge what she liked. Fern Miller let Darby
take in ironing and she made her own prices. Cayo’s face flushed and he was glad of the
darkness, and the cooler inside air. He switched a shiny penny, taking up the 1874 shield nickel
from the counter. Opening his pouch, he waited. Not just for chewing tobacco. For what? I’m
nine years her senior, yet when I see her I’m a school dunce. He looked at his hands, the palms
began to sweat. He wiped his hands on his pants.
When I’m at the spread I think of things I’m going to tell her—how a calf is warm when he’s
born, and after—how he’s all wet with his momma’s juices. The thanks in the mother’s eyes
when you’ve helped pull her baby free. What it feels like to rope a steer and how the air smells
when you burn his flesh with a branding iron. I’d like to tell her of the high full moon over the
prairie and stars you can touch with all the shooting arches of light that make you think there’s
another universe somewhere out yonder. I’m wanting to give her cornflowers and buttercups and Hanna’s bell-shaped tiny lilies of the valley. Tell her I’d like to have her for my own. To smell the skin of her, to wake up to her tousled hair on my pillow and arm. There’s that knot again in my stomach. If I don’t eat Johnny cake for a year I wouldn’t miss it. But it ain’t corn bread, it’s this little filly right here. When can I tell her? How do I say it? I never used words with those others. That was different.
About the Author
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A.
and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. A world traveler and lover of history, she lived in
Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has taught English and
Literature as an Adjunct Professor at St. Thomas University, Miami, and has facilitated
numerous Creative Writing and Poetry Workshops at Writing Conferences throughout the States.
Romano has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has had five
poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks published traditionally with independent publishers. She co-authored a nonfiction book: Writing in a Changing World, and has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry.
Nina Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The
Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold
Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book #
2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in
Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.
Her Western Historical Romance, The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, is a semifinalist for the
Laramie Book Awards.
Her novel, Dark Eyes, an historical thriller set in Soviet Russia, is forthcoming in 2022 from
Speaking Volumes, LLC.
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The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley
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