Switched Hearts, by Ava Winters

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"Switched Hearts"

a Western Historical Romance Novel,
by Ava Winters


It was a simple switch. A trick. It was all fun and games until they both fell in love - with the wrong cowboys.

The fearless and beautiful Amanda Wright had always been against this arranged marriage her father wants to put her through. Especially with a man as quiet and calm as Ian McAdams. He could never keep up with her adventurous nature and wild spirit, and he wasn’t a man she could fall for.

So when she and her best friend, the lovely and charismatic Luisa Lopez, are sent to the McAdams estate, an idea pops in her mind.

Amanda and Luisa switch places!

As Luisa pretends to be Amanda, she finds herself falling for the kind and loyal Ian, while Amanda, pretending to be Luisa, falls for Ian's best friend, Stefan Turner.

He is everything she ever wanted, passionate and free, and all four of them seem to have found their place in the world - until their secret is exposed.

Now the Wright and the McAdams families have declared war on each other, Amanda and Luisa are torn from their true loves - and their future is now at stake.

Will they be able to win each other’s hearts back in the midst of the families' bad blood, or will this switch break all their hearts forever?

Prologue

Chapter Divider

“I don’t understand why I have to go to this dumb funeral,” Amanda Wright said crossly. She refused to look at her father but gazed at the passing scenery as their buggy rolled toward the family cemetery. She could see the oak tree she had tried to climb the day before—until her nanny, Hannah, had put a stop to it.

Her arms were crossed tightly—another way she was trying to let her father know she wasn’t happy.

“I’ve already explained the reason multiple times. I don’t think I need to do it again,” her father said firmly. “Besides, you are ten years old, and old enough to start going with me to some of these events that are important in our community.”

Amanda shrugged, a pout still on her face. She knew exactly what her father would say if he did give her the reasons. A man who worked for her father had just lost his wife. The man was one of her father’s best trainers for the Thoroughbred racehorses they raised on their ranch, and he had a daughter about her age. This man didn’t have any other family nearby and Amanda’s father felt that she should attend the funeral in support of the daughter.

Amanda didn’t understand why. She hadn’t even talked to the girl before. Why did her father think she would be of any help to her?

The man’s family had just moved into their Texas town, Albertson, a few months ago. Amanda didn’t know the man’s name or his daughter’s name. She was sure that her father had told her, but Amanda hadn’t cared, so she couldn’t remember what they were.

The family cemetery wasn’t very far away and soon the buggy stopped in front of the fenced plot. Amanda also didn’t understand why her father had agreed to let the man bury his wife in their family cemetery, but she was smart enough to not ask that question. Her father always did things for a reason, even if she didn’t understand it.

Her father helped her out of the buggy and then kept her hand in his as they walked toward the small crowd gathered around a hole in the ground. Amanda kept wishing that they were walking in the opposite direction.

This was the first funeral she had ever attended, and she already knew that she hated them. Everyone was dressed in black. Her father had insisted that she wear a dark-colored dress, one that she knew she would never wear again. She didn’t want to wear a dress that would remind her about this awful day and that she was being forced to attend this funeral.

Amanda had read in a book once that it always seemed to rain on the day of funerals, and this day was no different. A light, misty rain, rare for this part of Texas, fell from dark clouds. Was the rain really angels crying in heaven like it had said in the book? She didn’t know, but she filed the question in her mind to think about later.

Amanda stood silently beside her father as the preacher began the service. Everyone moved closer to him. That was when Amanda saw a wooden casket that had been set beside a very large hole. She instinctively took a few steps away from it. What if she accidentally fell in it?

At first, she ignored what the preacher was saying to the other mourners. She began to think about what she would do when the funeral was finally over and her father let her leave. She had heard that a new yearling had been purchased and she wanted to go to the barn and see him. She loved it when her father bought new horses for the ranch. After she visited the new yearling, she would see if their cook had made cookies that morning, like she had promised.

She heard some soft crying and her attention turned toward the sound. The man’s daughter was crying into a lacy handkerchief. For the first time, Amanda’s heart clenched at the girl’s obvious grief that her mother was gone. Amanda didn’t have a mother of her own. Her mother had died when she was a baby and she had never really thought about what it would be like to have a mother. Her father had hired Hannah to be her nanny right after her mother died. Hannah had stepped into the role of a mother figure for Amanda, who was very close to the older woman. She had never cried for her mother’s loss like this girl was doing.

She heard the preacher start to quote a scripture.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance.” 

Amanda tried to figure out what that scripture meant. She shook her head to clear her mind of the confusing words. The preacher said a few more words and then ended his short sermon.

Amanda watched as people put different-colored roses on top of the closed wooden casket. The girl’s father gave her a red rose and nudged her, encouraging her to put the flower on top of the casket with the other flowers. Amanda watched as the girl stared at the rose for a long moment before turning and running away from her mother’s casket. Amanda could see the tears streaming down the girl’s cheeks, the rose still clutched in her hand.

“Luisa!” the man called after her. He took a few steps as if he was going to follow her, but another man put his hand on the man’s shoulder and said something to him that Amanda couldn’t hear.

“You can go back to the house now, if you’d like,” Amanda’s father said, making her jerk her attention away from the running girl. “Thank you for attending. I will come back to the house in the buggy after I make sure Mr. Lopez is okay.”

Amanda only nodded, but her gaze was on Luisa. “Can I go talk to her?” she asked her father.

For a moment he looked at her with confusion. “Do you mean Luisa?”

Amanda nodded.

He gave her a pleased smile. “I think that is a fine idea. Luisa needs a friend.”

She gathered her skirts and sprinted off. The girl ran fast, and it took Amanda awhile to catch up to with her. Luisa had stopped running and was sitting under a willow tree. The low branches almost hid her from view, but it was dry underneath the tree. Amanda ducked under the branches and crawled to where Luisa sat, her back against the trunk.

Luisa looked at her with surprise in her almost-black eyes, but then turned away. She was no longer crying, but the sadness Amanda could see on her face made her want to reach out in comfort.

“I’m sorry about your mother.” Amanda repeated the words she’d heard other people say to Luisa and her father at the funeral. She hoped that they were the right ones to say.

Luisa shrugged. “Why are you here?” she asked quietly.

Amanda had to think about it for a moment. Why did she follow Luisa? She didn’t know the girl at all. Why did she suddenly care so much and want to help her?

“I guess I want to know what having a mom is like,” Amanda found herself saying.

Luisa looked at her with confusion. “What do you mean?”

“My mother died when I was a baby. I don’t know what it’s like to have a mother. What did your mother do with you?”

Luisa didn’t say anything for a long time. Amanda had just about decided to get up and leave, figuring that Luisa didn’t want to talk and wanted to be left alone, but then she spoke.

“Ma loved me. She taught me how to sew and knit. She listened to me talk. She spent time with me. She was a good mom.”

“She sounds nice,” Amanda said quietly.

For the first time in her young life, she wished that she had known her own mother. Would her mother have liked to spend time with her and teach her things such as sewing and knitting? Would she have been different than Hannah was? Her nanny did all those things Luisa had just mentioned. She listened to Amanda talk and was with her almost all the time, when she wasn’t in school or visiting the horses. Hannah also had tried to teach Amanda to sew and knit, although those lessons had been doomed to failure, mainly because Amanda hated to sit still long enough to learn anything.

Words began to spill out of Luisa. “I don’t understand why she died. She complained of a really bad stomachache. It got so bad that she was crying. I’ve never seen her cry before, and it scared me. She was in a lot of pain for two days. The doctor came but said he couldn’t do anything. Then the pain stopped. I was so glad. I didn’t like seeing her in so much pain. But then she died.”

Luisa said that her mother had been an excellent seamstress and had made dresses for many of the women where they’d lived before. She liked to help people when she could. If she heard that someone was sick in town or had just had a baby, she would make a meal for them.

“She sounds like she was a nice lady,” Amanda said after Luisa stopped talking.

“She was,” Luisa said softly.

Amanda watched as she twirled the rose in her hands.

“Do you want to go to my house? The cook said she’d make my favorite sugar cookies this morning. I bet she’s done baking them,” Amanda invited her.

Luisa looked at her and then nodded. “Pa said that some people were going to come to our house after the funeral and talk to us, but I don’t want to be there. I’ll probably start crying again.”

Amanda thought for a minute about what Luisa said. “I think it’s okay to cry when someone you love dies. I think people will understand.”

“Maybe, but crying makes my head hurt and it won’t bring my mother back,” Luisa retorted angrily as she wiped tears from her face with her the palm of her hand.

“Then let’s go eat some cookies.”

Amanda crawled out from under the willow and Luisa followed her. They walked toward her house and Amanda suddenly noticed that Luisa looked very similar to her. They both had black hair that was held away from their faces in braids that hung down their backs. Luisa was just as tall as she was. Amanda was glad that she’d run after her.

As they walked toward her house, Amanda suddenly realized that she had maybe made a new friend. She could only hope that Luisa liked sugar cookies as much as she did.

Chapter One

Chapter Divider

July, 1884

On a hot, humid Texas evening, a six-man band in the corner of the barn started a new western song and Luisa Lopez tapped her right foot to the fun beat. Multiple couples walked onto the dance floor and took their places for a square dance. She could see the anticipation the couples had as they began to follow the directions that the caller yelled out.

As Luisa watched from the edge of the dance floor, she recognized each couple as they clapped their hands to the beat. She too clapped to the upbeat music, enjoying the sounds of the banjos, guitars, and a drum. One man even used a thick stick and ran it along the metal rungs of a washing board, making a unique sound.

She wasn’t surprised to see that her best and closest friend, Amanda Wright, was among the dancers on the floor. Amanda had participated in every dance that evening while Luisa had only danced a few. Amanda was one of the most popular girls in their town of Albertson, Texas. She was outgoing, energetic, and fun to be around. Luisa knew that she was known as Amanda’s quiet and shy friend who seemed to like to watch the dance from the sidelines rather than participate.

It had been this way for years, although Luisa was starting to not enjoy the quiet role she usually played for Amanda. She wished that she could also be out on the dance floor, letting a young man twirl her around.

Luisa watched as Amanda gave her current partner, a local man named Nick, a huge, flirtatious smile. He stared at her as if he couldn’t believe his good luck that the most beautiful and richest woman in town was swishing her skirts in front of him and dazzling him with her smile.

Amanda was always the most popular young woman at these dances. The town had started to have dances once a month, held at the beautifully designed Town Hall, which that had been built six months prior. It was one of the largest buildings in Albertson and housed the mayor’s and judge’s offices. The post office and telegraph offices were also found in this building.

In the back of the building was a large room, complete with wood floors. Town meetings were held in this room, so it was usually filled with wooden hard-back chairs and tables. But once a month, on Saturday nights, they were all put away and a dance was held for anyone who wanted to attend. These dances were for the people of Albertson, but many people were starting to attend from the surrounding area and other towns. Amanda hadn’t missed a dance yet, since they had first started holding them. Because Amanda hadn’t, neither had Luisa.

When the square dance finally ended, the young man gave Amanda a short bow. She stood near him, almost too close to be socially acceptable, and laughed as she looked in his eyes. Luisa watched as Nick asked her a question, his arm waving toward the band. Luisa knew he was asking Amanda for another dance, but she shook her head and then pranced off the dance floor. Luisa shook her own head as she watched yet another man, Joey, immediately approach Amanda. As usual, he was immediately able to convince her to dance with him. Luisa wondered what it would be like to have so many men vying for her attention. Would she enjoy the attention that Amanda seemed to encourage, or would she get tired of it after a while?

A few seconds later, Amanda tucked her hand through Joey’s arm as they walked onto the dance floor. The curls in her long, dark brown hair bounced against her back. She laughed at something Joey said, and Luisa could almost hear the joyful sound over the loud music as the band started another dance.

Luisa only hoped that her friend would be able to keep out of trouble this evening. They had known each other since they were ten years old, and she had spent most of their friendship doing her best to keep Amanda safe.

When they were younger, Amanda had been very adventurous. She would do things like try to ride one of her father’s new racehorses when it wasn’t completely trained yet, or go skinny dipping in the pond that was located on her father’s land in the middle of the night.

One memory Luisa had of Amanda still made her heart clench when she thought of it. When they were both fifteen, a Wild West show had come into Albertson for a week. Amanda had dragged Luisa to watch the show almost every evening. She had been fascinated by all of the acts, but one of them had impressed her the most.

There had been a young girl about their age who had ridden a horse while standing on its back. The horse cantered in a large circle and the girl seemed to control the large animal with only her bare feet. At the end of the act, the girl had done a backflip off of the horse amid a lot of amazed applause from the crowd, and made a perfect landing on her feet, her arms in the air as she posed daintily.

Amanda had been very impressed with this act and so decided that she also wanted to learn how to do this trick. It had taken Luisa two entire days to talk her friend out of trying to do the same trick with one of her father’s racehorses. When Amanda’s father had found out about his daughter’s antics, and the fact that Luisa had been able to stop her plans, he had begun to encourage the two of them to spend even more time together. He invited Luisa to share meals with them almost daily. When he took Amanda into a nearby city for shopping, Luisa was invited along. He made sure Luisa had access to her own horse to use whenever she wished. She didn’t officially own the mare, but had immediately named her Honey for her golden color, and was the only one who rode her.

While they had been in school, Amanda’s father had allowed them to study together. Amanda had been very good with her academics while Luisa struggled. But with Amanda’s help, they both had been able to graduate from the Albertson School at the top of their class.

The only time they had been separated was when Amanda went back east to attend a finishing school for nine months after graduating from their town school. Luisa had been invited by Mr. Wright to attend the finishing school with Amanda. He had even offered to pay for her tuition, as well as room and board. Luisa’s own father had put a stop to that plan, not wanting his only daughter to be away from him for so long. Luisa hadn’t been too disappointed that she hadn’t been able to go with Amanda. Finishing school had sounded boring. Besides, she hadn’t wanted to be away from her father for such a long period of time. But she had missed Amanda desperately while she had been gone.

Luisa was jerked back into the present when a young man, Adam Bailey, stepped in front of her, interrupting her memories.

“Miss Wright, would you like to dance?” he asked eagerly.

Luisa frowned at him. She knew that in the dim light of the town hall, Adam couldn’t tell that she really wasn’t Amanda. Part of her wondered what would happen if she agreed to the dance and pretended to be Amanda, at least for a little while. How long would it take for Adam to figure out that she wasn’t who he thought she was?

“I’m not Amanda,” Luisa said, deciding that being honest was the best policy. “I’m her friend, Luisa.”

“Oh, sorry,” Adam stammered. His face flushed in embarrassment as he walked away.

Luisa sighed. She suddenly realized that she wouldn’t have minded dancing with Adam, if he had asked her in full knowledge of who she was.

This was another interesting fact about her friendship with Amanda. They weren’t related at all, but they looked very similar, with dark brown hair, fair skin, and honey- brown eyes. The only difference was that Amanda’s hair was a few inches shorter than her own. They were almost the same height and had similar hourglass figures. To most people, Lisa was easily identified as herself because she didn’t wear the fancy dresses that Amanda usually wore. Her dresses were made of simple cotton fabric and sewn by her own hand. Amanda’s dresses were all made to fit her exactly, and she had a wardrobe full of clothing she rarely wore. When Mr. Wright gave Amanda a new dress, she would only wear it once or twice before growing tired of it. All of her dresses were purchased readymade or created by someone who designed them just for her.

When Luisa was younger, she had secretly pretended that they really were sisters. But they were of different social classes. Amanda’s father, James Wright, was a renowned Thoroughbred horse breeder, while Luisa’s father was the top foreman for Mr. Wright.

They also had very different personalities. Amanda liked to have fun, laughed a lot, and seemed to be friends with everyone around her. She had an infectious laugh that made others smile. Luisa was quieter, more careful in whatever she did, and had a hard time talking to people she didn’t know very well. In fact, when someone she didn’t know very well did try to converse with her, sometimes her mind would go totally blank and she wouldn’t be able to think of a thing to say.

It was obvious that the young men in Albertson liked women who were more outgoing, as Amanda was, not someone who was quiet and seemed to fade into the background as Luisa did.

She heard a loud laugh and turned her attention back to Amanda. This time, her friend was standing near the refreshment table, sipping a glass of punch. Luisa’s eyes widened as Amanda drank the entire glass almost in one gulp and then gave it to a new young man, Eric Davidson, who was standing close to her. He eagerly refilled the glass for her. The punch looked really good and refreshing from where Luisa was standing, and she headed toward her friend to get her own drink.

“Hi, Luisa,” Amanda said with a welcoming smile when Luisa reached her side. “Isn’t this a great dance? I’m so glad we came.”

Luisa smiled back. “It does look like everyone is enjoying themselves.”

“Do you want a drink?” Eric asked Luisa politely.

She nodded. “Yes, please.”

Eric gave her a glass and Luisa took a sip and almost spat it out before forcing herself to swallow it. The punch had been spiked with quite a bit of alcohol, and it tasted awful. Couldn’t Amanda taste it? It was obvious she couldn’t, because she began to drink her punch again. Luisa leaned close to her friend, intending to warn her about the added alcohol, but paused when Eric held a hand out to Amanda.

“Let’s go dance now.”

Amanda nodded and quickly drank the entire glass before setting it aside. She followed Eric to the dance floor, leaving Luisa behind. Luisa was frustrated with herself. Why hadn’t she insisted that Amanda listen to her for a moment before she walked off with Eric? Now she knew that she needed to really keep an eye on her friend. Amanda had never been able to handle alcohol well, and usually avoided it at all costs.

Things stayed calm for about an hour, and Luisa began to relax again. She even danced a few times herself with young men she had known most of her life. After her last dance, she looked around for Amanda and saw that she was actually not dancing at the moment. Luisa went to stand by her. She could tell almost the moment she arrived that Amanda was on her way to becoming very drunk.

“Miss Amanda, would you like to dance?” yet another young man, Harry Lowe, asked as he gave her a slight bow.

Luisa tried not to roll her eyes. She was aware that Harry had asked Amanda to dance multiple times this evening. Amanda didn’t like the man and had declined each time. Luisa knew that Harry actually made Amanda quite nervous. He’d attended every dance that had been held and seemed to watch Amanda throughout the entire evening. Even though Amanda had let Harry know, in her own subtle way, that she wasn’t interested in dancing with him, he never took the hints and continued pursuing her. Luisa wondered how long it was going to take for Harry to get the message.

“I’m getting a bit tired,” Amanda said with the right amount of regret in her voice. “I’m going to sit the next set out.”

Disappointment spread across Harry’s face and he almost glared at her for a moment before walking away, but he didn’t move very far. A few seconds later, another man, Peter Cooper, came and asked Amanda to dance. Luisa could tell that Amanda was going to accept and touched her arm to try to stop her since Harry was still nearby. She knew that Harry wasn’t going to take Amanda’s obvious rejection well. It would be much better if Amanda sat this dance out.

“I…” Amanda began to speak when Harry made his move.

“I asked her first. She has agreed to dance with me in the next set,” Harry said with a sneer to Peter.

“It doesn’t look like she wants to dance with you,” Peter smirked. “Or you’d be out on the dance floor right now. I don’t know why she would want to dance with such a backward boy as yourself.”

Anger spread across Harry’s face, and he pulled his hand back and swung, hitting Peter square in the face. Peter staggered for a moment before he growled and swung back, hitting Harry in the stomach.

“Oh!” Amanda shrieked in disbelief, her eyes wide with fright. “Stop it, both of you!”

Harry and Peter continued to throw punches at each other. Luisa noticed that Harry’s nose had begun to bleed, and he stumbled with the next punch. Peter definitely had the upper hand.

“Let’s get out of here,” Luisa said as she grabbed Amanda’s arm and pulled her away from Harry and Peter. She saw an Albertson deputy move quickly toward the two young men to break up the fight.

“I can’t believe they started fighting,” Amanda said in disbelief. Her words slurred a bit, letting Luisa know that the spiked punch was beginning to do its job.

“I can,” Luisa muttered, but she made sure she didn’t say the words too loudly.

She didn’t want to explain to Amanda that Harry and Peter had felt like they needed to compete for her attention because she had been giving it to everyone else that evening.

“Let’s get out here for a while and get some fresh air,” Luisa suggested.

Amanda eyed the front door and then nodded. “That’s probably a good idea. I don’t know why Harry has kept asking me to dance all night. I am not at all interested in him. All he wants is to get in good standing with my father.”

Luisa thought that most of the young men that Amanda had danced with probably wanted the same thing, but she was wise enough to keep her thoughts to herself. Amanda’s father was one of the richest and most successful men in Albertson, and she was aware that her friend was considered a good catch. Once they were outside, they stood under a nearby shade tree. Luisa unpinned a brooch that she sometimes wore on her dresses, just above her heart. Inside was a watch and she checked the time in the dim evening light. She could see that it was almost ten o'clock.

“Let’s head home,” she suggested. “The dance will be over in fifteen minutes anyway.”

Amanda hesitated, but then nodded. Luisa breathed a sigh of relief. She didn’t know if she would have been able to keep her friend out of trouble much longer if she had insisted on going back into the dance.

“Why don’t you stay here? I’ll go and get Jed.”

As she walked away to get Amanda’s driver, she half expected to return and find her friend gone, having decided to go back inside “for just one more dance” before she returned. She could only hope that Amanda would stay put, for once.

Chapter Two

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Switched Hearts, by Ava Winters

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