DREAMING AT SEASIDE
Hot. Strong. No sugar. Raw sexual emotion, revenge and redemption. If you want a sugar-coated romance Savage Possession is not for you. In colonial Australia it took hard men like Martin Mulvaney to tame a harsh land.
A sweeping tale of love’s triumph over tragedy and treachery in frontier Australia.
A mistaken identity opens the door for Martin Mulvaney to take his revenge on the granddaughter of his mortal enemy.
An old Scottish feud, a love that should never have happened, and a series of extraordinary coincidences trap two lovers in a family vendetta that threatens to destroy their love, if not their lives.
Australia – North Eastern Victoria 1870’s.
Alistair was in trouble. With the powerful bond she shared with her twin, fear coursed through Beth’s body. She drew in a shuddering breath and tried to still her trembling hands by twisting an escaped tendril of hair from her plait. How many warnings did her brother need before he stopped consorting with outlaws?
Standing in the doorway of their split log cabin, she squinted into the distance. A lone horseman flashed into her line of vision. With a hammering heart, she waited. Was it friend or foe? Should she dash inside and grab grandfather’s gun?
The rider drew near. It was Alistair. Running to the track snaking along the side paddock, she struggled to lower the slip rails so the horse could pass through.
“Quick, Beth!” He leapt from the saddle. “Get the mare out of sight.”
“What happened?” Dread clawed at her throat with cruel fingers. Her stomach knotted up. What had her brother been up to now?
Without a word, he dashed off.
Her hand trembled as she picked up the trailing rein and led the sweating, foam-flecked mare into the barn. Something terrible must have happened. One of their best horses ridden to the point of exhaustion. She unsaddled the mare and turned her loose before sprinting back to their cabin.
Rushing to the kitchen, she found Alistair stuffing a sack with bags of flour, salt and sugar.
Frantically, she grabbed his arm. “What’s wrong?”
Pale and agitated, he stared out the window. “I have to get out of here. The mounted police are after me.”
“The police? You’re in trouble with the law?”
After he filled the sack, he dropped it on the floor and paced up and down, banging a fist against his open hand.
Experience the American Old West through Ruby Merritt’s Spirited Hearts s`eries. Set in 1870’s Cheyenne, Wyoming, each book features a strong heroine, a equally strong hero who falls for her and a story to keep you turning the pages.
The Spirited Hearts series is available worldwide at Amazon and iBooks, and additionally at Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
When Ella Hastings is captured by the Blackfeet Indians at age nine, then adopted by the Lakota Indians, she is thrust into a new way of life and transformed into Little Brave, adopted daughter of their revered and peaceful chief, Grey Owl. Ten years later the white man returns. Their soldiers storm her tribe’s village and bring reminders of a world she’d almost forgotten. Suddenly, she is confronted by the question: To which world does she now belong? Her only hope in discovering who she really is lies with the enigmatic army scout, Beech Richoux.
Son of a French trapper and Lakota mother, Beech Richoux was raised in a white man’s world after his mother’s death. Acting as an army scout to raise money for his horse ranch, he’s unaware of the Army’s true intent to annihilate his mother’s people until it’s too late. And the white woman he finds living among the Lakota only adds to his desperation to save his people. Now the narrow path he has created to balance himself between these two worlds is tipped by the mysterious white woman known to the Lakota as Little Brave.
Can two people robbed of their own childhood learn to live together in such differing worlds? Can Little Brave and Beech forge a new path into a life where they both are finally set free?
The Powder River Country, Wyoming Territory, 1866
Standing outside the stationhouse, Thomas Hastings viewed the land stretching before him, wide and open, treeless, unmarked by man. He filled his lungs with the fresh, crisp air, reveling in the opportunities awaiting him in this uncluttered place. Awaiting him and his daughter, he amended, as nine-year-old Ella Hastings screeched to a halt next him, her eyes alive with the excitement of being on the adventure of a lifetime.
“Papa, Papa,” she cried. “Buffalo, everywhere. Millions of them.” She grabbed his hand, tugging him in the direction from which she’d come.
Together, they crested a rise and saw the massive creatures filling the landscape to the distant line of buttes ahead.
“Have you ever seen buffalo before, Papa?”
“Can’t say that I have,” he said, taking in the lively indigo of his daughter’s eyes and the russet wave of her hair tied hastily back this morning with a ribbon. The coloring of her eyes and hair were Lillian’s, to be sure, but everything else about Ella was his.
Suddenly, a worried pucker appeared between her delicately winged eyebrows. “Are we going to see any Indians?”
“I doubt it.” I pray not. There was a risk of Indian raiding parties on any of the trails in the western territories, but the Bozeman Trail was the most direct and well-watered route to the Montana gold fields. Opportunities for a new and different life awaited him and Ella. Not that he was looking to find gold, just opportunity. And a little adventure along the way. Besides, the reestablishment of Forts Reno, Kearny and Smith along the trail assured him travelers were now well protected. What’s more, the fast-moving stagecoach didn’t put them at the same risk as turtle-paced wagon trains. With an armed guard riding shotgun atop the stagecoach and his sharpshooter skills, he had every confidence any encounter with hostiles could be managed handily.
He gave the tail end of his daughter’s hair a playful tug, but the pucker between her eyebrows didn’t vanish, it only deepened.
“Do you think Mama can see us from heaven, Papa?”
He ran a hand through his hair. She’d steered the conversation in a direction for which he was totally unprepared. He gave the question some thought before he answered. “I don’t know for sure, but I’d like to think she can.”
“Do you miss her, Papa?”
The serious look on Ella’s face gave him another moment’s pause. Wondering about her mama was more than likely normal for a nine-year-old girl. He hadn’t talked much about Lillian since she’d passed on just after Ella turned five, but what little girl wouldn’t wonder if there was no one to tell her about her mama?
Thomas sighed. Did he miss his late wife? Absently, he stroked Ella’s hair. Not only the color but also the texture was the same as her mother’s. He’d told Lillian it was like spun silk the first time she’d allowed him to touch it. That was a heady moment for the seventeen-year-old newly turned-out soldier. But Lillian had been his commander’s daughter.
No good could have come of their tryst.
The ex-soldier stared at the serious look still on his daughter’s sweetly questioning face. He took Ella’s face in his hands. No, that’s not true. Something good had come of his and Lillian’s union, and he’d do anything to protect the gift he had been given.
“I do miss her.” For your sake, he added silently, to keep from speaking a lie. He dropped his hands to her shoulders, giving them a playful shake. “But there was nothing your mama disliked more than sadness.” He put the best spin he could on Lillian’s obsession for the gaiety of parties and balls. “So I’m sure she’d want us to enjoy our adventure to its fullest.”
“But she wouldn’t have wanted to come with us.” A flush crept up Ella’s neck then flooded her cheeks as she added quickly, “I mean she never liked to take walks in the woods with us, because she was afraid we’d get lost and attacked by wild animals, no matter that you said otherwise.”
Inwardly, he cringed, hoping Ella was merely recalling only Lillian’s words and not her disdain for any activity that had to do with the outdoors. “Your mama didn’t share our love for adventure and the outdoors, Ella, but she would have joined us once we’d gotten settled.”
Ella swiped at a tear that slid down her cheek.
He wondered if she was feeling more than just sadness.
“Grandfather Russell said you’re going to ruin my life like you ruined hers.”
Thomas released his daughter’s shoulders to keep from hurting her as he fisted his hands. “Even if such a thing were true–which it isn’t–your grandfather was wrong to speak of it to you.”
“He didn’t.” Ella gripped the locket her grandfather had given her for her ninth birthday as she stared at the ground, her voice a quavering whisper. “I overheard him.”
Small consolation, Thomas thought as he lifted his daughter’s chin with a press of his knuckles. The overwhelming pain in her eyes set up an ache in his heart he hadn’t felt since Lillian had spurned him. “Honey, your grandfather is letting grief rule his life.”
“But why does he think you ruined Mama’s life?”
He gave a hefty sigh. How to answer that one without damning all involved? Particularly his innocent daughter with her whole life ahead. “Ella, honey, sometimes people get angry when life doesn’t go as they imagine it should.”
“And Grandfather’s angry?”
“Mostly he’s sad, but yes, he’s a little angry.” Thomas didn’t dare say anymore than that for fear of tarnishing Captain John Russell in his only grandchild’s eyes.
“But didn’t Mama choose to marry you?”
“Yes, she chose to marry me.” Not completely the truth as theirs was a shotgun wedding. But what they’d done prior, to land them in the marriage, had been her choice, as well as his.
“But I don’t understand.” That characteristic pucker appeared between her brows.
“Sometimes, people don’t think about the consequences of their choices before they make them, and then afterwards, they choose not to make the best of them.”
“Is that what happened between you and Mama?”
Did she know how miserable he and Lillian had been together? Maybe if he’d insisted they move out West after they were married where they would have had only each other, they might have settled into a life together. But it was too late for “what ifs.” “Whatever happened between me and your mama is in the past. No one can change that. All we can do is make the most of today and all the tomorrows to follow.” He ended with an encouraging smile, hoping his words would return Ella’s spirits to what they’d been before talk turned to Lillian.
She tried to return his smile but failed miserably and her gaze slid away. “What if I made the wrong choice in coming with you?” she choked out, one hand clutching the locket at her neck.
“Ella, honey, look at me,” he said, waiting until her gaze met his before continuing. “If at any moment you change your mind about going on our adventure, you give the word and we’ll turn back.”
“But this is your dream, Papa.” She gave him a childish scowl when he shook his head. “But that’s what you—”
He put a shushing finger to his daughter’s lips. “Coming West is one of my dreams, but not the most important one.”
“What’s…” She scrubbed at her eyes now filling with tears. “What’s the most important one?”
“To give you a happy and secure childhood, to watch you grow up into a young woman, to see you have a family of your own some day.”
The tears spilling over, she turned and threw her arms around his waist. “Oh, Papa, I love you so much.”
Thomas lifted his sobbing child into his arms. For the first time since this adventure had commenced, he doubted if he was qualified to guide a young girl successfully into womanhood, particularly out here in the western territories where adventure abounded but civility was almost nonexistent. Maybe folks had been right. Maybe the best thing would be to wait here at the stagecoach stop for the return coach.
He shifted his daughter’s weight so he could retrieve his pocket watch. How long did they have before the departure of their coach? He flipped it open, and the engraving caught his eye.
Thomas James Hastings
Welcome home forever
Your loving daughter,
Ella had presented the watch with shy anticipation, and it’d been the icebreaker they’d needed to become reacquainted with one another after his long sojourns in the war.
He clamped the lid shut and put it away. He trudged back to the stationhouse, and his daughter, solely his responsibility and the last of his family, weighed heavily in his arms.
Hours later, the stagecoach creaked as it rocked, the dust swirling through the open windows into the cramped and stifling interior. Most of the passengers held heavily soiled hankies or bandanas over their mouths and noses to block the choking dust. Many held pacifying hands over churning stomachs while others clamped the edge of the seat to minimize the effects of the lurching coach.
Suddenly the vehicle swerved, throwing the occupants to one side, then righted itself.
Thomas shifted Ella from her place next to the window to his other side. He lifted the leather curtain, but with dust roiling, the coach creaking and horses hooves pounding, he could discern very little out of the ordinary.
Then he heard it, as he knew Ella heard it, because she clutched at his arm. The war cry outrivaled any rebel yell he’d witnessed on the battlefield.
In an instant, Thomas retrieved the rifle lying on the floor behind his feet. “Arm yourselves,” he shouted to the other men within the cramped interior. The first gunshot rang out, but with the lurching of the coach and the blinding dust, he was having a hard time setting his sights on a target.
A body pitched to the ground from atop the stage, and he prayed it wasn’t the guard. With war cries louder now, he had a better idea where to aim. A form materialized out of the dust. He squeezed the trigger, the crack resounding sharply in his ears, and a shadowy form dropped away but a split second later, frantic screaming filled the coach.
His heart stopped at Ella’s terror-laden cries and he whirled to locate her. He ripped off his coat and threw it on the flames licking the hem of her skirt. In seconds, they were out, but the coach skidded to a sickening halt that threw all the occupants into one corner.
The coach now at a standstill, maniacal yells filled Thomas with an all-encompassing dread. He scrambled to the window, dragging Ella with him then pushed her to the floor. “Stay there, Ella.”
Ella crouched on the floor of the coach, hands over her ears, blocking the sounds of the attack, the war cries, the gunshots, the frantic neighing of the stage horses, the pounding hooves of the Indians’ wild mustangs circling closer. Her lips moved in silent prayer as salty tears squeezed from the corners of her eyes and burned across her wind-chapped cheeks.
An object swished through the air, followed by something heavy thudding on the seat above her. An arm swung down into her line of view, limp and lifeless. Her mouth opened but no sound came out.
The door of the coach was wrenched open. The stench of sweaty and unwashed bodies caused her to curl deeper into herself. She was dragged from the coach. An unfamiliar and harsh-sounding language filled her ears, and she kept her eyes tightly closed until a stinging yank to her hair forced her eyes open.
Staring into a face as brown as a chestnut, the red and yellow lines striping from cheek to hairline and across the broad forehead, forced her into action. Held only by her hair, she twisted away from her terrifying captor, intent on making her way back to the stagecoach and her papa.
Her papa lay across the seat of the stagecoach, a swath of blood across his shirt where an arrow had pierced his chest. Her knees buckled and darkness swirled around her.
Six years ago, Lena Schuler fled Cheyenne to escape the man who brutally stole her innocence. Now, believing her attacker has left Cheyenne for good, she’s returned to build a life for her and her son.
Attorney Lucas Kline has established a new identity and is making his mark as a trial lawyer in the burgeoning rail town of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Fighting to escape the guilt from his past, he’s determined to help shape the emerging territory into a law-abiding state.
When Lena’s attacker threatens the security of her son and others in the community, will she find the courage to face him in order protect those she loves? Can she trust Lucas to defend her secret before a township filled with doubt? Or will the guilt from Lucas’ past blur the lines between justice and vigilantism?
At a rather large step up, Jonah shrugged off her hold and shifted the bag in his arms so he could gauge the height of the step.
She resisted the urge to help him as he planted a foot on the rise then swayed as he scaled it. When she returned her attention to the walk ahead of them, she froze. She couldn’t believe her eyes. No, it can’t be. Ilse had written that he’d moved away months ago, to San Francisco.
Frank Pierce stood, only yards away, talking to another man.
She clutched Jonah to her skirts.
“Mama, you’re squashing me.”
The monster from that awful night turned and walked in their direction.
Terror at what he might do if he saw her again, if he saw Jonah, stole her breath. She pushed her son toward a door and grappled with its knob. Ignoring his questions, she thrust him inside, then followed and slammed the door closed behind her.
Jonah stumbled then fell in a heap at her feet.
A man sitting behind a desk looked up. “Can I help you, ma’am?”
Lena remained plastered against the door as she stared at the well-dressed businessman with a questioning look upon his face. No doubt he was wondering why they’d burst into his office.
Jonah scrambled to his feet, leaving the carpetbag where it laid, his eyes shining. “Are we here, Mama? Is this the Bäckerei?” When she didn’t answer, Jonah turned to the man who now stood. “Are you my Onkel Erik?”
A strange look crossed the man’s face as he glanced at Jonah then moved from behind the desk toward them. He appeared to be no more than thirty, with dark blond hair similar to Erik’s, but he was taller and trimmer, while the line of his clean-shaven jaw was stronger and leaner than her brother’s.
“Mama?” Jonah asked.
The man’s warm hazel eyes shifted back to hers.
“No, this is not Onkel Erik.” Lena didn’t know how she managed the words, given how she was still gasping for breath over the shock of seeing Frank Pierce. She peeled herself from the door and moved to the adjacent window and her heart hammered in her chest. Hand trembling, she pushed aside the curtain and peered out. She didn’t see any sign of Frank. But he was here. He was not supposed to be here in Cheyenne. But he was. What am I to do now? The thought of him finding out about Jonah and Jonah finding out about him… Suddenly, she felt lightheaded and her vision tunneled.
Ruby Merritt writes historical western romance. Her passion for imagining life and love on the High Plains has its roots in reading and rereading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books as a child.
Although Ruby doesn’t call the High Plains her home, she resides in an equally beautiful and rustic locale, The Gateway to the Texas Hill Country.
When Ruby’s not reading or writing, she can be found riding her horse or homeschooling her children who are avid horsewomen and readers as well.
Mercy: Bride of Idaho (American Mail-Order Brides #43) by Jacquie Rogers debuted #1 on the Amazon Hot New Releases for Victorian Romance. This story takes place in 1890, which is five years after the Hearts of Owyhee series. In fact, Mercy: Bride of Idaho is sort of an epilogue to Much Ado About Mavericks (Hearts of Owyhee #4) which is set in September 1885.
About Owyhee County
Owyhee is the original anglicized spelling of Hawaii (blame Captain Cook) and is pronounced pretty much the same. Oh-WYE-hee. It was named after some Hawaiian fur trappers who were lost in the area (1818-19) and never found. Owyhee County only covers part of the area called Owyhee, which extends into eastern Oregon and northern Nevada.
Mercy and Patience Eaton are from Lawrence, Massachusetts. Believe me, relocating to Owyhee County would’ve been a culture shock for Mercy. The land is larger and the population smaller. Much, much smaller.
Mercy: Bride of Idaho
(American Mail-Order Brides #43)
One woman bent on saving her family. One rancher determined to save his own heart. Is her love enough to save them all?
Mercy Eaton has come to Idaho to marry the man of her father’s choosing in order to help her family make ends meet back home. She just knows it’ll all work out. That’s what she’s told her sister and her traveling companions all the way from Massachusetts to Owyhee County, Idaho. Then she meets her groom. He’s seventy years old. She nearly faints.
Quill Roderick has no intention of marrying. Ever. As far as he’s seen, women leave—first his mother, then his great-aunt, then his first flame. Quill sees no reason to open his heart again, especially to some mail-order bride his crazy old uncle brought for him. But Mercy tempts him like no other with her unruly long red hair, sunshine smile, and the most alluring eyes he’s ever seen. Can he keep his heart barricaded from this dangerous fireball, or are her kisses the master key needed to unlock his heart to a whole new world… Love.
Mercy: Bride of Idaho is available on Amazon, and if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free!
About the Author
Jacquie Rogers grew up in the heart of Owyhee County where the Old West is still alive. In fact, you’re all invited to Silver City, Idaho, June 17-19, 2016, for a rootin’ tootin’ good time! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
She has written nine novels and over twenty novellas. Her books have won several awards, including the Laramie Award for Best Humorous Western Romance. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington, with her husband and cat. Neither are well-trained.
I have known Cheri for a few years now and she is not only a talented author but a delightful lady. I hope you enjoy this feature on her Wheels of Destiny Series Books.
Born in Nebraska, Cheri Kay Clifton loved researching the Oregon Trail, historically known as the “Gateway to the West.” Her passion for those brave pioneers, Native Americans and 19th Century America led her to write the epic western historical Wheels of Destiny Trilogy. “I feel the historical old West is a major part of our heritage and we should enjoy learning about it. Hopefully, by reading the fictional genre I write, my readers will not only enjoy the story but the historical background as well.”
Cheri is married to her high school sweetheart and has one grown son. If she’s not riding on the back of her husband’s Harley, she’s writing the Book 3 in the epic western historical Wheels of Destiny Trilogy.
Laura Westbrook expected to face her share of challenges crossing the continent on a wagon train. But when she saves the life of the courageous white warrior, Grey Wolf, she finds the pathways between pride and prejudice, love and loyalty far more difficult to travel.
Having buried deep within him the horrific memory of his family’s massacre at the hands of a rogue band of Pawnee, young David thrives under the care and tutelage of his rescuer, Cheyenne Chief Black Arrow. Trained to become the proud warrior named Grey Wolf, he finds his life changed again by the beautiful and strong-willed Laura, who encourages him to reclaim his forsaken heritage and face the secrets of his haunted past.
From the rugged Nebraska plains to a Cheyenne village, from an army fort to a small town in California, destiny leads Laura and Grey Wolf on a trail of passion and danger that culminates in an astounding revelation.
Laura reveled in the exhilaration of riding Sonny at a full run. The wind whipped past her face and threatened to pull her long hair from its combs. Laughing, she stole a glance behind her.
Lucky rode fast at her heels, his blue roan about to overtake the Morgan.
“Laura, stop!” Lucky yelled. He leaned over and grabbed her reins, yanking both horses to a jolting halt.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she railed.
Lucky raised an arm and pointed. “Look what’s coming down that hill. The way you were riding, you’d have been on top of them.”
“Oh, my stars, is that … are they …” Her heart lurched with a giddy flutter. “Indians?”
Lucky squinted his eyes. “Cheyenne, I’d say.”
Three Indians made their way down the slope, their horses’ legs completely hidden in the tall, swaying grass. A riderless horse trailed behind the leader.
Lucky twisted in the saddle and looked back. “Here comes Dan. He’s good at parleying with the Indians. Knows how to use their sign language.” He eyed Laura sternly. “You better go on back to the wagons.”
Laura caught the way he fingered the handle of his holstered gun while he followed their progress down the hill. “Do you think there might be trouble?”
“Ain’t enough of them to take on a whole wagon train, so it’s not likely. Then again, you never know what goes through those savages’ minds. They’re not exactly pleased with us tramping over their hunting grounds.”
Laura gripped the reins tighter, restraining Sonny’s skittish prance as Dan halted his horse close by. “I’m surprised to see the Cheyenne this far east,” he said. From the even tone of his voice, he didn’t sound worried.
Reaching the open road, the Indians veered in their direction. “Looks like they’re pulling a travois with somebody on it.” Dan gestured with a jerk of his head. “Laura, you go on back. Lucky and I’ll see what they want. I told the folks to circle up for the night. Couple wagons need repair anyway.”
Telling Lucky to stay behind him, Dan urged his horse forward. He halted in front of the lead Indian who wore a tanned-hide shirt, heavily fringed and decorated with an elaborate design of colored beading across the shoulders and down the sleeves. More beads ran the length of his fringed leggings and covered his moccasins. A wide breastplate made of bones hung from his neck. At the end of each long, black braid of hair, two large white and black-tipped eagle feathers were tied. But it wasn’t just his colorful clothing and ornaments that marked this Indian a chieftain; more evident was the stoic pride chiseled on the Indian’s face.
Mesmerized by what she saw, Laura had no intention of turning tail and running. These weren’t some glorified pictures in a book, but real-life Indians. She eased Sonny closer, wanting to hear their conversation.
“I meet as friend,” Dan said, his English words pronounced slowly in conjunction with the movement of his hands. He waited for the Indian to indicate his acknowledgment, and then continued signing. “I lead my people north to flat river and west over mountains,” he said, lowering his hands to his sides.
Lacking any facial expression, the Indian made several motions with his hands and fingers, then spoke in what must have been his native tongue. He slid from his horse, his look indicating he expected Dan to dismount, too.
They walked past the large pinto and knelt beside the travois. The Indian continued to talk and gesture with his hands.
Lucky turned in his saddle and glared back at Laura. “Confound it, Laurie, get back to the wagon,” he said under his breath through clenched teeth. “Why?” Laura demanded, her eyes boldly meeting his.
“Because Dan said to. It could be dangerous.”
“They don’t look dangerous,” she whispered. She stood up in her stirrups, stretching to see past the two other Indians astride their horses. “There’s someone lying on that litter. Do you suppose the person’s sick?”
Lucky frowned. “How should I know?”
Laura dismounted and started toward the travois. She’d taken only a few steps when the two Indians vaulted from their horses and leaped in front of her, their long lances braced horizontally across their bodies.
“Laurie!” Lucky jumped from his horse, grabbed her arm, and swung her around. “For
God’s sake, girl, haven’t you got a lick of sense?”
“Let go!” Laura pried his fingers from her arm.
“Just where in blazes do you think you’re going?”
She turned to Dan who’d stepped around the pinto. He looked a bit bewildered, while the older Indian seemed to glare right through her. “All I want to do is take a look at him. Maybe there’s something I can do.”
Dan signed to the chief. “She means no harm. She—”
“Dan,” Laura interrupted. She tried sidestepping the two Indians, but they countered her every move. She sighed with impatience and looked between them. “Dan, why don’t you tell him
I’m a nurse?”
Dan walked around the Indians whose eyes remained riveted on her. “Listen, Laura, you’ve got to understand how unusual it is for them to see a white woman …” he hesitated, frowning, “especially one with your looks, sashaying around them and speaking out like you’re doing!”
He turned to Lucky. “We could have a problem on our hands. That man lying over there is Chief Black Arrow’s son. He’s badly injured, and the Indians think white man’s medicine can heal him.”
“Then why don’t you tell the chief there might be something I can do for him?” “It isn’t that easy. Once you touch the man, it means I’ve agreed to be responsible for what happens to him.”
“How was he injured?”
“He was mauled by a grizzly.”
Laura inhaled sharply. “My Lord, I must go to him,” she said, darting past Dan and Lucky before they could stop her.
Just as the warriors lunged for her, Black Arrow’s stern shout stopped them. Knowing she’d have to get past the chief, she cautiously stepped up to him. She pointed her thumb to the middle of her chest and said her name. Boldly determined, she pointed behind the big pinto, and then waited, her eyes seeking his for permission.
For the longest time, Black Arrow watched as the wind blew long strands of her hair about her face. Laura supposed its bright auburn color held his fascination. He reached out and fingered a lock of it. After his gaze roamed over her from head to toe, he spoke, the words rolling off his tongue in that rhythmic high-low pitch. Then he moved aside for her to pass.
Laura lowered her eyes, sensing it was the respectful thing to do. Relieved she’d met with the Indian’s critical inspection, she stepped around the pinto.
As she knelt beside the travois and looked at the man, she gasped aloud. A dark beard and mustache covered the man’s pale, white face. Long, golden-brown hair brushed the top of his shoulders with a few damp strands straying over his forehead. Nothing about him resembled an Indian except for a red-beaded band circling his head.
“Why … he’s a white man!” she exclaimed.
Family deception kept Jennifer O’Malley from marrying her first love ten years ago, West Point officer, Glen Herrington. Now a Civil War widow, she leaves war-torn Richmond, determined to find her destiny. She makes the long journey west in search of Glen, only to discover he is a notorious outlaw with a price on his head.
At the end of the war, Glen Herrington musters out of the U.S. Cavalry and hires on to Wells, Fargo & Company as an undercover agent. When Jennifer confronts him locked in a jail cell, the embers of a love too long denied burn deep inside them both, yet Glen is honor bound not to reveal his true identity.
As life-long secrets and life-threatening dangers abound, Glen and Jennifer fight to reclaim their destiny in each other’s arms.
Glen Herrington spat blood from his mouth, then glared up at the Confederate guard. “I’ll see you in hell!”
Lifting his fist to hit Glen again, the guard glanced at Captain Sneed, the warden on duty. The captain’s angry smirk was all the approval the guard needed. Over and over, he swung his fist at Glen’s face, the last powerful thrust sending Glen and the chair he was tied to crashing to the dirt floor.
Captain Sneed leered down into Glen’s battered face. “Sooner or later, Major, we’re gonna find out who you’re gettin’ your information from and they’re the ones gonna see you in hell.”
The burly guard grabbed hold of Glen’s arm and yanked him and the chair upright. He rubbed the back of his knuckles and sneered. “Sir, do I need to persuade the blue belly some more?”
Peering out of swollen eyes, Glen saw Sneed about to nod his assent when sounds of a female voice drew the warden’s attention outside the solitary cell. Frowning, Sneed held up his hand and shook his head. “Throw that hood over his head, Benson and lock him back up.”
With a last menacing glance at Glen, Sneed stepped from the cell just as another guard hustled around the approaching woman and grasped her shoulder. “Ma’am, I’ve asked you to halt. You are not authorized beyond the hospital quarters.”
With an armload of folded blankets, she jerked to one side. “Unhand me, Jeeters! You know who I am and why I’m here. If it wasn’t for me and the town’s charitable donations of which your mother is a contributor, you wouldn’t be wearing those shiny boots. I’ve been throughout this prison a number of times and this day shouldn’t be any different.” She peered around the guard and through the doorway.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I have orders. This cellar is for dangerous prisoners, spies, and slaves under sentence of death. You cannot — “
“Corporal Jeeters,” Sneed interrupted, “who have we here?” A forced smile hitched the corner of his mouth. “Why, Mrs. O’Malley, I see you’ve brought blankets. God knows our soldiers need them,” he said, standing directly in front of her.
“And …” she said, raising an eyebrow, “for the prisoners as well, brought to them by the Sanitary Commission.”
Jennifer stepped aside the warden to get a better look at the prisoner inside the cell. Her heart skipped a beat. Dear Lord, it was him. The rumors she’d heard repeated throughout Richmond were true after all. Another notorious Union spy had been revealed. Major Glen Herrington had been caught and incarcerated right here at Libby Prison. For a long moment, her eyes met his, direct and probing. Then the guard threw a black cloth over Glen’s head and Captain Sneed led her by the elbow down the hall.
“Mrs. O’Malley, we are grateful for all the contributions of food, clothing, and blankets that you bring, don’t get me wrong. However, you must realize for your own safety, you or any visitor cannot come through this prison without proper authority.”
Jennifer found it hard to compose herself. So shocked was she to see Glen for the first time since … since she had been a mere twenty years old … and he … in her mind’s eye, she could see an image burned into her memory of him at twenty-four, so distinguished in his West Point uniform. Nine years ago, yet it seemed like yesterday.
And now he was a war criminal, his face beaten and bloody, with a dark growth of whiskers and disheveled black hair hanging over his forehead. If it wasn’t for the rumors, she might not have recognized him. Oh, yes, you would, she chided herself. No matter how long it had been, you’d never forget those steel grey eyes. As that old familiar yearning seeped into her heart, she was thankful when the captain’s voice penetrated her thoughts.
“… and Major O’Malley would have me court-martialed if anything inappropriate happened to his wife.”
Jennifer thought better of voicing the retort that instantly came to mind. Sneed’s maltreatment of prisoners that she’d witnessed numerous times could just as well get him court-martialed. Still, not many would side with her and any complaints she brought to the attention of Libby Prison’s commanding officer would only serve to embarrass her husband. Most knew the infamous reputation of the prison but turned a jaundiced eye.
Although Jennifer was against the North’s war of aggression and understood the need for statehood rights, she did not approve of prison brutality on either side. And though she kept her personal thoughts to herself when it came to the politics of war, she wished the fighting would cease and the country could join together in peace as one whole and free nation again. In order for that to happen, the Federals would have to be victorious. Something she knew her husband, a staunch secessionist, would lay down his life to prevent.
As Captain Sneed led her up the prison stairs, she tried to shut out the mental picture of Glen’s tortured body. Union soldier though he was, she knew what she must do. With her mind made up, she would take the risk and set the necessary plans in motion.
BOOK 3- MEETING HER DESTINY
coming in 2016
They had absolutely no reason to be together– nothing in common– except, oh maybe a few past lives where the passion was sizzling—with a minor complication—he always ended up dead. Pure coincidence. Couldn’t happen again. Her fear that it could led her to try to convince him not to go with her on a potentially dangerous archaeological investigation to Central Arizona, where one of those lives had been haunting her dreams.
He knew, given his experiences, there were many ways he could end up dead, and he wasn’t about to worry about dreams with no real bullets. He did know, however, that she could prove dangerous to him. He had never walked away from danger before and wasn’t about to now.
1901, a new century and things should be less wild and woolly in Arizona. Very civilized, with only an occasional nightly shootout. Much safer—for some. Not so much for the son of an infamous outlaw family, who was falling in love with the one woman from whom he should have stayed many miles away. Shoulds weren’t in his vocabulary.
This western adventure takes these two unlikely lovers from Tucson, north into the Sierra Ancha, where answers and danger await. As the fifth Arizona historical, readers of the others will find some familiar characters. This is the first romance for the Taggert brothers– Vince, Jesse and Cole.
Some strong language and mild profanity
Heat Level: ♥♥♥♥
Pre-release sale of $2.99 until August 6th.
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