In the early hours of the morning, Careen becomes Matthew Grayson’s wife…and then in a blink of an eye, his widow. How can she tell the family she’s never met that her own cousin is responsible for their son’s death? While she waits for the right moment to admit the cousin’s guilt, a budding attraction grows between Careen and her new brother-in-law, Joshua. But this will only complicate matters, especially when the truth finally comes out.
Joshua Grayson could never understand why his brother left the family ranch to wed – in secret – a woman he’d never met. And now Matthew is dead. Killed just moments after taking his wedding vows. Joshua struggles with both resentment and a growing attraction for his mysterious sister-in-law. He knows Careen is hiding something, but can he give love another chance or is he just setting up his heart for another break?
Pierre, South Dakota 1875
Such a perfect day for a wedding.
Holding hands with her new husband, Careen Grayson’s heart filled to the brim, she nearly floated down the three wooden steps of the church. Mrs. Matthew Grayson... Smiling, she sighed. In all of her daydreams of the ideal husband, she never imagined she’d find one as wonderful as the man she’d just married.
Sunlight danced upon them as a blessing from the Lord above. The warmth banished the early spring chill, and a slight breeze tousled Matthew’s blond hair.
He grinned, his hazel eyes twinkling like diamonds. “Careen, you have made me the luckiest man alive.”
She cuddled against his arm. Tilting her head, she kept her eyes locked with his. Matthew was a tall man, and the top of her head reached his shoulder. Finally, after years of loneliness, comfort surrounded her like a thick blanket. “No, I am the fortunate one.” She squeezed his hand. “We are going to be very happy.”
“I’m already happy.”
Glass breaking and shouting from across the street captured Careen’s attention. Matthew whipped his head in that direction.
Two men staggered out of the saloon, each holding a bottle of whiskey. The larger one with black hair pushed the younger man with thinning red hair. The redhead tumbled onto his backside.
“Yer nothin’ but a cheat!” The large man was built like a bull and snorted just as loud. “I saw ye pull that ace out of yer sleeve, ye dirty sidewinder.”
The redhead scrambled to his feet. “You saw nothing of the kind. I have never cheated in cards, and I’ll have words with anyone who says differently.”
“Words?” The large man belched a laugh, his full gut jiggled with the movement. “Here in Pierre, we don’t have words with anyone.” He withdrew his pistol. “We speak with these, junior.”
Careen gasped and clung to Matthew’s arm. Protectively, he pulled her closer.
The thin redhead dropped his whiskey bottle. It shattered on the boardwalk. “I see your hand, and I’ll raise you two,” he clipped as he pulled both guns from his holster.
The bulky man shot his weapon first, but only managed to clip off his opponent’s hat. A one-horse buggy passed between Careen and the drunks on the street. The gunshot startled the animal, and it reared up on his back legs as panic coated his neigh.
“Oh, dear,” Careen gasped.
Matthew’s arms tightened around her. “I think we’d better get out of here.”
Another gunshot blasted the air, and several more popped through the street. Matthew urgently dragged her past the startled horse and owner who tried to calm the beast down, keeping Careen close by his side.
Sharp whistling penetrated the air, zipping past Careen’s ear. Before she could react, Mathew’s body jerked violently, his hold on her weakening and finally sliding away. He collapsed to the ground, crumbling motionless on his side. Blood poured from the back of his head.
“Matthew!” She landed on her knees beside him, yanking him onto his back. A hole just below the hairline marred his handsome face. Blood gushed down the side of his face.