Texas,1872: Rancher Ben Westingame gets engaged to the wrong woman while trying to do the right thing. Too late, he realizes that his new fiancée’s friend has the spirit and passion he’s been searching for all his life. But her secrets may ruin their chance at finding happiness together.
A thud woke Annie. Propping herself up on one elbow, she squinted into blackness.
Bullet’s paws padding on the floorboards echoed the stealthy shuffle of boots on the earth outside and the barely detectible chime of spurs. Someone was circling the cabin.
Clara’s warning burst into her memory, and Annie’s breath snagged, almost choking her. Oh, God. Roy was here.
She didn’t dare speak to find out if anyone else was awake. Any noise from inside the little house might set the cowboy off. Perhaps he’d try to break a window and come in that way. Perhaps he’d set fire to the house and wait for them to run out.
Slowly, trying not to let the mattress rustle, Annie sat up and reached for the shotgun, invisible in the dark. Holding her breath, she delicately probed with her fingertips the space where the gun should be, afraid that a rough gesture would knock it over and send up a clatter. Finally her shaking hand brushed the cool barrel, and she grabbed it. Her palms were sweaty on the gun, but she
tracked the sound of the cowboy’s boot heels scraping the dirt as he ringed the cabin.
She had to start thinking straight, to stop trembling. Annie took one hand off the gun long enough to wipe her damp palm on her nightgown before grasping the stock again. She repeated the gesture with her other hand, then took a steadying breath.
She had been proud of her decision to leave Baltimore and head to an unknown future in Texas. But she might have reconsidered the move if she’d known Texas was littered with crazy cowboys.
Rough hair brushing against her bare knee made her jerk. But it was only Bullet pacing past. Why wasn’t the dog barking? Had Roy come by so often that Bullet had grown used to him?
Annie shook her head, trying to clear away the fear. Clara had mentioned to Annie and Melissa upon their arrival yesterday that a local cowboy was making a pest of himself. Annie hadn’t given it much thought—she had been exhausted from their travels, first by train and then by stage. Melissa, sixteen years old and five years younger than Annie, had clearly been just as tired, which Annie took a wee bit of comfort in. Clara’s insistence that Annie and Melissa know where she kept both the shotgun and the rifle should have been a strong hint that “pest” had been an understatement, but Annie had sunk down onto Clara’s freshly stuffed mattress and dived headlong into the first good sleep she’d had in more than a week.
Only to wake up to this.