Authors: A Suitable Wife
That, and the burning need to see justice done.
He nudged his horse to a slightly faster pace.
It would be nice if Miss Nash acted sensibly and dispatched
this business with as little fuss as possible.
It would be nice, but given the situation and his own run of
bad luck, he didn’t hold out much hope.
* * *
Reggie sprinted down the overgrown trail, grateful for
the freedom the overalls gave her. The road the men were taking meandered
through this hilly woodland, twisting and turning without a discernable pattern.
On foot, she could cut a much more direct path. With any luck, she’d reach the
cabin a full ten minutes ahead of the riders.
Thank goodness she’d decided not to take her photographic
equipment with her this afternoon.
Reggie winced as her boot caught on a root. Reluctantly, she
slowed to a trot. Spraining an ankle wouldn’t be in her best interest.
was a face she hadn’t
expected to ever see outside of Philadelphia, much less in the backwoods of
Northeast Texas. The last time she’d seen him had been in Grandfather Madison’s
home seven years ago. A lifetime ago.
Back then, her grandfather’s dashing young protégé had been an
up-and-coming lawyer, a man who seemed to have the world at his fingertips.
Until his spectacular fall from grace.
She wasn’t the least bit surprised he hadn’t realized who she
was. In fact, she doubted he’d have recognized her even if she’d been all
gussied up in her Sunday best. She’d been only a girl back then, fifteen years
old. And he’d mostly seen her in the company of her stepsister. Next to Patricia
she might as well be invisible. Reggie had always thought of herself as shadow
to Patricia’s sunlight.
But she’d recognized him immediately. A woman rarely forgot the
object of her first romantic schoolgirl fantasies—even if she’d dusted her hands
of the fantasy as she matured.
Not that he hadn’t changed. He’d aged of course, but it was
more than that. He still had that heart-stopping dimple in his chin and bluer
eyes than any man had a right to. But now those eyes held a flintiness, and that
dimple seemed incongruous rather than endearing.
He’d also got himself a faded but new-to-her scar on his cheek.
A souvenir, no doubt, from the kind of life he’d lived since she saw him
Well, she might have been young back then, but her wallflower
status gave her lots of time to observe without being caught out. She’d sensed
the charming, save-the-world idealist had some shadowy secret lurking behind his
easy smile. In fact, it was one of the things that had drawn her to him, had
caused her to moon over him with such private, embarrassing-to-remember
enthusiasm all those years ago.
Now, though, those shadows seemed to have taken stronger hold,
giving his smile a cynical twist.
Seeing him through the eyes of a woman rather than a child,
Reggie was relieved to discover his glance no longer had the power to set her
pulse aflutter. To the contrary, her heart-thumping reaction to the sight of him
had been due to surprise—that was all.
Of course, that was neither here nor there right now.
What in tarnation was he doing in Texas? What possible reason
could he have for seeking her out? And who were the three city dudes he’d
brought along? Surely, if Grandfather Madison had sent them, he’d have sent word
ahead of time. Of course, the old fox hadn’t told her of his plans to donate a
new wing to Turnabout’s schoolhouse, either.
Maybe that was it. Maybe they’d come to check on the progress
of her grandfather’s newest project. But why had they come out
when the schoolhouse was back in town?
None of this made sense.
Could it have something to do with the letter she’d written
Grandfather last month asking for guidance on how to formally adopt Jack? Were
these men here to give her legal advice? But surely the matter was nothing more
than a simple formality.
As far as Jack was concerned she was practically his mother
already. Jack had been only three months old when her stepsister Patricia passed
on. She’d been helping her brother-in-law, Lemuel, care for him ever since. Now
that Lemuel was gone as well, she wanted to make certain Jack knew how special
he was to her.
Her gut clinched. Surely there hadn’t been a problem with her
request? What obstacle could there be to her adopting Jack? In the eyes of the
law she was only his step-aunt, true enough, but he didn’t have any close blood
kin, save the judge. No, there had to be some other reason they were here.
Ignoring the stitch in her side, Reggie picked up speed again
as the cabin came into view. She had preparations to make before her callers
The Adam Barr she’d known all those years ago had been a
pleasant, witty charmer, a self-made man who, after years of paying his dues,
was just coming into his own. Certainly not a man to be afraid of.
But time could change a person, especially considering where
the zealous ex-lawyer had spent the past six years.
Reggie wondered just when he’d gotten out of prison.
Copyright © 2012 by Louise M. Gouge
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