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Authors: Kelli Ann Morgan

Noah

BOOK: Noah
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“Miss
Callahan?” Noah called, alarmed when she didn’t respond.

 

“Kate?” he tried again, all too aware he’d used
her given name.

A soft moan escaped her lips and he closed his
eyes in gratitude that she hadn’t gotten herself killed.

“I’m all right,” she finally said with a groggy
tone as she attempted to sit up on her own.

Noah placed a hand in the small of her back to
keep her from falling backward, her proximity wreaking havoc on his senses.

After a moment, she made a move to stand, but
quickly sat back down again, amongst the piles of splintered wood.

“Maybe I’ll just sit here a moment and lick my
wounded pride.”

Noah laughed.

She’ll be just fine.

“Let’s get you inside,” he said, holding out
his hand to her. “The air is a might chilly tonight.”

When her fingers touched his, a light, tingling
jolt spread up his arm, but he couldn’t pull away. He attempted to help her to
her feet, but her ankle buckled beneath her.

“Upsi-daisy,” he said, her hand still firm in
his grasp.

Kate started to giggle, but winced in pain.

“I think I may have hurt a little more than my
pride,” she said, rubbing her ankle.

Without waiting any longer, Noah released her
hand and reached down, scooping her up easily into his arms. He climbed the
porch stairs, opened the door, and carried her inside.

“Where are your quarters?” he asked, unable to
keep the obvious rasp from his voice.

She turned toward him, her hand resting at the
button of his shirt, her face so close to his he could feel her breath on his
lips. He looked down into her wide, trusting eyes.

Big mistake.

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the hard work of this author.

 

While
some of the events described and some of the characters depicted in this eBook
may be loosely based on actual historical events and real historical figures,
this book is a work of fiction. Other names, characters, places, and incidents
either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any
control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party
websites or their content.

 

NOAH

 

An
Inspire Book published by arrangement with the author

First
Inspire Books eBook edition September 2015

 

Copyright
© 2015 by Kelli Ann Morgan

www.kelliannmorgan.com

Cover
Design by Kelli Ann Morgan at Inspire Creative Services

www.inspirecreativeservices.com

 

Kindle
Edition

ISBN-13:
978-1-939049-18-6

ISBN-10:
1-939049-18-0

Also by
Kelli
Ann Morgan

 

Jonah

Deardon Mini-Series
Book One

 

Lucas

Deardon Mini-Series
Book Two

 

The Rancher

Redbourne Series Book
One

Cole’s Story

 

The Bounty Hunter

Redbourne Series Book Two

Rafe’s Story

 

The Blacksmith

Redbourne Series Book Three

Ethan’s Story

 

The Iron Horseman

Redbourne Series Book Four

Levi’s Story

 

Available from Inspire
Books

 

To sign up for Kelli
Ann Morgan’s mailing list and receive notice of new and upcoming titles, click
here
.

Acknowledgements

 

To
Dean Wesley Smith, for your encouraging words of inspiration and the reminder
that writing is supposed to be as fun and exciting for me as it is for my
readers. Your ideas and suggestions were a real game-changer for me and have
made all the difference.

 

To
my wonderful copy editor and beta readers, Rocky Palmer, Darcy Fairbanks, and
Brad Asay—your role in the process has been invaluable to me. I so appreciate
all the time and energy that you spent in helping me to make this book its
best.

 

To
Brett Dawson, for your additional insights on the inner-workings, animal
behaviors, and seasons on a cattle ranch.

 

To
CharlesVanHeule at the Laramie Historic Railroad Depot, for taking the time to
help me research the weather data for that first winter after the railroad went
through Laramie.

 

And
to my alpha reader and sounding board, Grant—your brutal honesty, constructive
criticism, and encouragement are instrumental in helping me create the kinds of
stories that others like to read. Thank you for your love and support. I am one
lucky woman to be your wife!

 

 

 

 

To my son, Noah, who
couldn’t wait for one of my characters

to be his namesake. I
love you, kiddo, and am so proud of you.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Laramie,
Wyoming Territory, September 1868

 

“Step away!”

Kate Callahan had never heard her father’s
voice shake with such scarcely veiled ire.

Deputy Marshal “Big” Steve Long threw his head
back and laughed with dark amusement as he swung down off his horse. His long,
dusty coat flapped behind him in the light autumn breeze. When his steel-like
eyes met her father’s, his expression had grown cold. A snarl rested on his
lips.

“You got nerve, Emmett, I’ll give you that. How
‘bout we give you some time to think on it? It’s a might generous offer under
the circumstances.”

“No need to wait, Long. I won’t be changing my
mind.”

The crooked lawman scowled, his thick, brown
moustache twitching with the movement.

Her father moved his hand to his hip, rubbing
the edge of his holster. “This ranch rightfully belongs to me and my daughter.
It is our home and I will not sign it over to you or any other common thug who
may come our way.”

Kate held her breath. She’d already lost her
mother and two brothers to the fever. She couldn’t lose him too. With as much
courage as she could muster, she stepped out from beneath the tree branch where
her father had instructed she wait, and walked forward, linking her arm with
his.

Twelve dead ranchers, maybe more, had already
lost their lives after refusing the short-tempered marshal. Kate had to make
sure there was no excuse for the deputy to draw his weapon.

“The marshal’s just trying to be a helpful
neighbor, Da. There are a lot of ranchers having a hard time of it this fall.”

“You should listen to your daughter, Emmett.
Pretty and smart.” He winked at her.

Kate’s skin crawled at his appraisal.

“We’re just trying to help.” He tugged his belt
up higher on his waist, the light glinting off one of the metal bullets that
rested there, and sniffed.

Bile rose up in the back of Kate’s throat. His
conniving arrogance, coupled with his putrid stench, filled her with
indignation and disgust.

“We don’t need the kind of help you’re
offering,” her father said. “Now, I’ve got work to do.” He raised a challenging
brow.

The marshal stared at him a moment longer, spit
in the dirt, then tipped his hat and returned to his mount. Before climbing up
into the saddle, he turned back to them.

“We’ll be back for a visit.” The threat hung on
the air like draped laundry. Kate shuddered, the hairs of her arms standing on
end. He may have come alone this time, but when he returned, it would be with
his half-brothers, Ace and Con Moyer—the so-called marshal and justice of the
peace.

The Callahans had only been in Laramie for just
over a year, coming on invitation from a Mr. Levi Redbourne, a representative
for the Union Pacific Railroad. Their stead had been one of the first erected
and was far and away the largest and most elaborate of all the ranches around
town—next to their neighbors’, Nathanial and Mary Boswell.

Kate tried to push the worry of what the three
brutes might do when they returned to confront her father. She had to be
strong. For his sake. She tightened her hold on her da’s arm, pulling herself
closer to him.

“We’ll be waiting,” her father replied in
whispered tones that only she could hear.

They stood, unmoving, under the grand wooden
archway, watching the marshal until he vanished from their sight.

Her father patted her hand. “I best be getting’
back to work. The cattle aren’t going to tend to themselves and we’ve got a few
downed fences that need mending.” He turned and strode toward the barn. “And,
Katie darlin’, don’t be forgettin’ your cooking lesson,” he called back over
his shoulder.

Kate groaned. She glanced at the place where
the marshal had disappeared, shook the anxious thoughts from her head, then
turned back for the main house.

Although, Fannie, the family’s cook, would be
teaching her how to make her flakey butter biscuits today, the kitchen was the
last place Kate wanted to be. She preferred to be outdoors with her father,
learning how to best take care of White Willow and its livestock, but she
resigned herself to the inevitable and marched up the stairs to the house. Life
was different here in the west and she resigned herself to the fact that it was
time she learned how to do the expected women’s work.

Someday, White Willow would be hers. She’d
spent the last year watching and shadowing her father in his tasks and responsibilities—not
that any of the hired hands would ever take direction from a woman. Still, she
wanted to know everything she could about running the ranch and figured knowing
how to feed them would be one more way for her to contribute.

As Kate tried to focus on the correct
measurements of flour, salt, and baking powder, she couldn’t help but to glance
out the window to watch her father work.

“Child, those biscuits aren’t going to make
themselves.” Fannie pointed at the large bowl with her nose, her hands already
immersed in her own basin of sticky dough.

Although Kate was hardly a child at
twenty-three, she recognized the importance for a woman in the Wyoming
Territory to understand the basics of obtaining a culinary education—especially
if she ever hoped to gain a husband—so she turned away from the window,
determined to make another hearty attempt.

She cut the butter into small cubes just as
Fannie had instructed, then dumped them on top of the flour in her bowl. With a
sigh, she shoved her hands into the cool powder to mix it together. The soft
feel of it as it sifted through her fingers was cathartic for her restless
mind. She pinched the butter, until the pieces were no larger than a pea, then
reached for the cup she’d used to mix the white vinegar in with the milk and
poured it over the dry blend.

“This is what wooden spoons were made for,” she
said with an over-exaggerated frown.

“You’ll be here all evening, Miss Kate, if you
don’t just get right in there and knead it all together.”

Kate looked down at her bowl, waited a moment,
then shoved her hands into the goop and in minutes had it stuck together in a
clumpy mess.

“Perfect,” Fannie said upon inspection.

“Really?” Kate looked down at her bowl again,
wondering if she and the cook were looking at the same dough.

When she’d filled an entire pan and had
successfully placed it in the stove, she stood back, wiped her hands on her
apron, and nodded in satisfaction.

CRACK!

Dread tore through Kate’s chest like a dagger
as her head jerked back toward the window.

Da!

She clutched the hem of her dress and lifted as
she flung open the door and dashed outside.

Breathe
, she reminded herself.
Maybe he just had to
put down a sick calf or scare off a coyote.
But even as the thought passed,
she knew it was more than that. Something was terribly wrong. She rushed toward
the barn.

CRACK!

Another gunshot sounded a little farther away
this time, and Kate looked up to see Dell, the dark foreman, firing into the
distance. Relief washed over her and she slowed her pace to a stop, hunched
over, her hands on her knees, and gasped for air.

Those blasted coyotes were getting bolder as
they gradually encroached in on the homestead. Her heart pounded fiercely in
her chest and her legs wobbled beneath her. As she pulled herself up into a
standing position, a splash of color caught her eye from behind the barn. She
moved slowly at first, making her way around the edge of the building, then she
recognized the material of her father’s shirt.

“Da?” she called as she picked up her step,
newfound trepidation suffocating her insides.

He groaned.

He’s alive.

She hurled herself on the ground next to him,
tears streaming down her cheeks. She ripped the apron from her body and shoved
the material in a wad against the onslaught of blood exuding from the gaping
hole in his chest.

“Da…” her voice cracked. She sucked in a
breath. “Fannie!” she screamed for the woman who’d followed her outside. “Go
get Dell. We need him to go collect the doctor.”

“Katie?” her father whispered.

She looked down at him, wiping away the tears
with the back of one of her bloodied hands. “What happened, Da?” she used the
familiar Irish name. “Was it him?”

Her father opened his eyes, a lone tear escaping
the corner as he looked up at her.

“I…I love…” he coughed, “you…my little Katie
darlin’.” Blood seeped out from between his lips and dripped down the side of
his chin. “I’m sorry…It’s up to you now.” He reached a hand toward her face.
Kate held it against her cheek as he closed his eyes. His body relaxed, his
hand falling limp in hers.

“No!” she sobbed as she laid her head against
his now still body. “Don’t leave me, Da.”

“Miss Callahan?” Dell placed a hand on her
shoulder. “You should go back up to the house. You’ll be safer there.”

“No!” she screamed through her sobs, shrugging his
hand off of her. She needed to still be close to him, to the only family she
had left. She wouldn’t leave him. Not yet.

She wasn’t sure how long she’d lain there
before the foreman spoke again, the warmth and weight of his hand returning to
her shoulder.

“I’ll take care of him, Kate.”

A well of grief exploded inside of her as she
shot a look at him. “Where were you? How could you have let this happen?”

Dell’s eyes opened wide, the whites a stark
contrast against his face. He shook his head and opened his mouth, but no words
came out before he shut it again.

She knew it was unfair of her to place this on
him, but right now, she needed someone to blame.

Deputy Marshal Steve Long
. The name infringed on
her tongue like scum on a pond.
He
was to blame. Thirteen ranchers had
now lost their lives to his arrogant and hot-headed delusions. Maybe more.

Kate’s jaw flexed, teeth clenched, and her eyes
narrowed at the dirt just in front of the opened barn door. It was high time
Long paid for his crimes and she would do everything in her power to make that
happen.

BOOK: Noah
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