Read Salvation's Secrets (The Loflin Legacy Prequel) Online

Authors: Catherine Wolffe

Tags: #romance, #love, #civil war, #historical romance, #indians, #western, #cowboys, #frontier, #cowboys and indians, #american frontier

Salvation's Secrets (The Loflin Legacy Prequel) (8 page)

BOOK: Salvation's Secrets (The Loflin Legacy Prequel)
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“You best act stricken. You’ve just lost
your brother.” Earl’s harsh rasp sounded near Seth’s ear. He
stiffened with the chill of the words. The charade they were
instigating played out in front of the good people of Tyler and the
United States Marshall who showed up a few days following the
stampede and shootings bode ill for Charles and him.

Jake laid a supportive hand on his shoulder
effectively bringing him back. “It’s gonna be all right. You’ll
see.”

“Yeah, right…” Seth hunched his shoulders
against the wind blowing in from the north. A sense of foreboding
swamped him. He understood the ramifications of going up against
anything Earl said. His father had him by the short hairs. His
future, his very life lay in what Earl Loflin wanted. No sooner did
the first dirt hit the coffin, before Earl turned and walked away.
Seth caught sight of the stage leaving the station. His longing for
her grew with each strike from the whip’s leather. Somehow, he
needed to see her. Time was running out for him.

###

 

 

Excerpt from Comanche Haven:

(The Loflin Legacy #1)

by Catherine Wolffe

 

Chapter 1 – The Road Home

Texas 1858

Celia glanced out at the children running
alongside the stagecoach as it slowed. Their tiny feet evoked a
cloud of dust as they followed the newest visitor to their part of
Texas.

“Have you been to Tyler before?” the young
blonde woman seated next to Celia inquired politely. Her name was
Claudette Harding. She had the most perfect golden curls Celia had
ever seen.

“Yes, but it’s been a long time.” Celia
glanced back at the children, before examining the wooden buildings
dotting the street.
Nothing had changed
. Some were new and
some no longer stood. They’d been replaced in the name of progress.
Noting the result, she dropped the leather flap over the small
window, before swallowing a twinge of regret. A sharp realization
that nothing would ever be the same again moved through her.

From the top of the stage, the Wells Fargo
Whip called out the name of the stop, “Tyyyler!”

“I’m expecting my gentleman-friend to pick
me up.” Claudette glanced sideways at Celia as she gathered her
parasol along with her reticule. “Do you have someone picking you
up?” Tiny ringlets of gold bobbed about the woman’s creamy, oval
face. Celia smiled to herself as Claudette continued to prattle on.
The woman could talk. Claudette had boarded the stage in
Shreveport. Since she’d sat down, the three other passengers
listened to all manner of comments, stories and questions.

“Yes, my cousin.” Celia peeked out of the
window again. Dust swirled around the opening, threatening to
engulf them all. The two men seated in front of the women waved at
the dust as if it threatened their lives. The one in a stylish
stovepipe hat started coughing. Reluctantly, Celia dropped the
flap, waiting instead for the stage to come to a complete stop.

The wooden door of the stage opened. A
calloused hand reached in.

Claudette took the hand, before winking at
Celia. “Enjoyed riding with you. Good luck.” Bending low in the
confines of the stage’s interior, Claudette exited through small
opening.

Celia considered the young blonde woman’s
words. Luck wasn’t going to help her. She would need fortitude.
Digging deeper, she found her determination once more. Trouble had
driven her out of Texas. Now she was returning for the same reason.
The letter she’d received stated her father, the chief, had fallen
“gravely ill”. So she’d packed up the belongings she would need,
sold the rest, and bought a one-way ticket back to Texas. Her place
as daughter of the great chief demanded she come. Her love for her
only living parent compelled her to make the journey.

“Ma’am?” The hand was back.

Celia accepted the offer of assistance from
the porter, as she stooped to clear the small exit. The brilliant
sun, glared down unrelentingly. A thick humidity hung heavy in the
air. While most of Texas boasted hot, dry conditions, Tyler was
different. Situated close to the north Louisiana boarder, the small
stagecoach stop’s climate resembled the bayou state’s more often
than not. Celia remembered the local joke that the air was so
humid, it was like wearing a wet blanket. In contrast, Charleston’s
warm ocean breezes had been relatively dry. On a hot afternoon,
they’d even been enjoyable. Fighting a tiny twinge of panic at
actually being back in Texas after all the years away, Celia
adjusted her stays. With the Whip’s help, she stepped onto Texas
soil once more. Charleston was but a memory now. She was home.

Celia tipped her head back, before squinting
into the sun for a brief moment as if Texas embraced her. It was
good to be home, she decided. Glancing back at Claudette, who
busily pointed out her bags to the coachman, Celia saw the long
hours on the stage in her mind’s eye. The trip had been grueling,
but she’d made it. Now she could face what came next.

Settling the black parasol trimmed in white
over her shoulder, Celia searched the faces of those closest to the
stage for anyone who might resemble her cousin, Broken Horse.
Reminded that he’d grown into a man over the time she’d been away,
she realized she wouldn’t have a clue what he looked like. Yet if
his boyhood good looks had developed, he’d became a striking
figure. Celia smiled inwardly. He was the closest thing to a
brother she had. The contact they’d kept over the years proved
precious to her.

Glancing about again, she wondered if she
would see Seth. After all this time, would he still remember her?
Probably not, she mused. After all, nothing remained of the girl
she’d been almost twelve years before. Frowning, Celia reminded
herself she’d made a life without the cowboy who’d abandoned her
then. She was a surgical assistant for the Army at Fort Sumter, in
Charleston. Educated and prepped in one of the finest finishing
schools in the south, Celia was her own woman now.

“Ma’am, which bags are yours?”

Blinking, Celia met the porter’s eyes. She
pointed out her belongings, before stepping back quickly as they
landed unceremoniously on the ground in front of her. “Would you
have a care, sir?” Celia gave the man a withering look before
dusting off her new traveling suit. Glaring at the fellow, she
plucked them from the dirt.

The coachman’s feigned concern was typical
of the type of response she got from certain people. “Sorry,
Ma’am
.” His emphasis on the word ‘ma’am’ held a distinct
callousness.

His reaction didn’t surprise her. Most
thought she was a whore. Celia tried to rationalize the assumption.
After all, one didn’t often come across women dressed in
fashionable clothing, nor traveling alone. Glancing about for her
cousin, she was so eager to see, she saw only townspeople who eyed
her warily. Ignoring the stares aimed her way she leveled her
chin.

After all, there was nothing she could do to
cover her bronze complexion or her jet-black hair. She couldn’t
hide her high cheek bones or her long straight nose. Celia had her
father’s face along with her mother’s eyes. The combination was
striking she’d been told. Her green eyes were one of two things her
mother had been able to leave her. Celia considered them a gift.
The broach pinned to her bosom was the other. Celia had kept it
safe all these years. Having been too young to remember her mother,
Celia relied on the images given to her by her father, Lone Eagle.
He’d shared stories of her mother with the young girl as she rested
on her pallet before falling asleep at night in their tent.

Once more, she had to ignore the matrons
standing on the boardwalk openly eyeing her with a healthy dose of
disdain. Yes, she was her father’s daughter. She resembled him in
so many ways. She wasn’t a whore, though. No, her only sin was
being half Comanche.

Celia closed her eyes for a moment as she
considered The People. They’d taught her to always carry herself
with dignity and pride. As the years passed, she came to understand
just how important those teachings were to her survival. She hoped
her father would be proud.

Celia glanced back at the stage. Despite the
rude behavior of the man, Celia considered herself lucky. At least
she didn’t have to re-enter god-forsaken contraption meant to test
one’s fortitude. Certainly, a person would repent for whatever sins
he harbored deep in his soul after a trip in that wooden box from
hell. Celia adjusted her jacket while searching further down the
boardwalk for her cousin.

“Let me help you with those.” The voice was
too close, and too familiar. Celia’s muscles tightened before the
need to escape overwhelmed her. She flicked a hesitant glance over
her shoulder at the tall, broad-shouldered man bending to take her
luggage from her hands. When he rose, she looked into the same
steely-blue eyes she’d known all those years ago.
Seth!
Her
mind fairly reeled with the devil-may-care look he sent her from
under his dark Stetson. “Where would you like me to put these?”

Celia’s heart tripped in her chest as she
recalled the taste of his lips. In defense of the traitorous
memory, she lifted her chin a fraction and managed to snatch one of
her bags from his clutches. The wry grin remained undaunted on his
handsome face. She wanted to scream as she wheeled away.

Nerves ran along her backbone like the tiny
legs of a spider. She could feel his eyes on her even as she
stepped onto the board walkway. “Right here is fine,” she said
curtly, pointing toward a spot on the planks. Doing her level best
to ignore him, Celia once again positioned the black parasol primly
on her shoulder and made a point of smoothing her skirt.

“I never dreamed I’d see you get off that
stage,” Seth’s tone was cool sarcasm.

Celia watched his lips form a tense line.
Her own throat was as dry as dust.

“There you are!” Claudette came rushing up
to Seth who dropped Celia’s bags to catch the vivacious blonde as
she flung her arms about him. “Oh, I’ve missed you so.” She planted
a big, noisy kiss on his mouth.

The blow, though not physical, hit Celia
directly in the heart.

“Well now, darlin’, maybe you should go
shopping in Shreveport more often.” With the young blonde wrapping
her arms about him in a very public display of affection, Seth‘s
mouth crooked in a sardonic grin as his eyes met Celia’s.

Celia could only stare. Her pain grew as
Seth’s attention shifted to Claudette’s account of Shreveport and
shopping. Gripping the parasol until her knuckles grew numb, she
watched the couple. If only she could escape. Unable to stand the
view any longer, she turned to search for her cousin among the
throng of people. With her back to them, she closed her eyes and
tried to ignore the ache settling behind her heart.

“Celia! Celia, wait. You’ve met my Mr.
Loflin, I assume?” Claudette’s face was aglow with affection and
something akin to possessiveness when Celia turned back to face
them.

“Yes, Mr. Loflin was kind enough to help me
with my bags. Thank you, sir.” Her pointedly vague reference to her
knowledge of him as well as her cool show of appreciation brought
about only the slightest of tips from his Stetson.

“My pleasure, Ma’am.”

Celia’s breath caught, as she understood he
would continue the ruse they’d just met. The ache in her chest
swelled as she glanced into those intense blue eyes.

“Come in and have a bite to eat with us,
won’t you?” Claudette reached out and took Celia’s gloved hand in
her own. “My word, dear, you’re trembling. You simply must come in
and rest. The trip was grueling, wasn’t it?” She motioned in the
direction of the Tyler Inn. “Come in out of the heat for just a few
minutes. The repast will do you good.”

Celia’s eyes darted from Claudette to Seth.
He simply smiled knowingly at her. Surely, he would object.

“Celia!”

Breaking away to the sound of her name, she
searched through the crowd.

“Celia?”

Turning to the sound of the deep voice,
Celia spotted the tall, muscular figure of a man dressed in
buckskin striding toward her. Recognition had her heart tightening
and tears welling in the corners of her eyes. Seth and Claudette
were forgotten as her face broke into a grin and she broke into a
very, unlady-like run. Squealing in sheer delight as her cousin
grabbed her up in a bear hug, and spun her around, Celia buried her
face in the crook of his neck. Joy filled her as he spun her around
again.

Easing her down, Broken Horse smiled
broadly. “Little One, look at you.” Holding Celia at arm’s length,
he let his eyes travel over her. The expression on his face said he
was pleasantly surprised at what he saw.

Celia noticed him peer over her shoulder
with a bewildered brow as if he was searching for something.
“What?” Bemused, Celia turned, trying to decipher his point of
focus.

With his face shadowed in seriousness,
Broken Horse confided, “I was expecting a girl with scraped knees
and a dirt-smudged face. Instead, I’m to believe this beautiful,
young woman before me is my cousin?”

Relaxing backward in his hold, Celia
couldn’t help the smile that creased her lips. “Cousin, you stretch
the truth too far.” Her eyes twinkled as she laughed. “Besides,
you’re biased.”

With admiration, Broken Horse eyed her. “I
promise you this, you’re the most beautiful creature in these
parts, Celia, and that’s the truth.”

Her color rose at the complement.

Kissing her gently on the forehead, he gave
her one more hug.

When he straightened once more, she touched
his arm. “Oh, Broken Horse, it’s so good to see you. You haven’t
changed a bit.”

Broken Horse appeared wounded. “Haven’t
I?”

She peered up at him in mock consideration.
“Well, maybe some. You’re certainly taller.” Celia squeezed his
upper arm and her eyes widened in true astonishment. “What have you
been doing? You’re strong as a horse.”

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