Authors: Sable Hunter,Texas Heroes
TEXAS HEROES 4
Hot, standalone novels about Texas men who live a life of service and love their women with their whole hearts.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Copyright 2016 © Sable Hunter
Cover by JRA Stevens
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.
Dallas McClain is a Texas Ranger, a loner who lives for his work because he knows no woman will ever forgive his past…until he meets Lennon. Lennon is under attack. Shots have been fired through her windows, animals have been poached off her land and someone is rustling her cattle. If she doesn’t get help, Lennon will lose everything, including her life.
In the heat of the battle, Lennon teaches Dallas the healing power of love. She has the unique talent of convincing those who need her that she needs them even more. At first, Dallas doesn’t comprehend how truly beautiful Lennon is until he sees her rising from the waters of a hot spring like Venus from the waves – and then he is lost. The chemistry between them is combustible. Wild and hot. Together they fight to save one another, her from harm and him from his past. Sometimes love is within our grasp…if we’re brave enough to grab it with both hands.
William – before he became Dallas
“Sit right here and don’t move, Will. I’ll be through with John in about an hour.” His mother smiled at him. “Afterward, we’ll go out for pizza. Okay?”
William nodded, he didn’t mind waiting while his mother worked. Leaning back on the dingy sheetrock wall next to her room, he lost track of time. Playing Super Mario Brothers on his Game Boy always made him happy.
Noises he didn’t really understand filtered through the wall. William tried to ignore them. He didn’t really understand what kind of work his mother did, but he knew it involved a lot of different men and they all seemed to be named John. Sometimes they were nice to him, giving him a dollar if he’d go outside and play. One hadn’t been so nice, boxing William in the ear just because he’d knocked on the door to tell his mother he felt sick to his stomach after eating too many grapes.
Sometimes William wondered why he didn’t live in a regular house or apartment with a Daddy like other boys and girls. Even school was more fun than being by himself all of the time while his mother earned money. They didn’t have a lot of time alone, but his mother was good to him when she wasn’t entertaining. William wasn’t sure what entertaining meant, but he knew it was very important. His mother, Esther McClain, said it was serious business and that he must never get in the way. But when they were together, his mother made him laugh and she hugged him really tight. He felt safe with her and there was no doubt in his mind that he was loved.
A smile came to his face when he managed to save Princess Peach from King Koopa. “Gotcha!” He laughed, then he jumped, slamming his back against the wall when a loud noise exploded in the room and he heard his mother scream. William threw down his toy and jumped up, running to the door and jerking on the doorknob. “Mama! Mama!”
William was knocked flat to the floor when the door was slung open and John came out. He shirt had been snow white, but now it was covered with something dark red. “Get out of my way, brat!”
Crawling backward like a crab, William stared at the gun pointed at his face. “What did you do to my mama?” Was she hurt? Would they have to leave town again?
“I killed the whore, just like I’m gonna kill you!”
Terror stole William’s voice. “No! I want my mama!” He didn’t understand all the words the man said, but he understood enough to be afraid. Closing his eyes, he winced, waiting for the man to hit him.
The sound of another gun blast shattered the air and William forgot to breathe, expecting pain to rip through his body. A commotion around him brought his eyes open. People were crowding around John, holding him by the arms. One man had gone into his mother’s room.
“Mama!” he cried. From where he was standing, he could see her lying on the bed in a pool of red blood. “No!”
“Your mama’s dead,” a cruel voice sounded. “There’s no ID on her,” the same man yelled. Turning to William, he asked. “What’s your name, boy? What’s your mother’s name?”
William remembered what his mother always said,
“Don’t tell people who you are. Don’t give them your real name. We have to hide. People would hurt us if they found out who we really are.”
Shaking his head, he refused to answer.
“All right, have it your way.” He jerked William to his feet. “For now, we’ll call you after the town we found you in. You’ll tell someone your name and your story if you want to eat tonight, Dallas.”
Looking back over his shoulder, William could see his mother’s long, beautiful hair hanging over the side of the bed. He didn’t know it then, but that glimpse would be the last time he ever saw her. “What’s gonna happen to me? What’s going to happen to my mom?” He began to cry.
The policeman snorted. “Shut up! Sons of whores don’t have a right to cry. Forget your Mama, boy. You’ll go into the system and she’ll go to the pauper’s field.”
William didn’t know what the system was or where the pauper’s field could be. Wiping his eyes, he took a deep breath. He wouldn’t cry, but he’d always remember. “I’ll never forget you, Mama. Never.”
Twenty-five years later.
Dallas McClain always thought rain was appropriate for a funeral. He’d been to so many where it seemed the very sky was weeping right along with the heartbroken. Today, there was no rain falling. The land was so dry and burnt that the grass beneath his feet crunched with every footfall.
Dead. Just like his heart.
“O, Death where is thy victory? O, Grave where is thy sting?”
The words the preacher spoke didn’t penetrate his sorrow. Why had Carly been on the road so late? Where had she been going? He cursed the trip that had taken him out of town. If he’d been there with her, none of this would’ve happened.
He kept his eyes averted from the casket. Instead, Dallas let his gaze wander over the old country cemetery. Some of the gray headstones dated back to the Civil War. Carly didn’t belong here. She’d had so much to live for. A sob lodged in his throat when he thought about their unborn child who’d never have a chance to live.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
Carnations. He hated the smell. He’d been to enough funerals in his time to associate the scent with death. And now it was his wife – his child… How in God’s name was he supposed to go on? Dallas bowed his shoulders, trying to command his lungs to take a full breath. At least this wasn’t the pauper’s field. Just remembering the term hurt his heart. For years he’d tried to find out where they’d buried his mother. It was only after a real estate deal fell through in the city of Dallas, when a contractor’s backhoe unearthed a casket, that it came to light where thousands of the unwanted were buried. The graves had been hastily covered over, so Dallas still couldn’t be certain exactly where his mother lay. There was no headstone. No way to remember.
Sometimes he wanted to forget. For decades he’d hidden the truth of who he was and where he’d come from. The facts of his birth and early life were literally buried, the only evidence being a few mementos he’d stored in a locked box in the top of his closet – one solitary photograph of his mother, a red hair ribbon and a newspaper article detailing the tragedy of her life and death.
The foster homes where Dallas grew up taught him how important it was to hide his past. They would’ve much rather thought of him as a regular orphan or a runaway. It was only when they found out his mother was a whore and he had no idea who his father was that things would get ugly for him. Somehow his mother’s sins tainted him.
As much as those memories pained him, they were nothing compared to the hurt he endured now. Sympathetic touches from well-meaning friends and neighbors made his skin crawl.
“We understand.” “We’ll be here for you.” “She’s in a better place.”
Goddammit! That was the phrase that made him angriest. Better place? The ultimate cop-out.
The best place for them to be was home – with him!
Strains of Amazing Grace assaulted his ears. There had been no grace for his family–for him. The sound of the music didn’t cover up the creak of the chains as the casket containing his life was lowered into the ground.
“God, I’ve got to get out of here,” he whispered.
When the last amen was voiced, he turned, determined to avoid the consolation of the ones who’d come to say good-bye to Carly and their baby. Now, he’d go home to an empty, lonely house. Once again his life was torn asunder. He’d painstakingly built himself up from the ashes of his childhood, carefully protecting the ones he loved from his ugly, unfortunate past. To Carly, he’d been respectable, upstanding. Yes, she’d known he grew up in foster care, but he’d been selfish and hidden the whole truth.
Dallas had jealously longed for a family, for normalcy. And he’d found that with Carly. They’d had their troubles. What couple didn’t? The pregnancy had taken Carly by surprise–but they were working it out. Everything would’ve been all right–if only… He didn’t get very far until a strong hand stopped him.
“Dallas, wait!” Dan Randolph, the town doctor, gripped his arm tightly. “I’ve got to tell you something.”
Dan’s voice was cracking. Dallas appreciated his empathy, but he needed to be alone. “Not now, Dan. I just want to go home.” Home–it would never be home again.
“Carly came to see me a few days ago.”
Dallas froze. “Why?”
Shaking his head, Dan leaned closer. “I don’t think we should talk about it here. The results of the autopsy didn’t change…but…”
Dallas didn’t understand. His friend was speaking a language he didn’t comprehend. “What?”
“Let me come see you later. After you’ve had a chance to rest.”
“I don’t need to rest.” Dallas raised his voice. “If there’s something I should know about my wife’s death, tell me now!”
Dallas allowed himself to be pulled to one side by his friend. “I started not to tell you, but I thought you ought to know. Carly asked me to help her, but I refused. So, she went to a women’s clinic in Houston. The only reason I know this is because the clinic called me to verify her allergy to pain meds. Carly got an abortion, Dallas. The day she died, she’d been to get an abortion.”
Every word flowing from Dan’s mouth lacerated Dallas’s heart. The world as he knew it was no more, pulverized by the dawning of an inconceivable reality. “I don’t believe you.”
They were drawing a crowd and Dallas wished he were anywhere else but here. Mars. Tibet. Hell. “Just get out of my way!” He pushed away from Dan.
Rage poured over him like a storm. Dallas jammed his fists into his pockets and strode out of the graveyard. Blindly he found his truck and drove to their small place on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. He hadn’t been to his house but to take a shower in days. The night he’d arrived home from a case in Marshall, he’d no more than walked in when the DPS officer arrived to tell him about the wreck.
Now he wandered around, reliving their life together, trying to figure out what had gone wrong. Finally, he sat down on the bed, holding his head in his hands. And that was when he saw it–a note. A note propped up on the bedside table…lying on the mahogany box he’d always kept in the top of the closet.
Bile rose in his throat. With a shaking hand, he lifted the familiar stationary, unfolded it and began to read the words Carly had written in a seemingly shaking hand.
William? Is that your name? I don’t really know who you are. I was searching in the top of the closet for a scarf I couldn’t remember putting away and this is what I found. The truth. The ugly, dirty truth about the man I married. Why did you lie to me? You must know that I’d never have married you had I known about your past. I was raised to be respectable and that’s something you’ll never be.
I can’t do this, Dallas. I can’t have your child. I’d never be able to look at it or love it. I don’t want to have anything else to do with you and I certainly don’t want to carry this child for nine months, hating every minute of it and hating you.
I’m going to get an abortion, and then I’m leaving you. I’ll send someone for my things. Thanks for ruining my life.
Pain unlike anything he’d ever known brought Dallas to his knees. His baby’s death was his fault. He’d killed it as surely as if he’d wielded the knife. “I’m never going to get over this,” he whispered as he cried bleak and lonely tears. Never again would he have the audacity to fall in love. He knew now that his gravest mistake was not telling Carly the truth from the beginning. And no one could ever love him if they knew the truth.
* * *
Lennon Learns A Lesson
Lennon was so excited she couldn’t be still. School was starting back tomorrow and tonight was the end of summer dance. “Do I look okay?” she asked Flora Martin, her neighbor and honorary grandmother. “I can’t believe this is happening to me!”
“You look beautiful, sweetie.” Flora stepped back to get the full effect. “I told you we could alter your mother’s dress to fit you. Law–that woman would be so proud of you. She loved you so much.”
“I loved her too. I miss her every day.” Not wanting to be sad, she pushed all the precious memories to the back of her mind. Lennon practiced walking back and forth across the floor in her new shoes. “Daddy said I could stay out till midnight. He wasn’t too keen on me driving myself to the dance. He thinks Colin should’ve come to the ranch to pick me up.”
Flora fanned herself and sat down heavily on the bed. “Well, I think men should be gentleman. So, I have to agree with your daddy.” She laughed. “I can’t say that very often. Your father is one stubborn man. The way he expects you to learn and do everything on this ranch makes me pretty mad.”
“Don’t be angry. Dad wanted a boy. He needed a son.” Lennon sighed. “I do the best I can not to disappoint him.” Lennon glanced at Flora. “Do you feel okay? You’re very pale.”
Flora waved her hand. “I feel fine. George is the one who’s not doing well. He’s got rheumatoid arthritis, you know. He worries that he won’t always be able to get around and I’ll put him in the nursing home.” She wiped her brow and sighed. “I promised him I’d never do that; it would kill him to sit in a little room all day. He has to be outside to breathe, he says.”