Read The Lawman's Bride Online

Authors: Cheryl St.john

Tags: #Western, #Waitresses, #Fiction - Romance, #Sexual abuse victims, #General, #Kansas, #Fiction, #Marshals, #Romance, #Kidnapping Victims, #Peace officers, #Historical, #American Historical Fiction, #Romance - Historical, #Romance - Western, #Love Stories, #Criminals, #Man-woman relationships, #Romance: Historical, #American Light Romantic Fiction

The Lawman's Bride

BOOK: The Lawman's Bride
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The Lawman's Bride (Harlequin Historical Series)

Book Jacket

Tags:
American Light Romantic Fiction, Man-woman relationships, Fiction - Romance, Marshals, Kidnapping victims, Sexual abuse victims, Kansas, Waitresses, Romance - Western, Romance - Historical, Fiction, Romance, Romance: Historical, Criminals, Western, Historical, Peace officers, American Historical Fiction, General, Love stories

Kidnapped as a child, sold to a con man, she'd fast learned how to sweet-talk her way out of trouble. Now all Sophie wanted was to be left alone to build a new life - one that was honest and decent, based on truth, not trickery.

Clay Connor was the last man she should care about. Upright and honorable, the town's marshal deserved better than a woman with a tainted past. But if only Sophie could learn to trust again, she might find this lawman would make her new life complete...

SUMMARY: Kidnapped as a child, sold to a con man, she'd fast learned how to sweet-talk her way out of trouble. Now all Sophie wanted was to be left alone to build a new life--one that was honest and decent, based on truth, not trickery. Clay Connor was the last man she should care about. Upright and honorable, the town's marshal deserved better than a woman with a tainted past. But if only Sophie could learn to trust again, she might find this lawman would make her new life complete.…

The Lawman’s Bride

CHERYL ST. JOHN

 

Kidnapped as a child, sold to a con man, she'd fast learned how to sweet-talk her way out of trouble. Now all Sophie wanted was to be left alone to build a new life--one that was honest and decent, based on truth, not trickery.
Clay Connor was the last man she should care about. Upright and honorable, the town's marshal deserved better than a woman with a tainted past. But if only Sophie could learn to trust again, she might find this lawman would make her new life complete.…

 

Contents

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Prologue

Morgantown, West Virginia, 1878

D
ense clouds parted to reveal a slice of silver moon in the narrow gap of sky above the dark alley where the fourteen-year-old girl crouched beside a stack of crates. She wasn’t afraid. No, there were plenty of things more terrifying than night. Darkness was a friend tonight, cloaking her in its haven of invisibility.

Adjusting her grip on the handle of her traveling bag, she glanced around and listened intently, making certain no one followed.

In the distance a train whistle blew, and her heart swelled at the promising sound. If she could make it to the station, she’d buy a ticket and be gone. It didn’t matter where the train was heading. Freedom was an elusive place she could only imagine.

A pattering erupted as fat drops of rain struck the rooftops of the buildings on either side of the alley, pinging against every piece of metal and wood. Enough sound to muffle her steps, she thought with a surge of hope.

She straightened and took a step. A yelp startled her and she brought her free hand to her mouth to stifle a cry. The dog she’d surprised sniffed her feet then moved on. She took a deep breath, relaxed her muscles, and her racing heart calmed.

Determined, she grasped her bag and strode to the front corner of the building. Across the street in the yellow circle from a street lamp, she made out the word LUNCHEON painted in gold letters on an expanse of window glass and knew exactly how many buildings she needed to pass to move into the opposite alley. From there she could make her way to the edge of town. She stepped forward.

“Awfully late for a stroll, isn’t it?”

Her heart dropped to her toes at the familiar voice. The black-shadowed figure of a man loomed out of the darkness. He moved in close, blocking her view of the street, thwarting her escape.

“Not the fairest of weather, either.”

Around them stinging raindrops drummed on cans and crates. The pervading smell of dampened earth was strong. She couldn’t breathe. Captivity did that to a person. Stole their ability to fill their lungs.

“You don’t know what kind of trouble awaits you on the streets at night, Ogaleesha. There are far worse fates than your easy life.”

Using the name given by her Sioux captors, Tek Garrett cunningly reminded her where she’d come from. She felt the hope that had buoyed her moments ago sink like a stone to the bottom of a river.

“I’ve ordered tea brought to my room. Doesn’t that sound good? You’ll be dry and warm in no time.”

Her hand ached from gripping the handle of her bag with such intensity. What if she ran back the way she’d come? He would catch her and her situation would only worsen.

Garrett reached to take the bag from her, his fingers touching hers in an unspoken command until she gave up and relinquished her hold.

“Come, Gabriella. Let’s get you inside before you catch a chill.”

Thoughtful words. Caring, almost. She recognized the subtle threat all the same. The annoyance emanating from his lean body screamed a warning. The way he turned and gestured for her to move along the boardwalk ahead of him left no room for choice.

Her legs felt wooden as she forced her feet to place one step in front of another and set a determined course for the hotel.

“Few young women enjoy privileges equal to yours,” Garrett told her as they reached the building. He opened the door for her to walk into the foyer ahead of him. “You’ve had excellent tutors,” he continued, nodding at the counter attendant they passed on their way to the stairs. “You’ll be one of the most highly educated young women in the country. You own fashionable clothing and lovely slippers. I dare say you have hair ribbons and jewelry to match every ensemble. Wouldn’t you agree?”

They reached the second-floor landing, and she dared a look at the lobby below, saying a silent goodbye to her last hope of freedom.

“Your speech is cultured and flawless. Quite different from when you first came to me.”

She hadn’t come to him. He’d bought her from a band of Sioux.

“You barely spoke English, as I recall.”

During six years as a captive, she’d had little opportunity to speak her own language.

“I confess I’m hurt,” he said, pausing in the hall outside their adjoining rooms. Moisture glistened on the shoulders of his fine black coat. “All I’ve done for you, and this is how you repay me?”

She studied a smear on the wallpaper to avoid meeting the chastisement in his eyes.

“I’ve been so patient.” Those words came out as a thoughtful sigh. “Quite considerate really.”

Turning, he fitted a brass key into the lock and guided her into his room. For the past two years they had traveled as father and daughter. He claimed the ruse was so that no questions would arise, but his true strategy was to keep her under his careful watch. Her door to the hall was always kept locked, and he held the only key.

“Perhaps you need more
attention.
A bit more of an
investment
in our arrangement.”

Garrett set down her bag and shed his coat to reveal the same vest and pressed white shirt he’d been wearing earlier in the evening. He was twice her age but fit and dapper with razor-sharp cheekbones and an elegant square forehead. His hair couldn’t be called fair or blond because of its dark undertones.

Reluctantly, she removed her damp shawl and hung it on the hook on the back of the door.

He bent to open her carpetbag and dumped its contents on the floral carpet. Two of her simplest dresses spilled out, followed by a book, a length of beads and a strand of pearls.

Holding the pearls in his palm, he straightened, studied them for a moment, finally closing his long fingers over the necklace.

“You wouldn’t have gotten far with such a meager stash,” he told her. “Not a wise decision.” He leaned toward her to clasp the pearls around her neck, speaking against her ear as he did so. “Not wise at all. I haven’t taught you
everything
yet. There is more…much, much more.”

Another stone joined the first in that riverbed of hopelessness. He reached to her throat to unbutton her collar, then unfastened the row of buttons until he reached the waistband of her skirt.

Her heart thumped in her chest, but she held her anxiety in check, her expression revealing nothing of what she felt.
Show people what they want to see.
He’d taught her well. She conveyed regret and submission with her downturned eyes.

Garrett slid the shirtwaist down her arms, skimming his fingertips against her bare skin. “If not for me, you would be some man’s squaw,” he told her. “You would be cooking scrawny rabbits over a fire and suckling a squalling brat. If I hadn’t fostered you, you’d be living with a mangy trapper who beat you over every small offense.”

Garrett turned her around and unfastened her skirt, pushing the fabric to the ground in a silken swish of petticoats. “You should be grateful you’ve been spared all that. Grateful you’re not down on Tucker Street, selling yourself to every drunk who comes through the doors with two bits.”

She closed her eyes, fearing what he said was true. Anything was better than the things he described. She owed him for sparing her that kind of life. He’d always provided well and he was polite. He’d taught her the craft he considered an art, rewarding her when she learned and excelled.

“Plenty of other young women would be delighted to exchange places with you this very minute, Gabriella.”

Even though she was a mere possession, Garrett was clever and handsome, well-mannered and clean.
She could be a lot worse off.

Her life had been spared long ago, but spared for what? She’d gone from being a child to being a possession. The lessons she’d learned at the hands of the Sioux were as much a part of her as her dark hair and white skin, most importantly:
show no fear.

She opened her eyes and met Garrett’s, watched as he turned back the coverlet on his bed and beckoned her forward.

Yes. Her life could be a lot worse.

Chapter One

Newton, Kansas, 1887

W
hat’s a girl like me doing in a place like this?

She glanced into open doorways as she strolled down the second story hallway of the dormitory housing the young women who worked in Fred Harvey’s elegant Arcade Hotel and restaurant.

Each from good families, the young ladies were of irreproachable character and had provided references and letters of recommendation to acquire their positions in the lavish hotel and esteemed restaurant. The irony of her presence here amused her.

Emma Spearman exited her room, closing the door behind her with a soft click. “Good morning, Sophie. Did you sleep well?”

“Very well, thank you. And you?” she replied.

Emma’s bright smile revealed her pleasure. “I used to sleep in a lumpy bed with two sisters who tossed all night and stole the covers. My three noisy brothers were in a loft overhead. My nights here are
heaven,
thank you.” She tucked her arm through Sophie’s and said in a conspiratorial tone, “I will never admit this to a one of them, but I do sometimes miss my siblings. I’m taking the train home for a visit the first of next week.”

BOOK: The Lawman's Bride
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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