Authors: Lily Graison
Tags: #romance, #historical, #historical romance, #western, #cowboy, #western romance, #frontier romance, #historical western romance, #cowboy romance, #1800s montana, #pioneer romance, #lily graison
Copyright © 2012 Lily Graison
All rights reserved. No part of this
publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or
transmitted, in any form or by any means mechanical, electronic,
photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written
consent of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form
of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and
without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent
The right of Lily Graison to be identified as
the Author of the Work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
First eBook edition March 2012
All characters in this publication are purely
fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is
Wyoming Territory - 1869
There were outlaws in the bank. Sarah
Hartford sucked in a quiet breath and whispered, “Sweet lord above
not again.” Her comment drew the attention of Thomas Jenkins, the
clerk working the counter with her. When he looked toward the door
and saw the gunmen, he screamed like a little girl. The commotion
in the room stopped as everyone inside the building turned to look
at each other. When they saw the four armed men at the door, their
frightened screams echoed Thomas.
The men stood at the entrance of the bank and
Sarah’s heart felt lodged in her throat. How many times had she
seen this same scenario play out before? Five? Six? She couldn’t
remember. What she did know was, what they wanted and how they’d go
about getting it.
She looked at the four men again and didn’t
have to be told who led this gang of ruffians. The man still
standing by the door did. His presence seemed to suck the air from
the room. He was tall and imposing. His shoulders were wide, the
dusty, worn trail coat brushing his knees stretched across his
frame and made him appear even larger. Or maybe it was the fact the
sun was shining in the door behind him, casting him in a ring of
brilliant light. He looked like an avenging angel. Well, except for
the rifle propped neatly against the crook of his arm. Maybe angel
of death was a better description.
His black hat rested low over his eyes,
obscuring their color. They looked menacing even from across the
room. A red bandana was pulled up over his face, resting on the
bridge of his nose, a hint of dark stubble barely seen on the edge
of his jaw. Two shiny revolvers hung low on his hips and Sarah was
sure he knew how to use them. A gunslinger. She’d bet her
inheritance on it. His stance was too casual, too confident, not to
be. This was a man who knew what he was doing and she knew, whoever
hid beneath that disguise, wasn’t a man to be trifled with. He
proved it by casually lifting the rifle in his arms and firing off
one shot into the ceiling.
Sarah stood behind the bank counter and
watched the men without flinching. The women in the bank all
screamed again, along with Thomas, before hitting their knees and
cowering before the outlaws. She’d done the same thing a time or
two. Her father’s bank had been robbed countless times and today’s
robbery played out like all the others. She knew what came
The man by the door glanced around the room,
his cold eyes landing on every person before he looked back up.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, if you can give me just a moment of your
time, I’ll make sure this little inconvenience don’t mess with your
supper plans.” He took a step, the spurs on his dusty boots
clicking on the wooden floor as he walked further into the room.
His gait was slow, sure. The butt of his rifle was propped on his
hip and he moved like a lethal predator. His whole demeanor matched
his voice. Hard, deadly. A shiver raced up Sarah’s spine as her
The gunslinger nodded to the man on his right
before looking over at the counter. “If one of you fine bank
tellers would be so kind as to help my friend here empty out your
safe, I’d be much obliged.”
Sarah straightened her spine and leaned
forward, knowing Thomas would soil himself if he had to look at
these criminals, let alone speak to them. “The safe is empty. The
stagecoach left early this morning with most of the money.”
The man with the red bandana turned his head
toward her, tilting it a fraction. He studied her for long moments.
Too long. Her skin heated, her cheeks warming under his intense
stare. Did he know she was lying? The skin around his eyes crinkled
and she didn’t have to see his face to know he was smiling at her.
“Well,” he said, moving the shotgun to lie across his arm again.
“That’s mighty disappointing, Miss…?”
Sarah didn’t answer his unspoken question.
“There’s enough in deposits to get you out of town. Take the money
“I intend on doing that, along with what’s in
the safe.” He thumbed the front of his hat up a fraction before
those crinkles around his eyes were seen again. “I know for a fact
the stage hasn’t been through here today and there’s a wad of cash
in that vault big enough to choke my horse. Now hand over what you
Bile rose up quick, hot and thick in Sarah’s
throat but she met the robbers eyes briefly before reaching under
the counter. She heard Thomas, the other bank teller, gasp when he
saw what she was doing and threw him a look, hoping he’d keep his
mouth shut. When her fingers wrapped around the shotgun her father
kept under the counter, Sarah prayed this wouldn’t be her last day
A glance at the leader as he directed one of
his men to go get the money was all the distraction she needed.
Pulling the gun from under the counter, she raised it, aimed at the
leader, and pulled the trigger.
The screams echoed in the room again and
Sarah was shocked to see the gunslinger look toward the wall behind
him. He was smiling again when he turned back to face her. The
crinkles around his eyes told her so. “You missed.”
Sarah swore under her breath. She’d aimed at
his middle and still missed him? And the arrogant man didn’t even
flinch. When the other three men pointed a gun at her, she lowered
her shotgun, glancing at everyone in the room before looking back
at the leader.
“Take her firearm.” The man to her left
walked forward and snatched the gun from her, tossing it to the man
she couldn’t seem to take her eyes off of. He caught it with one
hand and laid her shotgun across his arm with his own. “Now, we’re
wasting valuable time here. Get those deposits in the bag, and
what’s in the safe, and we’ll be on our way.”
Sarah glared at the man who stepped up to the
counter and thrust the bags at her. She snatched them from the
outlaw’s hand, scowling as she went about her task. When the bags
were full she handed them back to the waiting man.
Looking back at the leader, she raised her
chin, meeting his hardened gaze. “You’ll not make it out of town.
I’m sure the marshal is waiting for you outside as we speak.”
“I doubt that. It’ll take him a while to get
out of the jail, especially after I went to the extra trouble of
trussing him up so nicely.” He ordered his men out and sat her gun
down on the table by the wall. “Much obliged, Ma’am.” He tipped his
hat to her, staring at her for long moments before walking back out
into the bright sunlight, the echo of his spurs against the wooden
floor ringing in her head long after he disappeared from sight. A
collective sigh went through those in the bank and Sarah wanted to
join them. Instead, she cautiously walked out from behind the
Her blood was near boiling point now that the
immediate danger was over. Her outrage burned like acid in her
stomach that these scoundrels would saunter into her father’s bank
and steal what little these people had.
There wasn’t a sound from outside. No outcry
from anyone. What was wrong with the people of this town? These
bandits had robbed them blind and they weren’t going to lift a
finger, or their voice, in protest?
Seeing the shotgun on the table, Sarah
crossed the room and snatched it up before running to the counter
and reloading it. “Thomas, run out the back and try to get to the
jail.” He looked at her, startled, and protested but she ignored
him and ran to the front door, ignoring those in the bank telling
her to stay behind the counter.
Stepping out on the newly laid wooden
sidewalk she set her sights on the outlaws, all sitting on their
horses now, looking for one in particular. She found him moments
later. He was shouting orders for the others to go. Lifting the
heavy gun, she sighted on him and pulled the trigger.
The outlaw’s hat flew over the top of his
horse’s head. The animal reared up on its hind legs before the
rider was able to get control of him. He turned the beast back to
the bank and Sarah lifted the gun again. It wasn’t loaded but she
hoped he would think otherwise.
His black hair shone in the noonday sun. It
was long, curling over the collar of his coat and fell over his
forehead to lie across his eyebrows. He lifted his hand to push
those fallen strands away from his face and her breath was cut
short when he locked eyes with her. She was finally able to see
them. They were the palest blue she’d ever seen. They held her in
place, taunting her inability to handle the gun. The skin around
his eyes wrinkled again and she knew he was smiling. She’d nearly
shot his head off and the arrogant man was smiling.
“You missed. Again.”
Sarah lifted the gun another inch. “Maybe,
but not by much. Shall I keep trying?”
He laughed, a deep rumbling sound that Sarah
felt to the soles of her feet. She glanced down the dusty street at
the other end of town. The townsfolk were stirring, some running
toward the jail.
If this outlaw had indeed tied William, the
marshal, up it wouldn’t be long before he was loose. Looking back
at the outlaw, she noticed he seemed in no hurry to leave. He was
still watching her, his arms now folded over the pommel of his
saddle, his hat abandoned on the ground. She lifted her chin to him
when he did nothing but sit there and stare at her. “What are you
“I thought you were going to shoot me.”
She swallowed. He knew the shotgun was empty.
He was taunting her. Lowering the gun, she rested the barrel on the
sidewalk. “The marshal will be here soon. Stay where you are.”
His laughter followed her curt demand. He sat
up suddenly, swung his leg over the horses back, and jumped to the
ground. Sarah tensed and took two steps back.
Picking up his hat, he dusted it off and
placed it on his head, lowering the front as he turned back to her.
“It’s been a real pleasure, Ma’am, but I’m afraid I’m out of time.”
In an act that spoke of his arrogance, or complete stupidity, he
raised his hand and lowered the bandana that covered his face.
Sarah stared at him and knew she’d never see another man who looked
as he did. Hard, cold and completely heart stopping.
The dusting of stubble on his chin made him
look rugged. His square jaw, firm and strong. Full lips and high
cheekbones that only accentuated his eyes more. They were
mesmerizing. He was mesmerizing. She blinked and looked back down
the street. They were coming. The townsfolk had finally snapped out
of their daze and were coming. She didn’t see William, her soon to
be fiancé and town marshal, among them.
Turning back to the outlaw, Sarah saw him
watching the men down the street. “Looks like they’ll catch you
after all,” she said, smugly.
When he turned back to her, he smiled.
The curve of his mouth caught her attention.
The whiteness of his teeth. All straight and he actually had them
all. Something she wasn’t used to seeing, especially in those who
lived a life as rough as he probably did. Such perfection shouldn’t
be given to a rogue the likes of this man. He was too handsome by
half. Too handsome for her good sense.
A ground-shaking explosion rocked her on her
feet moments before a fireball lit up the sky. Screams and shouts
followed, the sound of wood splitting echoing in the distance
before burning embers rained down onto the ground. She stared
toward the old smithy in stunned silence as the fire grew. Hearing
a horse snuffling, she turned back to the outlaw. He was in the
saddle, staring at the chaos. With a final glance at her, he tipped
his hat, smiled, and turned his horse, heading in the opposite
direction of town.