“How very odd, Mrs. Landers. Do remove that handkerchief from your face and look out the window. Of what material do you suppose those buildings are composed?”
Mrs. Landers, thus entailed, obeyed for the brief moment necessary to take a quick glimpse. Then, lacy handkerchief restored, she spoke in somewhat muffled tones. “Adobe, I would suppose. A sort of brick, baked in the sun, after being formed from clay and such.”
“Clay? You mean the very dust through which we are driving right now?”
“Exactly! A substance readily available, wouldn’t you say?”
With a sniff the lady went back into seclusion, leaving her sole companion on the stagecoach to crane her neck for a better view. The big, spring-less Concord made its racketing way along a dirt road, from east to west, approaching past the outskirts to what was apparently the center of a flourishing little town. One that the driver had told them, at the last stop, held nearly five thousand souls.
“And this is Santa Fe? What a lovely name. I wonder at its meaning.”
Clementine Fox, pursuing the subject with interest despite an overwhelming tedium and tiredness, was deeply relieved to find that she and Mrs. Landers were, at last, finally nearing their destination, at what seemed like the end of the world.
Their journey from the expansive, three-story Victorian frame mansion, on a comfortable, tree-lined street in Syracuse, New York, had begun eons ago, and would probably, in the opinion of Josephine Landers that Clementine could anticipate, continue for another eon or so.
For the sedate and settled middle-aged housekeeper, whose tightly-curled mop of gray hair, rimless spectacles, and portly figure sat almost rigid with displeasure upon the unyielding leather seat, disembarking upon solid ground could not come soon enough.
Having to transfer her entire accumulation of belongings so far, along with her formidable person, was a concept she had never once considered. She had expected to live out the rest of her life in upper New York State, and die there. None of this gadding about for her, thank you very much.
Except that it had happened, while giving her little choice in the decision.
“I suppose we must be nearing another way station soon,” mused the girl, almost to herself. “I am very ready for a bit of a respite, aren’t you, Mrs. Landers? And something to eat. I find I am perishing of hunger, aren’t you, Mrs. Landers?”
“Mmmm.” Half-asleep again.
Which was apparently how she had survived most of the trip thus far. They’d made the journey via hansom cab, via passenger car hitched to various railways (namely the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe), via a stagecoach here and a stagecoach there. And that was probably considered a step up in this out-of-the-way place, since the two women had, at one point, been forcibly trundled upon a mule cart.
Their route to reach such a disparate, remote region roughly followed the old Santa Fe Trail, into Nuevo Mexico, a territory whose residents would fight governmental powers for some sixty years before finally achieving statehood.
“I wonder why Papa decided he simply must move all of us so far away from what we’re used to,” Clementine said wistfully. “I hated leaving behind all that was familiar to me. Trying to decide what to leave and what to bring. Knowing I’d never see anything of my old home again. Saying goodbye to our friends and neighbors.”
“Lord only knows, child.” Clearly, Mrs. Landers was still feeling disgruntled over the whole experience, which must have left a sour taste in her mouth. No doubt she sincerely hoped that comfort and convenience would be provided in their new life, once they were established. But she wasn’t very optimistic.
With a sigh, Clementine leaned back as the coach swayed and slowed. She was dressed for the rigors of travel, although her wardrobe was looking rather seedy after all this time. Not terribly glamorous, her two-piece gown of bronze sateen, with its modest lace collar and cuffs and small pearl buttons fastened from throat to waist, had been fitted to modest hoops for the sake of expedience.
Her hat proclaimed a love of fashion, however. Perched impudently upon her simple coiffure of thick clustered blonde curls, the straw crown boasted a veritable conservatory of blue silk roses, whose color matched her eyes. Eyes which looked out upon the world with an interesting mixture of naivety and innocence, curiosity and tolerance.
She, too, was anxious to reach the end of the line, to unload and unpack at the house her father had chosen, somewhere in a town called Davis. What might await her there? What kind of opportunities might be available in such a distant, secluded location so many miles from anywhere?
How much would she come to regret turning her back upon all that was near and dear to her; the easy living, the social activities, the church in which she had been baptized and confirmed?
As their stage rolled up to the Santa Fe station, on the opposite side of town, Clementine wondered if her father was truly happy with the stunning decision he had made to pull up stakes after his wife had died two years ago. If he was satisfied with the choices he had made since then, and whether he truly realized how deeply that decision had affected every aspect of existence for both his housekeeper and his daughter?
* * * * *
A two hour stop allowed the passengers enough time to refresh themselves, walk out the kinks in cramped muscles, and partake of a fairly decent meal. As the women prepared to climb on board again — Mrs. Landers with a barely stifled groan — Clementine asked their driver how long the trip to Davis might take.
“We’re headin’ north, Miss Fox,” Pete Singer, a courteous, soft-spoken man, weathered by a good number of years tending to team, coach, and passengers, answered. With one hand cupped over her elbow, he assisted her up the high metal steps and inside. “Davis is about twenty-five, thirty miles from here.”
“Is that a city?” she wondered hopefully.
Laughing, he slammed shut the door. “Oh, no, ma’am, not around these parts, not like back east. The territory is still too wild and woolly to be very civilized, so it’s mostly just small towns springin’ up. Biggest place for near a hundred miles in any direction is right here — Santa Fe.”
Not the most heartening news she had ever received. However, she would delay forming an opinion on any aspect of this lonely, somewhat barren country until she and Mrs. Landers had at least arrived and could consult as to their status. Perhaps they would be pleasantly surprised.
The stage started on another leg of its journey with a fresh team of six horses, and both the driver and his assistant, Jim Denton, riding shotgun atop the lofty seat. They had traveled some distance along the dusty road — by Clementine’s reckoning, as she glanced down at the brooch timepiece pinned to her bodice, an hour or so out of town — when chaos occurred.
With a great rattle of tack and harness, a shout from Pete Singer, and what sounded like gunshots (and that could be only a guess, Clementine having never heard such a thing before), they jerked to an abrupt stop. So abrupt that both passengers inside the coach were bounced painfully forward and then back again, without so much as a by-your-leave.
“What on earth?” Clementine gasped out. Her voice was muffled and rendered nearly inaudible by the hat that had fallen forward onto her face.
“Merciful heaven!” cried Mrs. Landers, in similar distress.
Trunks, goods and chattels, and other miscellaneous items had been strapped on top the coach and tucked into its boot for transport. The overflow of packing boxes and carpet bags, stored in an orderly fashion inside, toppled or slid from one place to another and threatened actual danger to the occupants.
More shouts from outside, and the thunder of horses approaching had Clementine up and squinting out the open window to see what was going on.
“Clementine Fox!” hissed her chaperone, friend, and occasional confidante. “Come away from there, I pray you!”
Slowly the girl, eyes wide, turned her head. “Mrs. Landers. I think — I do believe — we’re about to be robbed!”
Just then the door handle turned with a wrench and the door lurched open, allowing a stranger to ascend the two steps and peer inside. He was a smallish man, but agile as a circus performer.
“Ladies,” he addressed them politely through a huge yellow handkerchief that had been pulled up to cover most of his face. Beneath a Stetson that had been pulled down, only his eyes showed. Green eyes, the color of new-grown grass. “Your trinkets, if you please.”
Mrs. Landers, frightened but furious, tried to bluster. “We have no—”
“Uh, uh, uh.” The man waved some sort of handgun gently back and forth to show that he meant business. “O’ course you do. Hand ’em over. Them earbobs, first. Now that pretty pin, Missy. And I see a couplea baubles there on your wrist. Ma’am, I’ll take that cameo you got there.”
Both women, barely able to draw a breath but given no choice in the matter, complied without further argument.
He stuffed everything into a vest pocket, thanked them for their generosity, and backed down and away.
Within minutes the gang of some half-dozen bandits had collected their pickings, shouted adios, and ridden away toward the westward forested hills.
“I have never been so terrified in my life,” croaked Mrs. Landers, pressing one hand to her bosom as if she had been struck by an arrow in the heart.
“I know, I know. Are you all right? Not feeling dizzy or lightheaded?”
“Palpitations, my dear girl. But I’ll be fine. And you?”
Clementine released a shuddering whoosh of air. “I? I am wondering if this sort of thing takes place very often. And that some — some desperado might again shove a gun practically down my throat! What infernal nightmare have we come to, Mrs. Landers? And why? Have we made a terrible mistake?”
“That, Clem, is a question you must ask your father,” the housekeeper said grimly. “For I simply have no idea why we should be forced to uproot ourselves and relocate to such dangerous surroundings!”
Still nervous and fearful, shaking more from an instinctive reaction than from any actual physical harm, they were commiserating over their survival of this shocking ordeal when Pete Singer came sliding down from the top seat. “Ladies!” His voice preceded a worried appearance at the open door. “You okay?”
“Hardly,” sniped Mrs. Landers, in her haughtiest tone. “We are frightened nearly out of our wits. What sort of conveyance have you put us on, sir?”
The driver pushed back his hat to swipe a shirtsleeve across his sweaty face. “I’m right sorry, ma’am. Jim, up above, is mad as hops that he never even got a chance to fire his shotgun. The gang was waitin’ for us. Reckon they knew we had a strongbox fulla cash and coin to transport to Davis National Bank.”
“Stolen here, now?” said Clementine in horror.
“Yes, ma’am, long gone with them ruffians. Come outta the woods there, right next to the road. Did they rob anything from you ladies?”
“Some inexpensive jewelry. Thank heavens, our more valuable pieces were locked up in our luggage. Is this an everyday occurrence, Mr. Singer?”
He was breathing heavily, as if he had just finished running a race and been declared the loser. “No, ma’am, for sure not. Heard tell there was a bunch hittin’ up the occasional stage run over the past year or so; even stopped a train down by Albuquerque a while back. But nothin’ on a regular basis.”
Mrs. Landers had drawn herself up to her formidable tallest, like a puff adder about to strike. “And no one thought to warn innocent passengers?”
“Huh. Well, it seems the stage line figured to beat the odds. I’m sure sorry for the things that was taken from you, ma’am, and even sorrier for what you just went through. You’ll wanna talk to the sheriff once we hit Davis, so’s you can make a report.”
“Indeed we shall. Speaking of that, is it possible to be on our way before we are befallen by some other calamity?”
“We can’t really blame Mr. Singer for the robbery, Mrs. Landers,” whispered Clementine after the man had apologized again, touched his hat respectfully, and shambled back to his place atop the coach.
“And why not, I’d like to know?” she said sharply. “It’s his responsibility to keep his passengers safe. And rest assured that I shall immediately send a letter of complaint to this transit line about their low standards.”
“Thank goodness we weren’t hurt. Those men — well, the only one we could see, close to — they could have…they might have…”
“Attacked us? Absolutely. Why do you think I’m so upset?”
* * * * *
“How much longer do you believe we might have to wait for this task to be accomplished, Mr. Singer?”
“Not much, ma’am. Got everything almost unloaded. You two ladies had a lotta stuff piled up.” Pete Singer could be forgiven for walking warily around the lady from New York and her redoubtable presence. It seemed she might even scare him, just a little.
“That is to be expected,” replied Mrs. Landers tartly, “when one is relocating from the eastern side of the country to the western. Forever. And where might my charge and I find Mayor Fox?”
Jim Denton, who was helping to haul the mountain of luggage from stagecoach to station, paused to answer. As the younger and more agile of the two men, he wasn’t huffing quite so badly. “Ma’am, his office is a couplea blocks down the way. You want me to escort you there?”
“No, thank you; that would delay your work. I’m sure Miss Fox and I are perfectly capable of finding our way.”
Though the town of Davis was home to possibly only a couple of thousand residents (and that was if you counted among the population several stray dogs, some cats, a flock of someone’s chickens, and several unpenned hogs rooting around at the outskirts), the place looked about as picturesque as a landscape by Albert Bierstadt.
The main road — called, fittingly, Main Street — entered the municipality via a wooden bridge that passed over Halter Creek. Few adobe buildings existed here since, for miles around, this was a wooded area that would one day be designated as the Santa Fe National Forest. Frame and brick abounded, from the Davis National Bank to Mackenzie Mercantile to one substantial three-story establishment which held a doctor’s office, an attorney’s law office, an assayer’s office, and a restaurant boasting plate glass windows.
“It’s better than I expected,” Clementine volunteered frankly, looking around. “Actually rather pretty, with trees and flowers everywhere, and those mountains as a backdrop.”
“Well, we’ll see.” Mrs. Landers, reluctant to concede beauty anywhere but in her own native city, spoke grudgingly. “Ah, there. The sign reads Mayor Fox. He’s made himself quite at home, hasn’t he?”
As a youngster, Clementine had sometimes wondered how it was that Mrs. Landers could speak so disrespectfully of and to her father — the head of the household, a master politician, and purveyor of wealth and influence. When she had finally questioned the arrangement which allowed such caustic comments and free will from their housekeeper, and how she could avoid any punishment for her attitude, Ashley had smiled wryly.
“I have no choice,” he had admitted. “She’s my cousin. That gives her a lot of leeway.”
From then on, Clementine had tried a few times to address the lady by her first name, as kinfolk, without success. Mrs. Landers could not unbend enough to accept what she saw as a lack of deference.
Two of the most important offices in the city — that of the sheriff (which contained the town jail), and that of the mayor — were conveniently located next door to each other. As the women entered the first stop on their agenda a bell tinkled cheerfully over the door, and Mayor Fox, who was rustling through a stack of papers on a desk in the corner, looked up.
“Clementine, my dear!” he exclaimed, beaming. “And Josie. You made it, you’ve arrived!” He was already out of his chair and hastening forward to guide them to the upholstered divans arranged in a semi-circle after a warm, tight embrace for each.
“Not without incident,” Mrs. Landers curtly informed him.
“What do you mean by that? But here, sit, sit and tell me all about your journey. I received your telegram a couple of days ago, announcing your impending arrival, but of course the stage schedule is always a tentative thing. One can never depend too much on any sort of timetable provided by the line.”
“Especially when interrupted by thieves and cutpurses.”
Ashley Fox goggled. He had been a handsome man, with a mane of thick silver-gray hair and distinguished carriage, before the death of his wife. Then bereavement had set in, rendering him thin and formless as a shadow. The passage of time, and residence here in the territory’s healthy outdoor atmosphere, were restoring him to his former glory, with a bounce in his step, a twinkle in his gray eyes, and lines of good humor in his tanned face.
But he was taken aback by this. “Kindly explain yourself, Jo.”
“I would do so, Ashley, were you to allow me that privilege.”
“Very well.” He sighed. “I thought you might want to discuss all the adventures you experienced during your travels, or what your new living arrangements will be. However. Have at it.”
“That, certainly, soon enough. First, however, is this. Ashley, we were subjected to a robbery of the stage line! The thieves stole our jewelry and, according to the driver, took a strongbox containing funds for the bank.”
“Bless my soul!” he erupted in shock. “Are you all right?”
“We’re fine, Papa,” Clementine assured him. “Just a trifle unsettled, as you can imagine.”
“My apologies to both of you for what you’ve gone through.” The mayor, dismayed, shook his head. “That outlaw gang is getting bolder and bolder. Now they’re accosting helpless women.”
Mrs. Landers arched her neck with indignation. “I was given to understand that this was an infrequent occurrence.”
“Uh. Well… Clem, my dear, why don’t you go over to the sheriff’s department and make a report? I imagine Pete Singer will come along directly to add his information, and Josie and I will join you as soon as I get a few more details of this raid.”
Which Clementine took as meaning that her father wanted to know some particular information that he preferred his daughter’s delicate ears should not hear.
She rose with a swish of the somewhat wrinkled skirts. “Certainly, Papa. And then, might we please be taken to your house? Both Mrs. Landers and I are quite exhausted, and we would appreciate the chance to freshen up and rest.”
The air, as she emerged from one door, stepped onto the wooden walkway, and immediately started toward the next door, held a mixture of provocative scents. There was the dust of the packed earth street, of course. And the inevitable scattered horse droppings, fresh and dried. Also the rush of fresh water, from nearby Halter Creek (named, her father had mentioned, by the unfortunate fall of a saddled horse, attempting to cross it), and the dampish aroma of fir and pine from the forest that climbed over hills to the mountains. Both of the latter more than compensated for both of the former.
Iron bars had been affixed to both windows of the adjoining building, lending a rather fierce and forbidding appearance. She almost expected a sign that read, “Go away!”
Clementine, having never been inside a jail before, entered cautiously.
It was a large, sparse room, provided with few furnishings and absolutely no feminine frills. Behind a rather battered large desk that might have been used, in another life, as some medieval fortification, sat a man busy with paperwork. Since a metal star had been pinned to his vest, she could only assume this was the sheriff she had been sent to see.
At her approach, he immediately pushed aside pen and inkwell to stand.
Truly, this was the most gorgeous male creature she had ever encountered. A full head taller than she, with shoulders broad enough to strain at the thin stuff of his red cotton shirt, he had thick tawny hair in need of a trim and eyes the brownish-green of a mossy brook.
It was his face that most captured her attention, however. Tanned by the outdoors, slightly scruffy, his expression was one of good humor and consideration, as if everything in the world, whether trivial or significant, could hold interest for him, and he would listen with all due diligence to find out exactly what that might be.
No wonder she had found the few available bachelors of Syracuse so insipid, so unworthy of her favors. No wonder she had agreed to set out upon this voyage of discovery so far from all that was known and familiar. No wonder she had decided to venture forth, seeking something still too intangible and nebulous even to describe.
“Ma’am?” he repeated, patiently.
A little frisson of anticipation swept over her skin. “Pray, do forgive me. I am still a bit shaken. My name is Clementine Fox, and I — might I please sit down?”
“Why, certainly, ma’am. Here, sit here, if you will.” Silently cursing himself for his poor manners, he moved to pull forward a wooden chair as much battered as the desk.
“I’m Logan Channing, town sheriff. And you’re Miss Fox — any kin to the mayor, perchance?”
“I am. He’s my father.”
“Reckon he’s mighty happy about that. Been talkin’ for weeks about your gettin’ here. Just stepped down from the stage, didja?”
The lady managed a weary little laugh. “Yes, indeed. But we had some trouble on the road to Davis, and Papa asked me to stop by and report to you. He plans on coming here shortly, himself.”
She was not the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. After nearly three decades of living and rattling around like a dried-up tumbleweed, he’d crossed paths with various members of the opposite sex, attractive and otherwise — probably more than his fair share. In fact, there were a couple down south in Santa Fe with whom he spent the infrequent evening. Or night.
Still, there was something about this young woman.
A cluster of curls as bright as the morning sun had been tucked up under a frivolous hat, and her eyes, blue as a Texas gentian and fringed by dark lashes in a similar way, met his own gaze directly and unswerving — almost challenging him — instead of flirting hither and yon as did some of the coquettes he encountered. Slim, too, slim as a bootlace, with nice full curves in all the right places.
Logan got the impression that this young woman might be, at some point, a force with which to be reckoned. Certainly, she was a distraction from the business at hand.
Not an hour ago, he had been serving as impromptu judge and jury while two ranchers stood before him, wrangling once again over the property line between their ranches. It was a dispute of some fifty years’ standing; and, at least every twelve months, right on schedule when the creek flooded enough to render any divider a moot point, Vincent Ramos and Henry Greenlaw squabbled over whose cattle had crossed over whose border.
As always Logan had listened, asked questions, compared each side, all the while idly fingering a small carved wooden bird he kept on the corner of his desk. A talisman, as it were. Something to center his thoughts. The bird — a rough facsimile of a barn owl, with its heart-shaped face and beaky nose — had been kept carefully within his sight or his touch since childhood, no matter where he had wandered, or where he had ended up, and he cherished the figure, less than four inches in length, for reasons he didn’t even quite understand himself.
Messrs. Ramos and Greenlaw would abide by his decision, as they always did. It seemed a simple enough solution anyway; one which they would have reached themselves had not both been possessed of a quick, hot temper. Let the cows go till the creek’s overflowing banks returned to normal, then drive them back to their rightful owner.
Whichever side that might be.
Now, resuming his chair, he drew a fresh sheet of paper from the stack. “Well, then, Miss Fox, how about you g’wan and tell me what happened?”
Clearly, during the holdup, she had been deeply, darkly frightened. But not out of her wits. The clarity of her words and description emphasized that. In command of herself. The report was given calmly and concisely, with little emotional impact other than the expression in her eyes. And the gloved hands, twisting slightly together upon her skirts, gave betrayal.
“I’m mighty sorry, Miss Fox,” said Logan quietly, once she was finished and he had all the details written down. “That ain’t much of a welcome to our town.”
Her mouth quirked. A pretty mouth that could, he suspected, either pout or posture, inspiring a hint of dimple in each cheek. “I must admit, I would have preferred a marching band and bunting.”
Before he could respond to this encouraging display of drollery, the door opened to its full width to admit Ashley Fox . “H’lo, Logan. Vexatious happenings here, my daughter’s first hour in her new home. Has she been able to tell you everything about the raid?”
“Yep. Got the report. She tells me that she had some jewelry taken.”
“Actually, both of us were robbed,” Clementine leaned forward to intercede. “My traveling companion, Josephine Landers, lost a few things as well.” She turned toward her father, again with that fascinating quirk. “Do I dare ask what you have done with her, Papa? To what realm has she been spirited away?”
Standing nearby, with hands in his trouser pockets to rock slowly back and forth from heel to toe, he grinned. “Caught, huh? Well, Missy, Charlie Norridge — you’ll meet him soon enough, runs the way station — showed up a minute ago. I asked him to load up the buckboard with all your baggage so he could transport Josie to the house. She’ll — uh — be out of the way for a while, getting settled.”
Apparently with that came a meeting of the minds, given the expression on the face of each Fox. “She does tend to monopolize the conversation,” Clementine demurely agreed.
“Well, at any rate, Pete Singer is on his way here, Sheriff, to tell you all about the stickup. I have to warn you, he has quite a crowd on his heels.”
“Huh. And just why would that be, d’ you figure?”
Ashley grimaced. “No question about it. He’s been telling everybody around what happened, and that the bank funds are gone. A lot of people are worked up about it.”
“Understandable.” Logan swept his big frame upright. “Reckon I better go out and meet it then, head-on. Miss Fox, thank you for comin’ over. Mayor, you might wanna get your daughter outta the line of fire. Things could get ugly.”
“Absolutely. The townspeople have short tempers when it comes to the possibility of not getting paid. And who can blame them?” He extended an arm to Clementine. “Come on, honey, let’s hide out next door until I can hire a surrey at the livery. Thanks, Sheriff.”
The groundswell of rumbling from down the street preceded a small mob of some fifteen or twenty irate individuals. Logan stepped across the threshold and waited. His gun belt, fully loaded, was, as always, belted at the waist and tied at the thigh, although he couldn’t imagine any circumstances here when he might need to brandish a weapon. The residents were, as a whole, generally peaceable, and he had found that usually calming words worked to soothe a savage beast more efficaciously than bullets.
“Sheriff.” Brad Dinker, a handyman at the general store, marched forward and planted himself directly in the line of fire. “You heard?”
Logan stood with boots slightly apart, one thumb hooked over his front pocket. A man relaxed and easy-going, yet alert and ready, if need be, for trouble. “I heard.”
“And whaddya mean to do about it?” challenged Matthew Meacham, from the assayer’s office. “This Hillen Dale Gang is runnin’ roughshod between here and Santa Fe, doin’ worse and worse crimes. But now they’ve gone too far!”
“I agree with you, Matt.”
He was reassured to catch a glimpse of his deputy loping around the fringe of the muttering throng. There was safety in numbers, and solidarity; and two men facing insurrection, no matter how mild, is certainly a change for the better over standing alone. Will Brannigan, a brash, pugnacious young man who didn’t go out of his way to look for a fight but neither would he back away from one, took a few more paces to join Logan under the tin roof.
“Will,” acknowledged Logan, with barely a sideways glance.
His gaze roving over the assembled men — and even a couple of women — the deputy grinned. “Got yourself in a little hot water here, Sheriff?”
“Naw. Nothin’ I can’t handle. Glad to see you back here from dinner, though.”
Scattered shouts rang out, demanding to know what was being done and how soon it would be happening. One in particular held resonance: Penn Hutton, pompous, patronizing manager of the Nuevo Mexico Transportation Company, and permanent thorn in Logan’s side.
“You planning to just stand around and contemplate the clouds in the sky?” he wanted to know.
“Well, now, there’s a lot to be said for cloud-watchin’,” Logan said mildly. “You learn pretty quick what kinda storms might be comin’ your way. As a matter of fact, Mr. Hutton, I’ve been waitin’ for Pete Singer to stop by, so’s I can get all the facts about this holdup. And here he comes now.”
The stagecoach driver, hurrying along, gave a wave and a great whoosh of breath as he reached the boardwalk. “Phew. Gettin’ too old for this job. Sorry I’m late, Logan; somehow I got stuck b’hind everybody. All right, reckon you’re lookin’ for information.”
Quickly he recounted the facts: where the gang had been waiting in the trees, how quickly they had attacked, and what had been stolen.
“Kinda scary,” he finished up, shaking his head. “Guns drawn, pointin’ right at our middles. How’dya know when somebody’s gonna get themselves shot, onea these times?”
“So now what, Sheriff?” Penn Hutton, ever the agitator, called out.
“Now? Well, I reckon it’s time to form a posse and head out on the road to Santa Fe. How many of you are ready to be deputized?”
“A Matter of Love and Virtue” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Clementine Fox was living a happy life in New York but after her mother’s death, her father decided to take a mayoral job and move to New Mexico. Since Clementine has no interest in getting married in New York, her only option is to follow her father. A few minutes before her arrival, her stagecoach is robbed by an outlaw gang, leaving her terribly distressed and disappointed. Things take an interesting turn, though, when she meets sheriff Logan Channing, a charming man that grabs her attention immediately. Will she find a way to approach him and come to terms with his wounded past?
Logan is a lonely man who was abandoned by his father and was forced to take on a job as a cowboy at a very young age. Eager to escape his previous life, he worked as a deputy for a few years. After the former sheriff retired, the town voted Logan in for heroically protecting the citizens. To his misfortune, his fiance broke off their engagement and left him for a wealthier man. Devastated by her betrayal, he hasn’t been able to find love ever since.That changes when he meets Clementine and what begins as a simple acquaintance soon blossoms into a powerful bond. However, Logan will find himself drawn into a painful battle of lies after a shocking discovery about his past. Will he manage to keep his dangerous secret from her? And if the truth emerges, will her heart be shattered?
When Clementine’s life is put in danger in a horrifying incident, Logan acknowledges the deep emotions they share and promises to protect her. Will the misunderstandings hold them back from getting closer? Will they have a chance to bring their vulnerable hearts together?
“A Matter of Love and Virtue” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.