Lauren Sosa had been sitting quietly for an hour with her saucepan and lid at the ready. Any time now, her wait would end. Any moment now, that little quivering, whiskered nose would protrude out of the hole in the wall, and she would finally capture its owner and rid her house of the scourge. Any second now….
Her breath sounded so loud in her ears that she thought he must be able to hear her, sense that she was waiting for him. Her nemesis. Why, only last night, he had come out of his hole and tracked little paws all over the butter. Yes, she had forgotten to put it away in the cold room under the kitchen, and that was her fault. But all that should have happened was that it might get overly warm in the heat and melt. It shouldn’t be full of rat.
And there were the leavings as well. How could a creature hope to be liked if it insisted on pooping where it ate? She had thrown out the whole pat, and it wasn’t as though they came cheap. She hadn’t told Teddy yet. He would be furious.
Lauren shook her head and steeled her resolve. Hold still and wait, she told herself. That little blackguard would have to stick his nose out soon. She had seen to him being enticed to do so, by placing a piece of carrot in front of his doorway.
Most folks thought that rats and mice were partial to cheese. Yes, sometimes they were, but she found they ate her carrots and sweet potatoes far more often than her cheese. Armed with this knowledge, she reasoned that after all that butter, the rat was likely hardly in the mood for more rich food. She was willing to bet that carrot was looking mighty fine.
How much longer she could crouch like this was another matter entirely. Her right leg was mostly dead, having gone through sore into numb, back into sore, and out the other side into agony before going disturbingly numb again.
But today was the day Lauren was going to catch this rat or lose all feeling in her nether regions trying.
Ah, but what was that? Movement in the hole in the wall? Was that carrot beginning to look too good, too much like salvation on a plate? Perhaps she should have put some parsley down as well, or some ginger in case the rat had indigestion. Could they get indigestion? Lauren had no idea.
Another hint of movement, and now she was certain. The rat had finally noticed the carrot and decided it was worth the risk. It was a fine, sweet one that she had pulled from her garden not long before. She waited now, holding her breath in anticipation, the pot and lid ready to capture her prey.
There it was, a little rat nose sniffing, pink and wobbling like a molded jelly on a plate, the little whiskers sticking out at odd angles. Oh, she was going to capture this nuisance today. She just knew it.
Now she could see the little muzzle and the slope of the head, a tentative front paw, another…he was coming all the way out and hadn’t noticed her in her hiding place.
Just a little further. If he could come just a little further forward…..
Lauren shifted ever so slightly, the saucepan and lid ready, waiting for the rat to step the last little way out of the hole….
The rat turned on his little paws and fled as though the carrot had never been there, his claws scrabbling on the polished kitchen floor.
Lauren sat back on her behind and scowled. Darn it! She’d missed her chance.
“Lauren!” a familiar male voice called.
“What?” she demanded, waiting a moment before trying to gain her feet, since feeling was slowly coming back into them in the form of pins and needles.
“Have you seen my blue shirt?”
“It’s in your closet,” she replied, annoyed at the interruption. “You made me miss the rat!”
Striding into the kitchen, her brother, Teddy, regarded her with a mocking look in his green eyes. “I doubt that.” He regarded the carrot she’d used for bait and shook his head. “Everyone knows they like cheese.”
She snorted. Typical Teddy. Why would he care if there was a rat in the kitchen? Not like he was the one cooking there, trying not to have rat business all over the place.
Now, upright with the saucepan and lid still in hand, she regarded her older brother and took him in. He was wearing his jacket and had his hat in his hand. He was wearing his good boots, too, and the holster for his gun. So, he was heading out to work again.
“I can’t find it, and I’m going to be late,” Teddy said.
“What?” Lauren asked. This was sudden. He usually told her days before he had to leave. Had a message come, and she was so focused on catching her rat that she hadn’t noticed? That was unlikely. Lauren tried to notice everything.
“Lauren,” Teddy said urgently. “I really need that shirt. Have you seen it anywhere?”
Blinking, she thought about it and finally recalled where she’d seen her brother’s blue shirt. With a sigh, she strode past him and into the parlor where she spent her evenings darning socks and adding buttons to shirts which had lost them. The blue shirt was just such a one.
Hauling it out of her basket, she held out the crinkled material to him. “Sorry, I thought I’d have time to iron it before you needed it again.”
Teddy regarded his shirt and shrugged. “Not like it isn’t going to get creased in my bag,” he said. “Thanks for sewing on the buttons.”
She shrugged. “It was no problem,” she said, holding out the shirt to him. “I have to keep my brother looking good at work. I take it you’re off again?”
He nodded, taking it, looking somewhat uncomfortable. “I’ll be gone for about two weeks.”
“One week out and one week back?” Lauren asked. It was a ridiculous question and one she knew the answer to, but she’d been asking it since she was little, and some things were just so ingrained they popped out on their own.
He nodded, his dark hair flopping around his head. “That’s how it goes on the coach run.” That was his rote answer too. A little word game they played all the time that somehow calmed Lauren at the prospect of weeks on her own. “You’ll be alright here alone, won’t you?”
“Who says I’ll be alone?” she asked. This was a new addition to the time-worn conversation. At the age of eighteen and finally out of school, Lauren could technically have all manner of people come to visit her, but it was a joke. There were precious few in Trenton who would speak to her and even fewer who really liked her.
Not apart from the occasional visits from her best friend in all the world, Vera, Lauren would be alone.
It was a sad fact, but Lauren and her older brother Teddy were not well-liked in the town of Trenton and through no fault of their own. Sometimes she thought the fates had worked hard to make their lives difficult. However, she wasn’t one to sit down and bemoan her shortcomings, and so Lauren put on her bravest face and watched her brother put the last of the things he would need into his large black bag and do up the fastenings.
“Don’t look so glum,” he said, patting her shoulder as he aimed to walk past her and head for the front door. “I’m never gone all that long.”
Lauren tacked a sort of smile on her lips and shrugged. “It’s just, I wish the town were nicer to us, and you could have gotten a job at the lumber yard or maybe in the cotton fields. Then maybe….”
Her brother stopped and, placing his bag on the polished wooden floor of the house their parents had built, he drew her into a hug.
“I know,” he said. “It’s not fair, and it’s not right. But this is how things are. We should be grateful I managed to prove to Mr. Owens that I can shoot straight, or I might not even have the job with the coach company.”
Holding her at arm’s length, he fixed his gaze on her. “You recall what it was like in the beginning…no, you probably don’t. But I do. Six months of scrounging and doing little jobs here and there to put food on the table. Lauren, we are lucky I have this work. So, chin up.”
She nodded. “I know. And I really appreciate you trying so hard to keep me from the orphanage in San Antonio,” Lauren said. “I know, and don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for all we have. I just….” She sighed and drew him closer to give him one last squeeze. “I kind of wish things had turned out different.”
Teddy sighed. “I know, Biscuit, me too.”
It was his pet name for her. Heaven alone knew where it came from, but she’d been Biscuit when he was feeling kind of warm and fuzzy, ever since she could remember.
They held each other for a moment longer, and then she let him go and get the horse saddled. He would have to get a move on or risk being late for Mr. Owens, the man who ran Teddy’s team.
Those had been dark days when their parents died. Teddy, who was only fifteen at the time, had tried to find a job, but there was little he could do. Leaving her with Vera’s mother, who had been friends with their mother when she was alive, he’d gone a little further north to the budding town of Tyler’s Mill to find work. There he had run into Mr. Owen. The man ran a team of men whom he hired out to the stagecoach lines that ran to all the places the railroad didn’t go, as hired guns. So since that day, Teddy sat up on the coaches, carrying everything from people to goods, and he would shoot at bandits to keep the cargo safe. Of course, the problem was the bandits would shoot back, and that always had Lauren worried. What would happen to her if he died?
She’d be truly alone in the world, and that didn’t warrant contemplation. She had to look on the sunny side of life.
Lauren wasn’t one of those needy women who had to have people all the time. Far from it. She didn’t mind being on her own for a while; it was just a couple of weeks. It was the thought of the rest of her life that scared her.
No, she was fine with Teddy heading off to work. After all, he’d been doing this for ages, and Lauren was more than capable of living alone. She had Vera and her goats and chickens to keep her company. Granted, all of them except Vera weren’t much for conversation, but it was nice to talk to beings who didn’t disagree with her. Teddy liked to disagree.
“So,” Teddy said as he emerged from the stable with Beast, his horse walking stoically behind him. “Two weeks, that’s all. Then I’ll be back.”
“I’ll be fine,” Lauren said. “Really, I will. You know nothing ever happens around here. Trenton might as well be called Dull Town or something.”
“You’ll keep the rifle loaded and on hand? And your pistol?” Teddy asked.
Lauren nodded. She always kept them at hand. It wasn’t as though she was an idiot. Living on the very edge of town, she knew that there were bandits and troubles in the area, especially with the Red Bandits terrorizing some of the neighboring towns. She wasn’t about to take any chances.
“Well, then I’ll see you in two weeks,” he said. He kept repeating it as though it would make the time go by in a blink. Lauren knew this was difficult for Teddy too. There was a real possibility that he would never return. If the bandits got lucky, or if they were better shots than he was, then there was every possibility that he would die, and she would be left to fend for herself. It wasn’t a nice thought, but then few regarding his work were.
Lauren had been working to become independent anyway. It made sense. It was silly to rely on one person to bring in all the money that two people needed to live.
Teddy stopped in front of her where she stood on the porch steps and regarded her. He drew her into another hug and kissed the top of her head before smoothing the dark curls down. Eventually, he let her go and smiled at her. “Be safe, okay?”
“You too,” she said, managing a proper smile this time. She didn’t add that he was likely in far more danger than she would be. What would the point be? He knew how dangerous his job was.
With his large black bag strapped to his staddle, his gun in its holster at his hip, and his broad-brimmed hat on his head, he was ready to go. He hauled himself into Beast’s saddle, and with a wave, he was off.
Lauren waved to him as the chickens scattered, clucking angrily at his disturbing their foraging in the dirt for worms. A moment later, Teddy was heading down the path towards the road.
Town was a whole five minutes’ walk from there, and he’d be in Trenton and then on the road to Tyler’s Mill in minutes.
Funny how the house always felt different when he left, as though something large and important had been removed, one of the walls or the roof perhaps. Of course, it was only in her head, but still, Lauren felt the hole in her life acutely each time he left.
She wondered, not for the first time, what it would feel like when he left for work if she had a sister of another brother to look after. Would the place still seem so empty? Or if she had a child of her own? How would she feel then?
“All this ain’t getting the chores done, now is it?” she asked the chickens, annoyed at her suddenly morose mood.
General Hendrick the cockerel regarded her with one yellow eye and raised his head comb up and standing proud.
“You keep an eye on the perimeter,” she said. Having no idea how the military worked but liking the idea that the cockerel was a general commanding the troop of hens, Lauren always spoke to him as though giving orders. The fact that he had no idea what she was saying meant nothing. Fantasies kept Lauren from feeling the solitude of her life and falling into depression. Being alone all the time, it was easy to become a grumpy hermit. She didn’t want that, so she peopled her life with the goats, the chickens, and the darn rat in the kitchen.
The goats were in their paddock, which was well away from Lauren’s vegetable garden and the flower garden she had planted for their mother. Goats would eat just about anything, and she and Teddy needed those vegetables to survive.
She wasn’t milking three of her nanny goats at the moment because their kids were still too little. Lauren had a policy that the babies got the milk undisturbed for three months after birth. After that, she could milk the nannies without interfering with the next generation of goats. Luckily, four of her nannies had given birth in late January and they could be milked without worrying about the babies.
Today she would take the milk and the cheese she’d made down to Vera’s house, and from there, they would go and sell it to the townsfolk. It helped that everyone thought the goats were Vera’s, and that Lauren was merely tagging along. Apparently, bad luck was catching, even from a goat.
Lauren went back into the house and began to pack up her things to take to Vera’s. She packed her baskets and loaded them in a little hand cart she had, and then with the house locked up, and under the cockerel’s yellow watchful eye, she set off down the road.
Geography and its impact on a person’s life had never been that appreciable to Jesse Stone until he undertook the journey he was currently on. Only then did the mountains, mere scratchings on the parchmentlike paper, come to life, and the sheer scale of them become apparent. Before this, the rivers, little blue lines that offered no hindrance at all to a body wanting to cross them, became the raging torrents, or wide lazy snakes of water they really were. And the space…the space was remarkable.
Having been born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, Jesse had grown up with buildings all around him, with streets laid out in ordered lines that could take a body anywhere in the whole city of New York. It was a jungle of a sort, with buildings constantly growing taller as though the sunshine was better the closer one got to the source. He was ill-prepared for the vastness currently around him and his insignificance in the whole picture.
“Breathtaking, isn’t it?” asked the man sitting beside him in the stagecoach. He was Professor Wilson Donner, and he was heading out to Texas to do some science stuff. At least it had something to do with studying the rocks and things in the area, although Jesse didn’t understand why anyone would want to do that. What interest could rocks hold for anyone? They didn’t do anything, unlike people who were always busy and often not with entirely legal things. At least, not in his experience being trained as a sheriff. On rounds in the city, he’d seen people do things that he still couldn’t believe were real.
Still, the professor was a friendly enough gentleman with his wire-rimmed spectacles perched on his nose, his watery blue eyes that reddened as did his nose from his constant sneezing. Allergies, he said, especially to dust. And this road seemed to be all dust.
“I do love the fresh air and the space, despite the allergies,” he said with a chuckle.
“It certainly is big and open,” Jesse said. Was there a feeling opposite to claustrophobia? Jesse was starting to feel like the top of his head was hanging open, and the sky, that huge, blue thing above his head, was simply pouring like a waterfall into him.
It was utterly crazy.
“Yes, this is a vast grassland, the Blackland Prairies unless I’m much mistaken,” the professor said. “Note how the trees are well spaced. That has allowed the grass to grow so thickly. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw herds of herbivorous creatures grazing before long.”
Jesse supposed he might be right, but he also suspected that the noise of the coaches rattling along the tracks might scare off any animals who possessed a lick of sense. After all, men were dangerous creatures. He knew that all too well.
“So, you mentioned you’re a sheriff,” Professor Donner said. “Is this a new career path for you, or have you been holding that office a while?”
“I was a deputy working in New York for the last four years,” Jesse said with pride. He had worked hard to become sheriff and was looking forward to having a patch of his own to run. Of course, he would have liked one a little closer to home, not all the way in Texas, but he was grateful, nonetheless. It wasn’t easy to get a good posting, and he’d been assured this one in a town called Trenton was a good one.
“Ah, and I take it someone else in your family is also in law enforcement. In my experience, this usually runs in families,” Professor Donner said genially. “Your father is a lawman, too, is he not?”
“A sheriff,” Jesse said. “He works in Brooklyn, where I was born and raised.”
“My goodness!” the professor cried. “What made you decide to follow in your old man’s footsteps? Did you always want to be a lawman? In my interactions with all kinds of people, I find that often what the parents do for a living influences at least some of their children.”
“Is that so?” Jesse asked, not that interested in the answer. He found letting people talk was a good way to find out a lot about them. So far, he knew the professor liked to puzzle over things and hear himself talk.
The older man laughed and nodded. “Take my old man, for example. He’s a tenured professor at a rather prestigious university.” He said it flatly as though it were a point of contention for him. “And so, all my life I’ve felt I had to live up to his example. That I had to uphold his ideals and morals. Silly, isn’t it? I should be my own man. Or what do you think?”
Jesse considered this a moment. “I think you should do what makes you happy so long as it breaks no laws and hurts no one.”
“Well, then I’m in trouble,” the professor said with a laugh. “My students might say my classes hurt them terribly.”
This confession Jesse chuckled at. From this and the time they had spent together so far, he judged that the professor liked to take calculated, minor risks. He would never gamble his earnings away on something like the horses or dog races, or even card games, but he might take a wager when it came to something else, like a person’s choices. The wager would be small, though, and he would likely pay up with a laugh if he lost the bet.
And when it came to upholding the law, Jesse supposed that the professor would pay his bills late when he felt slighted and might pilfer a minor thing or two which would never be missed from his university, but that would be the extent of his trespass. In other words, he was a law-abiding citizen and of no interest to law enforcement at the current time.
“Of course, what is driving me around the bend is whether I became a professor because my father wanted me to follow in his footsteps, or whether it was something I wanted to do. Are we free creatures who can choose our own fate or products of those who influence our lives? It is an interesting conundrum.”
Jesse had no answer for that. He didn’t know what had pushed this clearly intelligent man to become a professor, and that didn’t interest him. Had something pushed him to become a murderer or a burglar, that would be different. It would be one of three things and so not much of a mystery to solve, not like the one the professor was trying to untangle about his motives.
The three things that could make a man crazy and drive him to do silly things like rob a bank or shoot a man, were so common that everyone experienced them in their lives, and it was simple enough to discover which one had sent the person in question over the edge. Was it desperation, greed, or lust? Perhaps it was a combination of these cardinal sins that led to all manner of crimes. He wondered what would push the professor over the proverbial edge.
“Well, it is interesting to contemplate such things,” the professor said, oblivious to Jesse’s thoughts. “Now geology is nothing like that. Rocks don’t suffer the same pressures and influences that human beings do, and yet there is a correlation. Many of the different precious and semi-precious stones that one finds in the earth are created from great pressure.”
They hit a stone or something, and the whole carriage gave a jolt. Many of the passengers’ eyes shot open in surprise only to close again.
“Oh, I do love semi-precious stones,” Miss Warren, a kind woman in her late twenties, said, not bothering to continue pretending to sleep. “They are so beautiful.”
“Yes, my dear, they certainly are,” the professor said. “Do you study them, perhaps?”
“Not officially,” she confessed. “It’s a hobby.”
“How marvelous,” the professor said, his attention now fully on Miss Warren.
Thankful that the conversation he’d been having with the professor was over, Jesse settled down and, as always, listened with half an ear as the two spoke about their stones.
His mind turned to the town he was about to call home.
It was called Trenton, and from what he’d been able to learn, was a cotton and lumber milling town. Although it was small, it had its fair share of crime, which interested him immensely. The old sheriff was retiring, and that was how Jesse’s father, through a network of friends he’d made through the years, came to hear about the post opening up.
Jesse had always assumed he would be a deputy under his father’s wing for as long as he was in law enforcement. But his father believed in him enough to want him to “earn his stripes,” on his own. And so, Jesse had been packed up and placed on the train heading out West to take over from Trenton’s old sheriff, a man named Old Burton. He was glad that the post wasn’t an elected one and that the previous sheriff could appoint the new one with the mayor’s blessing. It made things a good deal easier. At least, he hoped it would.
The town was finally coming closer. Jesse worked this out by the landscape changing. It was in reverse to what had happened when he left New York, where the tall buildings and well-stamped down streets had turned into housing developments, then into farms with rolling acres of crops, and then into wildlands.
Now they went from the endless grassland where they hadn’t seen a grazing creature at all, to farmland where there were many, to houses, and then to the town. If that was what it could be called. This was not a city but a tiny collection of buildings lining a dirt track that was pocked and ridged and covered in a good layer of horse manure. The whole place smelled rural.
The coach came to a halt while Jesse was still trying to come to terms with his surroundings. There had to be some mistake. His father had assured him that Trenton was a good, well-respected town of a decent size. He had said it had over a thousand citizens living there, but that had to be incorrect. What he was currently staring at out of the window wasn’t a town. It was something smaller, a collection of random buildings all made from stone and wood, bleached in the sun and looking forlorn.
It was time to leave the coach. Now that he was at his journey’s end, Jesse wasn’t sure he wanted it to end here. What would the people be like? What did they expect from their lawman, and how was he to feel at home in a place with one main street? Jesse was suddenly overcome with nerves.
“Well, new sheriff,” the professor said with a grin. “Time to meet your new town.” He seemed quite at home as he moved towards the door. “Look at it this way,” he said over his shoulder to Jesse. “It has to be better than being bumped and bounced around on that horrible, uneven track all day. I feel as though my kidneys are in my throat.”
Jesse decided to take a breath and then just get out of the coach. He could do this. Yes, it was different and strange, but he could manage. He would adapt. Wasn’t that what a lot of his training had been about? Learn to read the terrain, the situation, and adapt your approach accordingly. That was the lesson here and he was going to learn it well. He would shine here and be able to hold his head high when his father wrote him. Yes, everything would be fine.
And just like that, Jesse and his fellow passengers were disgorged outside the post office on Trenton’s main street.
Looking around, Jesse had no idea what to do or where to go. Think, he told himself as his eyes ran over the buildings around him.
The post office was behind him, then beside that the general store, and then across the street the bank and an apothecary’s store. Besides that, a cobbler, and then further down the street, across from the saloon, the sheriff’s office. He sighed with relief, wondering if the placement of those two buildings had been planned or accidental.
Professor Donner had been watching him with an enigmatic smile on his face. As Jesse collected his luggage from the roof rack, he smiled at him.
“I see you know where to go,” the professor said. “And you really shouldn’t take the ramblings of a studious man as anything more than postulations. I spend all my time coming up with theories that my peers like to debunk….” He chuckled. “Anyway, my field is geology, and frankly, rocks don’t have much in the way of personalities.” He shrugged. “Still, I’ve always loved sociology, and so any time you want to talk, I’ll be staying at the Cotton Picker.” Seeing Jesse’s blank look, he pointed down the street. “The hotel there on the corner.”
“Right,” Jesse said. “This might take some getting used to.”
“I should imagine so. New York hasn’t been a town this small in a very, very long time,” he said. “Well, good luck, and I hope to see you around.”
Jesse smiled, and hefting his bags, he made his way to the sheriff’s station.
This little pokey place was nothing compared to the large, well-staffed place his father ran. Ascending the three steps to the porch, Jesse found the sheriff asleep in his rocking chair, a cigarillo, not unlike the ones his father smoked, dying in an ashtray made of copper beside the old man on a small table.
There was also a glass of what looked like cold lemonade. Jesse’s mouth began to water. Texas was a good deal hotter at this time of year than even New York was, and it had been a long time since he’d had something other than warm water to drink.
“Stop standing there and slathering at my drink,” the old man said. He was gray-haired, wrinkled, and had a paunch that sat squarely in his lap. His hands were worn, leathery, and dry like the ground. But the blue eyes that he fixed on Jesse were as sharp as flint.
“Sorry, sir,” Jesse said instantly, standing upright with his chin raised and his hands behind his back as his father liked men to stand when addressing him. “I’m Jesse Stone, reporting for duty.”
“Reporting…what?” the old man asked and then burst out laughing. “Is this what Reggie Stone has all his deputies doing? Walking around like they’re in the military?” He shook his gray head. “Well, I never!”
Jesse was unsure what to say to that. He swallowed and tried to think. Gosh, that journey had taken a lot out of him. All he could think about was that bathhouse up the road and then the possibility of clean sheets on a soft bed in the hotel. He felt as though he was covered in all the dust that the coach’s wheels had kicked up all the way from the train station.
“Well, take a load off, boy,” the sheriff said with a sigh. “We don’t stand on ceremony here. Gosh, with old Wilkins inside, there’s only the two of us, and he should have been in his grave about ten years ago.” He indicated the rocking chair on the other side of the small table. “So, have a seat.”
“I’d really like to get settled, sir,” Jesse said. “It’s been a long journey, and I’m a might parched and hungry….”
The sheriff sighed. “You’re determined to get me out of my chair. But fine, I can understand that. Let’s take a walk.”
With a great clicking of his bones, the sheriff rose to his feet. He was a large man, burly but not overly fat, and tall. He towered over Jesse, who was just under six feet tall. What did this man eat to get so big?
“So, this is the sheriff’s station,” he said with a lazy wave of his hand to the front door. “We can do the tour and handover tomorrow. You’ll be wanting to find yourself a good young deputy. As I said, we have Wilkins in there but he’s mostly blind, and so all he can do is listen to what’s going on. He’s good for messages, though. So up to you if you want to keep him. He also works for sweet tea and cookies.” The sheriff shrugged his huge shoulders. “He’s got a daughter who dotes on him, so she and her husband take care of all else he needs.”
Jesse nodded his understanding.
“But you’ll be wanting to see your house,” the sheriff said, and they set off down a side street towards a patch of tall, shade trees.
That sounded promising. A house, no less? Jesse had expected to be living in an apartment above the station or something like that. But a house? That was great. He only hoped it came with a housekeeper. He was no good at all that sweeping and cleaning nonsense. Anyway, he doubted he’d have time, what with keeping Trenton safe.
All his plans and ideas ground to a jerky halt in his head as the house came into view.
“There it is, the official sheriff’s residence,” the sheriff said. “I’ve never been inside. It was last used when my predecessor, Charles Moore, was sheriff, so it might need a little cleaning.”
Jesse took in the ramshackle, dilapidated building and shook his head. It didn’t need a little clean, it needed a total renovation. The roof was bowed in over the porch, there were several seasons’ worth of leaves mulched against the walls, and the windows were mostly cracked or downright broken and the walls had plants growing in them. Perhaps it should be burned to the ground, and then something much better built on its ashes. This was a disaster. But instead of saying what was on his mind, he turned to the sheriff and said, “So, I’ll be staying at the Cotton Picker then.”
“Wise choice,” the man said. And with that, they turned and headed back to the main street.
“Treasured Secrets Of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
After the tragic death of her parents, Lauren Sosa avoided people for many years in response to her brother’s warnings. Her life takes a strange turn though after she stumbles upon some gold in the woods. Unaware of the consequences that await her brother, she immediately informs the new sheriff about her discovery.
Little did she know that she would soon have to choose between her heart’s desires and loyalty to the only family she’s known…
Jesse comes to town as a sheriff and vows to protect the locals from a notorious band of bandits. When Lauren shows up with the gold, he begins to wonder about her intentions and suspects her brother might be involved. As he follows the clues, secrets of the past soon start inching into the light and Jesse faces an impossible decision – one that could result in him losing everything…
Will Jesse stay true to his purpose or will his heart instead force him to explore powerful feelings he hadn’t bargained for?
Thrown together by fate, neither can deny their life-changing connection for much longer. However, to protect their growing feelings, Lauren and Jesse have to take their stand against corruption and triumph over it. When deception puts their relationship to the test once again, will Lauren and Jesse overcome their troubles and find true happiness?
“Treasured Secrets Of Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.