Former U.S. Marshal Eamon MacDermott failed to prevent the death of his brother, sister-in-law, and young nephew at the hands of the Logan gang. Wracked by guilt, he’s hung up his guns and turned his back on life altogether. That is, until he meets Theodosia “Theo” Danforth.
Widowed and running Morning Mist horse farm with the help of her extended family and friends, Theo harbors an unshakable belief that everyone needs kindness—even the town’s founder who is determined to claim her lands. But how can she convince Eamon he is worthy of happiness?
When the outlaw gang resurfaces and join forces to destroy Morning Mist, Eamon must choose between picking up his guns again to extract vengeance or letting the past remain in the past and forging a new future with Theo.
Eamon removed his hat from his head and approached the old woman. “Excuse me, ma’am.”
She didn’t jump or stop pulling weeds from between rows of sprouting greenery. In fact, she didn’t seem to be alarmed by his sudden appearance at all. Instead, she peered at him from beneath the wide brim of her hat. Her sharp brown eyes boldly assessed him as her scrutiny went from the top of his hatless head to the boots on his feet and back. She smiled, the wrinkles on her face deepening, as she nodded. “Well, now, you certainly took your time gettin’ here, son, but you’ll do.”
Somewhat taken aback by the comment, Eamon peered at the woman and frowned. She spoke as if she’d expected him, but how could she have known? He hadn’t known until a short time ago he’d be here.
She continued her frank appraisal, then stuck out her hand. “Lavinia Stark, but you can call me Granny. Everyone does.”
Despite her misshapen hands, her grip was strong and solid.
He never had a chance to finish his sentence or introduce himself. He heard the back door open, then the distinct double click of a shotgun being cocked.
Eamon released the woman’s hand and dropped his hat to the ground. Without another thought, he reached for the pistols slung low around his hips but found . . . nothing. No holster, no guns. He’d forgotten he no longer wore them—they weren’t part of him anymore and hadn’t been for a long time. He took a deep breath, turned slowly to face the direction of the noise, and blinked several times. A woman stood before him, the shotgun steady in her hands. Dressed in a white blouse, a split skirt made of fine, soft suede, and tooled leather boots, she stunned him with her perfection. A hank of whiskey-colored hair slipped from the ponytail at the back of her head and fell forward. She swung it out of her face with a practiced jerk of her head.
She spoke, her voice low and gravelly, but exuding confidence. “Mister, I don’t know who you are, but if I were you, I’d get off my land. I’ve never killed anyone, but there’s always a first time.” She didn’t raise the shotgun and point it at him, but she didn’t have to. The threat couldn’t have been more clear. She would if he forced her hand.
She stood not ten feet away and looked . . . angry and unapologetic. Determined to make him leave. Green eyes, as green as spring grass, sparkled with indignation, and the firm set of her mouth left no doubt . . . she wanted nothing more than to have him gone, and he didn’t think she would hesitate to pull the trigger.
“And you can tell Mr. Pearce I haven’t changed my mind.” Her voice dropped an octave, becoming more hoarse, sounding like she gargled three times a day with rocks, but still strong and commanding and oddly, very pleasant. “I’m not selling. I’ll never sell. I don’t care how many men he sends to bully me. He’s messing with the wrong woman.”
“I don’t mean no harm, ma’am.” Eamon took a step back . . . a slow careful step, and just as carefully, picked up his hat. “I don’t know any Mr. Pearce. I’m just lookin’ for work. Or maybe a hot meal.”
She didn’t seem convinced as she stepped closer, her eyes narrowing as she studied his face.
“Theo Danforth! Put down that shotgun!” The woman beside him finally spoke and moved with a swiftness that belied her age, advancing on the woman named Theo.
A heated, whispered conversation, which Eamon couldn’t hear, ensued while he watched both women warily, his hat still in his hands, his feet planted firmly to the ground. Their conversation became more animated, though he still couldn’t hear their words. The fact Theo still held the weapon tightly in her hands was enough to let him know he wasn’t welcome.
“Look, lady, I’ll just leave. No harm done.” He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, his discomfort growing by the second. No one liked being on the wrong side of a gun, no matter which side of the law one stood on, even if the bore of the shotgun was pointed at the ground. Accidents could happen. “I ain’t that hungry.”
Despite his words, his empty stomach chose that moment to gurgle loudly. Much to his embarrassment, the noise carried to where to the two women argued. The younger one snapped her mouth shut in midsentence, while the older one, Granny, grinned with smug satisfaction.
Theo relaxed her grip on the gun, but she still didn’t smile. “The least I can do is feed you,” she said, though her expression made it clear she wasn’t happy about it. She turned and marched through the back porch into the house, slamming the door behind her.
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A WORD ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Marie Patrick has always had a love affair with words and books, but it wasn’t until a trip to Arizona, where she now makes her home with her husband and furry, four-legged “girl,” that she became inspired to write about the sometimes desolate, yet beautiful landscape. Her inspiration doesn’t just come from the Wild West, though. It comes from history itself. She is fascinated with pirates and men in uniform and lawmen with shiny badges. When not writing or researching her favorite topics, she can usually be found curled up with a good book. Marie loves to hear from her readers. Drop her a note at Akamariep@aol.com, or visit her website at www.mariepatrick.com.