Cover & Excerpt
In the Arizona Territory of the early l880's, a courageous settler from the East and an aristocratic cattle baron become involved in a love/hate relationship.
Although attracted to each other, Mary and Cal are also distrustful and antagonistic toward one another.
The dangers they face draw them together as they are forced to deal with them. Mary suspects that Cal is responsible for trying to drive the homesteaders and sheepherders off the land cattlemen consider rightfully theirs.
When her uncle is murdered, Mary intends to discover who is responsible and why. In so doing, she becomes a person of interest to a vicious outlaw.
Cal, who had a mother desert him at an early age, plus a bad experience with his former fiancée, is equally suspicious of women.
When these two finally begin to surmount their personal prejudices, people and circumstances place dangerous obstacles in their path and put their lives in jeopardy.
Genre: Western RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon BAM B&N
Content/Theme(s): Historical, Thriller, Romantic Suspense
Release Date: January 20, 2016
Publisher: Five Star/Cengage
Excerpt & More
“You’re a fool.”
Mary MacGreggor stared up at the ice-blue eyes of the handsome cowman in front of her with surprise bordering on shock. She simply did not believe he could be so rude. Surely, even in the West, people must learn manners? The tall rancher looked from Uncle Isaac to her, shook his head, and then dismounted.
“Am I to understand you won’t do business with me?” Isaac asked in a calm, quiet voice.
“Didn’t say that, Mr. Stafford.” The rancher glanced over at Mary, raking her boldly from head to toe with a single look she found embarrassing. Unconsciously, Mary’s hand went to her head to straighten her bonnet.
“I never discuss business in front of a lady, not even a pretty one.” His tone was arrogant and patronizing. But then, wasn’t that just the way with rich people, thinking and acting as if they were so much better than everyone else?
And there was no doubt this cowboy was rich. Uncle Isaac had explained to her that Cal Davis owned Rancho Royo and the Thunderbolt, both of which were large spreads, and taken together, the biggest cattle ranch in Arizona. Cal Davis’s property also included much in the way of forested acreage, which was what interested them.
“Mr. Davis, I should introduce you to my niece, Mary MacGreggor. She is also my partner in the farm, since half of the financial investment is hers. You’ll also find she has a good head for business.”
The rancher looked down at her with what she could only interpret as an amused air of superiority. She felt the blood rising to her face and averted her gaze.
“I was told that you planned to meet me here today to ask about buying some of my lumber,” Davis said in a flat voice.
“That’s right. We intend to build a permanent dwelling, and therefore, it should be the best structure we can afford.”
“Why don’t you join me while I pick up some things in the general store and we’ll talk this over.” Although his voice now sounded polite, his manner was still disdainful.
They followed Cal Davis into a store that bore the sign “Emporium” in the front window. Once inside, Mary looked around, noticing that harnesses hung from the ceiling, along with saddles and bridles. The store seemed to sell a little of everything; big sacks of sugar and flour were piled up in one corner, bolts of calico in another.
Cal Davis walked up to the counter and asked the store owner about checking over some accounts. Then he turned back to them once again. Mary surveyed the man. He seemed just as tall out of the saddle as he had looked in it. He was lean but well-built, with broad, muscular shoulders and narrow hips. The man wore fine black leather boots which extended to his knees. A brown work shirt, jeans, leather vest, and brown Stetson completed his wardrobe. Strapped to his thigh was a holstered revolver that made him look dangerous.
“There’s plenty of good pine and fir trees up in the hills. We’ve been blessed that way. But the fact is, I don’t think you’ll be needin’ it.”
Isaac wrinkled his brow, looking much older than his thirty-seven years. “What makes you say that?”
“Plain truth is the land you’ve claimed ain’t fit for farming.”
“I don’t understand,” Mary said. It was the first time she had spoken and both men looked at her. Mr. Davis, in particular, seemed surprised at having a woman comment during a business discussion.
As he removed his hat in what seemed to be a gesture of deference to her, she could not help but notice how sun-streaked his light brown hair was or how it fell in waves over his long forehead. There were slight creases at the corners of his eyes as if he were accustomed to squinting at the sun.
“ Ma’am, we’ve always used that land for grazing Thunderbolt cattle. It just ain’t fit for anything else.”
“My uncle thinks it could be.”
His mouth smiled, but his eyes were anything but friendly. She met his level gaze directly, looking up into the tanned, weather-beaten face.
“This place ain’t nothin’ like the East. I think you folks are underestimating the difficulties you’ll find out here.”
“There’s a stream on the property I plan to use to irrigate the crops,” her uncle said in a meek voice. “I’m certain we can manage.”
The cowboy stood with arrow-straight posture, his erect bearing giving the impression of a man who held himself aloof, while in contrast, her uncle’s shoulders were slightly stooped, suggesting a yielding and gentler temperament.
“Suit yourselves,” Cal Davis said with a shrug. “But you’re wasting time, money, and effort on land that’s fit for nothing but cattle ranching. I think you folks would do well to move on.” Mary noted he had a soft, controlled voice with just the hint of a Southern accent.
“How can we trust your advice, Mr. Davis, since it seems fairly obvious that you consider the land as rightfully belonging to you.” She couldn’t seem to help sounding angry and accusing.
“That’s true enough, ma’am. As far as I’m concerned, you’re nothin’ but squatters.” He looked directly into her eyes, his dark blue orbs cold as a lake in winter. “I would like to keep that land for myself. But if you think I’m warning you for selfish reasons, well, you’re dead wrong.” He spoke through pursed lips.
“That remains to be seen,” she countered.
He shot a bolt of blue lightning in her direction. “Have it your way, ma’am, but don’t ever say you weren’t warned. That land gets hit by drought real regular. When your creek dries up this summer, don’t you be surprised.”
“Mr. Davis, our family has gone through a lot of trouble to come west and we’re not about to give up without a fight.” Her eyes locked with his.
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