Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: June 4, 2018
“You’re my wife, understand?”
Thrown off-guard, she raised her head, staring into the intense blue eyes of the gunman. His looks were even more heart-stopping close up. Instinct compelled her to jerk away from him and inwardly question her own satisfaction when his strength prevented it. The gunman’s fingers wrapped around her arms like iron clamps, yet the contact was surprisingly gentle. In such close proximity, the gunman emanated even more power. She found it necessary to tilt her head upward to see his face. She stood eye level with most men, but not with this gunman. A head taller than she, he possessed a body sculpted in hard muscle.
“What’s your name?”
“Taryn Ashford.” She was afraid of what he would do if she refused to give him the information. A man wearing a badge walked up to them—the same sheriff she saw the gunman speaking to earlier. The sheriff contemplated her then addressed the gunman. “I see you’ve found your wife.”
A smile replaced the gunman’s dark expression. “Yes.” She felt the gunman’s arm slip around her waist holding her fast to his side. She stiffened at his intimacy while, at the same time, attempted to justify the fluttering of her heart his touch inspired. “Sweetheart,” he said, turning to her with a tender look, “this is the man I was telling you about.”
She stared at the gunman in astonishment noting how easily he switched his moods. His words came out in a soft southern drawl, managing to accelerate the simple flutter of her heart to a skip-pound-skip rhythm. The circumstances may be an act, but his dialect certainly was not. She found the gunman’s endearment forced and unnecessary. Nevertheless, she concocted a story to explain the reason for being away from her ‘husband’s’ side. Her willingness to help the gunman shocked her. The proper thing to do would be to expose the gunman’s fraudulent scheme to the sheriff. Other than the gunman’s warning look, daring her to inform the sheriff of the true circumstances, there was no reason she should help the outlaw. His stare made her think twice. She forced her own smile. “Yes, of course, I’m afraid the meal we partook of this morning upset my stomach somewhat, and well…” She made an affected gesture with her hand when her words trailed off. She could only hope her implication was clear. In apparent full understanding of a woman’s weaknesses, the sheriff eased his tense stance.
“Yes, I imagine it isn’t the most enjoyable journey for a woman.” He regarded the gunman. “You’ll pardon me for my misconception. My eagerness for justice outweighed my senses.”
“Think nothing of it,” the gunman said, generous in his forgiveness of the man’s mistake. “I wish you luck in finding the culprit you seek.”
The sheriff left them, and Taryn tugged away from the gunman, no longer needing to pretend. “What misconception? How dare you use me! I have a good mind to…”
The gunman cut off her words by dragging her hard against him and pressed his mouth over hers for a bold kiss. She tore her mouth away, her senses reeling from the heat of his kiss as she attempted to recapture her breath. The gunman briefly directed his gaze over her shoulder before taking her head gently in his hands and silently demanding she kiss him again. Outrage was at the forefront of her mind, but there was also the underlying sensation of the kiss. His mouth slanted over hers, his lips warm as he moved them over her mouth. There was a fresh, clean smell about him heady in its effect on her. Her heart pounded erratically, but fear didn’t cause its rapid beat. Surprise, shock, and perhaps something else which she could not pinpoint. The gunman’s arms wrapped around her so she was on tiptoe. If he released his hold of her, she was certain she would fall to the ground in an unladylike heap. The gunman set her back on her feet, and she took a few deep breaths to regain her composure. Something in her expression must have spoken the question she was about to ask him.
“My persistent friend had to have one last look.”
She discreetly turned to see the sheriff shifting his attention back to them. He nodded, then walked on, satisfied with the authenticity of their relationship. She adjusted her bonnet with rapid precision as she faced him once more. “Are my wifely duties finished?”
She spun around in a huff anxious to be away from his arrogant self.
“By the way,” the gunman said, casually leaning back against the building, withdrawing a cheroot before striking a match to it, “you lie extremely well.”
This time the gunman’s features held a conspiratorial look, his words spoken as if giving a compliment. When the gunman smiled, Taryn found his charm difficult to ignore. The look she tossed in his direction held the right amount of disdain. Without a word, she turned and walked back toward the group waiting to board the train. In spite of herself, she could not help appreciate the exhilaration the situation gave her. A slow smile crept across her face.
About Colleen O’Connell
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