Saddle weary, a former deputy US Marshal rides into Denton, Texas. He’d hunted a swindler and his daughter—or identical twin daughters if he's is right—and he feels he finally has caught up with this criminal gang. Unfortunately, He is immediately distracted by a lovely redhead who crosses his path.
Here's an excerpt:
Esther Brians put the finishing touches on her upswept, Gibson Girl hairstyle when Allen knocked on the door of her apartment. She shoved one last hairpin into her hair to anchor it before she answered the door.
“I’m coming.” Thick carpet muffled her footsteps as she crossed the parlor. She opened the door and hugged her brother. “Why didn’t you just use your key?”
Allen returned her hug, then stood back. “I only kept the key because you insisted. It’s a good idea for me to check on things for you when you’re out at the farm, since you’re living here alone. But I won’t use it for any other reason. You deserve your privacy.” He glanced around the room that had been Marie’s home before she and Allen married. He had spent a lot of time here visiting with his sister and later courting Marie. “I like what you’ve done with the place. It really expresses your personality.”
“Thank you, kind sir.” Esther gave a low curtsey. She and her brother had enjoyed a playful relationship all their lives.
“Are you ready?” Allen picked up her jacket from the claret-colored velvet settee. After helping her into the wrap, he opened the door, and they proceeded down the stairs into the warm, August twilight.
Esther placed her hand in the crook of his arm as they walked across the street to the hotel. “It was really nice of Marie to offer to keep Gerald and Linda’s children so we could take them out to dinner for their anniversary.”
“She loves those two little ones. And I do, too. They come over to our house a lot, since we live so close.”
When they entered the lobby of the hotel, Esther glanced around. She didn’t come here often, but she always liked the friendly, yet elegant, atmosphere. The gaslights around the walls gave a warm glow to the plush carpeting and matching wallpaper. Esther liked that they used a lot of potted plants in the decor. It enhanced the sense of opulence ... and freshness. When she came to the hotel, it made her feel that Denton was as cosmopolitan as Chicago or even New York City.
A man descending the wide staircase that dominated the room drew Esther’s attention. He stood taller than any other man she had ever seen. Although his body looked lean, muscles rippled under his shirt and slacks. His dark, clean-shaven face sported a neat mustache. He must have spent a lot of time in the sun, and the tan looked good on him. Much of his forehead appeared lighter than the rest of his face, evidence he wore a Stetson most of the time. The fine lines fanning out from the corner of each eye revealed that he squinted against the blazing sun, and they only enhanced his good looks.
He wasn’t dressed like a cowboy, but as he walked down the stairs, he had the bowlegged gait of a man who spent most of his life on the back of a horse. His luxuriously thick, dark hair looked wet. It was slicked back, but separate locks were pulling into strong waves as they dried.
For some unexplainable reason, Esther felt drawn to him. Her fingers tingled with the desire to brush back an errant curl that had drooped over his strong forehead. She had never felt this way about any man.
For a moment, she held her breath in wonder. His most arresting feature, his eyes, shone a clear, icy blue. When his gaze met hers, something passed between them, a feeling both exciting … and disturbing. As if they were connected somehow. Uncomfortable, Esther quickly looked away.
What in the world is wrong with me? Maybe it was because all her close friends had husbands, and she wanted one, too. Why did some stranger affect her this way? Esther felt relieved when Gerald and Linda arrived at that moment, and the four of them went into the dining room. She tried to dismiss the man from her thoughts as she followed her brothers and sister-in-law to their table.
When they were seated at a table in the dining room, Esther decided to forget what had happened in the hotel lobby and concentrate on her brothers and sister-in-law. “Well, Linda, I guess it’s nice for you to go out without the children.”
Linda smiled at her. “Oh yes, it’s a real treat. It was good of you and Allen to plan this little celebration.”
“Actually, it was Marie’s idea.” Allen picked up his linen napkin and spread it across his lap.
“Why didn’t she come with us?” Linda smiled at her.
Esther laughed. “You mean besides the fact that she’s keeping your children for you?” Linda nodded. “I offered to keep them at the apartment, but Marie thought it would be special for Gerald’s brother and sister to take the two of you out.”
Allen picked up his fork and absently turned it over and over in his hands as if checking its weight. “She really likes having Olivia and Stephen at the house.” He put the fork down and cleared his throat. “She’s hoping we’ll have a little one ourselves pretty soon. I told her it has only been a few months since we married, and I enjoy our time together, but I’m eager for our own children, too.”
Gerald patted his wife’s hand. “Well, we have an announcement to make, and you two are the first to hear it.”
Linda blushed and looked down at the table in front of her. “We are going to have another baby.”
Esther got up, hurried around the table, and hugged her. “I’m so happy for you.” When she passed Gerald on the way back to her chair, she hugged him, too. “And I’m happy for you, big brother.”
The waitress came to their table. “What are we all having tonight?”
“This calls for steaks.” Allen looked at each of them in turn. “Unless you want something else. We have a lot to celebrate.”
When the waitress left, conversation flowed around the table, but Esther’s attention was divided.
That cowboy sat across the room. She could see him when she turned to talk to Allen. He seemed to be enjoying his food, but once in a while, she felt his gaze on her. Why did he do that? It made her very uncomfortable. Even though she enjoyed having this time with her relatives, she couldn’t forget the man or the impression he made on her when they stood in the lobby.
Esther knew it didn’t make any sense. She felt drawn to him, even here in the dining room. She noticed when his coffee arrived. While he ate his roast beef and hot rolls, she looked at him from time to time. He had perfect table manners, not like most of the cowboys she had seen in the past. She didn’t want him to catch her watching, so she peeked at him out of the corner of her eyes to make sure it wasn’t when he was looking at her.
She was acting like a desperate old maid. Just because everyone else was married, it didn’t mean anything was wrong with her life, did it? Her business was successful, and she had a comfortable home, good friends, and a family who loved her.
But they weren’t a husband and children. She felt that deep longing she’d harbored since she became an adult. She wanted to be loved by a man the way her father loved her mother. The way Gerald loved Linda. The way Allen loved Marie. The way Marie’s brothers Oliver and Leonard loved their wives. She wanted a home of her own, not just an apartment above a store … and she wanted children. To feel their arms around her neck. To have them call her, Mother.
Oh yes, Esther wanted all those things more than she could tell anyone. But that cowboy across the dining room wasn’t the man to give them to her.
The ebook is up on Amazon for pre-order.
I’m planning for the print copy to release at the same time as the ebook.
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