Confident and coolheaded, nothing shakes a Man of Defiance--except a woman he can't resist. . .
Sarah Hawkins survived capture by the Sioux, but after her escape she faced public scorn. Now, she'll do anything to start over, and the dusty town of Defiance promises the anonymity and security she needs. Before she melts into the shadows, though, it's her mission to put a great injustice to rights, and that means jeopardizing her safety once more.
But this time, she's not alone. Without meaning to, Sarah has fallen under the protection of Logan Taggert, a rough-and-tumble trader unused to caring for others--and yet unable to ignore the tempting, tenacious woman's plight. Though she refuses to trust him, Logan won't leave her side, keeping her one step ahead of danger. . .even as she takes hold of the very thing he never thought he'd risk: his heart.
"A beautiful romance. . .that keeps the reader hooked from the first page to the last." --New York Times bestselling author, Catherine Anderson on Leah and the Bounty Hunter
"Plenty of action makes this rough-and-ready Western one that fans are sure to enjoy." --Library Journal on Audrey and the Maverick
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March 06, 2012
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Excerpt from Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine
Fort Buford, Dakota Territory, June 1875
The cold steel of the Peacemaker gave Sarah Hawkins an artificial sense of security. Had she owned this gun a year ago, the Sioux would never have taken her alive.
"You're too little for that piece," the shopkeeper said as he frowned down at the revolver she was ex�amining. "That's a seven�and�a�half�inch barrel, almost three pounds fully loaded. And begging your pardon, ma'am, but after you fire it, you'll be sit�ting on your backside."
"I have to agree, Mrs. Hawkins," Captain Frasier spoke up. "A derringer is just as deadly and would be easier for you to handle. You don't have the strength a man has in his hands and shoulders to use a Colt effectively."
Sarah checked the cylinders of both guns. They were empty. She pointed the derringer at the shop�keeper, practicing her aim, familiarizing herself with the weapon. He barely registered concern. When she lifted the Peacemaker, he stepped back quickly--even knowing it wasn't loaded. A gun was for killing. The bigger, the better.
The fear she'd felt when the war party raided their cabin had been crippling. She doubted her ability to kill herself with the little derringer, should the situation arise again. And she knew, sometime in the next fortnight, it would.
"How much for the Colt?" she asked the shop�keeper.
Sarah gasped, shocked. "The catalog price is just seventeen dollars! Shame on you for taking advan�tage of a widow."
"I got a strong market for that gun, ma'am. Ain't a man on the post who wouldn't sign over two months' wages for it. None of 'em want to be caught out on the plains without a piece of iron at their side. But if you want the catalog price, then I'll place that order for you. In three months or so you'll have your gun."
Waiting was not possible. She was leaving for Cheyenne tomorrow. "I'll pay twenty dollars for the gun and five boxes of cartridges."
The shopkeeper's eyes bulged. "You want me to give it away? I told you I got buyers standing in line for it."
The captain cleared his throat, catching the shop�keeper's eye. A look or signal passed between the men that made Sarah grit her teeth. She was a sup�plicant, in need of anyone and everyone's help.
The women at the fort had taken up a collection for her, which was the source of the funds she planned to use for the gun--and the very clothes she wore. She hated being needy, even as she was grateful so many were willing to help.
After paying for her stage ticket and food sup�plies for the journey, she had only thirty dollars to her name. This purchase would leave her with ten dollars once she reached Cheyenne, enough to live on for two weeks if she found affordable lodging and ate only once a day. Two weeks was enough time for her to find a job, to begin over--or at least, to find a way to support herself until she felt it was safe enough to leave Cheyenne.
It was the only plan she had, and she was sticking to it.
"What I expect, sir, is for you to sell the gun to me for a fair price."
The shopkeeper glared at her, his mouth com�pressed into a thin line. He exchanged another look with the captain. "The gun and three boxes of cartridges."
"Done," she said. "And throw in a holster and a gun belt," the cap�tain added. "And a kit for cleaning the pistol."
"No!" Sarah turned to look at him. "I haven't the funds for those things. The gun and cartridges are all I need."
"Then the others will be my gift to you, Mrs. Hawkins. It is the least I can do, as an officer of the United States Army."
The shopkeeper eyed her waist. "Don't have a gun belt that'll fit a tiny thing like her."
"Then get a large one we can wrap twice around her," the captain said. A short while later, at an area designated for shooting practice, Sarah took the gun out of the holster and put it back, twice, getting a feel for the revolver, making sure she could handle it even with the tight fit of her gloves. The weapon's heavy weight made her feel less a victim. The Sioux might come for her again, but if they did, she wouldn't be taken alive--and she wouldn't die alone.
She nodded at Captain Frasier, ready to begin learning some rudimentary things about loading and handling her gun. "Have you ever known a gun�fighter, Captain?"
He frowned. "Why do you ask that?"
Sarah smiled as she holstered her Colt and spread her hands wide. "Because I feel like one right now. Don't I look rather fearsome?" She laughed, softening the intense curiosity behind her question.
"I did know one once. Red McGuire. He's in jail now. Heard there was another one up in Defiance, but I think he's retired."
"What's his name? Where's Defiance?"
"Jace Gage. Wyoming." Captain Frasier crossed his arms. "You seem intent on finding a gunfighter. Why?"
Sarah sighed. "I'll only have this afternoon to practice with you. Surely it takes much longer to become an expert shootist."
The captain's brows lifted. "Mrs. Hawkins, please forgive my curiosity, but why in God's name would you want to become a shootist?"
"Because, Captain, I am a widow. I need to be able to protect myself."
The captain glared down at her. A red flush slowly rose up his neck. "None of that is necessary. You could marry me. I would protect you. You would have my name. No one would dare whisper even a hint about what happened to you. You wouldn't have to leave the fort, except with me when I'm re�assigned to a new post." He took hold of her free hand as his words spilled out in an impassioned fervor.
At the contact, a buzzing started in Sarah's head. She tried to pull free, but he wouldn't release her. She tried again with no better results. Her lungs ceased pulling air.
"Please tell me you'll consider my proposal." Sarah went very still, neither resisting nor encour�aging him. "I know what you've been through, what those red monsters did to you. You must know by now that I would not hold it against you."
He paused, releasing her hand as he became aware of her stillness. Anger broke the panic crip�pling her lungs, letting her take little gasps of air. Her wounds were still raw, her scars permanent. If he married her, she doubted he would ever be able to forget--or let her forget--what had been done to her.
It didn't help any to know the captain was right. Few men would take her to wife once they learned what had happened to her. She had no money, no skills, and no family. Though she was fairly well ed�ucated and could perhaps find a teaching job, that would only last until her students' parents learned she had been a captive. Everything was lost to her. Perhaps, when she had completed the task she'd set for herself, his offer would still be open.
Marriage--to anyone--was her best chance for survival.