To win his father's ranch, a hard-living cowboy settles down and takes a wife -- another man's wife!
The youngest McKettrick brother, Jeb, is the wild one who never could stay out of trouble. And trouble is what he gets when he proposes to Chloe Wakefield. No sooner had he and the pretty schoolteacher tied the knot than Jeb discovers she's already married! After a major dustup with Chloe in a Tombstone barroom, an irate Jeb hightails it back to the Triple M Ranch, certain that his chances of winning the spread in a marriage race with his brothers are dashed.
Now Chloe has come to Indian Rock, hoping to find her beloved uncle John and a much-needed teaching post. But when she unexpectedly crosses paths with Jeb, her rage -- and passion -- flare even stronger than back in Tombstone. Chloe never intended to mislead Jeb about her previous marriage to a scoundrel of a man. But when she finds out Jeb needs a bride and a baby in order to inherit the Triple M, she is livid.
Learning to trust will be the hardest part of this mixed-up marriage -- until a stagecoach robbery and the return of a dangerous stranger prove to Jeb and Chloe that they need each other to love and honor as long as they both shall live.
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February 17, 2005
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Excerpt from Secondhand Bride by Linda Lael Miller
Triple M Ranch, Arizona Territory
There was no place to run to, no place to hide.
Jeb McKettrick, always careening recklessly from the core of his being to the circumference and back again, was caught between the bunkhouse wall and the manure pile, with all the rage of a woman scorned bearing down on him in redheaded, whip-wielding, chicken-scattering fury.
Chloe Wakefield had found him, as surely as the needle of a compass finds due north, and chased him all the way from Indian Rock. Pretty much kept up, too, even though he'd been on a fast horse.
He was dead meat.
The buggy she drove might have been a chariot, drawn by the four horses of the Apocalypse, instead of a battered conveyance and a single lathered and huffing nag, both hastily procured at the livery stable in town. For the length of a heartbeat, Jeb actually believed she meant to run him down, grind him into a pulp under the wheels of that spindly, black-bonneted rig. For all his reckless love of life, he could not help but conclude that there would have been a certain mercy in oblivion. At least then he wouldn't have had to deal with the problem.
Clearly, he was not to be spared.
After a minute or two, his stepmother's chickens settled down a little, though, and went back to their ground-pecking and feather-shuffling. Maybe that was a good omen.
The only rooster in evidence, Jeb scrambled for his trademark grin, his one talisman, found a shaky semblance of it, and stuck it to his mouth. He put his hands out from his sides and made himself the picture of innocent affability, though on the inside, he was a tangle of contradictory emotions ' sweet terror, bitter amusement, and anger, too, because, dammit, he was right, and she was wrong. And because he had never guessed, before that day, that among his many secret and interchangeable selves lurked a yellow-bellied chicken heart.
"Chloe," he said, making a plea of the word, as well as a smooth reprimand. A red hen tapped briefly at the toe of his right boot; he ankled it aside impatiently.
Standing up in the buggy now, drawing back on the reins with powerful, delicate hands, Chloe fixed him in a sapphire glare. "Don't you 'Chloe' me, Jeb McKettrick!" she commanded. "You're a liar and a cheat and three kinds of devil ' you've all but ruined my reputation and my life, you sorry excuse for a man, and I have half a mind to whip the hide off you right here and now!"