One special lady will help this cowboy lawman win his father's ranch -- and steal his heart in the bargain....
Kade McKettrick's got five mail-order brides-to-be camped out at the local hotel, all more than eager to provide him with the heir that will win him the Triple M ranch. But Kade, the newly appointed marshal, has his hands full with a troublesome outlaw gang. Why, then, is he so easily distracted by pretty "Sister Mandy" -- who most assuredly is not the nun she claims to be?
On the run from her outlaw stepfather, Mandy Sperrin hides beneath her solemn disguise, and vows to keep her wild, passionate nature from the respectable citizens of Indian Rock. Yet when the handsome marshal makes it clear that he wants her, Mandy gives in to her heated desires....
Despite the secrets that may lure them both perilously close to danger, Kade knows that proposing marriage may be the only way to keep this spirited woman by his side. But are her ties to a shadowed past more threatening -- and closer -- than Kade knows? His strong, sensual embrace may charm Mandy's wild heart -- but will she surrender to a lifetime of his deep and powerful love?
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Shotgun Bride by Linda Lael Miller
EARLY MARCH, 1885
Kade McKettrick rode slowly into Indian Rock, that raw and ragged afternoon at the tail end of winter, hat pulled low over his eyes, the collar of his muddy black duster raised in a futile effort to warm his ears. He'd grown a beard in the weeks since he'd left the Triple M, at the old man's worried urging, in search of the recalcitrant brother riding beside him now. Far as he was concerned, the old man had nobody but himself to blame for all the problems. He'd been the one to pit his three sons against one another in the first place by issuing a decree that the first to marry and produce a child could get the ranch.
Now, Kade's hair was shaggy, his scalp itched, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd had a hot bath, a sound night's sleep, or a decent meal. After following a number of false trails, he'd finally tracked Jeb to Tombstone, where the little bastard had been having a high old time, and the whole experience had left Kade with a sour taste in his mouth. Right about then, he'd just as soon knock out a couple of Jeb's perfect teeth as look at him.
Jeb had come along willingly enough, probably because he'd been up to no good in Tombstone and gotten on the wrong side of some bad people, though if he'd wanted to stay, Kade would have had a fight on his hands. Jeb hadn't offered any insights into what he'd been doing, and Kade, being equally stubborn, hadn't asked for any, though he'd surmised on his own that women were involved. With Jeb, women were always involved.
The fact was, he was curious about his brother's exploits, but he was in no mood for Jeb's patented smirk and smart-ass rhetoric, so it was better all around to leave well enough alone, for the time being at least.
Main Street was uncommonly quiet, and the air had a certain weight, as though something were waiting out there, just beyond the edge of town, building up steam. Without exchanging so much as a glance, the brothers reined in at the livery stable, where Old Billy kept his blacksmith shop, saying as few words as possible to each other or the talkative proprietor while they made the arrangements and left their horses to be fed, groomed, and put up for the night. Kade wanted nothing so much as to get back to the Triple M, back to his books and his own bed and Concepcion's fine and consistent cooking, but night was coming on, and the animals were spent from several days of hard riding. The ranch was just two hours away, but it might as well have been twenty, in terms of the effort required to get there.
Leaving the livery, Kade and Jeb walked side by side down the broad wooden sidewalk, spurs jingling in discordant concert. The emptiness of the street made Kade edgy; he scanned the storefronts and roofs on either side -- looking for what Strangers Riflemen He didn't know, but something.
A skiff of a snowfall began, riding a stinging wind and putting a seal on his glum mood.
The Arizona Hotel was just ahead, spilling light from its windows, the new parts of it framed in with lumber but still skeletal, and Kade raised a hand to his beard as they approached, wishing he looked a mite more presentable. There was a good chance that Emmeline, their elder brother Rafe's wife, would be there, since she was part owner, along with her spirited and unconventional mother, and Kade had a tender place for his sister-in-law. Rafe he hoped to avoid, at least for a while. Ever since their father had laid down the law about the ranch, they'd been at odds.