Marshal Shay McQuillan has a lot on his hands -- stagecoach robbers to hunt down, a murdered fiancée to avenge. He certainly doesn't need an identical twin brother he never knew existed turning up out of the blue and telling him what to do. Even less does he want pretty Aislinn Lethaby trying to rescue him from danger. Because, to tell the truth, Aislinn is a sweet distraction from duty whom Shay just can't resist.
Aislinn Lethaby has a fine job at the town hotel. Soon, she'll have saved enough to buy the broken-down homestead she has her eye on and bring her young brothers west. She has no business jeopardizing everything when she sees Shay in danger. But something about the man makes Aislinn lose all the good sense she thought she had -- and follow the longings of her heart.
Now that he's finally found his twin brother, all Tristan Saint-Laurent wants is to be a peaceful rancher. What he gets is Miss Emily Starbuck, a determined package of trouble from back East. Tristan knows he should tell Emily and her aggravating sheep to move along, but he doesn't have the heart. Suddenly this man of danger is dreaming of weddings and babies. But the life he's left behind may yet come between him and the woman he's growing to love.
Emily Starbuck is making a fresh start by raising the sheep she's bought with a meager inheritance. She's willing to fight every cattleman in the West, but she can't resist Tristan. His handsome face and lean, strong body make her knees buckle, and her thoughts move to sharing a blissful ranch life with the man. But what Emily doesn't know about Tristan could jeopardize their dream of happiness.
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September 29, 1998
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Excerpt from Two Brothers by Linda Lael Miller
Chapter One from The Lawman
Prominence, California, June of 1883
He didn't even attempt to draw on the intruder; it was far too late for that. The cold weight of a pistol barrel rested in the hollow of his throat, and he heard the click of the hammer as it snapped back.
"Don't move." The voice unnerved him almost as much as the situation in which he found himself, for it might have come from his own throat. The tone, the timbre, were his.
"I didn't plan on it," he answered. It was still dark in the jail cell, where he had made his bed after a night passed in the card room behind the Yellow Garter Saloon, and all he could make out, looking up through his eyelashes, besides the blue-black barrel of the gun, was a glint of light hair and an impression of wolf-white teeth.
Delicately, the stranger relieved him of the .45 in his holster, still strapped to his hip, spun it fancy-like on one finger, and laid it aside with a clatter. A match was struck, and Shay caught the sharp, familiar scents of sulphur and kerosene, mingled. Thin light spilled over the jailhouse cot and dazzled him for a moment, but he knew he was still square in the other man's sights.
The visitor whistled low through his teeth. "So," he said. "It's true."
Shay blinked a couple of times and then squinted. Except for a few minor differences, mostly matters of grooming and deportment, he could have been looking at himself. The other man's hair was a shade or two darker than his own; the stranger wore a full beard, too, and a cheroot jutted from between his teeth, but virtually everything else was the same -- the lean build, the blue eyes, even the lopsided grin, tending toward insolence. "What the -- ?"
The specter chuckled. "Hell of a thing, isn't it? You always sleep in your own jail cell, Marshal?"
Shay ventured to sit up, and the other fellow didn't shoot him. Taking that for a good sign, he swung his legs over the side of the cot and made to stand, only to find himself looking straight up the barrel of the pistol.
"Not so fast."
With a sigh, Shay sat down again. "Who the devil are you?" he demanded. Now that he was sure he wasn't dreaming, he was beginning to feel fractious.
His antagonist grabbed the rickety chair in the corner of the cell, turned it around, and sat astraddle of the seat, all in virtually one motion. His left arm rested across the back, the .45 dangling idly from one gloved hand. An odd sensation prickled Shay's nape, but he forbore from rubbing it. "Maybe I'm you," the man said. It was downright irritating, the way he took his sweet time answering.
"I gotta quit drinkin'," Shay observed philosophically.
His reflection grinned. "The situation isn't that drastic, though I will admit you look as if you've been overindulging of late. How old are you?"
"I'm the one asking questions here," Shay snapped.
"I'm the one with the gun," came the easy reply.
"Hell." Out of habit, Shay polished the star-shaped badge on his vest with his right shirt cuff. "I turned thirty last September."
"So did I.
"Well, write-home and hallelujah. I hope somebody baked you a cake."
The response was a slanted grin that gave Shay a whole new insight into why his pa had felt called upon to box his ears now and again. "Somebody did. I believe her name was Sue-Ellen. How long have you had this job, Marshal?"
Shay put his foot down, figuratively, at least. "Oh, no," he said. "I asked for your name, and I'm not saying anything else until I get it."
"Saint-Laurent," was the crisp reply. "Tristan." Still holding the gun, Saint-Laurent used the thumb of that same hand to scratch his chin.
Shay pondered the revelation, mentally leafing through the piles of wanted posters on his desk for a match, and was relieved when he came up dry. "It's plain that you've got me at a disadvantage," he said. "So why don't you just go ahead and tell me how the hell it happens that a man comes awake in the middle of the night to find a gun at his throat and his own face looking back at him?"
Saint-Laurent watched him narrowly for a few moments, as though making some kind of calculation, then threw down the cheroot and ground it out on the wood floor with the heel of one scuffed and mud-caked boot. "Your folks never told you what happened? How you were orphaned and all?"
Shay shook his head. He had two older sisters, Dorrie and Cornelia, and they'd wasted no time in letting him know he was a foundling, but they'd been nearly grown when he came along, and secretive about the details, probably because it gave them power over him. Neither his mother nor his father could be persuaded to part with the story; in fact, they'd taken it to their graves, dying within a year of each other, and he'd left off wondering a long time ago. Mostly.