The Last Honest Outlaw
19th Century American West. In the west, even an outlaw wasn't always what he seemed!
Murder and abduction had introduced Rozalie Matthews to Eli McCain, who'd taken her hostage in a hail of gunfire. Yet as she tended him in a deserted cabin, she knew two things for sure: this rough and ready loner was no outlaw...but he was a thief of hearts!
Eli McCain knew he was probably on every wanted poster in the Rockies by now--for a crime he didn't commit. But no one was going to believe a half-breed mountain man was innocent of anything--except maybe his prisoner, Roz Matthews, a feisty whirlwind of a woman...who swore she'd clear his name!
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November 05, 2007
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Excerpt from The Perfect Tree by Roz Denny Fox
Camden Latimer bumped his Viper off the gravel road he'd been driving for ten miles and ended up on a muddy path. Pulling under a big evergreen tree, he unfolded a map to which he'd taped a sticky note of additional directions. Overhanging branches blocked the steady downpour that had been giving his wiper blades a workout. Cam shut them off while he confirmed that he was still heading toward the Christmas tree farm he'd inherited from his grandfather. Cyrus Latimer had died a few months earlier of a heart problem he'd hidden from Cam.
The rain had turned the dirt road ahead to mud. Cam was no stranger to rain. For the past dozen years he'd been a Miami street cop and had worked in all kinds of weather. But when it rained in Florida the sun came out fifteen minutes later to dry everything. This was his second day in Oregon, and there was no sign of a letup.
Cam knew Christmas trees didn't grow low in the coastal valley. However, all the things Granddad Cy had imparted by phone and e-mail hadn't included the weather or condition of the roads. Cam's Viper, his pride and joy, was low-slung and jet-black. He eyed the muddy road with misgivings while massaging his aching right shoulder. Two weeks after what he hoped was his last surgery on a shattered upper arm, Cam wondered why he'd thought sitting on a porch watching trees grow was a good idea. But he'd sold his beach condo and said goodbye to his cop pals, so it was too late for second thoughts. His inheritance lay at the end of this road, and a new life awaited. A safer life, he hoped.
Putting the Viper back in gear, he stepped on the gas. The powerful engine growled, then roared. Cam felt his back wheels spin, but the car didn't move.
"Dammit!" He grabbed his black leather jacket, popped up the gull-wing doors, a modification he'd paid a mint for, and stepped out into the rain. His Italian loafers sank into the same muck that had the Viper's back tires mired up to their hubcaps. He needed either a miracle or a tow truck. Cam shrugged into his jacket and contemplated the empty road behind him--eight miles to the nearest town.
Flipping up his collar, he decided it would be smarter to walk the four miles to his property, mud or no mud. There was a neighbor, he knew, at Snowflake Farm--a big operation run by a woman Cy often referred to as the tree queen or witch, depending on his mood. Clearly there was no love lost between the two tree growers, but Cam only had Cy's impressions.
Cam squinted through towering firs at an angry gray sky and felt the plop, plop, plop of rain as he set off down the road. He figured he'd have to make nice with the queen snowflake so she'd give him a phone number for the nearest towing service. He'd gone barely ten yards when he heard the welcome sound of a vehicle approaching.
A well-used red pickup rounded the corner ahead of him. Cam moved to the center of the muddy ruts and waved both hands.
The pickup stopped a few yards away, and its driver rolled down a window and called, "Hey, what are you doing on this private back road? Didn't you read the sign back where you left the highway? You're trespassing on Snowflake Christmas Tree Farm property."
Hearing the feminine voice, Cam kept his distance from the truck. "I didn't see a sign. This road--and that's a joke, right?--is on a hand-drawn map I have. I'm looking for the Latimer tree farm."
The driver opened her door a crack. "No one's been there in at least two months. Not since Mr. Latimer died. If you're one of his commercial accounts, you'll want to ask in town whether he left anyone in charge."
"That would be me. I've just driven up from Florida. I'm Cy's grandson, Cam, uh, Camden Latimer. Do you happen to know the number of a towing company?" Cam gestured to his disabled car. Granted, he hadn't known his grandfather well, but from what he'd gleaned through their sporadic correspondence, it was typical of the old man to direct Cam down a shortcut belonging to a hostile neighbor. It would be his way of getting the last laugh. "I'm Noelle Hale," the woman said. "I'm sorry for your loss. I manage Snowflake's enterprises next door. As it happens, my truck has a winch. I'll hook it onto your bumper and tow you to more solid ground. Then you can turn around. Drive back to a four-way stop, take a right and follow the main gravel road to where it splits. The right fork leads to Latimer's house. My home, lodge and gift shop are on the left." Shutting herself in the cab again, she aimed the truck straight for Cam, forcing him to jump aside. Even then her tires threw sloppy mud on his pant legs.
No longer wondering why Cy had had a running battle with Ms. Hale, Cam slipped and slid back to his car. Ms. Hale had exited her pickup and was apparently trying to find a place on his nonexistent back bumper to attach the steel cable she'd reeled out.
"You'll have to connect that to the back axle," he said. "Vipers have molded bodies. Hook anywhere else and you'll destroy the skin. Repairs would cost me a fortune."