Welcome to Sara Walter Ellwood’s Sneak Peek Sunday! This is week 6 of a 7-week series with Cal Delaney and Rachel Girard, the bounty hunter hero and cattle princess heroine from Broken Vows, a marriage of convenience tale set in 1878 Fort Worth.
Last week, we left our sparring newlyweds getting along about as well as a pair of Kilkenny cats. Circumstances will soon arise, though, that force them to either work together or risk exposure of their bogus marriage contract.
There may be hope for these two yet.
With caring, though, comes another sort of risk. When Cal goes into town on Rachel’s birthday and fails to show up for supper that night, Rachel assumes the worst. And the worst, she’s stunned to discover … hurts.
It was already past dusk. The night was clear and balmy. She ran across the darkened lawn until she reached the pavilion, far enough away to feel safe from prying eyes. She grasped the wooden railing, trying to catch her breath and calm herself. A cow mooed, low and mournful, and a calf bawled back. She could see the bunkhouse from here. Light poured from the open windows. Distant male voices drifted on the night air.
She imagined Cal in bed with Lacey Holloway and waited for the anger to come. She willed it to come, like a conjured spirit, swift and sure and furious. She needed it to come, but it wouldn’t. All she felt was a sick sort of churning in her stomach, a maelstrom of emotions she couldn’t identify. Cal Delaney, whoever he was, whatever he was, he wasn’t good for her. The sooner he was out of her life, the better.
Then she heard it. Hoofbeats. Soft and regular, thumping on the dirt drive.
She turned to see his tall figure astride Friday, the stallion that had brought him all the way from Dodge City and beyond, the horse that probably knew him better than any person ever would.
With the back of one hand, she wiped at eyes still brimming with tears. Thank heavens the sun had already set. Any redness would be undetectable in this light. She smoothed her skirt and folded her arms. She knew she was visible from the corral where he was now drawing rein. If he had any decency at all, he would try to explain.
Cal dismounted and tethered his horse to the hitching post. She recognized the tilt of his hat, the long, easy strides as he turned and started back toward the house—his walk…
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