Excerpt: The Cowboy's Reluctant Bride

The Cowboy's Reluctant Bride by Debra Cowan

Western Historical Romance

Indian Territory, 1873

The next person who set foot on her property would meet the bad end of a bullet.

Tightening her grip on the pistol, Ivy Jennings Powell paced from one side of her large front room to the other. She had been waiting, watching since she’d found one of her horses dead three days ago.

Lightning cracked the March air like a whip. Thunder rumbled. Outside her snug frame home that served as a stage stop, the storm howled.

When lightning struck again, it illuminated the massive oaks and pines swaying in the wind. After a short drum roll of thunder, the weather calmed somewhat. A steady rain drove against her roof and the rush of the wind quieted though she could still hear the lashing of trees.

A thud sounded on her front porch and her gaze shot to the window, its isinglass shade pulled down. She tried to identify the noise. An animal?

If so, it wasn’t one of hers. They were all shut up tight in the barn or the chicken coop. From the center of the long table against the opposite wall, a lamp spread soft amber light through the room.

Since the death of her husband a year and a half ago, Ivy had been alone in this southeastern corner of Indian Territory. She and the neighbors scattered miles apart lived just over the border from Texas and Arkansas.

A movement at the window had her going still in the middle of the room. Was that indistinct shape the silhouette of a man? After the last three and half months, Ivy half-expected it. She had wired her brother, Smith, about her troubles, but he hadn’t replied yet and she didn’t think he would arrive unannounced. His home, Mimosa Springs, was a two-day ride west.

Today’s stagecoach and its passengers had come and gone. The Choctaw people who lived around her were a peaceful lot and there had never been any trouble between them and whites.

The door knob rattled and Ivy’s mouth went dry. Even so, she marched to the locked door and yelled, “Who’s there?”

A muffled masculine voice answered. With the crashing of the storm, Ivy couldn’t understand a word.

Thumbing down the hammer on her revolver, she unlatched the door. Before she could swing it open, the wind nearly jerked it out of her hand. She aimed her gun at the visitor, barely aware of the door slamming against the wall.

A giant of a man stood there, hands in the air. In the wind-whipped shadows, she could see only the impression of a hard jaw and glittering eyes beneath the hat pulled low on his head.

Lightning slashed across the sky of churning gunmetal clouds, illuminating a scar on the man’s neck.

“Are you going to pull a gun on me every time we meet up?”

Ivy tensed. She knew that voice. It was deep and gravelly and put a flutter in her stomach. Just like it had the first time she’d seen him in her brother’s barn three months ago. That meeting had been at gunpoint, too.

The man towered over her, water dribbling from the brim of his hat onto the porch. The clouds moved and she peered through the shadows. “Gideon Black?”

“Yes, ma’am.” He slowly lowered his hands.

“What are you doing here?”

“Smith sent me.” He had done prison time with Ivy’s brother. And after his release, he had accepted Smith’s offer of work and arrived at the Diamond J just before Christmas. Ivy had met him when she returned home after learning her presumed-dead brother was alive and back in Mimosa Springs.

Gideon Black had sparked an unwelcome response in her back then. He still did.

© 2013-2014 by Debra S. Cowan

® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books, S.A.

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