Authors: Sylvia McDaniel
Tags: #contemporary romance
lap her silly, but she was done! Annabelle McKenzie strode down the wooden sidewalk on her way to the bank. Done with raising chickens, feeding cows and goats, and shoveling manure. She wanted to go with her sisters to hunt for bad men. She wanted to be a bounty hunter.
Deep in thought about how she would explain to her sisters how she craved adventure and longed for excitement, she rounded the corner to enter the bank and slammed into the hard chest muscles of a large dark-haired man. The scent of soap and campfire spiraled straight to her center.
This was a manly man, and Lord knew, they were scarce in Zenith, Texas. Where had this specimen come from?
His hat was pulled low over his face, and he grabbed her by the arms, halting her progress. Her head fit just below his chin. She looked up at his strong, rugged jaw and serious face.
Long black lashes blinked over emerald eyes as he gripped her arms. “Slow down,” he said in a deep husky drawl. He kept his head down, barely looking at her. “There’s still plenty of cash left in the bank.”
What a condescending, egotistical, handsome renegade. Not an “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me”, but rather a crass remark about the money in the bank. “Maybe you should watch where you’re going.”
She tilted her head and stared into his handsome rugged features. There was something about him that seemed familiar, yet she couldn’t place him. Somewhere she’d seen his face. She gazed at him. “You’re tall enough you should be able to see a woman coming.”
He nodded, and she gawked at the way his shirt fit his strong shoulders and muscled arms. His lips were full and tempting, made for kissing.
“You’re right, ma’am. I should see a small package like you, barreling around a blind corner. Maybe I need to replace my spectacles with a pair that can see through walls,” he said, releasing her arms.
“Maybe you do.” The oversized giant was smarting off to her; he wasn’t wearing spectacles.
Where had she seen him before? “What’s your name?”
A sly smile turned up the corners of his full, luscious lips. “Why? You plan on having me arrested for running into you?”
The man had an ornery mouth, and she was just the woman to give it right back.
“Maybe,” she said. “I know the sheriff well. It would serve you right for being belligerent and disrespectful.”
He smiled a wickedly sly grin that sent tingles through her. “You have a really
His voice was dripping with sweet sarcasm that made her feel like she’d eaten too many cookies. Tipping his black hat at her, he sauntered out the door.
Like a kick from a bull, it hit her.
His face was on one of the wanted posters she had out in her saddlebags.
For a moment, she stood there stunned, wanting to grab him by the arm and haul him down to the sheriff’s office. He was getting away, and yet, part of her wasn’t certain he really was a criminal. What if her imagination was stampeding with ideas, trying to keep her from dying of loneliness in this old maid of a town?
But what if this was her chance? Her opportunity to show her sisters she could do more than just watch the cows munch grass. She had bounty hunter blood flowing in her veins. She could catch criminals just as well as they could.
She had two hundred dollars tucked in the satchel on her shoulder. One step closer to paying off the bank note. They only needed a little more, and then the old place would be theirs.
But she didn’t have time to make the deposit. She had a criminal to catch.
This morning, she’d stopped at the sheriff’s office and picked up the latest wanted posters. Tonight, when she got home, she intended to make her sisters understand. She was nineteen, soon to be twenty, and spent all her life on the farm. She needed to get away from the braying of cattle and the collecting of eggs.
Making a hasty retreat out the door, she watched as the man walked down the street toward the mercantile. Then she hurried to her horse tied up on Main Street.
Opening the leather bags, she thumbed through the papers. The third one she came to had a picture of her man.
Beau Samuel – Wanted for Bank Robbery. Five Hundred Dollar Reward.
Tingles of alarm galloped along her spine. Oh, my God, she’d just run into him at the bank. He was planning on robbing the Zenith Savings & Loan.
She checked her satchel, finding her six-shooter resting beside her little pot of lipstick. The bounty was more than enough to pay off the bank. Meg could start her dress shop. And Annabelle would have a little adventure in her dull, boring life.
Excitement flooded her nerves like a welcome ray of sunshine. A wide smile spread across her face. This was going to be so much fun. She’d follow Mr. Samuel, and before he left town, he’d be in her custody, and she’d be the heroine who saved the day.
In one afternoon, she would accomplish what Meg and Ruby had taken all year trying to do.
He’d disappeared inside the mercantile. She’d be waiting for him when he came out.
As the family bookkeeper for their bounty hunting business, Lipstick and Lead, it was her responsibility to make certain the bank loan was paid, the farm continued to operate, and supplies were bought, while her sisters had all the fun chasing bad guys and bringing them to justice. Her sisters earned the money, and Annabelle made certain they had a home to return to.
After their father died, they’d learned his profession out of desperation. Bounty hunting paid better than being a waitress or a seamstress or even a housekeeper. And you only had to answer to the men captured and brought to justice.
Not the randy hands of the owner of a business or his employees.
Living on a farm alone, taking care of cattle and chickens and gardening, was enough to make any person question her sanity. In the last year, Annabelle had begun to regret agreeing to take care of their land, while her sisters did the hunting.
She longed for adventure, excitement, danger. Something more challenging than shoveling manure. Only, her sisters disagreed. Meg and Ruby wanted Annabelle to remain on the farm.
It was someone else’s turn to babysit the chickens, harvest the garden, and chase the stray cows. Annabelle was about to snag her first bounty.
Beau Samuel looked around the mercantile. Quickly, he replenished his supplies and headed out the door. The faster he got out of this one-horse town and circled back to Fort Worth the better. Hopefully, without any run-ins with the law or the Harris gang. That wanted poster was like a rock hanging around his neck. Dangerous and deadly.
One wrong move and he’d find himself in the calaboose.
Opening the door, he stepped around to the back of the building, where he’d tied his horse. The sound of a gun clicking froze his breath in his lungs; his fingers twitched near his sidearm.
“Beau Samuel, you’re wanted for robbery.”
Sounded like that same aggravating female he’d met at the bank stood behind him with a gun cocked and loaded. He whirled around, grabbed her hand holding the gun, and wrapped his other arm around her, bringing her into his side. “Now, sugar, you know better than to point a gun at a man.”
They had a silent tug of war over the gun, and finally, he wrenched the weapon free of her fingers. The sweet scent of roses surrounded the beauty. Her red-gold curls were the type a man would love to run his hands through, but instead, here he was wrestling her for a gun.
What kind of woman was she?
“Damn it,” she said. “I’m going to scream my head off, if you don’t let go of me and give me my weapon back.”
He shoved the gun into his pocket on the other side of his pants, out of her reach. “I wouldn’t recommend doing that, unless you want me to silence you with a kiss.”
Her blue eyes widened, and she tried to take a step away from him, but he held her firmly in place.
“Besides, I’m not the Beau Samuel that’s wanted.” He was lying and he didn’t care. Why the hell was a woman trying to wrangle him into custody?
“Your face is on the wanted poster.”
“It’s a mistake,” he said, enjoying the feel of her body against his.
“Yeah, and you’re a rich cattleman who owns half of Texas. Believe me, I’ve heard enough tall tales to know when someone’s talking out the corner of his mouth. You, sir, are a liar and a thief.”
He laughed, gazing down at her, enjoying her pert little nose turned up in a scornful snit. “You get up this morning and have a dose of vinegar to begin your day?”
“Actually, I had two. One is Meg and the other is Ruby.”
“Oh, your vinegar has names?” He walked her away from the mercantile. If he could get to his horse, he’d leave this sassy miss behind, after he emptied the chamber of her six-shooter. There was no need for her to put a bullet in him.
“No, they’re my bounty hunter sisters, and you’re being served up next.”
He laughed. “Sugar, if they are as easy to disarm as you, then you tell them to come on and we’ll have a party.”
“Oh, it’s going to be a party all right.” She slapped his hand off her shoulder and wrapped it behind his back, tugging upwards.
She thought she had him in a hold, and he decided to let her think she could get away with it until they reached his horse, Sadie.
“Hey, that hurts,” he said, as the woman tugged harder on his arm. It was then that he noticed they were two doors down from the sheriff’s office. Dang, now was not the time or the place to draw attention.
Oh no, this wasn’t going to happen like she wanted. He had business to attend to that didn’t include a stay in the calaboose.
Quickly, he twirled her around, releasing his pent-up arm. Then he slammed her against the outside wall of the bank. Her sapphire eyes widened, and she gazed at him as he leaned into her, not caring that anyone could see them. In fact, he hoped it looked like a lovers’ embrace.
“You know, your smart mouth has tempted me all morning. First in the bank and now out on the street. I’ve taken your gun away. I’m not going to the sheriff’s office with you. Now unless you want me to kiss you senseless here in a back alley off Main Street, then I think we need to have a parting of the ways.”
She raised her knee and jammed it into his groin, knocking the breath out of him as the world spun crazily, his privates slamming him as pain gripped him, and he gasped for air.
“Damn it,” he groaned, slumping over. The woman packed a nasty punch in that knee.
While he leaned against the wall, gulping for breath, she whispered, “Why would I kiss a man like you, wanted by the law?”
Grabbing his hand, she tried to pull him down the wooden sidewalk. She stopped and considered him. “You’re looking a mite peaked.”
“Give me a moment. I can’t move. You knocked my man parts into next week.”
She smiled at him sweetly, and he shook his head. Where in the world had this woman come from and how did he get rid of her? She was trouble and he didn’t need the aggravation. He should have been on the road by now.
“You go get the sheriff. I’ll wait right here.”
“There you go telling tall tales again.”
“Does it look like I’m capable of walking right now? Do you think I could get away if I wanted to?” He leaned over and moaned more for effect. The time to leave this town with his hair on was now. He’d be up and on his horse before she could get the sheriff out the door.
Her sapphire blue eyes drew together in a frown. She was a beautiful woman, but he didn’t have time to play parlor games. There was a gang hot on his trail. But she appeared to be taking the bait. Just a little bit more and he’d have her on the hook.
“You might have to get me a doctor. I think you broke something.”
“Oh, good grief. Stay here and I’ll get the sheriff. He can determine if you need a doctor.”
He watched her hurry down the back alley. When she got to the door, she stood there for a moment and called into the office.