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Forced to run the ranch like a man after her father's death, whispers ran wild that Susan was less than a lady. William coming to call caused tongues to wag more. Taking care of a wounded man with only Blazer to help would totally ruin her reputation, but she couldn't leave a dying man in the hands of delicate Angela or her bungling father no matter what the gossips said about him. How was she to know how much more was behind the attempt on his life? How was she to know she would have to take up a gun, as less than a lady, and fight to save herself and the man she loved?

Excerpt

#1

  With thoughts of how good a full bath would feel, he shook the dust from his clothes, not thinking of the gun he had dropped earlier until he picked up the heavy belt with an empty holster. His forehead furrowed as he looked, standing still, using only his eyes to search. When he saw where he had dropped the weapon, he shrugged. What did it matter if the gun was across the room, with a locked door, on a second floor without a balcony? He strapped on the belt without concern or hurry. With one arm in his coat, he started towards the bed. The gun was six steps from where he started. Close enough in an emergency he would have thought, if he thought about it at all, but in that one step, he knew it wasn’t.

  They were five steps too many when the men he hadn’t heard in the hall hit and smashed through the door and the chair that failed to hold. Safety was five steps too far away when those men surged through, jostling and shoving each other in their hurry to get at him.

  One man was faster than the others in getting a shot off, a shot that burned Tarbet’s side. With only one exit left clear, Tarbet threw the coat up for protection and dove for the window. Smashing through the glass and wood sashes, he fell two stories.

  He couldn’t stop. There was no time for worry or even think of possible injuries after that fall. Tarbet rolled to his feet, hoping an ankle or leg didn’t go out from under him on his run for the corner of the building. In the window above men shouted and shoved each other in their anxiousness to get at him and even though he soon had the building as a shield between them, he still could not stop to inventory injuries.

 

#2 

  A whiskered old man with a crippled arm met Susan Flaggen in the yard. "What ya got thar?" he asked, holding the horse while she slipped off its rump, his gaze riveted on the unconscious man.

  Susan gave him a look of irritation first, softening it quickly. Blazer wasn't the source of her anger. He was the only help, friend, and the nearest thing to family she had since her father died. He wasn't expressing the concern she knew he had, for which she was grateful. Lord knew she had enough worry of her own.

  "Something I never intended to end up with," she told him. "I offered them the use of my horse. The next thing I knew, I had him."

  "Yeah, so's who's dem and 'em?"

  "Horace and Angela Norman." She began untying the ropes holding the unconscious man on her horse. "I'm sure he's the man Hatfield and his men are looking for. He fits the description, and I doubt there's that many wounded men around."

  Blazer laid his good hand over hers to keep her from loosening the knots. "I got no good use fer Hatfield, but that ain't no good reason ta take a rattler in yar house."

  She flipped his hand away. "They lied about who he is. He's a marshal."

  "Do tell?" Scratching at the bristle on his chin, he stepped back for a better look at the man slumped over the saddle horn. "Which one?"

  "I don't know."

  Rubbing his whiskers, Blazer said, "Some ain't no better than the ones they chase."

  "It really doesn't matter who he is. He's here, and we'll do what we can for him."

  "I heared of one tall, big lion with dark hair like this har one. Iffen he be Tarbet, he be a hard one."

  "We'll stay away from his fangs." She gave him an aggravated look. "Or is that claws?"

  He ignored her sarcasm. "Ya let me," he told her, stepping up to be the one to pull the man off the horse. "I don't knows what we'll be draggin' so much as carryin', but we'll get 'em inside right enough."

  He wrapped one of the man's arms around his neck and pulled. Getting the dead weight started was easy but nearly impossible to stop. Blazer dropped to his knees before he could stop his fall. "Draggin' fer sure," he muttered in a strained voice.

  Susan pulled the other arm over her shoulders. Together they pulled the limp man up enough to drag him forward. Moving him, they both stumbled, stopping in the kitchen to catch their breath.

  "Be some easier," Blazer panted, "iffen he was ta wake up a mite."

  "If he ever does," she panted back and pushed the thought away. She didn't care to face the reality of him dying. "All right, through the pantry."

  "Ya gonna put 'em in the cellar?" he exclaimed.

  "They haven't stoppe​d looking for him. Unless you want to drag him all the way up to the attic, it's the safest place I can think of."

#3

  Blazer leaned forward anxiously and started asking questions. “Member me?” Tarbet started to nod and quickly changed his mind, freezing and catching his breath. “Ya took a bad whack on the head, Bucko. Ya jumped out a winder to get loose from a pack of dogs on yar tail. Ya said the one leadin’ them sounds like a jasper ya know called Dalton. Ya said he run with another one called Pope. Ya said they took over towns. Member all that?”

  His voice was weak and low and his answer short. “No.”

  “Ya don’t member it happenin’ or ya don’t member sayin’ it?”

  “Neither.”

  Flustered, he asked, “Do ya member Dalton?”

  “Yes.”

  Blazer’s eyes narrowed with a sudden feeling Tarbet was deliberately being vague. “Ya being dumb a purpose?” he asked.

  “Where am I?”

“At the Slash F,” he half-shouted in exasperation. “Miss Susan brung ya har. Took ya away from dem Normans fer—”

  Tarbet tensed at the name, and the movement had the usual effect though not as severe as actually raising his head. His breath caught, and he reached for his head with one hand. Blazer blocked it with his good arm. “She don’t want ya doin’ that. Figures it’s bad for that crack ya took.”

  Tarbet blew out a breath and caught another asking, “What’s she look like?”

  “Done told ya oncet, tall and slim, moves all graceful like, like willa trees in the wind, brown hair and hazel eyes.”

  “Rifle, does she carry a rifle?”

  “Yep, and knows how ta use it, but ya don’t go gettin’ no wrong ideas. Some look down on her on account a she works this ranch with only me to help. Well, this har ranch ain’t so big so’s she can hire someone. She does what she has ta, but Miss Susan is a lady. Now ya tell me ‘bout Pope ‘n Dalton. What’s ya cum after ‘dem fer?”

  “I didn’t come after them,” he grumbled.

  Blazer grunted. “Well, ya found ‘dem. What’d they do?”

  The sound of Blazer’s voice had drawn her. Knowing he wouldn’t be talking unless Tarbet was awake she had filled a bowl with soup. Walking carefully not to spill it was the reason they didn’t hear her coming or known and she’s stopped to listen.

  “Extortion, blackmail, assault, murder, anything to get what they want,” Tarbet answered.

  “Including ranches,” she retorted bitterly, stepping to the floor and into view.

  Both men jumped. Blazer from guilt, he twisted in the chair, shoving to his feet. His mouth opened to say something but snapped shut when Tarbet spoke.

  “He wants towns, not ranches. If he courted you, it was for you, not your ranch.”

Reviews

redz world reviews 5 shooting stars

  n Tarbet, this is a standalone book and doesn’t belong in a series. It’s written by Larion Wills who created a clean western romance between a wanted man on the brink of death and a strong-willed woman who wielded a rifle at his head.

  Susan wanted nothing to do with this stranger especially one about to die in front of her.   Something gave, she accepted him into his care and hid him from men who hunted for him.   Confused by this mysterious man, with time, she begins to slowly unravel answers to what happened to him and why he’s wanted...too bad her heart started to fall for him.

  Tarbet kept himself distant. He tried everything to stop Miss Susan from delving deeper, prodding him with questions. But she nursed him back to health and hid him from men who wanted him dead, he couldn’t stop thinking about her. What will happen if they’re caught in a cross fire with no escape?

  Larion Wills did a fantastic job with bringing her characters to life and to escalate the conflict with each turn of the page while masterfully weaving in romance as you go. I loved how she brought the western world to life in her book with adding realistic western accents and vivid description.

I had a hard time getting into the book in the first few chapters because I was confused by what was going on. I had to reread the action scenes in first chapter to keep me on track with the story.

Over all a good clean romance to read on a sunny afternoon with your feet cradled in the sand.

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