Adobe Palace

Adobe Palace

by Joyce Brandon
Adobe Palace

Adobe Palace

by Joyce Brandon

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Overview

This “unforgettable Western epic” from the author of Lady and the Lawman is “a superb achievement as both a saga and a romance” (RT Book review, 4 Stars).
 
Arizona Territory, 1889. After her parents died at sea, little Samantha Forrester came to live with the Kincaid family . . . and strapping young Lance Kincaid became her adored protector. Years later, when Lance married another woman, Samantha tried to forget him by marrying his friend Jared. But Jared wasn’t Lance. When he died, he left Samantha a single mother, still heartsick for another woman’s husband.
 
Then the devilishly charming Steve Sheridan rides into Samantha’s life. Suddenly she sees her chance to build the house of her dreams, save her son’s life, and claim Lance’s heart for her own. But life doesn’t always go according to plan, and fate will take them all on a journey as wild as the land they live on.
 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626819061
Publisher: Diversion Books
Publication date: 02/06/2019
Series: The Kincaid Family Series , #4
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 472
Sales rank: 618,942
File size: 2 MB

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

February 10, 1889

Knock, knock, knock.

Startled, realizing she had probably been asleep, Samantha struggled to her feet, stumbled to the front door, and opened it.

Lance Kincaid, hat in hand, lifted one black eyebrow — and all her sleepiness left her. Seeing him there, so close, Samantha's throat went dry. Mute, she stepped back to let him into the room. A lamp burned low beside the chair she'd fallen asleep in. It must be the middle of the night.

"Sam ..." Lance had always called her Sam. Never Samantha. His strong, brick-brown hands kept turning his white felt hat around and around by its brim. His eyes, the bluest and most affecting she'd ever seen, blazed with a look she'd longed to see since she'd first fallen in love with him as a five-year-old child. A need that had continued to grow after he had proposed marriage to her on June 4, 1880, only weeks before he had broken her heart by marrying her schoolfriend, Angie Logan.

"Sam ..." The sound of his raspy, whiskey tenor filled an empty place in her heart. She had hungered so long for his love, his presence, even the sound of his voice. Her heart felt as though it would burst. She had a dozen questions to ask him, but was still unable to speak.

"Sam ... I ..." The burning, intent gaze he fixed on her ignited a shiver of excitement in her belly that grew until she was trembling uncontrollably. Usually, even when he was alone with her, he kept his demeanor neutral, his expression brotherly. But this time, something had changed.

"I was wrong, Sam." His voice was like smoke, tingling through her. "I don't love my wife. I love you."

"Please ... don't say that unless you mean it."

"I have no right coming here. I'm sorry, Sam ... I didn't realize until I had lost you, lost all hope of ever having you ..." He tossed his hat aside, his hand reaching up, up, as if to touch her. But then it fell to his side and worried the seam of his black serge pants.

"I'm lower than a snake coming here and telling you this, but I can't sit through one more family get-together pretending you're my sister." Lance's voice, a mere rasp of sound, reflected his misery.

"Oh, Lance ..." Samantha whispered. She had waited so long for him to come to her, to say these exact words. She vibrated with joy.

"Send me away, Sam," he whispered, his lips twisting into a grimace that told her how difficult this was for him.

Samantha reached up and ran her fingers lightly across his warm lips. Lance could express more emotion with the lift of one corner of his mouth than any other man could with his entire face.

"I love you, Lance. You know that. I've always loved you. I'll be anything you want me to be — your mistress, your wife. I'll bear your children. Anything to be near you."

Lance pulled her into his arms and held her so tightly she could barely breathe. She surged against him, not minding the damp sweatiness of his back under his thin blue shirt and vest. He must have ridden all the way from Durango without stopping.

"I want you as my wife!" he whispered urgently, his warm breath like a feather against her throat. Tears of love and gratitude blinded her. "I want to walk down the street with you at my side. I'm sick of hiding how I feel, of pretending you're nothing to me, of knowing I don't even have the right to touch you ..."

Samantha's body was flooded with joy — and a hunger for him so urgent it startled her. "But you do have the right, Lance. I give you the right."

"God, Sam, I tried not to come here, tried not to tell you this." He leaned away from her to look deeply into her eyes. "But I did, and it changes everything. There's no way I can go back to Angie. I can't pretend anymore."

"No." She lifted up on tiptoe, searching for his mouth.

Lance groaned her name, "Sam, love." He ground his mouth into hers with such aching need a flame ignited in her belly and roared into hungry life. He showered kisses on her mouth and throat and breasts until her knees buckled. Then he swept her up into his powerful arms and carried her into the bedroom.

As he lowered her onto the bed, his hands groped for a way through the many layers of her garments. She clutched at his damp shirt and slid her hands under it to caress the firm, sleek muscles of his back. She felt she would die if he didn't free her, so she could feel his naked body against hers. She wanted him to hold her tighter, to grind his flesh into hers. The need was so desperate ...

As if maddened with desire, Lance ripped her blouse away. Samantha shivered with anticipation. She had been waiting for this moment for so long —

Knock, knock, knock. "Señora Forrester!"

The loud knocking on the door startled Samantha.

"Señora! Are you in there?"

Samantha turned away from the intruding sound. "Lance, darling ..." Reaching for him, her hand groped an empty bed.

"Señora!" Recognizing Ramon's voice, Samantha groaned and opened her eyes. At the sight of the wooden parquet ceiling, she realized she wasn't in bed with Lance. She was alone in the sleeping compartment of her palace car, aboard her private train, and Ramon had just interrupted the best dream of her life. She groaned, turned over, and buried her face in the pillow. If Ramon would just go away she could recapture the dream. If she didn't reply, maybe he would leave. As if in answer to her prayer, she heard Ramon's footsteps receding.

Samantha lay perfectly still, willing her way back into the dream. But it receded swiftly into nothingness. Closing her eyes tightly, she tried to recover the blissful sensation of Lance's body against hers, his lips devouring her own. But even that was lost. She could no longer see him or feel him. He was gone. She wanted to weep with frustration.

"Señora ..." Ramon was back, and he sounded desperate.

Sighing, Samantha sat up in bed. "Yes, Ramon, what is it?"

"The engineer. He needs to talk to you."

"What about?"

"We're out of water, señora." Ramon Rodriguez was her youngest employee, barely sixteen. He had come along on this trip as porter, so he could visit his family in Phoenix.

Samantha pulled the window shade aside and saw the water tank looming up ahead. "We're at a water tank, Ramon."

"It is empty, señora."

"Empty!" she cried, sitting up. They'd left Phoenix at six o'clock this morning, and she'd been up since four getting everything ready and packed. Tired, she had lain down to rest fully clothed. Once the train had started to roll, the monotonous chunka, chunka, chunka of the wheels against the tracks must have lulled her into sleep.

"I'll be right out," she said, feeling on the floor for her shoes. She buttoned them as quickly as she could and hurried through the palace car, careful not to wake her little son, Nicholas, sleeping in his own compartment. He needed his sleep.

Even this early in the day, the heat weighed her down. She clambered down the steps and headed toward the locomotive, chuffing noisily up ahead. Loose sand dragged at her shoes and burned the bottoms of her feet. By the time she reached the water tank, sweat was rolling down her temples.

"What is it, Lars?" she asked, stopping beside her portly engineer, who stared at the underside of the water tank.

"Tventy-seven bullet holds," he said, his Swedish accent strong.

"Twenty-seven?" She couldn't believe he'd stood here in the hot sun counting bullet holes. She glanced south. The railroad ran parallel to the Gila River, but it had been dry for weeks. The Arizona Territory was in the grip of drought.

"Unless I mist vun," Lars said, nodding with satisfaction.

"Mama!"

Samantha looked back toward her palace car. Nicholas stepped out the back door of her Pullman coach onto the small observation deck. Rubbing one eye with his left hand, he waved with the other, motioning her back to him. Six years old now, and he still hated waking up alone.

In the bright sunlight, he looked pale and confused. The sight of his thinness brought a rush of mingled emotions — part overwhelming love, part rage at the unfairness of the consumption eating away at his life, and part fear that something terrible might be about to happen to him, to all of them. Samantha hung on pretty well most of the time, but it took all her wits to do it. When something extra came up, like this bullet-riddled water tank, she felt nearly overwhelmed.

Despite the seriousness of the problem she needed to discuss with Lars, she wanted to run to her son, sweep him into her arms, and hold him tight. She never forgot, even for a second, that Nicholas could die at any moment, that without warning he might start coughing and not be able to stop.

Consumption terrified her. Articles in newspapers and magazines did little to allay her fears, calling it "the wasting disease," and with good reason. Since Nicholas had been diagnosed, his legs and arms had become as reedy as sticks. His skin was stretched so thin over his bony little frame that it barely covered his veins. Samantha had heard of grown men who had wasted down to ninety pounds while coughing their lungs out in pinto bean-sized chunks. Consumption was the most feared disease in America. The New York Times claimed that if scientists didn't find a cure soon everyone would die of it.

Instinctively she wanted to do anything Nicholas asked of her. But she tried, for his own good, not to overdo that.

"Be right there," she called out to him, reluctantly turning back to her engineer and the problem of the empty water tank.

"Can we make it home with the water in the icebox and gravity feed toilet if we put it all into the boiler?" she asked, glancing from Lars to Nicholas and edging closer to the Pullman coach where her son waited.

"No, ma'am," said Lars, mopping his forehead with his engineer's bandanna.

Ramon stepped out onto the observation deck and distracted Nicholas. Relieved, Samantha stepped back into the shade of the water tank and let her gaze sweep her short train, which consisted of a locomotive, a tender, her Pullman coach, and a caboose. A few yards away, a thirty-foot saguaro cactus lifted its round, blunt arms toward the turquoise sky dominated by a blazing sun. It couldn't be more than ten A.M. and already the temperature was close to a hundred, even though it was only mid February.

She should never have left Phoenix. But once her beloved Lance had left for Durango, neither the town nor her friends held any attraction for her.

She and Nicholas had gone to Phoenix to celebrate little Chane's sixth birthday. Little Chane was Nicholas's cousin, the son of Chantry III and Jennifer Van Vleet Kincaid. Nearly the entire Kincaid clan had been in Phoenix for the celebration.

Black smoke and cinders spewed out of the stack of the stalled locomotive. Steam escaped from behind the wheels. When a locomotive worked, Samantha didn't mind the noise or even the cinders, but now that it didn't, she wanted to kick it off the tracks. Usually it would have delivered her and her son to their own front door via the spur line she'd had built. But not today — unless a miracle happened.

"Mama!" The emotional pull became too much for Samantha. She turned and walked toward her son to allay his waking fears of abandonment. Family and friends urged her not to spoil him, but they had no idea how fragile he was.

She walked through the sand with the exaggerated steps of one slogging through shallow tar. Beads of perspiration rolled into her eyes. She brushed them away, but her sensitive skin smarted from the saltiness. Sweat trickled between her breasts.

Seven miles of desert lay between them and Camp Picket Post to the north. Seventeen miles of desert separated them from her home ten miles east of town.

If her fears were correct, and the holes had been purposely shot into the bottom of the tank by bandits, she and her son and crew could be in great danger. At any moment a band of violent men could ride down on them.

"Did you sleep well?" she called, nearing the observation deck where her son waited.

"Where were you?" he asked, whining.

Samantha climbed the steps quickly and felt Nicholas's warm forehead. She couldn't tell if it was warm from fever, which always scared her, or if it was from the heat of the desert. Fear made her heart skip a beat.

"We stopped for water."

As Nicholas opened his mouth to speak, the wooden wall of the Pullman coach above his head splintered; slivers of wood exploded in all directions.

Samantha screamed in terror and covered her son's body with her own. "Get down!" she yelled, unnecessarily, since she had already pulled him to the floor of the car.

Behind her, one of the crew yelped in fright. Lars ran for the locomotive, where he kept his rifle. Otto, the brakeman, dived under the Pullman coach. Then she heard him on the other side of the car, climbing onto the roof to get the rifle he kept up there.

Samantha picked up Nicholas, dashed inside the car, and slammed the door. Ramon ran to the back of the Pullman coach to get his rifle.

"Here they come!" someone outside yelled.

Ramon hurried back into the room carrying his rifle in his right hand. He wiped the stub of his withered left arm across his narrow, perspiring brow, and knelt at one of the windows.

Nicholas squirmed out of her arms and raised up to press his nose against the glass. Samantha yanked him back down. The thought of his being shot made her tremble so violently her hands were almost useless.

Nicholas squirmed to free himself again. "Nicholas! Keep down! They're shooting at us!"

"I want to see — "

"No! Follow me. Crawl. And keep your head down!" With Nicholas beside her, Samantha inched toward her rolltop desk, unlocked it, lifted her revolver out of the top drawer, and rolled the cylinder to count the bullets. From the box in the drawer, she added a shell under the hammer, stuffed the others in her pocket, and crawled back to the window.

Holding Nicholas below the sill, Samantha peered out the window and wished she had a longer range weapon, like a .30-.30. Her little .32 pistol was deadly only at close range, and she didn't want their attackers to get that close.

She'd been raised since the age of four by the Kincaids. They spent half of their time in New York or traveling, and half on the Kincaid ranch near Austin, Texas, where every man and many of the women carried weapons. She knew how to handle a gun, but in all these years, Samantha had never personally been shot at.

She raised her head again. Half a dozen masked men were riding toward her, yelling and firing rifles as they came. The thud of Otto's boots running along the roof ended in a terrible cry. Otto toppled past Samantha's window and landed in the sand on his back, his eyes open. Blood darkened his shirt on the left side.

Nicholas eased up toward the glass.

"Stay down!"

"Mama! I want to see!"

"You keep down!" Nicholas's face flashed outrage at Samantha, but he obeyed.

Her anger at the men who'd killed Otto steadied Samantha's hands enough to lift the window and aim the gun at the men riding toward her car. But they were still too far away. With Otto dead, Samantha feared she and three men were no match for six bandits. Concern for her son filled her with rage.

The approaching bandits fired steadily. Bullets zinged over her head, breaking windows on both sides of the palace car. Broken glass rained down on them. Samantha covered Nicholas with her body until every window in their end of the car was on the floor.

The bandits' willingness to shoot in such a random fashion, not caring about anyone inside, even Nicholas, horrified her. She had not battled her son's ravaging illness these three years since her husband's death to lose him to a handful of bandits. She would personally kill every one of them first.

Samantha held her fire until they were close enough, so she wouldn't miss. Ramon fired but hit nothing. Cursing, he stopped to reload.

A man with a red bandanna covering the bottom half of his face, his big belly bouncing over his belt, rode up to the observation platform of the Pullman coach, leapt off his pony with surprising agility, and landed on the deck. Heart pounding, Samantha raised her gun and tightened her finger on the trigger. But before her own gun fired, a dark hole appeared in the man's soft belly and his blood spattered the window-glass panels of the platform door. Another bandit rode up, fought his horse for a moment, then eased out of the saddle onto the platform. Again Samantha raised her gun, and again, before she could fire, a hole appeared in the man's chest, reddening his shirt as he, too, slammed into the platform door.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Adobe Palace"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Joyce Brandon.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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