Caden's Vow

Caden's Vow

4.1 38
by Sarah McCarty

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His past has haunted him for a lifetime…but one woman could be his salvation

Gunslinger Caden Miller's compadres are becoming a bit too domesticated for his liking. So he's off to Kansas territory to carve out a living and a space of his own—alone, just the way he likes it.

Maddie O'Hare has been drawn to Caden ever since she escaped

…  See more details below


His past has haunted him for a lifetime…but one woman could be his salvation

Gunslinger Caden Miller's compadres are becoming a bit too domesticated for his liking. So he's off to Kansas territory to carve out a living and a space of his own—alone, just the way he likes it.

Maddie O'Hare has been drawn to Caden ever since she escaped to the Hell's Eight compound from the brothel where she was born and raised. And she's not ready to let him go so easily…until she's captured by his new neighbors.

When Caden discovers that Maddie is being held by a rival at a nearby ranch, his plan to rescue her backfires, and he finds himself the groom in what's literally a shotgun wedding. As shocked as Caden is by the bizarre turn of events, Maddie's grateful kiss holds a fiery promise that's far more unexpected. But with old enemies catching up with him, Caden and Maddie will face a danger that tests their passion—and will either bind them together forever or break them apart for good.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"McCarty is a sparse, minimalistic writer, with a great ear for dialogue. She's a passionate observer of history, and manages to deftly and accurately weave her spicy stories through with important facts and issues of the epoch she invokes. She's also good at capturing that intangible magnetism surrounding dangerous, rugged men...I'm hooked."

"What really sets McCarty's stories apart from simple erotica is the complexity of her characters and conflicts....definitely spicy, but a great love story, too." -RT Book Reviews

Product Details

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4.34(w) x 6.44(h) x 1.00(d)

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Hell's Eight was doing Tia proud. Caden Miller looked around at the normally peaceful garden Tia had started and Tucker's wife, Sally Mae, now helped maintain, at all the people crammed into its well-tended confines to celebrate Tia and Ed's wedding, and couldn't help a smile. Ten years ago he wouldn't have given a snowball's chance in hell that Caine could pull off his dream. But like the others, where Caine had led, Caden had followed. And Caine's drive to succeed was evident in the sturdy outbuildings, the assortment of equally sound houses and the contentment reflected in the faces of those in attendance. The men of Hell's Eight weren't just content; they were flourishing. They were settling down, marrying, having children, sinking their roots deep into the east Texas soil. Of the original eight, only he, Ace and Luke remained footloose and fancy-free. Something that should have pleased him but instead had him feeling a pang of..envy? Shit. Since when did he feel envy for something he didn't even want? He wasn't a settling man. He'd always been as restless as his father before him. As all the Hell's Eight used to be.

Glancing around the garden, at the tables laden with food, at the couples standing side by side, the contented smiles where he was used to seeing hardness and purpose, Caden again felt that strange tightness in his gut. Hell's Eight was changing. The reckless rage that had driven them for so many years had smoothed into something just as durable but…calmer. Caden rolled his shoulders. He didn't like calm, but it seemed to be settling all right with Hell's Eight's most notorious members. Shadow, Tracker and Tucker, three of the most feared men in the territory, known for reckless deeds that were as dark as their looks, were hovering over their wives, every bit the doting husbands. Caine and Sam, wild men known for getting the job done no matter what, were looking as confident as rich bankers—that is, if one discounted the subtle tension in their muscles and the alertness in their gaze that spoke of men accustomed to surviving by their wits. Not to mention the guns strapped to their thighs and the knives tucked into their belts. Shit, they were all going soft, and if he stayed here, so would he.

Caden sighed and took a drink of the fancy champagne Desi had ordered all the way from Chicago for Tia and Ed's wedding. It tasted like cat piss to him, but what did he know of the finer things? He was the son of an Irish nomad, a dreamer. A man who'd sworn his pot of gold was just over the next horizon, around the next bend. Caden had a brief mental flash of his father's face. Rigid with determination as he'd told Caden to hide when the Mexican army had raged into their town. He'd been seven going on eight, anticipating the gun his father had promised him for his birthday two days hence. He hadn't wanted to hide. He'd wanted to fight, but his father hadn't given him any choice. He'd shoved him into the hidey-hole under the kitchen floor, and on a gruff "Remember who you are, son," he'd replaced the planks above him and left him in the dark. Those were the last words his father had ever spoken to him. His mother he hadn't found until…after. She'd been at the mercantile when the army came.

Caden took another swallow of the champagne, wishing it were something stronger. There were times when a man just needed something to drown out the noise of the past, but champagne wasn't whiskey, and the memories kept coming. He'd lain beneath the floorboards for what seemed hours, listening to the shouts and screams, wincing at the gunshots, straining to hear his father's voice, feeling helpless and scared until he couldn't stand it anymore.

By the time he'd climbed out of the hole, the battle was over. He'd never forget the smell that struck him as he'd stood—gunpowder, smoke and…blood—nor the carnage that spread out beyond his front door. Bodies of friends and neighbors littered the road like trash left by the wind, changing the street from familiar to macabre. He'd found his father's body lying in the doorway of the still-burning mercantile, his head caved in on the right side, blood pooled around his shoulders. His father's legs had been on fire as Caden had dragged his body into the street. The stench of burning flesh fused indelibly into his memory that day as he'd beaten out the fire consuming his father's body with his bare hands. He hadn't felt the pain, hadn't felt anything. And when he'd looked up and seen Sam, his expression had reflected the blankness that Caden felt. And then he'd learned what Sam already knew. Everything that had made up their lives was gone. The town. Their parents. Their childhood.

The only survivors of the massacre were the eight friends. By agreement, none had buried their own parents. They'd thought it would help. It hadn't. And, also by agreement, they'd vowed revenge. Extracting justice one by one as they grew up, earning the label of Hell's Eight along the way. Caden didn't know what would have become of them if Tia hadn't caught them that day, starving, stealing that pie, and taken them under her wing. They sure as shit wouldn't have become Texas Rangers. Tia was one in a million. Strength and softness mixed in one. If he ever met another woman like her, he'd marry her in a minute.

Fingers slid over his forearm. He didn't need to look down to know who it was who touched him with such compassion and gentleness. Maddie. Poor abused Mad-die. Born to a whore. Raised in a whorehouse. Used by men all her life until Tracker had brought her home after one of his failed searches for Ari. Maddie was as fleeting as sunshine, here one minute, gone the next, retreating into fantasy as fast as she snapped out of it. Her fingers tightened slightly on his arm. He smiled down at her automatically. Despite the harshness of her past, there was something about Maddie that remained untouched, that drew a man to smile. That enticing illusion of innocence probably had made her a damn good whore.

Caden regretted the thought as soon as Maddie smiled back at him with complete trust, her dark green eyes picking up the deeper green of leaves of the pear tree, her wavy red hair dragging the sunlight with it as tendrils escaped her bun and blew across her cheeks. Freckles sprinkled like pale kisses across the bridge of her nose. And her smile…that sweet, gentle smile that captured the hope of the world added to his guilt. So trusting when she had no reason to trust anyone, least of all him. Fey, his da would have called Maddie. One of the special ones that bridged the space between this world and the magical one.

"Tia looks like a queen, doesn't she?" Maddie said in a soft voice that eased a man's tension. For all her differences, Caden had always found Maddie a very restful soul.

"Yeah, she does." He was happy for Tia and Ed. It'd taken Ed seven years to convince Tia he wasn't going anywhere. And Tia, well, she deserved the best of everything. Not just because she'd taken eight ragtag boys and raised them into men, but because of who she was. She stood next to her husband, petite and elegantly plump in her golden silk gown, her graying black hair pulled back into a sedate bun, her white, gold and black lace mantilla draped artfully around her face. He felt that familiar twinge of unease that came with the thought of settling.

Voices rose and fell around him, taking on an unreal quality, and the moment froze with sudden clarity. They were all settling down. Caine had his Desi. Tucker had Sally Mae. Sam with his Bella. Tracker had Ari, and Shadow had his Fei. The wild boys of the plains were becoming the builders of the future. Hell's Eight had been Caden's focus for as long as he could remember, but looking around the ranch he'd helped build, Caden had that ever-increasing sense of "wrong." His feet itched and his nerve endings crawled impatiently beneath his skin. He'd been a part of Hell's Eight for twenty-two years, but he didn't feel as if he belonged here anymore.

"Are you worried Tia won't love you anymore now that she has Ed?" Maddie teased, her fingers sliding between his and squeezing. It was a totally inappropriate gesture. Yet it completely soothed his unease. Caden tugged at his hand. Maddie didn't let go.

Shit. The woman made it easy to take advantage of her. Her sweet nature and the fact that more often than not she was in her make-believe world where nothing bad could touch her made her an easy target. Everyone wished she was stronger, but disappearing into her own mind was Maddie's defense against what'd happened to her in her life. Caden thought they should just let her be. It was a hard world, harder if you were brought up in a whorehouse. Harder still if you had the sweet personality of a child. Too many men had taken advantage of the optimistic woman in Maddie. He didn't want to be one of them. This time he tugged his hand free. "I'm not worried, Maddie mine."

The endearment just slipped out. She blinked up at him. "If I'm yours, why do you need to lie to me?"

How was he supposed to answer that? Across the garden, he smiled at Tia and Ed before lifting his glass in a silent toast. Tia smiled back, but Caden could tell from the tension at the edge of her mouth that she knew he was leaving. He hated to ruin her day, but he was who he was. A Miller didn't let grass grow under his feet. He pursued rather than settled. He took another sip of the champagne, wishing even more that it was whiskey.

"Habit, I guess."

"You don't lie to anyone else."

Everyone else could handle the truth. Maddie continued to stare up at him, her fingertips resting on his forearm, as if the pressure took his measure. The way she stared at him so steadily made him uneasy, as if she really was fey and really did see more than others.

"I'm leaving, Maddie."

She blinked slowly. He had the oddest impression she'd just gasped.

"When will you be back?"

He traced his finger over the curl spilling down her temple. It was always too easy to touch Maddie. "I don't know."

"Where will you go?"

"So many questions."

"You don't want to answer?"

Maddie could be surprisingly blunt.

With a sigh he admitted, "No."

Cocking her head to the side, her gaze never leaving his, she took another step in until the blue gingham skirts of her brand-new dress brushed his boots. She frowned as her fingers trailed down to his wrist. "You're upset."

From across the garden, he saw Tia note the familiarity with a frown of her own. Caden shrugged. They could lecture Maddie all they wanted about proper behavior, but it wouldn't make a difference. She listened, she truly did, but in the end Maddie was Maddie. Open sunshine and optimism covering a lifetime of hurt. Her conduct was as volatile as her grasp on reality. While he'd never seen Maddie actually proposition a man, she often gave the impression she was propositional. And that was a shame, because she had a heart of gold and deserved to be treasured.

Faint strains of music blended with the hum of conversation. Four of Sam's vaqueros strummed their guitars. The hum of conversation rose as everyone wandered to the grassy center where ribbons and bunches of cut flowers fluttered in the breeze, defining the dance area. Tia had declared May to be the perfect month for a wedding, and Caden had to agree. The day was beautiful, the weather perfect, and the bride and groom happy. There wasn't a fly in the ointment. As Caden watched, Ed took Tia's hand and brought it to his lips with a courtly bow Caden would have sworn the former cowhand could never have pulled off. When Tia smiled at her husband, her expression full of love, the last of Caden's uncertainty slipped away. He could leave cleanly now. Tia was happy and safe. The last of his debts were paid. The sense of excitement he'd expected failed to come.

"Don't be sad," Maddie said, her fingertips smoothing over the inside of his wrist.

"Millers don't get sad."

"I can feel—"

"I think there's some cake left, Maddie," Caine interrupted, coming up beside them, a whiskey glass in each hand and a gentle tone to his normally hard drawl. Everyone at Hell's Eight used a gentle note with Maddie. A body couldn't help it. She had that way of wild things about her that made you think one wrong move and she'd either dart to the right or leave looking for a hiding spot. Plain and simple, harsh words shattered Maddie's fragile hold on reality. "You might want to think about getting some before Tucker's sweet tooth takes hold."

Maddie let go of his arm and turned toward the cake table. Sure enough, Tucker was moving toward it.

"He's like a horde of locusts devouring all in their path," she muttered.

The comparison made Caden smile. Tucker was a deliberate man, deadly when he chose to be, but he did like his sweets.

As if hearing his thoughts, Caine offered, "He does like his cake."

So did Maddie. Brought up as she had been, she'd never had a sweet before fourteen and only that one which she'd stolen. Since she'd come to Hell's Eight, she'd been making up for lost time. Not content with just sampling what Tia baked, she was learning to create her own confections. When he'd asked her why, she'd said in a moment of total clarity that if she knew how to make what she needed, she'd never be needing again. He didn't like to think of her being without. He'd asked Tia to up the monthly order of baking supplies. No one had complained after Maddie proved she could turn anything she baked to bliss. She never ate what she baked, though. That he couldn't figure out. And she wouldn't say why. Which just deepened the puzzle of what made the apparently simple Maddie so complex.

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Caden's Vow 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a good read. The only thing keeping me from giving 5 stars is that I thought the characters got over their problems a little too quick. Still worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want one like him!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love all of the Hell's Eight series. Big, stuff & dangerous men who are family & loyal. The love & protect their damaged mates with their very lives. Sarah McCarty's writing is so sexy & juicy. Can't wait to read #7!
arlenadean More than 1 year ago
Author: Sarah McCarty Published by: Harlequin HgN Age Recommended: Adult Reviewed By: Arlena Dean Book Blog For: GMTA Rating: 5 Series: Hell's Eight # 6 Review: "Caden's Vow" by Sarah McCarty was this authors' 6 in the series..Hell's Eight # 6. This novel was a good western, historical, erotica romance that is all rolled up into one good novel. I found this series just a love story of Maddie and Caden.Both of these two people were 'broken human beings, one very obviously needing restoration and healing after years of sexual abuse since the age of eight." "She was rescued in one of the previous books and brought to live with the Hell's Eight and their wives." Caden had some serious wounds of finding out just who he really was and who he wanted to be on "set on fulfilling a promise to his father, going to the gold mine." So, what will come of Maddie and Caden? This is where I say you must pick up "Caden's Vow" to see how this will come out in this forced marriage. Be ready for the 'wild wild west, gold mines, riding horses, and shootings.' Many of the characters have come back into this novel from past series runs. You will find all of the characters so very well developed and very much so captivating only to give you a good read. This author has some writing style that shows how she is able to creative such a historical western manuscript for her readers even giving you the smells along with the experience of this life. If you are in for a good western, historical and romantic read with some erotica "Caden's Vow" would be recommended to you as a excellent read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this book. Highly recommend
cathie35 More than 1 year ago
I have read most of the books in this series. Hell's Eight. I know there will be a few more. I look forward to the next book. I hope it is about ACE.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another good story in the series. . . .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book and love this series - can't wait for the next one!
booksonmynook More than 1 year ago
I loved this book as much as I loved the others by S McCarty. very well written with excellent plot. Can't wait for the next one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love that old west stories
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A reread for me
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot is good.  I know this is supposed to be an Erotic Historical Romance, but some of the love scenes are kinda raunchy.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot was erratic, dialogue was pointless and the characters were un-inspired. It would have been an acceptable read if I hadn't come to expect so much more from Ms. McCarty. That's it for me for the Hell's Eight series, and it's a shame.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I loved how Maddie grew from being withdrawn to finding her own. The book gave you a sense of it being a much longer book then it was, in a good way. It was a little dry in the beginning but it didn't lose my interest. You really got inside Maddie's head in the beginning which was needed in order to understand why Maddie acted the way she did and to see the things she had to overcome.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is this book supposed to be an erotic romance or even a ROMANCE book? This book is more like McCarty has become a Christian fluff author. Very, very, very disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nicebutnaughty More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this storyline and characters. It is a good example of romance with a Western theme. If you have not read the other books, this is a great start but all of them should be enjoyed.