Running to her cousin’s Colorado homestead in the hopes of finding romance, Renata Parkhurst is amazed when she immediately meets wounded rancher Jake Wolfe, a determined man who is reputed to be a cold-blooded murderer.

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Chase the Lightning

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Running to her cousin’s Colorado homestead in the hopes of finding romance, Renata Parkhurst is amazed when she immediately meets wounded rancher Jake Wolfe, a determined man who is reputed to be a cold-blooded murderer.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781497610248
  • Publisher: Open Road Media
  • Publication date: 5/27/2014
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 405,868
  • File size: 351 KB

Meet the Author

USA Today–bestselling author Linda W. Jones has written more than fifty romance books in several subgenres, including historical and fairy tale romance as well as romantic suspense. In the paranormal genre, she has written both contemporary and historical stories of ghosts and ghost hunters, time travel, psychic phenomena, and fantasy set in alternate historical worlds. She is an award-winning author and three-time RITA finalist. Writing as Linda Fallon, she won the 2004 RITA for paranormal romance. Her recent releases include her popular Columbyana-set fantasy stories for Berkley Sensation and the contemporary paranormal romance Raintree: Haunted. She has published as Linda Jones, Linda Winstead, Linda Winstead Jones, Linda Fallon, and Linda Devlin. You can find occasionally updated news at www.lindawinsteadjones.com.
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Read an Excerpt

Chase the Lightning

By Linda Winstead Jones


Copyright © 1995 Linda Winstead
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4976-1024-8


Colorado, 1884

Renata Marie Parkhurst leaned over, trying her best to ignore the jostling and the dust that poured through the open windows of the stagecoach. The other six passengers in the Concord, seated comfortably in the coach built for nine, repeatedly wiped the sweat from their brows, covered their mouths with tightly clutched handkerchiefs, and moaned with every bounce.

Renata spoke loudly to the young woman across from her so she could be heard above the din of the vehicle that was practically flying down the rutted road. "I knew a woman once who fought with her husband on their wedding day." She nodded her head knowingly at the newlywed Margaret Tidwell, whom Renata thought of as young despite the fact that she was twenty-two and Renata was not yet twenty. "It was over some inconsequential insult to the bride's father, I believe. The bride absolutely refused to make amends, even when the poor groom begged for her forgiveness."

Margaret Tidwell cut suspicious eyes over to her own bridegroom. "It was my mother he insulted, and it was not inconsequential. He called her a shrew!"

Renata raised her eyebrows. "To her face?"

Margaret shook her head. "No, but it was an insult just the same."

Renata nodded her head in agreement. "This bride I was telling you about? The woman who refused to forgive her husband? She regretted it later, I can tell you." Renata continued to nod her head as she spoke, but the new bride looked skeptical.

"Well, I will never forgive Sam, and I will never regret it, either." Margaret's chin jutted forward defiantly.

Renata sighed deeply, wondering if she should even attempt to continue. The girl's mind was made up, but it pained Renata to see anyone suffer needlessly, particularly if she thought she could fix it. Her mother called it meddling and her father called it butting in, but Renata called it fixing. "I hope the same fate doesn't befall you and Sam as ... well, never mind." Renata looked out of the window and sighed again, as dramatically as she dared.

There were several moments of strained silence. Sam was staring stubbornly out the window, two male passengers were trying with little success to sleep, and the other passengers, two spritely older women, were watching Renata intently.

Finally, Margaret broke down and asked, "What happened?"

"The groom took sick. His bride had locked him out of their house, but he was so distraught over her anger that he stayed outside, even in a cold March rain. He waited all night, and the next morning when his bride found him he was feverish and delirious. Naturally she felt bad, but it was too late. He never recovered, and she was left a widow at eighteen. The insult to her father seems very small when you consider ..." Renata's voice trailed off wistfully.

She hoped her older sister wouldn't mind that she had taken liberties with the story. Of course, Amalie had been fourteen at the time, and instead of a groom it had been a small shaggy dog that had been put out of the house, punished for having had an accident on Amalie's favorite rug. The poor dog hadn't died, but it had gotten very wet, and Amalie had felt awful when she'd found it the next morning. Close enough to the truth, Renata decided.

Margaret looked over at her groom for the first time since they'd boarded the stage, and there was softness in her eyes. "That's very sad. Don't you think so, Sam?"

Sam Tidwell turned to Margaret with a lift of his bushy eyebrows. "Yes," he said, reaching out to his wife and tentatively taking her hand. "I'm sorry I insulted your ma. Forgive me?"

As an answer, Margaret laid her head on Sam's shoulder, and squeezed his hand. Satisfied, Renata turned her attention once again to the landscape that was flying past. The train had been much more comfortable, but she only had half a day to spend on the stage ... half a day to Silver Valley.

Her cousin Melanie had told her so much about Silver Valley and its inhabitants that Renata felt as if she would know everyone there the moment she stepped down from the Concord. The shy little man who put out the weekly paper, the dressmaker who mothered half the town, the couple who ran the general store ... and Silver Valley itself, which Melanie had told her was not situated in a valley and contained no silver other than the silver dollars that were spent there. The town was supported primarily by the surrounding ranches, one of which belonged to Melanie and her husband Gabriel Maxwell.

Renata was so excited that she could feel her heart racing, the blood coursing through her veins. Leaving home had been her first act of defiance against her parents, and it was a doozy. She'd left a note saying that she was setting sail for Europe, which she thought should give her a little time to accomplish her mission before her parents figured out where she really was. When she had what she wanted she would send them a telegram, but by then it would be too late for them to stop her. Far too late.

Asking—no, demanding—that she marry that English fop was going just a bit too far, even for her mother. The man, whose name was Percival, for goodness sake, was almost old enough to be her father. Her mother said he was slender and elegant, but he was skinny! He didn't dance, he talked funny, and he wanted to take her away to England, away from everything and everyone she had ever known, and make her live in a drafty old castle. Amalie had said it sounded terribly romantic. Renata had suggested bluntly that her older sister leave her own ordinary American husband for the earl, or whatever he was, and Amalie had been shocked. She loved her husband, she had protested, and she would never ... and then she had seen Renata's point. There was no substitute for love, not even a title and a castle that had been standing for three or four hundred years.

Renata knew what she wanted. Her objective had been vague in her mind until Melanie and Gabriel's visit the previous summer. They clearly adored one another, even after three years of marriage—four years, now—and rambunctious twin daughters. The way Gabriel looked at Melanie when he thought no one was watching, the way Melanie's eyes lit up when Gabriel entered the room. That was what Renata wanted. She hadn't been able to find a relationship like that in Philadelphia, and she certainly wouldn't find it in England with Percival.

So she had decided she had to look elsewhere, to find herself a rancher, a rancher like Gabriel. They would fall madly in love, at first sight of course, and they would live happily ever after.

Melanie would be surprised to see her, but Renata didn't think her cousin would mind. She had given the entire family an open invitation to visit the ranch in Colorado, and Renata had simply decided to take Melanie up on her offer. Of course, she should have written or wired first, but she hadn't dared. She didn't want Melanie to have the opportunity to let the rest of the family know what had become of her. Renata was certain that once she explained her mission to her cousin, Melanie would understand. And Renata didn't plan on speaking to her parents again until after she was married, when it was too late.

One of the older ladies sitting next to Renata leaned over and whispered into her ear. "Was that story true?"

"Of course." Renata's whispered reply was serious. "Most of it, at least." She cast a sly glance at the newlyweds. "They are a lovely couple, aren't they?"

The gray-haired lady smiled and nodded her head. "And what about you, young lady?" She turned away from the Tidwells and studied Renata intently. "Do you have a young man waiting for you in ... where are you going?"

"Silver Valley." Renata supplied the name of her destination. "You're going on farther, aren't you?"

"Yes. My sister and I won't arrive until tomorrow." She tilted her head toward the woman on her left, who was asleep. "Do you have a beau waiting for you in Silver Valley?"

Renata smiled. In spite of the trip's discomforts she was filled with hope and wonder. "Yes," she answered finally. "Yes, I do."

The older lady, who had introduced herself earlier as Mrs. Hundley of St. Louis, returned Renata's smile warmly. "How wonderful for you. What does he do there?"

"He's a rancher," Renata said assuredly, with an unexpected swelling of her heart. Her future was bright and exciting and she had everything planned perfectly.

"That will be quite a change for you, won't it? Didn't you say you were from Philadelphia?"

"Yes. I've lived there all my life. I'm sure the life of a rancher's wife is very different from that of a physician's daughter, but I look forward to the challenge. I'll have a cousin living nearby, and I'm sure she'll be of great help to me."

Mrs. Hundley patted Renata's arm just as they hit a particularly nasty rut in the road. "I wish you the best of luck, my dear. You're a sweet, beautiful girl. Your young man is very lucky."

"That's very kind of you, Mrs. Hundley," Renata said sincerely as a loose strand of hair fell over Renata's cheek when they landed roughly. Sweet, of course. Renata had never met anyone she couldn't get along with. She was certain that was why she had received so many proposals of marriage. But none of her suitors had sparked any passion in her. Their kisses had been pleasant, but they hadn't left her breathless or even half as excited as she was as she approached Silver Valley at a breakneck pace.

Beautiful? She thought not. Melanie was beautiful, with her blond hair and blue eyes. Amalie was beautiful, with dark hair, their father's legacy to his oldest daughter, and deep blue eyes. Renata had no illusions about her own looks. She wasn't ugly, of course, but her hair was neither pale nor dark. She didn't have blue eyes like her sister and her cousin, but green ones that had a tendency to turn gray when she was angry. Amalie was tall, lean, and graceful, and Melanie moved with an inbred elegance, tempered with careless assurance. Renata sometimes felt clumsy and always too short, at barely five-foot-two.

Of course, she was the youngest of the girls, and had been comparing herself to her older sister and her beautiful cousin for years ... always unfavorably.

"What's your young man's name?" Mrs. Hundley asked. "Perhaps I know him. We've visited this area several times over the past ten years. Our older sister lives just a day's ride from Silver Valley."

"His name?"

"Yes. Unless I'm being too forward." Mrs. Hundley backed off. "I didn't mean to pry."

"It's not that," Renata reassured the woman quickly. "It's just that ... well, I don't know his name yet."

Mrs. Hundley didn't question Renata further, as she obviously would have liked to do.

Renata looked out the window and caught a glimpse of her destination. She could hardly contain her excitement. "There it is! Silver Valley! Isn't that a lovely name? Silver Valley. It just sort of rolls off the tongue, much more poetically than Philadelphia." Renata bit her bottom lip. He was there, somewhere; she was certain. Would he be watching her arrival, unaware that she was his destiny? Perhaps. The idea was exciting.

The Concord pulled to a stop, and Renata suddenly became nervous. She chewed her lower lip, a habit her mother detested, and tried to straighten her hair to smooth her errant curls. Brushing the skirt of her gray traveling suit, she took a deep breath.

"My dear." Mrs. Hundley leaned forward and clasped Renata's hand, giving her a soft yet somehow stern look of concern. "It's none of my business, I know, but you're such a sweet girl. Did I hear you correctly? You don't know the name of your intended?"

Renata nodded.

Mrs. Hundley pursed her lips. "Why is that? Is it an arranged marriage? Are you—"she blushed, bringing high color to her wrinkled cheeks—"a mail-order bride?"

Renata raised her head and met the woman's curious stare with determination. "Nothing like that, Mrs. Hundley. I just haven't found him yet."

Silver Valley was just as Melanie had described it, the dust rising from the main street on a dry summer day, the two old men sitting in front of the general store arguing. Horses were tethered in front of the single saloon, and men in sturdy work clothes and serviceable, wide-brimmed hats milled about in front of the saloon, the general store, and the livery. Cowboys. Ranchers. Her rancher? Renata wondered as she stepped down from the coach.

The single dirt-packed street was lined with businesses, an occasional two-story building rising above the rest. The only hotel had three stories, and the dress shop had two. Renata remembered that the dressmaker had her rooms above her shop. The livery was at the far end of the street, and when Renata turned around she saw the pristine white church at the east end, a building set apart from the dusty town and yet an integral part of it. Tall trees surrounded the church, towering even above the steeple that reached for the sky.

Renata supervised the unloading of her Saratoga trunk and two slightly smaller ones. Almost everything she owned was in those trunks. She was never going back to Philadelphia, except to visit with her future husband and their children, just as Melanie and Gabriel had the summer before.

She was the only one of the passengers departing at Silver Valley and she received her fair share of stares from the cowboys and the old men in front of the general store.

"Good afternoon," Renata said cheerfully as she entered the general store and approached the sour-looking woman behind the counter. "You must be Mrs. Boyle. Melanie has spoken so kindly of you, I believe I would know you anywhere. What a lovely store you have." Renata looked around appreciatively. "I'm certain I'll be doing lots of business here."

Mrs. Boyle looked Renata up and down blatantly. "Are you plannin' on stayin' in Silver Valley, miss?"

"For a while, certainly. First I need to hire a carriage to take me to Melanie Maxwell's house. Who might I see about that?"

Mrs. Boyle smiled. "So you're a friend of Mel's, are ya?"

Renata pursed her lips. She had never cared for Melanie's nickname. Mel, indeed. "She's my cousin. I've come to visit."

Mrs. Boyle knit her heavy brows and her lips thinned. "Did she know you were comin'?"

"No. It's a bit of a surprise. I'd promised to visit soon, but I never—"

"She's not here," Mrs. Boyle interrupted. "Her and Gabe and the twins left last week for Texas. No tellin' when they'll be back."

Renata frowned. If she had known they would be at Uncle Richard's, she could have gone directly there. After all, there were ranchers in Texas, too. Lots of them. "Well, I suppose there's nothing to do but wait," she said, pushing her disappointment aside. "Surely they won't be gone too long. They have a ranch to run."

"Gabe pretty much leaves the runnin' of the ranch to Lester Patton, and that Jake Wolf." She said the last name as if it left a sour taste in her mouth, pursing her lips and transforming her already stern visage to one of obvious distaste.

"I can't wait to meet them." Renata straightened her skirt and smoothed a wayward strand of hair. "And everyone else Melanie has told me so much about. The first order of business will be to get to the ranch and clean up a bit. I'm afraid I'm not much of a traveler."

Mrs. Boyle met Renata's friendly smile with a calculating stare, then cracked a tiny smile of her own. "You look a bit better than most who step off the stage. That bumpy, dusty ride usually manages to get the best of even the toughest men. My husband Donnie will be happy to take you out to the Maxwell ranch. Will you be wantin' to go to the new house or the old cabin?"

"New house?"

"Yep. It's not quite finished. Lester has some of the boys workin' on it so it will be done by the time Mel and Gabe get back. It might be a tad quieter for you at the cabin."

Renata smiled. Melanie had told her stories about life in that cabin, and she knew that was where she wanted to go.

Donnie Boyle loaded Renata's trunks onto the back of a buckboard. A short, stocky man, he lifted the heavy trunks as if they weighed nothing at all. Renata decided that Janie and Donnie Boyle looked so much alike that they could have been brother and sister, instead of man and wife.


Excerpted from Chase the Lightning by Linda Winstead Jones. Copyright © 1995 Linda Winstead. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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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