Read an Excerpt
By Carolyn Davidson
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSaint Louis, April 1862
He wanted her.
With but a single glance he acknowledged the desire flaring within him, knew instinctively she would fit neatly into his arms should he lift her against himself. His mouth tightened, as did the pressure of his knees against the sides of the horse he rode, and the black gelding sidestepped, tossing his head impatiently.
Appearing small and fragile beside the tall wagon, the woman's face was in profile, her features finely drawn. Woman? She seemed but a girl, clad in a poorly fitting, voluminous dress. From beneath her sunbonnet, dark hair hung in a long braid down her back, the end tied with a bit of ribbon. It was a feminine touch, almost an aching reminder to the watching eye that, no matter the adversity, a woman's need for such small fripperies would prevail.
To Finley Carson's narrowed gaze, she appeared too delicate for the rigors of traveling across prairies toward the mountains that beckoned the unwary. Silently she stood looking upward at the seat, and then placed a slender hand on the wooden vehicle, hesitant, obviously fearful of climbing upward, lest she fall.
"Get in, Jessica." The order was growled impatiently, the man standing beside the pair of oxen apparently not given to gallantry. Harsh syllables that offered no leniency to her smaller stature, her obvious fear.
"I'm not sure I can," the young woman answered.
"There's nothing for me to step up on." Her voice was husky, that of a woman full grown, but laced now with frustration only too clear to a bystander.
And a bystander was exactly what he must be, Finley Carson reminded himself. No matter that the man muttered an obscenity as he stalked back to where the young woman stood, it was not his concern that she was lifted and tossed with careless movements to sit atop the seat. Not his affair to wonder at her rough treatment by the man whose actions brought quick tears to her eyes and caused her to cringe from his uncaring hands.
Yet, the aching awareness of dark hair and fragile-boned femininity made Finn frown. The urge to rest callused palms upon her narrow shoulders, to look into those wary eyes, tugged at him. For a single moment he knew envy of another man, such as had never possessed him in his twenty-six years.
His hands tightened on the reins of his mount and moved with an almost unseen signal, turning his horse aside. The black gelding obeyed with a toss of his head, and Finn caught a glimpse of the woman's face as she turned her head in his direction. Unsmiling, she nodded, a simple acknowledgment of his presence, and he felt a lurch in his chest as controlled anger gripped him.
He wanted her. Ached to lift her from where she huddled on the high seat. Yearned for a long moment to feel her softness against his body. The thought possessed him and he turned aside, his heels again nudging the barrel of his mount, urging him into an easy lope.
With a discipline gained from his years as an army scout, Finn Carson put the dark-eyed female from his mind, his jaw firm as he rode down the line of wagons. His gaze surveyed the men who performed last-minute chores, readying the train for its imminent departure from Saint Louis, heading for Independence, Missouri.
This was an assignment he almost relished, one that must be uppermost in his mind over the next months. Taking his place on this wagon train as a guide, using his skills to find the man who was a cheat - a murderer who had stolen the deed to a homestead. One hundred sixty acres of land that lay in the shadow of Pike's Peak - a speck of wilderness that held a fortune in gold in its depths, if the assayer's office could be relied upon.
Lyle Beaumont. The man was here, his presence a canker, his very existence a stain on the essence of decency Finn had been raised to believe in. Lyle Beaumont - the man who had cheated Finn's brother, Aaron Carson, of his rightful claim to land and then killed him to conceal the theft.
Lyle Beaumont - who even now possessed the deed to those 160 acres in Colorado.
It was toward that man his mind must focus, that man Finn must identify and pursue, even as he hid his own identity on this train. With regret, he set aside the moment of yearning he'd suffered, acknowledging his purpose would not - could not - include a dalliance of any sort on the journey. Certainly not with a woman who so obviously was already possessed of a husband.
There were only a dozen or so females counted among the group. Most of the men were miners who traveled toward the promised land of gold and silver that courted their interest. More of an obsession, actually, Finn decided with a shake of his head. Men who lusted after gold were a breed apart. Willing to sacrifice everything they possessed on the altar of greed.
Even a woman - a woman obliged to follow the path her husband took. A woman who was off-limits to other men, he reminded himself. A woman bound to the man who had placed a ring on her finger and fear in her heart.
Excerpted from Colorado Courtship by Carolyn Davidson Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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.