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In a Cowboy's Arms
By Janette Kenny
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2010 Janette Kenny
All right reserved.
It wasn't yet ten in the morning, and Dade Logan was already bored clean out of his mind. Other than locking the town drunk up every Friday night when he got a snootful, there wasn't much in the way of law to enforce in Placid, Colorado.
Not that he was anxious for trouble to come to this sleepy town that rested in the valley east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Nope, he'd been waiting all winter for one person to return, and if she didn't show up soon he didn't know what the hell he would do.
The hiss of the locomotive and clang of the rail cars pulling out echoed up the main street of Placid. Two folks had boarded the Denver & Rio Grande, heading east to Pueblo. He hadn't seen anyone get off.
Maybe she'd arrive on the afternoon train. As the racket from steel wheels on rails grew faint, he heard his name being called out.
"Sheriff Logan! Sheriff Logan!"
Dade smiled. Raymond Tenfeather was pounding down the boardwalk somewhere between the stable and the jail, hollering out his name like he did every day about this time.
When the liveryman's younger son wasn't trailing his elder brother Duane around town, he had taken to following Dade on the pretext of helping him look for lawbreakers. Dade had gently explained that wasn't necessary, but the boy took it on himself to be the town spy. God only knew what Raymond had seen this time.
Dade rocked back in his chair and stacked his crossed boots on the edge of his desk, awaiting the boy's imminent arrival. As always, his gaze narrowed on the wanted posters tacked on the wall.
Dammit all if the three outlaws staring back at him weren't smirking. His pa and uncles would find it amusing that Dade had taken an oath to uphold the laws that Clete, Brice, and Seth Logan had been hell-bent on breaking all their lives.
It'd been twenty years since he'd seen any of them, though their wanted posters had haunted him most of his life. There sure as hell wasn't any love lost between him and his kin.
Yet one question nagged at him right after they pinned a tin star on his chest. If his pa and uncles came to town, could he draw on them?
Part of him said yes. His pa had had no qualms about deserting him and his little sister. Yet when all was said and done, he wasn't sure he could turn on his blood. Hell, unlike Reid Barclay, he couldn't have turned on either of his foster brothers either.
"Sheriff Logan!" Raymond burst into the jail, his dark skin glistening with sweat and his scrawny chest heaving from his run. "I saw her."
"Just who'd you see?" Dade asked.
"The lady you been waiting for," Raymond said.
"Daisy?" he asked.
The boy nodded. "She got off the train, just like you was hoping she'd do."
Now how the hell had he missed seeing her?
Dade's heart took off galloping at the thought that sticking around here had paid off. His missing sister had finally come back like everyone in town said she would.
For the first time in months he visited that dream of buying a nice little farm for them to call home. He could run a few head of cattle. Do a bit of farming. Hell, he could find his brother Trey and bring him into the deal.
It was a damn sight better thing to dwell on than the idea of going back to the Crown Seven and having it out with Reid, the foster brother who'd sold them out when they needed him the most.
First things first. He'd waited twenty years to find his sister. He wasn't about to waste a second forestalling their reunion.
"Where is she?" he asked, heading for the door as he spoke.
"Mrs. Gant's boardinghouse," Raymond said, hot on his heels.
The place where Daisy and her crippled traveling companion had stayed before. Mrs. Gant had told him about their visit to Placid. How Daisy had caught the young sheriff's eye. How she'd promised to come back last fall and marry Lester.
But the sheriff was dead, spring was in full bloom, and nobody in town had any idea where Daisy Logan and her lady friend hailed from.
Dade figured she'd heard about Lester's murder and wasn't coming back to Placid. He feared he'd lost her again.
"Thanks, Raymond." Dade flipped the boy a silver dollar and headed out the door.
Long determined strides carried him across the dusty street. He wondered how much Daisy had changed. Would she recognize him? Would she be as glad to be reunited with her family as he was?
He'd find out damn soon, he thought, as he cut down the street between Hein's Grocery and Doc Franklin's house.
Mrs. Gant's boardinghouse sat the next street over, but the elevation made the walk seem farther. He bounded up the steps then paused at the door to steady his breath.
The climb was nothing, but the excitement pounding inside him made it hard to draw a decent breath. He blew out the air trapped in his chest, inhaled deeply, and stepped inside.
Mrs. Gant was in the parlor, serving tea to a lady seated on the stiff Victorian sofa. Neither seemed to have heard him come in.
That was fine by him, for it gave him time to study his sister. Her golden hair had darkened to a rich honey. Her features were still delicate and refined, but she didn't resemble their mother or father.
She wasn't a cute little pixie anymore. Nope, she'd grown into a beautiful woman with all the curves in all the right places. But it was the odd combination of grief and fear in her eyes that gave him pause.
"I am so sorry to be the one to tell you that Lester has passed over," Mrs. Gant said, verifying what Dade suspected had caused his sister's distress. "I didn't know where you'd gone, but when you didn't come back last fall like you said you would, I thought maybe you'd heard."
"No, I had no idea," Daisy said. "What happened?"
"It was just awful," Mrs. Gant said. "This ruffian came to town, intent on robbing the bank. Lester was there, and before he could turn and confront this no-account, the ruffian shot him dead."
Daisy pressed a hand to her mouth, clearly horrified by the news. Mrs. Gant's version was close enough to the truth that Dade didn't see the need to comment.
"I tell you truly," Mrs. Gant said, "I shudder to think what would've happened if Dade Logan hadn't stepped in like he did and ended the robber's reign of terror on our town. No telling who else would've been gunned down if not for your brother's courage."
Dade winced. The townsfolk had taken to embellishing the events of that day to the point Dade cringed every time he heard it. Now was surely no exception, for Daisy's face had leached of color at the mention of his name.
"W-what?" Daisy said in a voice that was way too high.
"Yes, indeed, your brother is a hero." Mrs. Gant launched into telling Daisy the details.
This surely wasn't the reunion he'd had in mind. A sound of disgust must've slipped from him for Mrs. Gant glanced his way and smiled.
Daisy, on the other hand, looked ready to bolt as her head snapped up and her gaze clashed with his. Instead of recognition lighting her eyes, they narrowed with suspicion and something bordering on dread.
Mrs. Gant patted Daisy's hand. "It'll be all right now, dear. You have family to help you through this difficult time."
Daisy shook her head. "No! I'm an orphan."
Dade scrubbed a hand across his nape, frustrated and more than a mite worried about his sister's increased distress. He wasn't surprised that Daisy hadn't recognized him after twenty years, but forgetting that he existed signaled something else entirely.
"You saying you don't remember me?" Dade asked.
She shook her head, her gaze focusing on his tin star before lifting to his face. He hadn't thought she could get any paler but he'd been wrong.
"Don't you remember that Pa left us at the Guardian Angel's Orphan Asylum?"
She shook her head and stared at him with troubled eyes.
"You recall being in the orphanage?" he asked.
She frowned. "Some. Mostly I was scared."
So was Dade, but it did him no good then or now to admit it. How could her memory be that bad?
She'd cried and screamed for Dade after their pa had dumped them there, and put up more of a ruckus when they'd been separated-boys in one wing of the drafty old building and girls in the other.
They'd seen each other precious little after that, but she hadn't forgotten him then. She'd pitched a fit when they took her away on the orphan train, to the point that they'd had to restrain him from going after her.
As the wagon pulled away, he'd vowed he'd find her and keep them together as family. But he hadn't been able to keep his promise.
"Reid, Trey, and I tried to find you," he said, but though they'd run away from the orphanage a few months later, they'd failed to pick up the trail of the orphan train that Daisy had taken west.
He'd failed his sister.
"Reid and Trey. Are they family?"
"They're as close as brothers to me." Or were. "But they aren't blood kin like we are."
Daisy didn't look the least bit relieved. In fact, she acted more leery than before as she turned to Mrs. Gant.
"Is he really my brother?" she asked the older woman.
Her trust in a stranger was a gut punch to Dade. It didn't ease his mind none that Mrs. Gant was giving him a long assessing look either. He knew trouble was coming before she voiced an opinion, which the lady always had on everything.
"Well, he says he is. But all we have is his word." Mrs. Gant pinned him with a squinty stare. "You have any kin in these parts?"
He hoped to hell not. The last thing he needed was for his outlaw pa and uncles to show their faces. He'd be lucky to get out of town without getting shot.
"No kin left but me and Daisy," he said, and he reasoned that could be true. Any day he expected to get word that his old man and renegade uncles had been gunned down.
He swore under his breath, damning his pa again for abandoning his family. Daisy had only been four years old when they'd arrived at the Guardian Angel's Orphan Asylum. She'd just turned five when she'd been put on the orphan train.
"Forgive me for being skeptical." Daisy swallowed hard and looked up at him. "But I was told that I had no family."
"That's a lie," Dade said. "You've got me."
Daisy grimaced and seemed not the least bit repentant about her aversion to him. "If you're telling the truth."
Dade scrubbed a hand over his mouth to smother a curse that ached to burst free. What the hell could he do to convince his sister of the truth?
"Well, this is quite an interesting turn of events," Mrs. Gant said. "You don't favor each other at all. Pity you don't have a photograph of when you were children. We'd likely be able to put all doubts to rest then."
Truer words were never spoken. "There was one," he said, barely recalling the day it'd been taken but knowing it had happened all the same. "Ma kept it in her locket."
Daisy was clearly uncomfortable with his recollections for her cheeks turned pink, and she began fidgeting with something at her throat. He gave a passing glance at the blue cameo broach pinned to her bodice, then just gaped at the locket.
"That's it, handed down to her by her ma." He could've sworn pure panic flared in Daisy's eyes. "Before Pa left us at the orphanage, he pinned that to your dress."
Her lower lip quivered as she turned to Mrs. Gant. "I don't know what to believe."
"Well, let's have a look inside that locket," Mrs. Gant said, taking the words right out of Dade's mouth.
Daisy squirmed, as if nervous over finding the proof of his claim. Finally she unclasped the cameo from her bodice, hesitated a moment, and then handed it to Mrs. Gant.
"My hands are shaking too badly to search for the clasp," Daisy said.
Not so for Mrs. Gant. The lady found and opened it before Daisy finished talking.
"There's nothing inside it," Mrs. Gant said.
Dade should've figured that'd be the case. And did Daisy just let out a sob? Or was that a sigh of relief?
The older woman closed the broach and pressed it back into Daisy's hand, then enfolded her in her arms. "There, there. You've been through too much, what with just hearing that your beau passed on. And now all this about having a lost brother."
"What happened to the photographs?" he asked his sister.
"I have no idea," Daisy said. "I didn't even know this was a locket until just now."
He snorted at that. How could she not know?
Mrs. Gant chastised him with a look that would've done a schoolmarm proud. But he wasn't backing down. Not now.
"Look at the back of the broach," he said, then stubbornly waited until she did as he said. "The inscription reads, 'Be true to yourself.' The initials TL are struck below it."
A frown marred Daisy's smooth brow. "Who's TL?"
"Our mother. Tessa Logan."
Her narrow shoulders slumped as she tightened her fingers around the broach in her hand. "That's it exactly. I guess that means you're telling the truth."
"It does. I've been looking for you for years," he said.
"Well now you've found me." She didn't sound particularly happy about it.
Dade couldn't fault her for that. He couldn't even grumble much about her hesitation now.
They were strangers. She'd lived a life apart from everything she'd known, just like him. She'd obviously lost her heart to Sheriff Emery and had intended to marry him. Or had she?
"Why didn't you come back last fall?" he asked.
"I couldn't decide if marrying Lester was the right thing to do," Daisy said, and avoided meeting his eyes. "By the time I knew what I wanted, winter hit and snowed me in."
That sounded fine on the surface, for he'd been stranded here as well. She'd gone back to wherever she'd called home, thought things over, and then returned to marry her beau. But Lester was dead, shot down by a young outlaw who was trigger-happy.
He reckoned it was better it happened now than after they'd married, leaving Daisy a young widow, perhaps with a baby. Yet Daisy didn't seem all that brokenhearted over Lester's death. In fact, she appeared more worried than anything.
"You never did say where you were raised," Dade said to break the awful silence.
Daisy fidgeted just enough to make him think she was uncomfortable talking about that. "A mining town west of the divide."
"This town have a name?" he asked.
She looked away. Swallowed. "Burland."
He'd heard of it. A couple of men had swindled claims out of many a miner, ending up rich while the rest of the miners went broke. Considering the way she was dressed, he had a feeling she'd been raised in one of the rich households.
So why marry a poor small town sheriff when she could likely have her pick of gentlemen? Now that Lester Emery was gone, why stay here with a brother she didn't remember?
"Will you return to Burland now?" Mrs. Gant asked.
Daisy's narrow shoulders went stiff. "There's nothing left for me there."
Mrs. Gant tsked. "Then you should stay right here with your brother. That'll give you both time to get to know each other again."
"Thank you," Daisy said, her smile as thin as Dade's waning patience.
He ground his teeth. She wasn't sticking around because she wanted to get close to her brother again. Nope, she had nowhere else to go. That wasn't a kick in the shins but it came damned close.
His little sister had been a delicate, fragile child who'd clung to him. She'd been unbelievably shy and prone to tears. But the Daisy before him seemed to have developed the grit to take off on her own across the Great Divide.
She also possessed an alluring womanly charm that called to some need deep inside him. Hell, if he wasn't her brother he'd have been drawn to her.
He shook off those disquieting thoughts and focused on the problem at hand. He still didn't know what type of folks had taken in his sister and raised her.
Not that it mattered. She had him to protect her now, just like he'd sworn he'd do twenty odd years ago.
If she'd let him. Right now that didn't seem too likely.
Dade blew out a weary breath. For damn sure he had his work cut out for him gaining her trust.
Excerpted from In a Cowboy's Arms by Janette Kenny Copyright © 2010 by Janette Kenny. Excerpted by permission.
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