Logan's Outlaw: Men of Defianceby Elaine Levine
Confident and coolheaded, nothing shakes a Man of Defiance--except a woman he can't resist. . .
Sarah Hawkins survived capture by the Sioux, but after her escape she faced public scorn. Now, she'll do anything to start over, and the dusty town of Defiance promises the anonymity and security she needs. Before she melts into the shadows, though, it's her mission to… See more details below
Confident and coolheaded, nothing shakes a Man of Defiance--except a woman he can't resist. . .
Sarah Hawkins survived capture by the Sioux, but after her escape she faced public scorn. Now, she'll do anything to start over, and the dusty town of Defiance promises the anonymity and security she needs. Before she melts into the shadows, though, it's her mission to put a great injustice to rights, and that means jeopardizing her safety once more.
But this time, she's not alone. Without meaning to, Sarah has fallen under the protection of Logan Taggert, a rough-and-tumble trader unused to caring for others--and yet unable to ignore the tempting, tenacious woman's plight. Though she refuses to trust him, Logan won't leave her side, keeping her one step ahead of danger. . .even as she takes hold of the very thing he never thought he'd risk: his heart.
"A beautiful romance. . .that keeps the reader hooked from the first page to the last." --New York Times bestselling author, Catherine Anderson on Leah and the Bounty Hunter
"Plenty of action makes this rough-and-ready Western one that fans are sure to enjoy." --Library Journal on Audrey and the Maverick
Read an Excerpt
Logan's OutlawMen of Defiance
By Elaine Levine
ZEBRA BOOKSCopyright © 2012 Elaine Levine
All right reserved.
Chapter OneFort Buford, Dakota Territory, June 1875
The cold steel of the Peacemaker gave Sarah Hawkins an artificial sense of security. Had she owned this gun a year ago, the Sioux would never have taken her alive.
"You're too little for that piece," the shopkeeper said as he frowned down at the revolver she was examining. "That's a seven-and-a-half-inch barrel, almost three pounds fully loaded. And begging your pardon, ma'am, but after you fire it, you'll be sitting on your backside."
"I have to agree, Mrs. Hawkins," Captain Frasier spoke up. "A derringer is just as deadly and would be easier for you to handle. You don't have the strength a man has in his hands and shoulders to use a Colt effectively."
Sarah checked the cylinders of both guns. They were empty. She pointed the derringer at the shopkeeper, practicing her aim, familiarizing herself with the weapon. He barely registered concern. When she lifted the Peacemaker, he stepped back quickly—even knowing it wasn't loaded.
A gun was for killing. The bigger, the better.
The fear she'd felt when the war party raided their cabin had been crippling. She doubted her ability to kill herself with the little derringer, should the situation arise again. And she knew, sometime in the next fortnight, it would.
"How much for the Colt?" she asked the shopkeeper.
Sarah gasped, shocked. "The catalog price is just seventeen dollars! Shame on you for taking advantage of a widow."
"I got a strong market for that gun, ma'am. Ain't a man on the post who wouldn't sign over two months' wages for it. None of 'em want to be caught out on the plains without a piece of iron at their side. But if you want the catalog price, then I'll place that order for you. In three months or so you'll have your gun."
Waiting was not possible. She was leaving for Cheyenne tomorrow. "I'll pay twenty dollars for the gun and five boxes of cartridges."
The shopkeeper's eyes bulged. "You want me to give it away? I told you I got buyers standing in line for it."
The captain cleared his throat, catching the shopkeeper's eye. A look or signal passed between the men that made Sarah grit her teeth. She was a supplicant, in need of anyone and everyone's help. The women at the fort had taken up a collection for her, which was the source of the funds she planned to use for the gun—and the very clothes she wore. She hated being needy, even as she was grateful so many were willing to help.
After paying for her stage ticket and food supplies for the journey, she had only thirty dollars to her name. This purchase would leave her with ten dollars once she reached Cheyenne, enough to live on for two weeks if she found affordable lodging and ate only once a day. Two weeks was enough time for her to find a job, to begin over—or at least, to find a way to support herself until she felt it was safe enough to leave Cheyenne.
It was the only plan she had, and she was sticking to it.
"What I expect, sir, is for you to sell the gun to me for a fair price."
The shopkeeper glared at her, his mouth compressed into a thin line. He exchanged another look with the captain. "The gun and three boxes of cartridges."
"Done," she said.
"And throw in a holster and a gun belt," the captain added. "And a kit for cleaning the pistol."
"No!" Sarah turned to look at him. "I haven't the funds for those things. The gun and cartridges are all I need."
"Then the others will be my gift to you, Mrs. Hawkins. It is the least I can do, as an officer of the United States Army."
The shopkeeper eyed her waist. "Don't have a gun belt that'll fit a tiny thing like her."
"Then get a large one we can wrap twice around her," the captain said.
A short while later, at an area designated for shooting practice, Sarah took the gun out of the holster and put it back, twice, getting a feel for the revolver, making sure she could handle it even with the tight fit of her gloves. The weapon's heavy weight made her feel less a victim. The Sioux might come for her again, but if they did, she wouldn't be taken alive—and she wouldn't die alone.
She nodded at Captain Frasier, ready to begin learning some rudimentary things about loading and handling her gun. "Have you ever known a gunfighter, Captain?"
He frowned. "Why do you ask that?"
Sarah smiled as she holstered her Colt and spread her hands wide. "Because I feel like one right now. Don't I look rather fearsome?" She laughed, softening the intense curiosity behind her question.
"I did know one once. Red McGuire. He's in jail now. Heard there was another one up in Defiance, but I think he's retired."
"What's his name? Where's Defiance?"
"Jace Gage. Wyoming." Captain Frasier crossed his arms. "You seem intent on finding a gunfighter. Why?"
Sarah sighed. "I'll only have this afternoon to practice with you. Surely it takes much longer to become an expert shootist."
The captain's brows lifted. "Mrs. Hawkins, please forgive my curiosity, but why in God's name would you want to become a shootist?"
"Because, Captain, I am a widow. I need to be able to protect myself."
The captain glared down at her. A red flush slowly rose up his neck. "None of that is necessary. You could marry me. I would protect you. You would have my name. No one would dare whisper even a hint about what happened to you. You wouldn't have to leave the fort, except with me when I'm reassigned to a new post." He took hold of her free hand as his words spilled out in an impassioned fervor.
At the contact, a buzzing started in Sarah's head. She tried to pull free, but he wouldn't release her. She tried again with no better results. Her lungs ceased pulling air.
"Please tell me you'll consider my proposal." Sarah went very still, neither resisting nor encouraging him. "I know what you've been through, what those red monsters did to you. You must know by now that I would not hold it against you."
He paused, releasing her hand as he became aware of her stillness. Anger broke the panic crippling her lungs, letting her take little gasps of air. Her wounds were still raw, her scars permanent. If he married her, she doubted he would ever be able to forget—or let her forget—what had been done to her.
It didn't help any to know the captain was right. Few men would take her to wife once they learned what had happened to her. She had no money, no skills, and no family. Though she was fairly well educated and could perhaps find a teaching job, that would only last until her students' parents learned she had been a captive. Everything was lost to her. Perhaps, when she had completed the task she'd set for herself, his offer would still be open.
Marriage—to anyone—was her best chance for survival.
She had only to get to Cheyenne and give the sheriff the papers, correct a wrong she needed to see put right. What happened after that mattered very little.
"Captain, I am not ready to be a wife again." She could not bring herself to look at his eyes. The very thought of letting a man near her body made her physically ill. "Though it is kind of you to offer. Let's just focus on the lesson, shall we?"
Unfortunately, before they could get beyond loading and unloading her gun, Captain Frasier was summoned back to the office to attend to a military matter. He escorted Sarah to the little cabin she'd been provided as lodging among the laundresses' quarters. Several cots filled the small, one-room space. During the time she'd been at Fort Buford, other women had occasionally stayed there with her, but it had been hers alone for the past week.
The captain took her key from her and was just fitting it into the lock when the door swung open.
"Mrs. Hawkins, you must pay attention to securing your quarters. We're a small, close-knit group of people here at the fort, but there's no need to put temptation in front of anyone. We do have many transients come through, begging for handouts— Indians and such. It isn't safe to assume—"
"I did lock it." Panic made her bold enough to interrupt his lecture. She slipped past him into a space that looked as if a buffalo had been let loose in it. Furniture was overturned. Bedding was slashed and shredded. The supplies she'd bought for the trip littered every surface. Straw and feathers were spread about. Her fine linens—the only mementos left of her family's Philadelphia home—were cut into scraps. Even the clothes that had been donated to her by the fort's women were sliced and ripped.
She couldn't breathe, couldn't move. Her heartbeat sounded in her ears, pounded her brain, drowned out whatever it was that the captain was saying. He stepped to the door and shouted an order. In the midst of the debris, she sighted her carpetbag turned upside down. It lay discarded next to her empty trunk, whose false bottom had been dislodged.
She stepped woodenly toward the satchel, looking for its support board, the one she'd sewn her husband's papers into. She sifted through the pile of shredded clothes and spilled foodstuffs.
It was gone.... Fear made her knees weaken. The room started to spin. It was gone.
Men hurried into the room. There were angry voices behind her. Someone pulled on her arm, but she jerked free. She pushed aside more debris, digging to the left, to the right. Her frantic motions stirred up a fog of flour from a ripped sack. Someone pulled at her again, but as he started to draw her to her feet, she found the support board. Crying out, she lunged for it, clasped it to her breast. The stitches were untouched.
Whoever had done this had left empty-handed. The papers were safe.
Logan Taggert pulled his saddle off his lathered mount and set it on the corral fence. Even at this early hour, the hostlers were rushing about the livery, taking care of the livestock.
"Taggert!" the stable master shouted as he trotted over. "What in the blazes are you doin' out here?"
Logan shook hands with the old cowpoke. "I could ask the same of you. Thought you retired to a life of luxury."
"I'm too old for running cattle, but not too old to clean a hoof or two. Need a fresh mount?"
"I do. I'm headin' over for some grub. You think Bella's kitchen is open?"
"Today it is. There's a stage leaving for Cheyenne. You ridin' shotgun? Heard they were looking for a couple of men."
"Hell no. I value my scalp too highly for a leisurely coach ride across open country while the Sioux are on the warpath." He looked over at the black stage where six horses were being hitched up. "Who in his right mind would run stages between here and Cheyenne, anyway?"
"It ain't no more crazy than opening trading posts in Indian country, I reckon," the grizzled old man said, shooting Logan a meaningful look. "Martin Chandler, the man who owns that coach and a dozen others, is figurin' on beating out the competition, getting the first start carrying folks between Deadwood and Cheyenne, what with all the gold being found in the Black Hills."
Logan whistled. "He's got no business up there. That land belongs to the Sioux."
"Since when has that ever mattered? There's gold up there. I, for one, am glad for the business it's bringing us. The hell with them red savages. I may actually retire and go panning myself."
Logan's mood darkened. The hostler's attitude was exactly why no white man, woman, or child was safe here anymore. He strode over to the trading post, wanting to eat and ride out, well ahead of that stage and any trouble gunning for it. He hoped the storekeeper's wife could be talked into making him one of her famous breakfasts. His stomach grumbled in anticipation.
He crossed the dusty road, passing fort buildings that cast long, angular shadows of the morning sun across the ground. As brisk as the morning was, the day promised to be brutally hot. He stepped up on the boardwalk that fronted the trading post. A couple was strolling his way. The man wore an officer's uniform bearing a captain's insignia. The woman, far too thin, wore an ill-fitting dress of brown homespun. The captain carried her carpetbag and held her coat draped over his arm. The woman looked up at Logan as they went past.
Their eyes connected. Locked. He sucked in a breath. All rational thought fled his mind, as did his manners. He didn't lift his hat or nod or even move aside to give them room to pass. He just stared. Her hair was of the palest blond he'd ever seen, paler even than his own. Her nose was straight and little. Her chin came to a delicate point. Her eyes were big and brown. And utterly, devastatingly, haunted.
He caught the tail end of their conversation as they passed him. "You'll be safe on Chandler's stage, ma'am," the captain assured her. "He's hired a professional guard to ride shotgun. Chandler's setting up roadhouses along the way, so there will be a few overnight stops that don't involve camping outdoors. He can make the trip to Cheyenne in a little less than two weeks from here."
Logan propped himself up against a corner of the trading post and continued listening to their conversation, intrigued that the woman was not the soldier's wife.
"Thank you, Captain. How far did you say Defiance is from Cheyenne?"
"About three days ride."
What did she want in Defiance? No one ever went there intentionally. Not unless they were looking for trouble or heading up to the lumber camps. She followed the captain out into the sunshine. Light poured over her pale features, making the braids that circled her hair look as if they were woven from gossamer strands of white-gold. She pulled her bonnet on and tied it beneath her chin.
"I think I'll get to Cheyenne myself in a couple of months." The captain stopped and faced the woman. "Would it be terribly forward of me to think that I might call on you, Mrs. Hawkins?"
Logan ground his teeth. Mrs. Hawkins. She wasn't the captain's wife, but she was married. Still, he held his breath, waiting for her response. She lowered her head, letting her bonnet block her face from both him and the captain. "You have been the very soul of kindness, Captain. I shall not forget that. I regret, however, that I'll not be in a position to entertain gentleman callers. It is too soon."
The captain did not take that as a no. Or perhaps he'd stopped listening after her first sentence. Logan almost had. Her voice was husky yet sweet and feminine, the kind of voice that set all the wrong sort of images floating around a man's head. The captain hooked a finger beneath the woman's chin, forcing her to look up. Logan felt the shock of that contact through his entire body. He started forward, intending to teach the bastard to keep his distance, but Bella, the sutler's wife and a sublimely talented cook, came out to stand with him.
Logan didn't waste time exchanging greetings. "Who is she?"
"Poor Sarah Hawkins. Bless her heart. She and her husband were attacked by a Sioux war party about a year ago. Her husband was killed and she was taken captive. She showed up here at the end of April, a ghost of a woman, near frozen and half starved. It's taken the women of the fort all this time just to feed her up to the puny thing she is now.
"And as if that wasn't enough, someone vandalized her room yesterday. Shredded everything she owned, including all of the clothes that had been donated by those of us with something to spare." The matronly woman shook her head, anger darkening her features.
"She's a kind soul, that one." She shoved an elbow into Logan's side, giving him a meaningful look. "All the single men—and even some that ain't—are plumb crazy about her. Heard that red devil who married her still wants her back. I hate to see her leave. She would be safer if she stayed here." Bella looked at Logan. "What kind of world do we live in where Indians can do that to a family? When are we ever gonna be safe out here?"
Logan didn't offer a comment. How many Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors had asked him the same thing—but about the soldiers that dogged them?
"Bella, I'd be forever in your debt if you'd pack up as much of that fine corn bread as you can spare. I'm gonna get some supplies from your husband and retrieve my saddle."
"Logan Taggert! You ain't even stopped for a real visit yet. Where are you running off to?"
Logan grinned as he kissed her cheek. "I got a stagecoach to catch!"
Excerpted from Logan's Outlaw by Elaine Levine Copyright © 2012 by Elaine Levine. Excerpted by permission of ZEBRA BOOKS. 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.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >