True love under false pretenses?
With her husband hanged for his secret criminal past, bewildered widow Glory Clark is left all alone to run the farm and care for her stepchildren. Then handsome stranger Cade McAllister shows up on her doorstep, bringing hope and tender feelings Glory has never experienced before in her young life.
As a detective in search of the missing fortune Glory's husband stole, Cade has a hidden agenda. An arranged marriage is merely a stepping stone to getting what he wants . But when what he wants becomes Glory, plain and simple, will their newfound bond withstand his deception?
About the Author
Reading has always been Carolyn Davidson’s favourite thing to do. She loves the written word, ranging from her early loves, Louisa May Alcott and Zane Grey, to present-day writers. Over the past several years, it’s been her turn to compose books that bring pleasure to her readers. Carolyn loves to hear from her readers and no matter how busy she is Carolyn always takes time to answer her mail. You can reach her at P.O. Box 2757, Goose Creek, SC 29445
Read an Excerpt
Green River, Kansas
"Your papers seem to be in order, Mr. McAllister. What I want to know is why the bank sent a Pinkerton man out here to see me." The sheriff held the sheaf of paperwork in his hands, glancing once more at the first page of Cade McAllister's identification, the details certifying him a Pinkerton detective, in the employ of a large bank in St. Louis.
"You had a hanging here a month or so ago, sir. I was sent to verify the man's identity and begin a search on behalf of the bank for the money he took in a robbery ten years ago. The bank had a dandy time catching up with him. Pure luck they ran him down to ground here."
The sheriff nodded bruskly. "The man was Harvey Clark and though it was a nasty business, I did just what I was ordered to do by the government. Clark was a bank robber, according to the details I was given. I was all set to send him back to St. Louis, and let the law there handle it, but my orders were clear. He was sentenced to death by hanging ten years ago, and when he escaped in a jail-break, his sentence trailed right along behind him. They gave me the job of carrying it out here in Green River."
"Sounds like we're on the same page, Sheriff. Can't say I envy a lawman his job when it comes to such stuff, but my job now is to try locating the gold."
Joe Lawson chuckled. "More power to you, McAllister. There's been a dozen men digging around on the Clark farm in the last couple of weeks and no one's had any success yet. My guess is, it's in the house somewhere, but I've made it my business to take that place apart since the hanging and couldn't find hide nor hair of it. The cellar's an open book, the pantry the same. I went over the bedrooms with Mrs. Clark's permission. I think she'd like to have the gold located same as me. It'd save her a lot of frustration, should it come to light, for she fears the chance of strangers coming by and giving her a hassle over it."
"Well, I'm the next best fella for the job, it seems. The insurance company doesn't want Mrs. Clark to know who I am. They've given me a cover as a man looking for a farm to buy, with a nice nest egg in my pocket."
"Mrs. Clark isn't interested in selling her place, McAllister. Nor in getting married and giving the title to a husband. And that's what will happen should she marry again. The law don't do much for women, you know."
Cade grinned. "I know all about that. My mother was left a ranch when Pa died, and when she remarried, it all went to her new husband. Fortunately, he was a man of honor and he took care of her and raised me and my brothers the way my pa would have wanted."
Joe Clark nodded knowingly. "She's a lucky woman, then. Lots of men are looking to freeload. Glory Clark's been stung a couple times, had to use her shotgun to chase off a fella or two when they came courting. She's a good woman, McAllister, and I won't put up with any shenanigans where she's concerned. You'll be honest with her so far as you can."
"I won't tell her who I represent, Sheriff. My job is to find the gold that Harvey Clark hid somewhere. I'll get a reward for it, and keep my hands clean. I'm not a thief, nor a man to harm a woman in any way."
The sheriff placed the sheaf of paperwork on his desk with a flurry of pages scattering hither and yon. He gathered them up into a pile and opened his desk drawer, placing them inside. "Your job is your own business, McAllister. I'll introduce you to the widow lady as a man looking to buy a place in this area. I'll show her the stuff the bank sent that covers you, the letters from your minister in your hometown, and give you my recommendation as an honest man."
"How do we go about meeting this lady, Sheriff?" Cade asked, already looking ahead to the task he'd assumed. One way or another he'd find the gold, and in the process, leave the lady a bit to help her along in her struggles.
"Let's take a ride out there right now, McAllister. She's always at home, what with two youngsters to take care of."
And without further ado, the men rode west from Green River to where a holding sat several miles out of town. A sign over the lane leading to the house read, The Clark Farm, and near the unpainted house, a woman stood in the midst of a garden.
"That's Mrs. Clark, McAllister. She's young, but capable. Been raising those two young'uns by herself and running this farm alone. I won't stand for anyone giving her a hassle."
"I read you right, Sheriff," Cade said, taking in the small figure ahead of them. She was dark-haired and slender, a woman who appeared too small to be saddled with a farm and two children to raise. "There won't be any shenanigans on my part."
"If I didn't feel you were a man to be trusted, I wouldn't have brought you here, mister. Now let's introduce you and I'll leave you to it." The sheriff raised a hand in greeting and they halted their mounts near Glory Clark.
"Mrs. Clark," the sheriff said in greeting. "This here is a fella who's on the lookout for a piece of property to buy and run. I told him about your farm and he's mighty interested in making a deal with you."
"I'm not giving up my farm, Sheriff. I thought you were aware of that," Glory said firmly.
"Ma'am, I'd like a chance to talk to you and meet your children. This place looks to be a fine setting for a horse-breeding and training ranch. I'd like to give you my credentials and introduce you to my thoughts for your place," Cade said with assurance.
"How would you know all that just from riding up my lane and taking a gander at the place, mister? I'm willing to sit down on the back porch and talk to you, but I'll tell you right now, I'm not willing to sell out to anyone."
The man nodded. "My name's Cade McAllister, from Oklahoma. I'm good with horses and know all the ins and outs of running a farm. I can put in a good day's work with the best of them, ma'am. Perhaps I can be of some use to you here. Anyway, can we sit and talk?"
There was about the man a look of honesty, Glory thought. He was sturdy, a man of strength, if she was any judge. Besides, the sheriff seemed to think he was to be trusted. His clothing was clean and a bit worn, but his saddle was well oiled and the horse he rode was a good one, a stallion of perhaps sixteen hands, held under control by the man's easy grip on the reins.
It wouldn't hurt to hear him out, she decided. She led the way to the porch and called into the screen door as she climbed the steps. "Essie, please bring out some lemonade, and a plate of the cookies we baked this morning."
Within minutes, a small child, pretty as a picture, appeared in the doorway, sidling past the threshold with a tray in her hands. "Here you go, Glory. I didn't know how many glasses you wanted, so I brought four." Small and delicate in stature, the child was fair-haired with eyes as blue as a summer sky, with a ready smile for the visitor.
Glory touched the girl on the shoulder and took the tray from her hands. "Thanks, Essie. Now, go find Buddy, then both of you come back here and sit with us."
"Yes, ma'am," she answered, and ran off across the yard to the barn.
"Won't you sit down, sir?" Glory asked the visitor.
"Yes, ma'am. I surely will. My name is Cade, ma'am. The sheriff said yours is Glory Clark."
She looked down the lane toward the town road, where the sheriff rode his horse at a steady trot. "Guess he's heading back to town. You know, I had a bad time with him, what with him robbing my young'uns of their pa the way he did. But he's been kind to us since then. He's a pretty sharp man, to tell the truth. If he trusts you, guess there isn't any reason for me not to do the same," Glory said. "Now, what are you wanting to offer me?"
Cade handed her a sheaf of papers and sat back on a rocker near the back door. "I'm a man of sufficient means, Mrs. Clark. I have a decent nest egg in the bank and a good knowledge of horses and such. I've been looking for a place to buy and I'm mighty interested in this one." His gaze rested for a moment on her face, then slid to encompass her entire body as he spoke again. "I'm an honest man and if you'll read the paperwork I gave you, I think you'll see that I'm on the up-and-up."
Glory nodded, admiring the man before her. And that in itself was a strange happening, for she had been made offers aplenty, both for her property and her hand in marriage, by a number of men from the surrounding countryside, and none of them had earned more than a wave of her shotgun for their trouble. Cade McAllister was different. He was tall and well-built, with eyes that looked at her squarely, and documents that might support his claims. He appealed to a part of her that had long been cold and empty, bringing to life a warmth within her very being.
"Let me read this over, Mr. McAllister. If you have the time, you can join us for supper. And perhaps you'd like to bed down in the barn tonight. Tomorrow I'll hear you out, but I'll tell you now, I'm not looking to sell my place. We'll talk more, after I've had a chance to deal with this raft of papers you've given me to read."
Cade nodded. "That makes sense to me, ma'am. Can I wash up at the horse trough?"
"Either there or in the kitchen," Glory answered. She rose and went into the house, Essie and Buddy following behind. Without instructions, the two children washed their hands and faces and prepared to set the table. Glory watched as her guest washed at the sink and then stood by her table.
She nodded at a chair and he sat, speaking to Buddy in a casual manner. Glory watched as she prepared the food for the table, and a shiver took her unaware as Cade glanced up at her and smiled. Perhaps she'd been foolish, allowing him into her home. And yet.. she looked at him again and met his gaze. Dark eyes seemed to see her very thoughts and his mouth curved in a warm smile. She could only hope she hadn't put her family in peril. She shook her head, a small movement that denied that idea.
Another glance at Cade found him grinning at Buddy, and then Buddy addressed Glory, his smile wide as he spoke of the man who sat beside him. "I sure do enjoy talking about books and such with Cade, Glory. He's read a whole lot of stuff, some that I've read, too. I'm gonna show him the ones the teacher from the school in town lent to me. Maybe after we eat, he can go in the parlor and look at my library."
Library. Glory thought of the six or seven books that comprised the boy's collection. Hopefully Cade would voice his approval of them and thus encourage Buddy. She considered the impact the man had made here already. She could only hope that his presence would not be a mistake that would cost her And then she faced the truth of the matter as she recalled his words. I'm interested in this place. But his meaning was clear, for a good portion of his interest was focused on her, Glory Clark.
He might have already cost her more than she could afford.
"Get out some bowls and small plates, Essie." Glory issued instructions as she brought a kettle of soup to the table, then sought out a ladle to use. Filling the bowls Essie provided her, she placed one before each chair and spoke again to the girl who watched her.
"Get some butter in the pantry, please, and bring out some jam," Glory said quietly, and Essie moved quickly to obey. A container of jam in one hand, the plate of butter in the other, she paused by Cade's chair and shot him a quick grin as she arranged the table. Glory sliced bread with a steady hand and filled a plate with the remains of a loaf she'd unwrapped from the kitchen dresser where she stored her bread.
A coffeepot sat on the back burner of the kitchen range and Essie ran to find a cup for Cade, then brought it to him and placed it by his bowl. "I'll get you a glass for milk, Glory, and one for me and for Buddy, too."
Glory took a pan of biscuits from the oven and dumped them into a bowl, then put them in the warming oven. "We'll have the strawberries atop the biscuits for dessert, Mr. McAllister. We have lots of cream to serve with them, and we have them often thataway, for biscuits and strawberries are a favorite of the children."
They all took their places at the table, then Glory spoke words of thanksgiving for the food, the children folding their hands while she prayed. Buddy looked up at her as she buttered his bread and scooped honey from the dish and spread it atop the butter.
"Glory, my pa's not ever coming home, is he?" Buddy asked in a quiet voice.
Glory lifted her gaze to the boy. "Buddy, we've talked about this before, and as tough as the answer is, we have to move on with our lives. Your pa is dead and gone, buried in the churchyard. Now we can only do our best to go on as he would have wanted."
"I just feel like he should be here," the boy said quietly. "Every time I look out in the hay field, I think I should see him there. And when I come in the house, I expect to see him at the dinner table or washing up in the sink."
Glory nodded at his words. "I think you're just grieving for your pa, Buddy. It's all right to wish he were still with us, but the truth is that he'll never be back and we have to go on. We'll have to take up the slack and work hard to make him proud of us, won't we? And we won't forget to pray that he's in a better place now."
The boy tore his piece of bread in half and offered it to his sister, who took it with a smile that seemed to be thanks enough for the lad.
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