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Almost an Outlaw

Almost an Outlaw

3.3 3
by Patricia Preston

Rancher Austin Cade rides into Liberty looking for his old comrades, the James-Younger gang. He needs their help tracking down the horse thief who's stolen his prized mare. In town, the former gunfighter is reunited with Darcy, the first girl he ever kissed—and never forgot.

Young widow Darcy Branson owns a shop full of fashionable ladies' attire, but


Rancher Austin Cade rides into Liberty looking for his old comrades, the James-Younger gang. He needs their help tracking down the horse thief who's stolen his prized mare. In town, the former gunfighter is reunited with Darcy, the first girl he ever kissed—and never forgot.

Young widow Darcy Branson owns a shop full of fashionable ladies' attire, but continues to wear mourning black so she won't forget her role in her husband's death. Austin stirs a passion inside her that has long been dormant, but can Darcy learn to believe in Austin—and love—enough to let go of her tragic past?

Time is rapidly running out... As a cousin to Jesse James, Darcy has attracted unwanted attention, thanks to her rumored association with the gang. Soon Austin and Darcy are faced with confronting not only their growing desire, but danger in the form of a deadly bounty hunter...

22,500 words

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Carina Press
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Read an Excerpt

April 1874, Liberty, Missouri

"I wouldn't wait nine years on any man." Darcy Branson spoke to Emma Nash as they stood in the fitting room of Darcy's dress shop. The upcoming marriage of Darcy's cousin, Jesse James, to his longtime sweetheart, Zee Mims, was the subject of speculation among those who knew about the secret wedding. Darcy thought nine years was an unreasonably long courtship.

Of course, there was a lot to be said for waiting. If she had waited that long before marrying Stephen, she might have learned the truth about her Prince Charming before it was too late.

"At least Zee isn't going to end up an old maid like everyone thought," Emma said.

Darcy nodded as she helped Emma try on a lovely gown of topaz silk faille. However, there were much worse things than being an old maid. Like being a vengeful wife who had gotten her husband murdered. That was, indeed, worse.

Emma smiled with excitement as she looked at her reflection in the cheval mirror. "I do love this dress," she said. "I don't know how I will ever repay you."

"You owe me nothing." Darcy smiled, happy that she could provide a pretty gown for Emma, who could not have afforded it otherwise. Some of the well-to-do old biddies in town said she was too generous toward the less fortunate. She didn't think so. Generosity reaped its own reward. "Mister Caruthers will be completely smitten with you."

Blushing at the mention of her beau's name, Emma turned to Darcy. "Why don't you wear that emerald gown you bought in Saint Louis to the wedding?"

"No." She always wore black.

"It is time—"

"No." It would never be time.

"Stephen has been dead for almost three years now. Long enough that no one would think ill of you if you put aside mourning colors."

Darcy removed the tape measure that hung around her neck. She was a graduate of the San Francisco Academy for Young Ladies, where she had been taught good manners and social graces. She knew exactly what was and was not proper. She sighed. "The rules of etiquette change nothing." They were only words in a book. "They can't change what is inside me." They couldn't change what she had done. She splayed her hand over the waist of her black bodice. "Black suits me."

The jingle of the bells attached to the front door of the shop came as a welcome diversion. She left Emma to admire herself in the mirror and went to wait on her customer. She stopped short when she saw the customer was a man. Rarely did a man enter her dress shop, only the occasional local business owner looking to buy his wife or sweetheart a gift. The tall, dark-haired man standing with his back to her as he looked at the ready-made frocks on display looked more like a gunman than a gentleman. A black duster fell from the wide span of his shoulders to his knee-high boots, and he held a center-dented black hat in his left hand. Men who dressed like him lived in the saddle. Uneasiness spread through her. The large bounty offered for her cousins, Frank and Jesse James, had brought a number of unsavory men into the town of Liberty. It was a dangerous time, especially for those connected to the outlaws. No one trusted outsiders.

The customer appeared particularly interested in the expensive emerald gown that Emma had suggested she wear to Jesse's wedding. It was a lovely dress. One she had fallen in love with the moment she saw it in Saint Louis.

She squared her shoulders as she made her presence known. "May I help you?"

Meet the Author

Patricia Preston's love for storytelling started when she wrote her first short story in the sixth grade. Since then, she has had several stories published and has won the William Faulkner Award for Short Fiction and Harlequin's World's Best Romances novella contest. When she is not working on a story or at her job in the medical field, she is catching up on her reading, improving her photography skills, looking for clearance sales or watching movies. Don't ask her how many times she has seen The Lord of the Rings. You can visit her at her website, patricia-preston.com.

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Almost an Outlaw 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
AAR More than 1 year ago
ALMOST AN OUTLAW by Patricia Preston is an interesting western historical romance 1874,Liberty, Missouri. It is well written with depth and details.The characters are charming,engaging, and will capture your heart. Darcy,cousin to Jesse James,of the James-Younger gang,a widow,a dressmaker,has attracted unwanted attention from a bounty hunter and just wants peace.Austin,an ex-Captain,a horse rancher whose prize mare was stolen leading him to Libery again,old comrade with the Jesse-Younger gang and was once Darcy's rescuer eleven years prior. After all this time and many things happening in their lives,when they first meet again,they still have an attraction to each other. For Darcy,Austin was her first kiss.For Austin,Darcy,was his never forget. Together they will find each other again,and fall in love. This is a short,sweet story with a couple of steamy moments,but nothing to cause alarm.While,I enjoyed this story I would have liked to seen a better ending,that would allow you to see what happened next.But overall this is an interesting,sweet,quick read. This book was received for the purpose of review from Net Galley and the publisher and details can be found at Carina Press,and My Book Addiction Reviews.
RBtWBC More than 1 year ago
Set in the old west, the story centers on a close family member of the notorious James-Younger Gang, Darcy Branson. He rescued her from death during the war, he was her first kiss and her first love but she never thought to see him again. Eleven years later though, the darkly handsome, Captain Austin Cade walks into her dress shop asking a favor. He might have been known for being a war hero in the south and for running with the Boys but now Austin Cade is just a horse rancher whose prize mare, Midnight Dancer, has been stolen and he won't stop until her finds her and makes the thief pay. But the beautiful widow distracts him from his purpose even though he knows that loving a woman whose heart belongs to another only leads to heartache; all he has to do is remember his mother's relationship with the Marshal. When a murder shows up seeking the large bounty on Jesse James and threatens the women the Boys hold dear Cade finds himself back in the action and falling hard for the girl he once knew. Almost an Outlaw is a short and sweet western historical romance that was a heart warming and fun read. I loved the historical aspects of the story following the James-Younger Gang and who doesn't like hot gunslingers? I enjoyed the main couple Darcy and Austin, they had great chemistry and previous history that made for a fast moving relationship perfect for this short. There were two loves scenes, the first one being pretty steamy. Both characters showed development and growth. One small problem I had with the story though was that the author never gave reason to why Darcy was one minute set against jumping in the sack with Austin and then the next between the sheets with him. Also, there was some odd phrasing here and there that distracted from the story a bit, but these were few and far between. Over all Almost an Outlaw is a charming story of second chances, the perfect lunch time read.
LASR_Reviews More than 1 year ago
What do you do when that long ago love suddenly appears in front of you? He is your first hero, your first kiss and the only true love you have ever known. Not to mention he once saved your life. Do you run and hide or march head first and take the only thing in life that you hold so dear to your heart? Darcy Branson is a woman with a mission.to forever protect her heart. Her brief marriage fell very short of her expectations and she lives with the guilt that she caused her husband's death. She is about to attend the marriage of her cousin, notorious outlaw Jesse James. To protect him from the ever present law, Darcy acts as the go between for Jesse and the rest of the world. Enter Captain Austin Cade, infamous guerilla commander, thought dead and Darcy's long ago love. Austin also remembers everything about Darcy, their first encounter, first kiss and only he knows that he has always loved her. When Cade needs to contact the James gang, he seeks out the Darcy and wonders if there still is room in her heart for him. While Cade is looking for a horse thief, the townspeople are on the lookout for a murderer. Can he find his missing horse and protect the love of his life? Captain Cade is the ultimate bad boy turned great man. He is fresh and unassuming at the same time strong and dangerous. His dominating strength combined with his soft romantic side is the perfect combination for a woman of Darcy's protective and caring nature. These are the perfect romantic couple, their passion for each other is front and center but they struggle with pride and fear of rejection. He is the man who is wishes to right a very old wrong and she is a woman who cannot forgive herself for something that she was out of her control. Can they turn back the clock and start again? Although a little short on story and with so much more that could have been told, Patricia Preston, we certainly hope these two make it in this thoroughly enjoyable adventure. Facing the unpredictable and the unknown comes with the turn of each page, but the danger and the romance of the Old West along with the presence of several of America's notorious true life outlaws makes this an interesting and entertaining period piece.