"Linda Broday's books always take me back to a west that feels true. Her love stories run deep with emotion. A delightful read." Jodi Thomas, New York Times bestselling author of Promise Me Texas on Texas Mail Order Bride
"There's this thing between us that refuses to die. I'd like nothing better than to be able to..." His words faded. He'd give anything to change people's views about his race...to be able to make her his wife.
But the world wasn't that simple. Not for people like them.
All his life, Brett Liberty has straddled two worlds: white and Iroquois. The only place he's truly at peace is with his wild mustangs. But after he's arrested for the color of his skin, he discovers Rayna Harper in the cell next to him. Rough and tumble Rayna has known little kindness, but Brett sees the depth of her heart hidden beneath layers of hurt and fear, and he refuses to leave without her.
Fierce and loyal, kind and strong, Rayna is everything Brett has ever wanted. But the world doesn't look kindly on a love like theirs, and he would rather let her go than bring her pain. Yet when the demons of his past threaten her future, Brett realizes he will do anything to keep Rayna safe...and make her his.
Bachelors of Battle Creek series:
Texas Mail Order Bride (Book 1)
Twice a Texas Bride (Book 2)
Forever His Texas Bride (Book 3)
About the Author
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Forever His Texas Bride
By Linda Broday
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2015 Linda Broday
All rights reserved.
North Central Texas
A plan? Definitely not dying. Beyond that, he didn't have one.
High on a hill, Brett Liberty lay in the short, bloodstained grass, watching the farm below. With each breath, pain shot through him like the jagged edge of a hot knife. The bullet had slammed into his back, near the shoulder blade from the feel of it.
If a plan was coming, it had better hurry. The Texas springtime morning was heating up, and the men chasing him drew ever closer. Every second spent in indecision could cost him. He had two choices: try to seek help from the family in the little valley, or run as though chased by a devil dog.
The blood loss had weakened him though. He wouldn't get far on foot. About a half mile back, Brett's pursuers had shot his horse, a faithful mustang he'd loved more than his own life. Rage rippled through his chest and throbbed in his head. They could hurt him all they wanted, but messing with his beloved horses would buy them a spot in hell.
He forced his thoughts back to his current predicament.
Through a narrowed gaze, Brett surveyed the scene below. It seemed odd that no horses stood in the corral. The farmer who was chopping wood had a rifle within easy reach. The man's wife hung freshly washed clothes up on a line to dry under the golden sunshine, while a couple of small children played at her feet. It was a tranquil day as far as appearances went.
Help was so near yet so far away.
Brett couldn't seek their aid. The farmer would have that rifle in his hands before Brett made it halfway down the hill. The fact that Indian blood flowed through Brett's veins and colored his features definitely complicated things. With the Indian uprisings a few years ago fresh in everyone's minds, approaching the stranger could mean certain death.
No, he couldn't go forward. Neither could he go back.
They'd trapped him.
Why a posse dogged his trail, Brett couldn't say. He'd done nothing except take a remuda of the horses he raised to Fort Concho to sell. He could probably clear things up in two minutes if they'd just give him the opportunity. Yet the group, led by a man wearing a sheriff's star, seemed to adhere to the motto: shoot first and ask questions of the corpse.
He was in a hell of a mess and wished he had his brothers, Cooper Thorne and Rand Sinclair, to stand with him.
Inside his head, he heard the ticking of a clock. Whatever he did, he'd better get to it.
The family below was his only chance. Brett straightened his bloodstained shirt as best he could and removed the long feather from his black hat. Except for his knee-high moccasins, the rest of his clothing was what any man on the frontier would wear.
At last he gathered his strength and struggled to his feet. He removed a bandanna, a red one, from around his neck. On wobbly legs, he picked his way down the hill.
When the farmer saw him and started for his rifle, Brett waved the bandanna over his head. "Help! I need help. Please don't shoot. I'm unarmed."
With the rifle firmly in hand, the farmer ordered his wife and children into the house, then cautiously advanced. Brett dropped to his knees in an effort to show he posed no threat. Or maybe it was that his legs simply gave out. Either way, it must've worked — he didn't hear the sound of a bullet exploding from the weapon.
The man's shadow fell across Brett. "Who are you, and what do you want?" the farmer asked.
"I'm shot. Name's Brett Liberty. I have a horse ranch seventy miles east of here." When he started to stand, the farmer jabbed the end of the rifle into his chest. Brett saw the wisdom in staying put.
"Who shot you?"
"Don't know. Never saw them before." A bee buzzed around Brett's face.
"How do I know you didn't hightail it off the reservation? Or maybe you're an outlaw. I've heard of Indian outlaws."
Brett sighed in frustration. "I've never seen a reservation, and I assure you, I don't step outside the law. I'm respected in Battle Creek. My brother is the sheriff. If I took up outlawing ways, he'd be the first to arrest me." Likely throw him under the jail instead of putting him in a cell. But he didn't add that.
He glanced longingly toward the house, but the rifle barrel poking from a window told him asking for safety inside was out of the question. So was running. Their guns would cut him down before he'd gone a yard.
Maybe if he stalled, made sure he looked as unthreatening as possible and kept the man nearby, he might just make it. With a witness to the posse's actions, the sheriff might let him live. It was his only shot.
The ticking clock in Brett's head was getting louder, blocking out the buzz of the persistent bee. His pursuers would be here in a minute. His dry mouth couldn't even form spit. "Please, mister, could you at least give me some water?"
It was a gamble, but one that looked like it might pay off. Silently, the farmer backed up a step and motioned Brett toward the well with his rifle barrel.
"Thank you." Brett got to his feet and stumbled toward the water. He lowered the bucket and pulled it up, then filled a metal cup that hung nearby and guzzled the water down. He was about to refill it when horses galloped into the yard and encircled him.
"Put up your hands, or I'll shoot," a man barked, sparing an obvious glance toward the farmer.
Brett glanced up at the speaker and the shiny tin star on his leather vest. He set his empty cup on the ledge circling the well. "Your warning comes a little late, Sheriff. I would've appreciated it much earlier. Would you be so kind as to tell me what I did to warrant this arrest?"
The bearded sheriff dismounted. Hate glittered in his dark eyes, reminding Brett of others who harbored resentment for his kind. Jerking Brett's hands behind his back, the middle-aged lawman secured them with rope. "You'll know soon enough."
Ignoring the sharp pain piercing his back, Brett tried to reason. "I can clear up this misunderstanding if you'll only tell me what you think I did wrong."
No one spoke.
Brett turned to the farmer. "I'll give you five of my best horses if you'll let my brothers know where I am. You can find them in Battle Creek. Cooper Thorne and Rand Sinclair."
The farmer stared straight ahead without even a flicker to indicate he'd heard. While the sheriff thanked the sodbuster for catching Brett, two of the other riders threw him onto a horse. With everyone mounted a few minutes later, the group made tracks toward Steele's Hollow.
Brett had passed through there before daybreak, anxious to get home to the Wild Horse Ranch. The town had been quieter than a blade of grass growing. He couldn't imagine what they thought he'd done. This was the first time he'd traveled through the community. Usually he took a more southerly tack returning home after driving a string of horses to Fort Concho, but this time he'd had to deliver a sorrel to a man on the Skipper Ranch near Chalk Mountain, so he'd decided to cut through.
He made a mental note to give Steele's Hollow a wide berth from now on.
Not that there would be a next time if things kept going the way they were.
The combination of blood loss and the hot sun made Brett see double. It was all he could do to stay in the saddle.
By the time they rode into the small town an hour later, Brett had doubled over and clung to the horse's mane with everything he had. The group halted in front of the jail, jerked him off the animal and into the rough wooden building.
"Please, I need a doctor," Brett murmured as they rifled through his pockets.
After taking his knife and the bank draft from the sale of the horses, they unlocked a door that led down a dark walkway. The smell of the earthen walls and the dim light told him the building had been dug into a hill. They unlocked a cell and threw him inside.
"A doctor," Brett repeated weakly as he huddled on the floor.
"Not sure he treats breeds." The sheriff slammed the iron door shut and locked it. "See what I can do, though. Reckon we don't want you to die before we hang you."
"That's awful considerate." Brett struggled to his feet and clung to the metal bars to keep from falling. "Once and for all, tell me ...what did I do? What am I guilty of?"
"You were born," the sheriff snapped. Without more, he turned and walked to the front of the jail.
* * *
Panic pounded in Brett's temples like a herd of stampeding mustangs long after the slamming of the two iron doors separating him from freedom. This proved that the sheriff had targeted him solely because of his Indian heritage; he had nothing to charge him with.
His crime was simply for being born?
Dizzy, Brett collapsed onto the bunk as his hat fell to the crude plank floor.
Movement in the next cell caught his attention. Willing the room to keep from spinning, Brett turned his head. He could make out a woman's form in the dimness. Surely his pain had conjured her up. They didn't put women in jail.
He couldn't tell what she looked like because she had two faces blurring together, distorting her features — but he could hear her pretty voice clear enough.
"You're in pitiful shape, mister."
Since his bunk butted up to the bars of her cell, she could easily reach through. He felt her cautiously touch one of his moccasins.
"Checking to see if I'm dead?" he murmured.
"Nope. Do you mind if I have your shoes after they hang you?"
Brett raised up on an elbow, then immediately regretted it when the cell whirled. He lay back down. "That's not a nice thing to ask a man."
"Well, you won't be needing them. I might as well get some good out of them."
"They aren't going to hang me."
"That's not what Sheriff Oldham said."
"He can't hang me, because I didn't do anything wrong." It was best to keep believing that. Maybe he could convince someone, even if only himself. "I think he was joking."
"Humor and Sheriff Oldham parted company long ago. He's serious all the time. And mean. You don't want to get on his bad side."
"Wish I'd known this sooner. You sure know how to make a man feel better," Brett said dryly, draping his arm across his eyes and willing his stomach to quit churning. "What is your name?"
"Who stuck that on you? I've never heard it before."
"It's a made-up name. My father is Raymond, and my mother is Elna. My mama stuck 'em together and came up with Rayna. I've always hated it."
"Got a last name, or did they use it all on the first one?"
"Harper. Rayna Harper."
"Forgive me if I don't get up to shake hands, but I'm a little indisposed. I'm Brett Liberty."
With that, blessed silence filled the space, leaving him to fight waves of dizziness and a rebellious stomach. Keeping down the contents seemed all he could manage at present.
But Rayna wasn't quiet for long. "Where did you get those Indian shoes, Brett? I'd sure like to have them."
"My brother." His words came out sounding shorter than he intended.
"Sorry. I've been in here for a while by myself, and I guess I just have a lot of words stored up. Sometimes I feel they're just going to explode out the top of my head if I don't let some out. What are you in here for? I couldn't hear too well."
"For being born, I'm told." Brett was still trying to digest that.
"Me too." Rayna sounded astonished. "Isn't that amazing?"
Brett had a feeling that no matter what he'd said, she would say the same thing. He wished he could see her better so he could put a face to the voice. Even though the conversation taxed him, it was nice to know he wasn't alone. Maybe she'd even hold his hand if he died.
That is, if she wasn't too busy trying to get his moccasins off instead.
"Why do you think it's amazing?"
"Because it makes perfect sense. I figure if I hadn't been born, I wouldn't be in here for picking old Mr. Vickery's pockets."
"So you're a pickpocket?" Surprise rippled through him.
"Nope. I'm a spreader of good. I don't ever keep any of it. I take from those who have and give to the have-nots. Makes everyone happy. Except me when I get thrown in the calaboose."
"You're a Robin Hood." Brett had seen a copy of the book about the legendary figure at Fort Concho. He'd learned it so he could share the tale with Toby, Rand's adopted son. Brett had taken the six-year-old into his heart and loved spending time with the boy.
"I'm a what?"
"A person who goes around doing good things for the poor."
"Oh. I guess I am. It makes me so sad that some people have to do without things they need and no one helps them. This past winter, my friend Davy froze to death because the only place he had to sleep was under a porch. He was just a kid with no one except me to care."
Rayna's unexpectedly big heart touched Brett. She seemed to speak from a good bit of experience. "Do you have a place to sleep whenever you're not in here?"
"I get along. Don't need you to fret about me. Worrying about them putting a rope around your neck is all you can handle. Do you reckon it hurts a lot, Brett?"
"I wouldn't know." Hopefully, he wouldn't find out.
"I'll say a prayer for you."
"Appreciate that, Miss Rayna Harper." She was wrong about him only having to worry about getting his neck stretched, though. He could feel himself getting weaker.
He could also feel her eyeing his moccasins again.
Pressure on the bottom of his foot made him jump. He raised his head and saw that she'd stuck one bare foot through the bars and was measuring it to his.
"Stop that," he said with a painful huff of laughter. "Doc'll be along soon. I'm not going to be dead enough for you to get them."
The next sound to reach his ears was sawing and her soft, "Oh dear."
"Why did you say that? What's wrong?"
"The sawbones had best hurry, or you won't be needing him. They've started building the gallows."
That ticking clock in his head had taken on the sound of tolling bells.CHAPTER 2
Brett must've lost consciousness. Panic gripped him when he came to. For a moment, he couldn't remember where he was or why he was behind bars.
When it came flooding back, he called, "Rayna, are you still here?"
"Oh dear Lord, I thought you were dead. You haven't made a sound for hours." Surprise colored her voice. Clothing rustled as she moved closer to the bars separating them.
"Not dead yet, so don't get your hopes up," he joked weakly.
The iron door separating the cells from the sheriff's office rattled. Footsteps sounded, then a key grated in the lock to his cell. He turned his head to see a slight, spry man carrying a black medical bag.
"Doc?" Brett murmured.
The doctor hurried to the bunk and felt Brett's forehead. "Sheriff, he has a raging fever. This bullet has got to come out. I want him transported to my office right away."
Brett heard the sheriff's gravelly voice. "Nope. Ain't leaving here."
"Get me some light then," the doctor snapped. "Lanterns. Three of them, plus a pail of clean water and some cloths. And quick."
"A lot of fuss for a stinking half-breed," the sheriff grumbled.
Doc turned Brett onto his belly, and pain shot like a thunderbolt through him. He bit down on his lip until he tasted blood to keep from crying out. He couldn't suppress a moan though.
"It's all right, son. Not everyone in this town shares the sheriff's views. I'm going to take care of you."
Compassion showed in the gentle way the doctor removed Brett's shirt, and Brett relaxed for the first time since this nightmare began. His mind drifted like a lazy cloud on a summer's day. His ranch and beloved horses filled his mind. The smell of lush, sweet grass surrounded him, and the vivid blue sky stretched overhead as far as the eye could see.
Please help me get back to the Wild Horse. That's all he asked. The thought of not seeing his ranch again brought jagged pain. The Wild Horse was a buffer between him and the outside world. It was the one place where he'd always been happy and safe.
"Will I die, Doc?"
"Not if I can help it, son." Doc sounded reassuring at least.
A few minutes later, the sheriff and his deputy were back with the requested items. Brett could feel the hate from their eyes boring into him as Doc removed metal instruments from his bag and set them aside. Finally the pair left, turning the lock in the door between the cells and the office.
"About damned time," the sawbones muttered and finished examining the wound. He asked Brett to sit up for a moment and held a bottle of whiskey to Brett's lips.
When Brett tried to refuse, the kindly man pressed, "You'll need something for the pain when I remove the slug. Don't try to be a hero."
Excerpted from Forever His Texas Bride by Linda Broday. Copyright © 2015 Linda Broday. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good 312 pages loved the 3 book series.
The fight between brett's neighbotr and him was too drawn out;good story tho.
The 3rd and final addition to an awesome historical western romance series! This was an exciting and satisfying ending to Ms. Broday's Bachelors of Battle Creek series. This story is filled with nail biting plot twists and turns, children in peril, bigotry and vengeance, the never say die attitude of an amazing man and woman and the town they inspire with their actions.
Breathtaking Romance and Edge-0f-Your-Seat Suspense! Anyone who has found themselves the "outsider" in life looked down upon for a social status or color of skin, will enjoy this romantic suspenseful tale by Linda Broday. Brett Liberty, an Indian half-breed knows all-to-well, the hate many people carry for him simply because of the color of his skin. When he meets beautiful red-haired Rayna Harper, a lowly bone-picker's daughter, in the most unlikely of circumstances, he finds someone as judged and ostracized by society as himself. When an old Indian man stumbles up on Brett's horse ranch, near death’s door, little did Brett know the trouble that followed him. Not only the elderly Indian, who needed medical attention, but an aging nun and passel of Comanche Indian orphans were delivered to his doorstep. And who else, but beautiful spirited Rayna to help take care of them as the threat of smallpox set off an avalanche of events. The suspense and sheer danger they face as they attempt to fight off a hate-ridden army of men determined to destroy the orphans and everyone who stands in their way keeps you on the edge of your seat. Through it all, Brett and Rayna find the love and acceptance they both crave. There is never a dull moment in this story and I loved the way it unfolds with the many multi-dimensional characters that make up this last book of the Men of Legend series. If you enjoy historical romances, this one won't disappoint. Linda Broday writes in a way that sweeps you up into the story with the characters. You laugh, cry, struggle and triumph along with them.
This is book 3 in the Bachelors of Battle Creek. Just trying to deliver some horses to a customer, Brett Liberty suddenly finds himself being shot at and accused of being a horse thief for no other reason than the fact that he is half Iroquois. Finding himself locked in jail and about to be hung, he finds a bright spot in the form of Rayna Harper. Rayna does what she can to help Brett when he is brought into the jail with a gunshot wound, but being a prisoner herself, there is not much else she can do for the man that is destined to hang but offer him comfort in his final hours. When Brett's brother rescue him from certain death, he demands that Rayna come with them. As they spend more time with one another, there is no denying the attraction they feel for each other. But Brett won't let Rayna get involved with him, when all he does is bring trouble to his door because of his heritage. Can Rayna make Brett understand that it doesn't matter to her, that he is all that does? I really enjoyed this story and after reading the other two stories in the trilogy, I'm glad that Brett got his HEA. As much as he did interact with his "brothers", he was still a loner. He isolated himself on his land and he needed a good woman to make him see that he was worth something. He had always figured that because of him being half Iroquois that he was given up and no one wanted him. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the history we learn about Brett and that also plays into part the changes we see in him. This was a great ending to a wonderful trilogy. If you've not read it yet, what are you waiting for, go out and get it now!! I'm excited to see what Broday had in store for us next! Thanks go out to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Broday really portrays the danger and the adventure of the time well. At the same time, she highlights the advantages and disadvantages of being different. More than once I found myself wondering how this would all end, and above all, how it could possibly end well. Broday took me on a wild ride that had me hooked every step of the way. She writes vivid action packed sequences as well as sweet, heartfelt ones. The breathtaking scenery puts the entire situation in a whole new perspective. I’ll admit, I’ve been waiting for Brett’s story since I first met him, all the way back at the beginning of the series. He definitely didn’t disappoint me here. Strong, caring, fiercely protective, he embodies the best of everything. Broday has also created a very atypical heroine for this story. I loved getting to know her. And the supporting cast also made the story intensely enjoyable. I loved seeing everyone come together and getting to know them in their unique roles. This was a fantastic, completely unforgettable third novel in the Bachelors of Battle Creek series. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical romance. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.