THE CLAYBORNES ARE BACK, AND LOVE IS IN BLOOM!
First introduced in Julie Garwood’s magnificent New York Times bestseller For the Roses, the Clayborne brothers of Blue Belle, Montana, have been embraced by millions worldwide. Their story begins in One Pink Rose.
Travis Clayborne may be the youngest of the Clayborne brothers, but he’s most definitely his own man—unless it means saying no to his beloved Mama Rose. And that’s why Travis is escorting young Bostonian Emily Finnegan to Golden Crest, Montana to her new home as a mail-order bride. Emily has made it perfectly clear that she’s taken charge of her destiny and nothing is going to interfere, not even falling in love with a perfect stranger. But they don’t call it the wild west for nothing…
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Admittedly, Miss Emily was a pretty little thin She had hair the color of sable that curled soft around her ears, and big hazel eyes that were brown one minute and gold the next. She had a real nice mouth too, until she opened it, which, Travis was quick to notice, was most of the time. The woman had an opinion about everything and felt compelled to share it with him so that there wouldn't be any future misunderstandings.
She wasn't a know-it-all, but she sure came close. He formed his opinion just five painful minutes after he'd met her.
It had been suggested by Olsen, the hotel proprietor, that they meet in front of the stage coach station. Travis spotted her from way down the street. She was standing directly behind the hitching post, holding a black umbrella in one hand and a pair of white gloves in the other. There were at least six satchels lined up in a neat row in front of her on the boardwalk, entirely too many to drag up the side of a mountain.
Miss Finnegan was dressed to perfection from head to toe in white linen. He assumed she hadn't had time to change out of her Sunday best church clothes. Then he remembered it was Thursday.
They didn't exactly start out on the right foot. She was standing at attention with her shoulders back and her head held high, watching the commotion across the street. Although it was still early in the morning, a rowdy crowd had already gathered in Lou's Tavern and were making quite a ruckus. Perhaps that was why she didn't hear him come up behind her.
He made the mistake of tapping her lightly on her shoulder to get her attention so that he could tip his hat to her and introduce himself. That's when she shot at him. It happened so fast, he barely had enough time to get out of the way. The little derringer she had concealed under her gloves went off when she whirled around. The bullet would have gotten him smack in his middle if he hadn't spotted the gleaming barrel and leapt to the side in the nick of time.
He was pretty certain the gun housed only on chamber, but he wasn't taking any chances. In a flash he grabbed hold of her wrist and twisted her arm up so that her weapon was aimed toward the sky. Only then did he move close so he could give her a piece of his mind.
And that's when she whacked him with her umbrella and kicked him hard in his left kneecap. It was apparent that she was aiming for his groin, and when she missed her mark the first time, she had the gall to try again.
He made up his mind then that Miss Emily Finnegan was crazy.
"Unhand me, you miscreant."
"Miscreant? What in thunder's a miscreant?"
She didn't have the faintest idea. She was so take aback by the question she almost shrugged in response. Granted, she didn't know what a "miscreant was, but she did know that her sister, Barbara, used the word whenever she wanted to discourage a overzealous admirer, and it had always been very effective. What worked for her conniving sister was going to start working for her. Emily had made the vow on the train from Boston.
"You only need to know that it's an insult," she said. "Now, let go of me."
"I'll let go of you after you promise to stop trying to kill me. I'm your escort to Golden Crest," he added with a scowl. "Or was, until you shot at me. You're going to have to get up there on your own now, lady, and if you kick me one more time, I swear I'llï"
She interrupted him before he could tell her he'd toss her in the water trough.
"You're Mr. Clayborne? You can't be," she stammered out, a look of horror on her face. "You aren't...an old man."
"I'm not young either," he snapped. "I am Travis Clayborne," he added, but because his knee was still throbbing from being kicked by the bit of fluff, he didn't bother to tip his hat to her. "Give me your gun."
She didn't argue. She simply placed the weapon in the palm of his hand and frowned up at him. She didn't apologize either. He noticed that slight right away.
"I swear I'm going to be limping for a week. What have you got in your shoes? Iron?"
Her smile was dazzling, and heaven help him for noticing, she had a cute little dimple in her right cheek. If he hadn't already decided he didn't like her, he would have thought she was a might better than simply pretty. She was downright lovely. He had to remind himself the crazy woman had just tried to kill him.
"What a silly thing to suggest," she said. "Of course I don't have iron in my shoes. I'm sorry I kicked you, but you did sneak up on me."
"I did no such thing."
"If you say so," she said, trying to placate him. "You were teasing me about changing your mind, weren't you? You wouldn't really abandon a helpless lady in her hour of need, would you?"
The little woman had a sense of humor. Travis jumped to that conclusion as soon as she told him she was helpless. She'd said it with a straight face too, and, honest to Pete, it didn't matter that his shin was still stinging from her wallop of a kick; he still felt like laughing. He couldn't wait to be rid of her, of course, but he was in a much better frame of mind.
Mr. Clayborne was taking entirely too long to answer her question. The thought of once again being stranded in the middle of nowhere sent chills down her spine. She let out a little sigh and decided there was only one thing to do.
God help her, she was going to have to flirt with the scoundrel. With a little sigh she pulled out the useless little pink-and-white painted fan she'd purchased in St. Louis for entirely too much money, flipped it open with the dainty turn of her wrist she'd practiced for hours on the train, and held it in front of her face. She was deliberately concealing her cheeks so he wouldn't see her blush of embarrassment when she did something she considered utterly ridiculous.
She wasn't just going to try to flirt; she was also going to be coy. She drew a quick breath to keep herself from groaning, then batted her eyelashes up at him in imitation of her sister's tactics. Barbara had always looked very coy; Emily was pretty certain she looked like an idiot. God only knew, she felt like one.
She realized her practical, down-to-earth nature was trying to reassert itself and immediately tried to squelch it. She had vowed to change everything about herself, and she wasn't about to give up now, no matter how foolish she felt.
Travis watched her flutter her eyelashes at him for a long silent minute. No doubt about it, she was crazy all right, and he suddenly felt a little sorry for her. She was definitely out of her element, dressed as she was for a Sunday social in the center of the dirt and grime known as Pritchard, trying her best to be painfully correct in her manners.
He knew she was trying to manipulate him now and decided to have a bit of sport with her.
"Maybe you ought to see Doc Morganstern before you go anywhere, ma'am. He might have something to help stop your eyes from twitching. I don't mean to be indelicate, but it's got to be bothering you."
She slapped her fan closed and let out a loud sigh. "You're either as completely thickheaded as a tree, Mr. Clayborne, or I still haven't perfected it yet."
"Perfected what?" he asked.
"Flirting, Mr. Clayborne. I was trying to flirt with you."
Her honesty impressed him. "Why?"
"Why? So that you would do what I want you to do, of course. I'm not much good at it though, am I?"
He didn't answer the absurd question. "The twitching's stopped," he drawled out, just to get her dander up.
"I wasn't twitching," she muttered. "There isn't anything wrong with my eyes, thank you very much. I was simply practicing my technique on you, that's all. Shall we go and collect Mrs. Clayborne and be on our way? I do hope she's more pleasant than you are, sir. Please stop gawking at me. I want to reach my destination before dark."
"There isn't any Mrs. Clayborne."
"Oh, that won't do."
He leaned down close to her. "Will you please say something that makes sense?"
She took a step away from him. The man was entirely too good-looking for her sensibilities. He had the most wonderful green eyes. She'd noticed the color while he was growling at her with obvious irritation and asking her such rude questions. She'd noticed what a masculine, fit fellow he was too.
Travis Clayborne was tall, on the thin side, but with muscles galore on his shoulders and arms. She didn't dare look any lower, or he'd get the notion she was going to try to kick him again, but she was certain his legs were just as well-endowed.
No doubt about it, he was an extremely handsome man. Women probably chased after him all the time. Foolish females would be helpless against those beautiful green eyes of his. His smile could cause considerable havoc too. Why, he'd just smiled at her once and for the barest of seconds, but it was still quite enough to make her heartbeat quicken. He probably had broken hundreds of women's hearts already, and she wasn't about to be added to his list. She had already learned that painful lesson, thank you very much.
Copyright © 1997 by Julie Garwood