Even though he was a wanted man, Veronica Reynolds would always believe in the innocence of the handsome half-breed who'd captured her heart when she was just a girl. Now it's her turn to save him when the escaped convict shows up, wounded and hunted, on her family's ranch.
|Product dimensions:||4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
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Wanted: The Half-Breed
By Bobbi Smith Dorchester Publishing
Copyright © 2008 Bobbi Smith
All right reserved.
Eight Years Later
Roni stood before the full-length mirror in her bedroom, critically studying her own reflection. She had arranged her dark hair up in a sophisticated style, and she was wearing the new blue gown her mother had made for just this occasion. The bodice was modestly cut, and the fitted waistline enhanced her slender figure. It wasn't often she got to dress up this way, and she was excited. Social events like the dance were rare in Two Guns, and she could hardly wait for the social to begin. She was going to get to see Walker again.
Roni's heartbeat quickened at the thought of him. They had had a secret rendezvous out by the creek near the Dollar the week before, and the memory of their stolen kisses still had the power to thrill her. She was eagerly looking forward to being in his arms, dancing with him tonight. She knew her parents didn't really approve of Walker, but she didn't care. She just wanted to be with him.
Satisfied that she looked her best, Roni had just turned away from the mirror when her mother walked into the room to check on her.
"Are you about ready?" Helen Reynolds asked, smiling at the sight of her daughter looking so ladylike.
"Well, I think so. What do you think?" Roni asked as she faced her mother.
"Ithink you look absolutely beautiful," she told her. "My little girl has grown into a lovely young woman."
"Really," she assured her. "Now, let's get downstairs. Your father's ready to go, and you know how much he dislikes being kept waiting."
"But we're worth the wait, don't you think?"
"Yes, we are," her mother agreed.
They were both laughing as they left Roni's bedroom. They started down the steps just as her father came out of the parlor.
Victor Reynolds smiled at their laughter. "You two sound like you're already having fun." "We are." Roni went to kiss him on the cheek.
"I am one lucky man," he said, offering each an arm as he escorted them from the house. "I'm showing up at the dance with the two best-looking ladies in town."
"Victor, you are such a charmer," Helen told him. "I just hope there are no medical emergencies tonight. I don't want you to get called away."
They were all smiling as they made their way to the town hall where the dance was being held.
* * *
"What is he doing here?" elderly town gossip Matilda Wentworth muttered to her friend, Amanda Rawlings, when she spotted Walker Stevenson arriving at the dance.
"I don't know, but keep your voice down. This is supposed to be a fun evening," Amanda censored her.
"Well, it would be more fun if that-that half-breed wasn't here," Matilda hissed. "What was Paul thinking when he brought him to live on the Dollar?"
Amanda glanced over at her companion. Matilda was known for being opinionated, and over the years she'd made no secret of the fact that she had no use for the Stevenson boy. "He's Paul's son, and he's grown into a fine young man, considering-"
"Exactly-'considering.' Considering he spent ten years living like an animal in the Comanche village!" Matilda pointed out haughtily.
Amanda fell silent. She knew there was no use in trying to change her friend's mind about this.
Matilda went on. "The rest of the folks around here just go along with including him because Paul's so rich. I'll just bet if his father didn't have the best ranch in the area, there wouldn't be so many people eager to put up with the bastard." Matilda had always made a point of knowing everyone else's business in town, and she had become very good at it over the years.
"Matilda!" Amanda was truly shocked by her language. "Hush! Dr. Reynolds is coming with his wife and daughter!"
* * *
"Why, Roni, you look nice tonight." Matilda Wentworth said, eying Roni with critical interest.
"Thank you, Mrs. Wentworth," Roni replied respectfully. She knew that was high praise coming from the older woman, who rarely had a kind word to say about anyone.
"Good evening, ladies." Helen joined them.
"Are you ready to have a wonderful evening?" Matilda asked.
"Oh, yes," Roni answered looking around excitedly to see one of her girlfriends across the room. "Mother, there's Sherry-"
"Run along and have fun, dear."
Victor and Helen moved away from the gossipy old ladies and set about enjoying themselves, too.
Roni was on her way to visit with her friend, but she never made it. Ted Lawson, one of the rowdier hands from a neighboring ranch, cornered her and wasted no time getting her out onto the dance floor.
Walker was standing off to the side of the room with Jim when he saw Roni arrive with her parents. She looked so stunning, he couldn't take his eyes off her. He thought about the time they'd shared up by the creek and knew he had to dance with her as soon as he could.
"What are you looking at?" Jim noticed how Walker had gone quiet all of a sudden. "Roni."
Jim glanced in the direction Walker was looking just as Ted started dancing with Roni. "Now I understand your reaction," he chuckled. "She is one fine-looking woman. Too bad Ted got to her first. He's a lucky man."
"He's lucky, all right" Walker agreed, "but I'm not so sure about Roni."
They both watched and grew a little concerned for her safety as Ted bounced rambunctiously about the floor with her.
"You thinking about cutting in?" Jim asked. "If you don't, I will. I'd hate to see her end up at her father's office tonight getting patched up because of Ted."
"You're right. I'd better get her away from him."
Walker made his way through the maze of dancers. Ted was moving wildly about the room, so it wasn't easy to catch up with them, but Walker finally managed to cut in. Ted wasn't happy about the interruption, but Walker didn't care. He just wanted Roni.
"Mind if I finish up this dance?" Walker asked Roni.
"Thank you," she told him in a low voice, grateful for his bold move as she went into his arms. "I don't know how much longer I could have lasted with Ted."
"Glad to help."
Roni followed his lead in the spirited dance and found herself caught up in the moment.
"I never knew you were such a good dancer," Roni said, smiling up at him.
"I'm not," he told her with a wry smile. "Ted just makes me look good."
She laughed at his quip, and then they both fell silent to enjoy these moments together.
When the music stopped a short time later, they moved almost reluctantly apart.
"If you need rescuing again, just let me know," he said.
"You do have a way of showing up when I need help the most," she told him.
At the side of the dance floor, Helen Reynolds noticed that Matilda Wentworth was watching Roni intently, her expression one of complete disapproval. She wondered what was putting such a sour look on the old gossip's face.
"What was Roni thinking dancing with the likes of him?" Helen heard Matilda ask Amanda.
"Roni is not your daughter, so it doesn't matter what-"
"What doesn't matter?" Helen asked, joining the ladies.
Amanda cast Matilda a warning look, but it didn't stop her from putting her two cents' worth in.
"Did you see who cut in on your daughter while she was dancing with Ted Lawson?"
"Actually, no, I didn't." Helen looked out across the dance floor, but saw only Roni talking with her girlfriends across the room.
"It was that-that half-breed-" Matilda informed her.
"I see. If you ladies will excuse me." Helen moved stiffly away from them, knowing once Matilda got started there was no stopping her.
As she left she saw Matilda shoot Amanda a smug, superior look and then turn her attention back to watching the dancers.
Helen sought out her husband and took him aside to speak with him. She told him what she'd learned about Walker and Roni.
"It was only one dance," he tried to reassure his wife.
"I know you're right, but it's not like they're children anymore," she countered, worried.
"I'll keep an eye on things," he promised.
Roni enjoyed herself as the night went on. She danced with Walker again and with Jim and several of the other young men, but even as she danced with the others, the memory of how wonderful it had felt to be in Walker's arms stayed with her. When the time for the Ladies' Choice dance drew near, she knew what she was going to do. She found Walker in the back of the room, standing near the refreshment table with Jim and several of the ranch hands from the Dollar.
"It's almost time for the Ladies' Choice," Roni told him. "Are you ready?"
"If he's not, I am," Jim put in, sounding more than willing to accommodate her.
"She's mine," Walker declared. He stepped up and took her by the hand just as the dance was announced. He wasn't about to let the chance to dance with Roni again pass him by.
Victor had known that the Ladies' Choice was coming up, and he'd deliberately gone looking for his daughter. He'd been keeping an eye on her for most of the evening and had grown troubled when he'd seen her dance with Walker a second time. Victor had just about reached her when he heard Walker claim her as his own and lead her out onto the floor.
The thought of the half-breed even having such thoughts about his daughter disturbed Victor. True, Walker was the son of a rich rancher, and he had managed to adapt to living a civilized life, but there could never be any denying he was part Comanche. It took all of Victor's self-control not to make a scene. He stood back, silently wondering what to do about his daughter's errant behavior. He thought they had raised her right. She should have known better than to dance with Walker so many times and risk ruining her reputation.
"Are you having a good time tonight?" Walker asked Roni.
"As long as I'm dancing with you," she said, thrilled to be in his arms again.
He smiled at her compliment. "You know, we could go outside for a while-"
"Let's," Roni agreed breathlessly.
Walker skillfully maneuvered them near the side door and quickly led her from the building, holding her hand.
They moved away from the hall off into the shadows of the night, stopping in a quiet space near a small grove of trees.
Walker looked around and once he'd made certain they were really alone, he told her, "There's something I've been wanting to do all evening ..."
"What?" she asked breathlessly, gazing up at him in the moonlight. He was so handsome-so tall and broad-shouldered. Her heartbeat quickened at the thought that he might kiss her.
"This," Walker said as he bent to her and kissed her.
It was a gentle exchange at first, but when she willingly surrendered, he deepened the kiss.
Roni was thrilled. She knew she was being brazen to respond so passionately to Walker, but at that moment, it didn't matter.
She just wanted to be close to him.
She needed to be close to him.
Walker took her in his embrace and crushed her against him. And it was in that moment that the sound of her father's voice shattered the silence of the night.
"What do you think you're doing?" Victor bit out, outrage sounding in his voice.
They broke nervously apart.
"Oh! P-Papa-" Roni stammered as he confronted them.
"Dr. Reynolds-" Walker didn't cower. He stood up to her father, stepping forward to confront him.
Victor turned on Walker, fury blazing in his condemning gaze. "I think you'd better leave us right now."
He kept his voice low as if he didn't want anyone else to hear them and learn of Roni's scandalous behavior, but there was no mistaking the seriousness of his intent.
It was plain that Walker didn't want to desert Roni. He looked down to where she was standing by his side. "Roni?"
"Go on," she said.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, miserably.
"You heard me, boy," Victor replied threateningly.
Walker said nothing as he moved off into the night, leaving father and daughter alone.
"We're going home, right now, young lady."
"But, Papa-" she started to protest.
The look he gave Roni silenced her, and, unnerved, she said nothing more. Her father had never been this angry with her before, and she wasn't sure what was to come.
"Wait right here while I get your mother." It was an order.
Roni did as she was told.
Much later that night, Roni sat alone in her bedroom, staring out the window, unable to sleep. The trip home had been made in complete and total disapproving silence, and she had been sent directly to her room once they'd reached the house. She longed to see Walker again, to tell him none of this was his fault, but she knew that wasn't going to happen-not any time soon. Not from the way her parents were acting.
Sighing, Roni stretched out on her bed and sought sleep, unsure of what the morning would bring. Sleep proved elusive, though, as exciting memories of Walker's kiss and being in his arms lingered in her mind.
Victor and Helen sat closeted in the study, weighing the results of the decision they'd just made about their daughter's future.
"I think she'll be very happy," Victor said, trying to convince himself as well as his wife that they were right.
"Do you really?" Helen asked worriedly.
"Roni's always shown great interest in wanting to become a doctor, and she can accomplish that by going back east to school to complete her studies," he reassured her.
"But she'll be so alone-"
"You can travel with her and stay with family there until it's confirmed that she's been admitted to the medical school. It's not going to be easy for her. The prejudice against women doctors is very real, but I believe she's strong enough and smart enough to deal with it."
"I hope you're right, but what about you? You'll be here all by yourself until I can get things worked out for Roni."
His expression was fierce as he told her, "I'll miss you both. Have no doubt about that, but it'll be worth it to get her away from Walker's influence."
They shared a troubled look, worrying about the results of the decision they'd just made concerning their beloved only daughter's future.
"We'll tell her first thing in the morning," Helen agreed.
Two Weeks Later
Walker rode to the top of the low rise and reined in. He had a clear view of the road leading out of Two Guns and knew he would be able to see the stagecoach when it left.
He hadn't had the chance to be with Roni since the night of the dance. He'd gone to her house to speak with her the day after, to find out how things had gone with her parents, but her mother had told him Roni wasn't home and not to come back. He'd only found out last night from Jim that Roni was leaving this morning to go back east and study to become a doctor like her father.
Walker had wanted to see her before she left, but had realized that it wasn't going to happen. Her father had made it perfectly clear the night of the dance that he didn't want her anywhere near him.
In the distance, now, he saw the stage coming. He watched in silence as it passed by, traveling east. He thought about trying to catch up with the stage to tell Roni good-bye, but she hadn't responded to the note he'd sent her several days before, so he stayed where he was.
The stage moved on out of sight.
Walker headed back to the Dollar.
Excerpted from Wanted: The Half-Breed by Bobbi Smith Copyright © 2008 by Bobbi Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Years ago in Two Guns, Texas, half Comanche Wind Walker Stevenson and Veronica ¿Roni¿ Reynolds loved each other, but they were too young especially to overcome the objections of her parents and his stepmother who loathed the half-breed illegitimate son of her spouse. Roni eventually left town to follow in her dad¿s footsteps, but ultimately she returns as the latest generation Dr. Reynolds.------------- When Roni and Walker see each other for the first time in years, they both confess their love for the other. However, soon afterward, the half-Comanche is arrested and convicted of killing a rancher. As he is sent to prison he swears to his beloved he is innocent. Ronnie wants to believe him, but the evidence leaves her with doubts. When Walker escapes, Ronnie joins him to uncover the identity of the real killer. ------------------ This entertaining nineteenth century western romantic amateur sleuth stars two strong ethical people who loved one another when they were young and as adults still do though many townsfolk loathe their relationship as an abomination. The investigation serves more as a vehicle to bring Roni and Wind Walker together yet also refreshes the overused basic theme of a taboo romance while cleverly designed with a neat twist. Bobbi Smith entertains sub-genre fans with the forbidden love between a hybrid and a purebred in which a homicide brings them together but may end up separating them forever.------------- Harriet Klausner