“…an endearing romance between two unlikely lovers, humor, intrigue, and a fast-paced plot full of action and surprises.”USA Today

Shoot first. Ask her name later.

Infamy weighs heavy on Delaney Crawford’s broad shoulders, first as a supposed Confederate turncoat, then as a cold-eyed bounty hunter. Summoned to the small town of Red Creek, the exhausted, embittered Del is doing what he does best when one of his bullets misses the mark.

Ex-nun Moira Tully has been working with John White Horse for months to help integrate a band of Cheyenne with the local townsfolk. Now he’s hurt, and she’s been caught in the crossfire. There’s only one man to blame for her simmering anger and the inexplicable attraction that tilts her heart on its axis: Del.

When Del discovers he’s been brought to Red Creek for nefarious purposes, he must determine the treacherous motives behind his hiring, all while fighting a wild attraction for Moira that catches flame at the most inconvenient moments. But the most heart-wrenching challenge could be overcoming sordid secrets that won’t stay in their pasts—pasts threatening to bury all hope of happily ever after.

Includes bonus novella, Wild Fire!

Wildfires blaze across the Colorado landscape, but the most dangerous fire of all burns between Sheriff Del Crawford and his beloved wife, Moira, as they fight to save their small town and navigate married life on the American frontier. 


Excerpt

“I think you have far more brains than you let on, Mr. Crawford,” she teased, then finally gave in and scrubbed her hands over her face, wanting to eradicate any trace of upset.

With her eyes tightly closed and her fingers rubbing her cheeks, she heard him chuckle. “Better not spread that around. I have a feeling the sheriff is hoping for a malleable gunman.”

She blinked at him, arching a brow as she folded her hands in her lap. “Oh, yes, I’m sure he thinks you’re all sorts of malleable after what just happened.”

“I can chalk it up to being under the spell of a beautiful woman.” His voice was low and careful as he stared fixedly at his hands. “Any man would forgive me that.” His eyes lifted to lock on hers, and a small half smile tugged his firm lips to one side.

She remembered how firm those lips were beneath hers. She’d tried to distract herself with teaching and the visit to the Cheyenne tribe, but it was impossible to forget how amazing that kiss was, how heated and wonderful and consensually passionate.

How she wished that had been her first kiss.

She wanted to kiss him again, wanted to thread her fingers through his hair, stroke the rough bristle of his beard, and maybe this time dare to sidle into his lap. His legs looked strong, hard with muscle, and his shoulders were so wide. She would be utterly encompassed by him, grounded in the reality of his touch that she remembered so well but flying, wild and on fire, as another of their kisses unlocked something fierce and previously trapped within her.

His kiss had been a relief, in so many ways.

Feeling herself blush again and uncertain how to respond to Delaney’s unsettling statement, she planted her palms on the floor and pushed to her feet. Without looking in his direction, she moved to the blackboard and grabbed the pail sitting on the floor beneath it. “I’m not used to letting the children go this early. Usually, I have one of them fetch water for cleaning this—” she indicated the board, her actions jerky, “—but I’ll go get it myself. Now. From the pump in the back.” She was babbling, she heard herself babbling, and she couldn’t help it. Keeping her head down, she strode quickly for the door, not glancing over her shoulder even when she heard him gain his feet.

Once outside, she gulped in fresh oxygen, the air warm in the midafternoon sunshine. It had turned into such a lovely day in their mountain town. She walked around to the back of the schoolhouse, where there was a well and pump the children enjoyed splashing in on the hottest days of their more casual summer lessons.

She wouldn’t let the earlier altercation with Matthews and the sheriff ruin what was now a rare free afternoon. As she set the pail beneath the pump and reached for the handle, she forced herself to think on her options. She could go to the general store and read the Denver newspaper. She could stop by Mrs. Browne’s and ask if she had a spare jar of delicious cherry preserves that Moira could use to make tarts.

She shoved down on the handle, harder than necessary. Yes, she would do both of those things. Baking would take her mind off hateful mine owners and delightful, spine-tingling kisses. Not that the two were related, except indirectly so through Delaney. Who was probably taking his well-formed self down the main street right this very second, heading for the boardinghouse and one of Mrs. Yates’s excellent cold repasts, and—

A big, rough-skinned hand closed over hers on the pump handle, and she jumped, gasping. Her heart leapt into her throat as she yanked away and turned around, though she already knew who she would find at her back.

Delaney.

He’d left his coat and hat in the schoolhouse, and with him standing before her in shirtsleeves and braces, his collar unbuttoned to reveal a peek of colorless cotton undershirt, he seemed so much broader than when his gun had been trained on Matthews. Now there was nothing to hide the honed musculature of his arms, or any part of his lean, rangy body. He was so very male as he stood here, staring down at her from his superior vantage point of a handful of inches, and that easy breathing she’d enjoyed moments earlier skittered to a halt in her chest.

“I’ll do that,” he rumbled, gravelly voiced as ever, and stepped around her to pump a rush of water into the bucket.

She backed away and let him fill the wooden pail, her hands pressed flat over her stomach as awareness spilled into the air between them with the subtlety of a dynamite blast. He held her gaze, glancing down only once to check the level of water in the pail, releasing the pump handle when it reached the brim. Then he simply stood there, arms loose but ready at his sides, and stared calmly back at her.

She swallowed, hard. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

She felt as though she could only breathe in shallow pants, a heavy weight squashing the lower half of her lungs that had nothing to do with her corset and everything to do with the fact that he was looking at her the same way he had looked at her in his room at the boardinghouse. “You didn’t have to—”

“Wanted to. I want to help you.”

“You have. You did.”

He walked slowly toward her. “I feel like I always want to help you. All the time. I can’t explain it.”

She backed away, unafraid but uncertain nonetheless. “What do you think that means?”

His steps were slow, measured. “Not sure. This is new ground for me.”

“New g-ground?” She stuttered as her back hit the wall of the schoolhouse. Her hands fell immediately to her sides.

His green eyes gleamed, intent. “I haven’t courted a woman.”

“Well, there was a war—”

“Ever.” His arms caged her against the wall, his palms flat against the whitewashed exterior. “Couldn’t be bothered before, didn’t have time for it during. And I’ve been busy since. Now there’s you, and I…” He trailed off, leaning down to bring his bearded face close to hers. When he spoke, his warm breath painted sweet strokes over her lips. “I keep thinking about you.”

“I think about you, too.” The whispered confession was ripped from her aching chest, her abdomen tightening in anticipation as the tip of his nose brushed hers. “Delaney.”

“You ever been courted, Moira Tully?”

She shook her head, fascinated by the growing heat in his green gaze.

His lips curved. “Good. Then you won’t know if I’m doing it wrong.” And his mouth covered hers.

She sighed and whimpered at the same time, allowing that lovely relief to engulf her once more. It felt so right to be kissing him, to part her lips eagerly and let him taste her as she did him. His was a distinct taste, smoky and male, and she explored him with her tongue and lips and teeth.

Of their own accord, her hands lifted to grip his forearms where they bracketed her shoulders. He flexed beneath her palms and she squeezed, tightly, until he growled and stepped into her, her chest meeting his in delicious contact.

“Moira,” he breathed, his teeth catching on her lower lip. His arms dropped suddenly, loosing her hands, and he grabbed her waist to pull her closer.

Her back arched and curved away from the schoolhouse wall as she looped her arms around his neck. “Yes.” She was unsure whether it was a question or approval. Maybe both. “Delaney.”

“God, you’re perfect.” His mouth trailed over her jaw, her throat, hot and wet and as insistent as the length of his hard body.

And he was so hard, everywhere. His torso was a collection of tough muscle and sleek lines she could feel clear as day through the fabric of her blouse as he pressed her close. Even as her fingers clutched at the ends of his hair to keep his mouth at, oh, that wondrous spot at the base of her neck he found with his lips, she wanted to pet him everywhere, pull the tails of his shirt loose from his trousers and let her hands wander over the contours of the body beneath.

But they were outside, in nearly the middle of Red Creek, where anyone who happened along could see them, provided that person walked around behind the schoolhouse. She couldn’t—shouldn’t—undress him, no matter how crazed he made her. Even so, as she tried to control the moans slipping from her mouth when his hands slid down to cup the cheeks of her arse, coasting over the top of her dress and underskirt, she fisted one hand in his hair and let the other dive into the collar of his shirt so she could palm the heated skin between his shoulder blades.

A visible shiver shot down his spine at her touch. He groaned, yanking her roughly to him, and his hips thrust against her. “I dream about you,” he muttered, right before his lips took hers again in a kiss far more demanding, far more desperate, than anything that had come before. One of his hands began tugging at her skirts. “I dream about you every night. It’s torture.”

She could barely breathe between his kisses, but she clung to him, reveling in his admission and in the passionate greed inherent in every line of his lovely body. “Why torture?”

“Because I wake up knowing I didn’t actually touch you.” Her skirts continued to rise on one side, and a breeze rushed around her stocking-clad legs. “My hands feel empty all day, until I fall asleep again. And then there you are.” His hand landed on the outside of her bare thigh between the top of her stocking and the bottom hem of her short drawers. “There you are.”

2013, 2017 © by Edie Harris