Devils on Horseback Book 2|
January 27, 2009
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble
All Romance eBooks (ARe)
Haunted by war, a thief finds salvation in the arms of an angel.
On the surface, Jake Sheridan is an easygoing man whose problems roll off him like water off a duck’s back. Truth is, Jake holds so many past demons inside him, he daren’t let them out for fear he’ll never get them all back in.
He and the Devils are hired to help rebuild a town ransacked by marauders. Everywhere they turn, they encounter secrets—enough secrets to turn the town to dust if they don’t uncover the truth.
Only one person in town isn’t glad to see them: Gabrielle Rinaldi, the miller’s daughter. A strong and independent woman who is used to being disrespected for speaking her mind, she makes no secret that she doesn’t believe hired guns are the answer to the town’s woes. Yet she finds herself drawn to the enigmatic and charming Jake.
In spite of himself, Jake falls hard and fast for Gabby. But she’s wary of handing her heart to a man who lives by his guns.
When tragedy strikes, Jake and Gabby must fight to find a way to save the town—and their hearts.
Read an Excerpt
The water sounded like thunder when they stood behind the wheel. The combination of the splashing and slap of the paddles added to the cacophony. It was one of Gabby’s favorite places. She loved to sit on the stone wall that ran behind the mill and watch the wheel turn, feeling the spray of the water on her face. Truth was, she did her best thinking sitting there. Ever since she was little, it was her spot, especially when she was troubled.
Today that trouble stood beside her in the form of a redheaded man with a devastating grin and beautiful blue eyes. Jake Sheridan was unlike any man she’d ever met. He was charming, smart and funny, enough of a distraction to make her nervous. Gabby’s world was too small for a man as big as he was. In every way, he was just too big. She was used to handling problems and being the voice of reason—he threatened that control.
“I think I finally understand how it all works.” He tipped his black hat back. “At least enough to know what you need me to do.” With a grin, he knelt down at the water’s edge and stuck his hand in the current.
Gabby had the insane urge to push him into the water, whether to cool him off or to make herself feel better, she wasn’t sure. Her fingers actually itched to touch him, to feel the texture of his shirt, the heat of the skin beneath it. She wondered if his freckles covered his body or if they were just on his face. That led her to imagine exactly what the freckles would taste like. She swiped her tongue across her damp lips instead.
Gabby shook her head to dispel the strange urges and thoughts floating around there. The very idea of fantasizing about a man she’d known for such a short time was preposterous enough—she didn’t need to turn into a silly-headed idiot over him.
“Have you lived here all your life?” He sat on the stone wall, patting the space next to him.
Although her feet dragged, Gabby walked over and perched next to him, unable or unwilling to stop herself. “No, we moved around a lot. We only moved to Tanger about five years ago. The mill used to belong to another man named Abel Freeman. After he died his wife sold the mill to my father and left town.” She paused, remembering the joy her father felt in finally owning a mill.
“Why a flour mill?” He picked up a pine needle and swept it back and forth across her hand.
Gabby shivered from the contact and pulled away from his touch. “My father had worked for a man down in San Antonio who taught him everything about the design and running of a mill.” She had absorbed every drop of knowledge from her papa, like a thirsty sponge. “When the mill came for sale, my father used every cent he had to buy it. After we moved to Tanger, my father’s dream came true.”
The memory of her father getting hurt six months ago slammed into her without warning, eliciting a gasp from her throat. She closed her eyes, remembering the sound of his screams as his leg was pulled into the machinery. The blood coated the equipment and it had taken the better part of two weeks to get it all out. She swore there were still stains on the dark wooden floor beside the grinder.
“Gabby.” Jake cupped her face in his big hands. “Are you okay?”
Without thinking about what she was doing, Gabby kissed him. It was a quick, hard kiss against his soft, surprised lips. Before he could react, she moved away, covering her face with her hands and breathing like a bellows. What had just possessed her to do that?
She jumped up and backed away from him, trembling at her foolish actions. Jake didn’t say a word. She assumed he was watching her as she paced in a circle, grasping her self-control with both hands. After she found her balance, she peeked at him. She expected him to be smiling or at worst, smirking at her. Instead, he was frowning, actually frowning at her. Gabby wasn’t feeling stupid anymore, now she was embarrassed.
“Are you okay?” he repeated.
Gabby sat back down hard. “I can’t believe I did that.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“God no.” She sighed. “I feel dumb enough.”
“There’s no reason to feel dumb.” He touched a fingertip to her lips, sending a shiver of pure need through her, totally kicking aside the embarrassment. “Thank you for the kiss.”
Gone was the charming, silly flirt, and in his place was a man showing concern for her. At least, that’s what Gabby saw in his eyes. She tended to trust her instincts since they’d saved her more than once. Jake showed her a side she hadn’t seen before, a true gentleman, and for that she started respecting him.
“I was thinking about my father’s accident,” she whispered. “He nearly died. Between you and me, sometimes I think he believes he might as well have because he’s been a ghost ever since.”
Jake shifted closer, the heat from his body permeating her cotton shirt. She leaned toward him, a shiver wracking her body. The water and her memories had brought a chill.
“I’m sorry.” His expression was filled with understanding and a deep recognition of grief. So he knew a great deal about ghosts too. It didn’t surprise her because in her experience, men who’d survived the war had suffered more than their share of sorrow. “I’m not sure if you believe me or not, but I think I know exactly how he feels. You are a loving, devoted daughter from what I see and you’ve kept the family together, kept the mill together.”
“Thank you.” She cleared her throat. “He lies in bed and watches out the window all day, won’t look at an invalid chair or even speak. The doctor says he’s healed up, just…lost.”
Jake’s arm crept around her shoulders. “I’ve been there myself. Maybe he just needs a reason to find his way back from wherever he’s gone.”
Gabby blew out a breath, the pain and frustration of not being able to help her father racing through her. “I wish I knew how.”
“We can start by fixing the mill. Maybe if he hears her running smooth and sweet, it’ll help.” His deep voice rumbled in his chest, giving her comfort for the first time in so long, she didn’t want to move an inch.
“That would be wonderful.” She imagined her father smiling again or laughing in his big booming way. Gabby missed him, confused by the shell he’d become.
Jake tipped her chin up with his finger. He seemed to be asking permission, which Gabby couldn’t refuse. After an almost imperceptible nod from her, he bent down and kissed her. A light, sweet touch danced across her lips, gentle flutters like angel wings. She closed her eyes and savored every second of it as he pulled her into a fog of arousal before he’d even truly kissed her.
It stopped as quickly as it started. Gabby opened her eyes and locked gazes with Jake. Lord help her, she was in trouble.
What the Critic says
DEVILS ON HORSEBACK: JAKE is sensational. This is a dynamite series from Beth Williamson that I cannot get enough of. Full of non-stop, heart-wrenching action, phenomenal characters and cream of the crop romance, this story just did it for me.— 5 Blue Ribbons, Romance Junkies
Beth Williamson has done it again! This book in her new series is the best yet…She has a remarkable way of telling her stories so that not only the love is beautifully written but her tense, violent entanglements are breathtaking.— 5 Hearts, The Romance Studio
Beth Williamson has done it again. This new installment of Devils on Horseback was fast-paced and exciting.— 5 Angels and a Recommended Read, Fallen Angel Reviews
Ms. Williamson demonstrates once again her mastery of the western genre in a colorful story of love and redemption. Jake’s story is a much grittier offering…and took me on a roller-coaster journey of emotion.— 5 Kisses, Two Lips Reviews