The Prospect


Self-published
July 10, 2017


Read an Excerpt


Book 10

Josephine Chastain doesn’t expect to contract typhoid on the way to Oregon and she certainly doesn’t expect to have to stay behind with the one man who drives her to distraction. Yet Declan Calhoun becomes her nurse, her savior and her faux husband.

Declan doesn’t want to be a hero but he also doesn’t want Jo to die so far from home, away from her family. While she fights the disease, he finds himself falling for the bookish Chastain sister. With a spine of steel and smarter than any human he’d ever met, Jo is everything he could never be.

After a daring escape from their quarantine, the pair set out to find John and Francesca Malloy, the only family Jo has left in Wyoming. The wilderness tests their strength, their fortitude and their endurance as they fight their way across the unforgiving land. With hostile men in hot pursuit, Jo and Declan find more than they bargain for and the love they both crave.




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Reviews

"…a sexy adventure and beautiful love story." -5 Blue Ribbons, Romance Junkies

"…a great book and a wonderful addition to the Malloy Family series." -4 Stars, The Romance Reviews

"I thoroughly enjoyed THE PROSPECT. " -Fresh Fiction

"In typical Beth Williamson fashion, The Prospect draws the reader into the action, the danger and the seduction of the story. " -5 Moons, Book Obsessed Chicks

"It was easy to once again get drawn into the old west with author Beth Williamson."4 Stars, Slick from Guilty Pleasures Book Reviews

"…a creative, heartwarming and sizzling journey of high adventure and new beginnings." - 3 Stars, RT Book Reviews



Excerpt

“Excuse me, Mrs. Callahan?”

The voice was vaguely familiar but Jo didn’t know who it was. She managed to crack one eye open to find a man standing over them. She frowned, trying to remember who he was.

“I’m sorry to bother you, Mrs. Callahan, but I’m to collect the week’s rent for the cabin.” The stranger had walked into the cabin, uninvited and unannounced apparently, and woke her up. The sun was behind him, turning him into a silhouette.

“Who are you?” She tried to wipe the sleep from her mind. Her hand landed on something warm and hard. Her eyes flew open and she realized she sat on Declan’s lap and he snored beneath her. What in the world was going on?

“Frank Drummond. I’m the medic who has been taking care of you.” The memory of the man was faint but it was there.

“I believe Declan has been taking care of me, Mr. Drummond. What is it you want?” She stopped and stared at the man, realizing he had called her Mrs. Callahan. Twice. Something she’d have to clarify with the sleeping Mr. Callahan immediately. A memory tickled at the back of her mind but she couldn’t latch onto it.

“The rent. It’s Monday which means it’s due for this week.” Mr. Drummond rocked back on his heels and waited.

Jo had no idea what the man was talking about and had only snatches of memories since she’d gotten sick. The cool breeze felt good on her face as she struggled into a sitting position. She tapped Declan’s cheek.

“Wake up.” He didn’t stir. She tapped him harder. “Wake up, Declan.”

Nothing.

“Heavy sleeper, hm?” Mr. Drummond seemed amused but Jo was anything but.

“Declan!” She shouted into the big man’s ear.

He was on his feet in a second, her waist secured under his arm and with a knife miraculously gripped in his arm. Where had that weapon been? And how did a man that big move so fast?

“Let me down.” She pushed against his grip and he dropped her in a flash. She landed hard on her hip. “Ouch!”

Declan looked around with a wild look on his face. His eyes widened when he spotted her on the floor. “Lass, I’m sorry. Did I hurt you?” He helped her to her feet. “I must’ve fallen asleep and I don’t—” He saw Mr. Drummond standing there.

“Callahan.” The other man inclined his head. “I came by for this week’s payment for the cabin. Your wife was gracious enough to wake you.”

Declan’s gaze snapped to her and he masked his expression but she saw it nonetheless. He had some explaining to do. She had been in his care for three weeks and now people were calling her Mrs. Callahan. The idea of being married to him made her cheeks flush hotter than the fever.

She sat down in the chair, winded and embarrassed. Declan reached for the pocket of his trousers and pulled out coins from his pocket, depositing them in Mr. Drummond’s outstretched palm.

“I’ll pass this on to the management of the fort. I hope you’re feeling better, Mrs. Callahan. Your face has color.” He waited, as though he expected an answer.

“I feel clearheaded but I can’t quite determine the state of my health.” She did, in fact, feel awake for the first time in a long time.

“If you’d like me to examine you, you only need ask.” Although his offer would appear kind to most, she did not know this man nor did she feel the need to make his acquaintance.

“Thank you, but no.” She refused as politely as she could. Her mother, after all, impressed upon all her daughters how important manners were.

“Your choice. I will stop by in a few days to check on you.” He smiled, a chilling baring of teeth. “Until I decide there ain’t no more typhoid in you or the big man here.”

“I’m not sick. I haven’t gotten sick and I won’t get sick.” Declan scowled. “I stopped wearing mask and gloves two weeks ago.”

Jo couldn’t suppress her shock. It hadn’t occurred to her he wasn’t wearing protection. Yet he’d been the first one to touch her when she’d gotten sick. That much she remembered. He carried her through the fort. It was a hazy memory but she knew it was real.

“As long as you’re in my good graces, I will lift the quarantine. Keep paying what’s owed and it will happen.” Drummond inclined his head toward her then turned and left the cabin.

The air hung heavy around them. She shook with exhaustion and resisted the urge to climb into the bed. Answers were more important than sleep.

“I would appreciate it, Mr. Callahan, if you could explain what happened the last three weeks.” She kept control of her anger but it simmered beneath the surface. Declan always incited her, in more ways than one, like nobody else had done.

He blew out a breath and sat down heavily in the chair. “You have been in another land, lass. I did what I had to do to protect you.”

She hugged herself, realizing her stomach no longer hurt, although she was definitely weakened. “I’m feeling better and I am here in this land now, wherever this is.”

He looked at her. “You do look more awake.” When he leaned over, she didn’t pull away, surprising herself. He touched her forehead and then her neck, then smiled. Her heart did a funny little skip at the sight of that smile without the beard to disguise it.

Lord in heaven, the man was devastating.

“Your fever’s broken.”

It took a few seconds for his words to sink in. “My fever?”

“Your forehead is cool to the touch, lass. You’ve beaten it.” He took her face and kissed her hard.

Jo was stunned, rendered silent by the fact she’d finally kissed the man she had been wanting to kiss. It was everything she expected it to be and more. His lips were warm and soft and they made her entire mouth tingle.

He leaned back and his face flushed. “I didn’t mean to do that.”

“It’s okay.” She wasn’t hurt by his regret. Jo was unattractive, stank and was no prize. It wouldn’t surprise her if he didn’t repeat the kiss. But she had the memory to hold onto. “I, uh, did not find the experience unpleasant.”

The surprise on his face was almost comical. He opened his mouth then shut it again. She hadn’t noticed he had a scar bisecting his bottom lip before. It was faded but this close, noticeable. She wondered what it would feel like to run her tongue down that mark.

Jo felt feverish again.

“I know I owe you an explanation, lass. It’s probably better if we eat some dinner first. You’ve barely eaten enough for a wee bird to survive.” He got to his feet and went to the tiny black stove in the corner with a single pot on top. “We’ve naught but beans and soup, but it’s hearty and filling.”

As he readied ingredients to cook, Jo wrestled with the notion she was dreaming. Everything about the last thirty minutes was surreal, unfamiliar and unknown. She vaguely remembered the small cabin and Mr. Drummond. However, she had no recollections beyond that. Had the fever stolen her mind for good? Or would it eventually return and with it the memories she didn’t appear to want to keep?

What had happened in this cabin?