- Available in: Ebook
- Published: October 6, 2020
When a school teacher with a backbone of steel meets a hard-nosed lawman, more than the desert will heat up.
Marielle Bloom never expected to be the victim of a stagecoach robbery stranded in the desert in the middle of summer with a sexy marshal who sets her body on fire with one look from his steely eyes.
Marshal Ramsey Whitfield doesn’t know what to make of the outspoken teacher, but he does know she feels perfect in his arms. As they trek together across the barren landscape, searching for civilization, they discover that their desire for each other is hotter than the desert sand.
The masked man on the huge sorrel leaned on his saddle horn and turned his head toward her. She couldn’t make out much information about him, other than the fact that he was big and his clothes hadn’t been washed in a dog’s year. Fortunately the wind blew toward him or the stench might have forced her to surrender.
“You’re a sassy little thing,” he drawled. “You know there’s no way in hell I ain’t robbing this stage so just drop that peashooter and play nice.”
The cowboy she’d initiated a flirtation with in the coach stood next to her. It had been enough to make her warm just looking at his smiling face. He had even smelled nice, a rarity in the West. When the robber stopped the coach, he’d been sleeping, or at least dozing. Marielle had been enjoying the view when all hell broke loose, and he had sat there like a bump on a log.
The cowboy leaned in close. “I think he’s right, ma’am. You’d do best to just give him the pistol. Don’t know why you took it from me anyway.”
“Because you did nothing, you coward. He shot that poor driver and made Mrs. Philpot cry and now he wants to take my bag. I absolutely refuse to hand over my things.” This time her voice did shake—with fury. “I’ve worked too hard over the last seven years to surrender so easily.” She narrowed her eyes at the bandit. “What have you done besides kill people and steal their belongings? You’re obviously not a Christian man, and maybe neither was your mama. Does she know what you’re doing?”
The longer she talked, the angrier she got.
“Shut up,” the cowboy hissed.
“I will not.” Marielle kept her aim straight and true at the lone bandit. “You get your sorry hide out of here with what you’ve already taken, but I refuse to give you one damn cent.”
“Oooh, you cuss too? I might have to take you with me.” He cocked his rifle in a blur of movement and pointed it at the unconscious Mrs. Philpot lying on the dusty road in her purple traveling dress. The older woman had fainted dead away when the bandit reached into her corset for her valuables. “Your choice, sugar, you put down that gun or the old hag gets it.”
Marielle pursed her lips together and sighed long and hard. The bastard. “I’ll take my chances.” She pulled the hammer back on the pistol. “You decide to take yours. Maybe I’ll shoot you before you can shoot her.”
The air around them grew heavy and time seemed to slow to a crawl. Marielle kept her gaze trained on his trigger finger. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a bead of sweat snaking down his temple. She hoped it was from anxiety and not the warm June weather.
“Ma’am,” the cowboy whispered.
It was all the distraction the bandit needed. She knew he was going to shoot so she fired off a shot just as his finger squeezed on the trigger. Her shot hit the barrel of the rifle. His went wild and slammed into the stagecoach next to her head. The cowboy grabbed her and threw her to the ground as the bandit’s horse reared and screamed.
“Dammit,” he cursed in her ear. “What the hell is wrong with you? Are you loco?”
Marielle struggled against his weight while the sound of the rifle shot echoed around them.
“You bitch,” the bandit shouted. “You broke my fucking rifle and cut up my hand.”
The horse’s hooves danced around them, coming dangerously close to their heads. The cowboy wrapped his arms around her and rolled under the carriage. More curses rained down as she struggled against the dust currently coating her face, nose and mouth. She could hardly get a breath in under the weight of the man on top of her. Marielle could feel every nook and cranny of his body too, even through her petticoats. He’d been blessed by his Maker for certain. Normally she would have enjoyed being so close to him, but in this situation it only served to fuel her anger.
“Get off me.”
“I’m trying to save your ass, lady. Just shut up and give that fool another minute to decide to ride on out with what he took.” His voice had a raspy quality to it that grated on her nerves.
“As if you care. You didn’t do anything but hand over your money.”
“I wasn’t expecting to be pushing up daisies for twenty dollars. Were you?”
It wasn’t the twenty dollars. It was the agony, the sweat, the tears and the blood she’d put into saving every damn penny so she’d have enough to leave Texas and get to San Francisco. This cowboy had no idea what Marielle would do to keep what she’d earned.
“You know he’s going to try to kill you now.”
“I don’t care. At least I’ll die fighting.” She meant every word of it too.