From acclaimed author Anna Schmidt comes a sweeping historical Western romance about the unbreakable bonds of family, second chances, and a whole lot of heart in the Wild West.
"This is me, Addie," Jess murmured. "You and me, the way we always were."
But it wasn't, no matter how much she wished it were true. They were different now. She would always love him...
But can she trust him not to break her heart?
Jess Porterfield fled to the big city after his father's sudden death, leaving behind his family ranch-and his childhood sweetheart. Now Jess has returned as the local lawman, determined to prove his worth...and win back the one woman he could never live without.
Young frontier doctor Addie Wilcox was devastated when Jess left her behind. Now he's back and it's difficult to remember why she should keep her distance. But with the town's richest man set to see her hang for a crime she didn't commit, Addie must put her faith in the lawman who broke her heart-and trust that together they'll find their second chance at love.
“You gonna hold up that wall all day, Porterfield?”
[Jess] looked up to see Doc Wilcox standing outside the side door that led to the room he used as his office and examining room.
“No, sir. I reckon we’ve got some business to discuss if this is a good time.”
“Good as any,” Doc replied, and waited for Jess to cross the rutted and dirt-packed street and follow him inside.
The office was smaller than he remembered. The couple of times he’d been there as a boy—once for a broken arm and again after getting into a fight with both Tiptons—the room had seemed much larger. He noticed the screen that separated the examining table from Doc’s desk, the one wall with bookcases that ran from floor to ceiling and were still not enough to hold all the books, the model skeleton that dangled on its perch in one corner, and the tray of shiny metal instruments ready for use that sat atop a metal cabinet next to the privacy screen.
“Sit,” Doc invited, indicating one of two wooden armchairs on the visitor’s side of his desk. He took the swivel chair across from Jess, set his pipe on a large ashtray and rested his elbows on the cluttered desk. “So, you gonna be our marshal?”
That took Jess by surprise. It sounded like Doc had already decided to offer him the job.
“I’d like to talk about it, sir.” He could hear someone moving around in the kitchen. Addie? Her mother?
“All right. What do you want to know?” Doc leaned back and folded his hands over his stomach. He was wearing a white shirt and a brocade vest that covered his suspenders. His suit coat hung on a coatrack behind him, along with his hat. His black bag sat on the floor next to the rack, as if at any moment he might be called into action.
“Ma thinks…” Jess began.
“I know what your ma thinks, Jess. What I need to know is what you think.”
“Not sure I get your meaning.”
“Well, for example, are you hoping taking the position will give you free rein to go after the Tiptons?”
Maybe. “Why would I do that?”
Doc arched an eyebrow. “Don’t play me, son. We both know why.”
“You mean because of them trying to get their hands on the ranch?”
Doc reared back in his chair and studied Jess for a long moment. “Well, there’s that and the fact that you think they killed your pa.”
Jess felt bile rise in his throat. “So do you and just about everybody else in these parts. But nobody seems to be interested in proving they were calling the shots.”
Doc leaned forward and removed his glasses. “Here’s the situation, Jess. The town needs a lawman to keep things under control—in town. Duties will include breaking up fights over at the Dandy Doodle Saloon, locking up Lucas Jennings, Gus Abersole and others so they can sleep it off, and maybe even organizing a posse to hunt down some gang that decides to rob the bank. What it does not include is anything that might happen—or have happened in the past—outside the town limits.”
“No buts, son. If you take this job, you do it the way it is—the things I laid out, plus a lot of paperwork and collecting taxes and back payments and such. It does not now nor will it ever involve going after the Tipton brothers for your pa’s death. You try and take on Jasper Tipton and his brother, you’re gonna end up dead. If you want this job, those are the terms.”
“I mean what I say, Jess. Make one move outside your jurisdiction as town marshal and I’ll fire you on the spot.”
Jess wrestled with the choice…that really wasn’t a choice at all. “I understand. I want the job.” He sure hated lying to Addie’s father.
About the Author
Award-winning author Anna Schmidt delights in creating stories where her characters must wrestle with the challenges of their times. Critics have consistently praised Schmidt for her ability to seamlessly integrate actual events with her fictional characters to produce strong tales of hope and love in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. She resides in Wisconsin.