The Sheriff’s Outcast Bride by Award-Winning Author Margaret Tanner is a Snuggle Up Readathon Pick #
Title: The Sheriff’s Outcast Bride
Author: Margaret Tanner
Genre: Historical Western Romance
A vengeful man tells a lie, and Becky Tucker’s reputation is ruined.
Shunned by the townsfolk, she leads a life of drudgery on Wes Castair’s ranch. When she and her stepsister, Lucinda, are kidnapped and held for ransom, Wes is only prepared to pay for his daughter’s release. While Lucinda is freed, Becky has to make good her own escape with the help of Sheriff Ryan Mulligan.
Ryan reluctantly suggests that they should get married, and because Becky is desperate and has no-one else to turn to, she agrees.
To find happiness together Ryan and Becky will need to overcome dark secrets from the past, betrayal and treachery.
The evening of the church dance arrived. Becky hated the idea of going now. Could she feign illness?
Her brown curls were tied back with a green velvet ribbon that matched Lucinda’s cast-off green gown. She couldn’t remember when she last wore new clothes. I’m not wasting money on such frippery, Wes would say, but it didn’t stop him from buying Lucinda whatever she asked for.
Becky didn’t usually care about her appearance. Men’s clothes were more practical and comfortable for working around the ranch. She much preferred outside chores to housework.
If she had to attend this dance, she intended to look well. Make Jase sorry for casting her aside. Pride was all she had left now.
Glancing at her reflection in the mirror, she knew without vanity she looked well, even though sorrow etched her face. The deep green gown seemed to add extra color to her hazel eyes. She always wore a hat outdoors so her skin would not burn or dry out.
Her heart pounded with trepidation. Would Ryan be there? She didn’t know why, but he always unsettled her.
Out in the parlor, Wes puffed on a cigar as he sat in his favorite leather armchair. He didn’t stand up when she entered, didn’t comment on her appearance, either. He was letting her go to the dance under sufferance, but Lucinda wanted her to go, so she didn’t have to attend on her own.
Becky had her back to the door and didn’t see Lucinda enter. Wes eased his fat body out of the chair. “Angel, you look beautiful.”
Becky swung around and the breath hitched in her throat. Her stepsister was a vision of loveliness in the palest of blue gowns with darker blue tulle around the neckline. The color complimented her enormous blue eyes. Her blonde hair was swept up from a middle parting and held in place by shiny tortoiseshell combs. Every male at the dance would just about fall to their knees in homage.
“Thank you, Pa.” She smiled sweetly. “I want to do you proud tonight.”
“You have, darlin’. You’ll be the most beautiful gal there. Jase won’t be able to keep his eyes off you.” He gave her an indulgent smile.
Becky pretended to stare out the window in case her eyes reflected the hurt that cut to the bone. “You look, lovely,” she said.
“You scrub up well, too, Sis.”
“She is not your sister.” Wes scowled. “No blood relative whatsoever.”
“Oh, Pa, don’t be so grumpy.”
Becky couldn’t believe Lucinda was sticking up for her. As children they had been close, but once her mother died Wes had turned on her, encouraging Lucinda to do the same, and they had drifted apart.
They were late, the dance was in full swing by the time they arrived. Wes helped Lucinda down, leaving Becky to climb down on her own. Two lanterns lit up the doorway, throwing flickering shadows out into the darkness.
Stepping inside, Becky surveyed the hall in one quick glance, instinctively searching for Jase. He wouldn’t change his mind now, yet still she hoped. He stood next to his father and brother looking devilishly handsome in a black suit and white shirt. He grinned and waved when he saw them but saved a special smile for Lucinda.
Ryan wore brown pants and a blue shirt. The sheriff’s badge was pinned to his black vest. His lips were pulled into thin, surly lines, his expression stony. He was obviously here under sufferance and didn’t care who knew it.
He was clean shaven, his skin tanned. His slate grey eyes swept her from head to toe, and she was tempted to poke out her tongue like she had done as a child. Instead, she let her gaze wander up and down his body, then gave a contemptuous toss of her head.
Jase strode toward them, a broad smile on his face. Wes elbowed Becky out of the way, so Lucinda was closest to him. Ryan and Vaughan strolled over.
“Welcome home, my dear,” Vaughan said with a smile. He acknowledged Becky with a brief half nod. Ignoring him, she edged away.
“Good evening, Miss Becky, Miss Lucinda.” Ryan gave a brief smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Good evening, Sheriff,” Becky said.
Lucinda fluttered her eyelashes. “Good evening, Ryan,” she cooed, and a muscle twitched in his jaw.
The music started up, Jimmy Jones and his cousin Pete, played the fiddle. Real foot tapping music, and several couples took to the dance floor. Becky tried to hide her pain and disappointment when Jase didn’t ask her to dance, instead he stared, mesmerized at Lucinda.
“Why don’t you ask my little gal to dance?” Wes said, pushing Lucinda forward.
“Would you care to dance?” Jase asked eagerly, now that he had Wes’ approval. Lucinda sashayed off with him. Every male eye in the room followed her. Becky didn’t know what to do, where to look. The man she loved had publicly snubbed her.
“A fine couple,” Vaughan said, clapping Wes on the back. “She sure is a purdy gal.”
Wes’ chest puffed out, nothing he liked more than people praising his daughter.
Humiliated and hurt beyond belief, although she’d had fair warning of what was going to happen, Becky badly wanted to dash outside and hide.
Ryan stood silently, thumbs stuck in his belt, surveying the dancing couples through stormy grey eyes. Vaughan said something to him, she didn’t know what, but his mouth tightened. He didn’t move for a few moments, then with something akin to a sigh of resignation, he stepped over to her.
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It is for pleasure, but also to show the resilience of the human spirit and how to overcome a traumatic start in life and find happiness. It also shows that mean people who are prepared to denigrate another just to suit their own ends, will not triumph.
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Margaret Tanner is an Award Winning Historical and Contemporary Romance Author who has now added Western Historical Romance to her writing repertoire.
She lives in Australia, is married and has three grown up sons and two gorgeous little granddaughters.
Margaret now enjoys writing Western Historical Romance. Frontier Australia and frontier America, have many similarities, isolated communities, a large single male population and a lack of eligible women. This leads to many interesting plots.
She has always loved Westerns, soaking up all the Western TV shows and movies when she was young. Bonanza was her all-time favourite show. Little Joe Cartwright was her hero. Western Author, Zane Grey was her favourite author at that time.
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