Title: AT TWILIGHT
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Historical Romance Adventure
Louisa Burgess had erred when it came to love before. She had no intention of doing so again. And certainly not with a man who arrived at her door with a posse on his heels. But she was also a widow with a baby and in desperate circumstances. He was an outlaw with a posse on his trail yet the gentlest man she’d ever met.
So, she planned to use him.
The war had killed the man J.W. Walford had been – a man who respected the law. But when the law did nothing a man needed to take it into his own hands. The former Confederate Raiders who killed his wife while he’d been away at war, the loss of his never seen infant son to death, and the rape of his war widowed sister by those Raiders made vengeance the only thing that drove him. He didn’t need to get involved with a Texican widow, but he needed her to avoid capture and a noose.
They needed to go their separate ways but, every evening, they fell a bit more in love At Twilight.
The drifter placed Lou gently on the bed, then carefully gathered the wailing baby from her crib, placing her softly in Lou’s waiting arms before he stepped back. But he didn’t leave the cabin immediately as she had expected. He stood there silently, observing her, making her overly conscious of each movement. And that she was laying on a mattress, hardly dressed for visitors. Lou was suddenly thankful that the cabin was barely lit.
She forced herself up slightly, supporting her weight on her elbow, calming the infant with a murmur and brief touch. Out of the sunlight, he was an even darker figure, the deep shadings of his clothing and coloring making him nearly fade into the cabin’s gloom.
“Sir...” she began.
He smiled briefly at her, the flash of his even, white teeth visible even in the shadows. “You have a beautiful, healthy child there. Why don’t you tend to her and then rest comfortably,” he advised. Although his voice was hushed, Lou felt she could hear the crack of an order given in his delivery. Had he been an officer then?
“I’m sure you’ll feel more yourself presently,” he added. “In the meantime, I’ll open the shutters and fill your pitchers with water before night falls.”
Before night falls. Was it so late already? There were so many things to do yet. Things she should – could! – do herself. But she didn’t protest, merely waited until he was gone before gathering Angelina protectively close.
“Did you have a dream, too, darling?” she asked the child. “I thought I was having one, but this isn’t a dream after all. He isn’t part of a waking fantasy.”
If he wasn’t though, who was he? How had he found the ranch? It was tucked into a niche carved into the woods, the cabin built with logs felled at the site long before Frank had purchased it with her dowry. Little of the surrounding land had been cleared. A narrow stretch of natural meadow fell away toward the Angelina River to the east, but neither road nor path led directly to her door. Yet that is where the stranger had fetched up.
At exactly the right moment.
Outside the open door, she heard the jangle of his spurs as he headed back to the cabin. Then his shadow darkened the entrance. The aroma of wildflowers that had seemed to cling to him before was now overlaid with that of leather, damp leather.
“Hope you don’t mind me bringing my saddle inside,” he said. “My horse broke his leg a few miles back and I’ve been lugging it ever since, hoping to find a homestead willing to sell me a fresh horse.”
When she didn’t answer immediately, he set the saddle and bucket of water down. “Ma’am? Are you okay?” he asked.
Since he looked ready to take the necessary steps to the bed, Lou sat up, drawing the quilt up modestly to cover her torso and shelter the now quieted baby. “Yes, yes. I’m fine,” she assured hastily. “I’m afraid I wasn’t myself when you arrived, Mister...” Lou left the sentence unfinished, waiting for him to supply her with a name.
He didn’t. Instead he smiled again. With the door open, it was much easier to see him, to see what a change his mouth underwent when he was pleased or amused. While his face looked set in lines that indicated a hard life, a simple grin transposed him into a quite well-featured man.
“The turkey buzzards circling over this place didn’t think so either,” he said before the smile slid back into hiding. “You must have been out for a while to attract their interest.”
Buzzards! Lou shuddered at the thought, picturing what would have happened to Angelina if he hadn’t come along, if she hadn’t come out of her swoon. With the forest at her doorstep, more natural predators than even man were a very real threat.
“Thank you for rescuing us,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” he responded lightly. “Tell me where you want this second bucket then I’ll unbar the windows for you. It will make the place feel cheerier with late afternoon sunlight pouring through the panes. Then, if you’ve got a spare horse I can buy, I’ll be on my way.”
Lou wished she didn’t have to give him the unhappy news. “We’ve only two horses that pull our wagon,” she said, careful to imply that she didn’t live alone at the ranch, which, even when Frank had been alive, had pretty much been the way of things. Would he think that she and the soused Widow Rosa slumbering in the cabin’s best chair were fair game though, women alone without a man to keep them safe? “I’m sorry, but my husband wouldn’t willing part with either.” It wasn’t a complete lie. If he’d still been alive, Frank would have raised holy hell if she’d sold off one of his precious mares.
“Perhaps your husband will know of someone with a horse to sell,” the nameless stranger said as he lifted the security bar from the front window.
With Angelina changed and temporarily content once more, Lou reached for her robe and struggled to cover herself quickly while his back was turned. “Frank may not be back until dusk,” she declared, hoping that she sounded apologetic rather than inventive. Hoping he would be in a hurry to leave. She’d point the way to Peaceful, the nearest town. It wasn’t much of a place, but it did have a livery stable where he could find another mount.
“Then it looks like I need to ask you one more question, ma’am,” he said, staring intently at something on the prairie to the east before turning to face her. “Do you have a place where a man could hide?”
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0047T7OOA
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0047T7OOA
Amazon AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B0047T7OOA
What makes your featured book a must-read?
At Twilight had an odd birth. My agent was complaining that publishers only wanted historicals that were set in Texas or had an outlaw or a baby, so I wrote a story that took place in Texas and had both an outlaw and a baby. It’s 1868, my hero is a former Union officer in the Reconstruction South, he’s out for revenge and the heroine plans to use him to escape her own impossible situation. One reviewer claimed that, “It really feels like 1868!” I like as spot on history as I can get, and I love these characters, particularly his interactions with her baby.
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BETH HENDERSON spent a dozen years writing and rewriting the same three books during the 1980s, but all those rewrites paid off via a romance spinning career now 30+ years long. Romantic-comedy and historical romantic adventure are her forte. She also writes urban fantasy PI mystery comedy and Weird West Steampunk, 1920s Dieselpunk and Victorian Gaslamp mystery comedy under different pennames. Between all the genres she’s danced through there have been a total of 32 novels, 9 novellas, and 15 short stories (the 15th in an anthology releasing July 1st). She is also a regular writing workshop presenter at Savvy Authors and various online RWA chapters and is the author of How To Write a Funny Mystery by Beth Daniels, her real name!
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