- N. N. Light
At Twilight by @Beth__Henderson is a Western Romance Event pick #historicalromance #westernromance
Title: AT TWILIGHT
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Historical Romantic Western 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. Yet it was a vow she considered breaking every evening -- AT TWILIGHT.
Angelina’s cries grew in volume. The stranger took the ear-piercing noise in stride. Deftly, he maneuvered through the cabin doorway and paused, letting his eyes adjust to the dim interior. “Shh. Take it easy, angel. Momma’s on her way to your side,” he promised softly. “Perhaps, if you’re patient, she’ll sing you a lullaby.”
As if distracted by the sound of an unknown voice, Angelina paused, whimpering slightly before raising her voice insistently again.
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.
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 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.” 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.”
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 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. 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 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. “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?”
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This is a story that keeps on the road, though it certainly isn’t a vacation. The way is long, dusty, and dangerous in more than one way since there’s a posse after the hero and a fellow hired to bring the heroine back to a man she hates. If you enjoy books that mix outlaws, post-Civil War Texas, babies, a masquerade, adventure, and shootouts, but prefer the characters have a slow burn romance but never force you to witness the love scene…well, you’ve come to the right place. Reviewers have claimed “J.W. is a sweetheart of a hero” and that At Twilight is "One of the gentlest, most tender romances I've ever read". I have to admit, I feel the same way myself about the story and characters. Honestly, I reread it a lot just to hang out with them again.
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Beth Henderson has always loved history. She might have got better grades in it at school than she did in English until she hit college and reveled in writing essays and stories in creative writing classes. She grew up watching westerns on TV with her dad and finds the Old West a gold mine of story ideas. Sometimes even involving a gold mine. She holds a BA in American History and a MA in English Composition and Rhetoric with an emphasis on Creative Writing (they didn’t have MFA’s at her college). Although she is from Ohio, lived 22 years in the desert communities of Tucson and Las Vegas, currently she’s snugged down in small town Kentucky where she spends long hours either writing, reading or watching movies, particularly Marvel movies and most westerns that come along.
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