Until... by @Beth__Henderson is a Western Romance Event pick #westernromance #historicalmystery
Title: UNTIL . . .
Author: Beth Henderson
Genre: Historical Romantic Western Mystery
When Talmadge Hammond drifts into the Idaho mining camp he has no intention of using his law degree. He’s there for whiskey and the gold he can win at cards. Instead, he must save the life of the woman who’d once vowed to love him until…
Noletta Kittridge begins that day covered in a man’s blood and accused of murder. She has sinned to stay alive. Redemption can come only by giving her life to save the person who accidentally killed the man. Even Tal’s reappearance in her life can’t revive Letty’s will to live.
Determined to keep her from the hangman’s noose, Tal must either convince her to tell who did kill the victim or solve the mystery himself. If he fails, he and Letty will finally reach that unvoiced destination beyond until…
Boise Basin, Spring 1863
The ruckus spilled out of the saloon and into the sea of mud the residents called a street. Coming in off the trail, tired and footsore, his worldly possessions long ago reduced to the pack strapped behind the saddle of the sturdy nag trailing him, Tal Hammond stalled his steps to avoid being swept along with the surging tide of locals milling before the door. The mob was primed to unfolding events, but all he wanted was to rest an elbow while savoring a medicinal shot of whiskey.
Saloons made up the bulk of the camp and every damn one of those farther down the path appeared to be better maintained establishments than the one the crowd kept him from passing by. Whatever the ruckus was, he had no interest in it. Was content and then some to let the camp’s drama play out as it would. He was just passing through. On his way to an unknown somewhere else but looking for a likely poker table to round up the size of the investment in his pocket, courtesy of a man possessed of a lucky gold pan but an unlucky hand of cards.
Then the crowd wavered as two men pushed through the open doorway and shoved spectators aside. The mob parted like the Red Sea, but Tal didn’t blame them. Given that the fellas were armed and as craggy faced as some of the snow-topped mountains surrounding these gold fields, he’d be inclined to take a step or two back himself. Behind them another couple of men angled through, shoving a third person between them.
Although the men dragged the half-clad woman along, their grips tight and threatening, she wasn’t fighting or resisting them physically or verbally. She looked beaten, not in body but in spirit. And yet, when she stumbled, the toe of her wear-marred but neatly laced-up boot catching in the cloying mud, pitching her forward out of the men’s custody, the crowd gasped. Some stepped farther back to avoid physical contact. The carrion seekers in the mob pressed nearer, set to rend her vulnerability.
They hurled insults at her. She suffered the name calling, if it could be called such. The style of her clothing—or lack of it—and the building itself proclaimed the truth of her profession. She was the whore they called her.
Then he heard the new word, the word that was at first only whispered before it gained a more daring voice: murderess.
One of the men yanked her upright, uncaring whether he hurt her or not. It was only then, when she raised her head, her chin, in a manner any grand dame reared in the top tier of Eastern society would recognize, that he knew her.
It couldn’t be.
And yet, when she swept the gathered crowd, the gaze she turned on them was the one she had learned at her mother’s knee. At her grandmother’s table and at enumerable dinners, balls, and afternoon teas in Boston.
Tal watched in stunned amazement as the once Honorable Miss Noletta Kittridge shrugged free of the man’s hand and with a back straightened by years of deportment, stepped from the meager shelter of the porch, moved beyond the hungry, insult-hurling crowd, and strode on her own toward the camp jail.
She looked at no one, met no eye, taking comfort in the inborn dignity of the class into which she had been born.
Her class, Tal thought, heart sore. He’d never been a true part of it, merely a hanger-on, a climber. A friend to her brother.
And that friend had called him a traitor to his country.
But Letty… What was she doing in Idaho Territory? She should be enjoying the comforts of Boston, being fêted by the officers who managed to make it home and the wealthy industrialists who paid other men to take their place in the infantry lines.
If she hadn’t stridden down the sorry muddy excuse of a street with her blueblood holding her above the rabble, he might have doubted his eyes. Even so, it was difficult to believe Letty Kittridge and the prostitute with blood and mud drying on her scant clothing were one and the same.
The show over, the crowd dispersed around him. Before they could all disappear, Tal tapped a blurry-eyed man in a threadbare suit coat on the shoulder.
“Pardon, friend,” he said. “Could you tell me what that was all about?”
“Gal shot her man, from the looks of it,” the fellow said. “Not surprised it happened, just that it took Pearl this long to do it.”
“The dove they arrested.”
“You sure she’s the one that did it?” Tal pressed.
“Wearing Rosser’s blood, isn’t she? Why the interest, mister?”
Tal gave the man what he hoped passed for a harmless grin. “Just making sure no other gal or man’s like to shoot my fool head off while I’m here.”
“Gold brought you, then?”
“Brought everyone else in town, too, I’d say,” Tal observed, his smile widening.
“You’re right,” the man agreed and chuckled. He offered his hand. “Ebner Melton, mayor of this little burg.”
“Adam Cain,” Tal said easily and pumped the mayor’s paw. He’d been using the alias for too long now to ever stumble over offering it. It was more difficult to remember his life as Talmadge Hammond back in Boston.
Did Letty feel the same?
“Where do you hail from, Mr. Cain?” the mayor asked.
“Anymore, the last gold field that called to me,” Tal admitted. “’Fore that, Canada and points beyond.”
“And might I ask what you did before you came down with gold fever?”
The mayor was treading on dangerous ground now, wanting to know what sort of man he’d been back East. But considering events at this gold strike, Tal decided the truth needed to be let out at least one last time.
“I was a lawyer, Mr. Mayor. One with a knack for defending the innocent.”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XV12YWY
Amazon CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08XV12YWY
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XV12YWY
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Usually everyone thinks an historical set during the Civil War period will take place where the troops are tainting the air with cannon, rifle, and pistol smoke and leaving a blood-soaked landscape behind. I wanted something different and when I discovered there was a gold strike in the Boise Basin of Idaho Territory kicking off at the same time, I knew I had my location. Now I just needed characters and a storyline. When Talmadge Hammond and Nolette Kittridge came through my muse’s office door in answer to a casting call, things just fell into place for one heck of a mix of mystery, loss, second changes, history and adventure. The toughest thing to deal with was writing a romance when the heroine spent nearly the entire story in a jail cell, accused of murder.
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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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