Title: The Lady Lassoes an Outlaw from the anthology Under a Mulberry Moon
Author: Charlene Raddon
Genre: Western Historical Romance
Aurora Cavender travels to Utah to complete a secret assignment and to find her twin brother. She never expects to run into the man she once loved. Garret Mosely abandoned her on their wedding day years before. Gorgeous as ever, he shocks her by trying to tell her he's not Garret but Nebraska Joe, an outlaw with the Hell's-Gate gang.
The same gang who supposedly kidnapped and murdered Jason Cavender. Aurora knows her brother still lives. As identical twins, they sense each other's emotions. He's hurt but alive.
Now, she too, is in the hands of this ruthless outlaw gang. Can Garret—will Garret— help her find Jason and escape Robbers' Roost?
THE LADY LASSOES AN OUTLAW EXCERPT:
A second later, the sound of gunfire came to Aurora. The coach was being attacked!
Dropping her book, she grabbed her reticle with the Colt inside. She had her hand in the bag ready to draw out her gun and her gaze on the window when Higgins said, "Best keep away from the window, Miss. Might get hurt."
As if to prove his warning, a bullet zinged through the window shade and buried itself in the seat back near her head.
“Good hell," Rank muttered.
Aurora threw herself to one side, one hand clutching her bag with the Colt .45 inside, the other hand on her thigh, making sure she hadn't lost the derringer in her garter. She glanced at her two companions and gasped.
Elmer Higgins held a Smith and Wesson aimed at her chest. He smiled. "It's a robbery. Just sit quiet, be a good girl, and you'll be fine."
Aurora had grave doubts about that, but she clamped her mouth shut, took her hand slowly out of her reticule, removed her other hand from her leg, and clutched the bag to her chest. The gun muzzle inside poked into her breasts, adding to her awareness of its presence, so close, yet, out of reach, like the derringer, and the knife in her boot. No more doubt remained but that she'd misjudged Mr. Higgins.
Moving the muzzle of his gun toward Rank, he said, "Toss your gun out the window. Now."
Rank did and then squeezed as deeply into the corner as he could, his eyes never leaving the Smith and Wesson aimed at him.
Aurora waited, hoping something distracted Higgins, so she could pull out the Colt and get the drop on him. Was it the Hell's-Gate gang the man belonged to? They were known to rob stages on this route.
More important to her, did Higgins know where Jason was? What would he do if he knew there was a lawman on the stage?
He grinned. “Don’t fret, Miss Cavender. I won’t allow anything to happen to you.”
Her gaze slid to Rank, and she saw he would be no help. The flirty cowhand had turned into a quivering coward.
Outside, a cry of pain came from the vicinity of the driver's seat. Had the driver been shot? Or Garret?
The gang chasing them hadn't quite reached the stage yet. The top of the stage and all the luggage stored there should protect the men driving the stage.
The thought had barely passed through her mind when riders appeared at the sides of the coach. The gunfire stopped, and the stage skidded to a halt, raising even more dust. Aurora wanted to leap out to check on Garret. She might hate him for abandoning her the day of their wedding, but she didn't want him to die.
Higgins, no longer the meek salesman, threw open the door. "After you, Miss."
She wanted to curse at him the way Jason would have. This was not going the way she'd planned when she left home for Utah. She pulled a scented hanky from her reticule, slipped the crocheted handle over her arm, and descended to the ground. The hanky she held to her nose to keep out the dust.
Higgins shoved Rank out behind her and he landed in the dirt. When the outlaw jumped down, he grabbed her arm. "Don't go anywhere, sweetheart. When matters are finished here, you and I shall become better acquainted."
"I have no interest in knowing you better, Mr. Higgins. Just take my valuables and let go of me."
He laughed and drew her closer. "Oh, now. I want more than your valuables. I've been nice to you, haven't I? It's your turn to be nice to me."
She tried to pull away. "I said let me go."
"Do it, Elmer," a firm, familiar voice said as Garret appeared beside Aurora. "The lady belongs to me."
"What?" It hit her then —Garret was part of the gang? No, he couldn't be. She glared at him. "How dare you say—?"
Yanking her against him, he kissed her, shutting her up. Damn him. Twice now, he'd pulled that stunt. His mouth on hers felt hard and all-business, unlike the way he used to kiss her.
"Keep quiet and go along with me, if you want to keep living," he whispered against her lips.
He kissed her harder.
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Charlene Raddon is a bestselling author of western historical romance novels. She began writing in 1980, became a Golden Heart Finalist in 1990 and was published by Kensington Book in 1994. Currently, she has ten books available and is an Indie author.
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