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SWEPT AWAY
by Mary Connealy

Trouble in Texas, Book 1

Trade Paper ISBN: 978-0-7642-0914-7


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Ruthy nearly drowned before being rescued by Luke Stone. Now he’s left her little choice but to travel with him until they reach the nearest town. But is Ruthy any safer with this handsome cowboy than she would’ve been had she stayed on her own? Swept Away by Mary Connealy Trouble in Texas #1

Scroll down the page to read a letter to readers and an excerpt!

Publisher Info: Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, has been publishing high quality books for over 50 years. Recognized as the pioneer and leader in Christian fiction, Bethany House publishes over 75 new fiction and nonfiction titles annually in subjects including historical and contemporary fiction, Christian living, devotional, family resources, and theology. Our titles are frequently found on Christian bestseller lists.

 

Read a letter to readers!

I think I can bring a lot of honesty to western romance novels because I am married to my very own romantic cowboy hero. Add to that, My Cowboy grew up as one of seven sons. So, in some ways, he’s clueless about women. Oh, he’s learned over the years, but it’s like he’s speaking it as a second language. As if men don’t have enough problems understanding women under normal circumstances.

I have three little brothers, and I remember well that they lived to torment me. They were never happier than when they made me or one of my sisters scream or cry, or embarrassed us nearly to death. They seemed to think if they could bring a sister to tears, they’d had a good day.

My Cowboy never learned that.

To make his life more confusing yet, we’ve got four daughters, no sons. The man is both absolutely in love with his girls and terrified of them. He doesn’t understand endless giggling and talking about girly things. I feel pretty certain I could embezzle five hundred dollars a month from our bank account and if he asked me what I needed the money for, I’d just say, “Well, honey, it’s a feminine thing.” And he’d just say, “No, that’s fine, take it, forget it.” Then he’d run.

If one of our girls squeals, he runs to save them, even if they’re just having a tug of war over a beloved teddy bear. And beyond all of that, he can’t stand crying. Once after a softball game, my oldest daughter was crying her heart out over some horrible trauma—you know the kind. She struck out. She got benched. The coach scolded her. I don’t remember what caused it, I just know I was in her bedroom while she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I was sitting there patting her shoulder and saying, “There, there. Poor baby. I’m sorry. Don’t cry.”

My Cowboy came storming into the room, furious. He ranted a bit and stormed out. Then a few minutes later, he came back, still ranting, then he left again

Of course my daughter cried harder every time he came in. He was making everything worse. Finally, he came in again, drug his wallet out, flipped it open, pulled out some cash, and said, “I’ll give you twenty dollars if you’ll stop crying.”

Well, my daughter is a bright little thing. I mean, c’mon, it’s not like she’d never struck out before. She sniffled a bit, pulled herself together, and snatched the twenty out of his hand.

Peace and happiness was restored at the Connealy Ranch.

As you can tell, I’ve found a lot of comedy in the way he reacts to things, and I’ve brought that into my books. My characters end up being authentic and funny at the same time, I hope, because my fictional heroes act a lot like My Cowboy.

Most of my heroes live in a nearly all-male world, usually on some remote ranch in the Wild West, until some feisty little female comes along. And most of my heroes immediately move to stake their claim…or they run for their lives.

Of course in my books, I find a way to trap them together, so since there is no escape, they have to learn to get along.

Trouble in Texas, my new series, begins with Swept Away. It’s set a couple of years after the Civil War, in Indian Territory, in the Palo Duro Canyon north of Amarillo. This is a very rugged, red rock canyon area far from civilization. Very lawless, and populated by characters who’ve left more settled areas and chosen Indian Territory for some pretty unsavory reasons. Or, as is the case with my hero, Luke Stone, his pa just got sick of the endless wagon train west and headed off on his own, then fell in love with the beauty of Palo Duro.

Luke went away to the Civil War, ended up in Andersonville Prison, and came home a half-starved, angry, traumatized man. He couldn’t get along with his crusty father, so Luke left home.

Time has passed, and now Luke has mostly healed from the war. He heads home to make peace, only to find his sister missing, his ranch stolen, and his father dead. Friends he made in the war who are also finding it hard to get past their war experience are ready to pitch in and help Luke get justice. These old friends—Regulators who helped keep peace in Andersonville Prison—decide to head for Palo Duro right along with Luke. They are used to fighting alongside their brother-at-arms and see no reason to stop just because the war has ended.

Now, instead of making peace with his pa, Luke is going home to start a range war.

On the way, he finds a young woman nearly drowned after a flash flood. He can’t leave her behind, and it’s a long, long ride to anywhere except the small town near his ranch.
She has to come with him. So, unfortunately for Ruthy MacNeil, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Read an excerpt!

Chapter 1

October 1868

The sharp crack of a cocking pistol brought Lucas Stone’s head around.

“I’ll shoot if you so much as twitch.” The deputy’s badge gleamed in the dim lantern light of the stable, and his aim was true.

“What’s the problem here?” Luke straightened away from his horse, his hands spread wide and raised slightly. He hoped this didn’t count as twitching; he didn’t want to give the deputy an excuse to flinch.

“Those your saddlebags?” The lawman looked at the bags Luke had just thrown onto his horse and used the gun to point at them. Not a careful man. He looked to be about twenty, and none too bright.

“They are. What’s going on?”

“I got a tip I’d find money in those bags. Money from a stagecoach robbery that happened in these parts last week. Had a man killed.”

A shiver went up Luke’s spine. He’d noticed his saddlebags were moved. He’d left them here with his horse and, since there was nothing worth stealing in them, he hadn’t thought much of someone shoving them to the side, even going through them. Now he had a bad feeling that if he opened the bags, or let the deputy open them, there’d be something tying Luke to robbery and murder.

“You got a tip?” Luke tried to stall for time as he wondered who’d tried to frame him. Only one name came to mind. Flint Greer. A man who had good reason to not want Luke to make it home alive. “From who? I’ve only been in town a few hours. Just passin’ through on my way home to Texas.”

More honestly on his way to reclaim his home in Texas. “I just came in from far north. I have a bill of sale dated yesterday that proves I’m new to these parts.” Luke reached for the breast pocket of his brown broadcloth shirt.

“Don’t move!” The deputy’s gun came up and his finger visibly trembled on the trigger.

“Easy.” Luke wondered how the kid could believe there was a gun hidden in Luke’s shirt pocket, but he slowly moved his hands away from his body. “You want to get the bill of sale yourself?”

Luke hoped he would come within grabbing distance.

Nodding, the lawman edged toward Luke.

Luke knew plenty about being tough, having grown up in north Texas, a land of stark rock canyons and roving bands of Comanche and Kiowa. That alone was enough, but he’d also spent years fighting in the War Between the States, and more time living off the land after the war. And he was boiling with anger as he made his way home to avenge his father’s death. Those things combined to make him a careful, knowing man. A dangerous man.

This deputy was none of those.

Luke was close to home now, and Greer, the man who’d killed his father, knew he was coming because Luke had sent a letter, along with a legal document, telling Greer to get off Stone land. Greer didn’t want Luke to make it home.

Luke knew a setup when he saw one. Which meant there was little or no chance he could talk his way out of this. Which left fighting his only way out. He braced himself, determined not to hurt a lawman—at least not too bad. But once a jailhouse door clanked shut, Lucas expected the only way out would be as he was led to the gallows.

The deputy reached for Luke’s pocket.

Luke shoved the kid’s gun upward, drove his fist into the kid’s belly, then slugged him in the jaw. Luke jerked the pistol out of the deputy’s hand, chopped him on the skull with the gun butt, and grabbed the front of his shirt to lower him, unconscious, to the stable floor.

Luke flipped open his saddlebags to find a cloth cash bag. Dragging it out, Luke looked at it for a few long seconds, tempted. Considering its weight, Luke knew it was gold.

It would come in handy. It’d buy him enough bullets to start a war, which was exactly what Luke had in mind to do.

With some regret, but no interest in turning thief, he dropped the money, then double-checked the saddlebags to make sure there wasn’t more. Whoever had tried to frame him hadn’t wanted to part with too much.

If this was Greer’s work, the man was thorough. So if the deputy was here in the stable, where was the sheriff? Luke eyed the doorway and was sure if he walked out, he’d be facing a firing squad.

With grim silence Luke finished slapping leather on his horse and led it to the back door of the stable. A black horse on a black night, and Luke always dressed to move around undetected. No shining hatband. No silver trim on his boots or Colt. No jingling spurs.

Easing the door open, he saw a stretch of land leading into a copse of trees. Behind those trees, a bluff rose. He’d seen it earlier. But could Luke’s gelding climb the bluff? Being afoot in Texas was a good way to end up dead.

His horse was game, so Luke set out, leading his mount, listening for every night sound, his hand on his six-gun as they paced off the distance to the shelter of the trees.

No one stopped him. If this was Greer’s work, he’d be furious. He was a man who hired his shooting done and he expected his money’s worth.

Luke reached the trees and decided to trust the black to find a way up. Mounting, he rode up the bluff and over the top. As soon as he was out of hearing distance, Luke slapped his horse’s rump and they picked up the pace in moonlight almost as bright as day.

While he put space between himself and the posse that was bound to be coming, Luke wondered how much Greer had paid to kill Pa. Top dollar most likely, because the job had been done right.

Pa dead.

His S Bar S Ranch stolen.

Luke was headed home to set things right.

***

“Ruth, stop dawdling back there,” Pa Reinhardt shouted. “I need you to take the reins.”

Dawdling? It was all Ruthy MacNeil could do to keep from snorting with contempt. She’d been working since before sunup at twice the speed of any of the Reinhardts. But she knew better than to ask questions when Pa Reinhardt used that voice. Usually the back of his hand followed quickly if she didn’t move fast enough.

She shoved the last box, containing the food and skillet, into the bed of the covered wagon and hurried around to swing up beside Ma.

“About time.” Ma turned up her nose as if Ruthy smelled bad.

Ruthy didn’t even comment on Ma being there, settled in, while Ruthy cleaned up the campsite. That was the way of things in this family she’d been dragged into.

Ma rested her aching back.

Pa yelled and doled out punishment.

Her dear brother, Virgil, leered.

Ruthy worked.

At the thought of Virgil, a chill drew Ruthy’s eyes forward to the wagon ahead. Virgil was swaggering toward the second family wagon. He stopped before he climbed up on the high seat and looked back at her.

They’d be married when they reached California—Pa and Ma had declared it so. Virgil was willing. How Ruthy felt about it had never come up.

“You look dreadful, Ruthy. Virgil will despair of such a slovenly wife.” Ma scowled, her usual expression. “Get that coat off. It will be blistering hot today.”

Ruthy looked to the northeast, and the dark thunderclouds made her doubt Ma’s forecast. Rain most likely. Ruthy felt a twinge of caution as she wondered if it was already raining upstream. How high was the river they planned to ford?

Virgil turned away and climbed up onto his wagon, so Ruthy didn’t mind shedding the stifling coat that concealed her curves from Virgil’s crude attention. She tossed it through the opening into the wagon box.

“Leave your hat on, for goodness’ sake. Maybe you can keep that awful freckled skin from getting sunburned again. You’re peeling now from the last time you were so stupid as to leave it off. It covers that flyaway hair, too. Red marks you as Irish trash. You look a fright. You’re lucky my son is willing to involve himself with such as you.”

She didn’t respond to Ma’s comments on her appearance. Her long, loose-fitting coat, flat-brimmed hat pulled low over her eyes, and clunky boots suited her. Everything she owned except her skirt was a hand-me-down, mostly from Pa and Virgil since she’d grown taller than short, stout Ma just after her fourteenth birthday.


© 2013 by Mary Connealy Published by Bethany House Publishers, A division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in the United States of America All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.