Millie And The Fugitive
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Praise ďYou canít blame me,Ē Millie argued. Letter to Reader Title Page About the Author Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Copyright
Liz Irelandís first
ďCECILIA AND THE
STRANGER, with its
small town hominess and
subtle humor, is a heart
ďLaughter abounds as Jake
and Cecilia butt heads at
every turn... A marvelous
tale from start to finish.Ē
ďYou canít blame me,Ē Millie argued.
No, he couldnít, Sam admitted to himself. This was all his fault. If he hadnít gotten the fool notion about Millieís dress into his head, he could have gone on thinking about her as a...well, a troublesome hostage. But now he was going to be hard pressed to look at her again without thinking of her as she appeared at this moment, that camisole sticking to her collarbone and cleavage, her petticoats outlining her tiny waist, hips and shapely legs.
Damn. He trained his eyes away, toward the spot where theyíd left the horses. ďAll right. Itís my fault. Now hurry up and get your clothes on.Ē
She shot him an exasperated look. ďFirst you want them off, now you want them on! And all the while you keep pointing that gun at meóhow do you expect me to act efficiently under these circumstances?Ē
Patience! Sam told himself....
Liz Irelandís first book, Man Trap, won her the RT Award for Best Silhouette Romance of the Year in 1993. Now this talented young author has turned her hand to historical novels and we are delighted to be able to bring you her newest title, Millie and the Fugitive.This wonderful story is about an innocent man running from the law who is forced to take along a spoiled rich girl, only to discover that she is the best thing thatís ever happened to him. We hope youíll enjoy it.
Pearl is part of Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ruth Langanís new THE JEWELS OF TEXAS series featuring four sisters, brought together by the death of their father. Itís the story of an Eastern-bred schoolteacher and the rough-and-tumble ranch foreman who wants her sent back home where she belongs. Donít miss any of this terrific series.
Badlands Bride, by Cheryl St.John, is about a newspaper reporter who goes west pretending to be a mail-order bride, only to find herself stranded in the Dakotas for a long cold winter. While Margaret Mooreís new Medieval novel, The Baronís Quest, is the story of a rough-edged Saxon who falls in love with the refined gentlewoman whom he has inherited along with his new holdings.
We hope youíll keep a lookout for all four titles wherever Harlequin Historicals are sold.
Please address questions and book requests to:
Harlequin Reader Service
U.S.: 3010 Walden Ave., P.O. Box 1325, Buffalo, NY 14269
Canadian: P.O. Box 609, Fort Erie, Ont. L2A 5X3
Millie and the Fugitive
lives in her native state of Texas, a place she feels gives her a never-ending supply of colorful characters. Aside from writing romance novels and tending to two very demanding cats and a guard dachshund, she enjoys spending time reading history or cozying up with an old movie.
ďItíll be slow going to Huntsville, boys, with me trussed up like last yearís Christmas goose,Ē Sam Houston Winter said, lifting his shackled wrists as evidence of his hindered movement.
Toby Jenkins and Ed Herman, the two deputies riding to his left and to his right respectively, exchanged quick glances and chuckles. The two had loosened their demeanor since theyíd left Chariton and their boss, Sheriff Tom McMillan, behind a mile ago. Now Sam had to see whether he could convince the pair to loosen him.
ďYou sure take it on the chin, Sam,Ē Toby said, shaking his head. ďTwo years in the state prison ahead of you, and you still got a sense of humor.Ē
Ed laughed his wheezy laugh again in agreement with Toby. ďCanít say Iíd be the same, ifín I was in your boots.Ē
ďNo, sir,Ē Toby said. ďThough I think I would have done the same as you, Sam, if my brother was about to be hanged as a murderer.Ē
ďYou donít have a brother, Toby,Ē Ed argued. He had to lean forward a little to see his sparring partner across Samís chest.
ďNo, but ifín I did, and if they was gonna hang him, then Iíd do just what Sam did, and try to hide him.Ē
ďSure you would. I would, too,Ē Ed said. ďBut what I was just sayiní was that I wouldnít be laughiní when the judge threw me in the clink for aidiní a criminal.Ē
ďI know that, Ed,Ē Toby said with irritation. ďWasnít you listening? I was only sayiní Iíd do the same thing. Except for the sense-of-humor part,Ē he clarified. ďLike you, I wouldnít have no sense of humor about it, neither, like Sam here has.Ē
ďNo?Ē Ed asked, a wry smile on his tobacco stained lips. ďMaybe thatís ícause you never had one to begin with!Ē
The two threw back their heads in riotous, whooping laughter.
It was going to be an even longer ride than heíd imagined, Sam thought dismally. Yet the annoying duo steeled his determination to make a break for it.
ďAnyway, itís a shame we have to poke along like turtles on account of me,Ē Sam said, lifting his shoulders in a shrug after the two had tamped down their guffaws.
Edís face was sober for a blessed moment. ďSorry it has to be this way, Sam.Ē
ďMe, too,Ē Toby said.
ďStupid rules. Me and Toby both know you wouldnít swat a fly. You only did what you did Ė which wasnít much, reallyóícause Jesse was your brother.Ē
ďSame as we would have done.Ē
Sam held his breath, dreading a repeat of their prior interchange, but the two seemed lost in thought. Serious thought, if the way Edís yellowed teeth sawed on his lower lip was any indication.
ďYou know, Toby,Ē Ed asked after a moment, ďhow is it that Samís all trussed up like so? Itís not like he was a murderer.Ē
ďBut heís a prisoner, just the same.Ē
Ed nodded, as if he had forgotten this minor point. ďThatís right, Sam. You are a prisoner. Much as I hate to say it.Ē
ďMe, too,Ē Toby agreed.
ďYou sure play a hell of a game of poker, though,Ē Ed added as an afterthought.
Toby shook his head wistfully. During Samís weeks in Charitonís tiny jail, the three of them had whiled away many a tedious hour over a worn deck.
Sometimes theyíd even convinced Jesse to join in on a hand, but heíd never taken any pleasure in the game. Jesse was in mourning for Salina, his wife, the woman heíd been convicted of killing. For weeks, nothing had been able to keep him from brooding over his loss, not even his flight from the law, or his capture at Samís farm, or the hurried, hopeless trial that followed.
Sheriff McMillan, fueled by resentment toward Jesse after heíd testified against the sheriffís son in a trial a year earlier, had seized on just enough evidence to convict Jesse. And he hadnít been interested in any information that might contradict his desire to get his revenge, either. As for the rest of the town, most folks considered the crime so heinous, so shocking, they were eager for especially swift justice.
Sam frowned. Now Jesse was all alone in that cell, with no one to even attempt to take his mind off his troubles. He was sure Jesse didnít even care that he faced the gallows in two weeksí time. Jesse didnít think he had much to live for, now that Salina was gone. But Sam wasnít giving up so easily. In his pocket he had possible evidence of another manís guiltóscant evidence that Tom McMillan, who only wanted a man to hang, wasnít interested in pursuing.
Meanwhile, he waited patiently for Ed and Tobyís reasoning to progress to the next step.
ďĎCourse, itís not like Samís a violent criminal, Ed,Ē Toby said. ďHidiní somebody isnít the same as killiní somebody.Ē
Ed shook his head. ďNope. Fact, itís practically the exact opposite.Ē
ďPractically,Ē Toby agreed. ďSam here ainít never even said a word against anybody. Not that Iíve heard.Ē
ďHe just done what anybody would have done.Ē
On this much, at least, the two seemed clear. Sam decided to give them a little mental shove. God knew, they needed it.
ďWell, I suppose thatís just the way with the law,Ē he said nonchalantly. ďIf you start making exceptions...Ē
ďWhere would it end?Ē Toby finished for him.
ďWhy, sure.Ē Sam was silent a moment, then mused absently, ďI wonder whether counterfeiters have to wear handcuffsĒ
Toby and Ed suddenly looked at each other, their eyes wide and almost alarmed, as if the unexpected question had mentally flummoxed them.
ďI donít know,Ē Toby said, his voice filled with wonder. ďDo you know, Ed?Ē
ďNo, I sure donít.Ē
ďCounterfeiter. I ainít never run across one of those.Ē Toby bit his lip and squinted in thought as he stared across the horizon. It was morning still, and the sun was just now beginning to beat down upon them. ďI bet they do.Ē
ďBet so.Ē Ed frowned. ďBut then again, maybe they donít.Ē
ďFunny thing is,Ē Toby said, ďSam here is even less dangerous than a counterfeiter, when you think about it.Ē
ďHeís not even a thief or anything like that.Ē
ďHell no. Heís just a brother-hider.Ē
ďI mean, whoís he hurt?Ē
ďNobody I know of.Ē
The two looked at each other again, communicating silently over Samís shoulders.
ďAnd if somebody like a counterfeiter doesnít have to be tied up, then why should Sam?Ē
ďYou got me stumped,Ē Ed declared.
ďWhoa there, boys,Ē Sam said graciously, hoping the triumphant surge he felt didnít show in his face. They werenít even three miles out of town yet. This was too easy. ďI donít want to get you in trouble with your boss man.Ē
ďWith Sheriff Tom?Ē Ed asked incredulously.
ďWhy, Tom trusts us!Ē Toby protested, as if the idea itself were plumb crazy.
ďWould he have let us take you all the way to Huntsville by our lonesome if he didnít trust us to use our, you know...Ē
ďDiscretion?Ē Sam prompted.
ďSure, thatís it,Ē Toby said. ďWeíd just be using our discretion. Itís not like you would try to escape.Ē
ďYou certain of that?Ē Sam asked, darting his eyebrows up.
ďHa! Thatís a laugh!Ē Ed said with another wheezing chuckle. ďHold up there, Toby, letís let old poker face here out of these iron traps. Heís right, itíll make for faster traveliní.Ē
Easy, it was too easy, Sam thought, proffering his wrists with an admirable show of reluctance.
Toby tossed a large ring of keys over Samís horse to Ed. ďHere, take care of it, will you? Iíve got to water a bush.Ē
ďAlready? Hell, itís gonna be slow goiní anyway, even without Sam cuffed.Ē Ed laughed heartily as Toby disappeared to the other side of a scrubby little elm.
After only minimal fumbling, the bonds fell away in a noisy clatter to Samís saddle. Far too easy. Providence couldnít have sent him two more gullible jailers.
ďNow we just have to wait for old leaky-drawers,Ē Ed mused, shifting in his saddle and looking off in the direction where Toby had disappeared. ďI swear, the manís as bad asóĒ
The sound of the cuffs hitting the back of Edís head made a dull clump sound, and then the deputy slumped over and listed to the side, falling from his horse. Sam jumped down and eased the manís way to the ground. He wasnít a violent man, normally; ordinarily he would have felt a sting of guilt for taking advantage of the two menís kindness this way. But these werenít ordinary circumstances he was in. He grabbed the rifle off Edís saddle and held it up toward the tree Toby just then appeared from behind.
ďHey! Whatís goiní on here?Ē Toby demanded.
ďEd had a fainting spell,Ē Sam said, keeping his voice raw and cool, his muscles tense. The time for friendly patter had passed. ďDrop your gun, Toby.Ē
ďSure thing, Sam,Ē the second deputy said, scooting forward obligingly with one hand stiffly in the air while the other pulled a derringer from its holster and lowered the gun to the earth. ďHeck, you know I donít blame you none. Iíd do the same ifín I was you.Ē
ďMaybe so,Ē Sam said, picking up Tobyís derringer and tucking it into his belt. ďI donít have time for making excuses. Now get over here and drag Ed back to that tree.Ē
ďWhatever you say, Sam,Ē Toby said, grabbing Ed by the armpits and dragging him backward. His frightened eyes never left the barrel of Samís rifle. Sam grabbed a coil of rope from Edís saddle and joined Toby by the tree. ďI hate to do this to you, friend....Ē
ďYou ainít gonnaó?Ē Toby winced and fell to his knees in supplication. ďPlease, SamóIíve got a widowed mother.Ē
ďYouíll see your mother again,Ē Sam assured the man, moments before his rifle butt came down on his head. Soon Mama Jenkins would be treating her boy for a nasty bump on the head.
Quickly Sam cuffed the two men together, then propped them up against the tree and bound them tightly to its trunk. He had enough rope for the job and then a good length left overóyet another sign that the Fates were with him this day.
Feeling magnanimous, he trotted back to the horses and retrieved a canteen of water from one of the saddles. He returned to the two men and propped the water between them.
He didnít want them to die Ė he just didnít want them to be found for at least a day or two. After a final whack on the head for each of them, he turned and drove two of the horses away, saving the gamest one for his own flight.
The black would have to ride hard in the days ahead. It was nearly four days to the south and west to Little Bend, the town where he had business. Dead-serious business. And Jesseís date with the hangman in two weeks left him precious little time.
He mounted the black and kicked him into an easy lope, due west. In spite of the tension that ate at his insides, a wide smile broke out across his lips. At least he was off to a good start. Yes, sir. Things couldnít have gone much better if heíd planned it step by step.
Then he heard a noise. A horseís whinny, high and shrill.
He sawed the reins of the black and brought him to a stop, turning in his saddle. The other two horses had galloped off in the opposite direction from where the sound had come from. Tense, alert, he surveyed the landscape around him. There wasnít much to it. Just a sloping, grass-covered hill, dotted with elms and other unremarkable trees. Except one...
His eyes caught sight of what heíd been looking for. On the other side of the tree stood a horse, a pretty little dappled gray mare. Raising his rifle with one arm, he rode slowly toward the tree where the horse was tethered. A pear tree. Its branches sagged with fruit.
Sam stopped. He didnít like this at all. A riderless horse practically within spitting distance of where heíd clunked two deputies over the head... Maybe his luck wasnít so good today after all.
ďWhoís there?Ē he asked, his finger tense on the trigger. Having come this far, he was ready to shoot his way out of trouble if he had to.
But as his eyes scanned the area once again, he noted something interesting. The mare was outfitted with a sidesaddle, polished to a high gloss. Sam had seen few of those ridiculous-looking things in his twenty-eight years. Yet the sight of it made him relax a little. It was only a woman.
He hoped she was alone.
Where the hell could she be?
Just then, his gaze alit on precisely what heíd been looking foróa dainty tan boot peeking out from beneath a limb of the pear tree. The woman was treed...but sheíd also been in a perfect position to witness him clobbering two deputies.
ďAll right, lady. Come on out.Ē
A branch rustled nervously, sending a brown pear dropping to the hard ground below. But fruit was all that appeared.
ďI know you heard me,Ē he said, riding forward a few more steps. He doubted the person who belonged to those kid-leather boots rode armed.
The closer he came, the more that tree shook, until, as Sam sat directly beneath a bright yellow dress covering a host of frilly starched white petticoats and a tantalizing peek of shapely, pantalet-clad legs, every branch on the tree was quivering. Looking up, he discovered a pair of the darkest, most frightened eyes heíd ever seen staring down at him. Sheíd heard him, all right. She just wished she hadnít.
ďAll, right, little lady,Ē he said in the same gruff voice, ďcome on down now.Ē
In a split second, even though her gaze never left his face, the young womanís entire demeanor changed. A bright, fetching smile broke out across her rosy-red lips, even if the fear remained in her eyes as she hugged even more tightly to the tree trunk.
ďWell, my goodness!Ē she cried, in an overly friendly tone that was betrayed only by a slight anxious crack in her voice. ďI thought I heard someone!Ē
ďRight,Ē Sam said, lacking the leisure to be amused by her little show of innocence. ďYou might also have thought you saw a man tying two deputies to a tree.Ē
ďDeputies?Ē she asked. ďWhat deputies?Ē
ďCome on, lady,Ē he said, raising the rifle another notch.
Her expression turned deadly earnest, and she shook her head fervently. ďOh, no, I swear. I didnít see a thing. Myómy lips are forever sealed.Ē
ďIf you didnít see anything, what are they sealed against?Ē
ďThatís just it,Ē she insisted. ďThey wonít be able to get a single solitary word out of me, Mr.†Ė Iím sorry, what is your name?Ē
ďNot a chance,Ē he told her.
Desperation crossed her face. ďYouíve got to believe me,Ē she pleaded. ďI wouldnít tell a soul I saw anything, even if I did. Which I didnít. Ask anyone. Iím honest to a fault. I never break my word. Never, never, never, neveróOoooh!Ē
He grabbed her booted foot and tugged. ďAre you coming down, or am I going to have to drag you?Ē
ďNo!Ē It took her a moment to regain her composure, not to mention her equilibrium, as her right foot struggled for balance on a narrow limb. ďI mean, of course Iíll come down,Ē she said, trying the pleasant tactic again. ďIím most eager to make your acquaintance.Ē
He leaned against the saddle horn for a moment as the young woman fussed and fidgeted, alternately shooting nervous glances at him and studying with some confusion her position in the tree. ďMy goodness...Ē she mumbled absently. ďI got up here so fast, I never considered how to get down....Ē
Sam sighed. He didnít have time for this. ďDo you want some help?Ē
Before she could waste any more precious moments, Sam reached up with both hands, grabbed her about the knees and pulled firmly. It didnít take much effort. In a cascade of starched cotton and pears, the young woman landed across the saddle in front of him, her keen dark eyes rounded in shock. Both Sam and the girl sucked in surprised gulps of air in reaction to his bold maneuver.
She had to be the lightest woman heíd ever held in his armsónot that he made a habit of lifting females. As he looked into her pretty face close up for the first time, he felt a stab of disappointment. This was hardly time for a leisurely getting-acquainted chat with an attractive girl. Seeing the momentary curiosity in the young womanís expression return quickly to fear as she stared back at him reminded him of his purpose.
ďSorry, miss, Iím in a hurry,Ē Sam drawled.
His words, even spoken as casually as they were, sent the young lady over the edge. Tears spilled down her pale cheeks, and she recoiled from him, grabbing behind her at the black mane of his horse. ďPlease donít kill me,Ē she pleaded frantically as she attempted to squirm away.
ďI wonít,Ē Sam said.
ďPlease! I wonít say a wordóon my honor!Ē
ďI donít believe you, but Iím not going to kill you.Ē
She ran a hand through her tangled black hair, her gaze darting frantically across the horizon all the while, no doubt hoping for rescue. ďMy daddy will pay you any amount of money for me, if youíll only let me live.Ē
ďLady, havenít you listened to a word Iíve said?Ē Sam asked. ďIím not going to kill you.Ē
ďWhat?Ē She stared at him dubiously.
ďIím not a murderer.Ē
ďYes, you are!Ē she cried vehemently. ďI sawóĒ
ďYou saw what?Ē
Her voice was suddenly meek. ďNothing.Ē But she didnít have to say a word for him to imagine exactly what sheíd seen, or what she thought sheíd seen.
Sam couldnít help it. He laughed bitterly. Had he really thought the Fates were with him? No such luck! He had a witness who had been close enough to watch him tie up two deputies and club them on the head, but too far away to notice that he hadnít killed them. Now he had to figure out what to do with her.
ďDaddy can walk into the bank and take out thousands of dollars for you, just as soon as Iím returned. Believe me, I wonít fail to mention how you rescued me from that tree.Ē
ďMoneyís not what Iím after,Ē Sam replied.
ďThen how about dry goods?Ē she asked hopefully. ďMy father owns a store. Thereís all sorts of things there you might want. Fabric, food, guns... Well, he naturally might not want to give you gunsóĒ
ďQuiet!Ē He couldnít think, with her frantic babbling in his ear.
What could he do with her? Hitting two men on the head was one thing, but a woman... He had never hit a woman before. Besides, a woman was more delicate. He couldnít risk causing her serious harm, or, worse, accidentally killing her. That would make him a murderer. He looked down at the rope in his hands. Same if he tied her up. He didnít know when someone would find the two deputies. Could be today, could be a few days.
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