Millie And The Fugitive
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
Praise “You can’t blame me,” 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 Ireland’s first historical romance– CECILIA AND THE STRANGER
“CECILIA AND THE
STRANGER, with its small town hominess and subtle humor, is a heart warming, thoroughly enjoyable read.”
“Laughter abounds as Jake
and Cecilia butt heads at every turn... A marvelous tale from start to finish.”
“You can’t blame me,” Millie argued.
No, he couldn’t, Sam admitted to himself. This was all his fault. If he hadn’t gotten the fool notion about Millie’s 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 they’d left the horses. “All right. It’s my fault. Now hurry up and get your clothes on.”
She shot him an exasperated look. “First you want them off, now you want them on! And all the while you keep pointing that gun at me—how do you expect me to act efficiently under these circumstances?”
Patience! Sam told himself....
Liz Ireland’s 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 that’s ever happened to him. We hope you’ll enjoy it.
Pearl is part of Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award winner Ruth Langan’s new THE JEWELS OF TEXAS series featuring four sisters, brought together by the death of their father. It’s the story of an Eastern-bred schoolteacher and the rough-and-tumble ranch foreman who wants her sent back home where she belongs. Don’t 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 Moore’s new Medieval novel, The Baron’s 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 you’ll 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.
“It’ll be slow going to Huntsville, boys, with me trussed up like last year’s Christmas goose,” 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 they’d 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.
“You sure take it on the chin, Sam,” Toby said, shaking his head. “Two years in the state prison ahead of you, and you still got a sense of humor.”
Ed laughed his wheezy laugh again in agreement with Toby. “Can’t say I’d be the same, if’n I was in your boots.”
“No, sir,” Toby said. “Though I think I would have done the same as you, Sam, if my brother was about to be hanged as a murderer.”
“You don’t have a brother, Toby,” Ed argued. He had to lean forward a little to see his sparring partner across Sam’s chest.
“No, but if’n I did, and if they was gonna hang him, then I’d do just what Sam did, and try to hide him.”
“Sure you would. I would, too,” Ed said. “But what I was just sayin’ was that I wouldn’t be laughin’ when the judge threw me in the clink for aidin’ a criminal.”
“I know that, Ed,” Toby said with irritation. “Wasn’t you listening? I was only sayin’ I’d do the same thing. Except for the sense-of-humor part,” he clarified. “Like you, I wouldn’t have no sense of humor about it, neither, like Sam here has.”
“No?” Ed asked, a wry smile on his tobacco stained lips. “Maybe that’s ’cause you never had one to begin with!”
The two threw back their heads in riotous, whooping laughter.
It was going to be an even longer ride than he’d imagined, Sam thought dismally. Yet the annoying duo steeled his determination to make a break for it.
“Anyway, it’s a shame we have to poke along like turtles on account of me,” Sam said, lifting his shoulders in a shrug after the two had tamped down their guffaws.
Ed’s face was sober for a blessed moment. “Sorry it has to be this way, Sam.”
“Me, too,” Toby said.
“Stupid rules. Me and Toby both know you wouldn’t swat a fly. You only did what you did – which wasn’t much, really—’cause Jesse was your brother.”
“Same as we would have done.”
Sam held his breath, dreading a repeat of their prior interchange, but the two seemed lost in thought. Serious thought, if the way Ed’s yellowed teeth sawed on his lower lip was any indication.
“You know, Toby,” Ed asked after a moment, “how is it that Sam’s all trussed up like so? It’s not like he was a murderer.”
“But he’s a prisoner, just the same.”
Ed nodded, as if he had forgotten this minor point. “That’s right, Sam. You are a prisoner. Much as I hate to say it.”
“Me, too,” Toby agreed.
“You sure play a hell of a game of poker, though,” Ed added as an afterthought.
Toby shook his head wistfully. During Sam’s weeks in Chariton’s tiny jail, the three of them had whiled away many a tedious hour over a worn deck.
Sometimes they’d even convinced Jesse to join in on a hand, but he’d never taken any pleasure in the game. Jesse was in mourning for Salina, his wife, the woman he’d 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 Sam’s farm, or the hurried, hopeless trial that followed.
Sheriff McMillan, fueled by resentment toward Jesse after he’d testified against the sheriff’s son in a trial a year earlier, had seized on just enough evidence to convict Jesse. And he hadn’t 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 didn’t even care that he faced the gallows in two weeks’ time. Jesse didn’t think he had much to live for, now that Salina was gone. But Sam wasn’t giving up so easily. In his pocket he had possible evidence of another man’s guilt—scant evidence that Tom McMillan, who only wanted a man to hang, wasn’t interested in pursuing.
Meanwhile, he waited patiently for Ed and Toby’s reasoning to progress to the next step.
“‘Course, it’s not like Sam’s a violent criminal, Ed,” Toby said. “Hidin’ somebody isn’t the same as killin’ somebody.”
Ed shook his head. “Nope. Fact, it’s practically the exact opposite.”
“Practically,” Toby agreed. “Sam here ain’t never even said a word against anybody. Not that I’ve heard.”
“He just done what anybody would have done.”
On this much, at least, the two seemed clear. Sam decided to give them a little mental shove. God knew, they needed it.
“Well, I suppose that’s just the way with the law,” he said nonchalantly. “If you start making exceptions...”
“Where would it end?” Toby finished for him.
“Why, sure.” Sam was silent a moment, then mused absently, “I wonder whether counterfeiters have to wear handcuffs”
Toby and Ed suddenly looked at each other, their eyes wide and almost alarmed, as if the unexpected question had mentally flummoxed them.
“I don’t know,” Toby said, his voice filled with wonder. “Do you know, Ed?”
“No, I sure don’t.”
“Counterfeiter. I ain’t never run across one of those.” 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. “I bet they do.”
“Bet so.” Ed frowned. “But then again, maybe they don’t.”
“Funny thing is,” Toby said, “Sam here is even less dangerous than a counterfeiter, when you think about it.”
“He’s not even a thief or anything like that.”
“Hell no. He’s just a brother-hider.”
“I mean, who’s he hurt?”
“Nobody I know of.”
The two looked at each other again, communicating silently over Sam’s shoulders.
“And if somebody like a counterfeiter doesn’t have to be tied up, then why should Sam?”
“You got me stumped,” Ed declared.
“Whoa there, boys,” Sam said graciously, hoping the triumphant surge he felt didn’t show in his face. They weren’t even three miles out of town yet. This was too easy. “I don’t want to get you in trouble with your boss man.”
“With Sheriff Tom?” Ed asked incredulously.
“Why, Tom trusts us!” Toby protested, as if the idea itself were plumb crazy.
“Would he have let us take you all the way to Huntsville by our lonesome if he didn’t trust us to use our, you know...”
“Discretion?” Sam prompted.
“Sure, that’s it,” Toby said. “We’d just be using our discretion. It’s not like you would try to escape.”
“You certain of that?” Sam asked, darting his eyebrows up.
“Ha! That’s a laugh!” Ed said with another wheezing chuckle. “Hold up there, Toby, let’s let old poker face here out of these iron traps. He’s right, it’ll make for faster travelin’.”
Easy, it was too easy, Sam thought, proffering his wrists with an admirable show of reluctance.
Toby tossed a large ring of keys over Sam’s horse to Ed. “Here, take care of it, will you? I’ve got to water a bush.”
“Already? Hell, it’s gonna be slow goin’ anyway, even without Sam cuffed.” 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 Sam’s saddle. Far too easy. Providence couldn’t have sent him two more gullible jailers.
“Now we just have to wait for old leaky-drawers,” Ed mused, shifting in his saddle and looking off in the direction where Toby had disappeared. “I swear, the man’s as bad as—”
The sound of the cuffs hitting the back of Ed’s 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 man’s way to the ground. He wasn’t a violent man, normally; ordinarily he would have felt a sting of guilt for taking advantage of the two men’s kindness this way. But these weren’t ordinary circumstances he was in. He grabbed the rifle off Ed’s saddle and held it up toward the tree Toby just then appeared from behind.
“Hey! What’s goin’ on here?” Toby demanded.
“Ed had a fainting spell,” Sam said, keeping his voice raw and cool, his muscles tense. The time for friendly patter had passed. “Drop your gun, Toby.”
“Sure thing, Sam,” 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. “Heck, you know I don’t blame you none. I’d do the same if’n I was you.”
“Maybe so,” Sam said, picking up Toby’s derringer and tucking it into his belt. “I don’t have time for making excuses. Now get over here and drag Ed back to that tree.”
“Whatever you say, Sam,” Toby said, grabbing Ed by the armpits and dragging him backward. His frightened eyes never left the barrel of Sam’s rifle. Sam grabbed a coil of rope from Ed’s saddle and joined Toby by the tree. “I hate to do this to you, friend....”
“You ain’t gonna—?” Toby winced and fell to his knees in supplication. “Please, Sam—I’ve got a widowed mother.”
“You’ll see your mother again,” 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 over—yet 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 didn’t want them to die – he just didn’t 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 Jesse’s 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 couldn’t have gone much better if he’d planned it step by step.
Then he heard a noise. A horse’s 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 wasn’t much to it. Just a sloping, grass-covered hill, dotted with elms and other unremarkable trees. Except one...
His eyes caught sight of what he’d 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 didn’t like this at all. A riderless horse practically within spitting distance of where he’d clunked two deputies over the head... Maybe his luck wasn’t so good today after all.
“Who’s there?” 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 he’d been looking for—a dainty tan boot peeking out from beneath a limb of the pear tree. The woman was treed...but she’d also been in a perfect position to witness him clobbering two deputies.
“All right, lady. Come on out.”
A branch rustled nervously, sending a brown pear dropping to the hard ground below. But fruit was all that appeared.
“I know you heard me,” 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 he’d ever seen staring down at him. She’d heard him, all right. She just wished she hadn’t.
“All, right, little lady,” he said in the same gruff voice, “come on down now.”
In a split second, even though her gaze never left his face, the young woman’s 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.
“Well, my goodness!” she cried, in an overly friendly tone that was betrayed only by a slight anxious crack in her voice. “I thought I heard someone!”
“Right,” Sam said, lacking the leisure to be amused by her little show of innocence. “You might also have thought you saw a man tying two deputies to a tree.”
“Deputies?” she asked. “What deputies?”
“Come on, lady,” he said, raising the rifle another notch.
Her expression turned deadly earnest, and she shook her head fervently. “Oh, no, I swear. I didn’t see a thing. My—my lips are forever sealed.”
“If you didn’t see anything, what are they sealed against?”
“That’s just it,” she insisted. “They won’t be able to get a single solitary word out of me, Mr. – I’m sorry, what is your name?”
“Not a chance,” he told her.
Desperation crossed her face. “You’ve got to believe me,” she pleaded. “I wouldn’t tell a soul I saw anything, even if I did. Which I didn’t. Ask anyone. I’m honest to a fault. I never break my word. Never, never, never, never—Ooooh!”
He grabbed her booted foot and tugged. “Are you coming down, or am I going to have to drag you?”
“No!” 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. “I mean, of course I’ll come down,” she said, trying the pleasant tactic again. “I’m most eager to make your acquaintance.”
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. “My goodness...” she mumbled absently. “I got up here so fast, I never considered how to get down....”
Sam sighed. He didn’t have time for this. “Do you want some help?”
Before she could waste any more precious moments, Sam reached up with both hands, grabbed her about the knees and pulled firmly. It didn’t 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 he’d ever held in his arms—not 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 woman’s expression return quickly to fear as she stared back at him reminded him of his purpose.
“Sorry, miss, I’m in a hurry,” 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. “Please don’t kill me,” she pleaded frantically as she attempted to squirm away.
“I won’t,” Sam said.
“Please! I won’t say a word—on my honor!”
“I don’t believe you, but I’m not going to kill you.”
She ran a hand through her tangled black hair, her gaze darting frantically across the horizon all the while, no doubt hoping for rescue. “My daddy will pay you any amount of money for me, if you’ll only let me live.”
“Lady, haven’t you listened to a word I’ve said?” Sam asked. “I’m not going to kill you.”
“What?” She stared at him dubiously.
“I’m not a murderer.”
“Yes, you are!” she cried vehemently. “I saw—”
“You saw what?”
Her voice was suddenly meek. “Nothing.” But she didn’t have to say a word for him to imagine exactly what she’d seen, or what she thought she’d seen.
Sam couldn’t 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 hadn’t killed them. Now he had to figure out what to do with her.
“Daddy can walk into the bank and take out thousands of dollars for you, just as soon as I’m returned. Believe me, I won’t fail to mention how you rescued me from that tree.”
“Money’s not what I’m after,” Sam replied.
“Then how about dry goods?” she asked hopefully. “My father owns a store. There’s all sorts of things there you might want. Fabric, food, guns... Well, he naturally might not want to give you guns—”
“Quiet!” He couldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t know when someone would find the two deputies. Could be today, could be a few days.
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî