Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери - Wild West Wife Susan Mallery Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Mallery Susan

Wild West Wife

Читать онлайн

Аннотация к роману
«Wild West Wife» - Сьюзен Мэллери

Return to 1800s Whitehorn, Montana, in this fan favorite from New York Timesbestselling author Susan Mallery.All Haley Winthrop wants is a chance at building a home and family. So, after corresponding with a wealthy rancher, Lucas Stone, she finds herself in a stagecoach bound for Montana, where she will become Lucas's wife. But before she even arrives her coach is held up by a bandit. And he doesn't want money; he wants Haley. He has some disturbing things to tell her about her future husband…Jesse Kincaid is only interested in one thing: to take revenge on the man who had his father killed. So he lies in wait and kidnaps the man's fiancée from her passing stagecoach. But he didn't count on the bride-to-be, Haley, being so beautiful, so beguiling. Can he convince her that she's about to marry the wrong man before it's too late?
Следующая страница

Wild West Wife Susan Mallery

Return to 1800s Whitehorn, Montana, in this fan favorite from New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

All Haley Winthrop wants is a chance at building a home and family. So, after corresponding with a wealthy rancher, Lucas Stone, she finds herself in a stagecoach bound for Montana, where she will become Lucas’s wife. But before she even arrives her coach is held up by a bandit. And he doesn’t want money; he wants Haley. He has some disturbing things to tell her about her future husband…

Jesse Kincaid is only interested in one thing: to take revenge on the man who had his father killed. So he lies in wait and kidnaps the man’s fiancée from her passing stagecoach. But he didn’t count on the bride-to-be, Haley, being so beautiful, so beguiling. Can he convince her that she’s about to marry the wrong man before it’s too late?

Wild West Wife

Susan Mallery



Back Cover Text

Title Page

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three





Montana, 1879

Jesse Kincaid might not have sold his soul to the devil, but he’d come as close to it as a man could and still expect to head north upon his passing.

Despite the faint sound of hoofbeats in the distance, he allowed himself to be distracted by the quiet beauty of the late afternoon. Winter had finally left Montana and the lush growth of spring promised a long and warm summer. The calving season had gone well...

at least that’s what he’d been told. He couldn’t speak from firsthand experience. The herd he and his father had built over the past ten years had been scattered when the ranch had been attacked and his father murdered. Nothing was left but a partially burned house, a legion of memories and the promise he’d made to exact revenge on those responsible.

Because of that, because of the vow he’d sworn on a cold, rainy night the previous October, he now stood by the rutted path that passed for a road and prepared to defy all that his parents had taught him. Because of that, he risked his very soul, raising his rifle as the weekly stage came into view.

He had a momentary second thought. He’d played pranks as a child—just as all boys did. But he’d been raised with good values and a strong sense of right and wrong. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason didn’t set well with him.

“You don’t have a choice,” he muttered aloud, knowing that while the end didn’t justify the means, sometimes justice had to be helped along.

Six powerful horses pulled the large stagecoach. The conveyance swayed, the leather straps under the carriage doing little to absorb the bumps of the road. They were too far away for him to be able to see in the window and identify the passengers, but he knew she was there. He’d received a wire two days before saying she’d made the connection and would be arriving in Whitehorn today. Stoner might be expecting her, but Jesse was determined to make sure she didn’t arrive. At least not right away.

He fitted the butt of the rifle against his shoulder and took careful aim. One well-placed shot would break the axle he’d weakened earlier and bring the carriage to a stop without too much risk. The trick was to time it so they didn’t tip. While he might be prepared to kidnap an innocent woman and hold her hostage, he didn’t want anyone’s death on his hands.

The path leveled out just before a sharp turn. The horses slowed in anticipation of the bend and Jesse pulled the trigger.

The single gunshot spooked the horses. Two of them reared up and pawed at the air. The driver held tightly on the reins and yelled at them to calm down. Seconds later there was a loud crack as the weight of the carriage split the axle and the rear of the stagecoach sank to the ground.

The left rear wheel splintered, then the right rear came loose and rolled away. The instant deadweight jerked the horses in their harnesses and the animals stopped. Several frightened cries filled the afternoon, startling birds into flight.

Jesse walked toward the stagecoach. He’d lowered his rifle, but he was alert and prepared to use it if pushed. Pray God no one decided to play hero and make that necessary. As Jesse stepped out of the bushes, Charlie, the driver, spotted him. The older man looked shaken, but otherwise unhurt.

Bushy gray eyebrows drew together. “That you, Jesse?” Charlie asked. “You hear that? We was shot. Damnation, I want to know who the hell is shooting at the stage. We ain’t got no money on this run. Folks know that. Supplies and passengers. Next week is the payroll. Damnation, I hate it when people can’t keep the schedule straight.”

He glanced around uneasily, then climbed down, moving awkwardly on the tilting stage. “You see anything? You get a look at the good-for-nothing who done this?”

“Stop right there,” Jesse said quietly.

Charlie ignored him. “It just don’t make sense to me. Why this run? We ain’t got nothing important. Shoot.

Now we all gotta walk to town. You know how far that is?”

“About four miles,” Jesse said. He’d already figured that out. He’d been careful when he’d picked the spot to attack the stage. He wanted them close enough to town that they could walk in and tell everyone what happened, but not so close that he wouldn’t have time for a clean escape.

Charlie pulled off his worn hat and wiped his bald head. “And we was running early, too.”

“Charlie,” Jesse said, raising his rifle to his shoulder. “I need you to let your passengers out.”

Charlie’s watery brown eyes widened as he noticed the gun for the first time. “Jesse? What’s going on?”

“I’ve got some business with one of your passengers. That’s all. Just do what I tell you, Charlie. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”

The stage door rattled from the inside. “Sir!” a man called. “We seem to be trapped. Sir? I say, stage driver? Can you hear me?”

Charlie rolled his eyes. “Damn fool prissy Easterners. Got a load of ’em. Not a one has a lick of sense ’cept for Miz Winthrop. She even figured out I’ve got a name, if you can believe that.”

Jesse bit back a curse of impatience. So much for his life of crime. He couldn’t get Charlie to pay attention to him. He took aim at the left front wheel and put a shot cleanly through one of the spokes.

Charlie jumped. “Damnation, Jesse, what’s going on? You could’ve just asked me to stop the stage. You don’t have to keep shootin’ it. There ain’t gonna be enough left for kindling.”

“Put your hands behind your back.”

“What?” The old man stared at him. “Jesse? You mean you’re doing this? You’re gonna hold me up?”

“Yes, Charlie. I don’t have a choice.” He moved next to the other man and drew out the length of rope he’d strung through his belt loops. It took only a couple of minutes to secure Charlie’s hands behind his back. Gently, he led him to the stage. “Have a seat,” he said and helped him sit down.

Confusion darkened Charlie’s gaze. “Jesse, I’ve known you for years. Since you were just a boy. This ain’t like you, son.”

“I know.” He shrugged, then added, “I’m sorry.” As if the feeble words would make a difference.

“Would someone please tell me what is going on out there?” the cultured male voice demanded. “I say, stage driver, we are quite thoroughly trapped in this conveyance. While we are unhurt, the ladies are most uncomfortable. We can’t see any Indians, but perhaps a small bribe would be enough—”

Jesse jerked open the stage door, effectively cutting off the man’s tedious commentary. The unexpected action sent the male passenger sprawling facedown into the dirt. Jesse barely spared him a glance. Instead he stared intently into the darkness of the stage, searching the passengers for the one he sought.

Three terrified women stared back from the floor of the stage where they lay in a pile of skirts and petticoats. The best dressed of the three was obviously the wife of the complainer. Her pinched expression and pale, bejeweled hands spoke of her unfamiliarity with hard work. The second passenger looked like Jesse’s grandmother, and he had a jolt of conscience at the thought that the unexpected stop might have injured her.

“Ma’am?” he said, trying to sound as unthreatening as possible. “Are you hurt?”

Gray corkscrew curls covered her forehead and danced across her weathered skin as she slowly shook her head. “Mr. Prichard said we were likely to be attacked by Indians, but you don’t look like an Indian to me. This is an attack, isn’t it?”

She sounded nearly excited by the prospect.

“Yes, ma’am, it is, but I’m not going to hurt you.”

The wealthy woman clutched her hand to her flat bosom and moaned. “He means to ravish us. Surely that is a fate worse than death.”

Jesse glanced at her husband, still sprawled in the dirt, and figured if her alternative was bedding down with him, then yes, it probably was. Then he wondered what the woman thought he was going to do. There were, after all, three of them and only one of him. Surely she couldn’t expect him to ravish them all on his own. He enjoyed his time with the ladies, but he had his limits.

The thoughts were nearly enough to distract him. Nearly. But even as he decided he wasn’t going to reply to the question of ravishing, he turned his attention to the third woman...and the reason he’d had to hold up the stage in the first place.

He hadn’t realized he’d created a picture of Haley Winthrop in his mind until he was surprised by her appearance and realized his picture was wrong. She was young, but he’d expected that. Wide green eyes, filled with as much curiosity as fear, seemed to dominate her face. Freckles and a faint tan told him that she frequently went without a proper bonnet. She sat on the floor of the off-balance stage and held the older woman protectively in her arms. She didn’t look big enough or strong enough to hold off a half-grown boy, but there was a set of determination in the angle of her chin. Maybe she was tougher than she looked. He hoped so, for her sake.

“Miss Winthrop,” he said politely. “I’d like you to come with me.”

The wealthy woman moaned. “He’s going to ravish us all. Harold? Harold, you must save me.”

Harold stirred on the ground. “Yes, my love. Unhand those women, sir.”

Jesse thought about pointing out the fact that he hadn’t gotten to the point where he was actually touching one of them so there was no unhanding to be done. Instead, trying to ignore the bad feeling at the base of his spine, he turned and found Harold holding a small derringer aimed at his heart.

“It’s very effective,” the other man said. “And I’m not afraid to use it.”

“Me, either,” Jesse told him and slipped a cartridge into the rifle. “Want to see who’s still standing after a shooting competition?” he asked calmly as he took a sight on Harold’s skinny chest. “At this distance you’d be real hard to miss.”

“Jesse, what in tarnation are you thinking?” Charlie demanded. “You can’t kill him, even if he deserves it.”

Jesse knew that and he didn’t appreciate the reminder. While Harold was busy trying to figure out if he could get out of this situation without getting shot, Jesse decided to settle the matter for both of them. Without warning, he kicked hard, hitting the other man’s wrist. The derringer went spinning and Harold yelped like a dog.

“You broke it,” he managed, cradling his injured wrist in his good hand. “I heard a bone snap. Good Lord, what kind of creature are you?”

“A desperate one.” Jesse returned his attention to Haley Winthrop. “Miss, I’d rather not have to hurt anyone else. If you’ll please come with me.”

The woman stared at him. Her curiosity had long since faded, leaving behind only fear. Color fled her cheeks. The paleness reminded him of another woman who had always been afraid. He pushed away those memories. They would accomplish nothing. He had to do whatever he could to see justice done. If that meant kidnapping an innocent woman, he would do it. Was doing it.

In the quiet of the afternoon, he heard the faint call of the birds that had returned to their tree branches. The warmth of the day had bled away, leaving the air chilly. The nightly freezes continued and would do so for a few more weeks. The passengers would need the remaining daylight to get to Whitehorn before nightfall. They didn’t have a lot of time to waste.

He reached past the rich woman and grabbed Haley’s arm. His action obviously startled her. He nearly had her to her feet before she started to resist. She squirmed and braced her legs against the floor of the stage.

“I won’t,” she cried. “No! I won’t leave with you. Let me go. You don’t know what you’re doing. My fiancé will hear about this, I swear he will.”

“I’m counting on it,” Jesse muttered.

The grandmother turned on him suddenly and landed a quick kick against his knee. Her feeble strength barely registered, but Harold’s wife decided an attack was a good idea and wrapped her arms around his waist.

“I’ve got him, Harold. Shoot him. Shoot him now.”

“I don’t have my gun anymore,” her husband lamented, still making soft moaning noises. “I swear he broke my wrist, Lydia. I may never be the same.”

“No great loss,” Jesse said under his breath. He ignored the older woman, and Lydia’s enthusiastic attack, and focused his attention on Haley. She squirmed, but he didn’t release her arm.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he told her.

“Of course not,” she snapped. “Kidnapping is a colorful way of welcoming strangers to town. Forgive me for not wanting to participate in your well-planned entertainment, sir. Obviously I don’t travel enough to appreciate the experience.”

This was getting him nowhere. He was trying to pull her up and keep from bruising her. While he might not appreciate her sarcasm, he recognized the truth in her words. There was no way to kidnap a woman and maintain the illusions of being a gentleman.

He tightened his hold on her and jerked her once, hard. She gasped as he pulled her upright. Before she could gain her balance, he dragged her out of the carriage and onto the road. Then, quickly, he bent at the waist, bumped his left shoulder against her midsection and straightened. Her legs kicked out at him and her hands pummeled his back, but he simply wrapped his arm around her thighs to hold her bottom half still. He ignored the top half.

“You can’t do this,” she screeched as she hung over his shoulder like a sack of flour. “I refuse to allow this.”

“No one’s asking your permission. Charlie, which bag is hers?”

“Don’t tell him!” Haley demanded.

Charlie’s mouth dropped open. “Jesse, do you know who she is?”

“Yeah, I do.” That was the point of the kidnapping. He kicked at the tapestry carpetbags that had spilled out with Harold. “Which one?”

The grandmother pointed to a plain, worn, brown bag. The handle straps had long since broken and had been replaced by a couple of pieces of rope. A long rip down the center had been repaired with small, neat stitches of black thread. Either Stoner had sent money for the ticket and nothing else, or his mail-order bride didn’t waste funds unnecessarily.

Jesse grabbed the bag and whistled. His horse stepped out of the wooded grove on the side of the rutted road. He’d tied the second gelding to his saddle and that animal walked alongside his mount.

“I won’t go with you,” Haley said, her voice more muffled as her struggling settled her harder against his shoulder. He figured she was having some trouble drawing in enough air. If she kept up her squirming, she was going to pass out. Of course that would make her easier to handle.

“You don’t have a choice,” he said and glanced at the stage. Harold still sat on the ground, holding his injured wrist. Lydia had moved to her husband’s side, but Jesse wasn’t sure if she was offering comfort or seeking protection. The grandmother watched him warily, but he figured she wasn’t likely to best him with a surprise attack.

He slipped the rifle into the holster on his mount, then moved to the second horse and hoisted Haley across the saddle. Before she could regain her composure enough to scramble off the other side, he had pulled a rope from the open saddlebag and secured her feet together.

“It’s a long way down,” he told her as he walked around the horse and reached for her hands.

She jerked them away and tried to glare up at him. Green eyes flashed fire. “You are evil and disgusting and you will be punished.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sure you’re right. But first they have to catch me and I mean to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

He grabbed her wrists and tied them, then he squatted in front of her. “If you struggle too much, you’ll slip off the saddle. Now hitting the ground is going to hurt like hell. You might even break something. But your real worry is the horse. You spook him and he’ll rear. There’s no telling where those hooves of his are going to hit. If they land on you, well, horses have killed people before.”

“If you were so concerned about my safety, you wouldn’t be taking me in the first place.”

Jesse fingered the brim of his hat. “You know, you might have a point there.” He stood up and surveyed the broken stage, then the passengers. “You’ve got a couple hours until sunset, so I suggest you get headed for Whitehorn.” He nodded west. “It’s that way. Charlie?” He looked at the old man. “When you tell Stoner I kidnapped his mail-order bride, I need you to give him a message for me. Tell him all I want is to talk. He can name the time and the place and I’ll be there. I’ll send someone to contact him to get that information.”

“He’s gonna kill you,” Charlie said.

“I’m sure he’ll try,” Jesse agreed. After all, Stoner had already murdered Jesse’s father, not to mention several other ranchers in the area. What was one more death on his conscience?

“But if he wants his chance, he’s going to have to meet with me,” Jesse told the stage driver.

“Jesse, you’re making a big mistake,” Charlie said. “It’s not too late. Leave the girl with me. No one has to know what happened today.”

Haley let out a squeal of disagreement. “Of course people have to know. This man is dangerous and he should be locked up. My fiancé will see to that. Mr. Stoner will come after me and make you pay for what you’ve done.”

“I hope you’re right,” Jesse said as he swung into his saddle. “It’s getting late, Charlie. You’d best get these folks to town. I don’t think they’d take kindly to spending the night on the side of the road.”

With that he reached down and grabbed the other horse’s reins, then urged his gelding into a walk and headed into the screen of trees. Within a couple of minutes, the stage and its passengers were lost from view. In less than five minutes, the sounds of their complaining had faded, to be replaced with the familiar chirps, trills and rustles of the forest.

He spared a glance for his captive and tried to ignore the flicker of concern when he saw that she’d stopped struggling.

“Miss Winthrop?” he asked.

“What?” The word came out on a gasp of air.

Now that he had her attention, he felt foolish. Was he supposed to ask if she was all right? Of course she wasn’t. Her arms and shoulders would be aching from their unnatural position. The saddle would dig into her belly and ribs until she wasn’t sure if she was going to faint or throw up.

“If you promise not to try to escape, I would be willing to let you ride astride in the saddle.”

“Fine. I won’t try to escape.”

That was too easy. “I don’t think I believe you.”

“You should, Mr. Jesse whatever-your-last-name-is. When I give my word, I mean it. So if I tell you I won’t try to escape now, I won’t. But I will try eventually and I’ll succeed. And when I do, I’ll find my fiancé and bring him back so he can shoot you for the dog you are.”

Quiet venom gave her voice strength. Jesse felt the first grudging flicker of respect. He drew his horse to a halt and stepped down from the saddle. “You and Stoner didn’t correspond much before he brought you out here to marry you.”

It wasn’t a question, but she answered it all the same. “No, we didn’t. He sent me a letter stating what he was looking for in a wife, and I responded. Then he sent me a ticket.”

“Wouldn’t it have made sense to get to know the man a little before agreeing to marry him?” he asked as he approached her.

“I know all I need to.”

He untied her feet and stepped back in case she tried to kick him. But she didn’t. Maybe she was a woman who kept her word.

“Lucas Stoner is a kind, honorable man,” she went on. As he walked around the front of her horse and reached for her bound hands, she raised her head and glared at him. “Decent. He would never do anything like this.”

“You’re right,” Jesse agreed, thinking that Stoner wouldn’t have bothered with kidnapping an innocent woman. He would have shot her dead on the spot, if he thought it would make his point.

He pulled the rope free of her wrists. She started to wiggle. “Don’t,” he told her. “You’ll fall.”

He grabbed her around her waist and lifted her off the saddle, then found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to turn her in his arms so she could stand. In the process, his hand slid against her right breast.

She went rigid at the contact and jumped back as soon as she gained her balance. Both arms came up to cross protectively over her chest. Jesse felt himself falter, not sure if he should apologize or pretend the moment never happened. Despite the tingling in his hand and the impression of soft, yielding curves burned into his brain, he decided on the latter.

“Can you ride astride?” he asked.

She watched him warily for a heartbeat or two, then shook her head. “I’ve never been on a horse before. But it doesn’t look difficult.” The implication being if he could do it, anyone else could be equally successful.

For the first time in months, Jesse felt like smiling. “You’re right. It doesn’t look difficult.” He laced his fingers together to form a step and bent down. “Grab hold of the saddle,” he instructed. “Put your left foot in my hands and I’ll raise you up high enough. You just swing your other leg over the horse’s back and sit down. Couldn’t be easier.”

Haley’s expression hardened. “Why don’t I trust you?”

He shrugged. “Because you’re smart. Don’t trust me, but do as I say. We need to get going and if you don’t cooperate, I’ll throw you back over the saddle and tie you up again. It’s your choice.”

The twist of her mouth told him that she didn’t care for her limited options, but she did as he requested. She braced her left foot against his hand and reached for the saddle.

“Are you ready?” he asked.

She nodded.

He lifted gently. But not gently enough. With a muffled shriek, Haley soared over the horse’s back and landed hard on the other side of the animal. Jesse ducked under the gelding’s head to make sure she was all right. She sat in the dirt, her skirt up around her knees, her mouth twisted in anger and pain.

“You did that on purpose,” she said accusingly.

He raised his hands in surrender. “I didn’t. Maybe it’s just a little harder than it looks.”

Anger turned to disgust as she looked away from him. For the second time that day, Jesse found himself thinking about smiling.

“Don’t you dare laugh at me,” she commanded, as if she could read his mind.

Of course her words made the amusement rise up in his throat.

“It’s not funny!”

“Yeah, it is.”

He could almost feel her reluctance as she grudgingly rose to her knees and rubbed her rear. “All right. Maybe I underestimated the skills required to ride a horse. But I want to try again. I would rather fall a dozen times than be tied up over the saddle. Agreed?”

He met her steady gaze. He’d come up with the plan of kidnapping Stoner’s mail-order bride because he’d run out of other ways to see justice done. Once he’d made up his mind, he hadn’t allowed himself to think about the woman, or what the kidnapping might mean to her. He certainly hadn’t expected to admire her spirit.

Jesse held out his hand to her and she took it. When he pulled her to her feet, she winced and shifted her weight as if trying to ease the pain from her fall. He didn’t know a damn thing about Haley Winthrop and he didn’t want to. But one point was perfectly clear. No woman deserved to end up with a man like Lucas Stoner, and the hell of it was, if Stoner gave him the information he wanted, he, Jesse, would turn her over to her fiancé without a second thought.


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери

Комментарии к роману "Wild West Wife - Сьюзен Мэллери" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки