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Lone Star Ranger (The Texas Ranger Series Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Elizabeth Covington inhaled the scent of freshly baked bread as the hansom driver pulled into Houston's Market Square. Before, when her brother, Evan, had suggested breakfast, she'd turned her nose up. But now, with that robust aroma wafting through her senses now she was hungry. "Let's eat over there, in the Kennedy Trading Center. I heard someone on the train say their restaurant and bakery is worthwhile."
"Finally," Evan answered. "I'm famished."
"You're always famished," she countered as Evan assisted her from the carriage.
As she climbed down, Elizabeth noticed the hansom driver staring, though he seemed more focused on Evan than on her. Odd. Most people noticed her height.
At five foot eleven, she knew she was a spectacle, but she'd long since passed the time when she cared.
The ogling and whispering continued as they made their way through the restaurant. Funny how much attention her height drew, as if she were a circus exhibit. She looked people in the eye and smiled, part challenge, part mischief. She secretly relished the looks of embarrassment on their faces when they knew they'd been caught gawking. Served them right.
Oh, well. Since she couldn't follow her dreams of becoming a lawyer like her father and brother, due to the tiny little matter of being female, she figured she could always make a living in a carnival sideshow.
Papa. The thought of him brought another unexpected pang. How many months had he been gone now? Six? Nearly seven. How she missed him.
Once they were seated at a table, Elizabeth rolled her ankles back and forth under her skirts and once again wished she were a man. Their shoes were so much more sensible.
"Evan, why don't we purchase land here in Texas?"
He set aside his menu. "Have you decided to become a rancher now?"
She wanted to kick him under the table. Would have if they'd been at home. "So what if I have? I like it here. It's rugged. You know I've never fit into that prissy Boston society life. Papa never wanted me to. Here I could wear dungarees and ride a horse and do as I please."
"Well I don't know about buying a ranch. But I was thinking this morning that Houston probably needs a good law office. I've only noticed one, but the town is growing and could surely support another."
"Really? You're thinking of moving here?" Several customers turned to look at her, and she reminded herself to speak quietly.
"I'm considering it. Of course, I'd need your assistance."
"You'd let me practice law?"
"You know better. I'd be a laughingstock, and the practice would fail."
"But you can't argue like I can. You know I'm better at litigation."
"Which is precisely why I'd need your assistance. But you know you can't argue in court. It's not allowed. It's not even legal, Elizabeth."
There was a small commotion at the restaurant entrance, but Elizabeth wouldn't be distracted. "I've heard people are more open-minded here."
Evan held the menu again, pretending to study it, but she knew better. She decided to drop the matter for now. "Where is the waiter?" she asked under her breath.
The commotion grew louder, and they both strained in their seats to see what was happening. It was the hansom driver. He held some sort of paper and looked through the crowd, examining each face. A tall man in a cowboy hat, wearing a badge, followed close behind. At last the driver's gaze landed on Evan. "There he is! That's him!"
The cowboy studied the flyer, then looked at Evan and pushed between the tables until he stood before them. His hand rested on his holster in an unspoken threat. "Good day, Mr. Hardy. You're under arrest for the murder of more than two dozen people. Would you come with me, please?"
* * *
Rett's heart pounded, and he wondered if the man in front of him could sense it. He tightened his grasp on the pistol, expecting to have to use it at any moment and praying he wouldn't be forced to. After all the tracking, all the killings, all the narrow escapes, could it really be this simple?
It was him, no doubt about it. As soon as the cab-driver pointed him out, Rett knew. He'd referred to the face on the flyer to be sure, and any doubts had been removed. The man seated near the window was none other than James Weston Hardy, one of the most wanted criminals in the United States.
"Excuse me?" Hardy asked. Rett hadn't expected him to sound so refined. Yet of course he would. The man was no idiot. His intelligence had kept him a free man for far too long. "I believe there's been some mistake."
"No mistake. Now stand up."
The man just sat there, his mouth agape. Rett had to hand it to himhe was a pretty good actor. He pulled his gun from its holster but kept it pointed downward, and the people around them gasped.
"I beg your pardon! Put that thing away!" The woman seated across from Hardy stood to her feet. She was a tall one. What was her part in this ruse? Hardy was known as a womanizer. Surely she'd been taken in, just as many others had.
Keeping his eyes on Hardy, he said, "Ma'am, please take your seat. I don't know what he's told you, but your companion here is a cold-blooded killer. Mr. Hardy, I said stand up!" The force in his voice brought the man out of his seat, and Rett aimed the pistol right at his chest. "Turn around."
Surprisingly, Hardy did as he was told, and Rett cuffed him tight.
"Stop! You're hurting him!" The woman reached for Hardy, but Rett put himself between her and the killer. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but you need to stay out of this, or I'll be forced to arrest you, too."
Hardy craned his neck toward the woman. "Elizabeth. Go to the hotel and get my case. My papersI can prove my identity."
"Yes, certainly. We'll get this straightened out in no time," the woman said, then snatched the flyer from where it had fallen on the table and turned a glare on Rett that looked madder than a skillet full of rattlesnakes. "And once we do, you will be held accountable for this public humiliation. Where are you taking my brother?"
Well-spoken and fiery. Not bad to look at, either. She was only about three or four inches shorter than Rett, and he wondered how long she'd been hooked up with Hardy. The last woman Hardy had been associated with was described as petite. Now she was dead. "I'm takin' him to the county jail, ma'am. You're welcome to follow along if you like. But if I were you, I'd stay as far away from this fellow as possible."
"Well, you're not me, and that's not the man you're looking for. Where is the jail?" She tagged along behind as Rett urged Hardy forward, ignoring the stares and whispers. He couldn't believe he actually had James Weston Hardy in custody. And only his fourth month as a Ranger. Wait till Cody and Ray found out.
"I can't follow you, you big you big imbecile! You heard Evan. I need to retrieve his things."
Nice vocabulary. She was smart, too, and clearly devoted to Hardy. This one bore watching. Once they reached the entrance to Market Square, he stopped, keeping a solid grasp on Hardy. "It's not far. Why don't you come with me now, and once we get your brother all settled, I'll escort you to your hotel. Fair enough?"
A slight nod was her only answer. Hardy gave no struggle, but then, he wouldn't. He was too smart for that. Despite his meek appearance and demeanor, Rett knew this man was a cold-blooded killer.
Elizabeth sat in a crude chair against the wall of the sheriff's office and watched as the lawman escorted Evan into another part of the building. As much as she wanted to put up a fight, she knew she'd best serve her brother by holding her tongue. Papa had taught her that. Watch and learn. Observe everything. You never knew when you'd learn something you could use to your advantage in court.
Papa. How she missed him. Though he'd made it clear she was expected to conduct herself like a lady when in court or around his professional associates, he'd allowed her the freedom to be herself most of the time. He'd valued her judgment.
She could just hear him laugh as she played devil's advocate. She often helped him prepare for trial in that way, anticipating the opposing party's strategies and arguments. More than once he'd credited her with a win.
But now he was gone. She couldn't wire him to come fix this travesty ofjustice. Imagine Evan a murderer! Absurd.
The flyer was crumpled in her hand; she'd nearly forgotten it. Carefully, she smoothed it out and studied the image.
It did look like Evan. Except for something around the eyes was different. Beneath the drawing it said "James Weston HardyDead or Alive."
Elizabeth's free hand flew to her face as she stifled a gasp. Dead or alive! What if what if the man had shot on sight? As if he heard her thoughts, the door swung open and the lawman crossed the room toward her.
"It will be a few more minutes, Miss I'm sorry. I didn't catch your name."
Elizabeth stood. "Miss Covington. Elizabeth Covington. And the man you've falsely accused of being a ruthless killer is my brother, Evan Covington. He happens to be one of the kindest, gentlest men on the planet."
The man looked to be about Evan's age. Twenty-six, twenty-seven maybe. The skin around his eyes crinkled in a way she might have found attractive if she hadn't already found him loathsome. "Well, ma'am. I'm not sure how to respond. You say he's your brother, Evan. But James Weston Hardy has been on the run from the law. He's been spotted in this area recently. And your so-called brother fits his description perfectly."
"I'm aware of that." Elizabeth glanced at the flyer again while she pushed down a wave of temper. A hysterical woman certainly wouldn't do Evan any good.
"I can see the resemblance." She looked at the man and realized he hadn't given her his name. "But you're wrong, Mr. 7''
"Smith. Rett Smith, of the Texas Rangers." He offered his hand, and she reluctantly took it. No use alienating the man. Papa's words surfaced in her memory: Know your strengths. If you want to win in court, you must use every gift God has given you. Every one. Well, she might not be in court, but she knew her strengths. And as much as she hated to, she decided to call on every available gift?
Elizabeth batted her eyelashes, blinked twice and let the tiniest sigh escape. Not enough to make her seem totally helpless, but enough to call upon his male need to be the protector. "Well, Ranger Smith. After looking at the image on the flyer, I don't blame you at all. But if you'll just escort me back to the hotel, I can save you further trouble. I can produce proof of my brother's identification."
"As I said, Miss Covington, I'll gladly escort you back to your hotel." It was working! "If you'll be seated again, I'll be with you in about an hour."
An hour? So much for womanly charm. "I see. Well, thank you, sir, but I simply can't wait that long. I suppose I can find my way on my own."
"I don't advise that, Miss Covington. Houston is a nice town, but we've got some rough characters around these parts. If I were you, I'd wait right there."
Facing away from him, she let a smile creep across her face, then fought it back as she turned. "Thank you for your advice, Ranger Smith, but I'm afraid I have no choice. I refuse to sit here and calmly wait while you do who knows what to an innocent man, especially when that man is my brother." She spun around, and the click-click of her shoes echoed in the room as she headed for the door. It had a nice effect, and she expected him to follow her at any moment.
She pushed open the door and glanced back, but he didn't follow.
She continued to the corner, past a mishmash of people representing many races and economic stations. Still no Ranger Smith.
She stopped, looked one way, then the other and tried to get her bearings. Still no Ranger Smith.
Someone jostled her from behind, and she spun around. "Pardon me, ma'am." A man wearing suspenders, a stained shirt and a foul odor spoke directly into her left ear, and his breath nearly sent her into the street. She backed away, watching her step so as not to land in any horse droppings, and the man continued on his way.
Still no Mr. Smith. She'd felt sure his heroic lawman ego would take over and send him to her rescue. "I must get those papers," she muttered. "Poor Evan! I know the hotel is around here somewhere. Is it two blocks over? Three? And then to the left. No right. Oh, bother."
How she could be so relieved to hear the voice of a man she loathed, she didn't know. But relieved she was. "Oh, Ranger Smith. I thought you were unavailable to escort me. It's so kind of you to take time away from your busy schedule, but I do thank you. Evan and I are staying at the Houston Hotel." She took his elbow and waited expectantly for him to lead the way, but he didn't move. Just looked at her, with Goodness. Sunlight glistened off golden hair that lay in a tumbled mess on the Ranger's head. And his eyes were Oh, those eyes. Why hadn't she noticed them before? She lifted a gloved hand to shield the glare as the sun glinted off the most brilliant green eyes she'd ever seen. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- Publication Date : January 21, 2020
- File Size : 2531 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 175 pages
- ASIN : B07ZCBZ7XS
- Publisher : Wild Heart Books; 1st Edition (January 21, 2020)
- Language: : English
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Simultaneous Device Usage : Unlimited
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #166,612 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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