Second Chance Cowboy

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Shadows from the courthouse settled over Sabrina Callahan as she hurried down the street of Sherwood, bringing back the unpleasant memories of her brother’s cattle rustling trial. The smell of justice—a mixture of fear, greed, and retribution—filled her nostrils. It was the reason she’d left town so long ago, a nagging ache now instead of the raging heartache she’d once experienced.

The telegram crackled in her reticule, reminding her of its message and the reason for her return. Whoever had sent the telegram had left his name off the unwelcome notice.

The same clapboard buildings lined Main Street, their fronts faded by the hot Texas sun. The closer she came to the sheriff s office, the louder and clearer the shouts of two angry voices smote her ears. Weary from her journey, she climbed the steps, her hand reaching for the door knob.

A deep, masculine voice resounded from the other side of the door. Somehow that voice was familiar. . .

“Dammit, Sheriff, neither the Comanche nor the Kickapoo would have burned out our ranch. My father was friendly with both of them.”

“I know this is hard for you to believe, but them redskins, they ain’t loyal to nobody. Hell, I was out there the next morning. Evidence clearly showed it was Indians.”

“Sheriff, anybody could have made it appear it was Indians.”

A cold sweat broke out on her skin. That deep timbre could only belong to one person: Patrick Shand.

The man who had arrested her brother. The reason she had left Sherwood. The man she had once loved and been engaged to.

The same older voice stated, “I’ve heard all the rumors. You’re goin’ around accusing Carson Jarvis because of that damned trial. I’m warning you; this is the last time I want to hear you blaming anyone but Indians.” The shouting voice softened. “I’m sorry, son; it’s been six months. I’m closing this case today. I’ve wasted enough time on it.”

There was a silence that seemed to stretch into eternity. Finally, Patrick responded. “Go ahead. Close your damn investigation, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop looking for their killers: And when I find them, it won’t be Indians.”

Patrick’s ranch had burned? What else had happened in the two years since she’d been gone? Should she stay and face Patrick or run and hide? Two years was a long time, but was it long enough to bury the hurt that had driven them apart?

Boot heels smacked across the hard floor. Before Sabrina could react, the door was yanked open, jerking the knob from her hand. It was too late to run, too late to hide.

Frozen in the doorway, she stood face to face with the man she had hoped never to see again. The man who had broken her heart

Patrick Shand towered above her, anger radiating from him. Tall, handsome Patrick, with eyes the color of Texas sand, sparked with streaks of gold. As the shock of recognition faded, a grin curved his full lips.

Sabrina’s heart hammered inside her ribs as she stepped back against the porch railing. His eyes raked her in a sweeping inspection. Cringing, she realized how dirty she must look after her long stagecoach ride. Dust coated her clothing and skin like a fine powdery mist, yet Patrick looked good, too good.

The years had changed him for the better. Her eyes unwillingly feasted on him, noting the places his body had filled out. A stubble of beard was beginning to show on his cheeks and the hard line of his jaw, enhancing his rugged good looks.

“Well, if it ain’t my lucky day! Look whose back from her fancy boarding school.” Patrick pushed his hat back from his face as though to make sure it was really Sabrina. “Do they teach eavesdropping or was this a talent I never knew about?”

Sabrina bristled. The years had not softened his sharp tongue. “Why would I want to eavesdrop on your conversation?” How could she ever have loved this arrogant man? She lifted her heavy skirts and swept past him, clearly dismissing him.

He moved aside and then called to her. “I’m wounded. You have nothing to say to your old fiancé? Rehash old times? Maybe even greet me with a welcoming kiss?”

Why didn’t he go away? After a grueling week of worry, he was the last person she wanted to see.

Sabrina turned and leveled her best glare at him. It had always worked on her students at the academy, but Patrick was not easily intimidated, and the smile he returned was not only challenging, but beguiling with his full lips and twinkling eyes.

That smile and those eyes—in a previous life were characteristics she’d loved about him.

“If I remember correctly, we said everything there was to say in front of the whole town two years ago.” Her voice sounded empty of emotion, though her heart pulsated in a nervous rhythm. She was over him, though her pulse raced with remembrance.