by Myla Jackson
Stipulations of his grandfather's will demands Richard Rayburn marry by his twenty-fifth birthday or he'll lose a valuable piece of land. On the eve of his birthday, his fiancé breaks his engagement and Richard finds himself in a bit of tight situation. Where will he find a bride in less than one day?
Desperate enough to steal to put food on her table, the widow Julia Blackmon, assumes the disguise of the Black Bandit to strike fear in the heart of her potential victims. But her first and only victim turns the tables and captures her! After a night held hostage, tied to his bed, Julia discovers the whore within herself and talents no cowboy should be without in her captor, Richard Rayburn.
When the morning of Richard's twenty-fifth birthday arrives, he's made his decision to marry the bandit. Richard offers her an ultimatum. Marry him or go to jail. What is a desperate widow to do?
ExcerptRichard scrubbed a hand over his tired face, remembering he’d gotten very little sleep the night before. His memories of what had transpired in his bedroom brought a fleeting smile to his lips before his mood took a downturn. “I found the woman I’m going to marry.”
“He doesn’t know the first thing about cattle ranching. Just because he won his ranch from Old Man Finnegan in a poker game doesn’t give him the right—” Stephen stopped in mid-sentence. “What did you say?”
“I said I found her,” Richard repeated more slowly as if to a dimwitted child.
Stephen’s face split in a wide grin and he pounded his brother on the back. “Very well! Who is she? Where is she? How did you find a woman crazy enough to marry you with only a day’s notice?”
Richard turned away from his brother, unwilling to go into the details of his run-in with the fake Black Bandit. “It’s enough for you to know I found her and the wedding is still set for one o’clock this afternoon in Mule Ear.” Providing the bride showed up.
“You’re not going to tell me all the delectable details, are you?” Stephen crossed his arms over his chest, a frown pushing his brows together. “At least give me her name. I have a right to know who my future sister-in-law is.”
“Ah, a widow-woman.” Stephen’s brows waggled. “No silly virgins for you, I take it. And if I’m not mistaken, she’s not hard on the eyes.”
“She’s passable.” She was more than passable but Richard didn’t like discussing Julia as if she were a common whore to be chosen from a lineup of bordello women. She was due the respect of a lady, even if she had dressed as an outlaw and tried to rob him. His lips twitched as he remembered how she looked in the black trousers, vest and coat and how much he’d enjoyed stripping them from her delicious body, one item at a time. Peeling away the layers of anonymity to discover the beautiful creature beneath the man’s garb.
His cock filled and he was glad he’d turned away from his brother’s sharp scrutiny.
“Passable? We are talking about Julia Blackmon, the widow with the coal black hair and incredible blue eyes? She was at Clancy’s last night, was she not?” Stephen shook his head. “Oh yes indeed, she’s a beauty, all right.”
“I just hope she shows for the wedding,” Richard muttered beneath his breath.
Unfortunately, his brother heard his softly spoken entreaty. “You have any doubt?”
“Some. We didn’t have much time to discuss it and she wasn’t too keen on the idea.”
“But she did say yes, didn’t she?”
“Then how do you know she’ll be there?”
“I just do.” Richard’s back teeth ground together. Hell, he didn’t know for sure if his threat would make any difference with her and the reality of his loose hold on her ate at his gut. The more he thought about Julia, the more he wished he’d kept her until the wedding. From his short acquaintance with the woman, he could tell she was stubborn and independent, the perfect wife for a rancher. To force her into a wedding would only get her back up and push her away.
Damn. He’d blown his chance. He turned to his brother. “She has to show up. That’s all there is to it.” He stalked out of the house to the well and drew a bucket of water.
Stephen followed him out. “What do you plan to do?”
“What does it look like?” He lifted the bucket of fresh, cool water and carried it toward the house. “The chores. And then I’m going to bathe for my wedding.”
Instead of a worried expression, a smile curved his brother’s lips. “I rather relish the idea of the great Richard Rayburn standing at the alter, awaiting a bride that may or may not come. That is, if it didn’t mean losing the rights to Spring Valley. You do realize that if she doesn’t show, you’ll be the laughingstock of the entire town.”
“Then I’ll deserve it.” He stopped and stared at his brother. “Are you coming to my wedding or not?”
Stephen grinned. “Wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in England.”