Authors: B. J. Daniels
Tags: #Fiction, #Retail, #Romance
Trouble came to Cardwell Ranch when a pile of old bones was discovered. Since then, nothing has been the same. Follow the Cardwell family as they band together to overcome murder, mayhem and a family imposter.
The shotgun felt heavy in her hands as she started toward the back door…
Dana heard the creak of a footfall on the back porch steps. Another creak. The knob on the back door started to turn.
She raised the shotgun.
The shotgun sagged in her arms as the back door opened and she saw Hud’s familiar outline in the doorway.
He froze at the sight of the shotgun.
“I didn’t hear you drive up,” she whispered.
“I walked the last way so your visitor wouldn’t hear me coming and run. When I didn’t see any lights on, I circled the house and found the back door unlocked—” His voice broke as he stepped to her and she saw how afraid he’d been for her.
He took the shotgun from her and set it aside before cupping her shoulders in his large palms. She could feel his heat even through the thick gloves he wore and smell his scent mixed with the cold night air. It felt so natural, she almost stepped into his arms.
A former award-winning journalist, B.J. had thirty-six short stories published before her first romantic suspense,
Odd Man Out,
came out in 1995. Her book
Romantic Times BOOKclub
Best Intrigue award for 2002 and she received a Career Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense. B.J. lives in Montana with her husband, Parker, two springer spaniels, Scout and Spot, and a temperamental tomcat named Jeff. She is a member of Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing, she snowboards in the winter and camps, water-skis and plays tennis in the summer. To contact her, write: P.O. Box 183, Bozeman, MT 59771 or look for her online at: www.bjdaniels.com.
312—ODD MAN OUT
493—A FATHER FOR HER BABY
555—LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
585—THE AGENT’S SECRET CHILD
643—A WOMAN WITH A MYSTERY
654—HOWLING IN THE DARKNESS
716—THE MASKED MAN
761—DAY OF RECKONING
797—THE COWGIRL IN QUESTION
876—WHEN TWILIGHT COMES
897—CRIME SCENE AT CARDWELL RANCH
—Her two great loves were her family ranch and Hud Savage. She’d already lost one and now, just when she is about to lose the other, a body is found in the old homestead well.
Marshal Hud Savage
—He’s back in town determined to find out who had set him up so he lost not only his former deputy job—but also the woman he loved.
—The aging coroner thought he’d seen it all—until he climbed down into the old dry well to retrieve the body.
—Right till the end, she thought that love could conquer all. Unfortunately, she was dead wrong.
—The lawyer had always wanted Dana. But how far would he go to have her?
Judge Raymond Randolph
—Was the judge’s death just a robbery gone wrong, or had the judge become too much of a liability because of what he knew?
—The widow had buried herself in charity work to forget her husband’s murder five years ago. But the discovery of the body in the well brought it all back.
—He needed money badly if he hoped to keep his lifestyle—and his young gorgeous unemployed former model wife.
—He tried to stay out of the family politics but if he could get his share of the ranch he could live his secret dream.
—The divorcée had a secret that was eating her alive.
—The former marshal was loved and hated—especially by Judge Raymond Randolph. But his son Hud couldn’t really believe he was a murderer, could he?
When I think of the Gallatin Canyon, I remember rubber gun fights at our cabin, hikes to Lava Lake and stopping by Bessie and Russell Rehm’s place near the current Big Sky. Russell is gone now, but I will always remember Bessie’s cooking—and the treat she used to make me at her ranch in Texas: a mixture of peanut butter and molasses. I still make it and I always think of Bessie.
This book is for you, Bessie. Thanks for all the memories!
Seventeen years earlier
The fall knocked
the air out of her. She’d landed badly, one leg bent under her. On the way down, she’d hit her head and the skin on her arms and legs was scraped raw.
Stunned, she tried to get to her feet in the darkness of the tight, confined space. She’d lost both shoes, her body ached and her left hand was in terrible pain, her fingers definitely broken.
She managed to get herself upright in the pitch blackness of the hole. Bracing herself on the cold earth around her, she looked up, still dazed.
Above her, she could see a pale circle of starlit sky. She started to open her mouth to call out when she heard him stumble to the edge of the old dry well and fall to his knees. His shadow silhouetted over part of the opening.
She stared up at him in confusion. He hadn’t meant to push her. He’d just been angry with her. He wouldn’t hurt her. Not on purpose.
The beam of a
flashlight suddenly blinded her. “Help me.”
He made a sound, an eerie, low-keening wail like a wounded animal. “You’re alive?”
His words pierced her heart like a cold blade. He’d thought the fall would kill her?
The flashlight went out. She heard him stumble to his feet and knew he was still standing looking down at her. She could see his shadow etched against the night sky. She felt dizzy and sick, still too stunned by what had happened.
His shadow disappeared. She could see the circle of dim light above her again. She listened, knowing he hadn’t left. He wouldn’t leave her. He was just upset, afraid she would tell.
If she pleaded with him the way she had the other times, he would forgive her. He’d tried to break it off before, but he’d always come back to her. He loved her.
She stared up until, with relief, she saw again his dark shape against the starlit sky. He’d gone to get a rope or something to get her out. “I’m sorry. Please, just help me. I won’t cause you any more trouble.”
“No, you won’t.” His voice sounded so strange, so foreign. Not the voice of the man she’d fallen so desperately in love with.
She watched him raise his arm. In the glint of starlight she saw it wasn’t a rope in his hand.
Her heart caught in her throat. “No!” The gunshot boomed, a deafening roar in the cramped space.
She must have blacked out. When she woke, she was curled in an awkward position in the bottom of the dry well. Over the blinding pain in her head, she could hear the sound of the pickup’s engine. He was driving away!
“No!” she cried
as she dragged herself up onto her feet again. “Don’t leave me here!” As she looked up to the opening high above her, she felt something wet and sticky run down into her eye. Blood.
He’d shot her. The pain in her skull was excruciating. She dropped to her knees on the cold, hard earth. He’d said he loved her. He’d promised to take care of her. Tonight, she’d even worn the red dress he loved.
“Don’t leave! Please!” But she knew he couldn’t hear her. As she listened, the sound of the engine grew fainter and fainter, then nothing.
She shivered in the damp, cold blackness, her right hand going to her stomach.
He’d come back.
He couldn’t just leave her here to die. How could he live with himself if he did?
He’d come back.