#1 NYT bestselling author Linda Lael Miller

A Lawman’s Christmas

A Lawman's Christmas

The sudden death of the town marshal leaves Blue River, Texas, without a lawman…and twenty-five-year-old Dara Rose Nolan without a husband. As winter approaches and her meager seamstress income dwindles, she has three options. Yet she won’t give up her two young daughters, refuses to join the fallen women of the Bitter Gulch Saloon and can’t fathom condemning herself to another loveless marriage. Unfortunately she must decide—soon—because there’s a new marshal in town, and she’s living under his roof.

With the heart of a cowboy, Clay McKettrick plans to start a ranch and finally settle down. He isn’t interested in uprooting Dara Rose and her children, but he is interested in giving her protection, friendship—and passion. And when they say “I do” to a marriage of convenience, the temporary lawman’s Christmas wish is to make Dara Rose his permanent wife….

Early December, 1914

If the spark-throwing screech of iron-on-iron hadn’t wrenched Clay McKettrick out of his uneasy sleep, the train’s lurching stop—which nearly pitched him onto the facing seat—would surely have done the trick.

Grumbling, Clay sat up straight and glowered out the window, shoving splayed fingers through his dark hair.

Blue River, Texas. His new home. And more, for as the new marshal, he’d be responsible for protecting the town and its residents.

Not that he could see much of it just then, with all that steam from the smokestack billowing between the train and the depot.

The view didn’t particularly matter to him, anyhow, since he’d paid a brief visit to the town a few months back and seen what there was to see—which hadn’t been much, even in the sun-spangled, blue-sky days of summer. Now that winter was coming on—Clay’s granddad, Angus, claimed it snowed dust and chiggers in that part of Texas—the rutted roads and weathered facades of the ramshackle buildings would no doubt be of bleak appearance.

With an inward sigh, Clay stood to retrieve his black, round-brimmed hat and worn duster from the wooden rack overhead. In the process, he allowed himself to ponder, yet again, all he’d left behind to come to this place at the hind end of beyond and carve out a life of his own making.

He’d left plenty.

A woman, to start with. And then there was his family, the sprawling McKettrick clan, including his ma and pa, Chloe and Jeb, his two older sisters and the thriving Triple M Ranch, with its plentitude of space and water and good grass.

A fragment of a Bible verse strayed across his brain. The cattle on a thousand hills…

There were considerably fewer than a thousand hills on the Triple M, big as it was, but the cattle were legion.

To his granddad’s way of thinking, those hills and the land they anchored might have been on loan from the

Almighty, but everything else—cows, cousins, mineral deposits and timber included—belonged to Angus Mc-Kettrick, his four sons and his daughter, Katie.

Clay shrugged into the long coat and put on his hat. His holster and pistol were stowed in his trunk in the baggage compartment, and his paint gelding, Outlaw, rode all alone in the car reserved for livestock.

The only other passenger on board, an angular woman with severe features and no noticeable inclination toward small talk, remained seated, with the biggest Bible Clay had ever seen resting open on her lap. She seemed poised to leap right into the pages at the first hint of sin and disappear into all those apocalyptic threats and grand promises. According to the conductor, a fitful little fellow bearing the pitted scars of a long-ago case of smallpox, the lady had come all the way from Cincinnati with the express purpose of saving the heathen.

Clay—bone-tired, homesick for the ranch and for his kinfolks, and wryly amused, all of a piece—nodded a respectful farewell to the woman as he passed her seat, resisting the temptation to stop and inquire about the apparent shortage of heathens in Cincinnati.

Most likely, he decided, reaching the door, she’d already converted the bunch of them, and now she was out to wrestle the devil for the whole state of Texas. He wouldn’t have given two cents for old Scratch’s chances.

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McKettricks of Texas, Book 15
HQN (September 27th, 2011)

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ISBN-13: 9780373776146
ISBN-10: 0373776144

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The typical Pony Express rider was nineteen years old and made $100-$150 per month plus room and board.

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