If Millie Hackett can’t find a husband, she can’t claim her inheritance. If she can’t claim her inheritance, she can’t keep her home. When the man she initially chooses is run out of town, she’s left with a choice: stay and fight, pack and run, or marry the handsome cowboy who tried to warn her about her neighbor… and then proposed.
Bride Takes a Cowboy by Maren Smith … NOW OUT!
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I was his new beginning. He was my last chance.
I need a husband. Today. Now, if possible. I thought any man would do, but when my first choice is run out of town the day before we’re to be married, I’m forced to consider it when cowboy Gage Pennell proposes. I don’t know him. I’ve never met him before today. Up until a few hours ago, he was working for my nearest and dearest enemy, the same man who wants to steal everything from me.
I’d rather die than let that happen. If my neighbor gets his way, I might. But Gage is more than just good looks and heart-stopping swagger… and I’m desperate.
But, am I this desperate?
I guess we’ll find out, because when my neighbor puts his most ruthless plan yet into action, I’m forced to fight back the only way I can. And in the Wild, Wild West, sometimes it’s the bride who takes the cowboy.
Knowing she’d failed everybody, Millie got up off the floor and walked outside.
The cool night air struck her face, easing the hotness that always flushed her when she got this mad. The sun had gone down, but it wasn’t quite dark yet. The sky was gray, a tinge of orange staining the clouds along the western horizon. She couldn’t see the riders, they were gone. She could barely make out the individual stalks of corn in the field they’d never get to harvest, or the gnarled old desert willow in the pasture where her parents were buried, or the crossbeams and spikes of the cavalry blockades she’d always hated because they were a constant visual reminder that her grandpa wasn’t well. He never would be well again and, in all likelihood, he’d only get worse as time went by. There was nothing she could do about that, just like there was nothing she could do about this.
“Might I have a word with you, Miss Hackett?” Gage asked from the doorway. He said it cheerfully, although he wasn’t smiling when she looked back at him.
“Millie,” she corrected, by way of consent. “Any man willing to cower with me in my kitchen when my neighbor comes to kill everybody has earned the right to call me by my Christian name.”
Now he did smile, but it was only a flash of a thing—there and gone again even before he stepped out into the coolness to stand with her on a porch that wouldn’t be hers for very much longer.
Propping a shoulder against a roof post, he said, “Nice night.”
Yeah, it was.
“Nice breeze. House is positioned just right to catch it.”
“Grandpa built it a long time ago. Daddy helped him expand it, once when he was a boy and again when he was my age and fixing to bring my mama home as his bride.” She turned her face into the breeze, letting it dry the tears she refused to cry.
After a moment of polite silence, Gage said, “Mighty peaceful. A man could get used to spending his life on a porch like this, watching the sun go down after a hard day’s work.”
Which was about how far he had to go before it tickled at Millie that none of this was what he was really trying to say. She looked at him to find he wasn’t studying the sky or the field or the crops or any of the things his comments had suggested he’d been admiring. He was staring straight at her.
“Take your measure of me,” he invited. “My name’s Gage Pennell. I’ve worked hard all my life, wrangling cattle mostly and trail riding, but my daddy was a farmer. I’ve worked fields, built fences, and took care of livestock most my childhood. I’m a good man. Upon occasion, I’ll have me a drink or enjoy a game of chance, but neither rules my life. Whenever I’m in town and not on the trail, I make an effort to put my butt in the pews on Sunday morning. A time or two, I can even be counted upon to stay awake through to the end of service. I’m honest. When I give my word, I keep it. I don’t take to liars, and it’s not my preference to tell them.”
She stared at him, knowing this ought to make more sense than what her brain was making of it, but the longer she listened, the more confused and, oddly, anxious she became. “What are you saying?”
“Hurley Ames,” he specified, nodding vaguely in the direction of her neighbor’s house. “He might think he’s in the right, but the longer I sat listening to that braggart messenger he sent us, the more I began thinking how dead wrong he was about one very important thing.”
“What?” For the life of her, she couldn’t think of anything Hurley—or his messenger—was wrong about. Apart from his tactics.
“Me,” Gage said bluntly. “I find myself standing here before you, Millie, being a man of two parts. First: Despite that braggart’s claims to the contrary, I am not afraid to hitch myself to anyone. Especially not to a woman as stubborn, strong, hard-working, and determined as I can barely comprehend that you must be in order to have dealt with all this on your own up until now. And second: The more I learn about all this, the more I find I don’t got the stomach for ignoring bullies. So,” he said, and it was all Millie could do to focus on the words he was saying and not the glaringly obvious ones he wasn’t. “Having taken my measure of you and given you everything you need to take yours of me, let me ask you a question…”
About Maren Smith
Coffee fanatic, human mom to four adorable furbabies, I am an International and USA Bestselling author of more than 160 titles over the last 25 years. I love writing contemporary, historical, science fiction/fantasy, paranormal, romantic comedy and steampunk romances.
I also write under the pennames of Denise Hall, Darla Phelps, and Penny Alley.
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