Madeline LaFontaine was a woman who thought she knew herself. The Wild West was changing, she told herself, and with those changes came civility and education. She planned to be a teacher and make an independent living.
What she didn't plan on was her stagecoach getting attacked by renegade outlaws. And she certainly didn't plan on being rescued by Cole Darden and his mixed-blood friend, Hawk.
As the trio make their way slowly back to civilisation, Madeline finds herself falling in love with both men. Can she choose one over the other? Does she have the courage to choose both?
General Release Date: 10th November 2008
The horses wouldn’t run much farther. Hawk was certain of it, and if there was anything in the world that he understood, it was horses. Horses and tracking. His mare, a deep-chested paint that he’d ridden for four years, was lathered and breathing hard, but her stride was strong as her long legs ate up the ground beneath them.
There was perhaps another ninety minutes of sunlight. Maybe not even that much. With nightfall the chances of following the outlaws and rescuing the girl before she was raped and killed diminished significantly.
Hawk glanced to his left. The expression on Cole Darden’s face was one of quiet fury. Hawk had seen his friend wearing that expression before. Every time he’d seen it, men had died. Cole was a man who took justice seriously. Dead serious.
Three hours earlier, they’d come upon what remained of the stagecoach. The drivers had been executed, as had the two male passengers. The body of the one woman passenger couldn’t be found, leading Hawk and Cole to believe she’d been kidnapped. They had been following the outlaws’ trail since then, getting closer with each passing minute, pushing their horses to the limit of endurance.
It was instinct that made Hawk pull back on the reins to slow then stop his mare. Cole reined in as well, deferring to his friend’s superior tracking skills.
“What?” Cole asked when they’d come to a complete standstill.
Hawk shook his head, his ears pricked for any sound, raising a hand to silence any more questions. His mare and Cole’s gelding both breathed deeply, nostrils flared. They had set a punishing pace for the horses.
It took a moment for Hawk to recognize the sound as human. The sound of her voice was carried on the wind. It was high-pitched and shrill with primal fear. Hawk and Cole exchanged a look. The sound had come from the opposite side of the sloping hill they had been riding up. If Hawk hadn’t stopped his mare, he and Cole would have galloped straight into the outlaws’ camp—perhaps straight into a barrage of gunfire.
“How many do you think there are?” Cole asked. He pulled a Winchester carbine from the scabbard under his right thigh and worked the action, levering a fresh round into the chamber.
“I count eight horses.” Hawk pulled his own lever-action rifle from a saddle scabbard. “They won’t be as exhausted as we are.”
Making up lost time had drastically sapped their energies.
Hawk said, “Let’s go in easy. They’ll be looking at the girl, not at us. Let’s use that to our advantage.”
Hawk heard the woman scream again, then say, “Stop it! Stop it! Just stop it!”
He smiled. She was still alive and still fighting. That was good. At least, she hadn’t already been killed. That idea had been his constant fear since he and Cole had found the bullet-riddled stagecoach and the bloodied corpses.
Cole moved to the right, putting distance between himself and Hawk. Over the years the two men, both in their early thirties, had learned to act in accord without speaking. They simply knew what the other one would do. Words were unnecessary—especially at a time like this, when the element of surprise was critical, and sudden death was a heartbeat away.
As he neared the peak of the hill, Hawk dismounted and crept forward slowly, the reins in his left hand, the Winchester in his right.
The girl screamed again. This time he clearly heard her call them ‘stinking bastards!’ A half-smile tugged at his mouth. The girl was feisty, she was. Hawk knew almost nothing about her, but his respect for her went up. She was against insurmountable odds, and still she fought back, cursing her tormentors. Giving up would have been easy—but she just wouldn’t do it. Spirit like hers was rare. Hawk was a man not often impressed with people, but he was impressed with the girl, whoever she was.
He dropped the reins to the ground. His mare knew that if the reins touched the ground, it wasn’t to run, but it was allowed to walk to nearby grass or water. Bent over at the waist, Hawk hurried forward, his dark eyes darting here and there for some sign of danger. Cole had moved thirty yards to his right and neared the crest.
By nature, Hawk was a peaceful man, but the world often seemed to deviously plot against his wishes. He knew that within seconds bullets would fly and blood would stain the Dakota prairie. Such things had happened before many times in his life. Hawk got down on his belly and crawled to the hill’s crest.
Why the outlaws had chosen to stop where they had, Hawk couldn’t guess. Perhaps it was because a single tree had long ago somehow taken root in the middle of the prairie and so was an incongruous sight among the endless, rolling grassy plains. Or maybe the outlaws simply couldn’t wait any longer to force themselves upon their captive. Vicious lust had a way of making men both barbaric and impatient.
There were seven men taunting the naked woman, and they were about eighty yards away from him. They surrounded the woman and cackled sadistically. Even from a distance, Hawk could see that her body was voluptuous, her complexion pale, her feminine charms ostentatious. Her clothes had been ripped from her, even her shoes. A profusion of auburn hair cascaded over her bare shoulders as she wheeled right and left, continuously trying to confront and beat back the nearest attacker. The swaying movement of heavy breasts caused a primordial response in Hawk, and he cursed himself for thinking sensual thoughts at such a time. But a man was a man...and Hawk was much more of a man than most.
It was instinct that had earlier caused Hawk to rein in his mare when they had been at a full gallop, and it was instinct that made the half-breed tracker look to his left. He had tracked eight horses from the stagecoach. Now, there were only seven men tormenting the girl...and that meant one man was missing.
Robin Gideon is the author of numerous novels and novellas. Now an exclusive Totally Bound author, she will soon be writing a contemporary ménage series taking place in London, and is also releasing 100k+ word historicals. She was born in North Dakota (USA) and now lives, with her husband and daughter, on the Canadian border in Minnesota (USA).
She loves hearing from her readers and can be contacted at email@example.com