Freeing an Outlaw’s Heart (Preview)

Chapter One

Myra pushed through the swinging door that separated the kitchen from the dining area. She nearly lost a plate but managed to recover just in time. It had taken her several weeks to perfect carrying so many plates of food at once.

There were always so many people in the diner for all three meals. She barely got a moment to sit between the times when she was cleaning or preparing something for their next rush.

She hurried to the first table, setting down three of the dishes. “There you are, Sir. Is there anything else I can get for you this evening?” she asked in her sweetest voice. By the time evening rolled around, she had to force every kind movement and interaction. Her arms felt like lead.

They hadn’t planned on staying in town for this long. They usually only stayed in a town for a couple of weeks until they found a new job. While Myra knew that often working outside the law as she and her brother had been doing was wrong, they had no other good options to make sufficient money to survive.

This was the first town in which they both had found legitimate jobs, and so they had lingered despite the possibility they might be recognized. They were wanted in several outlying towns for theft.

While Julie, the woman in charge of the hotel was kind enough, she was also very strict when it came to working. She worked Myra to the bone until she thought she wouldn’t be able to stand another minute and paid as little as she could get away with.

It certainly wasn’t Myra alone who received this treatment. She knew that the other cooks and girls who worked there received the same low wages and left work ready to collapse each day.

There was no real pay for Myra. The only thing she received in exchange for her labor was three meals a day and a large room for herself, her brother, and her brother’s daughter to live in, and half of the tips. Myra worked at the hotel four days a week, and the other three days, she washed clothing in town for wealthier families.

This wasn’t the life she had worked so hard to have, but it was all they had for the moment, so she clenched her jaw and kept going. She and Joseph had discussed getting out of the criminal business permanently, but Myra wasn’t so sure it would really be a good thing or if it was even possible.

Working like this would kill a person eventually. Her brother, Joseph, worked at the wood mill. He was handy with his hands and always had an odd job waiting for him if he wanted to make something a little extra.

Joseph’s nine-year-old daughter, Lana spent most of her time at school, or with an older woman who lived near the hotel who enjoyed children.

It was a fragile arrangement that Myra knew had to come to an end eventually.

Myra sighed, rushing back to the kitchen. She nearly ran into Julie.

“Whoa, slow down! You’re going to knock the food out of someone’s hands.” Julie scolded.

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ll try to slow down. It’s just so busy out there. I can hardly believe it.” Myra realized that the people who came into the hotel to eat had increased as the town grew.

She glanced at Julie. “I think I need to get off a little earlier today. Miss Baird can’t watch Lana till late tonight.”

Julie bit her lower lip. “You sure, Myra? I could use the extra help, and you might get some good tips.”

“I really would love to, Julie. You know I don’t ask to get off early unless it’s necessary.”

“I know. It’s fine. It’s going to be tough on the rest of us, though.”

Myra nodded, “I’ll try to make up for it next week, Julie.”

“I know you will; I know you will.”

Myra hurried back to the kitchen and loaded up on a fresh batch of plates. She was grateful that Julie worked as hard as everyone else in the establishment. If she didn’t, it would be hard to respect her and to listen to her as the boss.

Myra kept making more and more trips, back and forth between the kitchen and the tables. Her feet ached, and her head began to hurt.

Finally, when the time came, she was more than happy to put on her shawl and head out. The sun was ducking down to the horizon, and it was already evening.

A light breeze blew up dust on the street, making the town look hazy. Quite a few people were milling about. Some were rushing home, and others were still purchasing things in town. Myra wondered what this town had been like when it had been only a couple of settlers making a living for themselves.

Now, there were new people coming and going every day. There was a saloon, a general store, a wood mill, a blacksmith, and a whole other host of establishments that made a living just on this street alone.

The walk to Mrs. Baird’s house wasn’t far. It was only about three blocks from the hotel. Even though it was evening, the sun was still hot.

Mrs. Baird came out of the door with Lana in hand.

“There you are; I was thinking you wouldn’t show up,” Mrs. Baird fussed.

“Of course, I was going to show up. You said that you needed me to. Thank you for watching Lana for me. You know both Joseph and I greatly appreciate it.”

Mrs. Baird nodded. “I love her. She’s such a darling. So sweet and helpful. She is welcome anytime. I have visitors tonight, though, so I figured it best if she were home with you and her pa.”

Myra nodded. “My brother needs to spend less time at work and more time with his daughter. Isn’t that right, Lana?”

Lana looked up at Myra, her nine-year little eyes sparkling. “I like it when Pa isn’t at work,” she said with a smile.

Myra knew that Lana was referring to both types of work that she and Joseph did together.

She and her brother had done several jobs that were less than legal. When it was safe, they would bring Lana, or they would have her wait nearby. But sometimes, they’d had to leave her with someone they trusted for a couple of nights.

“The two of you should get going. It’ll be dark soon; you shouldn’t be out past dark,” Mrs. Baird scolded. “When my husband was alive, he’d make sure I was in the house every night before dark, and he would lock up the house.”

Myra nodded politely. She knew that Mrs. Baird’s husband had died nearly six years ago. Now that she was a widow, the woman insisted on being called Miss instead of Mrs. because she felt it was improper since she was single, and yet she thought of her as Mrs. Baird secretly.

She was a strange little old woman, but one that Myra appreciated and admired for taking care of Lana.

“We are going now, Miss Baird. Thank you once again.”

Myra turned, giving Mrs. Baird one last wave as she and Lana started down the street back toward the hotel.

Lana’s small hand clutched in her own, Myra pulled her niece along.

“Did you have fun today?” she asked.

“Yes. Miss Baird taught me how to make bread.” Lana was bouncing about, practically skipping as they went.

“Really? That sounds like a lot of fun. Did you like it?”

“Yes. Will you let me make bread at home?” Lana’s eyes sparkled with hope.

“I’m afraid we don’t have a place to make bread in the room at the hotel. But one day, when we have a proper house, I will let you make bread all on your own. How does that sound?”

“Great,” Lana said, grinning. “Do you know if Papa will be back from work when we get home?”

“I don’t know. I think he said he was going to work late. But don’t worry. We can read some books, and then when we are done with that and all ready for bed, then your pa will probably be home.”

“I hope so. I don’t see Papa very much sometimes,” Lana said thoughtfully. “Why is he gone a lot?”

“Your pa works very hard for both of us. He needs a lot of money so we can eat and have a place to stay. That is why we both are always gone.” Myra felt a tug of guilt at her heart.

Lana was growing so quickly. The time was passing them by while they were working long shifts serving others or cutting wood in her brother’s case.

They were missing her childhood. When she and Joseph had started their business together, they had promised they would never be without again. But things hadn’t gone as well for them in the last couple of months as they had before.

They hadn’t wanted to stoop to robbing banks or hurting people, and that had limited their jobs to a degree. But people did know that they would get the jobs they did take on done, quickly and effectively.

Lana remembered their last job. It had been to escort a stagecoach safely from one town to the other. They had taken it on and gotten into a few scuffles on the way. Lana had stayed safely with Mrs. Baird through the whole ordeal.

As if also pained by the memory, the scar that Myra had received doing that job throbbed on her arm.

She shook her head. Hopefully, a better job would come up soon, and they could get out of this town and these laborious jobs that were the lowest of the low.

“Aunt Myra, when is Papa coming home?” Lana asked again.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. He should be back soon. Come on, into bed. You can lie awake waiting for him if you’d like.”

Lana nodded and allowed Myra to lead her to bed. Myra tucked her in and then sat down in the rocking chair that had come with their room.

The evening got later and later, but there was still no sign of Joseph.

Chapter Two

Myra awoke with a start. She must have dozed off in the chair. Any sliver of sunlight from outside had been snuffed out by evening. A soft silver glow from the moon was filtering in through the window now.

The sound that had woken her was the door opening. Joseph looked as if he had been trying to sneak in without waking her.

“Sorry, Myra. I thought I could get through here without waking you up,” Joseph whispered, glancing at Lana’s sleeping form on the bed.

“Where have you been? It’s way past evening. You missed supper, and poor Lana was asking for you,” Myra whispered.

“I had to work late, and then I went to the saloon. There were rumors of someone needing a job done. I’m really sorry about getting here late, though. I’ll try to make it up to Lana.”

“Was there a job?” Myra felt hopeful.

“The man didn’t show up. According to the men at the saloon, there’s a man from another town, not too far from here. He has a job that he needs doing that isn’t exactly on the books.”

“Does it pay well?” At this point, Myra was more interested in the money than the morality of it. Of course, she most likely wouldn’t do something too terrible if she didn’t have to, but with money, everything could be bought.

“I don’t know. I’m going back tomorrow to see if I can get a foot in the door. We have a reputation, sis, don’t worry.”

“That’s what you have been saying for weeks. How can I not be worried? I’m not making any money at the hotel, and the little you are making isn’t going very far. And Lana … well, she deserves better than this.”

“Hey, don’t beat yourself up. I know that our situation right now is lousy, but we can go on to another town soon. Maybe we can find better jobs that will pay more.” Joseph shrugged. “Maybe we should start our own ranch. One of the men at the mill was telling me that there’s money in cattle farming.”

“What did you always tell me, Joseph?”

“That we did what we did to have a reputation and a life.” Joseph sighed as if the mantra no longer brought him joy. “It’s just that sometimes I like the idea of settling down.”

“Are you saying you want to quit what we do?” Myra asked.

“No, of course not. What we do has gotten us this far. I said sometimes, not all the time. I am sure we will find a good job soon and then we will be on the way again.”

“I’m sorry for being snippy. I just had a really long day serving and cooking food. I am exhausted. I didn’t think it would be like this, you know?”

“I know. It shouldn’t be like this. You are right that we deserve more, and I will get us that.”

Myra nodded. “I believe you.”

She stood and stretched. “I need to get to sleep. You should too.”

“Thanks for taking care of Lana, Myra. You know how important she is to me.” Joseph walked across the room and placed a soft kiss on Lana’s forehead.

The girl turned over in her sleep, a peaceful look on her face.

“She’s practically the same as my own daughter even though she is technically my niece,” she stated. Through a big yawn, she said, “Goodnight, Joseph.”

“Goodnight, Myra. See you tomorrow.”

Myra waited until Joseph disappeared into the other room before she slipped in under the covers beside Lana and sighed.

She knew that the next day was going to be as hard as today had been, and she wasn’t going to get enough sleep to prepare. It seemed that she had pretty much stopped sleeping full nights in the past few weeks with work and all the worries that seemed to plague her mind constantly.

She thought of what life would be like if it were once again just her and Joseph. Of course, she loved Lana and would never trade her for anything, but the years before they’d had to care for Lana, had been so much easier.

When Joseph had married and had a daughter, life had settled down to almost normal. Joseph had taken over his wife’s ranch, and then there had been three of them, always happy and laughing. Myra had felt as if she were an outsider watching a stranger’s life.

Guilt tugged at her heart. She hadn’t meant to be jealous of Joseph’s wife or the life he had acquired with his new wife and daughter. But the jealousy had started growing inside of her the moment that they had gotten married.

Then day by day, it faded until Myra had accepted that she could only depend on herself, and she would have to learn to care for herself because no one would truly have her back, not even her brother.

Myra had gotten her first solo job, or what was supposed to be one anyway. One week before she had left town, Joseph’s wife had died. It was a tragic and terrible accident.

Her carefully laid plans had been shattered. Her brother had needed help caring for his young daughter. Lana had only been two years old at the time.

Myra sighed again and turned over. She hadn’t meant to dredge up thoughts from the past. They had come unbidden.

She jammed her eyes closed and tried to calm her mind. She didn’t know what time it was, but she knew that the time to rest was most likely coming to an end in only a few hours.

—*—

The next morning, Myra felt as terrible as she had predicted she would. It was terribly difficult to get up when she was so tired. She dragged her feet getting herself and Lana ready. It seemed to take forever to get out the door and Lana over to Mrs. Baird. By the time she was getting to her first house job, the sun was already rising.

At the first house, Myra let herself in and found the two baskets of dirty laundry where they usually were. Myra hated washing laundry, but the money was a huge help.

She pulled the large pot from its place and set it over the spot where the materials were already set to make a fire.

Soon, there was a blazing flame under the pot. Next, Myra filled the pot with water, one bucket at a time. When she considered it time, she filled it with clothes and started to move the whole concoction with a big wooden paddle.

By the time late morning came around, Myra’s arms ached as if they were about to fall off, and her face was flushed with heat from the boiling clothing.

She knew she needed to hurry with this batch so she could get on to the next one. This home was the one with the most clothing to wash. She had to get through all three houses by the afternoon.

She wrung the clothes one by one and shook them out, laying them out over a line that was stretched between the wall and the house in the back yard.

She emptied the pot and placed everything back in its place. When she was satisfied that she had cleaned up the area again she knocked on the door and waited for the lady of the house to answer.

With two coins in her hand for her efforts, she moved on to the next house. Each place was the same; hard work, aching arms, sweaty face, and exhaustion. Even though she finished washing the clothes nearly two hours earlier than she would have finished at the hotel if it had been the day to work there, she was still equally exhausted.

To her surprise, when she arrived back at the hotel, Joseph was there with Lana.

“There you are. I was waiting for you to get back so I could go out. I have a really good feeling that something will come of this tonight.” Joseph looked excited, and that made Myra’s weary limbs feel just a little bit better.

“I really hope so. This is taking a lot out of me. If we don’t get a job soon, we need to go to another town where I can find something that pays better and is less difficult.”

Joseph nodded, “You’re right. Let’s give this a chance, though.

Myra gave a tired smile. “All right. Try to hurry home if you can.”

Joseph gave his daughter a quick kiss before slipping out of the hotel room. Myra turned to Lana. “It looks like it’s just us again. Let’s make something for supper.”

Lana looked as if she didn’t mind being left behind as much as she had before. It was probably because Joseph had actually taken some time to spend with her. Joseph was a good father. He had always watched over Lana since his wife died as if his life depended on it.

Even when he was away all the time, he would occasionally make time to try and fix things between him and Lana.

But Myra knew that Lana missed him and was not as okay with everything as she let on. Myra also knew that the older Lana got, the more she would act out against the current situation.

Lana would not continue to understand why Joseph was always away and why Myra wasn’t there for her most of the time, either.

“Are we moving to a different town soon?” Lana asked, interrupting Myra’s thoughts.

“I don’t know yet. Maybe so, but it would be fun. You could make lots of new friends.”

“What about my old friends?” Lana’s eyebrows scrunched together.

“Well, you might not see them all the time anymore, but you could visit in the future.”

“We never go back to towns we’ve stayed in. Every time you say that, but I never see my old friends.” Lana looked as if she were about to cry.

“That’s not true, little one. We went back to one of the old towns just two months ago.”

“Yes, but my friends weren’t there anymore.” Lana looked up at her with pouty lips.

“Lana, sometimes in life, it is better to move on to new friends. They may be more fun, and you may have many more adventures with them. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

“I suppose so.” Lana didn’t sound the slightest bit convinced. “But my old friends will miss me. Will I go to school in the new town?”

“I still don’t know if we are moving, Lana. But if we are, I am sure you will still go to school, and when you do, you will find lots of new friends who you will enjoy a lot more than your old ones. It is all going to work out. You’ll see.”

As Myra helped Lana eat dinner and then get into bed, she kept thinking of her own words. She certainly hoped it would all work out. She wasn’t sure what they would do if it didn’t. She thought of a certain woman back in the first town they’d lived in.

That woman had been determined that Joseph couldn’t handle raising Lana on his own. She had wanted to take Lana from them when she had been only a small child.

But Joseph wasn’t raising Lana on his own. He had Myra, and Myra knew they could handle it, or at least she liked to think so. She sometimes thought of the woman and if she had been right. That woman had a ranch, and a husband and other children. Maybe she would have given Lana a better life than Joseph and Myra could. Maybe, Lana would have grown up happier with a normal family and not living always on the road with them.

Maybe she would have enjoyed living in one home in one town and then going to school and the fair every year and with her adoptive parents to town. Myra liked to think that she and Joseph had made the right decision, but she honestly didn’t know. Maybe they really had made the selfish decision because they didn’t want to part with Lana.

But Myra couldn’t completely believe that either. When she had been growing up with Joseph, she had dreamed of what it would be like to be with her parents. Even if her parents had been in a worse situation than she and Joseph were, she would have preferred to be with them any day.

Long after she’d expected Joseph to be back, the room was dark, and the sound of Lana’s even breathing reached Myra’s ears.

It was late, and Joseph still hadn’t returned. She began to worry. What if he had gotten into trouble?

Right when Myra was about to get into bed, the sound of the door opening made her sit up a bit straighter.

“Joseph?”

“It’s me, don’t worry.” Joseph closed the door behind himself, and a moment later, the light of a lamp filled the room with a soft glow.

“So, any luck?”

“Sort of.” Joseph looked as if he wasn’t sure what to think of whatever it was that he’d found.
“What do you mean?”

“Well, I did find a lead. A man needs a job done. He said he would meet the two of us tomorrow evening. Do you think you’ll have time after work? Maybe we can leave Lana with Mrs. Baird for the night.”

“Maybe. He couldn’t just tell you what the job was? Do you think it will pay well?”

“I don’t know. He said he needed to see if we were legitimate first, so he needs to meet both of us, and then he will give us the details. He was dressed nicely, though, so I would hope that the money will be good.”

“Okay, I’ll try to get off a little early tomorrow so we can meet him. I really hope this is the job we’ve been looking for. We need to get out of this slump.”

“I agree. Come on, let’s get to bed. Hopefully, tomorrow we will have a way to move on.”

Myra nodded and hurried over to the bed she shared with Lana. She certainly hoped that they would have a good job offered to them the next day. If there was no job soon, she felt as if they’d be trapped in this town forever.

Chapter Three

“Nick, come on, do you really think that the guy went all the way up here?” Tommy’s question made Nick feel a little uncertain about himself.

“I think so. This is where they saw him last.” Nick had received a tip from one of the families at their ranch in the woods.

“What did he do anyway? You never told me.” Tommy was panting, and it sounded as if he was having as hard a time breathing as Nick was. They had been climbing this hill for the last forty minutes after leaving their horses tied below to a grove of trees.

The terrain was rough for horses, but even so, Nick wished that he had brought them anyway and risked it.

“Yes, I did. We are looking for the man who robbed that couple on the new homestead on the west side of town. Do you never listen to anything I say?” Nick was feeling a bit more exasperated than normal. The heat, the long trek, and the lack of leads on the man they were searching for were making him irritable.

“I remember now, never mind. For some reason, I thought it was someone else. Honestly, Nick, I trust your instincts, but I don’t think we are going to find him today.”

Nick nodded, feeling a bit dejected. “I guess you’re right. Let’s head back.”

As the sheriff, it was Nick’s job to keep this town safe and to bring justice to criminals. That was what he was trying to do, but it was difficult when he wasn’t informed of the incident until after the fact.

“You know, I was thinking that maybe it would have been nicer if you would have still been a deputy and they would have chosen someone else to be the sheriff,” Tommy said.

“What makes you say that?”

“I don’t know, the times we used to have as deputies. It was always a lot of fun, you know?”

Nick sighed. “Are you saying it’s not fun anymore because I’m the sheriff now?”

“No, I’m not saying that. It’s just that back when we were both deputies we didn’t have as much responsibility.”

“I would agree with you there,” While Nick was glad about his sheriff’s position, he hadn’t sought it out. He and Tommy had been deputies together, and when the sheriff had died, Nick had been chosen as the new sheriff.

“What about when we were criminals? Then we really didn’t have all this responsibility.” For a moment, Tommy’s eyes held a spark in them as if he missed those days. But Nick knew better.

“Correction, you were a criminal. I was not.” Nick laughed, and Tommy joined in a few moments later.

“Well, I was young and didn’t really know what I was doing with my life. I’m glad you set me on the right path. Who knows what could have happened to me if you hadn’t taken me under your wing?”

Nick nodded. He had no idea what would have become of Tommy if their paths hadn’t crossed.

“Come on … let’s get back. I am sure that Ma is worrying about me.”

“How is your mother by the way?” Tommy asked.

Nick felt his heart squeeze tight. It was a question he tried not to think about too often. His mother was sick, and she was getting worse every day. He knew that soon, she wouldn’t even be able to care for herself.

“She’s doing all right, I suppose. Not better, but not too much worse, so I suppose that’s something.”

“I’m sorry, Nick. I know how much she means to you.” Tommy sounded genuine, and it made Nick realize just how good he had it to have a friend like Tommy.

With no one else in his life, he depended on the camaraderie he shared with Tommy. In fact, besides his own mother and Tommy, there were no other people he would call important to him.

“Is your ma still upset that you haven’t found yourself a wife?” Tommy asked with a grin.

“I don’t know. She hasn’t said much about it since the last time we talked about the topic.”

“You say it like you don’t care. I have never met another man who has no interest in finding someone to settle down with.” Tommy shook his head.

“No? You talk big for someone who hasn’t settled down yourself.” Nick rose his eyebrows.

“Well, you know it’s not for lack of trying. I just haven’t found the right lucky lady.”

“I know,” Nick chuckled. It seemed that Tommy just didn’t have luck when it came to women. He had been trying to find a young woman to stay steady with him since Nick had met him. “Even though you haven’t had much luck yet, I am sure some young woman will be more than happy to be your wife someday. You just have to keep looking.”

Tommy looked uncertain. “Maybe. For now, let’s just find this guy who robbed that poor couple.”

Nick nodded in agreement. “Maybe they’ve remembered something new; let’s go and talk to them.”

Nick had a feeling that today was going to be a long day. He had enjoyed being sheriff since the moment he’d been given the job, but there were days when he felt inadequate and incapable of doing a good job. Right now, was one of those days.

—*—

After a long day, Nick rode up to the home he shared with his mother. It was a simple home. He had supervised its construction himself. He had made sure that the place had everything his mother needed and wanted.

She deserved it after everything she’d done for him. After his father had died in a railroad accident, she had raised him all alone.

Nick knew that she had gone through a lot over the years. Single mothers were looked down upon, and he knew that his mother had taken so much just to give him a good home.

He remembered hard times they had shared when they’d not known where their next meal would come from or if they would have somewhere to sleep the next night, but his mother had always figured something out.

Nick hung his coat by the door and stepped inside.

“Nicklas? Is that you?” His mother’s voice floated to him from down the hall. He knew she would be lying down. He hoped she would be anyway. As someone who had worked and taken care of everyone else for her entire life, it was more than difficult for her to sit back and let others handle things.

Sure enough, she was starting to get out of her bed when Nick reached the doorway to her room.

“Mama, don’t get up. It’s late.” Nick called her by the name he had when he was a child. It slipped out sometimes, and he knew that she liked it when it did.

“I need to get you something to eat. Look at you. Did you even eat lunch? My poor boy.” His mother shook her head while she fussed.

“Nonsense, I can get my own food, and yes, I did eat lunch.” Nick crossed the room and sat down beside his mother, who was sitting on the edge of her bed. “How are you feeling tonight?”

“Better, much better. I had a good nap and was able to rest during the day. Soon, I will be back to my old self.”

“Did you work too hard today, Ma? You know that you aren’t supposed to do that.” Nick paid a woman to wash their clothes twice a week, and as for the house cleaning and cooking, he tried to do what he could himself.

“I never work too hard.” His mother’s words were cut short by a fit of coughing. “I just do the minimal. You know that I should be doing so much more.”

“Nonsense.” Nick wrapped his arms around her slender shoulders. She was so frail he felt as if she would break at any moment. “You have taken such good care of me for all these years. You must let me take care of things now.”

“I am so proud of you, Nicklas. Your father would be proud … If only he could see you now.”

“Thank you, Mama. I wish I could do much more. You deserve so much more.”

His mother patted his hand. “I’ve left you some soup in the pot on the stove. It just needs to be heated. I would do it for you, but if you insist on doing it, then I suppose I will have to let you.”

Nick grinned. “Ma, just by being here when I get home, you are doing so much more than I could ever expect or ask for.”

“What will you do when I am no longer here, Nicklas? When will you find a wife?”

Nick fell silent. It had been a while since they’d had this very same conversation, and he’d thought it had been left in the past.

“Mama, you know I am not looking for a wife.”

His mother raised her eyebrows in a teasing way. “You are not looking, but what if she finds you?”

“Ma, I don’t have time for a wife, and even if I did … I don’t know that I want one.”

“Nonsense, no one wants to be alone in this life, Nicklas. You need someone, and when I am gone, it will have to be someone other than me.”

“I don’t know. What if I got a wife and lost her like you lost pa? Would it not be better to be alone to begin with?”

“If I had not met your father, I never would have had you. And that, my son, is worth all of it. I would do it ten times over and not change a single thing.”

Nick smiled. “Thank you for saying that. It’s not that I want to disappoint you, Ma, it’s just … I don’t know if I will ever be ready for a family.”

“I understand, don’t worry. Go and get yourself some soup.”

Nick nodded, “Thank you, Mama. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He placed a gentle kiss on her tired forehead and then walked slowly from the room.

As he walked down the hall, he heard her go into another fit of coughing. He needed to have the doctor come and see her the next day.

He couldn’t have her continuing to get worse like this. He had to do something about it.

The kitchen was quiet. It was strange sitting at the table alone, eating the soup his mother had left for him. It hadn’t taken long to heat it up. It was delicious, as usual. Even though Nick had started eating his suppers alone months ago, that didn’t mean that it felt normal yet.

He often reminisced about the times he and his mother would sit at that table and share their evening meal together, even when it was late.

He knew that it hurt his mother just as much as it hurt him for her not to be here. But he also knew that if she were going to get better, then she needed all the rest she could get.

When he’d finished eating, he took the time to wash his bowl and spoon and put them in their proper place. He went down the hall, careful to keep quiet, so as not to disturb his mother if she should be sleeping.

His room was as he left it, his bed disheveled, with the blankets all in a heap at the foot of it. There were dirty clothes from the day before laying in a pile near the doorway.

He knew one thing, and that was that he needed to find someone to hire to take care of things around the house. He was much too busy to be doing it, and it was too much for his mother to do.

He wanted to take care of everything, to be on top of everything, but as time passed, he was starting to realize that not only was it unrealistic, it was also damaging to him. He couldn’t possibly have everything on his shoulders. He needed to share that burden.

But he didn’t need a wife to do that. He could easily pay someone. His job as the sheriff paid well, well enough to have some help. He was going to start spreading the word around town that he needed someone to care for his mother and their home.

It couldn’t be just anyone. It would have to be someone kind and patient and understanding. He knew that it might take some time to find that someone, so he would need to start looking right away.

With his resolve strengthened and a plan in his head, he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.


“Freeing an Outlaw’s Heart” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Myra has never had a real family besides her twin brother, Joseph. Strong and independent, she is determined to take care of her more free-spirited brother. With only each other to rely on, they’ve made a life for themselves by taking whatever work is available, even if it’s outside the law. When an unusual and potentially dangerous job is offered to them, Myra is forced to consider how far she is willing to go. The unexpected return of an old friend, who could get in the way of their plans, will make the situation even more troubling. Caught between choosing what is right and what is easy, will Myra be able to trust someone for the first time in years?

Nicklas Crow is the honest, hardworking sheriff of Deadwood, Texas. He has always been a bit of a loner, raised by his mother after the tragic death of his father. Focused on keeping the town a safe place for everyone, he has little interest and even less time for women. But when Myra shows up in town one fateful day, she brings back a lot of powerful and wistful memories from his past. As they reconnect he finds himself getting closer to her and wanting to earn her trust. But just how much has Myra really changed since he last knew her as a child?

Nick and Myra’s worlds are on a collision course after years of being apart. Myra is determined not to let anyone in, but Nick is equally resolved not to let this second chance at being close to her pass him by. When complicated secrets start coming to light, will they be able to trust each other and overcome all obstacles? Or will fate tear them apart forever?

“Freeing an Outlaw’s Heart” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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