Defending Love in the Old West (Preview)


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Chapter One

It was a beautiful day in Riverside, Texas, where the skies were clear, the wind was gentle, and the sun shone over the land with a warm glimmer. Such a beautiful day that Jenny Thornton wished for nothing more than to leave the building and take a pleasant stroll by herself.

“Fix your bonnet,” her father instructed her to do instead. “You’ll get spots when you’re out in the sun again.”

She forced a smile before obeying. “They’re called freckles, Father, and I don’t mind. Besides, I won’t be outside until the meeting is over.”

“Well, I mind. The sunlight is bright in here. Nor will I have folks in town saying I’m careless with my only child. You don’t do manual work, and I won’t have them thinking you’re poor or not cared for. Straighten your shoulders and breathe a little quieter, won’t you?” He softened his instructions for her with a pat on the back.

She did not need to respond as her father moved forward to speak at the makeshift podium inside their town hall. Only about a third of the town had gathered for their monthly town meeting, where folks could make requests or address grievances.

As her father, Elias Thornton, was the mayor of Riverside for the third term, he was responsible for opening and managing these meetings. Although his secretary had reassured him that more support could be provided, her father liked conducting these meetings. He liked anything that gave him a sense of control.

When he glanced over at her, Jenny promptly offered him her brightest smile. Already, her cheeks were aching. She tried to keep a cheerful expression on her face even when he turned back to attend to business.

She supposed there wasn’t much need for her to be here but didn’t wish to tell him so. It would only frustrate him, and she didn’t like bothering him with problems that only caused aggravation. Instead, she managed to keep her shoulders straight, her hands clasped before her, and something resembling a smile on her face while she sat in the front row of the audience.

“What a beautiful day it is indeed,” said the mayor, echoing the introductory speaker, his secretary. “Johnson always knows how to open these meetings. With spring in full swing,” he paused for a chuckle she’d heard him practice all morning, “we don’t have any announcements at this time. Instead, I’d like us to move on to addressing the cartography of …”

Jenny struggled to pay attention while her father addressed the topic of public land, which was always a topic of conversation in the middle of Texas, but her mind wandered. It always did. 

She nodded now and again and remained at the ready for pauses where it seemed best to nod and clap. Being prepared for her responses was easy because no one knew Elias better than Jenny. She supposed that that had to be a good thing, although she wasn’t certain that he knew her.

When he glanced her way, Jenny sat a little taller and smiled a little wider. But it felt as though his eyes glazed over her and moved on to someone else. She tried not to feel disappointed.

They only had each other. That was the way it had been for years. 

“What about decreasing taxes?” someone asked. “You said you would do that for us.”

“That’s right, that’s why we voted for you!” said another.

Waving his arms slowly to quiet the voices and calm everyone, her father kept the easy smile on his face. “You did, and I thank you every day for that. But, as we all know, politics are a tricky business. Creating solutions takes time. We have a city council now and a governor keeping a close eye on our pockets. That’s why I’m here. I represent every one of you. No man, woman, or child is forgotten in Riverside. You have my promise that I will do whatever I can for everyone here.” 

Jenny tried to pay attention while she chewed her lip. She had admired her father’s fortitude for speaking with others so publicly all her life. The very thought of doing it herself was terrifying. Luckily, her father only wanted her seen and not heard.

“What a wonderful speaker he is,” murmured an old lady behind Jenny. She spoke in a low voice, like she didn’t wish to be heard. “It’s a shame he never remarried.”

“Oh, he still might.”

“Do you think so? How nice that would be.”

“Certainly. A man like that isn’t too old to start having children. Or more children; I can’t recall if he has any.”

Closing her eyes, Jenny supposed she wasn’t seen too well either. She bit the inside of her cheek. It was the one bad habit her father hadn’t been able to make her break, but she didn’t think he was too bothered by it, seeing as one could hardly notice what she was doing. 

Maybe folks forgot about her because she didn’t look like her father. Although he was of average height, he still had an inch or so over her. His brown hair, now peppered with gray, was darker than hers. She thought his hair was the color of a rich bark, while hers was more like a cracked walnut. It was too light for her liking.

They even had different eye colors. Jenny had her mother’s green eyes, the one thing she liked about herself, while her father’s eyes were brown. They shared narrow chins, but she supposed they didn’t have much else in common. He had a thick, handlebar mustache and a penchant for smoking, which she and her mother had never appreciated.

Jenny had shared the most with her mother, in truth, but Delilah Thornton had passed away over six years ago. Such memories left a throbbing ache in Jenny’s heart. Her mother had been everything to her, but in the end, she hadn’t been able to keep her mother there.

“Well, I thought that went well. Don’t you?” her father said when he appeared at her side, flattening down his vest while he studied the crowd.

Hurriedly, Jenny came to her feet and glanced around, wondering how much she had missed while lost in her thoughts. “Very well,” she replied automatically when she felt her father’s eyes on her. 

“What did you think about the livery stables?”

She caught sight of the folks leaving through the double doors that spilled out into the main street of town. Riverside rambled, encompassing countless farms and ranches in the surrounding county. She still hadn’t been to every corner of her town. Though she had no reason to, the thought suddenly left her feeling a little strange. The north side of town had never really been ventured through, for example, nor the ranches on the west side, like the Wilsons’ Circle W Ranch.

The oldest son of the family, Sam Wilson, was there in the doorway and then gone. She blinked and feared she could have imagined him.

Whenever she did see him, she had the same thought. He was a handsome man who caught the eye of nearly every woman in town at one point or another. She would know, for she had watched him often.

Who was she to say if he was or wasn’t there? During these town hall meetings, Jenny kept her head down, and her lips pressed shut. She had long since given up looking around since her father said it made her look childish and distracted. 

However, if she had bothered to look today, maybe she would have had a chance to admire him. Sam Wilson was five years her senior and had only been in Riverside with his family for the past two years, so she’d never had a chance to get to know him or his family.

But it was hard, once given the opportunity, to look away from him. She always found him smiling and was always trying to guess what his smiles might be about or for whom. 

“Jenny? The stables?”

She jumped when a hand touched her elbow. “Oh! What? Oh, the stables. What about the stables? I think they’re fine.”

Raising an eyebrow, her father tilted his forehead forward as though he were about to start lecturing her. “They aren’t built yet. I don’t like the idea of using funds for something so needless when we already have a corral for public use.”

After a quick glance around to see that everyone was departing but the secretary who was tidying up the chairs, Jenny struggled to focus on the topic her father clearly wanted to discuss. There was a furrow in his brow that told her there was a problem.

“I believe there have been concerns about the corral being in disrepair,” Jenny said as she pulled her thoughts together. “I should think that a corral would offer shelter. Do you remember that horrid snowstorm we had not five months ago? The O’Hare family lost a horse or two.”

“That’s their fault for not taking better care of their animals,” he grumbled. “Stables cost money. A lot of it.”

Jenny nodded, wondering what the problem was. “You said in the town hall meeting before winter that you would make it your priority for the new year. Do you remember?”

His furrow deepened. She hesitated when he told her, “I don’t need that reminder, Jenny. But situations change just like the seasons.”

Confused, she tried to gauge his expression and understand why this was such a problem. There had been three similar meetings in the autumn discussing these plans. “Do you mean there isn’t any money for the stables you promised?”

All he did was sigh before waving a hand at her and walking away to speak with Johnson. The younger man was just married and eager to build a career for himself. Jenny’s father boasted that he would take him under his wing and teach Johnson to be just like him.

Jenny tried not to feel too envious. Though she spent plenty of time with her father, it was clear that he often enjoyed his job as mayor more than that of father. She told herself it was just in her head, however, and smiled when her father returned.

“Let’s get going,” he told her. “I need to talk to you about something.”

Nodding, she walked with him toward the door. “We can talk on the walk home. Maybe we could even take a stroll around––”

“No, let’s go to my office. We can talk privately there before you go home to prepare supper,” her father said.

Her curiosity was getting the better of her. Stepping outside when he opened the door for her, Jenny nodded her thanks as they started walking. It wasn’t unusual for her father to save conversations for certain locations, though he usually preferred an audience.

“Is it about the stables blueprint? Or the funds?” she inquired.

“Not here,” he reiterated sternly. “To the office. Come along, Jenny.”

At least she was outside. Ignoring her father’s earlier instruction, she tilted her head up to the sun to feel the gentle warmth. So long as she had some sunshine, Jenny couldn’t complain about anything. 

Chapter Two

Stepping back out into the sunlight, Samuel Wilson felt his shoulders and spine begin to relax. It was one of the first warm spring days they’d had that year. For this reason, March was one of his favorite months. April would be a little warmer, brighter, and wetter, sure. But March was filled with potential. Promise. There were opportunities to take advantage of all around.

“What do you think about the stables?”

He glanced over to his friend, Charlie. “The stables?”

“Sure.” The redhead nodded toward the building they’d just left. He waved toward a neighbor before focusing on Sam. “I don’t think it’s going to happen. Mayor Thornton sure seemed hesitant to get started. He’ll probably make some excuse and not do a thing.”

“Well …” Sam opened and closed his mouth.

Charlie and his family had lost faith in the mayor over the winter when Thornton did nothing to help the horse ranch they had been building for the last couple of years. It had been a rough winter for all of them in many ways, but the O’Hares relied heavily on each of their horses. Losing three of them had been close to devastating. Sam and his father had hired Charlie to help with their own ranch, though they hardly had the money to spare.

It was too much work in a busy life for someone like Sam to spend any of his spare time worrying about politics. Coming to today’s town hall meeting was just for his father since the man liked being kept aware of matters at hand. But, since his father was abed at the moment, it was up to Sam to attend.

He supposed he should have paid better attention in that case.

“Let’s hope not,” Sam finally replied to Charlie. “If Thornton keeps getting elected as mayor, he must be doing something right. Wouldn’t you say? We just need to give him a chance. It’s not like he intentionally did anything to harm us or this town.”

The mayor was a decent enough fellow, or so he liked to think. Thornton had stopped by the ranch only two days ago to say hello to his father. Although his offer to purchase the land had come as a surprise, an offer quickly declined, Sam thought he’d done it in an attempt to help his family through their hard times.

Not that they’d agreed, of course. This was their home now. The Circle W Ranch was everything his family had.

An aggrieved sigh escaped his friend while he ruffled his bright hair. “I suppose not. Maybe. But until we break ground, I’m not buying a thing he sells.”

“Then it’s a good thing he’s not selling anything,” Sam quipped, earning a shove from Charlie.

The two of them laughed as they turned to their horses. Neither of them lived close to the streets of town, sharing property lines on the western edges of Riverside. It was beautiful land if a bit wild.

Still, Sam wouldn’t have had it any other way. He and his family had settled quickly there two years back after purchasing a bare-bones ranch from a distant aunt who had long since moved to New Orleans and didn’t wish to have anything to do with the property. They’d left their small home in Chicago, leaving behind the factories to improve his father’s health.

Coming to Texas was meant to be healing and adventurous for the family. Although Sam had settled quickly into the life of riding for hours a day across the open land and enjoying the small town, problems had plagued his family since their arrival.

The whirlwind of emotions tugged at his heart like the wind tugged at his hat. He fixed the hat on his head but didn’t know what mending he could do for his heart. It was best, he supposed, to leave it be.

“Headed home?”

“Sure am. You’re coming, aren’t you?”

“Well, of course I am.” Charlie glanced around, shifting in his seat. He was nearly Sam’s age but still had the lanky build from his youth with hardly any meat on his bones. It made him, in moments like these, look twice as awkward as he truthfully was. “Only, I thought Lisa was in town.”

Nudging his horse into action, Sam nodded. He had nearly forgotten about his sister. She was the next eldest at twenty and had accompanied him to town not three hours back with the request for more thread.

“She should be home by now,” he said. “It won’t have taken very long for her to go to the haberdashery.”

“Are you sure? I’d hate to have her go home alone, that’s all.”

He had a fair point. Although they weren’t in a hurry to return home, Sam didn’t like the thought of getting trapped at the haberdashery. He enjoyed the shops in town well enough since they had less frippery than most of the stores back in Chicago. The problem was that Lisa could spend a lifetime in one store, measuring and weighing the opportunity and worth of a single product for hours. 

Siblings were one’s greatest joy and greatest trial, as his father liked to say. Maybe that was why Sam had two sisters and four brothers.

Then he thought of his father and nodded. He couldn’t very well return home without his sister. All he could do was hope she had left the shop and gone home by now.

“Let’s go find her. She should have left, but you never know with her,” Sam added in a chuckle. 

“She won’t mind if we show up?”

Raising an eyebrow at Charlie, Sam wondered why he had so many questions about his sister. He studied his friend for a moment and tried to imagine if this meant what he thought it meant. 

Shy, cheerful Charlie and headstrong, daring Lisa. It wasn’t a pair he would have considered on his own. 

“It’s Lisa,” he pointed out before turning down the next road. “She minds everything. The trick is not to mind anything she says.”

“Why wouldn’t we do that?”

He ran through a list of options before shaking his head, recalling how little Charlie had ever actually spoken to his sister. Charlie had a tendency to get tongue-tied around girls if they weren’t in his own family. 

They’d been at the feed store that morning, and they’d been talking to Widow Shoemaker. Although the woman had to be nearing her nineties—missing half her teeth, so it was hard to understand her at times—and was not a friendly person, Charlie still struggled to get two words out around her when offering to hold the door.

Sometimes having three sisters wasn’t enough, Sam supposed. He wondered if it would have made a difference if Charlie had fewer or more of them.

“There she is!”

There was no denying the enthusiasm in his friend’s voice, especially with how his horse started in surprise. Sam sent him a stern look before nudging his horse forward.

“Well, well, if it isn’t my favorite boys!” Lisa waved to them from the sidewalk. She had three items in her hands that she fumbled with as they neared. “You wouldn’t happen to be headed home, would you?”

“It’s only four miles,” Sam called to her as they neared. “You can walk.”

Charlie frowned. “Walk?”

“How rude you are, Sam!” Lisa pouted dramatically. Her hands went to her hips while her bottom lip stuck out. “Do you see what I must put up with when you are not around, Charlie? Won’t you be a dear and let me take your horse home?”

“Oh, uh, I … yeah, of course. Sure.”

“Stay on the horse,” Sam said to his friend before nodding to the nearby gray palomino tied to a hitching post. “She’s just playing with us.”

Eyes widening in surprise, Charlie hesitated as he looked between them. “Oh. That’s Painted Star, isn’t it? Then … then you don’t … I suppose you don’t need another, erm, animal.”

“No, but I do like yours. What a beautiful chestnut color your bay has! You know,” Lisa drew out while fluttering her eyelashes, “it’s awful hard managing this with my hands full. I’ll never get onto my horse alone.” 

Sam didn’t know whether to be angry or to laugh. She’d played up her flirtations a time or two in his presence, especially when she was young and attempting to convince their parents to give her something, but this was something new.

However, seeing his friend scrambling to assist her was too much for him. Sam snorted and waved Charlie off before pointing to Painted Star, Lisa’s horse.

“You can ride him home now, or I’m giving him over to Amy.”

“What! No, she’ll put awful braids in her mane,” Lisa said. Her flirty façade gave way to a frown. “You wouldn’t dare do that.”

Sam glanced at her purchases, the words coming to the tip of his tongue that they didn’t have money for whatever she had bought, and then caught himself. He didn’t want to discuss family matters in town. Besides, he didn’t want to touch upon so dreary a topic now when everyone was in a good mood.

“Careful, or I’ll let her braid the tail, too,” he teased instead.

With the most dramatic sigh his short sister could muster, Lisa straightened her shoulders and walked over to her horse without another word to him. It wasn’t until she had her new purchases in the saddlebag and the reins in her hands that she turned around to face Charlie.

“He’s trouble, that’s what he is. I don’t know why you two are friends.”

Charlie’s face had since grown redder than his hair. “Oh? Well, you know, that is … we just …”

Maybe they interacted more than Sam knew. He studied the two of them, wondering if there was more to this than he knew. As far as he could see, Lisa was amusing herself in any way she could see fit. And Charlie was making a fool of himself.

Quirking his lips up, he decided he didn’t need to take it too seriously. Charlie might have a tender spot for his sister, but it would most likely fade in a short while, either by itself or by Lisa’s bossy nature. He would let it run its course, ensuring no one got hurt in the deal. 

“Let’s head out,” Sam announced.

The pair quickly joined him back on the road, eager to be on their way. Sunlight warmed all of them on the ride. Soon, Sam had sweat trickling down his spine, though a breeze softened the heat. He enjoyed the casual gait he rode at, studying the terrain as they went along.

What a different life this was from his childhood growing up in a city and its factories. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky today. His lungs expanded with every breath, making him feel strong and healthy in a way he hadn’t for most of his life.

If only, the voice in the back of his head murmured, this had been the same for everyone in his family. He struggled to shutter the thought. It was best to banish it for as long as possible because it had a tendency to linger once it came to mind.

“What about you, Sam?”

All this while, Lisa had been chattering away about one thing or another. Most of it he had heard before. Besides, it seemed most of the conversation–or rather, the listening–was meant for Charlie, who nodded so much that Sam thought his friend would eventually jerk his head right off his shoulders.

“What about me?” he asked blankly. Though he didn’t consider himself an inattentive sibling, Sam knew he tended to sit in a moment to enjoy it. He offered a sheepish smile he knew even Lisa couldn’t resist as an apology.

Her lips twitched, her silent acceptance. “I was telling Charlie that there are plenty of pretty girls in town. You’re both of an age.”

“We are,” Charlie jumped in.

“And maybe it’s time you were courting someone. How fun it would be, don’t you suppose? Having someone special?” Lisa asked brightly.

With a slight shrug, Sam moved his horse in between theirs. “And when do you think I would have time for that? When I’m attending matters in town? When I’m working on the ranch? We don’t have the time or money to make an effort for anything but the ranch right now,” he pointed out. “And beyond all that, I hardly think now is the time to … to …”

There was a word missing. He couldn’t find it. Although he could feel it on the tip of his tongue, he couldn’t quite taste it. 

Sam felt his stomach constrict as those dark feelings started to rise, asking for his attention. His eyes slowly climbed up to meet his sister’s curious gaze.

“I only thought …” she trailed off as well. 

He wanted to curse at his mistake. Thinking of their mother always did this to him. Nor was he the only one––at least once or twice a day, everyone in his family seemed to think of or want to mention her. 

She’d passed just as the winter began. Nearly six months ago. And not one of them had yet healed from it.

A lump formed in his throat. His eyes itched, and Sam knew he had messed up but didn’t know what to do about it. There had to be something. And yet, he couldn’t sort it out. Fidgeting with his reins as his hands grew damp with sweat, he shifted, making his horse anxious.

“Let’s just go home,” Lisa blurted. She leaned forward to see Charlie. “I think … I think we’ll be late. That’s all. But we shall see you tomorrow, won’t we?”

“Uh, sure. Bright and early, of course,” he stuttered. He tipped his hat toward them before turning off the trail.

Sam watched his friend ride through the untamed grass and shrubbery, taking a shortcut to the nearby property. He and his sister would need to go a little further. Although he enjoyed the ride and had been enjoying it until his mother came to mind, being here was suddenly a very exhausting chore to endure.

“I’m sorry,” he volunteered when Charlie was far enough away. He didn’t want to bother his friend with such family concerns, and clearly, neither did Lisa. “I didn’t mean to ruin everything.”

Reaching out to touch his arm, she managed a grim smile. The cheer she’d been enjoying only a short while ago had faded. “You didn’t mean to, Sam. I know that.”

“I still shouldn’t have just … messed it up.” His gaze left his sister’s to search after his friend. “I keep thinking it won’t be this hard.”

“I know. But we’ll get through this.” When he didn’t look convinced, Lisa offered a tight-lipped smile. “We don’t have a choice. Pa needs us, and so do the others.”

Though he didn’t want to admit it, Sam knew she had a point. Their remaining parent and siblings needed them for direction and support. The ranch needed them as well. Burying himself in the pain that leeched at his heart would only cause problems for the entire family. It was best if he smiled and helped everyone to forget. Or move on. Or do something besides wallowing in their pain.

“Let’s just get home, shall we?” he proposed. “I’m sure they’re all waiting for us now.”

A gleam appeared in his sister’s eyes. Even though Sam knew at once what it meant, he still wasn’t fast enough to react. 

“Race you to the barn!” Then she was off, faster than dry tinder catching fire.

“Wait up!” He laughed, the worst of the pain fading into merriment. Growing up, he and Lisa had always been able to make the other smile. After he sent a silent note of gratitude her way, he chased his sister home with the hopes that the rest of their evening would be much more pleasant.

“Defending Love in the Old West” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In Riverside, Jenny Thornton has dedicated her life to please her formidable father, Mayor Elias Thornton. Her world revolves around him until he tasks her with befriending a struggling family. As she grows closer to them, sparks ignite between Jenny and their dashing eldest son, stirring emotions she never expected. Caught between loyalty to her father and forbidden love, Jenny must navigate a heart torn between duty and affection…

Can she stay true to her father when her heart yearns for a loving gaze?

Sam Wilson’s devotion to his family is rivaled only by his passion for the ranch. When troubles plague their Riverside homestead and his father falls sick, he shoulders the burden of managing both the land and his siblings. Amidst the chaos, the compelling Jenny captures his thoughts, distracting him from his responsibilities and making Sam wonder if there’s space in his life for her…

But when dark secrets surface, threatening everything he holds dear, Sam must summon all his courage to safeguard his loved ones.

As Jenny and Sam spend more time together, they forget their troubles and worries until outside forces challenge them as the truth starts coming out. When they are confronted with the inevitable, they must brace themselves to face one another, knowing the consequences loom large. Can they overcome what divides them? When danger steps in, how far are Jenny and Sam willing to go to be together?

“Defending Love in the Old West” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Brave Hearts of the Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

One thought on “Defending Love in the Old West (Preview)”

  1. Hello my dears, I hope you enjoyed the preview and that you are as excited as I am for this upcoming release! Make sure to leave your comments here. I’m so looking forward to read them 🙂

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