New York Times Bestselling Author Jill Gregory
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Cowboy Heroes Western Series
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My True and Tender Love

An Excerpt

"Calm down. I like my women willing, querida. And besides, I promised not to hurt you, remember? Don't you believe me?"

“I want to believe you,” she replied, fixing him with a wary look.

“Then get some sleep and forget all that hogwash Frank Chester told you about me.” He faced her squarely and spoke with quiet reassurance. “Whatever else I am, and whatever else I do, attacking women is not one of my pastimes. So get some rest. You’re going to need it.”

Bryony found it difficult to doubt him when he looked at her that way, his handsome face no longer hardened with mockery. She almost thought she read compassion in his countenance, but realized she was being absurd. Nevertheless, her pulse jumped as his gaze touched her and a smile touched his lips.

“Good night, little tenderfoot,” he said softly, and she felt heat flush her cheeks. His voice had been almost a caress, arousing a strange deep fluttering within her.

“Good night,” she answered, a shade too quickly. Averting her eyes, she turned to her bedding, busying herself with arranging the blanket he had tossed to her. She peeped across at him as he settled his long form onto his own bedroll. To her relief, he didn’t even glance toward her.

Maybe he was speaking the truth. He had given his word not to harm her. She could only pray that he’d hold to it. But she was besieged by doubts. After all, what was the value of a gunman’s vow? Only a man of utter heartlessness could do what he was doing and be so calm and unemotional about it. Hadn’t he taken her prisoner for no good reason? Hadn’t he stolen her from her home and carried her off against her will, subjecting her to riding for hours with her hands tied behind her back, with the wind flailing her face, with no idea where she was headed or what was in store for her?

She shivered in her bed, recalling his cool nonchalance.

A man like Jim Logan was capable of anything. Anything. How could she trust such a man?

She couldn’t. Yet, as she lay beneath the dark Mexican sky, the cool night air fanning her cheeks, she felt sleep coming upon her despite the jumble of emotions under which she labored. Her tense, weary body sank into relaxation almost against her will. It was odd indeed, she mused, struggling against eyelids that seemed suddenly weighted. At home every night with Frank she lay awake for hours, twisting and turning in her bed, yearning for something she could not define. Yet here in this desolate land, alone with this dangerous stranger, she felt herself succumbing to the sweet allure of slumber despite her efforts to think and plan and fret. She floated into dreaminess, feeling oddly light and free.

All of her troubles and all of the disturbing, conflicting emotions that tormented her receded.

Tomorrow, she thought hazily, as the lovely soft cloud of sleep descended upon her. Tomorrow I’ll sort it all out... I’ll find a way to escape. Tomorrow I’ll try to get away...

She was deeply asleep when Jim Logan came and knelt beside her. He studied her face, in sleep as innocent and peaceful as a child’s. He restrained the impulse to stroke her cheek, to touch her glistening black hair. Though he longed to kiss her, he steeled himself against such a move. If she awoke, she’d be terrified. He had to reassure her that he meant her no harm, that he wouldn’t ever force himself upon her. She had to learn to trust him again, and that trust was something he would have to earn. It would take time, Jim knew.

The sparkling, joyous Bryony he had married was locked away somewhere within this frightened, wary shell of a girl called Katharine Chester. It wouldn’t be easy to free her.

Time and patience and self-restraint were required from him, and—damn it—he would abide by those requirements. Despite the fact that he wanted to enfold her in his arms and kiss away every vestige of fear in her soul, to swear his love for her and beg her forgiveness for all he had done in the past to hurt her, he’d have to feign calm disinterest and keep himself at a good distance from her. Too many times tonight he’d come close to losing his grip on his emotions. It had taken all of his self-restraint to keep from sweeping her into his arms and showering her with kisses, to keep from telling her that she was in truth his wife, his love, and that he would never let her go again.

This was a harsh penance to pay for his sins, but he would pay it for Bryony’s sake. And maybe, if he was damned lucky, she would remember him one day, and perhaps, if he was even luckier, she might find it in her heart to forgive.

Like a sentinel he stood over her far into the night. He leaned against a boulder as the stars swam above, his mind filled with memories of a girl who had once shone brighter than any moon or sun, whose spirit had flown like a fearless, graceful bird across the morning sky. Once he had cursed that spirit, cursed the defiant energy that had marked her as strongly as had her beauty and charm. He had cast her off because of it, sending her out into a night of storm from which she had never returned. He still didn’t know all that had befallen her as a result of that night. He had no idea how she’d fallen in with Frank and Willie Joe Chester, and now, he didn’t care.

He had her safe, under his protection once more. And he would see to it that no one harmed her again. But he wanted Bryony back, the Bryony whom he had loved before, that brave and laughing girl. She had shown some little sign of spirit tonight, and he had been glad to see it, but it had been nothing to compare with the way she had once been. She was even afraid of Shadow, the horse so wild none had been able to ride him until she herself had gentled him and made him her own.

Jim’s heart ached at the vast change in her. How he longed to see those emerald eyes spark with fire and to see that dainty chin lift in the old, infuriatingly defiant way. Once he would have crushed her spirit, for he had damned it like the fool he was, but now he wanted only to bring back his beautiful fiery girl, who had matched his pride with her own and who had forever conquered his heart. He would wait for her. He would give her time. And gradually, cautiously, he would offer her whatever tenderness she would take from a man who had stolen her from her “husband” and from her only remembered home.


My True and Tender Love

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