Choices make us, and choices can break us.
Lillian Christian believed she left her troubles behind when she headed west to be the mail-order bride of Mr. Charles Gray. But her troubles are just beginning. Taken from the Stagecoach by a group of outlaws, she finds not everything is as it seems and no one is safe.
A simple rancher who just wants to be left alone, Mic, leader of the Nichols’ Boys Gang, is forced into the life of an outlaw. But he won’t let his honor stand in the way of protecting his family or helping the innocent woman’s whose life he’s changed. He’ll do what he has to to fix the mistakes of his past, and hopeful he’ll be the only one to pay the price.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Lillian stirred from her slumber, aware that she was no longer chilly. In fact, she was very warm. And more than that, she felt protected. For a moment, she truly felt safe.
She shifted, expecting to feel the grass beneath her hand, but her fingers brushed worn cotton. Through her sleepy haze, she opened her eyes. The first thing she noticed was the fire nearby, its flames lapping lazily in the still night. She turned her gaze to the sky and noticed a few clouds, one of which partially obstructed the view of the quarter moon.
The second thing she noticed was the duster draped over her. The third thing she noticed was that she was curled up against Mic’s side.
Mic was dozing against the saddle, his arm resting at his side with his gun in hand, and his other arm was wrapped around her shoulders. That wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t ideal, but it wasn’t bad either considering how close she’d been to him on the saddle.
What was bad, however, was the fact that her leg was draped over Mic’s leg in the most impure manner. If someone were to find them, they’d assume she was ready to…to…
Well, she hadn’t done anything with a man beyond dancing at a party, so she really didn’t know what she looked like she was doing. All she knew was that it was highly inappropriate.
Trying not to wake Mic, lest he discover her grievous behavior, she gingerly rose up on her arm, not minding where she placed her hand when she tried to roll away from him. Her hand just so happened to land below his belt, right on an unfamiliar bulge between his legs. She shrieked and quickly removed her hand from him.
“Get a handful?” he asked, his eyes just peeking out from below the brim of his hat and a sly smile spreading across his lips.
She shrieked again and tried to get away from him, but her foot caught on the bottom of her skirt and she fell against his chest, her body seeming to press more fully over his than before. Oh, the indignity of it all!
Mic grunted, his hands resting on her waist. “I’m not sure who needs protection from who, Uzizitka.”
“Unhand me at once,” she demanded, wiggling in an effort to loosen her skirt from his legs.
He released his hold on her and placed his hands above his head in a sign of surrender. Without his support, she fell back over him with a yelp of surprise. She scrambled to get off of him, her hands all over the place, touching places she had no business touching, as if she were a lady of ill repute.
Her cheeks grew even warmer when she saw him look away from her, laughter softly escaping from his lips. “It’s not funny!” She finally stood and brushed her skirt and shirtwaist in an attempt to hold onto what little dignity she had left. Her chin rose in the air. “I assure you that I’m not that kind of woman. You,” she cleared her throat and lifted her chin, her eyes keeping track of his expression, “you surprised me, that’s all.”
“Imagine his surprise,” Wade said from across the camp, standing from the fallen log. “I brought breakfast.”
Red spread across Mic’s cheeks and he had to clear his throat several times before he turned his gaze to Wade. “I’m shocked you even thought of it.”
Lillian gasped and picked the duster off the ground and covered herself, ignoring the fact that she was already fully clothed. “We were doing nothing wrong.”
Wade burst out laughing. “Darlin’, from where I was sitting, you had your hands all over my brother. If this territory was as civilized as where you come from, I’d have to insist you marry my brother for taking advantage of him.” He squatted down beside the fire, stoking the coals and adding a few more pieces. “You’re lucky us Neanderthals aren’t that civilized yet.”
Her entire face flushed with embarrassment. “B-but I didn’t realize I was with him.” She pointed toward the spot where she’d fallen asleep. “Last I remember, I was clear over there. Then I-I woke up a-and was there.” She motioned to Mic. “He carried me over here, by this fire. Without me knowing.”
Wade glanced at Mic’s flushed face and grinned even wider. “For shame, Mic. How could you be so mean as to move this poor girl out of the cold, cougar-infested forest and beside the warm fire? And then be a gentleman by giving her your coat and allowing her to take liberties with your person?”
Mic glared at Wade. “You’re not going to shut up about this, are you?”
“Not on your life. It’s payback for all the times you teased me about. . .” Wade’s face fell. “Never mind. Come eat.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~