Published: December 1, 1999
by Rachel Lee
Excerpt pp 8-12
Esther Jackson sat on her front porch and watched with bemused irritation as a sheep devoured her flower garden. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but grass, a few huge old cottonwood trees, the distant mountains....and the fence that should have kept that sheep on the other side, off her property.
The August wind blew steadily. Hot and dry, it seemed to be turning her skin to parchment. She ought to go in and put some cream on her face, but she couldn't make herself get out of the rocking chair. The sheep, trespasser thought it was, was too amusing. Too irritating. Too...out of place. It seemed to have a passion for marigolds and geraniums. Esther wondered in a detached sort of fashion whether it was going to get an upset stomach.
She supposed she ought to do something -- shoo it back beyond the fence perhaps, excwept that she couldn't see where it had managed to break through. Except that she'd never dealt with any animal than dogs and cats in her life and she wasn't quite sure what to do. Did sheep bite?
The image of herself stumbling around on her gimpy leg trying to shoo a recalcitrant sheep out of her garden made her chuckle into her iced tea. The further thought of the sheep snarling back at her almost made her laugh out loud.
* * * *
A whine and a jingle of chain from behind her drew her attention. Her shorthaired Saint Bernard, Guinevere, was at the door, begging to be let out.
"Absolutely not," Esther told her. "You'll just chase the poor sheep and ruin its digestion."
Guinevere looked offended.
* * * *
...suddenly, the tranquillity of the day was shattered....she couldn't stay relaxed or amused when a strange man was approaching, when any man was approaching.
Instead, the sour tast of fear filled her mouth and she was suddenly, painfully aware that there was not another soul for miles in any direction....
* * * *
"Howdy," the cowboy called, and touched a finger to the brim of his hat. "Mind if I come get my stray?"
"No. No certainly I don't mind." Even if her mouth was dry and her heart hammering....She was a woman alone, and she'd been taught at a very early age what a man could do to her.
Interested in a Reprint?
Esther Jackson needs Craig Nighthawk's protection. The father she'd helped put away for murder was now seeking her out, so against her reclusive nature, she welcomed the darkly handsome Nighthawk into her home, hoping he could keep her safe.
Craig knew all about fear and isolation. After all, he was still being tried and convicted by the people of Conrad County for a crime he hadn't committed. All he wanted was to be left alone. Until he met Esther, and discovered in her loving arms a peace he would safeguard at any cost. . . .