Welcome to Excerpt Friday! Each Friday we’ll be featuring excerpts from recent releases by our very own Fillies. So grab a cup of coffee and read on. And if you find you’re hooked by what you read (and we know you will be!) just click on the book cover to purchase the entire book.
Instead of death or dust, Jessy Belle breathed in a man’s healthy sweat. And his strong, hard arms carried her over to a wagon where he plunked her down on a pile of blankets.
It felt good and safe but only for a flash. Where was she? What had he said? Oak Creek? Then she saw around her the glorious red rocks. She was still alive and still in Arizona.
Her heart skipped a beat.
So was Ahab.
Then it all came crashing back inside her head. No water. Her first fainting spell. Before that, almost dying at the end of a rope. Could this stranger be one of Ahab’s allies? They lurked everywhere.
Cleeland Redd. His name might well be an alias, that nun he mentioned a downright lie.
But this stranger was gentle, promising to keep her safe and murmuring she’d be all right. Ahab and his shameful pals had left her to die. And they had no use for gentleness unless, of course, they were charming a ring off a rich woman’s finger, four or five guns pointing at her head.
Well, she’d never done armed robbery. And she’d never killed.
But she had to admit to God Himself that she’d been a horse thief right along with Ahab and his gang.
For twelve years, she’d been a skinny kid with no choice. But she was a woman now. All that was over and done with.
“Take care, ma’am. Here’s more water. Get it down slow,” the man said softly. He swiped her arms and face again with his damp kerchief. “Got a name to tell me?”
Pretending to be weary, she avoided his eyes and shut her own. Not her real name anyway. Taking on an alias in a heartbeat was another thing Ahab had taught her. But this was the first time she had to consider such a thing dressed like a female. Her usual choice, Caleb Downs, wouldn’t do at all.
Instead, she picked Mary, another Bible name just like Ahab and Jessy Belle. Ma used to say those two had been a king and queen once upon a time. She’d always like being named for royalty and might as well pick the queen of heaven this time around.
But when she opened her mouth, no sound came out. Not even a squawk. Seemed the big brave men of Pioneer Meadows had taken her voice. Her hands flapped like the wings of a dying bird against her neck.
“Reckon your injuries have made you mute,” Cleeland Redd said, tying a big straw hat under her chin against the setting sun.
Jessy Belle considered the prospect. It was scary, not having a voice, but this way, she’d never have to answer to anybody. Right now, she was too tired and puny to invent a full-on sham, and she couldn’t very well tell the truth.
Playing forgetful was a right fine idea, too.