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From Author Mary Connealy – SPITFIRE SWEETHEART
Saurita, New Mexico 1879
Maizy MacGregor leaned her head back against the rocks, accidentally knocking her Stetson off. She grabbed it as it fell, then tossed it aside in disgust. She had on men’s clothes–the hat, britches, shirt, boots, even six-gun she wore on her hip. It had never bothered her before Rylan Carstensr.
She wiped her eyes. It was sure enough bothering her now.
The water roared beside her, cascading down in a rush. She came here when she needed to be alone. And she really needed that now.
Tossing aside her buckskin gloves, she pulled her red handkerchief out of her hip pocket—no lace kerchief tucked up her sleeve for Maizy—and wiped her eyes again and blew her nose in a completely unladylike way.
How had she let herself get this upset? And over a man, of all things.
Over the neighbor who she’d long ago accepted would never see her as anything but a child and an unattractive, annoying child at that.
She was used to it and ignored it mostly, but today stung. He’d found her walking among his Angus cattle.
Maizy looked to her left and watched the sleek black herd spread out on the long downhill slope. She hadn’t gone near them this afternoon. Instead she’d just slipped into this spot. She’d been using it for a get-away since childhood.
But this morning she’d walked right into the middle of his herd, wanting a close-up look. They were gentle cattle, not a horn on a single one of them. They weren’t tame enough to touch, they gave way if she got too close. But they didn’t run for the hills one day then attack the next like longhorns tended to do.
She’d heard they were gentle, even the bulls. And she was savvy about cattle. She knew how to judge their tempers and stay clear of them when necessary. Her eyes rested on one especially young calf that might have been born just today, long after cows usually threw their calves.
Maizy knew better than to go near a new mama, no matter how easy going she’d been before her calf was born.
She’d told Rylan all that and tried to make him see she was in no danger. He’d thrown her off his land anyway and even followed her home to complain to Pa, like she was a misbehaving child. He’d forbidden her to trespass ever again.
But the minute she could get away, she came here, to her special place. The river was the border between his property and her pa’s, and it was true she was, right this minute, on the trespassing side. She barely had a toe over the line and she was completely safe from his placid, fat cattle, so surely he wouldn’t complain about that.
She took a little pleasure in defying him. And it was a harmless defiance. If he didn’t know she was here, then he couldn’t throw her off.
Her horse was tied well across the river, on MacGregor land, cropping grass. She couldn’t see the brown and white pinto from here and neither could her neighbor.
Hoping to get control of her hurt, she let herself soak in the peace of stone and water and air, loving the way this rocky ledge cut off the world. She couldn’t hear anything thanks to the rushing water. Her spot was curved into the rocks and she could only see straight ahead and to the left. Water was on the right, cascading down from the mountain peaks. Her almost-cave hid her from behind and overhead.
She could be in her own world, alone with her thoughts. She’d always come here to lick her wounds.
A gunshot cut through the air and she sat up straight and banged her head.
Looking for the source of that gun, she turned and saw him.
And he was coming straight for her