Their Passion Shaped a NationOver the years, Jake and Miranda Harkner have endured all the dangers a wild and brutal West could throw at them. Now, settled on their ranch in the beautiful Colorado hill country, they’ve finally found peace. But for a man like Jake Harkner, danger is always lurking, and the world may not be ready for an infamous outlaw-turned-lawman-turned-legend to hang up his guns.Threatened by cruel men in search of revenge, the Harkner clan must be stronger than ever before. Yet nothing can stop the coming storm. With the Old West dying around them and the rules of this new world ever-changing, Jake vows to end the threat to his family no matter what it takes…Even if it means sacrificing himself so his beloved Miranda may live.
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“You getting sore in all the wrong places from too much riding?” Jake turned his horse to face his wife.
“It’s not the riding that’s got me sore in all the wrong places,” Randy teased, taking up the reins of their pack horse.
Jake laughed in the teasing way he had of making her feel embarrassed.
“On a trip like this, a man your age should be too tired for frivolity, Mr. Harkner.”
“Don’t underestimate what a man my age is capable of, Mrs. Harkner.” Jake winked at her as he lit a cigarette.
“In your case, I don’t underestimate anything,” Randy shot back.
“You’re the one who kept offering herself to me,” Jake teased. He grinned and turned his horse, heading down a pathway toward the valley below.
Randy followed behind him, pulling the pack horse along. “Just don’t be underestimating me, dear husband. I’ve been just fine on this trip. I’d rather put up with the hard ground and lack of comforts than to be home worrying about what’s happening when you’re gone for too long at a time. We went through enough of that back in Oklahoma.”
“Well, being a marshal back there proved more dangerous than all the grizzlies and bobcats and rustlers here, but even so, I’m not bringing you along every time I do this. We needed the time together, but these trips are too dangerous for you.”
“Are you giving me orders?” she called out.
Jake kept the cigarette at the corner of his mouth when he glanced back at her. “You mean by saying you can’t come with me next time?”
“I mean exactly that.”
He turned away. “Then I am giving you orders. What if something goes wrong? You’re a distraction. I might not be as alert as I should be.”
Randy smiled. “I like being a distraction. That means you’re still attracted to me. A woman my age needs to know that.”
“Hell, you’re ten years younger than I am. Maybe I’m the one who needs to know he’s still wanted.”
“Half the women in Colorado want you.”
“Easy, Midnight.” Jake pulled up on the reins to the black gelding he favored over the other horses he owned. The path had suddenly banked steeper, and small rocks tumbled as Midnight whinnied and stepped lightly to his master’s command. “Stay there!” he told Randy.
Randy slowed her horse, a gentle gray gelding called Shortbread. She watched with concern as Jake led Midnight down the steep path that had become more of a washout after a short but hard rain last night. Rocks and dirt tumbled as Midnight half slid down the bank to a flatter pathway. Jake dismounted and tied the horse, then grasped at trees and rocks and anything else he could to keep from slipping as he climbed back up to where Randy waited. She noticed how worn-looking his black leather boots were in spite of being fairly new. The silver Mexican conchae and extra-fancy stitching made them sturdy enough for the wear and tear of ranching, but they were already scratched and dirty.
She wore leather boots herself, and a split riding skirt. She shivered under the extra sheepskin jacket Jake had made her bring along, and she was glad for his advice. Mountain mornings could be very cold, even when the weather was warming in the valleys.
Jake reached her and took a last drag on his cigarette, then threw it down and stepped it out extra hard, as he always did when in the pine forest. “Get off Shortbread. We’ll walk down using the trees to keep our balance. Let Shortbread and the pack horse make their own way. The last thing I need is for you and that horse to take a fall out here where there’s no help.” He reached up and grasped her about the waist, helping her down.
“I do have help,” she teased. “You’re here.”
Rosanne Bittner is an award-winning novelist who is highly acclaimed for her thrilling love stories and historical authenticity. Her epic romances span the West—from Canada to Mexico, Missouri to California—and are often based on personal visits to each setting. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons.
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