Lorelei Wilkins, will you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance in the holy estate of matrimony? Will you love, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health: forsaking all others, keeping only unto him so long as you both shall live?”
Lorelei’s eyes widened as she stared silently at Reverend Sparks. Did he have any idea how formidable those words sounded? If she was making a mistake, it would be irreversible. Yet, he stood there waiting. Waiting—just like the man beside her who’d gone through the trouble of slicking back his hair, shining his boots and donning a fancy shirt. She glanced at her groom. Lawson Williams swallowed nervously.
“I..” Her gaze slipped to Lawson’s best man. Sean O’Brien’s green eyes watched her carefully. He was probably wondering if she was going to prove that his suspicion about her had been right all along. Hadn’t he secretly warned Lawson not to court her? Some secret.
She’d heard the words he hadn’t intended for her ears two years ago, and they reverberated in her thoughts even now.
“You ‘re making a mistake. Lorelei isn’t the kind of girl you can count on. She’s always been flighty and insincere. If you aren’t careful, you ‘ll end up with a broken heart.”
She turned back to Reverend Sparks. “Will you repeat the second question?”
Nervous laughter spread through the church behind her, but she listened carefully as he repeated. “Will you love—”
He continued, but that one word was all she needed to hear. Would she love Lawson, as a wife should love her husband, for as long as the two of them lived? She couldn’t do this to herself, and she certainly couldn’t do it to Lawson…because the answer was no.
A gunshot reverberated through the still morning air. Kate started, then spun toward the sound. Stunned, it took her a moment to realize she was staring into the forest toward her family’s farm. She picked up her skirts and ran. She dashed through the trees, her bare feet creating a quick rhythm on the path she’d traveled only an hour ago.
The edge of her petticoat caught on a fallen branch but she refused to slow down as she neared the large clearing where her father had built their farm. The curious sound of masculine voices made her pause. She cautiously moved around the side of the barn toward them. The voices grew louder. With one last step, she cleared the barn and found herself in the middle of a standoff.
Kate froze. Her gaze traveled from the tall cowboy on her left whose gun was drawn toward the house, to the young man standing just outside her doorway. He was struggling to keep his grip on his pistol and control the haphazard pile of possessions in his arms. She narrowed her eyes as she recognized the items, then gasped as realization tumbled over her. She stepped forward. “What do you think you’re doing with my things? Put those down!”
He jumped and turned to stare at her with panic in his gaze.
Her eyes widened as she realized he was just a boy. She lifted her chin and her tone turned imperious. “I said, put those down. Just you wait until—”
A wild shot flew from the boy’s gun.
She jumped, then stared at him in surprise.
“Get down!” The deep unyielding command from the cowboy made her obey without question. Another shot broke out, this time from her side.
“Of all the foolish things to do ” The cowboy let out a volley of shots. The boy ran for the horse waiting in the barnyard and somehow managed to mount with his armful of goods.
A shot from beside her sent the boy’s hat flying from his head. Kate caught her breath then pushed the man’s gun away from its target. “Don’t do that. You’ll hit him!”
She watched as his aggravation seemed to flare along with the golden ring outlining his deep brown eyes. “Woman, don’t touch my gun.”
She gasped at his harsh tone. “I was trying to keep you from killing a child!”
“If I had meant to hit him, I would have.” He stood then caught her elbow to help her to her feet. “As it is, he got away with my horse.”
“Not to mention his life,” she delivered testily.
He frowned at her.
She glared back.
His frown slipped, then pulled into an amused half smile. “I wondered if you’d have a temper to match your hair.”
She let out a confused breath, then caught an escaping lock of her rich strawberry-blond hair and vainly tried to tuck it into place. “What do you mean?”
“Not a thing I didn’t say,” he said seriously, but his eyes held hers teasingly.
Check out photos of your favorite characters and places from Peppin, Texas on Pinterest. Also, peruse the idea boards for my works in progress.