When the spirit fever struck a town, a village or an outpost, it left few if any survivors. The white man blamed the Indian saying they used their mojo on them. The Indians blamed the white man for angering the spirits. The survivors knew it didn’t matter. The Fevered were forever changed.
Threats overshadow everything they are trying to build…
Jason’s always been the outsider, the one with dreams and aspirations to leave Dorado. Rising from the ashes is bittersweet, but he keeps his grief private. His enemies know where he is and his family wishes he was gone, so he throws himself into building the town they love even as his heart remains decimated.
She left to pursue a dream and returns to a nightmare.
Olivia Stark grew up in Dorado, the town darling despite the severe handicap of blindness. When Jed Kane offered to pay for her admission and expenses at a special school for the blind back east, her parents sent her away. The four years gone from Dorado were a struggle, but nothing can compare to returning home to find everyone—everything—she knew in ashes.
Conspiracy, controversy, and craving block him at every turn.
When Olivia arrives in the half-built town, Jason’s world turns upside down. Her grief rends his soul, but he rejects her lest anyone discover what she means to him. Desperate to send her away, he’s not prepared for her steadfast refusal. Olivia’s waited for Jason most of her life and she won’t leave him now.
His desire. Her determination. Their destiny.
This story tugged my heartstrings right from the beginning. Jason knew Olivia from when she was a child. Best friends and she had gone away to school in the east to learn to live a full life with her blindness.Jason believed her dead along with her parents when the fever struck Dorado. Memories pummeled him as the new constructed General Store with the apartment above was completed. Then he saw her and all he wanted to do was protect her. He couldn’t protect her from the truth though. This is a favorite crying scene.
“Olivia,” Jason’s hand tightened on hers and pulled her around.“Where are we?” Maybe he’d taken them into a quieter building for their reunion before going home. They’d crossed the street—and the store wasn’t on this side of the street.“Olivia, we need to talk.” Careful, considerate words deeply tinged by chill worry.Her heart began to race. “What happened? Where is Papa?”Jason sighed. “I need you to trust me for a few minutes more, I want you to sit down.”“Fine, but there are only stools in the store, no chairs. We’d have to go upstairs…”
His hesitation scared her more. “Come sit on the steps.”
A knock at the door and Jason turned away from her. “One moment, Olivia.” He opened the door. “Not now. Leave me to tell her. I’ll speak to you all later.” The door shut with an abrupt bang and the bolt slid home. He led her over to the steps and she took a seat. “May I take this for you?” He tapped the stick she’d locked in a death grip.
“Thank you.” It took effort to unpeel her fingers from it.
“I’m putting it one foot away to lean against the railing.” He tapped the railing so she could find it.
“Thank you,” she murmured again, and swallowed. All the moisture in her mouth seemed to have fled and her chest hurt. “Jason, please tell me what’s wrong.”
He sat down next to her, the weight of his presence a great comfort. Catching her hands in his, he sighed. “I have no easy way to say this.”
“Straight truth is better.” Because it had to be better than this horrible sense of wrongness.
“A fever came to the town last summer.” Her stomach clenched and tears burned in the back of her throat. “Oh…oh no…” “We lost nearly the whole town…including your parents.”
The world slid sideways and Olivia pulled her hands away to stuff them against her mouth before she started screaming. He didn’t let her get away, but instead wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.
“I thought—I thought you had been one of those lost.” Grateful for the bruising squeeze of his arms, she fought to find her footing in this unfamiliar nightmare. “I was at the Perkins School in Boston. I’ve been there for the last three years…I went to learn.” They couldn’t both be dead. How could they have died and no one told her?
“I didn’t know.” Quiet wonder underscored his words. “I swear to you, I didn’t know.”
She believed him. “You weren’t here when I left.” It wasn’t an accusation, but he stiffened around her.
“I know.” He accepted her charge. “I should have been here. I thought…no one told me that you’d gone away to school.”
Odd. Then again Jason had traveled extensively and he’d gone back East to school. The last evening they’d shared together, and he’d sat with her throughout a town dance. She’d been just a month shy of her fifteenth birthday and they’d discussed her education possibilities. Dorado hadn’t much in the way of schools. Though she’d had some tutoring in subjects, most of what she’d learned came from the books Jason or her mother read to her.
“What happened to their things?” She wanted to go curl up in their bed, maybe pretend for a little while they were not gone.
Another silence and the dread ticked over inside of her. “We had to burn the town.” He went on to explain the devastation of the fever, the staggering number of the lost and the decision to burn everything lest they risk a spread of the fever. The dull pain inside of her numbed—it was almost too much to comprehend.
“This is a new Dorado, then?” Because she’d given her instruction to the coachman and he hadn’t acted like he took her to some destroyed town.
“Yes. We’ve been rebuilding it. We’ve also moved the town, the old one—the original one—is a few miles to the west. We’re closer to the Flying K, here.”
The Flying K. Jason’s home. The ranch so far away that he could only see her once every month or two. She’d always wanted to go and visit him on the ranch, but her father’s work in the store kept him busy and her parents never wanted her to go far—too afraid of what might happen if she couldn’t see the danger.
He brushed a finger down her cheek, and she realized she was crying. Hot, fat, damp tears slid down one after another.
“I am so sorry, Olivia.” He repeated the litany over and over, and when she burrowed into him, he held her. Her parents were dead. Her home was gone.
This was not the homecoming she’d dreamed about. But Jason was here…and her heart took solace in his nearness and clung to him for comfort. He didn’t disappoint her, and he didn’t let her go.
Wanted: Fevered or Alive (Fevered Hearts #6) (Kindle Locations 698-736). Kindle Edition.
Many hard truths come out in this book, even as Olivia finds her home with Jason. Lots and lots of tissues needed. Another one I just couldn’t put down.
5 Contented Purrs for Heather!
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National bestselling author, Heather Long, likes long walks in the park, science fiction, superheroes, Marines, and men who aren’t douche bags. Her books are filled with heroes and heroines tangled in romance as hot as Texas in the summertime.
From paranormal historical westerns to contemporary military romance, Heather might switch genres, but one thing is true in all of her stories–her characters drive the books.
When she’s not wrangling her menagerie of animals, she devotes her time to family and friends she considers family. She believes if you like your heroes so real you could lick the grit off their chest, and your heroines so likable, you’re sure you’ve been friends with women just like them, you’ll enjoy her worlds as much as she does.