Susan Yawn Tanner
Hannah Barnes, wife of the austere preacher Caleb Barnes, is as dutiful and eager to please as she can be, considering the big difference in their ages. Texas Ranger Jeb Welles, on his way to the New Mexico territory, stops at the Barnes place to tend to his horse. There, he finds Hannah alone on the remote Texas property with no family or neighbors nearby, seemingly in shock, with blood on her clothes and her dead husband’s body in the cabin. Something tells him she’s no murderer, but he can’t be sure. He also can’t leave the stunned widow alone out there. They bury the body and he offers to escort her to the nearest fort to seek help.
Unaware that three murderers could be hot on their trail, the pair set out together. Jeb has no idea how deeply this shy woman will work her way into his heart. Hannah’s mission to avenge her husband’s death turns into a passion neither of them could have foreseen. This courageous woman and rugged ex-lawman discover tenderness and love under the wide Texas sky.
I have been reading a bit more historical romance lately, remembering that I really so enjoy taking a journey to the past. This book takes me on a journey to 1859 Texas, the state I now call home.
I never cease to marvel at the strength of the women of the old west. They don’t realize it themselves but it really is amazing what they endured.
Hannah was married off at the age of 15 to Reverend Caleb Barnes. Her father believed it to be a good match since he was also a preacher. However Hannah never seemed to be what Caleb expects from his wife.
After her husband reports three soldiers for trying to pin a murder they committed on the Comanche, the men approach Hannah with evil on their minds. Instead she falls injuring herself enough to cause the miscarriage of the child she was carrying. However they aren’t done, and return to kill Caleb about a month later.
Jeb Welles is the Texas Ranger who declared the three men guilty, but the man temporarily in charge waited until the Captain returned at which time the men were punished but not hung for their crime. It was time for Jeb to re-up with the Rangers but he decided not to, he’s going to join his friend Slade and his wife Katherine in New Mexico. The challenge of helping Slade clean up their town sounds perfect.
In a twist of fate Jeb’s horse has a loose shoe and he sees the preacher’s cabin. He assists Hannah with the burial of her husband and makes a marker for the grave. After fixing the horse’s shoe and eating the meal Hannah prepared for him he leaves. Then feels guilty he left her alone and heads back.
This is a favorite scene.
Jeb rode back up to the tiny cabin, thinking it looked smaller and meaner than it had before. There weren’t two straight boards to the whole structure, and what passed for a front porch looked as if it had sagged from the day it was built. Somehow he wasn’t surprised to see a small calico figure sitting on a narrow bench at the door, a rifle across her knee. The thought crossed his mind that she might just use that rifle on him. But as she recognized him, he saw the fear in her eyes fade to relief.
The realization that he had left a frightened woman alone fueled his anger. “Christ! What do you think you’re doing with that thing?”
Hannah blinked. Caleb had never taken the Lord’s name in vain. “I’m … I’m waiting for them to come back.”
Jeb’s frown deepened. “Who?”
“The men who killed Caleb,” she said simply.
Jeb felt like all kinds of a fool, and he didn’t like the feeling. Perversely, he blamed her for it. “Why the blazes didn’t you tell me he’d been murdered? That you might be in danger?”
“I didn’t know I should.” Hannah wondered why he was so furious with her.
That queer light gaze made it difficult for Jeb to think. “Didn’t know you should what?” he repeated.
“Tell you.” Maybe he wasn’t quite as bright as he’d first seemed. Caleb’s mind had jumped from subject to subject more quickly than hers, and there wasn’t any trail a conversation could take that he couldn’t follow.
“Well, of all the fool …” Jeb stepped down from his horse. “Do you know how to use that thing?” He glared pointedly at the rifle.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Straining for patience, Jeb pushed his hat back on his head. “What doesn’t matter?”
“Whether or not I can use the rifle,” Hannah said patiently. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It damned sure will if you point that thing at someone!”
“It isn’t loaded.” Hannah felt a kind of triumph at being right. She hadn’t been right too often with Caleb.
“Sonuvabitch! Give me that thing!”
Before she could move to comply, Jeb was on the porch with her, snatching it from her grasp. “Pack your clothes.”
“What?” Hannah felt as if her mind had failed her. Now she was the one who couldn’t follow the conversation.
“Get your things together,” Jeb said between gritted teeth. “You’re going with me.”
“But … where?” This place wasn’t much, but it was all she had. It was her home. There simply wasn’t anyplace else for her to go.
Jeb didn’t have an answer for that one, and the fact that he didn’t infuriated him even more. She’d already said she didn’t have any family. And if she did have, they probably wouldn’t have wanted the little idiot.
“Anyplace you say, ma’am. I’ll take you anyplace.” As long as he got rid of her as soon as possible. “You must have people somewhere who will take you in. Your husband’s family. Friends?”
“I … Caleb didn’t have any family that I know of. And I don’t have any friends.”
Jeb leaned forward until his nose nearly touched hers. Sweet Jesus, if the first woman he’d ever bedded had been like this one, he’d have become a monk! “Lady, I’m not surprised. Now pack your damned clothes!”
He was almost shouting by the time he finished speaking. To his satisfaction, the girl got to her feet. He didn’t even care that she was looking at him as if he’d lost his sanity—or never had any. Just so long as she didn’t ask him another question. Ever.
Hannah stepped into the cool interior of the cabin and wondered what she should do. Sitting alone on the porch after the stranger had ridden away had given her more time than she wanted to consider the future. She’d begun to realize that if she stayed here with only her own company, she would soon go crazy. Caleb had been gone a lot, it was true, but she had always known he would be back. And the times he was home were enough to remind her that being by herself wasn’t always bad. But alone forever? She didn’t know about that.
She thought about the man on the porch, about riding away with him from the only place she knew. He seemed safe enough. His hazel eyes were hard, but they weren’t mean. She had noticed that they tended to become more green than brown when he was irritated. She’d never had that much warning with Caleb. He couldn’t be a bad man, she reasoned with herself; he’d helped her to bury Caleb, after all. A lot of folks might have just ridden away. Not that she’d been around a lot of folks lately.
Turning in a circle, Hannah looked about the bare little cabin. There was sure nothing to keep her here. And, somehow, doing something always seemed preferable to doing nothing, a trait Caleb had done his best to change in her. If the stranger wanted her to go with him—well, then she would. And after that … Hannah shrugged a little helplessly. After that, she just didn’t know.
Jeb had just prepared himself for a long wait, leaning his back against a post that he wasn’t quite sure was trustworthy and stretching his legs out in front of him, when the girl stepped back out of the cabin. She carried one small cloth bag. He might have known she wouldn’t take long simply because he had thought she would.
Tanner, Susan Yawn. Fire Across Texas: The Bellamys of Texas, Book 2 (pp. 56-60). Secret Staircase Books, an imprint of Columbine Publishing Group, LLC. Kindle Edition.
Although Jeb has his own thoughts of where she should go, she is determined to bring the men caused her miscarriage and killed her husband to justice.
Once they reach the procession the Captain informs Jeb that the men Nathan and Wilkins were gone and had killed Shaw, who was the third man.
Now the adventure truly begins as Jeb and Hannah begin a journey together. One that he thinks will end when he gets her settled in a town with a preacher.
I loved this journey, the ups and downs, the deceit and treachery, the growing attraction between Jeb and Hannah all make for a page turning read. I laughed, cried and held my breath as this tale unfolded.
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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Susan Yawn Tanner continues to blend her passion for horses with her passion for writing.
In Trouble in Summer Valley, she introduced readers to the rescue horses of Summer Valley Ranch where they prove their worth in the world of therapeutic riding. In Turning for Trouble, her own rodeo experience brings that rough and tumble world to life. Her third romantic mystery, Trouble in Action, showcases the risky world of stunt riding while giving a glimpse into historical reenactments. Published as Susan Y. Tanner and released by KaliOka Press, these books are part of the Familiar Legacy series written in concert with some very talented authors.
Two of her historical romances, Fire Across Texas and Winds Across Texas, have been rereleased by Secret Staircase Books, an imprint of Columbine Publishing. Soon to follow will be A Warm Southern Christmas, Highland Captive, Captive To A Dream, and Exiled Heart. All were previously published by Leisure Books. Her historical romances will all be rereleased as Susan Yawn Tanner.