Historical Romance Post Civil War
Two bitter rivals are pushed together to save their way of life, and discover a love they can’t live without.
Rylee Parys, like her father and grandfather is a small time rancher with a big time problem. Embroiled in a bitter war over water and land, she stands alone against her neighbors who are dismayed to have a woman in control.
Ex-cavalry officer, Tom Duncan has returned home after the bloody civil war only to find himself in the middle of another war. Pitted against a slim, boyish looking woman, he’s uncertain who to believe. When the hostility boils over and becomes physical, Tom must make a stand.
As the clues add up these two bitter opponents must rely on each other to save not only their way of life – but the love that has grown between them.
Pale streaks of burnt amber filled the sky as Tom Duncan stretched his tired body, eager to rid of the kinks and aches associated with long distance riding. Despite four years of service in the cavalry, his body still protested the long rides. Three weeks of sitting a saddle and he was home. Clearwater in the Colorado Territory hadn’t chanced much in the years since he’d been gone. The same old rutted street ran through the middle of town, with the mercantile next to the hotel, and the livery sitting at the edge of town next to the saloon. A cool evening breeze tugged at his shirt, stirring the sandy colored hair that brushed his collar. He flinched at the sounds of furious male voices from within the church’s sanctuary. He couldn’t believe that home sounded so much like the war zones he’d recently left. He didn’t want to face the men inside, but it wasn’t up to him.
The ranch’s housekeeper and cook, Sally Watertown, had greeted him at the door with a frown, a cup of hot coffee, and word of the town meeting being held. His uncle had reinforced her words by agreeing that since Tom would be taking over as new ramrod of the ranch, he should be present. So, despite sixteen grueling hours in the saddle, he mounted up and rode into town—into the equivalent of the worst conflict he’d seen since the North and South had met at Gettysburg four years earlier. He shuddered at the thought of the blood and death he’d seen before he’d been shuffled off to a nice cushy job—running intel all over the country.
“Somethin’ has to be done ‘bout that woman!” The loud, furious tone drifted through the closed doors of the church into the cooler air. A wave of agreement swirled, rising and falling like the tide as Tom’s exhausted steps carried him up the church steps. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Ranchers and farmers filled the small room, sitting on benches usually reserved for students to work at their studies. Tom nodded to his uncle, who leaned against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, a bored look on his face. At the front of the room, a worn old pew sat with a well-tended cross. Next to it stood the preacher, dressed in the familiar habit. Dust covered, sweat streaked faces filled Tom’s vision. Of the forty or so men, he recognized only a few. Reaching up, he tugged his Stetson off as he stalked up the aisle to the front of the room.
“What’s going on?” His voice drew the attention of the assembly. Tom stopped in front of the preacher, pinning the man with a hard gaze.
The older, thin man wiped at his face with his hanky and shook his head. “They’re all up in arms over that Aura Lee Parys. They finally figured out that when her pa died three years ago, he left things so she controls the water rights to every ranch and farm in the area. Not only that, she’s running wild stock—breeding them. Just last year, she rode that stud of hers to victory in the Fourth of July festivities.”
Tom frowned as his boyhood memory of the slim, freckle faced girl drifted through his mind. He remembered she’d dogged his footsteps for years, dressed in homespun and denim when her family could have easily afforded silk. Tough, determined, she’d never backed down from a fight—even when it would have suited her better to. “Her running mustangs ain’t really an issue, is it? I mean, her pa did it, and his pa before him. Why’s it such—”
“It’s not only that.” Tom turned to face Albert McTaggart. McTaggart’s teeth clenched and his face mottled with rage. “She’s paying them half-bloods of the widow Longley’s to work the land. I can forgive most anything, but I’ll be hanged if’n I’m gonna let some Injun lover run me outta business.”
“What’s her hired hands got to do with anything? Hell, I’ve got a full blood Sioux workin’ for me. Punches cows just as easily as a white man and he knows the ground better than most of my boys.” Tom glanced around the room at the murmurs of dissent. “You gonna run a woman off because of a few head of horses that more’n likely haven’t crossed paths with you. Y’all sure this isn’t something against her for winning a race?”
“What’s she doing entering a race?” Robert Neill snarled.