Texas Redemption(135)

By: Linda Broday

“They lie.” Taft’s face mottled with anger. “You had the right man in your stockade all along, you bumbling idiots.”

“Private, shackle this man and throw him on a horse.”

“Lil, tell ’em who I am. Zeke, tell ’em.” Taft fought to break free of the soldiers’ grasps, losing in the end.

Taft’s desperate cries echoed until hoofbeats drowned out the man’s voice. She prayed he’d not convince them for many years. Or at least until Brodie had a head start.

Vallens moved toward the night. “Dog, we’d best get moving.”

“Hannibal, his name is Hannibal.” Laurel braced herself against shooting pain when she helped her sister stand. “I want you to remember that, Mr. Vallens.”

“A fool name. I expect I will remember though.”

Brodie swung the rifle dead center. “Thought you’d walk out scot-free, Vallens?”

“No.” Laurel planted herself in front of the rifle.

“I understand not wanting blood spilled on the kitchen floor, but he isn’t leaving. Move out of the way.”

“We figured him wrong, Brodie.” She crossed the space to touch Vallens’s arm. “Zeke saved my life. I won’t forget it.”

The man tipped the brim of his hat to her. “I’m leaving Hannibal here. He’s more yours than mine now.”

Laurel knelt and placed her arms around the dog’s neck. “Thank you, Mr. Vallens.” But when she looked up, the man had vanished into the star-studded darkness.

Curley ran up, holding a wet cloth to his head. “What on earth happened? One minute I’m headed for the saloon and the next a steam engine slams into me. Yates, what in saint’s name are you doing here? Don’t tell me you broke out.”

The pair of rebel grays that fastened on Laurel seemed to dare her to try escaping his clutches. She didn’t for one minute consider doing so.

If she could have her choice of any place on earth to be, she’d choose Ollie’s Café in Redemption.

The crooked grin that played across Brodie’s features stole her breath. “General Buell discovered he had the wrong man, thanks to Laurel.”

His heated stare caressed, promising nights of passion and untold delight in making up for lost seconds. Moisture pooled in the crevice between her breasts while tingles of anticipation swept her from head to toe.

“It’s about dadgum time,” Curley grumbled.

“Are you truly my sister, Laurel?” Hannah tugged her from one kind of dangerously deep water only to plunge into another.

The moment of reckoning had arrived. She chewed her lip.

“How would you feel? I’d understand if you hate me.”

Hannah hugged her. “Don’t be a goose. You can’t know how happy I am. And proud. I want to run home right now and tell Mama, Papa, and the rest I’ve found our Laurel.”

Brodie threw Laurel an I-told-you-so stare.

“I’ll just mosey on and leave you folks to talk away the night,” Curley said. “Maybe I’ll go tell Ollie what she missed. Things ain’t the same with her gone.”

Untangling Hannah from around her neck proved a daunting task, for her sister clung worse than thistle. Laurel wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Well…except for lying bare as a newborn babe, with the man of her dreams crawling inside her.

Only that would have to come later.

“Hannah, Mr. Yates will take you home at daybreak. But promise not to tell a soul about me.”

“I can’t do that. They have a right to know.”

“See?” Brodie rubbed the small of her back. “I’m glad others agree.”

“I intend to do it, but I’ll choose the right time.”

“Whatever you say, darlin’. You’re so tired you can’t think clear.” Brodie scooped her in his arms. “I say a bed looks mighty welcome.”

Tomorrow Laurel would worry about impropriety. For now, she loved the beat of his heart next to her ear. She snuggled deeper into the breadth wrapped around her. “Adeline, will you make Hannah welcome? I’d appreciate it, dear.”

“Consider it done.” Then Adeline leaned closer and winked. “I like him. He’s the right one for you.”