Lawfully Loved (Texas Lawkeeper Romance)(11)

By: Jenna Brandt

He stopped and turned around, shaking his head. “Racing is for babies. I’m going to go sign up for the pie-eating contest.”

Lydia’s lip came out as tears formed in the corner of her eyes. “But we race together every year.”

“And we lose every year. I don’t want to anymore.”

Before anyone could object to his rejection of his little sister, Georgie turned back around and took off running.

The tears her sister had been holding back plummeted down Lydia’s cheeks as she whispered, “I guess I’m not going to get to race this year.”

Should Rebecca offer to race with her? Granted, she wasn’t fast, but at least she could still participate. Just as the words for the offer formed on Rebecca’s lips, Jake spoke up. “I can partner with you, Lydia.”

Rebecca’s eyes grew round as they leapt to the man who continually surprised her. She hadn’t expected him to volunteer considering there was a good chance he would fall down and embarrass himself. Most grown men wouldn’t put themselves in such a position, yet he had done it without hesitation to spare a little girl’s feelings. Her heart melted at the sweet gesture.

“Thank you, Deputy Jake,” Lydia said as the tears quickly dried up. “I think we are going to win.”

With a lopsided grin, he chuckled. “I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high, but I’ll try my best for your sake.”

* * *

Jake walked over to the pile of supplies and took two pieces of rope. He walked to the starting line and motioned for Lydia to join him. Bending down, he tied his left leg to Lydia’s right one.

A few seconds later, a gun fired in the air and the ten pairs of racers took off. At first, Jake and Lydia didn’t look like they were going to get far, but within about five strides, they found a rhythm and started to catch up to the back of the group. By the middle of the race, they were in the middle of the pack and just as they reached the finish line, they crossed in second place.

Lydia and Jake were laughing as they untied their legs at the side of the race area. As Rebecca and her father came to join them, Lydia said, “It was so much fun, Deputy Jake. Thank you for racing with me.”

“Why don’t you just call me Jake from now on?” he offered.

She nodded her head, then stood up and ran off shouting, “I’m going to go see what group of contestants Georgie is in for the pie-eating contest.”

“I think I’ll go keep an eye on those two youngins’,” Rebecca’s father stated as he turned around to leave.

Was he trying to give them time alone Jake wondered? He wouldn’t put it past him. Mr. Caldwell had made it clear he was accepting of him courting his daughter.

Jolted out of his pondering, Jake felt Rebecca’s hand on his arm as she challenged, “Do you want to show me what you can do at the shooting gallery?”

“I’m not big on competing in such activities,” he stated as he folded his arms across his chest.

With a wry smile, she narrowed her eyes and countered, “You seemed quite at home competing with my little sister just a few minutes ago.”

He shrugged, “It’s not quite the same thing, but if you insist—”

“Oh, I do,” she said, cutting off any further protests.

A few moments later, they were in front of the booth and Jake had his pistol in his hand. How did he let her talk him into this? Of course, he knew the answer immediately; he wanted to impress her.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t shoot or that he wouldn’t if he had to—both were untrue. He needed to be capable of both as part of his job; his life depended on it. His issue was that when everyone saw him shoot, it was going to bring gawkers around.

“Are you ready, Deputy?” the red-headed man asked as he placed the targets on the front most boards closest to Jake.

He nodded and took a deep breath, steadying himself as he squared his feet and shoulders. He raised his hand, pointed the gun at the target and pulled the trigger, all in one fluid motion. He repeated the methodical process, hitting all four targets dead center in rapid succession. Finished, he placed his gun back in its holster with quick precision.

Just as Jake worried, he was gathering a crowd. Several of the men started to stand around the booth as murmurs and whistles of appreciation circulated around him for his handiwork.